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abandoned2This isn’t game-changing news (that’s an inappropriate word choice, what’s being done to public education in America is far from a “game”), all things considered.

Arne Duncan is stepping down. John King, former State Superintendent in New York, will take his place. In New York, King became extremely controversial because of his dogged support for the Common Core, for high-stakes testing, and for a badly flawed teacher evaluation system. King previously worked in “no excuses” charter schools.
(Diane Ravitch)

School policy ripped out of time and history: in many ways that is Arne Duncan’s gift to us — school policy focused on disparities in test scores instead of disparities in opportunity — a Department of Education obsessed with data-driven accountability for teachers, but for itself an obsession with “game-changing” innovation and inadequate attention to oversight — the substitution of the consultant-driven, win-lose methodology of philanthropy for formula-driven government policy — school policy that favors social innovation, one charter at a time. Such policies are definitely a break from the past. Whether they promise better opportunity for the mass of our nation’s children, and especially our poorest children, is a very different question…
If, as President Obama says, Arne Duncan has “brought our educational system, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the 21st century,” I hope we will stop to reconsider. Has our society decided to strive for innovation and to abandon universal provision of services and equality of opportunity as overarching goals? And have we become satisfied to blame the teachers in our poorest communities instead of ourselves for the vast injustices that appear at school in the guise of the achievement gaps?
(Jan Resseger)

Duncan has always had little, if any, real knowledge and understanding of education issues. (One seriously questions whether his soon-to-be-former boss does, either.) He’s basically one of those people, who are everywhere in D.C., who worm their way into power by being professional suck-ups. Larry Summers is another good example. Like tapeworms, they find their way in and expand and do ever more damage.
I have a couple more education items to share. First, there are those, generally affiliated with tech firms one way or another, who insist that all our schools really need are more devices. Utter nonsense.


Truth in Sarcasm

by Dog Gone on October 5, 2015 · 0 comments

OF course, in the tweet graphic above, “all other countries”, by which the writer appears to mean developed countries, have not eliminated mental illness.  But they have largely eliminated mass shootings. Most mass shootings are NOT the result of mental illness, such as schizophrenia, where an individual lacks the capacity to distinguish not only right from wrong, but reality from delusions.


WHAT those other countries do NOT have is our sick, failed gun culture which exalts individual capacities for violence.


WHAT those other countries do NOT have is the NRA, promoting obsessive single issue voting through fear mongering lies and propaganda manipulation.  No one in government or gun control advocacy is “coming for your guns”; they (the government, in the form of Republicans and Tea Partiers) ARE, as has been wryly observed, trying to take away your health insurance, or to make it so expensive it out of the reach of increasing numbers of people.  They are doing this every time the right attempts to repeal Obamacare, or to defund health care providers like PP.


WHAT those other countries do NOT have is the sheer quantity of guns in private hands.  There is a clear correlation to gun violence and the number of guns, by state.


WHAT those other countries do NOT have is a gun lobby contributing to significant corruption and cowardice in government.


WHAT other countries DO have that helps drastically reduce mass shooting, is a combination of guaranteed health care, including for mental health, and significantly stricter and more effective gun control.


WE could have both of those, but conservatives obstruct and oppose it.  They would rather have wealth and income inequality by serving corrupt big money interests, not the citizens of this country.  They mislead just enough voters, a minority in this country, combined with dirty maneuvers like gerrymandering and voter suppression, to stay in power.


The right wing politicians don’t care if we citizens are killed or injured in large numbers, or in smaller number individual shootings, especially those which are murder suicides, seen daily across the country.  The party signified by the color red doesn’t care if you or those you care about bleed, so long as they cash in on their nice green money.  The right wing voters believe they will somehow avoid, individually, any threat to their safety by carrying a gun.  Evidence does not support that emotional thinking.  Right wing voters believe they will survive the lack of a comprehensive medical policy by luck, and maybe prayer, and a false notion that, somehow, makes them more free.  That doesn’t appear to be successful either, based on the number of people in this country bankrupted, regardless of religious belief or political affiliation.


Conservative ideology is a failure which is literally killing people in this country, by violence and by illness that is preventable.  We need a more rational, fact based and bottom line driven right, or we need to marginalize them until they change.  By marginalize, I mean we need to stop them significantly controlling government.


As American as Baseball, Apple Pie and Mass Murder

by Invenium Viam on October 5, 2015 · 1 comment

man in the mirror

Man in the Mirror, Tell Me What You See?

“Kill ‘em all. Let God sort ‘em out.” Unofficial motto of US Special Forces


OK, so I’m about to piss a lot of people off. In particular, I’m about to piss off people who fancy themselves patriots and don’t like hearing their country criticized. But I really don’t care. It’s long past time that we took a cold, hard look at the Man in the Mirror and be honest about what we see there.


The latest mass murder in Roseburg, Oregon, brings into sharp focus a truth that no one seems willing to talk about: not opinion leaders, not elected leaders, not religious leaders. It’s the unspoken truth no one wants to examine or acknowledge, the white elephant in the room, the subject too awful or too weighty to discuss.


