Sunday, June 28, 2015

Again, We Say That This Is Barack Obama's Greatest Speech. Again, We Say...

No, really, this time it's really the best.

Being on the road, I actually lucked into hearing the vast majority of Barack Obama's eulogy for Clemental Pinckney in real time. It was on the radio, and I began to drive aimlessly so I didn't arrive at my destination before it was over. I was mesmerized. Obama is not only a master, but his words and sentiments hit home, with the added power of the truth.

Here it is, in its entirety:

James Fallow of Atlantic wrote perhaps the best deconstruction of what he, too, thought was Obama's best oratory. Read it here.

We don't have to agree with all his actions as president -- I haven't -- but the case that he is among the most consequential presidents is beyond dispute, I feel, and this from echos my sentiments, but before the Charleston eulogy.

I don't say this or reference these pieces to build up the man. He has done it before our eyes. Much as FDR went off the rails in trying to control the Supreme Court and LBJ blew much of his legacy in trying to win a war that should never have been fought, Barack Obama has had his failings. But much as FDR and LBJ are in the pantheon of the greats, so shall be Barack Obama.

He has guided the ship through troubled waters, without much help, and he did so with grace.

Some didn't like him, never accepted him. Too bad. He's won, for all of us. Good.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

America's Very Good Week: Why Conservatives Are Missing the Party

I'm on the road --yes, in a teardrop trailer with on-and-off wifi -- so it's been hard to comment on a very eventful week. We went from the tragedy of Charleston to the whew! of the Supremes' Obamacare decision to the uplifting Obama eulogy for Clementa Pinckney to the exhilarating joy of the same-sex marriage decision. Oh, and Confederate battle flags are like history. Wow.

What struck me more than anything was the fact that, through it all, one strain could be heard: The conservatives would have none of it. They rejected all of it, celebrated none of it. It wasn't their party, they would drink no punch.


You hated Obama and his blackness and his hopey changey thing, and what you don't get is to celebrate hope and change. Wow. We kicked your ass in the Culture War.

It's exhilarating. And, in the spirit of the inclusion Barack Obama always hoped for, I'm sad for the conservatives. They won't come to the party and party. They could have enjoyed a week like this. Instead, they sulked. Bad move.

Oh well.

Samuel Alito, just after finding out he lost the petulant four-year-old award to
Clarence Thomas. Thomas couldn't be reached for comment because of a colic attack.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Republican Education Policy: Burning Down the House

Add bad pay and constant derogation, and teachers are so out of there.

I view each Republican assault on public education with growing alarm and despair. Yes, it is very much like burning down the house. Once done, rebuilding from the ashes is a difficult task. And yet Republicans around the country are doing it with relish. Education cuts are, these days, generally caused by tax cuts, so we know why Republicans do it. But do they understand the costs? Maybe they don't care.

