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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Monday, January 31, 2011

But what they really hate is the uncertainty

by folkbum

Millions of small business owners may now have to fire their employees or cut off their health insurance because of an activist judge in Florida. Plus, he just blew a, what? $500 billion hole in Wisconsin's long-term budget?

Thanks, GOP.

Is it too soon to start sending bon-bons to Anthony Kennedy?

Grab the Defibrillators

By Keith R. Schmitz

This is from one researcher, and of course results may vary as the commercial says, but based on his findings, 93% of time The Wall Street Journal in their editorials miss-represents science. Can ya all handle the shock!

With objective science being so important to business success in this country, you'd think the country's leading newspaper would know better or at least have some respect for the activity. It is doubtful that the leading business papers in India and even China dissemble about this subject as the WSJ, so it is no wonder those places and others not pulled in by tethers like this are surging.

Here in this state we are on the verge of foolishly kicking embryonic stem cell research out the door.

No wait. This is a Murdock operation so when it comes to fact vs political fiction, you know where to lay you money.

Dean Yager's lecture from Ghostbusters sums up Murdock and the right wing world's approach to the discipline:
The purpose of science is to serve mankind. You seem to regard science as some kind of dodge... or hustle. Your theories are the worst kind of popular tripe, your methods are sloppy, and your conclusions are highly questionable!

You are a poor scientist, Dr. Venkman!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Sykes Twits Off

by folkbum

There was a time, not that long ago, when Milwaukee radio showman Charlie Sykes embraced the mantle of "alternative media," dubbing himself "the blogfather" of local conservative blogger/typists and maligning any political figure who shunned the blogs and talk radio in favor of the "mainstream media" as foolish and out of touch.

("Alternative media" of course being a relative term: If you can get through that post linked above, one, have a cookie or something, that was hard work; and two, you'll see why I resent Sykes's attempts to bogart the non-MSM label for himself.)

But it should not, of course, come as a surprise that when it suits him, Sykes is happy to use an opponent's association with bloggers and alternative media to attack, as he did by putting the twit in twitter yesterday:



Yes, at the fundraiser for Jason Haas's county supervisor campaign Wednesday, a lot of Jason's friends were there, including me and ZeeDub and capper (whose actual twitternym is @Cog_Dis)--and Chris Abele, whom I had not previously met in person. And I talked with him! As did a dozen or so other people I saw who don't, as far as I and apparently Abele's campaign know, have blogs or even the twitter. But some might! Mostly, though, they were Regular Milwaukee Folk who were trying to get involved in the local election-y stuff. Sykes doesn't even live in Milwaukee County; not only do I live here, I live in the district Jason's trying to get elected to represent!

So I am not sure what Sykes hopes to accomplish with his tweet there, especially since he never bothered to complain about, for example, Ron Johnson at "Drinking Right" with those paragons of media excrescence excellence, the afore-mentioned conservative blogger/typists that are his "blogchildren."

Actually, I am pretty sure: Sykes is simply scared that finally Milwaukee County is free from being run by a Sykes toady--and that auxiliary toady Jeff Stone will sink like one come the election, and now he is desperately scraping for any foothold he can.

FriTunes: RIP, Charlie Louvin, plus a preview of this weekend's entertainment

by folkbum

RIP, Charlie Louvin:


If you can get to Turner Hall tonight, you won't regret it:


And tomorrow night, get up the WSSS in Cedarburg for another great songwriter:


People give me crap for playing with two capos at a time. I hope that stops now.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Coincidence?

by folkbum

Barack Obama is in Wisconsin today, visiting a green energy manufacturer in Manitowoc and other locations yet to be announced, the radio told me this morning.


Also, my friend Jason Haas is holding a fundraiser for his campaign for County Supervisor tonight at Transfer Pizza, potentially while President Obama is still in the state.

Now, this surely seems like a coincidence, right? But you may have to go to the event yourself just to be sure.

Monday, January 24, 2011

He just needs the jumpsuit

by folkbum

Jack LaLanne may be, finally at 96, dead, but let us all thank jeebus that there's this guy who will save us all from, what? an asteroid? Tojo? something.

Quote of the Day: Actually, it's about Paul Ryan edition

by folkbum
Now if you happen to be operating in a low-trust environment like a prison these downsides may be small relative to the logistical hurdles involved in setting up a central bank. But if you already have a functioning central bank and a widely accepted currency, it’d be kind of crazy to give it up and revert to prison conditions.
--Yglesias, writing about how Paul Ryan (R-Galt's Gulch) wants to make America into "Oz," and I don't mean the land of Munchkins and poppies

Friday, January 21, 2011

I'm not in

by folkbum

Contrary to popular internet rumor, I have not been hired to replace Keith Olbermann at MSNBC.

