Thursday, October 2, 2014

Call the Crazy Motherfuckers Crazy Motherfuckers Already. Before It's Too Late.

Do it, Alison. Nobody who thinks Mitch McConnell is not fucking insane is ever going to vote for you, no matter how many innocent animals or EPA inspectors you kill.

Charlie Pearce:

The great failing of the Democratic party over the past three-and-a-half decades has been the party's failure to take political advantage of the obvious prion disease that has afflicted the Republican party since it first ate all the monkey-brains in the mid-1970's. Whether this was out of cowardice, incompetence, or an overly optimistic view of the inherent sanity of the electorate, is no longer an issue. The failure to make the Republican crazee the Republican party's standing public identity has encouraged the increased spread, and the increased virulence of the prion disease, with disastrous consequences for the rest of us. Why, in the name of god, would you not call Michele Bachmann crazy? Because it might offend the people who vote for her? It's supposed to offend those people. Those people beg to be offended, and, by doing so, you at least inject into the discussion the notion that the Republican party has thrown its marbles gleefully to the four winds. A few elections later, that may become the general opinion. After all, the Permanent Republican Majority wasn't built in a day.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

How Are Charter Schools Terrible? In Every Way

Bills to force impoverished Kentucky public schools to pay rich corporations and churches to run charter schools are being drafted for the 2104 General Assembly as you read this.

It is impossible to overstate the catastrophe charter schools represent for school children, for public school systems, for communities, and for local and state economies.

Kentucky is one of the few states still holding out against these thieving motherfuckers.  Don't let what is happening to other states happen here.

Gordon Lafer at The Nation:

This fall, New Orleans’s Recovery School District became the country’s first all-charter district, completing a process begun following Hurricane Katrina, when the Bush administration refused to pay for reopening public schools, instead providing $45 million for charter schools to take their place. While these schools are publicly funded, the local community has no control over their curriculum or quality because they are not overseen by any democratically elected school board.

If corporate lobbyists have their way, the New Orleans model will be replicated across the country, with Netflix CEO and charter booster Reed Hastings leading the call to “get rid of school boards.”

Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, a new type of segregation is spreading across the urban landscape. The US Chamber of Commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity and their legislative allies are promoting an ambitious, two-pronged agenda for poor cities: replace public schools with privately run charter schools, and replace teachers with technology.

What was accomplished by a hurricane in New Orleans is being pursued elsewhere by legislation. The formula is simple: use standardized tests to declare dozens of poor schools “persistently failing”; put these under the control of a special unelected authority; and then have that authority replace the public schools with charters. In 2011, Tennessee and Michigan created special districts to take over low-scoring schools; in both cases, the superintendent was specifically authorized to replace public schools with charters. This year, Wisconsin legislators considered a bill that bypassed the middle step and simply required that low-performing public schools be replaced with privately run charters. Since test scores are primarily a function of poverty, it’s no surprise that 80 percent of the Tennessee schools targeted for privatization are in Memphis, or that the Michigan and Wisconsin bills focus, respectively, on Detroit and Milwaukee.

Recently, corporate-backed reform advocates have begun insisting that no public authority whatsoever be responsible for running schools. Neerav Kingsland, the former CEO of New Schools for New Orleans, warns that superintendents “must not succumb to the temptation to improve schools through better direct operation. Rather, [they] must humbly acknowledge that a marketplace of school operators will…out-perform even the best direct-run system.” Hastings similarly suggests that the role of elected school boards be limited to “bringing to town more and more charter-school networks. Sort of like a Chamber of Commerce would to develop business.”

Thus, what “slum clearance” did for the real-estate industry in the 1960s and ’70s, high-stakes testing will do for the charter industry: wipe away large swaths of public schools, enabling private operators to grow not school by school, but twenty or thirty schools at a time.

This is not an evidence-based policy; research shows that replacing public schools with privately run charters will, in itself, do nothing to improve education. But this hasn’t dampened the vigor of charter-school boosters.

