Why the Tea Party Will Fail (the Jihadists, too)

Friday, May 28, 2010

by Teddy Goodson

We are in for a few rough election cycles as the Tea Party's rightwing populism burns through the electorate. Cynical outside observers have spied a certain irony, or, if you prefer, hypocrisy, in "the movement" because so much of its funding appears to be flowing through subterranean channels from the well-stuffed coffers of mega-corporations and other Big Money citadels.  Even if you follow the money, there is, however, a genuine underpinning of honest anger among the TP foot soldiers against what they see as bloated government that answers to greedy and cruel big business, which has put our grandchildren in hock with its huge budget deficits----- a cause that also acts as a cover for both middle-aged white fear of loss of power in an increasingly diverse electorate, and covert racism, as explained in
The Stalking Horse.
The same outside observers maintain, I believe with some reason, that Big Business interests have co-opted the Tea Party for their own purposes, with the intent of furthering the transition to a corporate feudalism which will keep the facade of a democratic republic while true political power resides with global corporate interests. A current example of corporate power has been on display with the Big Bank bailouts, dilution of re-regulation efforts, and even the arrogance of BP in the Gulf, ignoring EPA directives on use of dispersants, and preventing full on-the-ground coverage by press and other media of the Deepwater oil spill catastrophe.
Alas, Tea Party, you are doomed. Yes, you are probably more than a flash in the pan, but still doomed as a long-term successful political movement, and not because of anything or everything you will do over the coming months, or what your Democratic opponents might screw up their courage to do, either.
Teddy Goodson :: Why the Tea Party Will Fail (the Jihadists, too)
The reason your movement will finally fall to the wayside is that you are mired in the past, and the future is roaring down on you, inevitably, inexorably, and quite beyond your power to manage.Everything about the Tea Party hinges on "restoration," a turn backward to what they have chosen to define as "the original Constitution," an infallible document crafted by our all-wise Founding Fathers. They mean the Constitution as strictly interpreted in conformity with their personal idea of what was meant by each and every word. That turns out to mean they are big on states' rights, a severely limited national government, a social system favoring the originators of the Revolution (i.e., whites, especially males), and a  political system catering to business or what they call free enterprise. It is all about turning back the clock to a mythical period of time that conforms to their comfort level---- as encouraged, of course, by big business interests, which chafe under regulation by an uppity federal government that has sometimes proved hard to control, interests which have very different objectives from the stated goals of the Tea Party.
The World Future Society, a 40-year old organization of futurists, says in a special report,
"It's as if we're driving 200 miles an hour and only looking into the rear-view mirror."

That is a perfect description of the Tea Party, whose members have been heard to say "I don't like change." Too bad, TP, life is change. In the 21st century, we are dealing with hyper-change, and the most valuable skill required is foresight.... a skill completely unavailable if you are looking in a rear-view mirror.The Society has been remarkably successful over the past 40 years in forecasting major technological and social developments---- not the details, but the broad-brush trends, from the 1970's energy crisis to increasing terrorist attacks on US soil, even mentioning the World Trade Center as a likely target, as well as human organ transplants, genetic engineering, new communications technologies, and  telecommuting, among other developments. There are at least 17 trends and breakthroughs that have significant entrepreneurial significance, spotted by them just for the time frame of 2011 through 2025:
1- Water will become the new oil (I say the American Southwest is already desperate for water, and the wars of the 21st century will more likely be over access to water, than oil); use of desalinization will grow
2- WIMAX will create countrywide wireless
3- By 2025 world-wide life span will increase one year per year; only 15 percent of deaths will be due to naturally occurring infectious diseases Think what this will mean: vast aging populations, for example)
4- There will be a race for genetic enhancements comparable to the space race in the 20th century; this includes nano- and bio-technologies unimaginable just a few years ago, including boosted intelligence
5- Bioviolence will be a greater threat; previously cutting-edge technologies will be readily available to almost anyone, including nuts and fanatics
6- Artificial intelligence as early as 2023 will enable computers to learn and think, for example to help a car navigate through traffic or diagnose complex illnesses
7- Algae will have a huge potential as a biofuel, especially for transportation; it can produce 5,000 gallons of fuel per acre, meeting 30-60 percent of US oil needs at perhaps $30 a barrel, by 2020
8- Invention will become automated as inventors write descriptions of the problems to be solved, and turn the descriptions over to computers, enabling non-technical people to become inventors
9- Even oil extraction will be improved as old wells are returned to production with new technology (this is already well underway)
10- Nanotechnology, manipulating matter at nanoscale, will create much less expensive diamonds and other precious commodities (also already well underway)
11- Consumers themselves will take an active role in inventing new products and services (see #8)
12- Electric cars will become fully practical by 2020, which will also help to "neutralize petrodollar power"
13- The Millennial Generation will become the next "Great Generation" because they have a strong entrepreneurial bent, preferring to run their own small business than work for a mega-corporation
14- Quantum computers will revolutionize information around 2021, completing in seconds tasks that silicon computers would need billions of years to accomplish (we have seen algorithms on computers already creating unusual volatility in stock markets, beyond present regulations to control, think what it will be with qubits)
15- Solar energy output could double, thanks to advances in photovoltaics, making solar electricity much more competitive, perhaps within just 3 years
16- Genetic research may soon conquer most inherited diseases, as personal DNA can be replaced or even over-written
17- Virtual education will be mainstream by 2015, especially in corporate training
Not one of these trends can be accommodated within the current Tea Party dogma. What, for example, would their religious quadrant make of #16, meddling with God's creation? They can frustrate and delay America's participation in this wave of the future, by, perhaps, preventing federal subsidies that encourage such developments as using algae as a biofuel, while the rest of the world charges ahead.  This can make the US less competitive, turning us into a backwater, a 21st century version of a third world country.
I believe it far more likely that the Tea Party, after a brief and riotous turn in the sun, will be overtaken by events. These trends, and others, will simply ride right over the Tea Party, making them supremely irrelevant. As the Millennials come into power (see #13), they will reject the retro TP and the Republican Party itself as presently constituted. They may even, of course, reject the Democratic Party if it fails to carpe diem and cast itself as the enabler of the future, not its opponent.
Oddly enough, the Islamic jihadists are in the same boat as the Tea Party: they reject the future, have their eyes fastened on a mythical ideal, and are equally mired in the past (just a slightly different past than that of the Tea Party Republicans). They, too, will largely be unable to hold back the future and, where they do rule for a time, their subjects will be completely left behind and will, eventually, dispose of them.

