Monday, February 27, 2017

"We have to start winning wars again"-donald trump

Masters of War by Bob Dylan

Damn you masters of war – you that build the big guns
You that build the death planes; you that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls; you that hide behind desks
I just want you to know I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin’, but build to destroy
You play with my world, like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand, and you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther when the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old, you lie and deceive
A world war can be won; you want me to believe
But I see through your eyes, and I see through your brain
Like I see through the water that runs down my drain

You fasten all the triggers, for the others to fire
Then you sit back and watch, while the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion, while the young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies and is buried in the mud

You’ve thrown the worst fear that can ever be hurled
Afraid to bring children, into the world
For threatenin’ my baby, unborn and unnamed,
You ain’t worth the blood that runs in your veins

How much do I know, to talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young; you might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know, though I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question: is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness; do you think that it could
I think you will find, when your death takes its toll
All the money you made will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die, and your death will come soon
I’ll follow your casket, on a pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered, down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand over your grave ‘til I’m sure that you’re dead

“On Tuesday, the House Republicans Will Betray Their Oaths, Their Country, and the American People”—Dartagnan

“[Tomorrow], on February 28, 2017, the United States will witness what may be the single greatest act of collective treachery by its elected government officials since the Confederate States voted to secede from the Union in 1860 and 1861. And in all likelihood, the U.S. media will completely ignore it.

“On Tuesday the Republican-dominated House Judiciary Committee is expected to reject House Democrats’ Resolution for a formal inquiry into the potential ethical and legal violations committed by the Trump campaign apparatus in its contacts, communications and financial transactions with Russia during the run-up to Trump’s election last November, and throughout the transition since then. It will also reject calls to examine evidence of Trump’s solicitation and receipt of foreign gifts intended to influence American policy, and the potential violations of the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution.

“The evidence pointing to Trump’s betrayal of American strategic interests has (thus far) included illegal contacts between Trump emissaries and Putin officials concerning  the lifting of existing U.S. sanctions, evidence that the Trump campaign was aware of and likely complicit in Russian efforts to sway the election to Trump through Russian propaganda, and evidence suggesting that Trump himself may be compromised and subject to Russian blackmail due to either his financial dealings or his unusual sexual proclivities. These issues, unearthed by our intelligence agencies, directly implicate the integrity of our national government. It’s difficult to imagine any matter that could be more compelling for investigation and resolution. This is, in essence, a determination whether an elected President has been corrupted, compromised, or tainted by a hostile foreign power.

“As Jonathan Chait points out in New York Magazine, despite the enormous implications for the nation, the political risk to House Republicans from refusing to investigate Trump is practically nil. As Mark Sumner explains here, the Republicans have carefully assigned the House’s decision on the resolution to their own Judiciary Committee, and carefully timed their pre-ordained rejection of the Resolution to minimize or hide it from the public.  Few Republicans are members of the Committee itself, and those who make it up are from ‘safe seats,’ carefully selected by the House leadership. 

“The main ‘news event’ on Tuesday will be Trump’s first address to the entire Congress. The media will parse every word of that speech, and pundits’ tongues will be chattering about that and that alone, filling up every second of available airtime. Little or no focus will be made on the single vote of a House Committee that the vast majority of the public could not identify in a lineup, and it will disappear unnoticed, lost in the wake of something outrageous Trump will absolutely make sure to spew in his speech to the Congress that afternoon:

“It will be a minor story that probably receives scant or nonexistent coverage from television news, and then it will be quickly over. To be sure, coverage of Trump’s scandals will surely continue. But coverage of the House role in permitting Trump’s behavior will be extremely minimal.

“But the treachery and betrayal will be complete. The moral bankruptcy of the Republican Party will have reached its apotheosis. A Republican Congress, through their own hand-picked ‘Committee,’ will deliberately turn a blind eye towards patent evidence disclosed by our Intelligence Services of collaboration between Trump’s highest campaign officials, Trump himself, and the Russian government, its emissaries, and its President-dictator, Vladimir Putin.  Putting their own interests before the integrity of the country itself, they will choose to ignore the fact that an unfriendly foreign state, is directly interfering with our system of government.