FriTunes: Go see John Stano, plus RIP Don Kirshner

by folkbum

My friend John Stano is playing Saturday night (1/22) at the Coffee House in here Milwaukee. A great venue for a great performance, and totally worth braving the cold:



And RIP Don Kirshner. We can debate the merits of the Monkees, but--look over there! Bobby Sherman!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Apropos of nothing

by folkbum

This, if you must know, is perhaps my favorite paragraph in all of the English language:
He had a habit throughout the twenty-seven years of making a narrow remark which, like a plumber’s snake, could work its way through the ear down the throat, halfway to my heart. He would then disappear, leaving me choking with equipment. What I mean is, I sat down on the library steps and he went away.

Monday, January 17, 2011

MLK day and unity: What digby said, and then some

by folkbum

I literally had the same couple of paragraphs from Dr. King's "Letter From a Birmingham Jail" cued up to post and comment on today, but she beat me to it:
I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.
This is key to remember, as Obama re-stocks his key staff with other Third-Way Democrats and Clinton-era moderates. Bully for Obama--really, bully for the Congress--for nailing some key progressive legislation this last term, from the end of DADT to the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the food safety bill. But the tendency for Democrats to give in and compromise an adopt the right's rhetoric--to be the moderate Dr. King so rightly recognized as the worse enemy--is dangerous.

And digby also beats me to making the connection to the challenges public employees face. Do not forget that Dr. King was in Memphis on April 3, 1968, to support striking public workers, only to be shot dead the next morning. Reasonable Democrats everywhere--even stalwart Andy Cuomo in New York--are giving in to the right's rhetoric on the only remaining middle-class jobs outside of the clutches of Our Corporate Overlords, public employees. Rather than seeing the public sector as the last refuge of any American who wants a stable, adequately compensated job that can support a family, the left is getting set to cave and turn us all over to the oligarchs, the rich who are so desperate to avoid paying their fair share in taxes that they have turned the average citizen, not to mention the average Democratic legislator, against the people who educate their children, collect their garbage, and put out their housefires.

If this sounds over the top, it is not. Remember that no matter what the white moderates they tell you, there is an obvious and easy way to pay for the public services we all need and use: taxes. Per-capita personal income taxes are lower than they have been in generations. You have to go back almost to the day Dr. King died to get to an era when they were lower. And income tax, of course, is paid primarily by those with more income. As those taxes have declined, reliance on regressive taxes like property and sales taxes has increased. The rest of us, the ones not so rich as to be soaked by an income tax, are having a hard time keeping up with this change.

Since Dr. King's death, the real-dollar household income of the bottom 80% of us has declined. For 81% to 90%, it's been (barely) stable. For the top 10%, though, the top 1% especially, it has soared. All of the wealth created by deregulation and creative accounting in the financial services has been hoovered up from below: The top 10% of earners sucked up nearly a trillion dollars of wealth that would have gone to the middle classes if the growth trends of Dr. King's day had remained in place.

Instead, the rich got very rich. Everyone else lost ground. And rest assured, this is not because some bond trader in New York is more valuable to society than the retired teachers of Whereversville USA whose pension fund burst with the bubble. That bond trader got a bailout but the teachers are going to lose their pensions because austerity is the new American Dream.

I won't presume to speak for Dr. King, nor claim that if he were alive today he would support x or y policy. But remember what he said in that speech in support of the striking public workers in 1968:
Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history? It means that we've got to stay together. We've got to stay together and maintain unity. You know, whenever Pharaoh wanted to prolong the period of slavery in Egypt, he had a favorite, favorite formula for doing it. What was that? He kept the slaves fighting among themselves. But whenever the slaves get together, something happens in Pharaoh's court, and he cannot hold the slaves in slavery. When the slaves get together, that's the beginning of getting out of slavery. Now let us maintain unity.
The right and the wealthy have successfully turned this country upon itself; they have led a class war and they have nearly won. When you look at the retired teachers of Whereversville USA, and see them as the enemy and not those who have actually waged war upon you and your middle-class lifestyle, you surrender the fight, and let them keep winning.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Quotation of the Day

by bert

Not for nothing is the most repeated three-word phrase on the internet "What Digby said".

