Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Via Daily Kos: That FL CEO Who Said He'd FIRE Everyone if Obama Elected? Guess What Happened...

Naturally, Obama was to blame for this.  As you may recall during the peak of the presidential campaign, Mr. Siegel penned a letter threatening to fire all his employees and close down his Orlando-based company, Westgate, if Obama was elected.  A snippet from the full letter:

So where am I going with all this? It's quite simple. If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.

So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn't? Whose policies will endanger your job? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of protecting and saving your job. While the media wants to tell you to believe the "1 percenters" are bad, I'm telling you they are not. They create most of the jobs. If you lose your job, it won't be at the hands of the "1%"; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country.
You see, I can no longer support a system that penalizes the productive and gives to the unproductive. My motivation to work and to provide jobs will be destroyed, and with it, so will your opportunities. If that happens, you can find me in the Caribbean sitting on the beach, under a palm tree, retired, and with no employees to worry about.
Signed, your boss

Yeah, that happened.   
 This wasn't the first time either. In 2000, Siegel did something just as slimy.  He put negative articles about Gore in every paycheck, and also forced his managers to conduct an inappropriate survey on who was voting for Bush and Gore.  Those that said Bush were "required" to register to vote.  Ironic, considering how Bush's economy almost put him out of business.

Fortunately for everyone, this time, his despicable letter threatening to fire everyone backfired.  Obama won Florida handily. The press mocked Siegel.  We all expected this time-share sleazeball to retire and close his company.  But then a funny thing happened...
Instead of his company being dragged down by the evil black man in the Oval Office, his company started flourishing again.  The Obama recovery saw companies make record profits, and Siegel's was no exception.  Today, Westgate is doing better than ever.  Under Obama, we also have had the best stock market in history, so investors like Siegel made out like bandits.  (Obama=worst socialist ever).  

Instead of firing, Siegel has had to hire more people.  Since his employees were finally able to get reasonably-priced health insurance, he was free to invest his money in all kinds of things. 

 He bought the Orlando Predators.  He also bought a massive hotel/casino in Las Vegas.  Saints be praised, he was even able to finally start work again on his gaudy, 90,000 square foot house complete with a bowling alley, a 30-car garage, and a roller-skating rink.

  • Turns out that he never had any intention to flee to the Caribbean.  
  • Turns out Obama has been great for him.  
  • Turns out he was just another rich, entitled a$$hole.

Via Daily Kos / FB:


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Via JMG: US Census: Population Is 320M


Via Reuters:
The U.S. population is seen at 320.09 million people as of Jan. 1, up 0.73 percent from a year earlier, the Census Bureau said on Monday. The Census Bureau said in a statement that the figure represents an increase of about 11.35 million people, or 3.67 percent, since the last population count on April 1, 2010. "In January 2015, the U.S. is expected to experience a birth every eight seconds and one death every 12 seconds. Meanwhile, net international migration is expected to add one person to the U.S. population every 33 seconds," the Census Bureau said. It said the combination of births, deaths and net international migration would add at least one person to the U.S. population every 16 seconds.
The Census Bureau estimates the current world population to be 7.2B, an increase of 80M over this time last year. That's about two Californias in the last 12 months.


Reposted from Joe Jervis

An Astronaut's Guide To Optimism


Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield became an internet sensation last year when he posted his performance of David Bowie's Space Oddity from the International Space Station. Today Hadfield posts an optimistic view of the coming year in a clip that appears to have been produced with some help from the Gates Foundation.






Reposted from Joe Jervis

Via The Hunger Site / FB:


Via http://climaterealityproject.org: Six Reasons We’re Going to Make History in 2015

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: every transformative movement has its moment. And 2015 is ours.
Just look at the signs. The world’s top carbon polluters – the US and China – have already signed a historic agreement to cut emissions. For the first time ever, negotiators from 196 countries all committed to addressing climate change at the recent Conference of the Parties meeting in Lima. And while the resulting agreement is far from perfect, it’s an essential first step toward a more ambitious deal in Paris next December. Meanwhile, outside the negotiating halls, clean energy technologies that can replace oil, coal, and gas and cut carbon pollution keep getting cheaper and growing in use. The list goes on and on.

What do all these things mean for the climate movement? Imagine an orchestra preparing to perform one of the great symphonies, say Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. The musicians have been rehearsing for years and now are on stage. The strings are tightening their bows. The winds are warming up. The tubas and French horns have finally made it and are gently tooting in the background. The choir is settling into place, and all that’s left is for the conductor to unite all these voices and make something truly majestic happen.



This is where we enter the picture. In 2015, we’re working with activists and partners around the world to connect the people and factors working for progress across continents and create the kind of force that can change the course of history and make something wonderful happen in Paris. Specifically, we’re:

1. Mobilizing when (and where) it matters.

This year, we brought over 120,000 Americans together to support strong limits on carbon pollution from power plants. In 2015, we’ll activate even more to advance and protect the key policies that have made the US a new leader in global climate action.

2. Spreading climate hope.

Through online outreach, Climate Reality Leaders, and the 140,000-plus activists who pledged to dedicate a day to making a difference, we’re ensuring that people around the world hear that the tools we need to stop climate change are right here, right now – and it’s time to use them and win.

