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Education

kline2Coming off a holiday weekend things generally are not very active. But it so happens that I can, with remarkable ease, quite literally always find items to pass along, about how Rep. John Kline (R-MN) has done, and continues to do, a very bad job in Congress, and why he needs to be replaced in the next election.
 

(In May 2014) John Kline, Minnesota’s Most Reprehensible Congressman (TM), hosted a job fair at the Eagan Community Center “to assist Minnesotans with an uncertain job market.”
 
Among the Kline invitees looking to “assist” people trying to better their lot was a disproportionate number of for-profit colleges, including DeVry University, Crown College, and ITT Tech, the Carmel, Indiana-based company whose two executives were indicted on federal fraud charges earlier this week…
 
Kline hosts job fairs where for-profit schools land new students. Their tuition dollars from federal student loans and grants make the companies rich. These companies and their execs bankroll Kline’s campaign committee.
 
As the powerful chairman of the House Committee of Education and the Workforce, the congressman plays devout obstructionist to any meaningful reform that would turn off the spigot of taxpayer dollars amounting to $32 billion annually.
(City Pages)

The proposed budget does not provide any FY16 funding for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers nor for any vouchers to restore the remaining 67,000 vouchers lost due to the 2013 sequester cuts. The bill does not increase funding for voucher administrative fees, as HUD requested, but flat funds voucher administrative fees…
 
And it isn’t just ignoring the homeless veterans issue, voters need to be aware of some of the other cuts which are being pushed to satisfy John Kline’s “realistic balanced budget that reflects the needs of the American people.”
(MN Political Roundtable)

Of course spending levels on Kline’s own congressional operations are sacrosanct.
 
Comment below fold.
 
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abandonedschool(Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 here, here, here, and here.)
 

This one’s about education. It’s not really about the current standoff, in which I of course wish Gov. Mark Dayton the best. It’s about what led to this, which is why some of the linked articles may reference conservative plans that have since been dropped or at least diminished in negotiations.

 
In outstate Minnesota, they have a lot of schools, too. And a lot of kids, and parents, and other interested parties, who profoundly desire access to higher education. Just like in the metro.
 

The center of the Republican budget plan is $2 billion in tax breaks. They have not specified exactly who would get them, but it bears mentioning that HF1 – their top priority – was largely tax cuts for big corporate interests. It is safe to say that corporate special interests will cash in with hundreds of millions of new tax breaks in the Republican budget supported by Rep. (Dave) Hancock (R-Bemidji).
 
Putting all of the eggs in the “tax breaks bucket” means that kids and students are getting a raw deal. Most striking to me is the fact that Republicans plan to give away $15 in tax cuts for every $1 they invest in Minnesota’s school kids. That’s less than a 1% increase in funding for education. This likely means our schools will face budget cuts. Our college students will see tuition increases again as well. The Republican plan stunts the progress we made over the last two years in education, from funding all-day kindergarten to freezing tuition for Minnesota college students.
(Rep. Paul Thissen, in Red Lake Nation News)

 
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In the larger context of state level anti-abortion legislation, as well as state level and federal level cuts to the funding of health care for women, (notably Planned Parenthood but also cutting funding to other clinics), and an overall domestic spending policy affecting poor women and children, there are new right wing assaults in the right wing gender and culture wars.

 

Conservatives consistently act to benefit special interests, primarily wealthy people and corporations while intentionally harming those most vulnerable.  Conservatives are not only appallingly incompetent at any form of economic policy, they do real damage in their failed attempts at governance that harm people individually and weaken the nation as a whole.

 

I think it might be a darned good idea for male legislators on the GOP side of the aisle  to undergo labor pain simulations before they vote on any legislation that adversely had an impact on women — especially on choice and reproduction.   I would point out that fairly large numbers of men, acting in solidarity with their wives or partners during pregnancy, undergo this experience voluntarily as an exercise in empathy and understanding; similarly they try on pregnancy ‘bellies’.   The overwhelmingly male body of legislators at both the state and federal levels, particularly in leadership and policy determining positions among conservatives, appear to be in dire need of better empathy in their characters to inform their votes.  Since intellect does not appear to be the hallmark of the right, a more visceral experience might better serve that purpose.  Experiencing pregnancy discomfort and labor pains would be a good start on changing hearts and minds.