Corporate lobbyists are increasingly promoting a type of charter school that places an emphasis on technology instead of human teachers. One of the exemplars of this model is Rocketship Education, based in Silicon Valley but with contracts to open schools in Milwaukee, Memphis, Nashville and Washington, DC. Rocketship’s model is based on four principles. First, the company cuts costs by eliminating teachers. Starting in kindergarten, students spend about one-quarter of their class time in teacherless computer labs, using video-game-based math and reading applications. The company has voiced hopes of increasing digital instruction to as much as 50 percent of student learning time.

Second, Rocketship relies on a corps of young, inexperienced, low-cost teachers. The turnover rate is dramatic—nearly 30 percent last year—but the company pays Teach for America to supply a steady stream of replacements.

Third, the school has narrowed its curriculum to a near-exclusive focus on math and reading. Since both Rocketship’s marketing strategy and teachers’ salaries are based on reading and math scores, other subjects are treated as inessential. There are no dedicated social studies or science classes, no music or foreign-language instruction, no guidance counselors and no libraries.

Finally, Rocketship maintains a relentless focus on teaching to the test. Students take math exams every eight weeks; following each, the staff revises lesson plans with an eye to improving scores. Rocketship boasts of its “backwards-mapping” pedagogy—starting with the test standards and then developing lesson plans to meet them. Rocketship is, as near as possible, all test-prep all the time.
(It is, of course, all about the money. Wall Street wants unaccountable, minimal-cost faux "schools.")
After decades of research, we know a lot about what makes for good schools. But there is also a handy shortcut for figuring this out: look where rich people send their kids. These schools invariably boast a broad curriculum taught by experienced teachers in small classes. Wisconsin’s top ten elementary schools, for instance, look nothing like Rocketship’s: they have twice as many licensed teachers per student; offer music, art, libraries, foreign languages and guidance counselors; and provide classes that are taught in person by experienced educators.
SNIP

Thus, the charter industry seeks to build a new system of segregated education—one divided by class and geography rather than explicitly by race. Segregation may ease the politics of the industry’s expansion, allowing privileged families to see the Rocketship model as something that’s happening only to poor people, as something inconceivable in their own neighborhoods.

But such parents are mistaken. Investors are operating on a market logic, not a racial one. The destruction of public schooling starts in poor cities because this is where parents are politically powerless to resist a degraded education model. But after the industry has taken over city school systems, it will move into the suburbs. Profitable charter ventures will look to grow indefinitely, until there are no more public schools to conquer. As Rocketship co-founder John Danner explains, critics shouldn’t worry about charter schools skimming the best students, because eventually “we’re going to educate all of the students, so there’s nothing left to skim.”

The Economy That "Socialism" Produces

The funny - or tragic - part is that Germany's economy can best be described as non-totalitarian capitalism.  We've just gotten so used to the lords-n-serfs corporatism of the last 30 years in the U.S. that we think anything that comes within a light-year of recognizing workers as human beings must be socialism, if not outright communism.

Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo:

Germans are much happier with their lot than Americans, writes Harold Meyerson. Satisfaction tracks more closely with a country's economy than its style of government, according to a recent Pew survey of the world's economies. Nine out of ten people in countries with "advanced" economies were dissatisfied with theirs, and eight felt their economies were "bad." Except Germany.

A strong, manufacturing-driven export economy (with the Euro a factor) and a weaker financial sector sets Germany apart from the United States. Whereas 58 percent in the U.S. feel the economy is bad, 85 percent of Germans felt things in Germany were going well. Why?
Many of Germany’s most successful companies are privately owned and not subject to investor pressure to reward large shareholders through practices prevalent in the United States, such as slashing wages, cutting back on worker training and research and development and buying back stock.
Publicly traded German companies still retain their earnings to invest in expansions, a practice that was the U.S. norm until the doctrine of rewarding shareholders with nearly all of a company’s profits took hold during the past quarter-century.
In the United States, major shareholders and the top executives whose pay increasingly is linked to stock price control the corporate boards that approve these kinds of distributions of their companies’ earnings. In Germany, however, the profits that companies rack up are shared more broadly because shareholders don’t dominate corporate boards. By law, any sizable German company must divide the seats on its board equally between management- and worker-selected representatives. Any company with more than 50 employees must have managers meet regularly with workers’ councils to discuss and negotiate issues of working conditions (but not pay).
These arrangements have largely ensured that the funding is there for the world’s best worker-training programs and that the most highly skilled and compensated jobs of such globalized German firms as Daimler and Siemens remain in Germany. They have ensured that prosperity is widely shared in Germany — not concentrated at the top, as it is in the United States.
Damned socialists. No ... wait.