3. Driving our political leaders to step up now.

The US-China agreement sent a clear signal to world leaders that if the planet’s two biggest polluters can commit to reducing emissions, they can too. We’re working in key nations to make sure they hear it and build public support for bold steps in Paris.

4. Engaging a new generation of young activists.

Young people today know climate change is shaping their future – and they want to do something about it. We’re reaching out and turning the Me Generation into the We Generation working together for a future we can all be proud of.

5. Training even more messengers.

On the issues that matter, people trust the message when they trust the messenger. So we’re training more of the leaders that communities trust to share the message of #ClimateHope and create widespread demand for climate solutions in over 120 nations.

6. Growing the climate movement.

From farmers to business executives to winter sports athletes, so many communities have a personal interest in a world without climate change, but too few understand what it means for them – or what they can do to stop it. It’s time to change that and we’re speaking directly to diverse groups across the US through the voices they know and in the everyday terms they understand. The result? We’re turning agnostics into activists who are changing the face of the climate movement and already making a real difference. 

Now it’s time to turn up the volume. With the prospect of a historic agreement in Paris just on the horizon, we need your help to train even more messengers, reach even more people across every continent, and together shout even louder so world leaders have to face the music and act.
We’ve been fighting for healthy and sustainable future for years. This is our time to win. Make a contribution to support our work when it truly matters. Plus, when you make a gift by December 31, an anonymous donor will match it dollar-for-dollar, doubling your impact and the difference you make.

Thank you. With your support, 2015 won’t just be a new year for climate action. It’ll be the year.
 

Via Occupy Democrats / FB:


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Via The Blue Street Journal / FB:

 

If you watched Rachel Maddow's documentary "Why We Did It" tonight, you'll understand why we're sharing this. Such a disgrace. 


Friday, December 26, 2014

Jim Carrey's Secret to Life



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Via Brandon Weber / FB:


Via LIVING in DIAGLOGUE: Pillars of Reform Collapsing, Reformers Contemplate Defeat

From LIVING in DIAGLOGUE, Wednesday, December 17, 2014. See http://www.livingindialogue.com/pillars-reform-collapsing-reformers-contemplate-defeat/#comments
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Pillars of Reform Collapsing, Reformers Contemplate Defeat

[Accountability / Bill Gates / Charter schools / Common Core / Grassroots Activism / Standardized tests / Teach For Americ]

By Anthony Cody

There is growing evidence that the corporate-sponsored education reform project is on its last legs. The crazy patchwork of half-assed solutions on offer for the past decade have one by one failed to deliver, and one by one they are falling. Can the edifice survive once its pillars of support have crumbled?

Teach For America: This project had as its central premise the idea that what was wrong with the teaching profession was that not enough really smart people were becoming teachers. So we will recruit some high flyers and fill the gaps in high needs schools. And because these folks are sooo smart, they do not need the year or two of preparation that regular old teachers needed - they could learn to crunch data, manage a class and prepare for tests in just five weeks. And if they leave after a couple of years, that's ok too. They can transform education as the next generation of leaders and policymakers, because they will have brains that classroom experience, and TFA's no excuses philosophy to guide them.

But this year TFA is hitting some serious headwinds. They are finding that recruitment has dropped for some reason, and the organization is even closing its New York training institute office. Perhaps students have been finding out some of the problems with the program, discovering in advance that five weeks is not adequate preparation for the challenge of teaching in a challenging school. Perhaps potential recruits have encountered TFA alums sharing their experiences, or even some of those organizing to resist the program. And word may have leaked out that TFA is not the best vehicle for those concerned with social justice - given that corps members are sometimes being used to replace veteran teachers.

Charter schools: We were told that charter schools were where innovation was happening. Freed from the dual constraints of district management and union contracts, these schools were going to show the laggards in public schools how it should be done. Some even claimed to have "figured out" how to overcome the effects of poverty on student achievement. So the billionaire geniuses of corporate reform insisted that all barriers and regulations on charters be removed or minimized. This requirement was written into Race to the Top and NCLB waivers. Want federal money? Better open the door for charter schools. Want special grants from the Gates Foundation? Open the doors to charters in your district.

But now charter proponents admit they have no secret sauce beyond excluding students who are difficult or expensive to educate. Their plan is to "serve the strivers," and let the rest flounder in an ever-more-burdened public system. The states where regulations are weakest, like Ohio, have charters that perform worse than the public schools, and even the self-described fan of free-markets, Margaret Raymond, lead researcher at CREDO, recently concluded that using market choice to improve schools has failed. In the state of Washington, where Bill Gates and other reform titans spent millions to pass a law allowing charter schools there, the first charter school to open is struggling to stay afloat, having suffered massive staff turnover in its first year. How ironic that 13 years after the corporate reformers labeled their flagship of reform "No Child Left Behind," that now their leaders are left defending leaving behind the very children they claimed their project would save.

