Bill Moyers Blames Democrats

Correctly placing blame is hard, unless you are Bill Moyers. In this clip Moyers explains to a rather stunned Maher how Democrats are as guilty a Republicans. For everything.


Friday Cartoon Fun: Ted Kennedy Edition

BlogSurfer.us viewers, welcome!

Two Charts That Say It All

Schools Matter and SmallTalk both have charts today showing how the achievement gap seems to mirror socioeconomic status. This is not surprising; we have known this for generations. We have known that poverty is the cause of the achievement gap, not its most egregious symptom.

When will all those reformers who claim to want to use research-based curricula and pedagogy to close the gap actually look at the data? Here is some...


They Put Cheap Tires And 500 Extra Kilos On An F1...

I don't know anything about finance. Nothing. Well, except now I have a basic idea of what Wall Street did with that whole credit-default-swap thing:
So, it was basically Credit Default Swap Fraud? Shocking!

Goldman's, JP and Cos. financed sub primes(with resets in 3-5 years), bought insurance(3-5 year plans) on them knowing full well they would crash and sold them off to 401(k)s and pension plans while they retained the insurance(Default swaps) at a 5:1 ratio making billions when they finally crashed.

Basically, they put cheap tires and 500 extra kilos on an F1, pumped in some nitro and 3-5 laps worth of gas, and they and all their buddies bet the car wouldn't last more than 3-5 laps.

Nothing to see here folks. Look, a black bird.

The Torture Debate: Minotaurs?

Thursday Cartoon Fun: Not Fun Edition

Stephen Colbert To Do Bill Gates' Bidding


goes to Stephen Colbert, who is on board to help Bill Gates, with Arne Duncan and Barack Obama's help, take over American public education.

An email I got today

Things Michelle Rhee Should Read

h/t Schools Matter

It Was A Musical Thing...

h/t Borderland


The Lion Roars

This is why he will be missed. Here you see the Senator fighting for an increase in the minimum wage on January 25, 2007. He was awesome.

h/t DWT

Arne Says Let's End Poverty. Okay!

Arne Duncan said this today:
“If we are to put an end to stubborn cycles of poverty and social failure, and put our country on track for long-term economic prosperity, we must address the needs of children who have long been ignored and marginalized...
I couldn't agree more. Finally, an education leader is saying that poverty and lack of social structure is to blame for the educational and social failure of a large part of our population. So now we can get to work. Right? Wrong. I need to give you the rest of his quote:
in chronically low-achieving schools,”
“States and school districts have an opportunity to put unprecedented resources toward reforms that would increase graduation rates, reduce dropout rates and improve teacher quality for all students, and particularly for children who most need good teaching in order to catch up.”
Oh well. He started his comments off on the right foot, then decided to ignore what he just said and blame everything on schools and teachers.

This is what Arne Duncan believes:
“The large investment in school improvement funds made possible by the Recovery Act presents a historic opportunity to attack education's most intractable challenge -- turning around or closing down chronically low-achieving schools,” Duncan said. “Our goal is to turn around the 5,000 lowest-performing schools over the next five years, as part of our overall strategy for dramatically reducing the drop-out rate, improving high school graduation rates and increasing the number of students who graduate prepared for success in college and the workplace.”
Got that? Closing down schools will increase the graduation rate. It doesn't seem to matter that none of Duncan's reforms have worked, even in Duncan's Chicago when he was CEO (that still gets me: CEO instead of superintendent).

The money making opportunities are deep and wide for Gates, Broad and test publishers as well as TFA type programs, and charter schools. The privatization of Americas public schools is not just underway, it is nearing completion!

My Unicorn Gave Birth Last Night

h/t swimming freestyle


Senator Edward Kennedy R.I.P.


Those Crazy Creationists And The Jokes They Make Of Themselves

Is Ken Ham Creepy? Yes!

It has been brought to my attention that Ken Ham, the man behind the Creation Museum and Answers in Genesis, is originally from Australia and not the United States. So when I wrote last week of America as "the land of P.T. Barnum and Ken Ham" the general point about hucksterism here in the U.S. was correct, but technically ...

Wait, hold on -- Australia?

You can't be a young-earth creationist and be from Australia. I think if you're a young-earth creationist, you're not even allowed to believe in Australia. That continent is evolution's playground, it's showroom. Ken Ham couldn't have built his Creation Museum in Australia because they already have a thriving Evolution Museum there -- it takes up the entire island. The displays are fantastic.

Are we sure that Ham isn't from Austria? I mean, the biology and geology of Austria aren't particularly compatible with young-earth creationism either, but it's not like Australia with its crazy-quilt of unique and uniquely adapted species. I just can't think of a crazier place for a creationist to have come from.

