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What does it take to no longer have any credibility? If one is accepted into the Inner Circle of the Very Serious People, it appears that there is very little that one can do to possibly discredit oneself from the chattering pundit class.
Case in point: Newt Gingrich, Tom Delay, Ralph Reed, Erick Erickson, Judith Miller, Tom Friedman and even Sunday show stalwart John McCain. And let us now add StudentsFirst founder Michelle Rhee to the list.
Why am I being so hard on Michelle Rhee? Because it's quite clear from this free commercial that host David Gregory served up for her StudentsFirst organization that Rhee's well on her way to being yet another undeserved and unmerited Very Serious Person. And that is very dangerous to having a truly serious discussion on education reform.
As if it would be possible to have an adult discussion surrounding that cringeworthy new ad. Educator Gary Rubenstein remarks:
One quote that is pretty inaccurate is when the announcer says ?It appears that the once proud U.S. program has been relying too much on its reputation. I?d say they?re completely unprepared.? They are referring to the apparent ?crisis? that on the 2009 international PISA tests, the U.S. 15 year olds ranked 17th in science and 25th in math out of 34 countries. The ?once proud U.S. program? comment implies that there was a time when the U.S. led the word on these international exams. Actually, we never have done well on these. In the 1964 FIMS test, we were 11th out of 12. These tests are not predictors of future economic strength, obviously since our students from 1964 have helped make the U.S. economy very strong.
It is also unfair to compare our scores to the scores of the other countries since we have 22% of our students in poverty compared to single digits in most of the top countries. In an interesting analysis here we see that if we compare our schools with countries that have similar poverty levels, we would be at the top of the world in every category.
But to take this Olympics analogy further, the United States has the highest obesity rate in the developed world. Even so, we still are very competitive in the Olympics. Yet, we still got the most medals (second most gold medals) in the 2008 summer games. So just because we have a higher percentage of students doing poorly on the PISA does not mean that we have lost our competitive edge.
Rhee speaks to cutting the high school drop out rate in half. And the Davids, Brooks and Gregory, nod their heads approvingly. Tell me, Villagers of the First Order, have you looked at the reasons behind drop outs? How many children have been made homeless due to the feckless policies instituted by Congress for the mortgage crisis? How many children go to sleep without a decent meal? Think that high school diploma is their most pressing issue? And what if they do persevere? They then enter a job market where college graduates are competing for the same minimum wage jobs. And nowhere in this can you find justification for the union-busting and teacher persecution that is Rhee's stock-in-trade.
And would it be churlish of me to point out that while all this reflexive Village back-slapping is taking place, Rhee herself is under investigation for suspected massive cheating to get the results that catapulted her onto the national stage? She's even admitted to physically abusing students as a teacher (if my child came home with this story, I would be at the school the next day with a police officer/sheriff and a lawyer). And since moving to StudentsFirst, she's been accused of shady dealings, questionable alliances and other controversies.
So while yes, the commercial may be a humorous (I'll give them the benefit of the doubt) way to remind people that American exceptionalism does not extend to our education, I'm not seeing any true solutions that the Very Serious People should embrace.
But you know they will...
President Obama entire speech form Aurora Colorado Here is President Obama’s speech from Aurora Colorado. He made this speech after meeting with the shooting victims and their families. Listen to the speech here: President Obama entire speech from Aurora Colorado
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In 1977, during his Village Voice years (1973-84)
"Alexander reveled in being a troublemaker, and his provocative, polemical, elegant style usually engaged us and his reporting and analysis opened windows onto under-unreported news. I often felt I wasn't doing my job right if we didn't get a dozen or so subscription cancellations as a result of some Cockburn column."
-- Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation,
in an e-mail to the L.A. Times, quoted in the Times obit
"His legacy was his commitment to truth, his disgust at the pretense of objectivity, his belief that every piece of writing had an ideological slant, and that you had to admit it."