New and Improved Standards and Tests: Since 2010 we have heard that the answer to the terrible impact of No Child Left Behind was to create better tests, aligned with the new Common Core standards. Modern technology would allow the tests to be taken on computers, which would cleverly adjust themselves to students' ability levels. These would be tests worth teaching to. Now the tests have arrived, and there are three huge problems. First, the tests themselves are confusing and unworkable, leading a growing number of states to reject them. Second, the tests require a huge investment in technology, since they must be taken online on computers. Third, when students take these tests, proficiency rates are plummeting, leading many to question their legitimacy. How can a test that labels upwards of 80% of students of color below proficient be considered a tool for advancing their civil rights? And when these tests are used to determine who receives a high school diploma, the results could be devastating. When a fourth grader can deliver a devastating statement like this, the Common Core tests cannot long survive.

The Pseudoscience of VAM for Teacher Evaluations: One of the central pillars of the Gates Foundation's dream for making standards and tests consequential to each and every teacher in the nation was the use of Value Added Models in teacher evaluations. As Peter Greene pointed out this week, this is one hill that Arne Duncan has staked out as one he will defend to the end - but the end may come nonetheless. The use of VAM to evaluate teachers has been roundly discredited and even disavowed by the American Statistical Association, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals. But Duncan now wants to use VAM to punish schools of education whose graduates are not sufficiently "effective" in raising test scores. This is one dead horse that Duncan needs to stop flogging.

Over at the Thomas B. Fordham Institute's Flypaper blog, there is some headscratching going on. Andy Smarick wrote last week of what he described as a return to homeostasis. In the world of the reformer, disruption and instability is to be created and celebrated. Homeostasis, that stable state that healthy organisms require to sustain health and vitality, is the enemy. He cites the exodus of reform-era state chiefs and their replacement by actual educators, and the dangers that annual testing - one of the bedrocks of test-driven accountability - may face when ESEA reauthorization comes up this year. Smarick concludes: "Homeostasis may be bringing this heady era of reform disequilibrium to an end."

It is perhaps a basic truth that it is easier to tear something down than to build something new. This may explain some of the trouble reformers are facing. Our schools are flawed in many ways, and do not deliver the sorts of opportunities we want all children to have access to. Racial and economic segregation, inequitable funding, and the replication of privilege are endemic - though truly addressing these issues will require change that goes far beyond the walls of our classrooms. Corporate-sponsored reformers have blamed the very institution of public education for these problems, and have set forth a set of alternatives and strategies to overcome social inequities. Here we are a decade into this project, and the alternative structures are collapsing, one by one.

We cannot pass laws that declare others "accountable" for making sure 100% of our children will be proficient and act as though we have accomplished something. It is time to go back to basic premises, and in every community, ask ourselves what we want from our schools? How can we meet the challenge of educating all our children - not leaving any behind? The answers will not come easily or cheaply. But just as a previous generation faced the challenge of the 20th century Civil Rights movement, our generation must respond.
----------------------------------
Anthony Cody worked in the high poverty schools of Oakland, California, for 24 years, 18 of them as a middle school science teacher. He was one of the organizers of the Save Our Schools March in Washington, DC in 2011 and he is a founding member of The Network for Public Education. A graduate of UC Berkeley and San Jose State University, he now lives in Mendocino County, California.
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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Via politicususa.com: Thanks, Obama! Economy Surges Forward As GDP Growth Fastest In More Than A Decade


The federal government reported Friday that real GDP growth rose by 5.0% for the third quarter of 2014, marking the fastest growth in any quarter since 2003. The number was higher than most analysts had predicted as growth was expected to be robust by closer to 4% due to initial estimates last month setting the growth at 3.9%. Increased consumer and business spending were the key factors leading to the higher number.

With a second straight quarter of rapid growth, the conventional logic thrown about from conservatives that President Obama’s policies are destroying the economy and the Affordable Care Act is the “nation’s number one job killer” looks downright silly. In fact, one of the major drivers in the fast growth is the fact that health-care spending has increased, showing that more people who now have insurance are able to utilize health services. This, in turn, also creates job growth in that industry.

This is just the latest in a string of good economic news for this current administration. Currently, the unemployment rate is at 5.9%, and job growth is at its strongest level since the Clinton Administration. Low gas prices are allowing consumers to spend more money elsewhere. While wages aren’t rising as fast as they should, they are finally moving up. Overall, Obama’s economy is humming along and is actually an improvement over the campaign promises from Mitt Romney in 2012.

On Friday, Steve Benen of The Maddow Blog discussed the issue Republicans will now face in attempting to criticize the economy and this administration.



Via FB:


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Via Wikipedia: The Next American Nation - Brazilianization

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Redirected from Brazilianization)

The Next American Nation: The New Nationalism and the Fourth American Revolution (ISBN 0-684-82503-1) is a 1995 book by journalist and historian Michael Lind, published by Free Press.
 
Lind's book focuses on criticism of two trends. The first, multiculturalism, he characterizes as an "unmitigated calamity" and a "a repellent and failed regime". Thus, Lind opposes affirmative action and racial quotas, and identifies the elimination of them as a "nonnegotiable demand". The second is a series of compromises struck by what Lind calls the white "plutocracy", "overclass", or "oligarchy". In the "first American Republic", he says, this "Anglo-American nation," the compromise was between North and South to keep blacks in bondage. "The Second American Republic", what Mr. Lind calls "Euro-America," saw the bargain struck between the oligarchy and the white working class to keep blacks marginalized.[1]

Lind further writes that multiculturalism is the basis for another such compromise, in which the "white ruling class" has, in fact, used racial quotas to appease blacks and other minority groups by promoting token numbers among them, but leaving the majority unhelped. This, Lind argues, has led not to Balkanization but "Brazilianization", a toponym which he defines as "a high-tech feudal anarchy, featuring an archipelago of privileged whites in an ocean of white, black and brown poverty."