I think my favorite right wing gambit is their ability to pivot from being aggressive defenders of the right to say and do anything in a free country to a bunch of Victorian spinsters calling for the smelling salts over the ill-mannered behavior of their political opponents -- in the same day!

FriTunes: Something up for a change

by folkbum

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Politi"Fact": science, women's health, and basic public services now "partisan"

by folkbum

I am supporting Jim Sullivan for Milwaukee County Executive, though this is not the way I planned to announce it (not that my endorsement carries any real weight anymore, if it ever did). I say that because the following post is in part a defense of Chris Abele, and I don't want anyone to think I am doing this out of some kind of blind partisan loyalty.

I'm doing this because the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's franchise of the PolitiFact brand is at war with truth and with public employees and letting that bias get in the way, repeatedly, of any semblance of fairness on related issues.

Today they examine Abele's claim to be non-partisan. Abele said, "I’ve worked with Republicans, Democrats and anyone who has good ideas to find solutions. And I’ve fought for our shared values without being an ideologue or a partisan." And it's true--Abele has a history of playing well with members of this community on all sides of the aisle to make Milwaukee a better place to live and work.

He's a Democrat, no doubt, and has a history of supporting Dems financially (including, ironically, Jim Sullivan). But identifying with one party is not the only criterion for being labeled partisan, and certainly doesn't prove Abele's an ideologue.

But, oh, does PolitiFact try hard to make it so! Despite a lot of fevered rhetoric, when they start citing specifics, the needle moves toward true: the bulk of his charitable money goes to arts or no-brainer efforts like fighting cancer. His announced positions on County issues are hard-right (and this is part of why I don't support him)--gutting employee contracts, ignoring the public will on a parks/transit sales tax, and more. I personally have problems with his support of for-profit education enterprises and a mayoral takeover of MPS.

But here's what really pisses me off about the story: In trying to decide what's "progressive" or "liberal" or ideologically "left" or whathaveyou, they offer this kind of BS (my emphasis):
[Abele's family foundation] has funded progressive social causes such as Planned Parenthood, homeless prevention, global warming, alternative energy and the Wisconsin Citizen Action Fund, the sister organization of group representing a coalition of labor and social justice causes. [. . . S]ome of Abele’s rhetoric seems designed to reassure progressives--suggesting we can protect services even in the county’s time of fiscal peril.
Yes, you're reading that right: PolitiFact is here suggesting that such things as scientific truth (global warming and alternative energy), women's health, helping the homeless, and providing basic public services like parks and transit are "progressive" now. Unbelievable! Science is not a party, the homeless are not a political movement, taking care of each other is not ideological.

It is remarkable to me how far off kilter our political discourse has become that a self-appointed arbiter of truth, like Politi"Fact," can not only ascribe a partisan orientation to such things, but then use that to call a complicated and inscrutable figure like Abele a liar.

Added: xoff sees other problems with PolitiFact today.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Collage

Can we all at least agree

by folkbum

that by now Sarah Palin has thoroughly made herself unelectable?

Right Wing: I'm the Real Victim Here

by bert

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is on tape from last spring agreeing with an interviewer that Sarah Palin's crosshair map is troubling. Her office was vandalized. A protester brought a gun and dropped it at a Giffords appearance in Douglas, Ariz. last August. Her campaign opponent Jesse Kelly ran an event "to get on target" and "remove Gabrielle Giffords from office" that attracted people by offering them the chance to fire M16s.

Then Mrs. Giffords was shot in the head.

I didn't like this kind of crap before, and I like it even less now. I guess I am heartened that the right wing suddenly believes in intellectual rigor and making careful distinctions. We've all been lectured about blame and told the suspect Jared Loughner did not actively conspire with any of the folks they always defend no matter what.

Whatever. The fact remains that Mrs. Palin and all the goons mixing politics with gun play should be ashamed of themselves. I'm talking about decency, not blame. And I don't care if stating the obvious hurts their feelings. They don't get to be the victims right now.

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Shooting

by folkbum

I don't have a lot to add that hasn't already been said. In cases like this, the more important factor is always that the shooter seems to be a plain-old nutjob, not a ___-wing nutjob (with the blank being right or left). From the distance of a couple of days now, it seems that there is no connection between the shooter and the kind of eliminationist rhetoric that is real and exists and literally targeted Gabrielle Giffords last year. That's just a gut-wrenching coincidence. This shooter is just plain stoner-crazy. Based on the kinds of things on his youtube channel (and that he seems to believe a lot of the same things as this Milwaukee man), we're deep into Time Cube kinds of insanity, not partisan meanness.