-- Nation contributing editor Amy Wilentz
(also from the L.A. Times obit)
We surely have to take some note of the passing of that most stalwart of left-wing journalists Alexander Cockburn on Saturday, at age 71, following what is now revealed to have been an extended and apparently grueling battle with cancer. As his partner at CounterPunch, Jeffrey St. Clair, explained to readers:
Our friend and comrade Alexander Cockburn died last night in Germany, after a fierce two-year long battle against cancer. His daughter Daisy was at his bedside.That raises the grimness level of the news, but doesn't have anything to do with its complications for me.
Alex kept his illness a tightly guarded secret. Only a handful of us knew how terribly sick he truly was. He didn?t want the disease to define him. He didn?t want his friends and readers to shower him with sympathy. He didn?t want to blog his own death as Christopher Hitchens had done. Alex wanted to keep living his life right to the end. He wanted to live on his terms. And he wanted to continue writing through it all, just as his brilliant father, the novelist and journalist Claud Cockburn had done. And so he did. His body was deteriorating, but his prose remained as sharp, lucid and deadly as ever.
In one of Alex?s last emails to me, he patted himself on the back (and deservedly so) for having only missed one column through his incredibly debilitating and painful last few months. Amid the chemo and blood transfusions and painkillers, Alex turned out not only columns for CounterPunch and The Nation and First Post, but he also wrote a small book called Guillotine and finished his memoirs, A Colossal Wreck, both of which CounterPunch plans to publish over the course of the next year.
Alex lived a huge life and he lived it his way. He hated compromise in politics and he didn?t tolerate it in his own life. Alex was my pal, my mentor, my comrade. We joked, gossiped, argued and worked together nearly every day for the last twenty years. He leaves a huge void in our lives. But he taught at least two generations how to think, how to look at the world, how to live a life of joyful and creative resistance. So, the struggle continues and we?re going to remain engaged. He wouldn?t have it any other way.
He courted the label "contrarian," but if the word is to have any muscle, it surely must imply the expression of dangerous opinions. Hitchens never wrote anything truly discommoding to respectable opinion and if he had he would never have enjoyed so long a billet at Vanity Fair.
In recent years, Cockburn had receded from his previously prominent place in the public forum. "He had the intellectual firepower to do anything he wanted," said writer Marc Cooper, a former colleague who had a falling out with Cockburn. "He forfeited becoming a very influential writer in favor of becoming a mud-throwing polemicist."
In 1994, Cockburn helped found Counterpunch, a newsletter and website, which spoke directly to those who shared his beliefs. Some, like Cooper, saw this as a rhetorical and intellectual dead end. Cockburn continued to co-edited Counterpunch with Jeffrey St. Clair.
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The daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney is calling on presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to not release more than the two years of tax returns that he has made public -- even though her father released 10 years worth when he was on the GOP ticket in 2000.
"You've got a situation now where it looks like the president's opposition researchers have run out of material to use a distraction from the returns that have already been released," Liz Cheney told Fox News host Chris Wallace on Sunday. "There will never be enough [for the Obama campaign], no matter how many years of returns the governor releases."
"So, what, Romney should just say, no?" Wallace wondered.
"I think he's good where's he is, frankly," Liz Cheney insisted. "And I think the Obama administration focus on this is because they don't want to have to talk about the economy, they don't want to have to talk about the fact that the president doesn't believe that if you've got a small business or any kind of business, you've built it yourself."
"They don't want the American people to actually look at his failed record and his failed policy."
Two months before the 2000 election, Dick Cheney released 10 years of tax returns, from 1989 to 1999.
One of us: Darcy Burner at Netroots NationI first met Darcy Burner in October of 2006, a few weeks before election day during her first run for Congress. As I explained a few months ago, I was nearing the end of a journey during which I had met a couple dozen candidates for Congress over the course of the previous several weeks, and it would have been easy to just count down the days, go through the motions, and just get everything over with. But Darcy was different: She was not only a technologically savvy progressive who fit right in with the burgeoning netroots movement, but a genuine and sincere person outside of her candidacy. Getting to know her was one of the highlights of the entire experience.
Running against entrenched Republican incumbents with a shot of local popularity isn't the easiest thing, and after Darcy's narrow loss in the race against Dave Reichert, I promised myself that I would come up to the Seattle area for any subsequent runs she made, and did exactly that in the fall of 2008. But this year, things are dramatically different: I just concluded a summertime visit last week.