Some friends observed that tax and economic policy changes in this country over the last thirty years have shifted the business model from one that encouraged, long, slow growth sustained by good schools, sound infrastructure, and reinvestment -- more like the German model -- to one that encourages financialization and get-rich-quick schemes. Make your money fast and cash out. If that's not your business model, said one from experience, American venture capitalists are uninterested in your better mousetrap.

Says Meyerson, since the 1980s U.S. business and government leaned on Germany "to get with the Wall Street program." The Germans declined. Their economy did not. Overall, Germans seem rather satisfied with the results.

Religion in a Dark Room

ummagumma.co:

Support Striking Workers in Lexington

Get out there and tell the workers you support them.  At least honk as you drive by.  Write letters to the editor supporting the workers. Tell everybody you know to do the same.
Members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers union who are employed by Allsource Global Management, a subcontractor to Lockheed Martin at Bluegrass Station Army Depot in Lexington, voted to strike Tuesday night.

Bob Wood, spokesman for the union, which has 170 members at AGM, said the workers voted 98 percent to strike over a breakdown in bargaining over cuts in pay of 35 percent to 50 percent. The strike was to begin at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.

AGM provides supplies for U.S. Army Special Forces units, Wood said.
Employers all over the country are fucking their workers in the ass with giant, spiked, poisoned dildos of low pay, no benefits, high stress and layoff threats.

Keeping unemployment high just ensures workers tolerate such abuse.

IAMA members aren't taking it.  They're fighting back. Help them.

Crime Rates Down Permanently; That's Why We Have to Arrest So Many Minorities for Nothing

Seriously, not even Exxon-Mobil and the Kochs have the stranglehold on public policy in this country that the private prison industry has.

Kevin Drum:

(Last month) the Bureau of Justice Statistics released the latest numbers on incarceration rates, and the headline news is that we're sending fewer people to prison. But there's an interesting wrinkle in the numbers that few news outlets have picked up on, even though it's a trend that's been obvious in the numbers for a long time. Here it is:

That's from Rick Nevin, and you know what's coming next, don't you? Lead. It explains a lot of what's going on here.

The US started phasing out gasoline lead in 1975, which means that children born after 1975 were exposed to steadily less lead. And the effect was cumulative: the later they were born, the less lead they were exposed to and the less crime they committed when they grew up. However, children born before 1975 were unaffected by all this. They were born in a high-lead era, and since all that matters is exposure during early childhood, the damage had already been done.

In 2013, this means that the statistics show a reduction in crime rates in adults under the age of 40, and the younger the cohort the lower the crime rate. Unsurprisingly, this also means they're incarcerated at lower rates. The chart above shows this fairly dramatically.

But it also shows that incarceration rates have stayed steady or increased for older men. Those over the age of 40 had their lives ruined by lead when they were children, and the effect was permanent. They're still committing crimes and being sent to prison at the same rate as ever. It's hard to explain both these trends—lower prison rates for kids, higher prison rates for the middle-aged—without taking lead into account.

This is one of the reasons that the lead-crime hypothesis is important. In one sense, it's little more than a historical curio. It explains the rise and fall of crime between 1960 and 2010, but by now most environmental lead has been cleaned up and there's only a limited amount left to worry about. So it's interesting, but nothing more.

