Today we'll be talking to Kevin Gosztola, an FDL blogger, journalist and co-author (with Greg Mitchell of The Nation), about the fascinating, clearly explained and up to the minute book, Truth and Consequences: The U.S. vs. Bradley Manning. (I am a[...]
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Seeing how well picking on Sandra Fluke has paid off for Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol's dumb son-in-law's make-work-job, The Free Bacon brings you this very important update (screenshot to the right) to remind you that Fluke is actually just some dumb[...]
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I'm no fan of Hollywood and would laugh if they violated the law but the love of god, can the SEC please investigate Wall Street and their actions that led to the crash of 2008? (Searching for bribes handed out in China is like searching for espresso in Italy. It's everywhere.) These side shows that are meaningless in the big picture and do nothing to prevent the next crash are really annoying. Insider trading wasn't what caused the crash nor were the possible bribes in China to film movies. Whoever is leading these silly side shows needs to get a clue that Americans are a lot more upset with what ruined the economy than these efforts. More on the SEC effort to chase Hollywood, from the NY Times.
The primary focus on voter suppression has been the overt actions by Republicans, either with restrictive new laws or in interfering with voters during an election. But this week, the Brennan Center for Justice looks at another, just as insidious but less direct form of voter suppression: big money corrupting politics.
They had the independent Opinion Research Corporation conduct a national survey for them this month, asking 1,015 adults questions about Super PACs. The results are not surprising, but still depressing and frightening for our future as a democracy.
While the cynicism disgust about big money in politics might be bipartisan, the effects of it on the voting populace don't appear to be: 26 percent of respondents said they were less likely to vote this year because of corruption in politics. But it gets worse:
- 69% of respondents agreed that ?new rules that let corporations, unions and people give unlimited money to Super PACs will lead to corruption.? Only 15% disagreed. Notably, 74% of Republicans and 73% of Democrats agreed with this statement.
- 73% of respondents agreed that ?there would be less corruption if there were limits on how much could be given to Super PACs.? Only 14% disagreed. Here, 75% of Republicans and 78% of Democrats agreed.
- Only about 1 in 5 Americans agree that average voters have the same access to candidates (and influence on candidates) as big donors to Super PACs. Two-thirds of Americans disagree. [...]
- Half of respondents ? and 85% of those expressing an opinion ? agreed that spending in this election is more likely to lead to corruption than in previous elections. Only 9% of respondents thought that, compared to previous elections, it was less likely that the money spent by political groups in this election will lead to corruption. Republicans (51%) and Democrats (54%) both agreed that spending in this election is more likely to lead to corruption. [...]
- More than two-thirds of all respondents (68%) ? including 71% of Democrats and Republicans ? agreed that a company that spent $100,000 to help elect a member of Congress could successfully pressure him or her to change a vote on proposed legislation. Only one in five respondents disagreed.
- More than three-quarters of all respondents ? 77% ? agreed that members of Congress are more likely to act in the interest of a group that spent millions to elect them than to act in the public interest. Similar numbers of Republicans (81%) and Democrats (79%) agreed. Only 10% disagreed.
Voters who are traditionally much more likely to vote Democratic are the majority of those turned off and unlikely to vote this year. And why shouldn't that be the case? They don't?we don't?have the same access to government as the relatively handful of people with Super PACs.
- 34% of respondents with no more than a high school education, and 34% of those in households with an annual income less than $35,000, said they would be less likely to vote [...]
- 29% of African Americans and 34% of Hispanics said they were less likely to vote because of Super PAC influence [...]
- 41% of respondents ? including 49% of those who have no more than a high school education and 48% of those with household incomes under $35,000 ? believe that their votes don?t matter very much because big donors to Super PACs have so much more influence.
This is another critical challenge for Democrats in 2012. They have to make sure not only that they help these groups get access to the polls, they have to give them a compelling reason to actually want to vote. Occupy Wall Street helped give Democrats a wake up call on the issue of income inequality. But they have to realize just how deep the divide is for Americans, how it permeates civic life. And the potential it has to so narrow the electorate that every election hereafter will be more of an uphill climb for Democrats; at least for Democrats who actually stand up for the middle class. Who knows, they might even pull over some of those cynical Republicans.