Simply put, ours is society that glorifies violence. We’ve created a psychopathic culture. Why should the psychopaths among us be any different from the rest of us? Why should social predators and the mentally imbalanced uphold a higher standard of conduct? Those who use gun violence to commit mass murder are only conforming to what they experience as social norms.


The problem is NOT that there are too many guns. Nearly 9 in 10 Americans own guns of some kind. Death by gun violence overall has been decreasing over the last decade or so. Americans have always kept guns in abundance and had free access to guns throughout our history. Besides, it only takes one assault rifle or a fast action automatic pistol with a high capacity magazine to commit mass murder. The problem is NOT that there are not enough gun laws. Neither new gun laws being proposed nor the gun laws we have now would have prevented any of the slaughters at Aurora, Charleston, Columbine, Newtown, Virginia Tech, or Roseburg. The problem is NOT that the mentally imbalanced among us have access to guns and we fail to restrict it, to report it, and to prevent it. The mentally imbalanced have been among us forever, but never before in our history as a nation have the unbalanced and the psychopathic committed acts of mass murder with such frequency and abandon.


No, the problem is that American culture glorifies violence. More to the point, our culture glorifies emotional gratification through violence. Those who commit mass murder through gun violence are only acting irrationally within an already irrational world of glorified violence. We fetishize guns, we fetishize gun violence, we fetishize perpetrators of violence, we fetishize revenge as a motive for violence, and we glory in the gratification of violence and death. We’ve done so for decades.


We fetishize violence in general, and gun violence in particular, as an acceptable form of emotional gratification. It’s in our movies and literature. It’s in our television shows and music. It’s in our video games. It’s in our politics. It’s in our sports. We reduce all disagreements and conflicts to Good Guys vs. Bad Guys, Black Hats vs. White Hats, Us vs. Them. We reduce the most complex international relations and foreign dealings to a simplistic America = Good, Everyone Else = Bad scenario. We always wear the White Hat because, of course, we’re always the Good Guys. In every Showdown at High Noon, we expect the winner be the quickest cowboy to slap leather. The killers among us who commit mass murder are simply acting in accord with the world they see all around them.


Our all-time best selling video games are all about emotional gratification through violence: Soldier of Fortune, Thrill Kill, God of War, Mortal Combat, Tour of Duty. Our best selling movies, particularly those that produce serial sequels, are all about gratification through violence: Rocky (x7), Rambo (x4), Die Hard (x5). The Death Wish (x5) movies added an element of vigilantism to the mix; one man acting alone outside the law to right the wrongs done him through emotional gratification by violence. Among our most popular TV shows, a zombie apocalypse or an infesting swarm of vampires provides an endless supply of dehumanized former human beings to cut down.


It’s in our sports. America’s true past-time is no longer the bucolic game of baseball, a slow ballet of skill and coordination. America’s favorite sport is now football, a continual clash of bruisers, a combat sport so violent that it requires extensive body armor to participate and has produced brain injury among some 96% of former NFL players. Baseball and hockey sometimes produce brawls between opposing teams making them an infrequent combat sport. Boxing has always been a combat sport where the ultimate act of dominance in the ring is to knock-out your opponent, to turn out the lights. We denounce cock-fighting and dog-fighting as inhumane, as we do confinement farming of poultry and livestock. But cage fighting that features both men and women in combat sport so brutal that it produces permanent severe injury, or maiming, is featured on cable television as pay-per-view entertainment without moral objection or censure. The evidence is clear that we value the well-being of our fellow human beings far less than the animals whose flesh we consume. Can blood sport in coliseums be far behind? Even motor sports are not immune from violent death: drivers die behind the wheels of ever faster and more powerful cars running on ancient, technically deficient racetracks. We call it a tragedy.


The emotional gratification of violence extends even to fans of opposing sports teams who are attacked and beaten by home-team thugs with increasing frequency and sense of impunity.

USA!!! USA!!! USA!!! USA!!!


More Below the Fold

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BACKPACKING5-251006-162122This just truly sucks.

In July, Montanans celebrated the addition of 8,200 acres, known as Tenderfoot Creek, to the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Most of the $10.7 million cost was paid for by the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund, which uses oil and gas royalties for conservation and recreation projects.
But (October 1), the 50-year-old fund, widely viewed as one of the nation’s most popular and most successful land conservation programs, was allowed to expire completely. Despite broad bipartisan support, and despite a deadline that was no surprise to anyone, Congress failed to take action to reauthorize it. That means that offshore oil and gas producers will no longer be paying into the chest that funds the program — and now that the funding connection has been broken, reinstating it will be very difficult, especially given the tone of this Congress. Instead, lawmakers will be dickering over how to divvy up former LWCF appropriations, which will now be going into the general treasury…
(High Country News)

Here’s an interactive map showing some of what the LWCF funds, or did.
This is really just one manifestation of a much bigger problem. Here’s another one, of which most people are not really aware.


clown carJohn Kasich said something odd during a recent appearance on Face the Nation, and I’m not just referring to “And when I left Washington, we had a $5 trillion surplus.” I’m referring to this:

But what I have found, as you know, I’m now — my campaign has gone on for slightly more than just two months, John, and you know I’m in the top tier in New Hampshire, I’m beginning to rise in Iowa. So if it — if what I’m saying is not true, then I should be — I should be getting out of the race, which I am not because I think we’re making really good progress and connecting.

