05/25/2012 archive

Edumacashun Preznit

A proud conservative and supporter of the privitization of education.

After all, Kaplan Prep is the only profitable part of the Washington Post.

Obama Campaign Proud of Bashing Teachers’ Unions

By: David Dayen, Firedog Lake

Friday May 25, 2012 9:38 am

It looks like we’re going to have six more months of the Obama campaign trying to prove that their candidate has conservative values and believes in conservative ideas.

(T)he question becomes, why does Stephanie Cutter, Deputy Campaign Manager for Obama 2012, feel so strongly about needing to broadcast that teachers’ unions don’t like her candidate? Is this a typical approach for campaigns? Don’t you normally want to tout support rather than opposition?

Not when it comes to teachers’ unions, apparently. And who needs them, they only represent 3.2 million members in the National Education Association and 1.5 millionb in the American Federation of Teachers. And they only represent one out of ten delegates on the typical Democratic National Committee Convention floor. It makes perfect sense for the head of the party to display his independence from such a marginal group.

Education “reform” is a pretty contentious topic with a split in the Democratic coalition. But Obama has always lined up on the opposite side of the unions on the matter. Not only that, he boasts of it.

Of course this is a pattern. The previous tweet from Stephanie Cutter highlights the President’s commitment to austerity, proudly stating for the record that federal spending has slowed down under Obama to the largest degree since the Eisenhower Administration. So we’re going to have six months of the President’s allies stating the record, showing all of Obama’s conservative positions on a host of issues. You would think this would be the role of, say, a primary challenger to the President from the left. But no, it’s the President’s own campaign doing this.

His education policies are generally disfavored by teachers’ unions, and I should add, disfavored by reality, because the data on charters and teacher evaluations is weak to the point of totally being debunked.

Not that reality should stand in the way.

Punting the Pundits

“Punting the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

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Paul Krugman: Egos and Immorality

In the wake of a devastating financial crisis, President Obama has enacted some modest and obviously needed regulation; he has proposed closing a few outrageous tax loopholes; and he has suggested that Mitt Romney’s history of buying and selling companies, often firing workers and gutting their pensions along the way, doesn’t make him the right man to run America’s economy.

Wall Street has responded – predictably, I suppose – by whining and throwing temper tantrums. And it has, in a way, been funny to see how childish and thin-skinned the Masters of the Universe turn out to be. Remember when Stephen Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group compared a proposal to limit his tax breaks to Hitler’s invasion of Poland? Remember when Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase characterized any discussion of income inequality as an attack on the very notion of success?

New York Times Editorial: The Crisis This Time

They blew it, again. With Greece in meltdown, raising fears of cascading bank insolvencies and deepening recession, Europe’s leaders failed again this week to agree on the ambitious initiatives needed to quell the crisis.

For a few days before their Wednesday dinner meeting, it sounded as if Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany might be ready to change her all-austerity-all-the-time tune. France’s new president, François Hollande, had campaigned and won on a pro-growth agenda, and Ms. Merkel was suddenly suggesting that some stimulus for Greece and others to spur growth might be possible.

But, on Wednesday, she was again insisting on the same draconian budget cuts and the same unreachable targets as the price of aid to Greece and other indebted euro-zone nations.

Allison Kilkenny: Global Protests Against Draconian Education Cuts, Tuition Hikes

Austerity protests have become part of the new global landscape, a reality underscored by a wave of recent protests in Philadelphia and Quebec.

More than 1,000 people rallied Wednesday to protest the Philadelphia District’s plans to “transform schools,” a pleasant euphemism generally meaning school closures and mass layoffs. The Philly district plans to possibly lay off 2,700 blue-collar workers, including every member of SEIU B2BJ Local 1201, the city school union representing bus assistants, cleaners, mechanics and other workers. [..]

For over 100 days now, protests have raged in response to Quebec Premier Jean Charest and his Liberal Party’s plans to raise tuition fees at universities by a whopping 82 percent, or $1,700, over five years, a move that would price many students out of an education.

The police have responded by making mass arrests. More than 300 protesters were arrested overnight on Sunday following the passage of the draconian law, Bill 78, that places restrictions on demonstrations and suspended classes at strike-bound universities, the AP reports.