 

In that context and for that purpose, in addition to the experience of simulated labor, I would argue as well that the experiences in the video below could only improve on the current deficiencies of morality and character on the right.

 

I don’t think I’m being too harsh here in my criticism of the failures of compassion and empathy among the right wingers.  Here are a few examples of what I mean.

 

From the Daily Tribune and the AP (bold face and enlarged type are my emphasis added – DG):

Republican-controlled House passes sweeping cuts to domestic programs
WASHINGTON (AP) — Jolted to action by deficit-conscious newcomers, the Republican-controlled House passed sweeping legislation early Saturday to cut $61 billion from hundreds of federal programs and shelter coal companies, oil refiners and farmers from new government regulations.
The $1.2 trillion bill covers every Cabinet agency through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year, imposing severe spending cuts aimed at domestic programs and foreign aid, including aid for schools, nutrition programs, environmental protection, and heating and housing subsidies for the poor.
The measure faces a rough ride in the Democratic-controlled Senate, even before the GOP amendments adopted Thursday, Friday and early Saturday morning pushed the bill further and further to the right on health care and environmental policy. Senate Democrats promise higher spending levels and are poised to defend Obama’s health care bill, environmental policies and new efforts to overhaul regulation of the financial services industry.
Changes rammed through the House on Friday and Saturday would shield greenhouse-gas polluters and privately owned colleges from federal regulators, block a plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, and bar the government from shutting down mountaintop mines it believes will cause too much water pollution, siding with business groups over environmental activists and federal regulators in almost every instance.

“This is like a Cliff Notes summary of every issue that the Republicans, the Chamber of Commerce, and the (free market) CATO Institute have pushed for 30 years,” said Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass. “And they’re just going to run them through here.”

Across four long days of freewheeling debate, Republicans left their conservative stamp in other ways.
They took several swipes at the year-old health care law, including voting for a ban on federal funding for its implementation. At the behest of anti-abortion lawmakers, they called for an end to federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
Republicans awarded the Pentagon an increase of less than 2 percent increase, but domestic agencies would bear slashing cuts of about 12 percent. Such reductions would feel almost twice as deep since they would be spread over the final seven months of the budget year.
Republicans recoiled, however, from some of the most politically difficult cuts to grants to local police and fire departments, special education and economic development. Amtrak supporters easily repelled an attempt to slash its budget.

“The bill will destroy 800,000 American jobs,” said House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., citing a study by the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. “It will increase class sizes and take teachers out of the classrooms … It will jeopardize homeless veterans, make our communities less secure, threaten America’s innovation.”

The Environmental Protection Agency was singled out by Republicans eager to defend business and industry from numerous agency regulations they say threaten job-creation and the economy. The EPA’s budget was slashed by almost one-third, and then its regulatory powers were handcuffed in a series of floor votes.

Proposed federal regulations would be blocked on emission of greenhouse gases, blamed for climate change, and a proposed regulation on mercury emissions from cement kilns would also be stopped. Additionally, the bill also calls for a halt to proposed regulations affecting Internet service providers and privately-owned colleges, victories for the industries that would be affected.
The 359-page bill was shaped beginning to end by the first-term Republicans, many of them elected with tea party backing.

Highlights of proposals in House GOP spending bill
WASHINGTON (AP) — The House Republicans’ $1.2 trillion bill for financing federal programs through Sept. 30, when the current budget year ends, includes many spending cuts and prohibitions that make a showdown with President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats inevitable.
Among the biggest flashpoints are provisions that would:
–Cut about $60 billion in spending from last year’s levels in many domestic programs, including education, environmental protection and community services.
–Block money to implement Obama’s health care overhaul law enacted last year.
–Bar federal funds for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion and family planning services with its hundreds of clinics across the U.S. The organization says 90 percent of the $363 million a year it receives in government aid comes from Washington or the federal-state Medicaid program.
–Eliminate federal family planning and teen pregnancy prevention grants.
–Block federal aid to overseas groups that provide abortions or counsel women about them.

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kline3The culling continues.
 

Education Management Corporation or EDMC, announced it will gradually shut down 15 of 52 campuses of The Art Institutes, leaving 5,400 students without a college.
 
