Saturday Bonus Cartoon Fun: Reality Edition

By de profundis clamavi, October 10 at 2:39 pm

Sure, it’s nice to have these smiling Norwegians say officially that they approve of the new tone of the American president. Sure, it think it’s great that Obama charmed the Arabs in Cairo and says we’re going to close Guantanamo and won’t have secret black site prisons anymore and won’t engage in torture anymore. I think it’s great that Obama has halted programs for nuclear missile “defense” in central Europe so we’re not directly provoking Russia, at least not just now. It’s nice that Obama doesn’t use unnecessarily provocative terms like “axis of evil” or “war on terror”.

But those nice Norwegians don’t have to live in a country where poverty and inequality grow more extreme each day, and will continue to do so unless and until the president of the united states steps up and directly confronts the power of the banks, the corporations and the pentagon. Those nice Norwegians live in a country where every citizen takes for granted public education, publicly supported arts and media, public transport, public health care, public income and social support that we would not reach after a thousand years of Obama’s timid, corporate-friendly “leadership”.

Those nice Norwegians live in the kind of egalitarian society that only “left wing extremists” in the USA advocate, the kind of “left wing extremists” who are dismissed from mainstream public dialogue and marginalized even in Obama’s supposedly change-driven democratic party.

According to one of our major mainstream parties, those poor Norwegians suffer under “socialist tyranny”. according to all but the “extreme left” of our other mainstream party, the policies that have made the Scandinavian countries among the richest, most stable, peaceful and democratic in the world are simply “inappropriate for America” and are not worthy of discussion.

Those nice Norwegians don’t have to live in a country where state and municipal governments are going bankrupt, teachers and state workers are being laid off, police and fire departments are being cut, bridges are falling down, whole towns and regions have been economically reduced to rubble, all in the name of maintaining profits for a tiny elite, while the people whose impoverishment grows worse every day watch as their government continues to borrow trillions of dollars from foreign governments to finance a bloated military establishment and a far flung militaristic empire that benefits nobody but the defense contractors and whose aims, vaguely referred to as “American interests”, could best be described as “making the world safe for Exxon Mobil”.

Our military establishment is a voracious cancer eating away at the vital organs of American society, but Obama apparently does not recognize that, or if he does he refuses to say so.

It’s no skin off the Norwegians’ nose if Obama squanders what is perhaps the last opportunity this country will have to make the kind of major structural reforms we need to stave off irretrievable economic and social meltdown, because Obama hasn’t got the guts to call off a war with vague objectives in the same country that militarily and financially exhausted the soviet union, leading to its collapse.

Our empire can collapse, too, from financial exhaustion if nothing else, and if that happens, the resulting political tone of the united states of America is unlikely to be anything peaceful or moderate.

Sure, it’s nice the Norwegians gave Obama the prize, and it’s not just nice for him - it’s nice for all Americans. It’s sort of like the Norwegians sent us some pretty flowers with a card that says “hope you’re feeling better”.

Thank you Norway, we are feeling a bit better. But our corporatist militarist disease is serious and late stage. It will be terminal for American democracy if it isn’t treated.

It’s nice for a sick person to receive cards and flowers. but it doesn’t cure his disease.

Saturday Bonus Cartoon Fun: Don't Ask Edition

Saturday Cartoon Fun: Chicago Guns Edition


Friday Cartoon Fun: Illiteracy Edition

Alan Grayson: "I Will NOT Apologize"

Again, praises to my new Progressive hero, Alan Grayson. He will not back down, and I applaud him. In fact, I credit him with moving us toward an actual debate about health care in this country. If we get a public option, Grayson will deserve his own Nobel!

Fight fire with fire, and all that....

President Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize: Updated II

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.

For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."

Oslo, October 9, 2009
Update: I don't have much to say about this other than I think maybe Obama should have done more than talk good. Maybe if he had, I don't know, actually done something, like end a war or two, end a silly policy or two, been as transparent as he said he would, regulated Wall Street before he gave them billions of dollars....