Well, OK, maybe Madagascar. But still.

I just can't fathom how someone could have lived in Australia believing the world is only 6,000 years old. There are all sorts of things you can't do while believing that (like, for instance, going outside on a clear night), but living in Australia would seem near the top of that list. The indigenous Australians have stories, dances and paintings that are far older than 6,000 years. They've got jokes that are older than that. But even if Ham managed to spend his years in his native land without ever encountering or learning of its ancient cave paintings, he surely must have seen or at least been aware of all those wonderful native species that every kid here in America learns about when we study Australia in elementary school -- the kangaroos and koalas, bandicoots, echidnas and platypuses.

So how does Ham account for these wonderful creatures? His abbreviated timeline of the universe has Noah's ark landing on Mount Ararat along about 2300 BCE. Then what? Do the seven* koalas walk to Australia from there?

Seems rather a long walk. Followed, I suppose, by rather a long swim. All without encountering a single eucalyptus tree -- the basis for their exclusive diet -- until they arrived at their destination on the other side of the world.

If you ever encounter someone who, like Ken Ham, believes the earth is only 6,000 years old, don't bother asking them about the Long March of the Koalas, or about kangaroos or island biogeography more generally. Such questions will only prompt their fight-or-flight instinct to kick in and that doesn't lead anywhere constructive. (They can get quite nasty when cornered, baring their teeth, snarling and getting elected to school boards.)

You have to appreciate what such people think is at stake, namely, the Meaning of Life. More than that, actually, the very possibility that life has or can have meaning.

The real problem with Answers in Genesis can't be found in Genesis, or in their tortured reading of it. The real problem is that they've somehow become convinced that there exist two and only two possibilities. Either their particular, smallish reading of Genesis is "literally" true and the world was created in six, 24-hour days about 6,000 years ago by their particular, smallish notion of god, or else the universe and human existence within it are meaningless, a realm violence and death in which kindness, goodness, justice and beauty are nothing more than illusion. They believe that either the history of the universe is a brutally short 6,000 years, or else life in that universe is nasty, brutish and short and nothing but. They prefer the former, understandably. And any challenge to it -- by argument or by exposure to science or reality -- is thus interpreted as an affirmation of the latter view.

You'll never get anywhere talking to these folks unless you confront that fundamental error. Their hostility to science and their appalling theology are big problems -- unsustainably life-distorting problems -- but they both derive from this deeper mistake. If you can't get them to accept that their fundamental false dichotomy is, in fact, false -- that they are not forced to choose either impossible antiscience or cruel nihilism -- then they will never be able to consider any other possibilities.**

Those of us who aren't trapped in that frightening and disorienting false dichotomy, have the luxury of appreciating that while their earnest and urgent need to believe in the Long March of the Koalas may be tragic, it is also, undeniably, kind of funny. And so you may be tempted, at this point, to click over to the Answers in Genesis Web site and browse about through the alternate universe they've constructed there to read more about these brave marsupials and their heroic journey southward after the great flood. But trust me, the more time you spend on that site, the more the balance tips from funny to tragic until it ultimately just becomes depressing.

And anyway, when it comes to the extraordinary topic of island biodiversity, reality is far more interesting than delusion. So let me recommend, again, David Quammen's fascinating book, The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinction. A much more interesting and productive use of your time than spending it reading the Answers in Genesis Web site. (Or, for that matter, this Web site -- but please do come back when you're finished with Quammen's book.)

- - - - - - - - - - - -

* That's right, seven. The story of Noah in the book of Genesis says that he took "seven of every kind of clean animal" and seven of every kind of bird onto the ark. The "two of every kind" limit was only for "unclean" animals. Even the AIG folks tend to overlook or ignore this strange detail in the story. First there's the problem of anachronism -- the distinction between "clean" and "unclean" animals hasn't been invented yet. Then there's the question of what happens to the poor odd-one-out among the clean animals and birds. Perhaps Noah and his family enjoyed fresh meat during their voyage. Or maybe the clean animals are just a bit more open-minded, sexually, than their unclean counterparts. Anyway, I'm counting koalas with the clean animals here because, A) they don't have cloven hoofs, and B) they're adorable.

** Other possibilities including, for example, everything that nearly everyone on the planet believes. Most people, after all, are neither young-earth creationists nor nihilists. You yourself, for instance, are neither a young-earth creationist nor a nihilist. (I know this because you've read this far in this post. A nihilist wouldn't have bothered to do so and a young-earth creationist wouldn't have been able to do so.) Ken Ham would explain to you that this is because you're not being intellectually honest enough to recognize that his false dichotomy is logically inescapable and he would be happy to lecture you further on how you can learn to follow his sterling example of intellectual honesty -- a lecture delivered, for Alfred Russell Wallace's sake, in an Australian accent.
h/t PZ

Is The CIA In Danger Of Being Destroyed By Investigating It? Nope.