"Brazilianization", Lind writes, is characterized by the "increasing withdrawal of the White American overclass into its... world of private neighborhoods, private schools, private police, private health care, and even private roads, walled off from the spreading squalor beyond. Like a Latin American oligarchy, the rich and well-connected members of the overclass can flourish in a decadent America with Third World levels of inequality and crime."[2]

Notes

  1. Books of the Times: An American Manifesto for a Desirable Future, Richard Bernstein, New York Times
  2. "Moral Crisis in Society", New Dialogue, University of Virginia Center for Ethics, Capital Markets, and Political Economy

Via adriennemareebrown.net: We cannot conquer each other.

 

Yesterday two police officers were shot and killed in Brooklyn. And in my social media realm I saw some responses that felt celebratory. I wanted to push back.

I get it. The more we become aware of the constant violence happening to us, the more unbearable it is. We develop an intelligent desire for vengeance.

But don’t let anyone get inside your heart! Don’t let the sickness of racism find a way to make hate feel at home in you.

I don’t expect any of our organizing and transformation work to rid this system of punitive police violence through legislation. This system is rooted in slavery, white supremacy, scarcity and violence.

I believe that our work is to begin and/or deepen experiments rooted in cooperation, compassion, abundance and dignity. We are soil, and earthworms in the soil. Nothing disappears, it only transforms, that’s just science. So here we are, knowing capitalism won’t disappear, composting the bullshit, producing fertile ground for life.

We must produce conditions conducive to black life inside of and between people and a nation conditioned for white supremacy…and we are not free from that conditioning even as we do the work. White supremacy and race-based capitalism permeates everything. 

The primary symptom of this sickness of white supremacy is the capacity, and even desire, to write off a section of other humans as less than us, to believe that another group of humans, or several groups, do not deserve love, compassion, patience, transformative justice – or just, on some basic shit, to not be shot in the back. And to generalize a righteous defence into a murderous offense. Eventually, to not be able to see the innocence and possibilities in others.

I write this as the daughter of an American military man, sister to an American government employee, cousin to militia men, granddaughter of a christian evangelical, aunt to blue eyed children.
A few of you may come from families of 100% radical black freedom fighters. But the majority of radical people in this country are related to capitalists and racists.

We could write these people off because we oppose the systems they are a part of, have been persecuted by people just like them. 

But for me, the bind of blood has made me consider my responsibility, has kept me in the game long enough to glimpse the wholeness of each of these humans, to witness the way they love even inside of all that sickness. 

In many cases these family members would and have argued that their love drives them to participate in these violent systems. The particular sickness of race-based capitalism makes us believe the world can’t sustain us all, that we need to hoard and tier resources just for ‘our own’. 

I believe that my love of myself and others and my authentic engagement can disrupt those systems.
My love is the only weapon I carry. 

Part of my life’s work is to stay in direct contact with each person’s humanity, to show that I see it. I struggle in this, it’s internal liberation work. I don’t want to grow the violent, callous, reductionist aspects of humanity, and I believe that ‘what we give our attention to grows.’ 

Some days I can extend my love to all humans, or most of us. Some days I can only get as far as my family. 

It’s enough. 

Wartime comes into being when we cannot extend love and humanity to others, when we forget we are more alike than different. Yesterday there were communications going around using the word wartime, sourced from the police union in New York. Wars are fought to conquer, to win territory. 

We can’t win by becoming what we are fighting against. In any case, the role of the police isn’t to conquer the people. We aren’t trying to win territory from police, we want to transform the root of racism within them, to stop the lynching. 

We cannot conquer each other. The lie is that we can win safety through violence and war.
War is surface behavior, indicating something is rotten at the root. To truly change the conditions, we must do radical work. In and through ourselves. 

This is the heart of black lives matter. It is not, and never has been, ‘black lives matter at the exclusion of white lives’ or ‘cop lives’ or ‘all lives’. It has always been about asserting that within the broader truth that all lives matter, blacks – black men, black women, black trans people, black children – are being executed at a genocidal rate. Black lives matter is us saying no, our lives are not disposable. 

Miraculous precious mysterious black life is not disposable. 

Black lives matter includes the need to love and cherish our own and each other’s lives…it doesn’t discount black on black aggressions, it doesn’t discount the need to counter our own internalized racism. 

The brilliance of ‘black lives matter’ is that the truth is so simple and massive to hold: In spite of nearly everything that has happened on this continent since black people arrived, we assert our humanity, our right to exist.

I believe, and I’m not alone in this belief, that racism is an illness. Passed down through conditioning. A dangerous deluded state which, unchecked, yields slavery and genocide. It must be addressed directly. 

Our most reactionary responses only grow racism. Fed violence, racism grows. Fed violence, all violence grows. 

I don’t advocate for swallowing genocide – I believe in self defense. There are people I look up to throughout history who, in the face of escalating eradication strategies by the state, armed themselves and said ‘no more’. But arming a people in self defense is a different strategy from random executions. 