“Try to imagine the reaction of Republicans if the proverbial shoe were on the other foot--if Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, or some similar Democrat had been tainted with strong evidence of collaborating with the Russians to win the election. And if, following that, they refused to divulge their financial ties or their campaign’s contacts with the Russian state.  Imagine if their denials turned out time and time again to be outright lies. And then just try to imagine the Democrats in Congress deliberately refusing to investigate such accusations.

“The Republicans would call it Treason. And they’d be right. Chait explains that what we are witnessing in the House’s refusal to act is a latent failure of our entire Democratic system:

“One of the flaws in the design of the federal government is that, while the founders envisioned competing branches of government, unified party control of government can turn those branches into partners who do not check each other’s abuses. A second flaw is that Congress has a diffuse and often-confusing decision-making process that can make public accountability extremely difficult. Both problems come together in a new story that ought to be huge news but will instead be relegated to legislative arcana.

“In this case the House simply refused to investigate the allegations of Trump’s perfidy. Coldly refused, without fanfare or explanation, thumbing their nose, in effect, at not only the Democrats and the American people.  When Democrats in the House forced their hand, they responded not in accordance with their Constitutional oaths, but in accordance with their wealthy contributors who stand to benefit immensely from the tax cuts they intend to implement, and which Trump, Russian stooge or not,  will eagerly rubber-stamp.

“But first they had to insure they would be insulated from their constituents’ wrath at this blatant act of betrayal. And, according to Chait, therein lies the problem:

“The average House Republican votes for the party leadership, which then allocates decisions like this to individual committees, which can be stacked with partisan loyalists from safe districts...

“If you are a voter in the district of one of the House Republicans who might be vulnerable in a potential Democratic wave election, who do you blame? Well, in January, your representative voted for the leadership that decided to shunt the resolution of inquiry to the Judiciary Committee, that will vote … but you can already see the problem. Your district’s representative had no direct involvement in the decision. There won’t be any dramatic coverage of his floor vote, as would be the case for a major law. At best, an effective pressure campaign at home might persuade your representative to endorse an investigation, but that endorsement would be toothless anyway, since Paul Ryan is calling the shots.

“The real flaw in our system is that the Founders mistakenly envisioned a House of Representatives who actually would put their country’s interests first in such a circumstance. They assumed a Congress made of individuals with some sense of integrity and moral character. The current radical Republican spawn of the Tea Party, in firm control of the House of Representatives, have neither. And they’ve made the calculation that most of their constituents won’t care:

“It requires a lot of generally partisan Republicans to vote against more familiar and long-standing beliefs about guns, abortion, race, and so on to punish their elected representatives for a procedural matter. And that is why Trump has decided he can continue to demolish norms and laws, and why his fellow Republicans have decided they can safely go along.

“So on Tuesday, the Republican Congress won’t call out Trump for violating the Constitution, even for selling the country out to a hostile foreign power. Treachery, to them, will just be another day at the office. We should never let them forget what they’ve done.”

[The Republican (majority) members of the Judiciary Committee are listed here. To call your Member of Congress: US Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121. To locate your Member on-line: U.S. House of Representatives:].

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The disaster plan: Illinois’ teacher evaluation by Mark Stefanik

“Having just experienced the new teacher evaluation process in my district, I’ve had my fears confirmed.  It is a coercive instrument whose first purpose is not to improve teachers, but to control them.  It is a negative metric which creates and seeks flaws. It is a checklist for ‘Wuzza’ teachers who have mutated into administrative hacks. It is a template for mediocrity.

“Under the grand banner of improving public education, the pinky-ringed wizards of Springfield enacted a law that turned an essential truth – that teachers are the most important element in schooling – on its head.  If there’s something wrong with schools, there must be something wrong with teachers.  Put another way, a simpleton’s syllogism swayed the sages of the statehouse:

“There are problems with public education. Teachers are the most important element in schools. Therefore, there are problems with teachers.

