Archive for August 2012

How to Really Screw Up Education

My brain hurts. I am still traveling and working so I am exposed to nonsense in USA Today. There is an article that schools (not higher education) are learning the lesson from colleges and universities and finding corporate sponsors to fund their funding shortfalls. Ah, the market place in action.

Does anybody besides me see a major problem here? First, who gets the funding, and of course the answer based on data so far is schools in neighborhoods where the parents are affluent. Second, what are the strings? Does the contributing corporation not like the arts or thinks shop is for weenies? What does he demand for his money?

One of the things that is coming out of studies of well performing schools in other nations is that those that beat the socks off us fund their schools equally. They are not dependent on the wealth of the community or the local tax base. Second, standards are established across all schools for what is to be learned and what is important, and then the teaching staff is left alone to find the best way to achieve that. And we think looking to outside “gifts” is going to give us anything but pockets of wealth and pockets of poverty, both in funding and education? What are we thinking?

White Out

Well I am tied up earning my keep in Dallas, but when I got back to my room, I turned on the TV and there it was. I am not commenting on the nonsense they were saying, because, well they live in a different reality, one that doesn’t exist. But OMG, when they scanned the audience, I was thinking where are my sunglasses. If I were there I would be wearing my ski googles. The white out and the reflection off all those white faces was blinding. I didn’t know you could get that many white people in one place and not raise questions about segregation. All I can say is that our country is a beautiful multi-colored place and apparently none of the colors besides white are in that convention center. That should raise some serious questions about who they are, but I was too busy trying to protect my eyes from the blinding white reflection to think deeply about what it meant.

Focusing on the Wrong Problem

I was listening to Up w/Chris Hayes this morning while packing for another trip and a Very Serious Person (VSP from Paul Krugman) was explaining that the Republicans have one thing right and that is that we have to reduce our deficit or we will all go broke. In her mind the problem was Medicare and Medicaid and the only way to reign them in was to reduce benefits, which sadly is what most Americans believe. But once again we are looking at an effect, not a cause. As Dean Baker pointed out:

Okay folks, mark August 25, 2012 in your calendar. That is the day that Matt Miller clearly stated on the Washington Post oped page that the problem is not Medicare, but the broken U.S. health care system. Miller noted that we spend more than twice as large a share of our GDP on health care as the average for other wealthy countries and have little to show for it in terms of outcomes. (Astounding Development)

Like the problem with the economy is the deficit, many people think the problem with Medicare and Medicaid is that we are too generous with our programs instead of the fact that the way we deliver health care in this country is just plain broken. Sadly we are having debates and proposing fixes to address effects while the causes go untouched. I am beginning to think our whole nation suffers from dementia or at least a severe case of being critically thinking challenged. People just hear something enough times and it magically becomes true. See the Republicans on that one.

Yep, We Just Need to Arm Everyone

We all are now familiar with the shooter at the Empire State Building who shot and killed an ex-coworker. Well in the ensuing gun “battle” with police, 9 were wounded by police bullets:

The police commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, confirmed on Saturday that all nine were wounded by police bullets, bullet fragments or shrapnel from ricochets. Mr. Kelly also confirmed that the shooter, Mr. Johnson, never fired another shot after killing a former co-worker, Steven Ercolino, moments earlier.

Remember that politician that suggested if more people were armed in that Colorado theater, the gunman would have been taken down? Remember the politician in Arizona who said the same thing about the Gabby Gifford shooting? Let’s see, in the New York shooting these were all trained policemen with a protocol to not hit innocent bystanders. I wonder how many would have been killed in the crossfire with a wild shootout between members of the crowd? More Republican looniness even when reality points out the looniness.

Schizophrenia

Timothy Egan wrote a great column on Friday about the state of the Republican party that eschews science, rational thought, and reality to believe what they believe (The Crackpot Caucus). I personally think Republicans have set this country back years and maybe put us on the road to Banana Republic status. Actually most Banana Republics are more kindly than the meanness that infuses the Republicans. My concern is that we just seem to be waking up to their nonsense.

Sadly as I have written before, the press has legitimized most of their nonsense by fear of alienation by not pointing our their obvious lies and misinformation. Worse they came up with a formula for being fair which equated to he said/she said interviews and completely lacked any independent fact checking. Now they are waking up a little, but it may be too late because our less than engaged public has been pretty much confused by the whole thing.