A black man attempting to kill his black girlfriend and then killing two people of color in police uniform is not anything to celebrate – it is the sickness manifest. It is the inevitable place sickness takes us – death. 

The thing we want to stop, in this moment of police violence, is black death by execution. We want to stop lynching, not match it. We want to stop the pattern of killing based on racialized distortion. 

The fact that cops can see a black person and, in a situation that requires no violence, can decide to shoot that black person in the head, or heart, or in the back, or 6-41 times, or choke that person to death, or slam that person’s head into the pavement at a fatal angle, that is what we’re fighting against. 

Dehumanization. 

It enrages us that police can see a black person as a wild animal to take down, and we are standing up and shutting it all down to fight against that. For our dignity we are standing up, for our humanity.

Taking on that behavior would be the ultimate sign of our loss. 

Some of us call the cops pigs, and I’ve heard my share of no bacon, no pork jokes. Most humor is rooted in trauma, we laugh so we can keep moving forward when irrational horrific things keep happening. 

But police are humans, like us. Related to us. Some even still think they are protecting us. The harder truth is that humans – not pigs, not beasts – but parents and children and lovers, would treat other humans the way cops have been treating us. Have been trained to treat us.

Still, like the people the cops have been killing, innocent or criminal or criminalized, they all have the capacity to transform. 

That means there are options. 

Cops are family to non-cops. If you have a police officer of any race in your family, don’t rage at large on social media – call them. If you have racist family, or family suffering from internalized racism…write them love notes. Talk about why ‘black lives matter’ and Ferguson moves you, talk about what you long for, grasp them at the root and let them know you are fighting for their humanity. 

Violence is often seeded in cowardice and distance – now is the time to be brave, directly. 

Our movement will keep growing, what’s happening now will keep escalating. In the same way that some of the most powerful activists against war are ex-soldiers, we need those who’ve seen the inside of structured police violence to know there is another way, that they have a place in the fight for liberation. To know that we believe they can reclaim their own humanity. 

This is a moment to embody what we long for. To see humanity even through the most dehumanizing conditioning. 

Can we offer the thing we demand, the capacity to look beneath the surface, in spite of the trauma and brainwashing? 

Can we relinquish the comfort of faceless enemies? 

Can we protect our basic ability to grieve the loss of human life? 

Can we hone our ability to find the humanity in each person and keep our attention there? 

Can we generate in the face of destruction?


Via Collective Evolution / FB:


Saturday, December 20, 2014

https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=8482403176180974736#editor


Via Quartz: An open letter to America from a public school teacher


Dear America,

I’m sorry. You entrusted me with your children, and I have failed them. Please know that I had the best of intentions. I didn’t want to leave a child behind. I wanted to help them win this race to the top. You asked me to test them, and I tested them. I gave them choices: A, B, C, D, and sometimes even E. I didn’t just test them though; I spent hours showing them how to test, and I prepared them for that by quizzing them. My quizzes and tests were rigorous, too, just like you asked.

I have to be honest with you, though: my heart wasn’t in it at first. I had this ridiculous idea that art and music and drama and activity breaks would help my students grow. Maybe it was all those years of allowing my students to be creative. To think, I once had my English class produce a full-length play with original music and student-designed sets. I wasted weeks and weeks on that frivolous project. Sure, my students enjoyed it then, and okay, many of them still e-mail me and tell me that was the highlight of their high school experience, but I know now that if I had only had them sit in rows and practice for the ACT, if I had only given them short passages and had them tell me which of the five choices best described the author’s tone, they’d be so much more fulfilled in their lives.

After all, what did they really learn? How to access their imaginations? Developing original thoughts? Teamwork? I may as well have taught them how to file for unemployment.

Last year, our school district did away with our arts education classes. I was stunned along with the other misguided “professionals” with whom I taught. That was before I came to the stark realization that painting and sculpting and drawing might be nice hobbies to have, but they’re certainly not going to help adolescents as they compete for the jobs of the future. Do we really want a bunch of flaky artist-types distracting us? The art teacher is a barista at Starbucks now, which at least allows her to use valuable skills and restore middle-class security. And she makes a great latte.

Some people want to blame parents for the failure of American students to achieve. If parents would only spend more time engaged in enrichment activities with their kids like reading to them or taking them to museums or on nature hikes. Parents are busy though; I don’t think I really took time to consider how busy they are. We must also remember that it’s not a parent’s job to teach their children. That’s why they pay us.

Some parents are like I was and have this notion that they have a responsibility to be their child’s first teacher. One actually asked me why we spent so many days on test prep activities and why there wasn’t a program in our school to help foster her daughter’s love of music.

I told her what our superintendent told us: If we don’t teach them how to test properly, how do we expect them to perform well on the test? And just because our school doesn’t have band or orchestra any more, that doesn’t stop her daughter from taking lessons after school. I then directed her to our district website that assures all parents that we are preparing their children for the technology-driven world of the 21st century and beyond.

That’s why we moved many of our classes online. Kids love computers, and as with many innovative schools, ours allows students to take classes on their own through a program called Edgenuity. Why burden teachers with teaching skills and concepts that students can easily learn online? The learning modules guide students through lessons at their own pace while keeping them subdued and compliant. As our leaders in the White House have told us, students are empowered by “individualized learning and rich, digital content.” While the initial investment was costly, our school was able to reduce the teaching staff by four teachers. What a great lesson in economics for our students.

