Feb
24

Anatomy 1-O-MG

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Categories : Uncategorized
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Feb
24

Relentless

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I used to describe George W. Bush as a Jack Russell terrier playing tug of war with a knotted rope. Once he sank his teeth into something, he simply would not let go. You could lift him bodily off the ground and watch his butt cut circles in the air as he wrestled with his end of it. But in the end you would tire of the game first, let go, and he’d retire triumphantly to his doggy bed with his prize. I was never sure myself whether I meant that as a cut or a compliment.

This how the right wins and we lose. The thing is, conservatives often beat the left, not simply with money, but with sheer relentlessness. They play tortoise. Liberals choose hare.

At “The Fix” yesterday, Chris Cillizza looked at the national Democrats’ draft “party autopsy” written in the wake of the thumping its candidates suffered in the 2014 mid-term elections. He wasn’t too impressed, except with this:

The Task Force recommends that the DNC – along with the Democratic family of organizations, state parties and allied organizations – create and resource a three-cycle plan that targets and wins back legislative chambers in order to prepare for redistricting efforts. This long-term effort must be aggressive and focused on winning elections at the state and local level. It must also support efforts to take back the House of Representatives.

But even this “long-term effort” – six years – is Short Attention Span Theater compared to the decades that movement conservatives put into getting George W. Bush, their movement’s apotheosis, into the White House, gaining control of Congress, and mounting a final, all-out, Koch- and ALEC-backed, legislative assault in the states on any who might oppose them. Working with those long time horizons is not the left’s strong suit. We’re too flighty and easily discouraged.

Cillizza writes:

Traditionally, Democrats — and, in particular, the party’s major donors — have not been terribly good at either a) seeing the big/long-term political picture or b) getting excited about downballot races. (Republicans, on the other hand, have been brilliant at both.)

Republicans have been kicking Democrats’ butts at the state and local levels (and in judges races), unanswered, for a decade.

There is an ADHD component to lefty politics. We’re attracted ever so briefly to bright, shiny, national races, to candidates with fleeting star-power, and to Beltway theater. Building a state and national bench from the local level doesn’t provide the buzz we crave. For political junkies on the left, how many moods rise and fall based on what did or didn’t happen this week in Washington? They’re up, they’re down, they’re in, they’re out, they’re thrilled, they’re through. I’m not talking about dedicated, hard-core organizers, but the battalions of armchair activists who stay home in off-year elections, who consume politics like pints of Ben and Jerry’s and yell at the TV, but won’t get their hands dirty with the real grunt work. I’ve met many. (And it’s mostly grunt work.) They’ll never win if they won’t get into the game.

Or, as happened the other day, we take ourselves so seriously that we attack allies over minor foibles. Patricia Arquette backstage at the Oscars, for instance. Instead of bashing her on Twitter, Oliver Willis went glass-half-full on Arquette’s pay equity comments. She used “a national stage with an extraordinarily high viewership to elevate an issue of key importance for the progressive coalition.” Thst’s a good thing. Some activists complained that she wasn’t perfection. Yeah? And? Willis writes:

The left has a long long history of shoving its head way up its own butt and ignoring the long fight for progress. It [is] often thanks to visionary leaders, both outside the official halls of power and within it, that the movement has had its discordant energy pointed in the right direction towards great national goals.

Along that way, it seems so often as if the left is not happy because while they got 70-80% of the cake, they didn’t get that 20% so nobody should have cake forever — until the mythical day we can get 100% cake (which is never coming and has never happened, ever in history).

At Huffington Post, Brooke Sopelsa asked the LGBT community yesterday to stop “launching attacks on well-meaning straight people” for not being hip to “the latest LGBTQIA lingo” that she can’t even keep up with herself.

We have enough adversaries working a divide-and-conquer strategy against us to do their work for them. NC Sen. Thom Tillis and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, to give just two examples – not to mention their Kochtopus masters.

If Democrats and the left expect to carry the day, save democracy, or whatever, we need to start training for marathons instead of sprints. It’s not just a different way of doing. It’s a different way of thinking.

Once, as runners milled around before the start of a 10k race, as people compared past times and personal bests, I overheard one conversation that stuck with me. This guy I knew (barely) was telling the runner beside him how a recent race had gone. He said at such-and-such weekend event he had run two-twenty-five (or something). I laughed to myself. Anybody else overhearing him would think that was a pretty good marathon time. Except he wasn’t a marathoner. He was an ultra distance runner. He meant miles.

(Cross-posted from Hullabloo.)


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Two postings this weekend involving lynch mobs led me to an interesting bit of history from the Revolutionary War. Reading the L.A. Times op-ed title, “Southern ‘Hanging Bridge: A monument to Judge Lynch,” made me gasp. It had never occurred to me that lynching derived from someone’s name.