But I do have to wonder: If Congressional elections were to be held two months from now, instead of two months ago, would Sarah Palin have released a map with Congressional districts in gunsights? (And they were gunsights--Palin admitted as much last year.)

If the debate among candidates for chair of the Republican National Committee were held this week instead of last week, would Grover Norquist still have asked the candidates how many guns they own?

If the "tea party" movement started today, instead of two years ago, would they proudly bear signs and wear t-shirts proclaiming, "We came unarmed--this time"?

If Sharron Angle were a candidate for Senate this year instead of last year, would she still tell a radio audience that people who disapprove of their government may have to resort to "second amendment remedies"?

Again, there is obviously no connection between any of those things and what happened on Saturday. But all of these people, in retrospect, must be feeling incredibly sick and guilty about what they have said. Or at least, they ought to be, if they are remotely human.

Thank jeebus that political assassination in this this country is rare. However, I think it is that rareness itself that allows people to shrug off violent rhetoric and imagery from candidates, campaigns, media figures, and elected officials. It's all fun and games and metaphor--until someone gets shot in the head. Again, there is no reason to believe any of those things made the shooter do what he did, but this is the time for reflection. Does it help, does it do any good, does it add one positive ounce to the universe to run around spouting that kind of violent rhetoric and promoting guns? Think about Gabby Giffords--no, better, think about Christina Taylor Greene.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Lyrical Love RIP edition

by 3rd Way

tons o' guns

by guru

"tons o' guns everybody's getting strapped
tons o' guns got to watch the way you act
tons o' guns real easy to get
tons o' guns bringing nothing but death
tons o' guns are in the streets nowadays
it's big money and you know crime pays
check your nearest overpopulated ghetto
they greet you with a pistol not trying to say hello"

...

"tons o' guns but i don't glorify
'cos more guns will come and much more will die
why, yo i don't know black
some mother&$#!'ers just be living like that"

Quotation of the Day

by bert

From Robert Reich, of all people:
"If you widen the lens, the public is being sold a big lie -- that our problems owe to unions and the size of government and not to fraud and deregulation and vast concentration of wealth. Obama's failure is that he won't challenge this Republican narrative. . ."

Friday, January 07, 2011

FriTunes: RIP, Gerry Rafferty; and a preview of tonight's entertainment

by folkbum

RIP, Gerry Rafferty:


I think that's the Geico caveman on drums, no? And tonight's entertainment:

Thursday, January 06, 2011

something something MPS blah blah: BLAME THE UNION!!!!!11!

by folkbum

The other day, the newsamapaper had a story about how difficult it is for the Milwaukee Public Schools to unload its empty school buildings. These buildings need to go--there is no reason for MPS to hang on to them, and every chance I get to talk to anybody with authority (even potential authority, as I've talked about his to board candidates), I say sell them soon. But this is no easy task.

There are eleventy hundred reasons why this is true: bad real estate market; old buildings full of asbestos and otherwise not up to code; many of the properties in relatively undesirable locations. There are two significant reasons, though: one, as the paper reported, there's a deed restriction on the properties that makes it hard to sell them to other, non-MPS schools; and two, there is Administrative Policy 5.01(9) (pdf):
SCHOOL PROPERTIES DISPOSAL
In disposing of surplus school buildings and sites, the Board shall be guided by the following priorities based upon recommendations from various planning agencies, the needs of the school system, and input from the staff:
1st — Sale, for non-public purpose, with the goal of returning as many properties to the tax base as possible.
2nd — Lease with maintenance and operations activities performed by the district. Lease must cover all cost to the Board of School Directors.
3rd — Sale/lease to other governmental agencies.
This policy specifically dictates that the primary concern of the district in unloading vacant buildings is returning the sites to the private sector, which would help rebuild Milwaukee's sagging tax base. This policy, unlike the deed restriction, is not specific about what kind of non-profit or public entity the Board is discouraged from selling to: the top priority is getting properties back into private hands, period.

I point this out because, as is now the norm with any story involving MPS, no matter what the story actually is, there is a massive, simultaneous, knee-jerk response among the illiterati: IT'S ALL THE UNION'S FAULT. (Hence the title of this post; the substance of a story about MPS has little to do with the ultimate reaction.)