This comes after Corinthian Colleges closed its remaining 28 college campuses only last week. DeVry University also announced the closure of 14 campuses and Kaplan Inc. sold 38 Kaplan College campuses to Education Corporation of America. Enrollment is also falling for for-profits such as Strayer University and the University of Phoenix.
 
Regulation and oversight of the for-profit college industry has increased in recent years, with enforcement of the “gainful employment” rule, spurring The U.S. Department of Education to investigate job placement rates and dole out heavy fines to those misrepresenting career opportunities after college. The gainful employment rule required that to qualify for federal student aid, for-profit colleges would have to show that they prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation,” which is defined through a debt-to-income ratio.
(Think Progress)

By no means is the battle won, though.
 
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We have an issue in our legislature relating to sex and science.  Not surprising, we have a divide along political lines relating to the issues, with conservatives rejecting the science and medical opinion.

 

Conservatives are consistently wrong on these issues, and their being wrong does real harm to real people.  Conservatives have faulty information, and worse values.  Transgender children and LGBT children are as much a part of their families and communities as any other children.

 

Hooray for the democrats in the Minnesota legislature, especially in the Senate for their vote in support of transgender children in our schools, as part of the education policy omnibus bill.

 
Boo! No! Wrong! Bad! to conservatives, republican or more fringie extreme for pushing an anti-transgender children legislation that would not benefit any of our children or adults, but which only promotes ignorance on the subject of gender identity.

 

The largest organization focused on factual information and policy on this topic is WPATH, which sides with the Dems against the GOP:

 

The World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) recognizes the right of all people to legal identity recognition and to identity documents consonant with their gender identity.

 

Conservatives want to push sexual attitudes and knowledge back to another century, to a reproductive and sexuality dark ages.  Conservatives as a group, as a voting block, as a demographic, are terribly lacking in knowledge and have a failed attitude towards any aspect of human sexuality.

 

what the reality of
conservative ignorance
looks like – an avoidable
chlamydia outbreak

They do not understand gender identity, and they do not understand their own human sexuality — if the rate of divorce, cheating on spouses in marriage, use of pornography (including homosexual porn), and the rates of sexually transmitted diseases and underage teen birthrates are anything to go by as a metric.

 

We see this in the Chlamydia outbreak in Texas, in a school which has embraced religious rightwing  abstinence only sex ed, which provides factually inaccurate information to students, and which largely do not provide sexual information at all.

 

In Crane High School, in Crane, Texas, the superintendent of schools finally admitted that abstinence only sex ed does not work — although this has been clear for a long time, by objective, scientific research. From the WaPo:

 

“We do have an abstinence curriculum, and that’s evidently ain’t working,” Rumage told KFOR. “We need to do all we can, although it’s the parents’ responsibility to educate their kids on sexual education.”

 

In spite of not accomplishing the stated goal of abstinence only sex ed, conservatives in Texas have thrown more money down this s*it hole of abstinence only sex ed. Keep in mind that in addition to equipping students for life as adults with complete and factually accurate information on all aspects of sex and human reproduction, including sexually transmitted diseases and safe sex.  Most recently in Texas, as another example of failed conservative thinking, the legislature defunded HIV Prevention, to fund instead more abstinence only sex ed.  From the Texas Observer:

 

House Votes to Defund HIV Prevention to Pay for Abstinence Education

Texas has the third highest rate of HIV infections in the country, but that didn’t stop lawmakers from passing an amendment that defunds HIV/STD prevention programs Tuesday. The amendment to the House budget proposal—offered by Rep. Stuart Spitzer (R-Kaufman)—diverts $3 million over the next biennium to abstinence-only sexual education programs.
House Democrats fought against the amendment in a debate that rapidly devolved into awkward farce, with Rep. Spitzer revealing details of his own sexual history as proof of the effectiveness of abstinence. For those keeping tabs at home, he was a virgin until marrying his wife at age 29, although he declined to answer a question from Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston) on whether she was the first person he propositioned. “Decorum,” shouted state Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs).
Rep. Sylvester Turner (D-Houston) asked Spitzer just how much money is needed for abstinence education in Texas, which receives more federal funding than any other state. Spitzer responded that additional funds are needed as long as people are still having sex before marriage.  His goal, he said, was for everyone to know that “abstinence is the best way to prevent HIV.”
“My goal is for everyone to be HIV/AIDS free,” Turner said.