Webb for Senate 2006 HQ Finally To Meet the Wrecking Ball

Monday, May 24, 2010

This certainly isn't the most beautiful building in the world. Its wiring is sketchy, it leaks when it rains, and it probably was ready to be torn down several years ago. But, for those of us who worked on the 2006 Webb for Senate campaign, we'll always have fond memories of 1916 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington.I remember the early days of Webb's candidacy in early March 2006, when Steve Jarding and Lee Diamond (photo after the "flip") were driving around Northern Virginia, looking for affordable (aka, "cheap", since the campaign had very little money) office space suitable for Webb's budding campaign. They finally found what they were looking for, right near Courthouse Metro and - perhaps just as importantly - close to several bars and restaurants like Ireland's Four Courts, Brooklyn Bagel Bakery, California Tortilla, and Rhodeside Grill. Webb staffers held many lunches and many "meetings" at those establishments, no doubt providing a significant boost to the local economy. :)  Inside that building, the Webb for Senate team on the 3rd floor, and the volunteers on the 2nd floor, somehow managed to pull off a victory that pretty much nobody thought was possible when 2006 began. That victory came, of course, with a big assist from an anti-Bush tsunami and a huge cowboy-booted foot in George Allen's mouth, but we'll take it nonetheless!
Anyway, it now appears that there are plans to demolish Webb's old headquarters and replace it with "stores and restaurants on the sidewalk level...200 residential units, two open courtyards and an underground parking garage." Sounds like a major, much needed, upgrade. Still, I'll miss driving by 1916 Wilson Boulevard and remembering the excitement of the 2006 Webb-Miller and Webb-Allen races.  Good times.
Among many other fond memories of the Webb for Senate HQ at 1916 Wilson Boulevard, I'd definitely have to list the rally with Jim Webb and John Kerry held in the parking lot (see photos above and after the "flip") the day before the June 13 Democratic primary. Kerry's endorsement was a big one for Webb in the Democratic primary, and 300 supporters turned out to celebrate.
Of course, I also remember the hordes of volunteers - ably guided by people like the extraordinary Mary Detweiler, and of course Josh Chernila - descending on 1916 Wilson Boulevard during the fall of 2006. People like filmmakers Annabel Park and Eric Byler from LA, a group of law students from Yale (intent on protecting the vote), senior citizens, high school kids, and "Real Virginians" of all types, all fired up to elect Jim Webb, defeat George Allen, and help take our country back from the disastrous, Republican misrule of Bush, Cheney, Hastert, DeLay, etc. The energy was incredible, and in the end it helped us take back the Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008.  Now, we need to make sure we don't lose that energy, or even worse, cede it to fired-up folks on the far right.  If we let that happen, then a "wrecking ball" will come down not just on 1916

Is Criticism Of Fred Malek for "Jew Counting" a "Distraction?"