“Oh, the ideas that this bit of reckless reasoning inspired.  Oh, the strange bedfellows it rallied.  Billionaire dilettantes linked arms with working class mothers.  Tax policy conservatives swayed PTA parents into charter school advocates.  Union bashers recruited the voiceless and disenfranchised, the very folks that unions protected.

“Forget inadequate funding.  Forget socio-economic factors.  Forget prejudice.  Ignorance and Want gave the politicos an early Christmas present.  A consensus swept the land.  Fix the teachers and we fix our schools. And so, in 2011, SB7 was born.  It went right to the heart of the teacher problem.  

“We’ll make teachers better by diminishing their rights and protections, and, it only follows, that this will improve the classrooms. Which will improve our kids.  Which will secure our futures.  Yada-Yada-Yada.

“A key to this improvement would be the state codified Teacher Evaluation Plan, a colossal cluster of criteria adapted by each school district. If you believe that this approach will be used to improve teachers, then you must believe that the City of Chicago’s restaurant code is designed to make 3 star restaurants into 4 star ones.

“The codes, standards, and regulations look good on paper, but the devil awaits in their execution.  With a surfeit of regulations, the city can shut down any establishment it wants to.  With a surfeit of standards, an administrator can silence or remove any teacher.  That’s the beauty of a negative metric, at least for the evaluators.  Flaws can be found anywhere.  Excellence can be minimized, or as is the case with most Evaluation tools, omitted.  

“Is a teacher at fault when only 20 of 25 students participate in a 45 minute class discussion?  Is this a sensible criteria when the evaluator judges that teacher by only 1 period in an entire school year?  

“Is a teacher at fault when her Math classroom must also double as a science room and the requisite marble topped wooden tables are not conducive to modular desk arrangements?

“Is a teacher at fault when the theory behind a class activity, even though it was thoroughly discussed in a post-observation meeting, is not provided in writing?

“The list of petty applications of the plan is as long as the plan itself.  I have offered only a sample of the supposedly constructive criticism of the teachers’ classroom management and curriculum design.  The metrics for ‘Professionalism’ would require their own column.  Let’s just leave it at this:  Whatever cockamamie project your boob of a principal wants you to do on your time had better be done.  Her ‘career’ rests on you.

“Speaking of principals or administrators or assistants, their roles in this farce bear examination.  If we account for all of the stake-holders in a school district, who benefits from these evaluation plans?

“The students?  Hardly.  The major flawed assumption of this entire mess is that they will benefit from the diminishment of a teacher’s rights and autonomy. The teachers?  This should be obvious. The parents?  They’re not getting transparency.  They’re getting diversions based upon bad data and disingenuous interpretations of student and school performances.

“The taxpayers?  They are getting the short term benefits of a cheaper work force (out with the wise; in with the inexperienced) at the long term costs of a morale-gutted and visionless faculty.  Even if they don’t care about the schools, they should certainly be aware of the relationship between the schools and their property values.

“Whose left?  The administrators, of course.  They’re the big winners.  More power.  More false measures with which to deceive.  It’s the old story of the Emperor’s new clothes, re-imagined where the School Board is the Emperor and the managers to whom they have entrusted the well-being of their district are ambitious charlatans, most of whom couldn’t sharpen pencils in a good teacher’s classroom.  

“What will it take to challenge the myth that administrators were formerly the best teachers?  This, too, would make another column.

“Finally, let’s not underestimate the damage being done.  There is only so much time in the day.  Considering time as a commodity, we can apply the economic principal of opportunity costs. For every hour spent on satisfying administrative needs for forms, one hour less will be spent on preparing thoughtful activities for students.  For every hour spent collaborating with colleagues on how best to explain to administrators what it is we do, one hour less is being spent on getting better at what we do.  For every mediocre evaluation received, the seeds are being planted, not for creative and risk-taking lesson planning, but for plans that will meet the crushing and petty and gap-filled expectations of these current instruments.

“Make no mistake.  These new tools will change things. I fear for my grandchildren.”