One has to ask why there is still “debate” on global warming, or Obama’s birth place (oh, I know, this is racial code), or we need a gold standard, or forcible rape, or the obvious lies the Republicans are telling about removing the work requirements for welfare, or that the economy hasn’t improved under Obama (all though I will grant you not enough), or that the stimulus did not work, or that Obama has increased taxes or regulations (he hasn’t),  or that they are not blatantly trying to steal elections in many states.

But here is the one that is not getting enough attention and shows how schizophrenic the Republican loonies really are. The Republicans have convinced everyone that the deficit is the problem. It kind of faded away as an issue, but it is now coming roaring back in this election.

Now I will just tell you that you are looking at an effect, not the root cause of a problem. The real problem is lack of jobs and the resultant lack of demand in our economy to increase revenues and put the debt to rest. But even Democrats have accepted the belt tightening language. Well my friends, you can’t do both. Either we expand government spending to get our jobs going, or we cut government spending to attack the deficit, which will further depress revenues, and just make the deficit worse. We have already wasted four years.

So here come the crazy Republicans talking about the deficit and how we have to cut everything to get it under control and then in the same breath are terrified of the deal they struck in approving the debt ceiling increase which cuts government across the board and lets all the Bush tax cuts expire (fiscal cliff). One has to go huh? You mean government spending does create jobs? But I thought we needed to rein in our deficit? So which is it? Then you read articles like this one in the Economist that blame “lawmakers” (Congress):

“Under the title “cliff diving,” it (the Economist) predicts that Congress is unlikely to pass a “grand bargain” before the end of the year and that “[c]redit-rating agencies may well lose patience” before lawmakers get their act together. This in turn would lead to higher interest rates that might well push the fragile economy into another recession.”

But the problem isn’t lawmakers, it is the Republicans who are not making sense. If you won’t accept any tax increases then you simply won’t play. And this is the language the press has been using for years to fail to point out the problem. So it is not surprising that Americans don’t get it. While the Republicans are simply not making sense and being schizophrenic, the press calls out “both sides”.

For my part, I believe based on our experience during the Depression and looking at other economic events in our history, that we must spend/grow our way out of our debt. I believe it because there is a ton of evidence and economists who support this position and have been right about our path so far. Sure that means other reforms including the tax code, but for the near term, if we take the savings we make from these reforms and pay down the deficit, it will not help the economy and could be counter productive.

We need to reinvest those savings in America. You can’t do that if like the Republicans you are terrified of the deficit and at the same time don’t want cuts that could throw the country into recession. You are simply locked in indecision and rocking back and forth in the corner. They are as irrational on this issue as they are on everything else, and the country through our press is just as confused.

So pick a path. Either we go the austerity route of the Europeans (except in the American version the rich don’t have to play) and suffer their failing economies, or we decide to invest in tomorrow and try to grow our economy again. One thing you can be sure of. The Republicans won’t play and compromise with their failed policies is a sure road to failure.

Who Said it Best Today: Bill Maher

I have in past posts been trying to make the point that if you can suspend you disbelief for your religion, that kind of illogical thinking bleeds over into your everyday thought process.  Well as usual someone with a much greater (thank goodness) audience than mine made the point so much better than I have:

Republicans would like to pretend like Congressman Akin’s substitution of superstition for science is a lone problem but it’s not: they’re all magical thinkers, on nearly every issue. They don’t get their answers on climate change from climatologists, they get them from the Book of Genesis. Hence Sharia Law in America is a dire threat, and global warming a hoax. How do they get away with it? They know that, because we’re already such a religious country, our minds are primed for magical, fantasy thinking. The gullibility comes factory-installed. They’ve learned that you appeal not to an American’s head, but to his gut — it’s a much bigger target. But here’s the problem: life is complicated. Next week in Tampa the Republicans must admit that the difference between a GOP convention and Comic-Con is that the people at Comic-Con have a much firmer grasp of reality.”

Or one of my other favorites quotes in this piece:

Or take the issue that consumes the right these days, our sea of red ink: Republicans are united in their fervent desire to reduce the deficit, but they want to do it in some magical fashion that doesn’t involve raising taxes or cutting any spending. When given a choice in polls between these two options, a majority or Republicans check “none of the above” as a way to reduce the deficit. That’s like deciding to pay off your student loans by daydreaming.