Friday, May 21, 2010

The Washington Post's Virginia Politics blog reports that "Del. Scott Surovell (D-Mount Vernon) said he and Del. David L. Englin (D-Alexandria), both of whom are Jewish, are scheduled to appear Friday morning on WTOP's Politics Program with Mark Plotkin to denounce anew Fred Malek's appointment to the Governor's Commission on Government Reform and Restructuring because of Malek's role in President Richard M. Nixon's infamous Jew-hunting mission almost 40 years ago."  In response, "Tucker Martin, a spokesman for the governor, repeated his view that the Democrats' criticism is a distraction from substantive issues and feeds the perception of politics as a cynical enterprise."Believe it or not, I actually agree - sort of - with Tucker Martin on the "distraction" argument.  Of course, I'm not at all thrilled with Malek's role in the corrupt, anti-Semitic Nixon White House, but that was 40 years ago and Malek's been defended by ADL director Abraham Foxman and Sen. Diane Feinstein, who says Malek "has no bias of any kind whatsoever."  Let's assume that's true, at least for argument purposes.
So, why do I say I agree with Martin that this line of attack on Malek is a "distraction?"  Because, very simply, there's a lot stronger line of attack on Malek, and one that is directly relevant to him heading a "Government Reform Commission." Namely, as Sen. Donald McEachin recently explained, "Just a few short years ago, Mr. Malek was forced to pay a personal fine of $100,000 for violations of the Securities and Exchange Act while his company paid an additional $150,000."  What were those violations?  Get a load of this.
On August 12, 2003, the SEC filed a civil fraud lawsuit[18] against former Connecticut state Senate Majority Leader William DiBella for participating in a fraudulent scheme to invest $75 million of the state pension funds with Malek's firm, Thayer Capital Partners.[18] [19] On May 18, 2007, DiBella and North Cove were found liable for aiding and abetting Silvester's intentional violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Thayer was found in negligence of Investment Advisers Act of 1940. Thayer paid a civil penalty of $150,000, and Malek personally paid a fine of $100,000.[20]
As Donald McEachin says, "I am more dismayed and disturbed by Mr. Malek's recent illegal behavior" than about his "Jew counting" in the Nixon White House 40 years ago. I strongly urge Delegates Surovell and Englin to talk about this issue, which is directly relevant to Malek heading up a "government reform" commission here in Virginia, when they appear on Mark Plotkin's show this morning. Now that is a "substantive issue!"

Delgaudio Rants About "The Homosexual Classrooms Act"

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Somehow I missed this latest gem by Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (far-far-far right wing "R").  According to Delgaudio, the proposed Student Non-Discrimination Act is not about "non-discrimination" (and curbing school bullying) at all, it's really about...are you sitting down?..."Men hand-in-hand skipping down to adoption centers to 'pick out' a little boy for themselves." Delgaudio also calls it the "The Homosexual Classrooms Act." He claims this Act will "[r]equire schools to teach sodomy and other appalling homosexual acts so homosexual students don't feel "singled out" during already explicit sex-ed classes."  It also will, according to Delgaudio, "use schools as weapons to eradicate traditional values in the next generation of American students." Socialism! Communism! Lions, tigers, bears, oh my!Sadly, this is not a joke or a parody, apparently, just Eugene Delgaudio being himself.
P.S. It's worth pointing out that recently-elected Loudoun County Republican Committee chair Mark Sell is a member of Delgaudio's "Loudoun-based hate group," Public Advocate. According to Too Conservative, electing Sell - which is exactly what Loudoun Republicans ended up doing - would mark "a return to the Dark Ages." What more does anyone need to know about Loudoun County Republicans?
P.P.S. Delgaudio would fit in very well in Malawi.