If you think I'm kidding, consider that before 8:30 that morning the comments blaming the union already started popping up on the Journal Sentinel story linked above, with such gems as "The only way is our way; the union way," and "I guess the reporters should have gone to a reliable source, like the teacher's union to find the real truth, right? Lol!"

This morning's story about two pols' plan to use state law to coerce MPS to sell or lease buildings to its competition is infested in the same way in its comment thread.

And there's this "Quick Hit," from Reader Advisory Committee member Thomas C. Burtnett (my emphasis): "Milwaukee Public Schools won’t sell even one of (only!) 27 empty school buildings to St. Marcus Lutheran School or Milwaukee College Prep, both 'high performing' charter schools [ed: St. Marcus is a voucher school, not a charter school] because the school would be operated 'in competition' with MPS. [. . .] This isn’t the 'public' talking. I smell a union."

Let's be clear: The union has no control over MPS administrative policy. Nothing, literally nothing in the MPS-MTEA contract has a thing to do with the size, shape, and location of the district's physical plant. Period.

Buh-buh-buh-buh-but the union buys the school board elections every year! I can imagine Burtnett or Charlie Sykes or the "Lol" geniuses on the comment threads at jsonline saying. Well, it seems like as good a time as any to remind people of reality on that front, as well. There are nine members of the Milwaukee Board of School Directors. Two of those nine--just two!--had union support in their last contested election. One of those nine had union support but ran unopposed. So of the nine members of the MPS board, six of them, a supermajority if you're counting, were opposed by the union in their last election. That's a 2-1 advantage for the non-union board members. To suggest that Board policy, then, is a product of the union or written at the direction of the union, is just dumb.

The fact is, MPS's policy of wanting first and foremost to move vacant properties into private hands and back onto the tax rolls makes sense. That MPS is acting like a business in "competition" with its actual competitors also makes sense; indeed, one of the biggest selling points behind the voucher movement is that "competition" is good for public schools. As much as Milwaukee Metro Association of Commerce head Tim Sheehy is blaming MPS's competitive attitude for their refusal to sell properties to voucher schools, it's Sheehy himself and his organization (plus groups like School Choice Wisconsin, on whose board Sheehy sits) that have long supported making the Milwaukee education sector into a competitive marketplace.

In fact, you could probably say that Sheehy, MMAC, voucher supporters, and charter pushers are much more responsible for MPS's reticence to sell than their preferred scapegoat, the union.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Paul Ryan calls Paul Ryan's power grab "unprecedented," "breathtaking"

by folkbum

I have written previously about Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Galt's Gulch), and the trouble the GOP is likely to have putting him, a True Believer, in charge of writing its budgets. As much as Republicans like to campaign on things like deficit reduction, they have never been much for rubber meeting the road in that regard.

However, they are about to do something quite amazing: When they vote on House rules tomorrow, they will give Ryan, one representative in a House of 435 voting members, singular authority:
Another aspect of the proposed rules also seems at odds with promises made in the campaign about what a new Republican majority would do. There was much talk about increasing the transparency of the legislative process, and some proposals in the new rules package would do that. But the new rules also include a stunning and unprecedented provision authorizing the Chairman of the Budget Committee elected in the 112th Congress, expected to be Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, to submit for publication in the Congressional Record total spending and revenue limits and allocations of spending to committees — and the rules provide that this submission “shall be considered as the completion of congressional action on a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2011.” In other words, in the absence of a budget resolution agreement between the House and the Senate, it appears that Rep. Ryan (presumably with the concurrence of the Republican leadership) will be allowed to set enforceable spending and revenue limits, with any departure from those limits subject to being ruled “out of order.”

This rule change has immediate, far-reaching implications. It means that by voting to adopt the proposed new rules on January 5, a vote on which party discipline will be strictly enforced, the House could effectively be adopting a budget resolution and limits for appropriations bills that it has never even seen, much less debated and had an opportunity to amend.
In other words, Ryan can pick a number without telling anyone, at random if he wants, and that number is the spending limit for the year. Period. No debate, no vote, no transparency to the process.