Or as it’s known on Capitol Hill, supply-side economics. Remember that magic beans theory? That you actually bring in more revenue by bringing in less? Ronald Reagan believed it. But at least back in the ’80’s it was new. The thing is, we tried it, and it doesn’t work. Yet, Paul Ryan, who every shit-for-brains pundit in America keeps telling us is a “serious” guy, still believes in the supply-side theory. All the Republicans do. They all believe in something that both science and history have shown to be pure fantasy. The symbol for their party shouldn’t be an elephant — it should be a unicorn.”

Thank you Bill. That is exactly what I see today in the Republican Party and I feel like I am living in the Twilight Zone because it seems nobody else has noticed they are nuts and then is shocked, shocked, shocked about Todd Akin.  He is not an extreme nut.  He stands dead center in their party philosophy today.  Bill Maher:  My New Rule for Todd Akin and the Republican Party.  

The Sorry State of Our News

I was driving into the City yesterday (Wednesday) morning (SF) so I was listening to MSNBC in the morning.  First there was Morning Joe and of course the discussion of Congressman Todd Akin and his superstitious view of legitimate rape as self generating birth control.  The comment from Mia Brzezinski was that it just makes Republicans and the Republican Party look dumb.  She is just figuring that out?  It should make Republicans take a hard look at their whole party to understand that this isn’t an extreme example, it is now the norm.  It lost its way and is controlled by people living in fantasy land or more particularly, religous land (their belief and philosophy is faith based , I believe because I believe) and with it, irrational thought.  The fact that the media has not reported this earlier is because of what followed with Chuck Todd.

Here we have a discussion of the politics of the politics.  Why is President Obama more likable than Mitt the twit?  How does the Congressman Akin debacle affect the Republican’s potential control of the Senate?  How does Romney move the discussion off abortion and on to the economy?  Etc, etc, etc.  See any real examination of issues?  I will grant you that the abortion issue is extremely important to women, but they are missing the whole point which is that the pro-life agenda is the tip of the iceberg on a party whose irrational thinking is driven by a religious fever, not just about the sanctity of life, but about economic policies as well.  And like most religious beliefs, these ideas are not informed by reality when it raises its ugly head and points out unintended consequences or failures of these policies in the real world.  Must be the Market Place’s will and who are we to question the will of the Market Place.

If we had a real discussion, not he said/she said, about the economy, fact check the claims. examine if what is being proposed has been shown to work, there would be no Tea Party control of the Republicans.  What you would find is that what they propose has been tried in the extreme and failed.  The only way you can hang on to these beliefs is if you believe them as a religious belief, and faith cannot be questioned.  What part of we have the lowest tax rates as a percent of GDP in 60 years, the wealthy are rolling in the dough, and THERE IS NO FLOW DOWN, do you not get.  What part of Bush cutting taxes to their lowest level ever and there was no job creation do you not get?  For everything they want to do, a critical examination with tons of data, show it will fail.  Why is it so hard to point out the obvious that the Ryan budget will increase the deficit while ravaging the poor.  This isn’t an opinion, this is fact based upon using a calculator to analyze his budget plan.  So why aren’t the press pointing this out and shaming them?  Access, but that is a whole other topic.  Watch Newsroom on HBO to get the point.

Why do we get nut cases like Todd Atkins and let us not forget 2010 and Christine O’Donnell and the lady in Nevada who wanted to pay for health care with chickens.  These were the people nominated by this faith based bunch who do not operate on logic when it counters their fundamental beliefs.  They now control the nominating process in their party.  The only thing amazing to me about this is how late both the press and moderate Republicans are coming to party to see that their party is a collection of science hating, fact hating, religious fanatics.  Note I include their economic philosophy as part of their religion.  If they were rational beings bent on solving problems, sooner or later one would have to actually examine the failures of their policies to come up with better solutions.  Instead they are doubling down and that my friend, is a lunatic.