Robert Reich: Obama has to Explain Why Fairness is Essential to Growth (and Why Some Democrats Have to Stop Believing Otherwise)

The Cory Booker imbroglio has ignited a silly but potentially pernicious debate in the Democratic Party between so-called “pro-growth centrists” who want the President to focus on how well he’s done getting the economy back on its feet after the Bush administration almost knocked it out, and “pro-fairness populists” who want him to focus on the nation’s widening inequality and Wall Street’s (and Romney’s) continuing role in generating profits for a few at the expense of almost everyone else.

According to the National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar, for example:

   Conversations with liberal activists and labor officials reveal an unmistakable hostility toward the pro-business, free-trade, free-market philosophy that was in vogue during the second half of the Clinton administration….. Moderate Democratic groups and officials, meanwhile, privately fret about the party’s leftward drift and the Obama campaign’s embrace of an aggressively populist message… [T]hey wish the administration’s focus was on growth over fairness.

This is pure bunk – or should be.

Fairness isn’t inconsistent with growth; it’s essential to it. The only way the economy can grow and create more jobs is if prosperity is more widely shared.

Robert Sheer: Do the Bain Hustle

Obviously Barack Obama was right in criticizing Mitt Romney’s stewardship of Bain Capital. How else to evaluate the business experience that Romney has made a central tenet of his campaign?

As Obama put it all too accurately: “My opponent, Governor Romney-his main calling card for why he thinks he should be president is his business experience. He’s not going out there touting his experience in Massachusetts. He’s saying: ‘I’m a business guy. I know how to fix it.’ ”

And the fixing of the beleaguered companies acquired under Romney’s leadership at Bain Capital involved the very practices that have led to the loss of good American jobs to ensure the outrageous rewards that made Romney so wealthy.

E. J. Dionne: Conservatives used to care about community. What happened?

To secure his standing as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney has disowned every sliver of moderation in his record. He’s moved to the right on tax cuts and twisted himself into a pretzel over the health-care plan he championed in Massachusetts – because conservatives are no longer allowed to acknowledge that government can improve citizens’ lives.

Romney is simply following the lead of Republicans in Congress who have abandoned American conservatism’s most attractive features: prudence, caution and a sense that change should be gradual. But most important of all, conservatism used to care passionately about fostering community, and it no longer does. This commitment now lies buried beneath slogans that lift up the heroic and disconnected individual – or the “job creator” – with little concern for the rest.

Pratap Chatterjee: How Obama Helped Authorize Shell’s Drilling the Arctic

President Barack Obama personally helped Shell obtain authorization to drill for oil in Alaska, according to a 4,678 word front page article in the New York Times. This is a startling break from decades long U.S. policy which regarded the environment in the Arctic region too fragile to tamper with.

“(T)he president concluded that the reward was worth the risk, and created an unusual interagency group, overseen by a midlevel White House aide, to clear Shell’s path through the often fractious federal regulatory bureaucracy,” write John Broder and Clifford Krauss.

In November 2010, almost two years after he was elected, Obama told William K. Reilly and Carol M. Browner, two former heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, what he wanted them to do. “Where are you coming out on the offshore Arctic?” he asked. “What that told me,” Reilly told the New York Times, “was that the president had already gotten deeply into this issue and was prepared to go forward.”

Propaganda Is Not Just Misinformation

It is shameful that Mother Jones publishes bullshit like this-

Is Congress Really Authorizing US Propaganda at Home?

By Adam Weinstein, Mother Jones

Tue May. 22, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

(T)he outcry in this case seems misguided. For starters, the proposed law doesn’t permit the spread of any information that isn’t already available to the American public. Moreover, the amendment could conceivably bring more of the government’s overseas information operations into the sunlight, a good thing.

The argument against Thornberry’s and Smith’s amendment appears to be pretty straightforward: We only want US propaganda peddled to foreign populations, but not to our own! In reality, though, most “public diplomacy” is mundane boilerplate about America’s purple mountains’ majesties.


Pentagon Contractor Admits To Perpetrating Online Smear Campaign Against USA Today Reporters

By Adam Peck, Think Progress

May 24, 2012 at 6:21 pm

The former head of a group that contracts with the Pentagon to produce propaganda material used oversees has admitted to launching a similar disinformation campaign against two U.S.-based reporters.

In April, two USA Today journalists claimed they were the victims of a deliberate “reputation attack” after they wrote a series of stories about the Pentagon’s contracts with groups that specialize in the production of propaganda. Days after the journalists began speaking with officials at the Pentagon and other sources for the story, fake websites and social media accounts set up in the names of the two reporters were mysteriously registered and began trying to discredit the stories.