Despite all of these innovations; despite increased enrollment in advanced placement classes; despite electives like Algebra II and Earth Science; despite replacing our library with a computer lab; despite the timed readings, standardized lesson plans, and healthier lunches, our students are still ranked below Russia. We are failing them. I am failing them.

I have a plan though. Yes, it is a little selfish. As you requested, in the coming years, my pay will be tied directly to my students’ achievement. Since we measure this achievement through standardized testing, my goal will be to spend every minute of every class teaching to the test. Some lessons, of course, will be on the proper use of a #2 pencil for efficient circle darkening. With a nationalized curriculum, so much of the guesswork will be taken out. It won’t be the most exciting or “fun” class for my students, but what they fail to understand is that education is all about job security and competing in a global marketplace. Why else would we send our kids to school?

This is a standardized, multiple-choice world. I know that now.

Sincerely,
Michael Mau
Teacher

This post originally appeared at McSweeney’s.

Make the jump here: http://qz.com/313639/an-open-letter-to-america-from-a-public-school-teacher/

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Via Informed Comment / Juan Cole: 10 Ways America Is the World's Most Corrupt Nation


 
 
International rankings that castigate Afghanistan and some other poor countries as hopelessly “corrupt” always imply that the United States is not corrupt.
 
But as VOA reports :

While it is true that you don’t typically have to bribe your postman to deliver the mail in the U.S., in many key ways America’s political and financial practices make it in absolute terms far more corrupt than the usual global South suspects. After all, the U.S. economy is worth over $16 trillion a year, so in our corruption a lot more money changes hands. Here are 10 reasons the U.S. is the most corrupt nation in the world.  

1. Instead of having short, publicly-funded political campaigns with limited and/or free advertising (as a number of Western European countries do), the U.S. has long political campaigns in which candidates are dunned big bucks for advertising. They are therefore forced to spend much of their time fundraising, which is to say, seeking bribes. All American politicians are basically on the take, though many are honorable people. They are forced into it by the system. House Majority leader John Boehner has actually just handed out cash on the floor of the House from the tobacco industry to other representatives.

Soon after French President Nicolas Sarkozy was defeated in 2012, French police went into his private residence searching for an alleged $50,000 in illicit campaign contributions from the L’Oreale heiress. I thought to myself, seriously? $50,000 in a presidential campaign? Our presidential campaigns cost a billion dollars each! $50,000 is a rounding error, not a basis for police action. Why George W. Bush took millions from arms manufacturers and then ginned up a war for them, and the police haven’t been anywhere near his house.

American politicians don’t represent “the people.” With a few honorable exceptions, they represent the the 1 percent. American democracy is being corrupted out of existence.

2. That politicians can be bribed to reduce regulation of industries like banking (what is called “regulatory capture”) means that they will be so bribed. Billions were spent and 3,000 lobbyists employed by bankers to remove cumbersome rules in the early 2000s—meaning political corruption enabled financial corruption (in some cases legalizing it!) Without regulations and government auditing, the financial sector went wild and engaged in corrupt practices that caused the 2008 crash. Too bad the poor Afghans can’t just legislate their corruption out of existence by regularizing it, the way Wall Street did.

3.That the chief villains of the 2008 meltdown (from which 90 percent of Americans have not recovered) have not been prosecuted is itself a form of corruption.

4.The U.S. military budget is bloated and enormous, bigger than the military budgets of the next twelve major countries. What isn’t usually understood is that perhaps half of it is spent on outsourced services, not on the military. It is corporate welfare on a cosmic scale. I’ve seen with my own eyes how officers in the military get out and then form companies to sell things to their former colleagues still on the inside.

5. The U.S. has a vast gulag of 2.2 million prisoners in jail and penitentiary. There is an increasing tendency for prisons to be privatized, and this tendency is corrupting the system. It is wrong for people to profit from putting and keeping human beings behind bars. This troubling trend is made all the more troubling by the move to give extra-long sentences for minor crimes, to deny parole and to imprison people for life for crimes like three small thefts.

6.The rich are well placed to bribe our politicians to reduce taxes on the rich. This and other government policies has produced a situation where 400 American billionaires are worth $2 trillion, as much as the bottom 150 million Americans. That kind of wealth inequality hasn’t been seen in the U.S. since the age of the robber barons in the nineteenth century. Both eras are marked by extreme corruption.

7.The National Security Agency’s domestic spying is a form of corruption in itself, and lends itself to corruption. With some 4 million government employees and private contractors engaged in this surveillance, it is highly likely that various forms of insider trading and other corrupt practices are being committed. If you knew who Warren Buffett and George Soros were calling every day, that alone could make you a killing. The American political class wouldn’t be defending this indefensible invasion of citizens’ privacy so vigorously if someone somewhere weren’t making money on it.

8.As for insider trading, it turns out Congress undid much of the law it hastily passed forbidding members, rather belatedly, from engaging in insider trading (buying and selling stock based on their privileged knowledge of future government policy). That this practice only became an issue recently is another sign of how corrupt the system is.