The Edge of the American West helps explain why those pushing for a "lesser" inquiry (Obama, Holder, Panetta) to save the CIA's self-esteem are wrong. I mean, it didn't happen last time:
Lies about the Church Committee.

After fielding yet another media call about the supposed “dismantling” of the CIA by the Church Committee, I feel moved to systematically address the neoconservative assumptions that dominate the current debate. In 1975, staffers in the Gerald Ford White House, most notably chief of staff Dick Cheney, started an organized effort to spin the press coverage of Senator Frank Church’s investigation of the CIA.

The talking points of the Ford administration are now taken as gospel truth. This is not just a matter of historical accuracy; it’s directly relevant to the current discussion. Because if the Church Committee did destroy the CIA, then we can say that “history tells us” that all CIA investigations are inherently destructive and will endanger our safety.

So, let’s look at the record. Right after Watergate, Senator Church’s Senate Select Committee to Investigate Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities launched a massive inquiry into past crimes of the CIA and FBI. Despite the heated rhetoric you hear these days, it did not do certain things.

1. The Church Committee did not dismantle the CIA.

The committee revealed that the CIA had committed crimes and abuses of power, including mail opening, wiretapping, illegal spying on American citizens in the United States, and assassination plots against foreign leaders. Thanks to the Church Committee, we now know that the CIA engaged mafia dons to stab, poison, shoot, and blow up Fidel Castro; that it tried to poison Patrice Lumumba’s toothpaste; and that it hired goons to kidnap the general in Chile who was trying to uphold his country’s constitutional democracy and thus stood in the way of a US-backed coup. (He was killed in the course of the kidnapping.) The committee also revealed the FBI’s infamous COINTELPRO program, including the harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a result of the committee’s investigation, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which requires warrants for wiretapping, and created the Senate Intelligence Committee. FISA did not destroy the CIA; it merely required intelligence agencies to explain to a top-secret panel why they wanted to wiretap people in the United States, thus avoiding the bad old days when J. Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon listened to the phone conversations of anyone who had the nerve to criticize them. The creation of the Senate Intelligence Committee actually laid the foundation for reducing the number of oversight committees; there were eight congressional committees with jurisdiction over the CIA in 1976, but only two – one intelligence committee in each house – after 1980. So, it’s hard to see how this legacy amounts to “dismantling” the CIA.

2. The Church Committee did not prompt the firing of hundreds of CIA agents.

It was Jimmy Carter’s CIA director, Admiral Stansfield Turner, not the committee, who cut 800 positions from the covert operations side of the agency. The positions were eliminated mostly through attrition. Though he only fired 17 people, this episode is often exaggerated by agency supporters and falsely attributed to the influence of the Church Committee.

3. The Church Committee did not name or cause the deaths of CIA agents.

The committee named only the highest-level officials, whose names were known to everyone. Some extreme anti-CIA activists did publish lists of the names of agents in the field, and as a result, terrorists killed the CIA station chief in Athens, Richard Welch. The Ford administration, led by Cheney, waved the bloody shirt and implied that the committee had been responsible for Welch’s death, but even CIA officials themselves later admitted that this was just spin.

4. The Church Committee was not an unambiguous victory for liberals.

As I argue in Real Enemies, after forcing the nation to confront its past, Church found that he had strengthened a trend he abhorred: the ultra-right, libertarian rejection of all governmental authority. The percentage of Americans who said they distrusted the government actually increased during and after Church’s investigation. Still, the senator was certain he had done the right thing. “We must never become weary of being vigilant,” he said. “We dare not shrink from another redemptive investigation.”

If Frank Church and his colleagues did not destroy the CIA, then what did they do? They revealed that our nation had made mistakes, in hopes that we would not repeat them. They proved that we do indeed live in a constitutional democracy, where the rule of law is (eventually) respected. And they pushed Dick Cheney over the edge, convincing him that Democrats are America-hating traitors who will stop at nothing to undermine our nation’s defenses.


Monday Cartoon Fun: Lockerbie Edition

What's The Difference?

T.R. Reid, of The Washington Post, does some actual journalism on the differences between American health care and foreign health care. Guess what?..
The key difference is that foreign health insurance plans exist only to pay people's medical bills, not to make a profit. The United States is the only developed country that lets insurance companies profit from basic health coverage.
H/T The Daily Howler


Michelle Rhee: WTF??!

So what exactly is D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee's idea of good teaching?