America is Center Left

by Teddy Goodson

The Conventional Wisdom, repeated ad nauseum is that America is a center right nation, the corollary being that, if those lefty Democrats want to win elections they have to "move to the right," and if Obama ("the most extreme radical leftist President ever") is to have a prayer of passing any kind of legislation he'd better drop this socialist garbage and start acting like a Republican.  You know, that Republic Party representing the majority of Americans, ahem. This CW is displayed front and center day after day on the mass  media, repeated so often that most national Establishment Democrats believe it themselves, and it looks as though even President Obama swallowed the CW hook, line, and sinker, as he strove to re-create a bipartisanship in Congress which in reality had frayed apart long ago, and which most certainly became a total dead letter upon his election.How, then, is it that Barack Obama, that "radical leftist" ever got elected in the first place? How, in heaven's name, did he carry so many so-called Red States, including Virginia---- which promptly turned around two years later and elected a hard right conservative (masquerading as a moderate) as Governor, and an Attorney General openly so far over the cliff on the right he is almost certifiable? Why is it there is such a powerful, reactionary movement like the Tea Party dominating the public square and, it seems, the Republican Party?  Why do I have the gall imagine that America is not center right, but center left?
Teddy Goodson :: America is Center Left
Obama's campaign registered thousands and thousands of "new" voters, mostly young, but also plenty of older, and diverse ethnic groups.  These people had never voted before, and they had for years therefore been invisible in the political life of the nation. They were perfectly well qualified to vote, but had never done so, and therefore never really showed up on any screen, even that of a pollster because they never fell into the category of "likely voter."  The standard universe of voters proves indeed to be "right of center," and this universe showed up reliably time after time to vote, even in Virginia's endless series of special elections, off-year elections, and primaries. The Obama vote in 2008 represents a different universe of voters. Not, you understand, an invalid universe, just a different one not normally seen in American polling places.
Most of these individuals had never before bothered to register to vote and participate in the governing of their country for many "reasons." Some of the reasons were, of course, laziness or indifference, but also there was the idea that nothing they did could ever make a difference in their lives, that "the system" was rigged against them (true, it often is), that their contribution was not desired and their boss would fire them if they "got political," that there was no real difference between the political parties, plus there was plain ignorance and a lack of motivation.  Not to mention, in many areas of the country there is a pattern of very effective suppression of voting among "non-standard" groups, especially minorities.
As it happened, for generations the right of center white majority conservative universe of voters bebopped merrily along, convinced that their group, their universe of voters, was America.... after all, they thought (if they thought about it all) their bunch were the historical creators of America----- those original Boston tea partiers who dumped the tea in Boston harbor may have dressed up like local American Indians, but they were one and all white guys. White guys moved the frontier westward to the Pacific Ocean.  White guys (and increasingly some white women) innovated and created the magnificent American industrial machine that won World War II, went the narrative, and they were the ones who developed the atomic bomb and put men on the moon and then won the Cold War----- well, okay, there are  today a few clever Asians and Indian Indians, and maybe an African-American or two around who accepted the white guy system and fit in by blending in, who also contributed to America's super power status, but white men were the architects.  Such was the mental landscape among this universe of voters, or among a majority of them.  It was consistent, made historical sense in their eyes, and they themselves symbolized, well, America.
Meanwhile, toiling beside this universe, mingling among them on a daily basis, were the members of the invisible universe, whose life experiences, whose needs and ideas were unrecognized because they were rarely expressed, and whose concerns never ever were considered by the Powers That Be because they never voted, never made a fuss politically.  This is the universe that was inspired to register and vote for Obama, thereby turning the American political world upside down.
When they showed up at the polls, and once the votes were counted, it was revealed that the American body politic was actually left of center. The old universe, the white guy universe, was still there, but it was overwhelmed by the new, left of center masses. The old universe did not accept its defeat gracefully, and has steadfastly refused to recognize not just the reality but the legality of this new universe, and it went immediately into fierce denial, questioning Obama's validity ("born in Kenya," "secret Muslim,"  "pals around with terrorists") and the right to vote of all those "new" voters ("has to be fraud," "ACORN committed voter registration fraud").
Besides attempting to de-legitimize Obama as President, the Republican Party, its nose out of joint at being rejected so soundly, began a stubborn, destructive campaign of obstructionism in Congress, while the most conservative elements of its already conservative base,  helped by funding from equally conservative corporate interests, turned itself into a reactionary movement demanding "their" country back, and a return to the imaginary perfect Eden of America's Founding Fathers (i.e., "let's get rid of all these interlopers"). The Tea Party tapped into all the fears and frustrations of the white guy universe of voters, turning August into the month from hell across the land as violence and threats of violence became the rule of politics at Town Hall after Town Hall, principally revolving around the misunderstood Health Care bill.
The media concluded that this movement represented the majority opinion of the country----- it was made up of people who always voted, the "right of center" crew, which the media had consistently seen politically involved, so of course their opinions were conflated with popular opinion. President Obama was gratuitously informed he had to be more bipartisan, more like Republicans, and Democrats were assured their goose was cooked, they could count on losing control of Congress come November 2010.
Not so fast.
That huge Obama universe of voters is still out there. After the election of 2008, grassroots Democrats cannily recognized that the Party would have to stay engaged with these new voters so as to turn them into voters who turned up regularly to vote Democratic, just as the Republican base was so consistent about voting every time for Republicans.  This did not happen: the Obama-centric campaigners did not mesh into the Democratic Party organization on any level, kept their voter records to themselves, and seemed only interested in directly supporting Obama and his (mostly future) policies. The Democratic Establishment seemed remarkably wary about those Obama people, and reluctant to change their own long-standing modus operandi, a mode that angry grassroots workers regarded as little more than "Republican Lite."
Worse, Obama the President was far more moderate than Obama the campaigner; he frequently chose either Republicans or Republican-Lite Democrats for top policy positions. On his signature issue, health care reform, Obama offered no political leadership whatsoever and, odd for such a good campaigner, never got his message across on health care and many other issues dear to progressives. Instead, he went on a vacation during that fateful August when he lost control of his entire program, and let the Republicans and their Tea Party front take over framing the issues their way, and begin implementing their plans to destroy his Presidency ("I hope Obama fails").  Time after time during the economic collapse and Great Recession, it looked as though what Obama and the Democrats actually did was to help the corporate oligarchs, and not the vast sea of common voters who elected them---- Wall Street over Main Street.  So, what else was new?
This run of events dispirited much of the Democratic grassroots, and the new Obama voters decided the Democrats were no different from Republicans, just as they'd always suspected, that their voting had not really helped themselves after all. When the elections of 2009 came around the Obama voters, feeling betrayed and ignored, and the grassroots feeling betrayed and misused, by and large stayed home. Naturally, this was construed by Republicans and the mass media pundit class as proof: America is a right of center nation, the natural order of things is now restored, the cycle would turn, Republicans would come roaring back in 2010, and Obama was going to be a one-term President. Republicans began industriously working on voter suppression, framing Obama as a failure, promoting  as Big Issues fear of deficits, and promising a return to states' rights with a federal government much reduced in power.
The occasions on which Obama has been triumphant have been those in which he honored the progressive grassroots' policies on which he campaigned. Where he has run into snag after snag and outright defeat have been when he futilely tried to be "bipartisan," gave away one progressive bargaining chip after another, and begged Republicans for even just one little vote. Meanwhile, when Republicans were returned to office, or continued in office in red states, voters began to see what happened and were dismayed: rejection of federal help to states struggling with budget shortfalls during the Recession, refusal to participate in health care reform, dismantling of desperately needed programs, disasters resulting from de-regulation, for example.
Therefore, it seems obvious that Democrats---- and especially Obama----  if they want to win, must return to their populist and progressive roots, re-engage the Obama voters, and stop palling around with the increasingly extreme reactionary right masquerading as the modern day Republican Party.  The irony here is that the Republican Party since Reagan, has lurched so far to the right, dragging the political spectrum with them, that what was once considered the moderate center ground is now regarded as the (far) left, so that, when Democrats retake that "left"ground for their own (instead of cravenly being Republican Lite) they will really be the centrist party, the moderate middle ground. It clearly is what would be good for the country.