9. Asset forfeiture in the ‘drug war’ is corrupting police departments and the judiciary.

10.Money and corruption have seeped so far into our media system that people can with a straight face assert that scientists aren’t sure human carbon emissions are causing global warming. Fox News is among the more corrupt institutions in American society, purveying outright lies for the benefit of the billionaire class. But even our relatively progressive president talks about exploiting all sources of energy, as though hydrocarbons weren’t poisoning the earth.

Even Qatar, whose economy is based on natural gas, freely admits the challenge of human-induced climate change. American politicians like Jim Inhofe are openly ridiculed when they travel to Europe for their know-nothingism on climate.

So don’t tell the Philippines or the other victims of American corruption how corrupt they are for taking a few petty bribes. Americans are not seen as corrupt because we only deal in the big denominations. Steal $2 trillion and you aren’t corrupt, you’re respectable.

Juan Cole is a professor of history at the University of Michigan and maintains the blog Informed Comment
 

"ENTRE RIOS" - a urbanização de São Paulo


São Paulo: The Most Underrated City in the World


Via Dailly Kos: Cartoon: Bush reflux


Check out a 7 minute mini-doc of Keef right here!
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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Via Addicting Info / FB: Analysis: Over Half of All Statements Made on Fox News Are False

fox_hannity_obama_birther_120530c-615x345

A new analysis by PunditFact found that of every statement made by a Fox News host or guest, over half of them were flat-out false. What’s more, only a measly 8% could be considered completely “true.”
In other words, a fancy review of hundreds of hours of video confirmed what many who watch Fox News with any regularity already know: Fox News lies. A lot. Like all the time.
Which isn’t to say that exposing Fox News’ irresponsible journalism isn’t an admirable goal. Despite its blatant spin doctoring, Fox still captivates a large portion of the news watching audience. On a near nightly basis, Fox News programs like “The O’Reilly Factor” and “The Kelly File” crush the competition. Given what we know about how poorly Fox informs its viewers, that paints a pretty grim picture for the millions who consume it without question.

JMG Quote Of The Day - Barack Obama


"There's no black male my age who's a professional who hasn't come out of a restaurant and is waiting for their car and somebody didn't hand them their car keys. It's one thing for me to be mistaken for a waiter at a gala. It's another thing for my son to be mistaken for a robber and to be handcuffed, or worse, if he happens to be walking down the street and is dressed the way teenagers dress." - Barack Obama, in a People interview that hits the newsstands on Friday.


Reposted from Joe Jervis

Via Bernie Sanders / FB:


Via oin the Coffee Party Movement / FB:


Monday, December 15, 2014

Via Robert Reich / FB:

A political alliance among the bottom 99 percent to un-rig the economy and make it work for most is being hobbled by four major divide-and-conquer strategies:

1. Convince the white working class it’s falling behind because African Americans are taking their tax dollars for welfare.

2. Convince the middle and working class that immigrants, especially undocumented ones, are taking their jobs.

3. Convince African-Americans their biggest problem is the brutality of white police officers.

4. Convince socially-conservative Americans that the proponents of gay marriage, abortion, and gun control are destroying the country.

The way to overcome these divide-and-conquer strategies is to show the bottom 99 percent they’re fighting over a smaller and smaller slice of a pie that’s going mainly to the top; reveal to poor Americans that economic conditions lie at the root of many of their social problems; and show conservative Americans how the right is using the social agenda to distract them from this larger reality.

Via UN Wire: Climate talks bring deal on country-level emissions plans

Climate talks bring deal on country-level emissions plans
 
The United Nations climate talks reached agreement on issues such as defining obligations of rich and poor countries but left the bigger issue of how to slow down climate change to be tacked by delegates at the Paris talks in 2015. Defining rich-poor obligations was "a very important breakthrough," said UN climate chief Christiana Figueres. Reuters (12/14), Reuters (12/15), Inter Press Service (12/14)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What if I Told You?



Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Malala Yousafzai Full Speech At Noble Peace Prize Ceremony In Oslo Today December 10, 2014


Via Borowitz Report: Cheney Calls for International Ban on Torture Reports

WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report)—Former Vice-President Dick Cheney on Tuesday called upon the nations of the world to “once and for all ban the despicable and heinous practice of publishing torture reports.”


“Like many Americans, I was shocked and disgusted by the Senate Intelligence Committee’s publication of a torture report today,” Cheney said in a prepared statement. “The transparency and honesty found in this report represent a gross violation of our nation’s values.”

“The publication of torture reports is a crime against all of us,” he added. “Not just those of us who have tortured in the past, but every one of us who might want to torture in the future.”

Saying that the Senate’s “horrifying publication” had inspired him to act, he vowed, “As long as I have air to breathe, I will do everything in my power to wipe out the scourge of torture reports from the face of the Earth.”

Cheney concluded his statement by calling for an international conference on the issue of torture reports. “I ask all the great nations of the world to stand up, expose the horrible practice of publishing torture reports, and say, ‘This is not who we are,’ ” Cheney said.