How are Republicans able to make such a thing possible? They are going to use a process called "deem and pass."
As soon as those rules are adopted on Wednesday, Ryan's spending levels will be considered--or "deemed"--adopted by the full House as if they'd passed a budget with a floor vote. The legislative language in the rules package holds that Ryan's spending limits, "shall be considered as contained in a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2011 and the submission thereof into the Congressional Record shall be considered as the completion of congressional action on a concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2011."
If this sounds familiar, it's because "deem and pass" is a technique long in use in the House*. Used to happen all the time--well, a lot, anyway. Until 2010, when House Democrats attempted to "deem and pass" the Senate version of the Affordable Care Act, the health care bill, and revisions to that bill in a single vote. This is something that should not have been a controversy, but House Republicans jumped all over it. They and the punditerati whose job it is to parrot GOP talking points called this act every possible evil name in the book. (I refuse to link or read the local righty bloggers anymore, but this Wisopinion blogsearch result will let you see what Wisconsin's geniuses were saying about the idea then. As I said, I don't read them anymore, but I am guessing they're pretty quiet about it today.)

Of particular interest, FOX News interviewed, surprise, Rep. Paul Ryan about deem and pass at the time: "Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called the procedure 'unprecedented' and 'breathtaking.' "

Now, of course, he is willingly going along with the GOP leadership, because this "unprecedented" and "breathtaking" action will "deem and pass" a huge chunk of power directly into his little hands. Classy!

* To be clear: I personally have no issue with deem and pass as a process--it is traditional and right up until last spring, non-controversial. It's a time-saver, basically. However, I do have a problem with two things: One, the massive power-grab itself, concentrating authority without debate or transparency into the hands of a single representative, and Two, the hypocrisy of the GOP in general, and Paul Ryan in particular.

Related, 1: When Ryan sets his budget number, he's planning to just pretend that a repeal of the Affordable Care Act won't increase the deficit. No sense living in reality when you have your hand on the biggest lever of power, eh?

Related, 2: Remember in 2007, when incoming Democratic House Oversight Committee Chair Henry Waxman wrote a letter to all of the labor unions and environmental groups in the country to ask them what investigations of the White House he should be pursuing? I don't either.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Finland's lesson for US education reform

by folkbum

I'm a bit late to this, but since the topic never goes away, I don't need to be completely timely.

One of the things that confuses me most about today's education reformers is that on the one hand, they point to international rankings where the US is low to create a sense of urgency, while on the other hand, these same reformers advocate a series of reforms that do not exist in the systems ranked above us.

For example, reformers rightly cite the example of Finland as a country that did something right: Over the last three decades, they worked their way up from middling rankings with significant disparities--an achievement gap, if you will--between wealthy and poor students. Today, no such gap exists and Finland sits atop the rankings.

So, what does Finland do? Is there a voucher system? Demoralized, deunionized teachers? Standardized testing every few weeks, some of which is high stakes for students and schools? Charter schools run by private corporations? Performance pay and value-added teacher rankings in the daily newspaper?

Nah, of course not. Pasi Sahlberg, in the Boston Globe, tells us what they do have:
Finland has a different approach to student testing and how test data can or should not be used. Finnish children never take a standardized test. Nor are there standardized tests used to compare teachers or schools to each other. Teachers, students, and parents are all involved in assessing and also deciding how well schools, teachers, or students do what they are supposed to do. Politicians and administrators are informed about how well the education system works by using sample-based learning tests which place no pressure on schools, and by research targeted to understand better how schools work. Parents and politicians think that teachers who work closely together with parents are the best judges of how well their children are learning in schools.

Another difference is that Finland has created an inspiring and respectful environment in which teachers work. All teachers are required to have higher academic degrees that guarantee both high-level pedagogical skills and subject knowledge. Parents and authorities regard teachers with the same confidence they do medical doctors. Indeed, Finns trust public schools more than any other public institution, except the police. The fact that teachers in Finland work as autonomous professionals and play a key role in curriculum planning and assessing student learning attracts some of the most able and talented young Finns into teaching careers. [. . .]

What could the United States learn from the Finns? First, reconsider those policies that advocate choice and competition as the key drivers of educational improvement. None of the best-performing education systems relies primarily on them. Indeed, the Finnish experience shows that consistent focus on equity and cooperation--not choice and competition--can lead to an education system where all children learn well. Paying teachers based on students’ test scores or converting public schools into private ones (through charters or other means) are ideas that have no place in the Finnish repertoire for educational improvement.

Second, provide teachers with government-paid university education and more professional support in their work, and make teaching a respected profession. As long as teachers are not trusted in their work and are not respected as professionals, young talent in the United States is unlikely to seek teaching as a lifelong career.
But, you know, that'll never happen. That would make sense.

Cause of Mayfair disturbance revealed

by folkbum

Shoppers rioted because there's no Gold to Go.