Jason Morgan Ward, associate professor of history at Mississippi State University, begins:

On Feb. 10, the Montgomery, Ala.-based organization Equal Justice Initiative released “Lynching in America,” a searing report that documents 3,959 lynchings in 12 Southern states from 1877 to 1950. The researchers note that their count exceeds that of previous studies by at least 700 victims. The news media seized on the numbers and paid less attention to what the group characterized as an “astonishing absence” of lynching memorials in communities that boast monuments to Confederate soldiers and architects of the South’s Jim Crow regime.

As it happens, an abandoned, rusted bridge on a dirt road near Shubuta, Mississippi stands as a makeshift monument to the lynchings that occurred there between 1918 and 1942. When Ward asked locals if the new road bypassing the “hanging bridge” had anything to do with its history, a local told him, “People don’t need to see that.”

But Ward’s op-ed did not explain who Judge Lynch was.

It was news last week when Oklahoma legislators voted to cease funding an Advance Placement history course, echoing a key critic of the curriculum who believes “the concept of American exceptionalism has been deliberately scrubbed out of this document.”

At Crooks and Liars, Dave Neiwert suggests that one motivation for the legislation may be that Oklahomans do not want to see their own unflattering history revisited: the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 and the Osage Reign of Terror, also from the 1920s. In the first, white lynch mobs obliterated a prosperous black neighborhood – even dropping fire bombs from airplanes (one might consider that exceptional) – and in the second, white fortune hunters exploited and murdered Osage tribal members to gain control over oil rights. Combined, hundreds died. Neiwert explains:

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Categories : Education, History, Race
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Something about Sunday mornings brings out the preacher in me. I wrote about this yesterday, but this morning I’m still fuming about misguided efforts by right-wing ideologues to abandon our system of public schools for whatever crazy reasons, or because freedom. Listen:

One hundred and sixty thousand rugged individuals didn’t suddenly decide to grab a gun off the mantle, don uniforms, build landing craft, and separately invade Normandy on June 6, 1944 because if big gummint did it, it would be un-American, add to the debt, and we don’t like France anyway.

There are things we do as a people, together, that make us US.

Educating our nation’s children together is one of those things. Support for universal public education in this country predates ratification of the United States Constitution. It’s built into the state constitutions and enabling legislation that brought new states into the Union all the way up to and including Hawaii, the 50th state.

I don’t know what country chest-thumping, would-be patriots who want to abolish public education think they want to live in, but it’s not the United States of America.

My father in-law law fought on the front lines in Europe during WWII. One of the things he said distinguished the American GI from the enemy is that when their tanks and trucks and jeeps broke down, the Germans would abandon their equipment on the field of battle and walk away. But the American boys had grown up tinkering with their cars, trucks and tractors. It was a point of pride for them, he told me, that when their gear broke down, they could fix it and get it running again with whatever they had at hand. Shoelaces. Rubber bands. “Duck” tape. And get back into the fight.

That’s the spirit that won the war. You don’t hear that spirit from public school abolitionists. Freedom, my ass.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


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Feb
22

R.I.P. Lesley Gore

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At the Nation, Peter Rothberg remembered Lesley Gore this way:

A singer-songwriter who topped the US charts at the age of 16 in 1963 with “It’s My Party” Brooklyn-born Lesley Sue Goldstein was discovered by Quincy Jones (before he was discovered) and produced hits like “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” “She’s A Fool,” “That’s the Way Boys Are,” “Maybe I Know” and the Oscar-nominated “Out Here On My Own” from the 1980 film Fame.

Her best-known song, the feminist anthem “You Don’t Own Me,” has been and will continue to be covered by scores of musicians and celebrated by an untold number of fans and will remain an indispensable legacy to both the annals of music and the fight for women’s equality. (In 2010, Gore summed up the song’s power: “I don’t care what age you are—whether you’re 16 or 116—there’s nothing more wonderful than standing on the stage and shaking your finger and singing, ‘Don’t tell me what to do.”) She also cemented her cult status with a 1967 turn as Pussycat, Catwoman’s musical minion in the hit TV series, where she mimed to “California Nights” and “Scat! Darn Catwoman.”

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“California Nights” sticks with me, sounding a lot like an influence behind Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun.”

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Categories : Passing
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Feb
22

Sunday Morning Music

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Feb
21

The new abolitionists

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Jefferson may never have said an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people, but the idea strikes a chord. The urban legend lives on because the idea speaks to American aspirations that predate the signing of the Constitution. Among some of our American cohort, especially among our right-wing, would-be keepers of the flame, that aspiration is dying.

The movement on the right to abolish public education – that all-American institution – has been growing for some time. Ron Paul wants public schools abolished. So does Rick Santorum. So do T-party types from coast to coast. And, of course, Texas.