Take the latest case, as we discover that teachers are packing up and leaving Arizona in huge numbers. Remarkable:
Over the last five years, thousands of teachers have left the state, according to a 2015 report by the Arizona Department of Education, with this past school year being possibly the worst. The report warns if teachers keep leaving, “students will not meet their full potential” and “Arizona will not be able to ensure economic prosperity for its citizens and create the workforce of tomorrow.” It calls for increased pay for teachers and more overall education funding in the state.
Why are so many teachers leaving? Low pay, insufficient classroom resources and so many testing requirements and teaching guidelines that educators feel they have no instructional time and flexibility in their own classrooms, educators say. According to new Census Bureau statistics, Arizona is near the bottom of a state list of spending per student, $7,208, with the average per pupil spending around the country being $10,700 and near or at the bottom for classroom spending per student. But it is near the top of a list of states in getting public education revenue from the federal government.
Presidential candidate and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker's term in office has been marked by his nearly non-stop attack on teachers and education in general, reaching all the way to one of America's greatest institutions, the well-respected University of Wisconsin system. Walker destroys education on all levels with equal relish:
This week, Wisconsin kicked off a series of hearings on Governor Scott Walker’s proposed budget, which would slash about $300 million from the University of Wisconsin system over two years, funnel hundreds of millions to build a pro-basketball stadium, and cut deeply from funds for health care, food stamps and public media.
And it’s not just higher education feeling the pain.
Public primary schools across Wisconsin will lose about $127 million in education aid next year, largely by scrapping a special $150 per-student fund that Wisconsin school districts received over the past two years.
The struggling Milwaukee public schools are set to lose more than $12 million.
Bob Peterson, who taught 5th grade in the Milwaukee Public Schools for nearly three decades, told ThinkProgress that not only are the cuts “breathtaking,” they come as the schools are still reeling from the lost funding in the Governor’s 2011 budget.
Another item on Walker's anti-education checklist could be his worst: taking tenure away from UW professors. Tenure is a greatly misunderstood concept. It was meant -- and still means -- to protect academic freedom from political interference.
Wisconsin is the only state in the country where academic tenure is protected by law, but a budget plan approved by the GOP-controlled legislature's Joint Finance Committee would remove that safeguard for professors in the state university system and cut its budget by $250 million. The plan is backed by Gov. Scott Walker – who's expected to announce in the coming weeks that he's running for the Republican presidential nomination – and would shift control of the tenure policies to the university system's board of regents.
Republican lawmakers have said the change is simply a shift in power, and Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick said the change was part of a larger plan to give the university system more power over creating its own policies. But the proposal would also greatly expand provisions for how and when tenured faculty can be laid off or fired. Those provisions include budgetary constraints and program changes, and the proposal has been met with fierce opposition from professors in the state university system.
Removing tenure from Wisconsin law is a solution in search of a problem. Tenure has in no way corrupted Wisconsin higher education. Instead it has undoubtedly drawn top talent to the state and its highly respected research universities. Removing safeguards for tenure will have the opposite effect. Professors will look elsewhere for job security and move to states that aren't gutting funding. Highly talented academicians from other states will rush to non-tenured positions in Wisconsin? Doubtful.
The budget proposal also changes state law regarding shared governance, which gives faculty members deciding power on issues like curriculum, instruction and personnel matters.  It instead would give faculty an advisory responsibility on those issues.
Such language, the faculty members said in their resolution, "will lead to the demoralization and/or departure of substantial numbers of faculty, will have negative repercussions for recruiting outstanding new faculty, and will seriously damage UW‐Madison's national competitiveness and the faculty's ability to grow the economic future of the state and to serve its students and its citizens."
Arizona and Wisconsin aren't the only Republican states that have taken money from education and generally returned it to the rich through tax cuts. Kansas is at it, too:
But [Governor Brownback’s] budget headaches have continued: January receipts fell $47.2 million short of predictions, and Mr. Brownback has responded by cutting funding for public schools and higher education by a combined $44.5 million.
The move has education officials across the state seething. Here, the Kansas City Public School District has already endured $45 million in lost state revenue since 2009, said Cynthia Lane, the superintendent. Mr. Brownback’s cut of 1.5 percent to public school funding statewide would amount to a loss of $1.3 million in her district, she said.
Mind you, this is happening not as a response to a worsening economy -- the U.S. recovery, though slow, has been broad and continuing -- but rather as a shifting of priorities and a new round of GOP tax cuts, generally favoring the rich.

Let's not forget Bobby Jindal and his incredibly shrinking, very bad state of Louisiana:
Nowhere is the controversy greater than in Louisiana, which has a complicated higher education system and a Republican governor who is considering running for president.
Gov. Bobby Jindal proposed a budget that would reduce higher education spending by $141 million in fiscal 2016. In recent weeks, he has proposed offsetting some of the cuts by getting rid of some refundable business tax credits, which have a total value of $526 million. But the business community is strongly opposing that idea. That leaves the Republican-dominated legislature in a bind, forcing members to choose between education and low taxes, two priorities they generally support.
Take a guess which route the Louisiana GOP will follow.

Read more about the GOP assault on public education here, here, here, and here. And, yes, there is one Democratic governor, Dannel Malloy of Connecticut, who has proposed cuts to higher education funding to offset tax cuts. As of now, nothing has been agreed to.

Remember, America: These are our children we're choosing to shortchange education-wise. These cuts fall on all our children.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. He studied at Brown University and
was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford. Essentially, he had a free education
through scholarships. He got his. The rest of you bastards can suck wind.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The Only Way to Stop a White Man with a Gun Is a Black Man with a Gun

Another gun is not a solution, except for the NRA, which wants everyone to buy one!

