Nicholas Kristof provides an opening this morning to spend more time discussing education with his celebration of Conor Bohan, founder of a college scholarship program for Haitian students: the Haitian Education and Leadership Program (HELP).
“Education works,” Bohan said simply. “Good education works for everybody, everywhere. It worked for you, for me, and it works for Haitians.”
It’s a noble effort. But it’s the attack on public education in this country that gets under my skin. Kristof explains why:
Over time, I’ve concluded that education may be the single best way to help people help themselves — whether in America or abroad. Yet, as a nation, we underinvest in education, both domestically and overseas. So, in this holiday season, I’d suggest a moment to raise a glass and celebrate those who spread the transformative gift of education.
A few days ago, we saw the news of the horrific Pakistani Taliban attack on a school in Peshawar. The Taliban attacks schools because it understands that education corrodes extremism; I wish we would absorb that lesson as well. In his first presidential campaign, President Obama spoke of starting a global education fund, but he seems to have forgotten the idea. I wish he would revive it!
Education corrodes extremism is a pretty concise explanation for why Wall Street has joined forces with the religious right in this country in a cynical effort to undermine public education under the rubric of “choice.” For the Big Money Boyz, the “education market is ripe for disruption.” Education reform is about mining public education and transferring as much as possible of that steady, recession-proof, government-guaranteed stream of public tax dollars to the investor class by expanding charter schools. For the religious right, it’s about shielding their kids from knowledge they perceive as in conflict with their religious views. Like other fundamentalists, they want to keep modernism at bay. Because freedom. And because they resent having their tax dollars fund public education and not their religious schools.
A week ago I wrote about a suspected lynching under investigation along the coast in North Carolina. Eerie stuff. Up here in the mountains, we’ve got this Scot-Irish thing happening that defines local attitudes (the kind of thing Sara Robinson has written about for years). But things are hardly static. Inmigration is changing the South. In the wake of Michael Tomasky’s recent “dump Dixie” column, Chris Kromm at the Institute for Southern Studies counters with why that’s a bad idea.
Southern clout is expected to grow with population, he writes. “Southern states are projected to gain another five Congressional seats and Electoral College votes in 2020. Ignoring the South just isn’t an option if Democrats want to be relevant in national politics.”
And the South is not Democrats’ biggest problem. Democrats’ Senate candidates may have lost by an average of 18 points in the South, but they lost by an average of 26 points in the Great Plains. “But for some reason,” Kromm writes, “we’re never treated to post-Election Day screeds from Northern pundits about the Great Plains being a cesspool of ‘prejudice’ and ‘resentment.'”
In case you missed it:
All the news about the CIA torture program reminded me of those batches of FBI emails the ACLU obtained through FOIA requests. The ones Sen. Dick Durbin held up and described to colleagues like this:
“If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.”
It’s been great fun watching the last episodes of the “Colbert Report.” Stephen Colbert’s interview with Smaug the dragon was a tour de force.
Rumor has it that Colbert has secured another rock-star celebrity for his last show:
For nine years, Stephen Colbert has relentlessly maintained his pompous, deeply ridiculous but consistently appealing conservative blowhard character on his late-night show, “The Colbert Report” — so much so that when he puts the character to rest for good on Thursday night, he may have to resort to comicide. The Grim Reaper is his last guest.
The New York Times wonders whether Colbert plans to go out on a slab. Other late-night hosts give Colbert kudos for staying relentlessly in character for so many years. Jimmy Fallon is one:
Like other competitors, Mr. Fallon professed unabashed awe that Mr. Colbert could sustain this performance at such a high level for so long. “Before he won the Emmy, I had been preaching that people had to recognize what he was doing: He’s faking a person,” Mr. Fallon said. “I was one of those who said, ‘He’ll do it for six months and then he’ll move on.’ Imagine if you were still trying to do the Coneheads on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ It’s gets old. But not this. He’s a genius.”
And former vice-president Dick Cheney is not. He’s been faking a person for decades, but nobody laughs.
Mr. [Conan] O’Brien commended Mr. Colbert for breaking what he called the American tradition. “Our system is, if there’s another nickel to be found in it, you keep playing that character,” he said, “just beat it to death — and then do it another 10 years.”