Now that fringe, fundamentally un-American idea is being mainlined into public via Fox News.
“There really shouldn’t be public schools, should there?” said “Outnumbered” host Lisa “Kennedy” Montgomery during a discussion of the Oklahoma state legislature’s proposal to ban Advanced Placement U.S. History in high schoo for not promoting American exceptionalism. Talking Points Memo notes that this movement is spreading:

Efforts by conservative school board members in Colorado to make the Advanced Placement U.S. History course “more patriotic,” prompted a walk-out by students. Under the changes proposed in Colorado “students would only be taught lessons depicting American heritage in a positive light, and effectively ban any material that could lead to dissent.” In South Carolina conservatives asked the College Board to exclude any material with an “ideological bias,” including evolution. Similar efforts are underway in Georgia and North Carolina.

Amanda Marcotte looked at this and other ways “Republicans are purposefully trying to make Americans more ignorant.” I’ve looked at the ideological basis for eliminating from the university classroom any ideas that cut across the conservative grain.

What the new abolitionists want, it seems, is either a Disneyfied version of America (without “Small World,” of course); a pre-American one before universal, public education was a hallmark of the American experiment; or one that serves narrow interests of business interests in producing serviceable workers who will do but not think. Any of those options presents a pretty bleak vision of America’s future.

Last fall U.S. News examined the tension between broad learning and and education focused on technical skills:

The prevailing wisdom and research indicate a growing emphasis on and necessity for career-ready degrees such as computer science, engineering and finance – often included as part of STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

At the same time, employers readily identify the creative, communicative and problem-solving acumen traditionally associated with liberal arts majors as the most valuable attributes of new hires.

With a sluggish job market and companies still reluctant to reinvest in their workforces, the job prospects for all college grads have actually never been clearer: College graduates with career-ready degrees are best positioned to get hired and earn the quickest return on their educational investment.

But that’s a pretty threadbare method for evaluating an education’s worth, and one the Founders would not have recognized. While studying advanced dynamics, I received a flyer from my old college announcing its 150th anniversary celebration with lectures on medieval arts and sciences interspersed with recorder quartets. Where I was working on my engineering degree, I saw little love of learning for its own sake. Students raised their hands and asked, “Do we need to know this for the test?” The contrast was laughable.

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)


Categories : Education, National
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Feb
20

Charlatans and cranks

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Paul Krugman this morning smacks down three of the right’s preeminent purveyors of supply-side voodoo. The column is sure to leave them fuming.

“Charlatans and cranks,” Krugman suggests, invoking a phrase used by former George W. Bush chief economic adviser, Greg Mankiw. The occasion was Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s appearance at a New York dinner featuring supply-siders Art Laffer (of the eponymous curve), CNBC’s Larry Kudlow, and Stephen Moore, chief economist of the Heritage Foundation. Making obeisance before the high priests of bunk – like questioning climate change, evolution, and the current president’s American bona fides – has become a “right” of passage for Republican presidential contenders.

Reality takes a holiday. Ideology takes precedence. Because, to riff on a song, it’s all about that base. But we’ll come back to Krugman later.

The New York Times also reports this morning on something I’ve mentioned before. The University of North Carolina’s Republican-appointed Board of Governors is closing several academic enters on its campuses dedicated to studying poverty, climate, and social change. It couldn’t also be about ideology, could it? The Times writes:

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Feb
20

Friday Open Thread

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Who else wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up, and I was brought up? “America’s Mayor” thinks it’s fine to cast aspersions. Fire away.


Categories : Open Thread
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Citizens United … yadda, yadda, yadda … we’re a plutocracy.

It seems our plutocrats want to buy America’s elections and, increasingly, we’re willing to let them. Their efforts — like Jeb Bush’s — to dominate the political donations battle space may be succeeding. Analyzing the results of “the most expensive midterm election in history,” costing a whopping $3.77 billion, the Center for Responsive Politics’s Russ Choma finds that fewer donors are choosing to participate. That is, fewer donors are giving more:

Every area of traditional campaign finance saw a decline in the number of donors. Despite the increased cost of this election, the records that a number of races set in terms of overall cost and a huge focus on fundraising, there were just 434,256 identifiable individual donors to candidates in the 2014 election. That’s 107,000 fewer than there were in the 2010 election.

The number of individuals giving money to national party committees also declined — although this was not the first time that happened.

Even when it came to outside spending groups, there were fewer donors. In 2010, there were 57,405 individual donors to outside spending groups (including 527s) who gave a total of $104.6 million, or roughly $1,800 apiece. In 2014, there were 53,725 donors to outside groups, whose average donation was $8,011. That’s an increase in the size of the average donation of almost 445 percent.

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Categories : National
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