But here's why it matters: if the hypothesis is true, it means that violent crime rates aren't down because of transient factors like drug use or poverty or harsh penal codes. The reduction is permanent. Our children are just flatly less violent than the lead-addled kids who grew up in the years after World War II. And that in turn means that the decline in incarceration rates is permanent. We don't need as much prison space as we used to, and we don't need punitive penal codes designed to toss kids behind bars for 20 years at the first sign of danger.

In other words, we can ease up. Our kids are less violent and our streets are less dangerous. Nor is that likely to change. The lead is mostly gone, and it's going to stay gone. We're safer today not because of broken windows or three-strikes laws or 20-year sentences for dealing cocaine. We're safer because we're no longer poisoning our children in ways that turn them into hair-trigger thugs. And guess what? If we cleaned up the ambient lead that still remains, we'd be even safer 20 years from now.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

ISIS Panic

It's bullshit.  Of course it's bullshit.

Jessica Williams on the Daily Show Nails. It.

(Sorry, can't embed video.)

Don't Come In

ummagumma.co:


(Source: kittenbutter, via xenia69)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Don't Miss It Nov. 8: "Pipelines, Fracking and Kentucky's Future Beyond Fossil Fuels"

From the pure grassroots activists who threw a giant wrench into the planned Bluegrass Pipeline, the launch of a new effort to protect all Kentuckians from the last fracking gasp of fossil fuels. It's free to all and even provides lunch. How can you resist?

Pipelines, Fracking, and Kentucky's Future
Beyond Fossil Fuels
November 8, 2014
Locust Trace AgriScience Farm
Lexington, Kentucky


Landowners and others affected by the proposed Bluegrass Hazardous Liquids Pipelines announce a summit to educate Kentuckians about the issues of natural gas liquids(NGLs), fracking, landowner rights, and local options for communities seeking a sustainable future. 

Dr. Jim O'Reilly of University of Cincinnati will give the keynote address.  An expert on law and public health, Dr. O'Reilly is currently writing a book on gas fracking for Thomson-Rueters-West Publishers.  Andy McDonald of the Kentucky Conservation Committee will speak about the transformative possibilities of renewable energy for Kentucky.  Other speakers and panelists will discuss fracking in Kentucky, repurposed NGL lines, legislative priorities, and choices for ensuring that land is protected and communities remain vibrant for future generations.  See below for a working agenda for the day.

Thanks to many sponsors and supporters, this will be a free event.  You are encouraged to preregister, however, so we can have a count for lunch.  Chef Susie Quick of Honest Farm in Midway will be making roast turkey, lamb moussaka, and vegetarian pasta.  Attendees are invited to bring a side dish or dessert to contribute or to make a donation towards the meal at the event.  You can preregister at www.stopbluegrasspipeline.us or www.nobluegrasspipeline.com.

This event was inspired by the successful grassroots opposition to the proposed Bluegrass Pipeline in 2013-2014.  While Williams and Boardwalk companies have suspended their operations in Kentucky for the moment, they hold many easements along the swath of the pipeline and can exercise their option on those easements for up to three years.  Fracking continues to boom northeast of the Commonwealth and we remain in "pipeline alley" between the production to the north and the processing facilities to the south of us.  In addition, Kinder Morgan and Mark West companies continue progress on repurposing the Tennessee pipeline through Kentucky from natural gas to natural gas liquids.  This decades-old pipeline is slated to begin transporting hazardous liquids late in 2016.  Affected counties include Greenup, Carter, Lewis, Rowan, Bath, Montgomery, Clark, Madison, Garrard, Boyle, Marion, Taylor, Greene, Hart, Metcalf, Barren, Allen, Simpson and possibly Lincoln and Casey.

We hope that this summit will serve Kentuckians by supplying much needed information about this significant issue.   Additionally, we hope that the summit will clearly articulate safe, renewable, and economically viable energy alternatives to fossil fuels.