I do believe he has altered the landscape in a good way. He has brought intelligence, rationality and a decency to the Presidency that the world has needed for a long time. The Nobel, I suppose, is to help keep us on our current trajectory, one that the world needs. In this respect I have no problem with Obama being awarded the Nobel. It just seems a tad undeserved premature.

Update II:


Justice Scalia Is An Insensitive Jerk: Updated

Yesterday Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a good friend of Justice Ginsburg (hopefully not for much longer), let it be known that he thinks crosses, like the one they say Jesus died on, are for everyone!

What a jerk.

Here are the pertinent pages:

Update: Someone thought my Ginsburg comment made reference to her health. NO, NO, NO. I meant that I hope she abandons him as a friend. He doesn't deserve her!

Thursday Cartoon Fun: Happy Halloween Edition


They Secretly Videotaped The Teachers

Secret or open?: 2 teachers taped
Albany charter school disputes hidden camera claim; employees gone

By SCOTT WALDMAN, Staff writer

ALBANY -- Two teachers have left a city charter school after they said they discovered hidden video cameras in their classrooms. The school denies any secret recordings and claims teachers were told in advance that cameras would be used for evaluation...

...But Carol Connelly, an eighth-grade English teacher with about a decade of experience in public schools, said she left Achievement Academy after she said she discovered a camera covered by a sweater at the back of her classroom when she returned from lunch. She said her students were upset and told her they felt violated by the school when the sweater fell off the camera and they saw they were being taped. Connelly said she quit the same day.
h/t: OGE


Monday Cartoon Fun: Real Man Edition

Sprint: Truth In Advertising?

I called Sprint because I want to add a line to my cell service for my son.  On the site it says I can add a line for $9.99 a month.  We would have to share minutes, but I barely use the minutes I have, so I think it would be fine.

I called to ask about it.  Sprint told me that my plan is not eligible, and they don't offer it (my measly plan) anymore, and I must switch to a Family Plan.  Here is the advert on the Sprint site I captured:

The advertisement does not say I need to switch plans. It says:
Adding a line to your current plan starting at $9.99 per line, per month, or switching to a family plan can help you and your loved ones save money. Our new Everything Family Plans allow you to share talk time, messaging and more. Plus, Everything Family Plans include unlimited Night and Weekend calling with nights starting at 7pm, nationwide long distance with no roaming charges, and unlimited mobile to mobile.
It's that "or" that is bugging me. I do not want to switch plans. I have a cheap plan with 450 minutes, of which I use maybe 40 a month. Adding a line for the Frustrated Son wouldn't limit my cell phone use, and it should be more than enough for both of us.

Am I crazy? Doesn't it say that I can add a line for as low as $9.99 a month? Does it say anywhere that I might have to change plans? I don't see it.  I think they need to remain faithful to their advertisement and give me another line for $9.99 on the plan I currently have.

Thoughts?  Lawyers?

Arne Duncan: Read This Before You Do More Interviews

Hey Sully! I'm One Of "These Atheists" (You Condescending Brit!)

Andrew Sullivan, the self-proposed homophobic, gay, conservative, Catholic essayist, has decided to write on his blog (you know, the one that is saving The Atlantic?) that atheists are arrogant and sneering.
Jerry Coyne blogs from the atheist meeting that took place over the weekend:
Dan Dennett talked about interviews with active priests and ministers who are atheists, and also mounted a hilarious attack on theologians like Karen Armstrong, who mouth pious nonsense like, “God is the God behind God.” Dennett calls this kind of language a “deepity”: a statement that has two meanings, one of which is true but superficial, the other which sounds profound but is meaningless. His exemplar of a deepity is the statement “Love is just a word.” True, it’s a word like “cheeseburger,” but the supposed deeper sense is wrong: love is an emotion, a feeling, a condition, and not just a word in the dictionary. He gave several examples of other deepities from academic theologians; when you see these things laid out — ripped from their texts — in a Powerpoint slide, they make you realize how truly fatuous are the lucubrations of people like Armstrong, Eagleton, and Haught. Sarcasm will be the best weapon against this stuff.
They're really charming, aren't they? It is as if everything arrogant about the academy and everything sneering about cable news culture is combined into one big snarky smugfest. Maybe these atheists will indeed help push back the fundamentalist right. Maybe they will remind people that between these atheist bigots and these fundamentalist bigots, the appeal of the Christianity of the Gospels shines like the sun.
"Maybe these atheists will indeed help push back the fundamentalist right" or not. Certainly continuing to believe in fairy tales, and that the "Christianity of the Gospels shines like the sun," is not going to help (I think that quotation is a "deepity")!