As we saw just last week, Cheney is still playing his Torquemada character even though his show went off the air in early 2009. But then he’s comfortable with beating things to death. Maybe his act would go over better in The Hague. Ten years would be a start.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.}
I so want to overdub Cheney with Pee Wee Herman repeatedly saying, “I know what you are, but what am I?”
“The Republican message was ‘We’re not Obama,’ no substance whatsoever. What was the Democrats’ message? ‘Oh, we’re not either.’ You cannot win if you are afraid! Where was the Democratic party? You gotta stand for something if you’re gonna win!” – Howard Dean on Meet the Press, November 9, 2014
That message from Howard Dean has stuck with me ever since. After so many episodes of yelling at Democrats on TV to “Stand for something!” it was validating. At long last, are they taking Dean’s advice? This from the Guardian about the aftermath of recent budget fight:
“I’m walking out of this meeting feeling very proud of my caucus because there was moral clarity, there was conviction”, said freshman California congressman Jared Huffman at the height of the great Democratic revolt of 2014. “I had the feeling a few moments ago that we stood for something. I hope it holds.”
Less than 60 minutes later, after that hopeful party meeting wrapped up last Thursday evening, such optimism already seemed naive. Backroom pressure from the White House chief of staff, Denis McDonough, had quickly killed off an attempt by Democrats in the House of Representatives to draw a line in the sand against a federal budget that favoured Wall Street and wealthy donors.
So don’t hold your breath. Fifty-seven Democrats eventually joined Republicans in passing the spending bill.
During a similar period of prolonged, public face-palming over Washington idiocy, somebody asked: Where’s Tom Lehrer when you really need him? Well at 86, the singer-satirist is no longer performing. Thankfully, we have Matt Taibbi, back at Rolling Stone.
Taibbi gives the Citigroup provision in the “Cromnibus” budget bill a bit of the “vampire squid” treatment. Senator Elizabeth Warren made headlines on Friday night when the Massachusetts Democrat read aloud the title of the Dodd-Frank rule the Citigroup-sponsored provision aimed to repeal: “PROHIBITION AGAINST FEDERAL GOVERNMENT BAILOUTS OF SWAPS ENTITIES.” And then proceeded to vivisect it in her speech on the Senate floor, warning that passage means more corporate welfare in the form of taxpayer-funded bailouts. It is a provision neither Republicans nor Democrats would own up to inserting, neither would defend, yet would not stand up in numbers to remove lest it precipitate a government shutdown. Neither will the White House veto it.
Taibbi writes (emphasis mine):
There’s no logical argument against the provision. The banks only want it because they want to use your bank accounts as a human shield to protect their dangerous gambling activities.
Just a quick thought or two about tactics. I ran across yet another Koch-funded astroturf website this week aimed at Millennials. It was a spinoff of Generation Opportunity. Plus, there was an article featuring an eighteen year-old Republican legislator from West Virginia. It’s StateWrek: The Next Generation.
I have written extensively on the right’s push to promote photo identity cards by hyping the threat of fraud at the polls. The GOP “plowed cash into state legislative efforts in 2010” to wrest control of redistricting. We’ve seen the results of the Republican State Leadership Committee’s (RSLC) REDMAP efforts up close and personal here. The result is, as Charlie Pierce calls it, the newly insane state of North Carolina.
And if you really want to get into the weeds, there is the continuing saga of the RNC’s efforts to void the 1982 consent decree forbidding it from engaging in election protection efforts in the states without preclearance from a federal judge. They apparently want, you know, FREEDOM to use caging lists and to place off-duty cops wearing armbands reading “National Ballot Security Task Force” outside polling places in minority precincts.
With an aging base and facing unfavorable demographics, Republicans aren’t looking for a silver bullet to keep them politically viable. They know there isn’t one. They’re investing in a scattershot of initiatives that buy them a fraction of a point here, a couple of percentage points there, a slice of this demographic, a judgeship or two, etc. Pretty soon any demographic or coalition advantage Democrats think they have going forward is gone.
They’re not looking for a silver bullet. They’re using silver buckshot.
(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)