Sponsors of the summit include Kentucky Resources Council, Food and Water Watch, Kentucky Conservation Committee, Envision Franklin County, New Pioneers for a Sustainable Future, Dominican Sisters of Peace, Kentucky Heartwood,  Sisters of Loretto, Earth Tools, Inc., Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, The Sisters of Mercy South Central Community, The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, and Kentucky Waterways Alliance. 

We welcome additional sponsors! 

Sponsorships are $25 and up, with $100 recommended.  Sponsors are invited to table at the event.  Sponsorships can be sent to No Bluegrass Pipeline Fund, P.O. Box 4573, Frankfort KY 40604.

See below for our working agenda for the day.

 Registration  8:30am-9am
Opening Session 9am - noon
Welcome -- Chris Schimmoeller -- 5 minutes
Overview:  Perspectives from New York -- Susan Classen -- 10 minutes
Keynote -- Dr. James O'Reilly :  " If You Break It You Own It:  Dealing Today with Tomorrow's Fracking Cleanup Costs"
                 45 minutes, then 15 min Q & A
10 min break
Panel:  Pipelines and Fracking in Kentucky -- 40 minutes of presentations, then 20 min Q & A
            Presenters: 
    NGL pipelines -- Bob Pekny
    Geology/Karst -- Ralph Ewers
    Repurposed lines -- Dick Watkins
    Fracking in KY -- Tim Joice

Speaker Andy McDonald -- "Beyond Fossil Fuels" --  30 minutes
   
       Lunch -- 1.5 hours

Afternoon Session 1:30-5:30pm

Breakout workshops from 1:30-3pm and 3:15-4:45pm with a 15 minute break in between with the same topics offered at each session so participants can attend at least two of what's offered.
Proposed Topics:
 Local Protections for Communities --    with Gwen Lachelt, other TBA

 Easements and Landowner Rights --   with Tom FitzGerald and Matt Demarcus, Terry Geoghagan

 Restoring Democracy and Working Effectively for Legislative and Political Change     with Jerry Hardt, Tom FitzGerald, Kentucky Conservation Committee, members of legislature

 Renewable Energy -- with Andy McDonald, other TBA

 Fracking, NGLs, and Repurposed Pipelines --  with Tim Joice, Dick Watkins, Ralph Ewers, and Bob Pekny

5-5:30pm  Closing Speech, Sister Claire McGowan


Volunteers Needed!

Volunteers are needed to seek additional sponsorships, promote the event, and help the day of the event. 
If you are interested please contact Chris Schimmoeller at c.schimmoeller@gmail.com or 502-226-5751x1.

Tales

ummagumma.co:


(Source: majormakaber)

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Hokum

ummagumma.co:


(Source: devosdk)

Threats

ummagumma.co:

That's "hippie."

New Study: Religious Not More Moral

Morality is human, not divine. As writer Arthur C. Clark said, the greatest mistake humanity made was letting religion co-opt morality. And then letting religion twist it into the anti-human IMmorality of racism, sexism, homophobia, sectarianism and general warmongering hatred.

No, the religious are not more moral than the non-religious.  And now there's science to prove it.

The Daily Beast:

Suppose you actually do have an angel over your shoulder telling you the right thing to do. That angel probably wouldn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know. A recent study in Science aimed at uncovering how we experience morality in our everyday lives suggests that religious people are no more moral—or immoral—than non-religious people. Whether or not we believe that divine precepts give us guidance, our behavior is remarkably similar.
SNIP

People who don’t fear that justice will be meted out in an afterlife are apparently no more vicious, cruel, or licentious than a believer.
The current study breaks new ground in a few different ways. Perhaps most importantly, previous psychological studies of moral responses relied on observations in laboratory settings. This study, however, uses a method that allows researchers to escape the lab and catch glimpses of how participants think about morality as they go about their lives. Researchers using the method, known as “ecological momentary assessment,” periodically contact participants to report their feelings.