For all Sully's brains, I don't understand how he continues to believe in his religious fantasy. Isn't his mighty intellect sublime enough?

Jerry Brown's Thoughts On Education

Anthony Cody digs up a comment from former Governor, Mayor Jerry Brown, on the Race to the Top nonsense:
Re: Race to the Top Fund [Docket ID ED-2009-OESE-0006]

In view of the hundreds of comments that are being submitted, I am confining my own to just a few general observations.

1. The basic assumption of your draft regulations appears to be that top down, Washington driven standardization is best. This is a “one size fit all” approach that ignores the vast diversity of our federal system and the creativity inherent in local communities. What we have at stake are the impressionable minds of the children of America. You are not collecting data or devising standards for operating machines or establishing a credit score. You are funding teaching interventions or changes to the learning environment that promise to make public education better, i.e. greater mastery of what it takes to become an effective citizen and a productive member of society. In the draft you have circulated, I sense a pervasive technocratic bias and an uncritical faith in the power of social science.

2. Inherent in the command and control philosophy of your draft regulations is a belief that everyone agrees on what should be taught--to whom and when--and how the lowest performing schools can best be turned around. Yet, there are so many unknowns about what produces educational success that a little humility would be in order. A better way would be to state what educational outcomes children should reach and then permit state and local flexibility to figure out how to reach the desired outcomes. The current draft regulations conflate what must be done with entirely too much specification about how to do it.

3. Curriculum choices are not just technical and “evidence based” issues, but go to the heart of deeply held beliefs and understandings of what children should learn. California's current curriculum standards have received high national rankings and there is no evidence that they need a radical overhaul.

4. Your draft also specifies very specific data elements that need to be included without sufficient justification for why all these date elements are essential or how they should be utilized.

5. You assume we know how to "turn around all the struggling low performing schools,” when the real answers may lie outside of school. As Oakland mayor, I directly confronted conditions that hindered education, and that were deeply rooted in the social and economic conditions of the community or were embedded in the particular attitudes and situations of the parents. There is insufficient recognition in the draft regulations that inside and outside of school strategies must be interactive and merged.

6. Most current state wide tests rely too much on closed end multiple choice answers and do not contain enough written and open ended responses that require students to synthesize, analyze and solve multi-dimensional problems and construct their own answers.

7. There are huge technical and conceptual problems that remain on how to assess the specific impact of individual teachers and principals on the scores of students on annual state tests. Test score increases and decreases can be caused by many factors in a specific year, and it is beyond the current state of the art to sort out what is the unique and independent influence of teachers and principals. Performance pay schemes for teachers based primarily on annual test scores in other states reveal more about how not to structure performance pay rather than show what are viable ways to restructure teacher compensation. Compensation should to be just one element of a broader approach to improving teacher effectiveness that includes initial recruitment and preparation to retention and professional development.

Having $4.3 billion to spend on education in this time of draconian cuts is a godsend. We in California look forward to joining with you in promoting a real love of learning and outstanding achievement in all our public schools.

Secretary Reich, The Only Sane Voice

Specifically, What Should Be Done For Jobs?

In his Saturday radio address, President Obama acknowledged the White House is exploring "additional options to promote job creation.” It's about time. This is the worst job market in seventy years -- including the longest duration of steep job losses.

If anyone had any doubt that something far more dramatic must be done, listen to former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. He warned Sunday against further stimulus because “we are in a recovery, and I think it would be a mistake to say the September numbers alter that significantly.” Greenspan has turned into an inverse soothsayer. After his cataclysmic error about where the economy was headed before the meltdown, his views about the future should be carefully noted as being the exact opposite of what's likely to be in store.