 

For all the good it would do, Turner might as well religiously sacrifice a goat or a chicken, on an alter on the Texas legislature steps to accomplish the same thing… or more precisely FAIL to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

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Education profiteering keeps worsening

by Dan Burns on May 5, 2015 · 1 comment

CPD-National-Report-Meme-2A couple of items. This first one isn’t about the students and teachers at charters. They’re not at fault.
 

Another report is shedding new light on alleged instances of fraud and abuse connected to charter schools.
 
The report, titled “The Tip of the Iceberg: Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud, and Abuse,” was released (last week) and charges the financial total connected to waste and mismanagement in the charter school sector is as high as $203 million…
 

It notes that these figures only represent fraud and waste uncovered in the charter sector so far, and that the total federal, state, and local governments ‘stand to lose’ in 2015 is probably more than $1.4 billion.

(Education Votes)

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren laid into the Department of Education on (April 27) for not doing enough to help Corinthian students and others get rid of their debt.
 
Speaking alongside Representative Elijah Cummings at Howard University, Warren said that the department “has all the information it needs to simply discharge the loans” of Corinthian students. “But the department isn’t doing that.” The problem is that many borrowers don’t know they might be eligible for relief, and neither the Education Department nor the companies that service the loans are telling them.
 
“These borrowers—people who were cheated and people who have been buried in debt— just keep on paying and the government just keeps on collecting,” she continued. “This is wrong…. The government should not be making a profit off the backs of people who are trying to get an education. Can I get an amen on that?” She did.
(The Nation)

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Salute to the U.S. flag devised by pledge of allegiance author Francis Bellamy, known as the Bellamy salute

This series on flag propaganda by the radical right details specific examples of  how lies and manipulation of information is being used to polarize this country, and how it acts to create a vulnerable and gullible group of well meaning conservatives susceptible to ginned up wedge issues to turn out the vote.

 

We had another one of these many and continuing stories this past week or so, all over the right wing propaganda machine, pandering to conservative prejudice and ignorance.

 

The latest pseudo-scandal in the ongoing misinformation campaign about our flag by conservatives comes from Florida, specifically the Miami PD where this propaganda is being combined with conservative fascism to attack both freedom of religion, feminism and immigrants — the ultimate in Us vs Them politics — by targeting a black  Muslim woman who is an assistant chief of police in a deep southern state  as the most recent example of flag propaganda.

 

From the Source.com:
Miami PD Supports Muslim Assistant Police Chief Who Was Criticized For Not Pledging To Flag

A muslim Assistant Police Chief was within her rights to not salute the American flag during a police ceremony

The Miami Police Department said Assistant Chief Of Police Anita Najiy followed proper code when deciding not to salute the American flag while in uniform during a recent promotional ceremony. According to the Miami Herald, Maj. Delrish Moss said,

“the military code of conduct supersedes police code and that Najiy properly followed that code. While the department’s code of conduct allows for a reprimand if an officer doesn’t salute the flag, it makes no mention of covering the heart during the pledge.”

Najiy was harshly criticized by the Miami Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Javier Ortiz, who publicized the incident insisted that Najiy, who did stand at attention during the ceremony, did not place her hand on her heart because she is a Muslim.

Najiy, a 31-year veteran of the agency and devout Muslimah, made history in Miami last year as an African-American and as a female by being appointed Assistant Chief of Police. It was the first time in the history of the Miami Police Department that a female member was appointed to Assistant Chief of Police. During the ceremony last year, Chief Manuel Orosa said, “I am privileged to select Commander Najiy as one of my assistant chiefs. Our 116-year city has witnessed many milestones, but this, by far, is one of the greatest of our history.”

In response to Ortiz statements, The Miami Police Benevolent Association released a statement on Wednesday criticizing Ortiz’s obsession with tearing down Naijay, saying Ortiz was being hypocritical, considering he himself did not salute the flag because he was busy taping Najiy. The Association said,

“Racism cloaked in patriotism is a huge insult to the American flag, the city of Miami Police Department and the countless hate and anti-Muslim filled rants generated by the recent antics of the FOP president; those two things seem to be the genesis of the current false controversy.”