Redistricting has completely altered the dynamics of the race for the new First District: Instead of being forced to run against a relatively popular incumbent, the district is now an open seat, which has brought out a horde of other Democrats looking for a shot at Congress. While in previous races, Darcy had a relatively simple time advancing through the primary to the November general election, she now faces very well-funded opposition in her efforts to take on Republican John Koster, who will almost certainly advance to the general. According to recent polls, Darcy's main competition among Democrats is Suzan DelBene, a former executive at Microsoft, who has already dumped $1 million of her personal wealth into purchasing this seat. The difference between Darcy and Suzan DelBene isn't just the size of their checkbooks, though. This is what DelBene had to say about her ideological leanings in Congress:
I would most likely not be in the Progressive Caucus. I would expect to be in the New Democrats Caucus. I think that?s a place that is fit for what I think needs to happen in terms of getting our economy moving and for breaking this idea that Democrats aren?t also supportive of business in our economy and I think that?s where the New Democrats have made a lot of progress.With Darcy in her campaign officeI happened to arrive Washington right when things were getting very interesting. An independent expenditure campaign supporting a third Democrat, Laura Ruderman, had just released some mean negative mailers against DelBene. While it was known at the time that this independent expenditure was being managed by supporters of Ruderman, subsequent campaign finance reports disclosed that the series of advertisements and mailers was being funded to the tune of six figures by Ruderman's mother, Margaret Rothschild. I was in the studio audience for a candidate forum while this scandal was breaking; DelBene attacked Ruderman over her supporters' spending in the race, which merely opened the door for both Ruderman and Darcy to make mention of DelBene's efforts to buy the race.
So, in a nutshell, this Democratic primary comes down a a multimillionaire putting seven figures into a campaign and then being offended when a Rothschild responds with six figures, all while Darcy works to raise the grassroots money to get her own message out. And it's quite a progressive message. While other candidates were trying to argue whose attempt to buy the election is more moral, Darcy was making public presentations in just about every major population center in the district side-by-side with Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton (ret.) about the importance of ending the war in Afghanistan and spending that money to rebuild infrastructure here in the United States. The next day, she was a guest on The Young Turks, and the transcript speaks for itself:Burner and Eaton present on Afghanistan
Cenk: Shocking! Republicans succeed. Why? They fight, right? They might be wrong, but they fight. Now, Elizabeth Warren also getting a ton of donations in Massachusetts, I just read a story today, they're like...wow, why? Well, it's because she fought the banks. For example, what would you do with the banks, Darcy?That's the Darcy Burner that this community has known and loved for many years. But as Joan McCarter wrote earlier this week, voting has already started and Darcy is going to need all the resources she can get if she is going to have a chance to defeat the big money that is being spent in her race. Now that ballots are dropping for the August 7 primary, we need to pull together to make sure she gets to campaign through November.
Darcy: We have a huge number of bankers who have broken the laws and they should go to jail. It's long past time the people who brought down the economy for personal profit paid for it.
Please chip in what you can to make sure that Darcy has the resources she needs to win her primary. Every dollar will help.
Really. A "basic freedom"? Is this what the musket-owning Founding Fathers had in mind? Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) thinks so.[...]
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Last time we started our series on carbon, and I now expect it to run for four installments. Amongst many other properties, carbon is unique in having more allotropic forms than any other element. Also known as allotropes, these are pure[...]
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Chief sponsor of Arizona's anti-immigration blames gun control and the people who were shot for the Aurora massacre. [...]
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There are times when I honestly have to puke watching the Sunday talk shows. I find myself asking does this person actually believe a word he/she is saying? Case in point: John McCain. David over on Video Cafe writes this about the segment.
"I don't know, to tell you the truth, what we can do, and this immediately leads to the issue of gun control," McCain told CNN's Candy Crowley. "The killer in Norway, which is a country that has very strict gun control laws, and yet he was still able to acquire the necessary means to initiate and carry out a mass slaughter."
"I think we need to look at everything, if that even should be looked at, but to think that somehow gun control is -- or increased gun control -- is the answer, in my view, that would have to be proved," he added.