A highly skilled teacher should never have more than five instances of "inappropriate or off-task behavior" by students within a half-hour of class time. At least three times in that span, an instructor should respond to students' correct answers by "probing for higher-level understanding" of the idea being discussed. And no more than three minutes of teaching time should be lost to poor organization or planning.
h/t Core Knowledge

The thing about these kinds of prescriptions is that they are not really in the control of the teacher. Sure, sometimes the teacher can control all aspects of a child's behavior (I don't really believe that) but sometimes, a kid is just going to freak out, be off task, and there's not one thing the teacher can do about it. And Rhee will ding that teacher!

You should read the comments at the link. Good stuff.

Michelle Rhee is a tool.

Tom Daschle, Secret Lobbyist

Come on, Obama! Either hire the guy away from the moneyed interests, or drop him like a bad habit!
NYT Pulls Back the Curtain on Tom Daschle, WH & Industry Front Man
By: Scarecrow Saturday August 22, 2009 6:07 pm

The New York Times does a disturbing piece on what a swell guy Tom Daschle is to be so willing to privately advise President Obama on health care while he serves as a paid political consultant to a myriad of health industry clients.

Mr. Daschle, who conveniently neglected to pay taxes on incomes only the wealthy understand, isn't a registererd lobbyist, though one wonders why he's exempt. Instead, Tom, who works for Alston & Bird, prefers to be called a "resource."
“I am most comfortable with the word resource.”
Well, no kidding. So what does a "resource" do?

1. He promotes the idea of co-ops. And just by coincidence:
It is an idea that happens to dovetail with the interests of many Alston & Bird clients, like the insurance giant UnitedHealth and the Tennessee Hospital Association. . . .

Friends and associates of Mr. Daschle say the interests of Alston & Bird’s clients have no influence on his views. They say he sees no conflict in advising private clients on the one hand and advising the White House on the other, because he offers the same assessment to everyone: Though he has often said that he favors a government-run insurance option, the Senate will not pass it.
And why are we not surprised that "friends and associates of Mr. Daschle" would think there's no conflict problem?

2. He tells his private clients how to interact with his government friends:
Clients of Alston & Bird say Mr. Daschle advises them, sometimes indirectly through the firm’s registered lobbyists, about the personalities of his former colleagues, as well as strategies to achieve their policy goals.
That's nice. I wonder what the best approach is for talking to the President about how to stall or undermine effective health care reform?

3. He presumes to speak for the Administration's plan:
Mr. Daschle does not shrink from his leading role in the debate. Speaking at a hospital industry conference last week, for example, he accepted billing as “the architect of President Obama’s health care plan.”

Before such industry groups, Mr. Daschle can sometimes cheer on their lobbying efforts, as he did at a meeting on Aug. 8 of chain drugstore executives when he urged them to push lawmakers to raise certain Medicaid reimbursements.
4. He promotes an agenda -- the co-op concept and deferred triggers for a public plan that he developed with Dole, et al -- that is inconsistent with the majority of Congressional Democrats and the American people:
Their proposal, released in June, was among the first to spell out the idea of helping states establish health insurance “co-op plans with consumer boards.”

Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and one of Mr. Daschle’s closest friends, began pitching the idea at about the same time and has become its champion. . . .

As a backstop, their plan provided that if state co-ops or other programs failed to meet certain cost and coverage goals in five years, the president could create a public plan on a fast track without threat of a Senate filibuster.

That feature, known as a trigger, was briefly acknowledged as another possible compromise by the White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel. Though it was little discussed, Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine and one of the Finance Committee’s group of six, has recently expressed support for the concept, and committee aides say the idea is under consideration.
5. He's setting the agenda for the "gang of six."
Mr. Conrad is among six members of the Senate Finance Committee working on their own compromise proposal that aides say looks increasingly like the Daschle-Dole-Baker report.
It's just a coincidence that every one of these proposals has produced a misstep by the White House and further loss of trust by the Democratic base.

If you're not yet disgusted by this blatant example of Washington's legal insider corruption, read the rest of the article. But this is sickening. It doesn't matter whether you think Tom Daschle is a force for good or ill, his dual role is unprincipled, too cute by half. And he's being allowed to mainline his industry-paid-for views right into the White House and the Senate Finance Committee. No wonder the President [continues] to praise the Republicans in the gang of six for their "hard work."

Does the rest of Congress care about this? Does anyone?

The President of the United States can meet with and take advice from anyone he chooses. But at a time when this President is struggling to regain the confidence of his own base and the American people, it's disappointing -- or revealing -- that this President continues to rely so heavily on health care reform advice from those with privileged access and conflicted allegiances to those whose reform the President says the nation's health care depends.
h/t FDL

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