The economy may be in a technical recovery but this is not a real recovery and the "green shoots" or "positive signs" that Wall Street cheerleaders love to shout about are phantoms of their ever-optimistic imaginations. The stimulus is working but it is far from adequate. Before the stimulus, we were losing more than 500,000 jobs a month. Now that 40 percent of the stimulus has been spent, we are losing more than 250,000 jobs a month.

What to do? With the debt ceiling approaching and the gravitational pull of the 2010 elections increasing, the White House can't go back to Congress with a formal bill to enlarge the stimulus package. Four simpler moves would be to:

(1) Use existing authority under both the stimulus package enacted earlier this year and the nefarious TARP bailout fund -- extending and combining them into a fund to make up for state and local cuts in public school budgets, childrens' health, public health (we need workers to administer swine flu vaccine) and public transportation. Instead of bailing out banks and giant automakers, we should switch to bailing out public services that average people need.

(2) Propose a one-year payroll tax holiday on the first $20,000 of income. Republicans as well as Blue Dog Dems could go along with this, and it would be a highly progressive tax cut since 80 percent of Americans pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes.

(3) Give small businesses a "new jobs tax credit" for every net new job created over the next year. Granted, under normal circumstances this sort of jobs credit doesn't have much effect, and it's difficult to separate hires that would have happened anyway from net new ones. But we're not in normal circumstances; small businesses, which are responsible for most new jobs, still aren't hiring. They need a boost.

(4) Dramatically expand the Small Business Administration's lending programs and have the Fed buy up the SBA's debt. Big banks are not lending to small businesses. TARP has been an utter failure in this regard. The SBA and the Fed should circumvent them and help small businesses get the capital they need, so they can start hiring again.

The politics of these four steps aren't difficult. It would be hard to get a new stimulus package through Congress, but no member who's up for reelection next year when unemployment is likely to be in double digits wants to be accused by rivals of voting against steps to help small businesses, public schools, childrens' health, and average working people who need a tax cut.

Colbert Softballs Duncan

Corey makes a great point, one that I also thought of as soon as Duncan said it:
2.) Duncan said that he wanted schools to serve as community centers and that they were often the heart of a neighborhood.  I'm not sure how this is compatible with his desire to create more charter schools, most of which are not true neighborhood schools.  Does he want traditional public schools to serve as community centers only for those students not enrolled in charter schools?  Or perhaps he wants charter students to attend school elsewhere but attend events and participate in after-school activities at the nearby traditional public school?
Arne also made a strong pitch that Colbert should take an interest in education (even though Colbert's is complete) because it's the educated folks who watch his show, and more education means more educated kids, ergo more money for Colbert!! I know it was in jest, but that's how these education reformers think--how will it make me rich?

A disappointing spectacle. Stephen, you blew it.


What Did The NYC Charter School Report Really Say?

Over at a newly discovered blog I found this:

What is "The Gold Standard"?

Did you hear about the big report that came out this week? You know, the one that "shows" that NYC charter schools are better than traditional non-charter public schools? It has gotten a ton of attention, probably because it uses "'the gold standard' method[ology]." The report is not subtle about this. It is right there in the very first sentence of the executive summary, "The distinctive feature of this study is that charter schools' effects on achievement are estimated by the best available, "gold standard" method: lotteries." It even uses the term "gold standard" four more times throughout the report.

Everyone wants to follow The Gold Standard -- or at least be able to say that they do. Of course! I mean, who wouldn't? But I do not think that we actually have a gold standard in education research. In fact, I am quite sure that we do not, and appropriating biomedical research's gold standard does not make it appropriate for us.

However, if we are going to borrow their standard, can we not at least get it right?

The biomedical standard uses double-blind experimental studies with random assignment. That means that some research participants get the experimental treatment and some get a placebo, and both are assigned randomly. It also means that neither the researchers nor the participants know who is getting which treatment. After all, expectations are important, and the mind can set us up for all kinds of things.
You should go read the rest, as it pretty much demolishes the research, as well as education research itself! Oh, and there are problems with education research aplenty.

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