Crowley noted that James Holmes, the suspected Colorado shooter, had, over short period of time, purchased an arsenal of weapons and equipment, including an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle with a 100-round magazine, two Glock handguns, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun and various types of body armor.
"You get to this point, you don't want the government spying on what people are buying," she explained. "On the other hand, what's the price? The price is all these things we just read off."
"Let's remember it's a constitutional right," McCain replied. "Second of all, if you could prove the case that it, indeed, has a positive effect -- we had a ban on assault weapons that expired some years ago, it didn't change the situation at all in my view."
Hold on. McCain didn't just use Norway to justify Americans stockpiling AR-15's, did he? That's ridiculous. Anders Breivik, the Norway shooter was actually allowed to buy high powered guns in Norway:
He decided to obtain a semi-automatic rifle and a Glock pistol legally in Norway, noting that he had a "clean criminal record, hunting license, and two guns (a Benelli Nova 12 gauge Pump-action shotgun and a .308 Bolt-action rifle) already for seven years", and that obtaining the guns legally should therefore not be a problem.
I guess Norway isn't as strict as McCain makes them out to be, but forget that....The Norway shooting and bombing was their worst violent incident since WWII, can we say the same? Candy Crowley ticked off just a few violent incidents to McCain since 1999.
CROWLEY: Let me turn you back now to the situation in Colorado, and remind our viewers of what has happened. This is dating back to 1999, Littleton, Colorado, otherwise known as Columbine, 13 killed in a mass shooting. 2007, Virginia Tech, 32 killed. 2009, Fort Hood, Texas, 13 killed; 2012, Aurora, Colorado, 12 killed. Different circumstances, different people, but people look at this and say, can't we do anything to stop this?
That's quite a resume all by itself and McCain's lame excuse about the Second Amendment doesn't pass the smell test. How many actual gun owners have joined a trained militia? Jason Alexander answers that question in a very long and well thought out piece:
Many of them cite patriotism as their reason - true patriots support the Constitution adamantly and wholly. Constitution says citizens have the right to bear arms in order to maintain organized militias. I'm no constitutional scholar so here it is from the document itself:
As passed by the Congress:
"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
As ratified by the States and authenticated by Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State:
"A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."
So the patriots are correct, gun ownership is in the constitution - if you're in a well-regulated militia.
Or from Merriam-Webster dictionary:
Definition of MILITIA
1a : a part of the organized armed forces of a country liable to call only in emergency
1b : a body of citizens organized for military service
2: the whole body of able-bodied male citizens declared by law as being subject to call to military service
The advocates of guns who claim patriotism and the rights of the 2nd Amendment - are they in well-regulated militias? For the vast majority - the answer is no.
Exactly, but full scale massacres aren't even the biggest threat posed by gun violence, but those that happen everyday.
In 2006, there were 30,896 deaths due to firearms in the United States. This equates to an average of 85 deaths due to firearms each day. (CDC, WISQARS, 2009)
There are tons of stats you can find so I won't bother to list them all. And here's a heartbreaking story that happens all too often around America:
A 5-year-old girl was wounded in a drive-by shooting Saturday afternoon -- the fourth young child to be shot on Oakland's streets in the past 12 months, police said..
The shooting was one of several recent incidents involving gun violence and child victims.On Dec. 30, Gabriel Martinez Jr. -- a 5-year-old Alameda boy -- was shot and killed near his family's taco truck in the 5400 block of International Boulevard; 23-month-old Hiram Lawrence died Dec. 9, 11 days after he was struck by crossfire in West Oakland; and Carlos Nava, 3, was killed Aug. 8, in a drive-by shooting in the 6400 block of International Boulevard.
You'd think right wingers would support stricter gun control laws just for the children, but alas, no. It's a question of freedom.
Cars in America serve one particular purpose: to transport you and whatever passengers and/or cargo from point A to point B and so on. However, they can also be a deadly weapon under the control of some people. It is exactly that reason why you are required by law to pass tests to get a driver's license. Every car owner must register the vehicle with the DMV and buy car insurance. And if you abuse the privilege and harm or kill someone, you lose your driver's license. It's the law that Americans have been following for years without complaint.
Why not the same for guns?