"The idea that taxes are high right now is pretty much nuts"

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Courtesy of USA Today:
Amid complaints about high taxes and calls for a smaller government, Americans paid their lowest level of taxes last year since Harry Truman's presidency, a USA TODAY analysis of federal data found.Some conservative political movements such as the "Tea Party" have criticized federal spending as being out of control. While spending is up, taxes have fallen to exceptionally low levels.
Federal, state and local taxes - including income, property, sales and other taxes - consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.
"The idea that taxes are high right now is pretty much nuts," says Michael Ettlinger, head of economic policy at the liberal Center for American Progress. The real problem is spending, counters Adam Brandon of FreedomWorks, which organizes Tea Party groups. "The money we borrow is going to be paid back through taxation in the future," he says.
Actually, the "real" problem - and this is most definitely NOT difficult to comprehend, unless you're trying not to comprehend - is our long-term, structural imbalance between expenditures (too high) and revenues (too low). On the expenditures side, it's almost all health care and other "entitlements" spending, plus the military and interest on the debt. Other than that, "non-defense discretionary spending" is tiny and not growing significantly, so even if we wanted to cut all our national parks, roads and bridges, agricultural subsidies, education spending, homeland security, etc., we'd still face the same structural problems (e.g., aging population, skyrocketing health care costs) we do now.Which brings us to the revenues side of the equation, where we're at the lowest relative levels since 1950, despite fighting two wars (unpaid for), cranking up spending on "homeland security," and dealing with the aforementioned health care cost spiral. In short, as much as the "taxed enough already" crowd wants to complain, the fact - and it is a FACT - is that taxes are actually very low by historical standards. Not that this will get in the way of the right wingers' sob story; the facts rarely do with those people.
The bottom line is that, as much as conservatives think that all this is super complicated, a combination of rocket science and brain surgery, it's actually very simple. To solve our huge budget problem, we need to rein in rising health care costs, pay for the wars we fight and security we require, and stop implying that we can all have "something for nothing" while maintaining the lowest tax rates in 60 years.  Or, we can continue on our current path of borrowing from China and against future generations.  But that would be as "nuts" as "the idea that taxes are high right now."

Cooch is "the very model of a mad Attorney General"

Monday, May 10, 2010

Hilarious, great job by Bart Hinkle skewering Ken Kook-inelli!
I am the very model of a mad Attorney General, My politics are paleoconservative and visceral -- I'll sue the pants off Democrats and wreck their plans historical With writs and briefs that I'll compose, tendentious and rhetorical . . . . I'll stop environmentalists from regulating greenhouse gas By proving carbon dioxide does not have an atomic mass -- That solar-radiative forcing's nothing but a liberal plot And dendroclimatology is superstitious tommyrot. I'll prove the EPA is overrun with Commie militants Who haven't shown a single lick of scientific diligence -- In short, in matters legal, ecological, and federal I am the very model of a mad Attorney General.
More lyrics here - sing along!

Will Your Elected Officials Stand Up For Academic Freedom?

Friday, May 7, 2010

by Kindler

In light of Attorney General Cuccinelli's abuse of his power to intimidate climate scientists who produce research that he finds politically convenient to attack, I have two questions for every single one of my Virginia elected officials:1) Do your support or oppose Cuccinelli's assault on academic freedom?
2) If the latter, when will you make a public statement announcing your position?
Sorry, no mealy-mouthed evasions of the issue allowed this time.  Freedom of thought, inquiry, and expression is not some minor issue - it is the lifeblood without with democracy cannot function.  And it is by no means merely a progressive or Democratic issue.  Conservative Supreme Court Justices in recent years have demonstrated such a strong commitment to the First Amendment that they have chosen to protect even such repugnant forms of speech as flag burning, videos showing violence against animals, and depictions of child pornography.  Considering that, how can conservatives not support the freedom of scientists to conduct their research free from bullying by government officials?
Republicans, Tea Partiers, and other right-wingers talk endlessly about freedom and liberty.  So let's put all of Virginia's elected Republican officials on record to see if - when faced with a case where academic freedom is openly threatened by state power - they will put their money where their mouth is.  Governor Bob, of course, needs to be questioned most relentlessly, but all the officials below him need to be heard from too.
Virginia Democrats, led by Delegate Mark Herring, have taken a strong stand on this issue.  But we cannot allow them to take their eyes off the ball.  We need every Democrat in Virginia to speak out publicly against this outrageous act in order to keep the pressure on the McDonnell-Cuccinelli Administration and continually ratchet it up - until they back off.
I strongly encourage you to contact your own elected officials and ask these same questions.  You can find contact information and links for all of them here.
We elect our leaders to safeguard our freedoms.  Will they come through for us this time, or not?