On This Day In History May 25

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

May 25 is the 145th day of the year (146th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 220 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1977, Stars Wars opens with an intergalactic bang as the first of George Lucas’ blockbuster Star Wars movies hits American theaters.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, originally released as Star Wars, is a 1977 American epic space opera film, written and directed by George Lucas. It is the first of six films released in the Star Wars saga: two subsequent films complete the original trilogy, while a prequel trilogy completes the six-film saga. It is the fourth film in terms of the series’ internal chronology. Ground-breaking in its use of special effects, unconventional editing, and science fiction/fantasy storytelling, the original Star Wars is one of the most successful and influential films of all time.

Set “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away”, the film follows a group of freedom fighters known as the Rebel Alliance as they plot to destroy the powerful Death Star space station, a devastating weapon created by the evil Galactic Empire. This conflict disrupts the isolated life of farmboy Luke Skywalker when he inadvertently acquires the droids carrying the stolen plans to the Death Star. After the Empire begins a cruel and destructive search for the droids, Skywalker decides to accompany Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi on a daring mission to rescue the owner of the droids, rebel leader Princess Leia Organa, and save the galaxy.

Produced with a budget of $11 million and released on May 25, 1977, the film went on to earn $460 million in the United States and $337 million overseas, surpassing Jaws as the highest-grossing film of all time at the time. Among the many awards the film received, it gained ten Academy Award nominations, winning six; the nominations included Best Supporting Actor for Alec Guinness and Best Picture. Lucas has re-released the film on several occasions, sometimes with significant changes; the most notable versions are the 1997 Special Edition and the 2004 DVD release, which have modified computer-generated effects, altered dialogue, and added scenes.

EU Split Over Euro Bonds

This was predictable:

Germany and France clash over eurobonds at summit

French president François Hollande marks his Brussels debut by challenging chancellor Angela Merkel over bailout

A special EU summit marking the debut of France’s President François Hollande saw him challenge Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, on the euro, arguing that the pooling of eurozone debt liability – eurobonds – had to be retained as an option for saving the currency. Merkel has ruled out eurobonds as illegal under current EU law.

Hollande told the dinner of 27 leaders that he wanted to see eurobonds established, while conceding that this would take time, witnesses at the talks said.

Merkel responded that this was nigh-on impossible since it would require changes to the German constitution and around 10 separate legal changes, the sources said.

There was no policy breakthrough at the summit, rather a reiteration by leaders of known positions. Any decisions were postponed until the end of next month after French and Greek parliamentary elections on 17 June.

Illegal? Require changes? Well, they created this mess by changing laws and constitutions, now they need to fix it by changing the laws and the EU constitution. Chancellor Merkel sounds more and more like George W. Bush, “it’s hard work” (read: I don’t want to do this). The Euro Zone nations can’t have their cake and eat it, too. They want Greece to to stay in the Euro Zone but they want them to accept the austerity agreement that the Greeks have clearly rejected.

In a New York Times Op-Ed, Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate and a professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard, points out that the EU economic crisis is a road to hell paved with good intentions:

There are two reasons for this.

First, intentions can be respectable without being clearheaded, and the foundations of the current austerity policy, combined with the rigidities of Europe’s monetary union (in the absence of fiscal union), have hardly been a model of cogency and sagacity. Second, an intention that is fine on its own can conflict with a more urgent priority – in this case, the preservation of a democratic Europe that is concerned about societal well-being. These are values for which Europe has fought, over many decades. [..]

Europe cannot revive itself without addressing two areas of political legitimacy. First, Europe cannot hand itself over to the unilateral views – or good intentions – of experts without public reasoning and informed consent of its citizens. Given the transparent disdain for the public, it is no surprise that in election after election the public has shown its dissatisfaction by voting out incumbents.

Second, both democracy and the chance of creating good policy are undermined when ineffective and blatantly unjust policies are dictated by leaders. The obvious failure of the austerity mandates imposed so far has undermined not only public participation – a value in itself – but also the possibility of arriving at a sensible, and sensibly timed, solution.

This is a surely a far cry from the “united democratic Europe” that the pioneers of European unity sought.

As David Dayen said, “we’re are essentially in a holding pattern” until the Greek and French Parliament elections on June 17. Please, do not hold your breath for a good solution, no matter what you may think a good solution is. Not everyone is going to be happy at the end of this. Let’s hope it’s the austerians who are unhappiest.

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