 

So, NO, this woman did not fail to put her hand over her heart because she is a Muslim (gasp! <sarcasm>) who hates America, as conservatives want people to believe.  She did it because that was the correct protocol, the correct FORM of respect for her to follow.  There was no anti-American sentiment, no disloyalty or disrespect involved whatsoever.  But THAT is not the factual version circulated by flag propagandists like Fox News and Breitbart seeking to factually alter the real ‘narrative’, as noted by Freethoughtblogs,com:

 
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daudtThe state House Republicans have something new they want to try, and it sounds exciting. To solve the problem of what to do with the projected $1.9 billion surplus, they propose a $2 billion tax cut, mostly for people with lots of money already. I understand no one has tried this before. Apparently fiscal conservatives have always been too concerned about deficits from the loss of revenue to give it a try. The theory is that if we give more money to people who already have lots of money, they invest it in ways that help everybody, and the growing economy means the government actually gets back more than the taxes were cut.
 
I can’t conceive of what could be wrong with the theory or how it could go wrong!
 
CORRECTION: After further research, I want to address an error in the first paragraph. Specifically, it turns out there’s a slight problem in that everything is wrong. This isn’t a new idea after all, but actually the policy Republicans always advocate when there’s a budget surplus. Or a budget deficit. Or when the economy is strong. Or when the economy is weak. Or when the wind changes. Moreover it has been tried, repeatedly, with consistent results, namely the government runs short of revenue and the wealthy recipients tend to just pocket the cash instead of investing it. Turns out they have so much money already that if there were good investment available, they’d already be investing. I asked how that squared with the “Reagan recovery” of the 1980’s, and turns out he raised taxes. A bunch. Because the deficit blew up. He just didn’t raise them on the same people who got the tax cuts. Oops. Also turns out there are these places called “red states” suffering slow economies and chronic budget shortfalls. Wow. I wonder if these states are as red as my face is right now!
 
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What do the kids think?

by Dan Burns on April 23, 2015 · 0 comments

schoolThis is extremely important, from someone who actually took the trouble to talk to students. These kids are all clearly quite a bit smarter than the education deformer crowd, btw.
 

Somehow, despite the Testocracy’s best efforts, these students have learned to think critically about their lives and the world around them:
 
There is a clear boundary between the haves and have-nots, but opportunities should be there for everyone.
We know bright kids without high GPAs; a high GPA doesn’t exactly equal intelligence. But we are told a high GPA equals a good future.
High school is getting increasingly hard. More difficult. We get the message that we’re not going anywhere unless we have all A’s.
We are told to shoot for the stars, but it feels like we shouldn’t expect to get there.
Life is a three-step thing: High school–College–Job.
College costs vast amounts of money, but we don’t have time to reflect on what we want to do with our lives.
But, I think about it a lot. And I think, we’re only 17.
We have good memories, too. We’ve grown up together. We’re lucky to have the opportunities we do have. Southwest is still a good school.
It’s not the end of the world if it doesn’t all work out.
(Bright Light Small City)

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Handouts for the haves

by Dan Burns on April 22, 2015 · 1 comment

greed1Just a few examples to remind us of what our socio-political system is all about. Namely, plutocracy and open bribery.
 

The six tax breaks that Sanders wants Obama and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to eliminate are:
 
The check-the-box loophole allows multinational companies to characterize their offshore subsidiaries in different ways to different governments so that their profits are untaxed.
The Hewlett-Packard loophole allows American corporations to use short-term loans from their subsidiaries circumvent the requirement that they pay U.S. taxes on their offshore profits when those profits are brought to the U.S.
The corporate inversions loophole allows an American corporation to merge with a (usually much smaller) foreign corporation and then reincorporate as a foreign company to avoid U.S. taxes even as it continues to operate and be managed in the U.S.
The carried interest loophole allows hedge fund managers to characterize their compensation (which they earn for managing other people’s money) as capital gains, which is subject to lower personal income tax rates than other types of income. Tax experts have pointed out that the Treasury Department has the authority under existing law to determine how this income is taxed.
Valuation discounts are restrictions placed on small business property given to family members (to keep the business in the family, for example) which are often meaningless but are claimed to dramatically reduce their value for estate and gift tax purposes.
The real estate investment trust (REIT) loophole allows private prisons, billboard companies, casinos and other companies claim that they are making money from rents to avoid paying the corporate income tax.
(Sen. Bernie Sanders)

 
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