Blistering FRONTLINE Story on For-Profit Education Industry Features Chief Lobbyist Harris Miller

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Earlier this week, FRONTLINE explored the shady world of online, for-profit education. One of my favorite quotes relates to how this industry is milking the federal government as a "cash cow": "The taxpayers are essentially funding this industry; something like 75% of their revenue comes from federal grants and loans." According to FRONTLINE, "This is a subject of increasing concern to the Obama administration, which, last month, remade the federal student loan program, and is now proposing changes that may make it harder for the for-profit colleges to qualify."So, who's at the center of all this?  That's right, none other than our old pal, Harris Miller, last seen in 2006 calling Jim Webb a racist, misogynist, and anti-Semite. Here's a transcript from Part 3 of the FRONTLINE story with Miller:
We talked to the chief Washington lobbyist for the for-profit schools, Harris Miller.Frontline: "The industry has a black eye, has been struggling for credibility, why?
Harris Miller: "I don't think the industry has a black eye, I think [they] are doing very well, growing by 25% a year, 2.8 million students attending our schools. We have some challenges because there have been some allegations that everything is not perfect, I wish it were.
Frontline: "But what about the pressure of Wall Street to have them grow."
Harris Miller: "The pressure is to deliver a high education quality for their students. Our schools know that any time they step out of line, there's a huge risk and there's a large focus on compliance at all times, including on enrollment issues."
Yeah, right, I'm sure that's what Wall Street cares about regarding the for-profit education industry; not profit, but "education quality for their students." Uh huh.Anyway, Frontline then goes on to discuss the tremendous pressure put on recruiters to meet quotas, and how this "challenges anyone's integrity." The message in the industry is to create a "sense of urgency" among potential students, "Dig deep, get to their pain, get to what's bothering them, so that that way you can convince them that a college degree is going to solve all their problems."
It gets worse, though.

Virginia's Lysenko

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

by Kindler

Eighty years ago, Josef Stalin found a scientist he liked.  This was bad news for the scientists who were not so popular with the Soviet leadership.
Trofim Lysenko, with Stalin's approval, directed the Soviet Institute of Genetics. He promoted the theory that characteristics acquired during an organism's lifetime can be passed on genetically to future generations.
This fit well with the communist objective of creating a "New Man". It did not fit quite so well with the truth.
Lysenko's theories would have been laughed out of the lab had he not found a sponsor willing and able to apply the full coercive power of government to reward those who supported Lysenko and punish those who disagreed.  Thousands of scientists suffered under Lysenko, losing their jobs and often being imprisoned.
It takes enormous courage to "speak truth to power" when you have a tyrannically-minded leader using power to threaten the truth.  Which brings me to Ken Cuccinelli.  
kindler :: Virginia's Lysenko
The state has an important role in science: to fund research and education, to use and promote science, to ensure it is freely conducted.  It is not the role of the state to dictate, for political reasons, which scientific theories may be considered right or wrong.When governments do take such a stance, and get away with it, it is a sign of a deep sickness in the body politic.  Nothing is more important to democracy than the free and open pursuit of the truth.  Politicians who don't respect or protect that pursuit represent the greatest danger a democracy can have.  Because when you take away the ability of citizens to appeal to reason, truth and common sense, you open the door to arbitrary rule - which means that those in power can ultimately get away with anything.
Some may see it as a small thing that Attorney General Cuccinelli is demanding information from the University of Virginia about the work of climate scientist Michael Mann to determine if he was "defrauding" state taxpayers - that is, by publishing peer-reviewed scientific research that Mr. Cuccinelli and his donors in the fossil fuel industry (such as Massey Energy) found inconvenient.
This is no small thing.  It is one of the most shocking acts I have witnessed in over three decades of studying, observing and participating in politics and government.  Cuccinelli is crossing a line that democratic governments only cross at their peril.  This action cannot stand - it must not stand.
It is time for Virginia's campuses to rise up in outrage at this attack by the state on their academic freedom.  It is good to see University of Virginia facultydenouncing this action.  But others need to join them in solidarity - students and faculty at the rest of Virginia's universities and at other institutions across the country; associations of academics, scientists, etc., nationally and internationally; protectors of the First Amendment, like the ACLU; perhaps, I don't know, Amnesty International?  (Will Professor Mann become Cuccinelli's first prisoner of conscience?)
The key to maintaining democracy is that when governments overreach, the people slap their hand.  It's time for us to stand up and do so again - all hands on deck, people!  This is serious.