Make the jump here to read the original

Via JERRY-P-BECKER: That awful congressional plan to allow pension cuts heads for enactment







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From The Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, December 9, 2014. See http://touch.latimes.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-82239381/
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That awful congressional plan to allow pension cuts heads for enactment

By Michael Hiltzik

THE ECONOMY HUB

The congressional proposal to deal with a supposed crisis in worker pensions by allowing trustees to slash the benefits of already retired workers to shreds is heading toward enactment.

We reported on this plan last week, observing that its details were secret. They still are. Reps. John Kline  (R-Minn.) and George Miller (D-Martinez), the chairman and ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, told reporters on a conference call late Tuesday that the measure is being passed over to the House Rules Committee, which will move it as an amendment to an omnibus spending bill, as early as Wednesday. Senate action will follow, presumably no later than Thursday, when Congress departs for vacation.

The proposal is aimed at multiemployer pension plans, which are generally negotiated by a union to cover employees of all companies in a given industry. About 1,400 such plans cover about 10 million workers, according to the Pension Rights Center. About 150 to 200 of the plans, covering 1.5 million workers, are seriously underfunded and could run out of money sometime during the next 20 years.

The congressional proposal allows trustees of those plans to slash benefits sharply for retirees to give the plans a longer lease on life. It requires a vote of approval by active workers and retirees before that could be done -- but some pension advocates say that would only pit workers against retirees, with the latter coming out poorer.

Nothing Kline or Miller said Tuesday makes the plan sound much better. Asked why it's so urgent to pass a historic change in federal labor law in the final hours of a congressional session, without exposing the details to public view, much less to public hearings, they said that many of the affected pension plans are within a few years of insolvency.

"We could push now and get this done," Kline said, "or kick the can down the road and lose weeks and months. For some plans, their financial situation gets worse constantly."

Added Miller: "This may mean some benefit cuts, but it may mean a plan will last another decade or even longer." He and Kline said there would be protections for retirees who are disabled or 75 or older, but they offered few specifics beyond a sketchy fact sheet.

Yet there's a real risk that panicky trustees -- usually union and employer representatives -- could act prematurely, cutting the income of retirees who can't make it up from other sources. Indeed, the condition of many multiemployer pension funds has been improving recently, thanks to the strong investment markets and a better economy. That implies that there may be less need for urgency.

Pressure for the last-minute enactment apparently comes from trustees of some plans, who want latitude in cutting benefits that federal law denies them. Under ERISA, the 1974 law governing pensions in the private sector, benefits already earned by a worker can't be cut.

Carving out an exception for multiemployer plans is a big deal; doing so in haste, and secretly, is a bigger deal. Some major unions are backing the deal, but others, including the International Association of Machinists, are firmly in opposition. The Teamsters, who have been on the fence, weighed in against the proposal with a letter to congressional leaders Tuesday. (The Teamsters took particular exception to a special deal that was rumored to be in the offing for UPS, but Kline and Miller said no such deal is in their proposal.)

At this moment the pension bill appears to be a legislative juggernaut. "The last 'I' has been dotted and the last 'T' has been crossed," Kline said. He and Miller presented their achievement as a huge boon for workers and retirees, but it could be a disaster instead. No one will know until they see the language, but that may not happen until it's too late.
 
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SIDEBAR PHOTO:  Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) is the architect -- with retiring Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) -- of a measure allowing worker pension benefits to be cut sharply. JERRY HOLT / ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Watch Malala Yousafzai's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech


Voa Daily Kos: Cycling is a bigger job creator in Europe than anything we are doing here in America


Indonesian villagers push their bicycles across a bamboo bridge as sun rises behind them outside Yogyakarta city in Central Java.  Indonesian villagers push their bicycles across a bamboo bridge as the sun rises behind them outside Yogyakarta city in Cent
 
I am a touch late to this information but it seems pretty important. The first large-scale study on cycling's economic benefits was published about a year ago. In it the researchers tried to quantify the economic benefits of cycling. They looked at health costs, fuel savings (oil), the reduction in infrastructural stress to cities (people biking versus using traditional vehicles), reductions in air and noise pollution as well as reduced CO2 emissions. On top of that they looked into cycling and the tourism industry as well as the retail and bike maintenance industry. They found out some interesting, pretty exciting things:
On just two wheels, the industry is creating more jobs than Europe’s high-fashion footwear industry (388,000 jobs), its well-established steel sector (410,000), and the United States’ Big Three automobile companies (Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler) combined (510,000).
Cycling, it turns out, is not a bad way of reducing our carbon footprint, while continuing to grow our economies. Hopefully, studies like this one will provide European (and maybe American) governments/municipalities the evidence needed to up their cycling-related budgets.  

Originally posted to weinenkel on Tue Dec 09, 2014 at 11:44 AM PST. 

Also republished by Velocipede Vanguard.

Make the jump here to read the original

Via Walking the Red Road: Chief Standing Bear


Via FB:



Sunday, December 7, 2014

Flower of the Day: 12/07/14

"Reality as we understand it is something created by our desires. So don’t condemn your desires – be aware of them, so that you can get a sense of the reality that you are creating for yourself. The mind is the tree of desire. Depending on how exactly it was conditioned, you will want this or that, since your desires stem from this mental programming. You believe that in order to be happy, you must have one thing or another. To de-condition the mind you need to free yourself of these beliefs by understanding the nature of your desires.”

Sri Prem Baba
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