For more of the week's news, make the jump below the fold.
This lovely video and song comes to us from Taylor Ferrara.
I will be in Arizona tomorrow, driving through on my way to New York City. And I am "expecting" (get it?) to be legally pregnant for a couple of hours. When the law sees us as public incubators - adding a prequel to conception is the least of our worries. It means your body is not your own. If your body is not yours they can probe you, criminalize what you do with your own body and arbitrarily change the legal duration of your pregnancy. And it's already happening in Arizona: Make way for state-decided immaculate conceptions!
I'll let you know how my Arizona pregnancy goes.
Citizens of the City of Pittsburgh who make a habit of traveling from place to place are about to discover some of the benefits of small government conservatism recently installed in the state capitol. Barring an increase in funding from Pennsylvania?s[...]
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Earlier this week, Sen. Scott Brown made a consequential and costly decision for his campaign: to release his recent tax returns and to challenge Elizabeth Warren to do the same.
Talk about a major blunder.
First, it turns out Brown has a haircut problem. The Boston Herald reported that last year, Brown took a deduction of $1401 for hair, make up and grooming. Wow. This is something that will haunt Brown for the remainder of his campaign. Voters don?t much like career politicians who claim to be earnest everymen while spending so much money on their vanity and grooming.
Second, it turns out that Scott Brown and his wife made $2.5 million over the past six years, far more than the Brown campaign and the Massachusetts Republican Party have let on in all their vitriolic and over the top advertisements attacking Warren?s own income. What?s more, Brown?s income has skyrocketed since he entered public service ? news that has caught the eye of pretty much every Massachusetts paper.
Earlier this year, Brown claimed his income was ?not a heck of a lot. I mean, you know, I don?t make a heck of a lot.? He will have a tough time explaining that given the latest revelations about his income and the fact that he has a healthy place in the top 1 percent of American earners.
Brown?s latest problems were put on display with a new Web ad the Massachusetts Democratic Party posted early this morning, highlighting the enormous, $675 price tag for his famous barn jacket, the six properties he owns, and his newfound ?A-list? stature in the Washington social circuit.
Brown is likely to find it difficult to put this toothpaste back in the tube.
A thread, Frodo Baggins, is never late. Nor is it early. It arrives right when it means to. At midday.
It would seem that the last three years should be all the political evidence one needs that the forbearance approach of the center-left doesn't work. Forget whether the policies are good or not for a moment: politically speaking, if forbearance and reasonableness were virtues in politics, President Obama would be a saint. He's bent farther over backwards to compromise with these people than Gumbi. The result was an even more extremist right wing, an historic devastation for his party in the 2010 midterms, an intransigentlly conservative Supreme Court, and an apoplectic 2012 campaign. Forbearance hasn't worked--and that's just the politics of it.
On the policy, the results are awful. It's not just that extreme conservative policy is bad. Centrist policy is bad, too. The authors speak fondly of the Democrats for compromising with George W. Bush to pass his tax cuts for the rich and No Child Left Behind. They also forget the bipartisan eagerness to invade Iraq. These were bad policies, policies that the American people would have been much better served by Democrats opposing en masse. Back in the Clinton years Democrats and Republicans joined forces to pass NAFTA, banking deregulation, and "end welfare as we know it." Those were also terrible, misguided policies.
If you?re young and you want to start your own business, Mitt Romney?s has some advice from you: Borrow money from your parents. At a ?lecture? for students at Otterbein University in Ohio today, Mitt Romney told students that, his friend, Jimmy John, started a business by borrowing $20,000 from his parents at a low interest rate. Romney suggested anyone in the audience could do the same.If there were a dictionary entry for the term "out of touch," you can bet it would have a picture of Mitt Romney, front and center.