Crazy Cooch Launches Climate Change "Witch Hunt" at UVA

Monday, May 3, 2010

As many of us warned during 2009, if Ken Cuccinelli were ever elected as Virginia's Attorney General, he would not hesitate to pursue his paranoid, extremist, radical, hateful agenda. Now, he's proving it in spades, on a wide variety of fronts from anti-gay protections to "states' rights" to the supposed unconstitutionality of the federal health insurance "mandate to climate change to an exposed woman's breast to the Confederacy name it. In short, Cooch is flailing around and lashing out on pretty much everything, from "soup to nuts" (emphasis on "nuts").  In the process, he is helping to turn Virginia into a national laughing stock.Now, Crazy Cooch's latest move is this insanity.
In papers sent to UVA April 23, Cuccinelli's office commands the university to produce a sweeping swath of documents relating to Mann's receipt of nearly half a million dollars in state grant-funded climate research conducted while Mann- now director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State- was at UVA between 1999 and 2005.If Cuccinelli succeeds in finding a smoking gun like the purloined emails that led to the international scandal dubbed Climategate, Cuccinelli could seek the return of all the research money, legal fees, and trebled damages.
Wow, even for Cooch this is off the deep end.  I mean, does Cooch really expect he's going to find some "smoking gun" here that disproves the science of climate change, about which there is both overwhelming evidence and overwhelming consensus among climate scientists?  As UVA climate faculty member Howie Epstein says in The Hook article, "I don't really know what they're looking for or expecting to find."Of course, Cuccinelli's latest crusade has nothing to do with serious scientific inquiry or fact finding. Far more likely, what this is all about is: 1) intimidation of scientists and free academic inquiry; 2) serving his masters in the fossil fuel industry (e.g., Massey Energy); and 3) pandering to his ultra-right-wing, climate-change-denying "base," etc. As even "climate skeptic" Chip Knappenberger acknowledges, this is a "witch hunt," plain and simple. It is truly chilling when authorities use their power to intimidate academics against telling the truth.
What's particularly amazing (and infuriating) is that, even as we destroy the Gulf of Mexico thanks to one fossil fuel industry (oil) and trash our planet's overall ecosystem largely via another (coal), Cooch is not only failing to learn his lessons, he's actually doubling down on his ignorance and insanity. What next, is Cooch going to try and bring back the Spanish Inquisition?  Whoops, better not give him any ideas...

"Do Charter Schools Really Work?"

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Over at the Dixie Pig blog, Del. Scott Surovell asks, "Do charter schools really work?"  If you listen to politicians like Gov. Bob McDonnell, former President George W. Bush, former President Bill Clinton, and current President Barack Obama, the answer is "yes."  The answer is also "yes" if you listen to the Washington Post editorial board, which argued last fall that opponents of charter schools "can't claim any longer that these non-traditional public schools don't succeed."  So, the debate is settled?  The rush should be on to crank up charter schools all over America?Hold on there, not so fast, whippersnappers!  As today's New York Times writes:
But for all their support and cultural cachet, the majority of the 5,000 or so charter schools nationwide appear to be no better, and in many cases worse, than local public schools when measured by achievement on standardized tests, according to experts citing years of research. Last year one of the most comprehensive studies, by researchers from Stanford University, found that fewer than one-fifth of charter schools nationally offered a better education than comparable local schools, almost half offered an equivalent education and more than a third, 37 percent, were "significantly worse."Although "charter schools have become a rallying cry for education reformers," the report, by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes, warned, "this study reveals in unmistakable terms that, in the aggregate, charter students are not faring as well" as students in traditional schools.
Just to reiterate: 37% of students do worse and fewer than 20% of students do better in charter schools. If true, and there's no particular reason to believe this study is flawed, that would certainly make me less enthused about this idea.But wait, it gets worse. As Del. Surovell points out, charter schools also "do not do anything to reduce school expenditures," they promote the "idea that a child's future is the function of a lottery," and they "dilute interest in and support for local schools in our public school system." Again, none of this sounds in any way appealing. So why the big push for charter schools by politicians on both left and right? Thoughts?

Ken Cuccinelli: Boobs, Bad. Confederacy, Good.

Every time you think that Virginia Attorney General Ken "The Cooch" Cuccinelli has jumped the shark, he climbs on board another shark and jumps over a row of even more sharks jumping over yet more sharks. Whether it's suing the federal government to defend Virginians' right not to have health care, suing the government to defend our right to destroy the planet, denying the science of climate changetalking to his toy elephant (appropriately named "Ron"), speaking at a conference o' crazies, claiming that gay sex is "a detriment to our culture"defending anti-"sodomy" laws,flirting with "birtherism", claiming that the government is tracking his kids via Social Security numbers, or fighting for "states rights", the guy's completely off the deep end.  He's also deeply embarrassing the Commonwealth of Virginia, turning us into a national laughingstock, a full employment act for grateful comedians across America.Now, Cooch has struck again, with what NLS is calling "Boob-Gate" - covering a prominent piece of naked female anatomy on the state seal, a la John Ashcroft. But wait, it gets even worse!
A few observant readers noted that Cuccinelli's rendition appears to be strikingly similar to the seal design on a version of the Virginia flag used in the early 1860s around the time the state seceded from the Union, according to this Web site.
And, as NLS points out, "I probably don't need to remind anyone that The Cooch distributed this to his staff in Confederate History Month either."  Apparently, in Ken Kookinelli's krazy world, boobs are bad and the Confederacy is good. Sharks over sharks over sharks over...UPDATE: A couple of comments from Facebook.
Former Del. Kris Amundsen: "Maybe the Daily Show should just put Cooch on retainer since he now writes so much of their material for them."
Sen. Donald McEachin: "The Pilot reports that the State Seal that Cuccinelli is using comes from Virginia's seal at the time Virginia left the Union. Hmmm...did Cuccinelli really distribute a Virginia Confederate era seal during Confederate History month...your comments are invited."
UPDATE #2NLS has more.