In this study, over 1,200 people were texted five times a day over the course of three days. The texts asked if they’d committed, experienced, or heard moral or immoral acts in the previous hour. If a participant answered yes, there were follow-up questions that prompted him or her to describe the event and some of his or her reactions to it. The researchers collected over 13,000 responses, almost 4,000 of which described a moral or immoral event. The acts ranged from the mundane to the unexpected: Assisted a tourist with directions because he looked lost. At work, someone stole my partner’s nice balsamic vinegar while he was off shift and most likely took it home with them. Hired someone to kill a muskrat that’s ultimately not causing any harm.

“There have been hundreds of morality studies, and the vast majority have involved presenting people with hypothetical scenarios or dilemmas and directly asking them to make moral judgments,” wrote Jesse Graham, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Southern California, in an email to The Daily Beast. “This has told us a lot, but it hasn’t told us much about how morality plays out in daily life. This study’s use of smartphone technology allows for a more ecologically valid picture of what kinds of moral events and situations people actually encounter outside the lab.” SNIP

The main notable difference between religious and non-religious people was that while both groups reported experiencing similar moral emotions, such as shame and gratitude, religious people who described their feelings were somewhat more intense.

Outliving gods

ummagumma.co:


(Source: thedragoninmygarage)

Saturday, September 27, 2014

What It Is

ummagumma.co:


(Source: homecomingqueen)

"The one constant in an uncertain world"

Cthulu!  A display of jingoism by the one empire in an uncertain world is not going to save the dems in November, Mr. President.



Full transcript here.

Bashing EPA Ain't Gonna Get You Elected Governor, Jack

Unless you start standing up for real Democratic values, you're going to lose by double digits, just like Alison, and for the very same reason.

From the Courier:

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway and a dozen of his peers from across the country are pushing hard against a recently proposed carbon pollution rule, saying it would require states to undertake a massive overhaul of their energy sectors but give them far too little time to do so.

In recent filings led by the attorney general of West Virginia, Conway said that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overstepped its authority when creating the rule. Beyond that, he and other attorneys general said the proposal demands that states rush to complete their work.

The proposed “clean power” rule is a centerpiece of a major push by the Obama administration to help the United States – and the planet – attack climate change by reducing the amount of carbon pollution pumped into the air.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Faith

ummagumma.co:

Work That Doesn't Pay a Living Wage is Not A Job

Jobless rates dropped in all 120 Kentucky counties From August 2013 to August 2014.

Could mean more people got jobs. Could mean more people gave up looking and dropped out of the workforce.

But it probably means that some people gave up finding a real job that pays enough to live on, and accepted work at the serf-rate of minimum wage.

Because anything less than the $20 an hour minimum wage should be if it matched the increase in productivity over the last 30 years is plain exploitation.

Sebastian Kitchen at the Courier:
Increasing the minimum wage in Jefferson County would help more than one in five workers, according to a report released Tuesday.

More workers who are 50 or older would benefit than teenagers and 92 percent of those who would benefit are at least 20 years old, according to the report by the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy.
Fifty-three percent of those who would benefit are women and 75 percent are white.

Jason Bailey, director of the center, said they included more than just those who were between the current federal minimum of $7.25 an hour and the proposed $10.10 an hour because they expect some people at $11.50 or below to also receive a pay increase.

The center released the report on Tuesday as the Metro Council began work on a proposal to gradually raise the wage to $10.10 by July 1, 2017. The key sponsor, Councilwoman Attica Scott, made a push at local coffee shop and restaurant Smokey's Bean with U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Louisville Democrat.

The Metro Council's Labor and Economic Development Committee held the first of at least three meetings on the proposal on Tuesday, when Republicans questioned some of the rosy findings in the Kentucky Center report.

Fourteen cities and counties have passed local minimum wage rates higher than the federal level, Bailey said.

"Those cities are still on the map," Scott, D-1st District, said and denounced "doomsday" talk about businesses leaving the community.

Bailey said studies of other areas indicate there is no adverse effect on employment such as the number of jobs in the market or on businesses leaving the community.

"Jobs don't flee to adjacent jurisdictions," Yarmuth said.