The central theme Romney drove home was the fact that ?sometimes appearances do not conform with the facts or reality,? and he applied it to such topics as the office supply industry, the intricacies of tax filing law and Dodd-Frank financial legislation.Fired up, ready to buy copy paper?
?I have several examples of disparity between appearance and reality,? Romney said, launching into a lengthy monologue about his time as a private equity investor, when he discovered ? to his critics? chagrin! ? that potential annual savings on office supplies were significant enough to justify an investment in bigger stores that could make their profits on higher sales volume rather than bigger mark-ups.
?What we found was they were spending a lot more than that I thought on copy paper and toner and supplies and software and so forth,? said. ?So we decided we would invest in this office superstore. It?s called Staples and now employs many tens of thousands.?
It eliminates real teaching, demoralizes teachers and students, and turns schools into factories for churning out obedient robots unable to think independently. The single greatest threat to American public education is high-stakes testing, which is why teachers' unions are fighting it.
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten attended the International Summit on the Teaching Profession and came away with a renewed sense that high-stakes standardized tests are hurting the U.S. education system and its students.I think the first thing we have to do is move off the test fixaton. Top-down, test-driven accountability as a salvation has not proven to work. People will say, "Oh, she's anti-accountability." But I'm for making sure teachers can really teach and for multiple measures to assess teachers, like peer review, self-reflection, administrative review and assessment of student learning. But right now there are a disproportionate number of points [in many teacher evaluation systems] allocated to test scores.
The president gets a lot of credit for saying in his State of the Union, "Let's not teach to the test." NAEP [the National Assessment of Educational Progress] scores from the last decade had a better rate of growth than in this decade, and that says a lot about the effects of top-down, test-based accountability. We have to get away from that concept. I think if there's a reset button where we get away from that, we can unleash creativity. We can unleash the Common Core, we can work on teacher quality through what we know works: cooperative environments. Then I think we'll have a different conversation in America.
She noted that countries that do better in educating their students than the U.S. don't share our test obsession:None of the other countries use test scores to evaluate teachers. They use portfolios, demonstration lessons, peer processes. There are multiple ways of trying to assess, "Have I taught it and have kids learned it?" But very few countries are as fixated on student testing having a consequential effect on teachers' lives. Student testing is very consequential for students.
What is really different is that, except maybe for Chile, testing is not the centerpiece of these other nations' accountability systems for teachers. Instead, testing is the centerpiece of an accountability system around children. In other nations, kids see tests as consequential. In the United States, teachers see student tests as consequential, but the kids don't see it.
Instead of a focus on testing, countries with better education systems have other priorities:There was a real consensus at the summit. When nations were reporting their plans, you heard the buzzwords of collaboration and trust, of retain, recruit, support. You didn't hear market solutions, competition, things like that.
Teachers who work really hard there were much more focused on the art and craft of teaching than they were on all the things that, in the United States, teachers focus on. They're not as much surrogate moms and dads and guidance counselors, but they are really more instructionally focused. There is a climate in these countries that education really matters, and kids and parents buy into that. That's a real difference that one sees when you're in Finland and when you're in Asia. Teachers are to be respected.
In Singapore, the schools were fairly well funded, and what you saw was really a very interesting way to teach math. I'm such a stereotypical female learner in that I love social studies and love literature, and I always struggled with math and science. In Singapore they spent a lot of time with young kids teaching math spatially, so kids would see forms and would actually try to conclude which was larger or smaller by looking at diagrams.
And they were using technology in a very interactive way. They were using whiteboards, laptops, and some of the kids had tablet whiteboards with them. Teachers had technology in every classroom, but they were using it in a way where it wasn't just a shiny object. The teacher was the center of the lesson; the technology wasn't driving the lesson.
In Japan, we saw a school that appeared to be in a fairly middle-class prefecture, as well as a school that was in a poorer prefecture. In the high school that was in the poor prefecture, you didn't see whiteboards, you saw blackboards. You saw more traditional ways of teachers teaching. But you still saw tremendous engagement and kids really focused on learning.