Photos, Video: Immigration Reform Rally at the White House

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Earlier this afternoon, I attended an immigration reform rally at Lafayette Park next to the White House. Hundreds of people, if not more, were on hand to peacefully protest Arizona's anti-immigrant law and to demand that Congress pass comprehensive immigration reform - including the DREAM Act - now. I was extremely impressed with the speakers, as well as the friendly, peaceful, racially diverse, and passionate crowd of protesters. Among others, I heard several "Trail of Dreams" students talk about their 1,500-mile walk from Miami, FL to bring their immigration message to Washington. Along the way, "they documented their journey on Facebook and Twitter, gathered 30,000 signatures to bring to the president and marshaled support and shelter." In addition to the photos after the "flip," check out the video (below) of Margie (spelling?), a junior from T.C. Williams High School in Alexandria, VA. I think you'll agree that she's very impressive - in Spanish and in English! UPDATE: Another video for your viewing and listening pleasure - "El Pueblo Unido".

The First 3 1/2 Months of Kookinelli Madness

by Elaine in Roanoke

It's time to recap the brief "career" so far of AG Ken Cuccinelli, who all by himself seems determined to make the office of Virginia's attorney general the continual butt of television comedians' jokes.On February 16, just one month after taking office, Cuccinelli filed a request with the Environmental Protection Agency asking it to reopen its proceedings regarding the finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health.
Of course, at the same time he also asked for judicial review of the EPA's finding in federal court. As a result, Virginia has joined Alabama and Texas as the only states seeking to overturn any EPA action to control greenhouse gases. According to Cooch, the EPA is just a bunch of "bureaucrats with political agendas" who have falsified data in order to drive American business into the ground. He doesn't say how he know that scientific data is "falsified."
February was just Act One of the Cuccinelli absurdist theater acted out in the office of the attorney general. We had much more waiting for us...

On March 4 Cuccinelli sent a letter to Virginia public colleges and universities stating that, in his opinion, Virginia law prohibits them from including sexual orientation or gender expression in any non-discrimination policy they might have. In the national uproar that followed, Cuccinelli never said why he had released the letter and maintained that some unnamed colleges had asked for a ruling by his office.It was March 22 when Cuccinelli filed a lawsuit in the US District Court challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care bill that passed Congress on March 21.
Hmmm. I'm beginning to see a pattern here. Every two weeks or so, Cuccinelli's ego drives him to usurp headlines from the governor by issuing some extremist diatribe aimed at his Tea-Party-like base.
On April 1 - appropriately April Fool's Day - Cuccinelli announced a challenge to new standards for fuel efficiency for cars and trucks by the Obama administration and the EPA. (All those standards do is move up the date to meet goals that were set in 2007 when Republican President George W. Bush signed The Energy Independence and Security Act, which changed economy standards for cars and light trucks for the first time in more than 30 years.)
Now, as April has ended, Cooch has unveiled, a la John Ashcroft, his own prudish version of the Virginia state seal. A breastplate of armor covers the breast of Virtus in Cooch's version of the seal. Whew! Talk about "political correctness."
God only knows what Cooch will come up with as May winds down. Maybe he could revisit some of his state senate peculiarities, such as his attempt to amend the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution to revoke the citizenship of children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants.
(The two methods of amending the U.S. Constitution, as outlined in Article V, state that both houses of Congress may propose an amendment by a 2/3rds vote of members, or 2/3rds of state legislatures may ask for a convention to amend the document, a process never used. Nowhere does it state that an obscure, extremely odd state senator from Virginia can propose such amendments.)
I guess Cooch could declare that his idea from back then to allow one business to sue another if it is proven that it hired illegal immigrants is now fine in Virginia because he, as attorney general, says so. Or, perhaps he would like to try to resurrect his wish to deny unemployment benefits to any person who could not speak "proper" English in the workplace.
I also must remember Cooch's love for abstinence-only sex education, even though all reputable studies have shown that such "education" is completely ineffective and a waste of taxpayer money.
We all know that Cooch made quite a fool of himself by first appearing to endorse the "Birthers" in their attempt to change the birthplace of President Obama from Hawaii to Kenya, using a crazy, fake lady lawyer and a heaping helping of inchoate racism in the attempt. Cuccinelli quickly backed down from that piece of red meat that he threw to his "base."
My personal favorite Cooch story is when he told an audience of fawning far-righties during the  2009 campaign that he and his wife were contemplating not filing for a Social Security number for their new son because,  "it is being used to track you." Please. Spare me that ridiculous statement. Cooch and his wife, who have many other children, know that a Social Security number is required for a family to declare a newborn child for tax purposes. That requirement was put into the tax law to foil people who had been making up kids to get the tax deductions. (I personally knew a fellow back then who had declared his dog and two cats as children until the time came when he had to have actual Social Security numbers for the "children.")
I guess Social Security numbers could be the basis of Cuccinelli's next publicity stunt. Perhaps he could sue the federal government and say that it has no right to demand that citizens prove the existence of their tax exemptions.
We all should stay tuned for the next act of the farce that is the attorney general's office in the great state of Virginia. What I wish would happen instead is for the governor to call Cooch in and demand that he stop making a fool of himself and the state that put him in office.
I will wait a very long time for that to happen.