(Update. Charles L. Cotton has since deleted his post blaming the shooting on the Rev. Pinckney.)

Of course I'm not serious, but the NRA is. Witness National Rifle Association board member Charles L. Cotton's reaction to the Charleston church shooting, who blamed the Reverand Clementa Pinckney -- who's also a state senator -- for opposing concealed carry in South Carolina.

Pinckney and members of his flock deserved to die because Pinckney was "soft on guns."

Then again, Fox's Erick Erickson blames the Charleston shootings on Caitlyn Jenner. Of course.

Fox News is a burgeoning force in both claiming that this is a war on Christians, not on blacks, and that guns, again, are the answer to everything. Watch this clip, courtesy of Media Matters, to see some real whack-a-mole nonsense:

What's troubling -- if not surprising -- is that conservative Republicans like Jeb Bush can't bring themselves to call the killings what they were: a vicious act of white hatred for black people. Here's a piece on Jeb Bush, and here's a piece on why conservatives in general want to stay away from the white-black nature of the crimes.

There's a pattern here of avoiding reality, wanting to preserve guns in our society, pretending racism doesn't exist (or its most nasty white-supremacist variety), and pretending it's motivated by hatred of religion (ain't buying that nonsense). If we hadn't just witnessed a tragedy we'll long remember as a symbol of white racism toward blacks at its most evil depths, this crap would be hilarious. But it's not, it's in fact repulsive.

Dylann Roof said, "I have to do it. You’re raping our women
and taking over the country. You have to go.”

What will come of all this, in the short and the long run? Probably next to nothing, if Sandy Hook is any example. But, boy, will the kettle be stirred but good.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum to Pope: Shut the F**k Up on Climate Change.

If I were you, I'd just tell him to blow it out his ass. People
respect tough talk. He wears a goddam robe, for chrissake!

Bush, Santorum, Jindal, and Rubio are all science deniers and Catholics. Here comes Pope Francis poised to say that global warming is man-made and morally wrong, especially because it will fall hardest on the poor. Sounds pretty Catholic to me.

But not to those GOPers. Let's see how this works itself out. Oh, and most Latinos are Catholic, and many are pretty poor. Don't hold your breath for their votes after you trash the Pope on climate change. Just sayin'.

Note. Chris Christie is a Catholic but has said that climate change is real and humans contribute to it, so he's not completely craven.

The GOP Field Gets Trumped!

The Donald touted his net worth as a sign he'd make a great president.

I must say if anyone can put the clown in the GOP clown car it's the Donald. Make no mistake, he is -- in spite of his serial bankruptcies -- a very wealthy man. He's not boring, he's actually quite entertaining, and I suppose he has a fun reality TV show, though I've never watched it.

But, seriously, would he make a good president? As John McEnroe would say, you CAN'T be serious! And why?

Presidential? Timber!

But don't take my word for it. How about Dana Milbank?

Also in WaPo is Philip Bump. Do read the comments, too. One said the Donald will make the rest of the Republican candidates look positively normal. Imagine, someone making Dr. Ben Carson look normal.

Over at Politico, they've chosen the best ten lines from Trump's announcement speech. They are doozies. Also, they've included the video of the whole speech, if you want to toss 47 minutes of your dear life in the trash. Maybe you do. He is funny, I'll grant him that.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Why Do Republicans, As a Tribe, Reject Man-Made Climate Change?

The opposite must be asked: Why do Democrats, by and large, believe that climate change is man-made?

A final question (it's not surprising that Independents are somewhere in the middle, so forget that) is why do the scientists overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party's view?

Here's a Pew poll on Catholic viewpoints. And, naturally, Catholics break down along party lines.

My view of this phenomenon has always been that:
  • Republicans favor business, and assuming that climate change remedies might be bad for business, Republicans can't accept the truth about climate change because accepting it would be "bad for business."
  • Republicans are more strident -- and traditional -- in their religious beliefs and accept that climate change is God's will. And since climate change might bring on the end of days, it's, er, really God's will. As it was prophesied. 
  • Republicans are the more anti-intellectual party.
Whatever. It's weird that it breaks down along party lines. Just weird.