If you want to see how far our press has fallen, take a look at Harvard Economist Niall Ferguson’s article in Newsweek Magazine.     It was riddled with errors or outright lies from a man who should be at least rational.  Paul Krugman, Ezra Klein, and others have pointed out that the article is grossly misleading and one wonders what is driving a man of academia to ignore academia unless it is irrational hate of Obama, and belief in economic philosophes that have failed (Ferguson has been telling us since 2009 that interest rates would go out of sight and China would not lend to us, not to mention the bond vigilantes would destroy the bond market). (See the Atlantic Monthly’s “A Full Fact Check of Niall Ferguson’s Very Bad Argument Against Obama“).  But we have this partisan hack attack using misleading or outright misstated data and Newsweek Magazine doesn’t fact check it?

The point is that there is plenty of non-partisan information out there to tell us exactly what we should be doing, what works and does not work.  Instead we are ignoring this and allowing outright irrational arguments that don’t make sense, people who are factually challenged, and a party being taken over by extremists who hate science, history, or anything else that challenges their strange beliefs to hold sway in the press, and our press presses on as though these are just other equally valid points of view.  We have entered the twilight zone and nobody noticed.  Good thing I live on a hill in the country with lots of wine. Maybe if I electrify my deer fence and get me some guns so I can keep the crazies out.  Oh, wait a minute.  Isn’t that exactly what the other side is doing?  It is called Republican immigration policy.

Undecided Independents are…Morons

Harsh?  I don’t think so.  There was a wonderful article in the Washington Post that upon reflection tells you why this country is screwed (Study:  Independents want compromise).  The article tells us that they are the most sought after votes and that if politicians want their vote then they need to “speak more softly about the other side.”  As the article notes:  “This November, independents again could play a decisive role. They make up 49 percent of those who are undecided or say they could change their minds.”  It also tells us that “one clear factor that separates them from Democrats and Republicans is a near-uniform call for greater cross-party cooperation. Seven in 10 independents say they favor compromise between the parties rather than confrontation, according to the survey. Just as many say they are dissatisfied with the country’s political system.”

Okay right there, I got to pull the plug on these people.  They want both sides to work together, okay I get that, but toward what?  Have they not been paying attention?  As Norm Orstein and Thomas Mann pointed out, it is not the Democrats who are the problem, but that the Republicans take a position and there is no meaningful compromise.  These guys are scholars and represent both sides of the partisan divide.  They have taken a non-partisan look at the problem and they have identified it, the extreme Republican Party today.  So are just asking the Democrats to cave?  Oh no, you want them to work together which means the Democrats have to cave.  Are you paying attention here?  The Republicans have thrown out their moderates and the new crop is even more radical and you can’t decide which party because you want them to work together?  If you elect these Republicans then the only way they work together is if the Democrats just cease to exist.

But that brings me to their policies, and here is the part or the article I really love. The article implies that this quote embodies the independent view:  “I don’t know what the truth is or what the lies are,” said Voula Manukas of Raleigh, N.C. “If I had my choice, I’d vote them all out and put a new Congress in there that’s going to work and not spend their whole time on the rhetoric.”  Perfect.  Has she heard of FactCheck.org?  The electorate who is going to make the choice for us in November has no idea where the truth lies and is just confused, or in my mind lazy and stupid.  No wonder outright bogus lies from the Romney campaign work so well.  Truth doesn’t matter to these folks because it is defined by campaign ads.

But my last point is one I have been trying to make in this blog for four years now.  THERE IS NO MIDDLE.  Being half pregnant is being pregnant. Republicans believe flow down, tax cuts for the wealthy, and no regulations and an empty treasury will solve all problems.  Democrats believe (or should) that this has been tried to the extreme in the Bush years and failed miserably.  It is time to abandon failed policies and go progressive.  We need to invest in our future.  Just where are compromises with failed policies going to get us, not to mention Republicans have shown they will not compromise?  Exactly where they have been getting us since Ronald Reagan was elected, a shrinking middle class and a massive transfer of the nation’s wealth to the wealthy.  So what compromise?  The two solutions are diametrically opposed because one has been tried and failed.  Where do you want them to meet in the middle on say austerity, or abortion, or job creation, or immigration, or the drug war, or war in Afghanistan(all failed policies)?

If independents are the key to the election and they want to see more compromise, then they are Judas goats leading us lambs to slaughter.  If you don’t know what the issues are at this point and your answer is to just throw politicians out indiscriminately without holding the Republicans responsible for the mess we are in, well you are the problem.  If these are the people that we must pander to with soft talk to get elected, promising them what is no longer possible, then we deserve the train wreck that is coming.

Let’s see if I have this right:  Not sure about global warming; evolution is just a competing theory; if you are forcibly raped you can’t get pregnant; there are plenty of fact check articles out there from non-partisin sources but I can’t find the truth; and of course, flow down works.  We are becoming a nation of nitwits.  I am apalled at the level of ignorance in this nation and that we pander to it.  God help us if this is who is going to decide the next election.

Applying Logic to the Irrational Republicans and Rape

Republicans want to make abortion illegal and they want no exceptions for rape or incest because that two cell zygote is more important than the woman who is carrying it.  Okay, in even more stark words, the Republicans are saying that the government will tell you that you have to carry a baby that may destroy you.   If you buy that the government can do that, and life is so precious that it must be protected at its most elemental level, then birth control is killing potential babies so the government can also tell you that birth control is illegal. Welcome to the Roman Catholic Church as our government.  It is just a small half step from where they are now and is the logical conclusion of their religious crusade.

Now take it one step further boys and girls.  If the government can tell you you can’t have an abortion, it can make you have one.  As soon as you accept the fact that government can make this most intimate and personal decision that you have to carry a baby, then it can also make the decision that you should not carry it.  Maybe it has Downs, or is disabled in some way.  Maybe the government thinks you already have one child and that is enough.  If it can make you have a baby, it can make you abort it.  It is simply two sides of the same coin of government power and its insertion in to our personal decisions.  From a logical point of view, if you don’t like one, you shouldn’t like the other and of course it is really inserting religious belief into our government which negates the whole point of the Enlightenment.  Who need stinking tolerance?

The part I really don’t get from the pro-life  and get government out of our lives crowd is that there are tons of babies throughout the world that are born, they are here now, and are hurting, why so aren’t they trying to do something about them?  Did I hear let’s cut Medicaid and foreign aid? Something is not making sense on a very fundamental level with the “Let’s get government our of our lives” crowd.  In order to be able to hold these kinds of beliefs and think in this illogical way you have to be loony-tunes.  May I introduce you to today’s Republican Party.  Did I also mention not too bright?  And they have an even chance of winning this years Presidential elections?

Seeing the Whites of Their Eyes

I just love it when some conservative opens his mouth and says what he is really thinking and all the BS is stripped away. That would be Missouri Congressman Todd Atkin. “Akin is currently in a lot of trouble for telling a local TV station on Sunday that women possess magical mechanisms for preventing conception when they’ve been attacked. “If it’s a legitimate rape,” he said, in words that have now echoed around the political world, “the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” The implication, of course, is that women who do get pregnant probably haven’t been really raped–it’s a barely updated version of the medieval conviction that women had to orgasm in order to conceive.” (Michelle Goldberg of the Daily Beast)

Now think about this based on how I described how conservatives think in my last blog. If the world is just, you probably caused the rape in the first place by some behavior because bad things don’t happen to good people, but if you fought back, well then it is unlikely you would get pregnant. But today he corrected his language to forceable rape. What he is getting at is trying to limit the funding (Right now, there’s an exception to the ban on federal funding for abortion in case of rape) for abortion to cases where it is provenly forceable. He and Paul Ryan authored just such a bill in 2011. So if your 14 year old is having sex with another 14 year old (or someone older) and gets pregnant, that is not forceable rape but chosen behavior, therefore you should be punished by carrying the baby. Or worse, you come into the hospital and you are poor and you describe a rape where you were terrified and just laid there. No abortion for you sweetee. It is classic conservative thought.

He said what he really meant to say. In his eyes the only legitimate rape is a brutal physical attack where you fight back. Otherwise you are just a lying woman who wants to suck the system dry by ending your pregnancy on the government dime. And he is not atypical of the Republicans on women’s right to choose. He is mainstream, but he mistakenly spoke his mind or as I like to say, you can now see the whites of their eyes.

Why this is even in the public square is beyond me. As President Obama said today, this should be between a woman and her doctor. These people who want to get government out of our lives have an interesting way of doing it don’t they. Oh and did I mention he is on the “Science & Technology Committee in the House”. The man has deep doubts about global warming and he apparently thinks a fact is anything he hears from a random doctor that supports his moronic views. Wake up women of American. This is what the Republican Party will bring you.