What question must he have been responding to? Why he’s staying in the race when he’s doing so poorly? No, he was asked about a “climate” where experienced governors are getting nowhere in the GOP primary polls. He responded by justifying staying in the race. It seems that was the question he was expecting. Why would you be preparing that answer if you’re not having to convince the voters in the donor primary that you’re still a viable candidate?
Actually, I expect Rand Paul to be the next to drop out following news that a supporting superPAC has decided his campaign is a lost cause, but maybe Kasich won’t be far behind — especially given that his claims abut the polls are pretty much just happy talk. He’s sure stuck down in the milieu in the national polling, though he referred specifically to “beginning to rise Iowa” and being “in the top tier in New Hampshire”. That’s a pretty generous definition of “top tier”, and apparently he thinks “rise” doesn’t include any upward motion from a low point.
Friday’s Pew Poll even has Kasich below the soon-to-depart Paul, down in positively Walkerian levels of barely registering.
The thing that annoys me is hearing liberals saying Kasich seems like the reasonable one. Is there some requirement to pick out a less-clownish clown from the passengers of the clown car? Yes, it’s true he’s given conservatives some reason to dislike him, like when he kept saying in the second debate that foreign policy problems need to include working with allies, and he’s one of the few Republican governors who accepted the Medicaid expansion to cover the people who fell in the hole between Medicaid eligibility and eligibility for private plan subsidies. He even cited the bible in defense of a liberal belief. Wrong party for that.
However, something to bring to the attention if anyone saying he’s not so bad, when Kasich was in the US House, he wrote the law restricting food stamp eligibility for childless adults to just three months in any three year period. This was too harsh even for some of his fellow Republicans, so states were allowed to seek waivers if unemployment was high enough. As governor, Kasich accepted the waiver — for some poor Ohioans. He sought waivers of overwhelmingly white rural counties, but excluded counties with large minority populations.

In 2014, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) had the option to waive time limits on food stamps for the entire state. Due to a struggling economy and high unemployment, Ohio had qualified for and accepted this statewide waiver from the US Department of Agriculture every year since 2007, including during most of Kasich’s first term as governor. But this time, Kasich rejected the waiver for the next two years in most of the state’s 88 counties. His administration did accept them for 16 counties in 2014 and for 17 counties in 2015. Most of these were rural counties with small and predominantly white populations. Urban counties and cities, most of which had high minority populations, did not get waivers.

When you have to temper compassion with fiscal austerity, you recognize you can’t help everybody, so … just help the white rural areas. “So if it — if what I’m saying is not true, then I should be — I should be getting out of the race … ” I have a feeling the donors might soon agree.
Comment below fold.


Dick shooters, Dick NRA, Dick GOP

by Dog Gone on October 2, 2015 · 2 comments

We have too many guns, too many shootings, too damn much money corrupting our government preventing action and too damn much right wing propaganda lying and distorting the discussion.  The President tells it straight, and the country needs to listen: we need to restrict guns better than we are doing.


According to the Freethinker,

In this Guardian report, Mercer described himself on an on-line dating site as as  a 26-year-old, mixed-race “man looking for a woman”. He said he was “not religious, but spiritual”, was a “teetotaler” living with his parents and was a conservative Republican.

If you look at the positions of the GOP candidates, NOT ONE is willing to address the issue of our gun violence problem; all are for more lax gun policies which lead to more violence, not more safety.


When 3 people shoot themselves in their shorts in one week, it should be obvious we have a problem.  It should be obvious guns are not making us free or safe, so many guns are making us numb and dumb, hurt and dead.


Comments below fold.


Rep. Charlie Dent, Republican from PA

Harvey Dent aka fictional villain Two Face in the DC Comics Batman franchise, came into the graphic novel world late in 1942.


Congressman Charlie Dent, Republican from Pennsylvania, was born in 1960 and entered the sometimes freakish world of the House in 2005.  He might be both freakish hero, and villain to some, in Congress.


What they have in common is uniting and combining two disparate and opposite sides, or in the case of Rep.Dent, attempting to do so.  Charlie Dent wants to elect the next speaker of the House as a bi-partisan effort, with the other moderate (presumably more establishment members of the GOP) members on the right.  This would effectively cut out the crazies and the tea partiers and the other extremists from power.  The radical right does not have the votes necessary to elect the speaker to replace Boehner, but neither does the more mainstream right.  Looking at the news feed over the past few hours, the prospect is upsetting the radical right extremist media.  That alone is more entertaining than any comic book.


Harvey Dent, Two-Face

But the less radical right could do so, overwhelmingly, IF THEY FORMED AN ALLIANCE with the Democrats.  Since that would mean the Dems in the alliance would likely outnumber the Republicans by a significant margin, it is distinctly possible that would return Pelosi to the speaker’s chair, and 2nd in line behind the Vice President should the president die or become incapacitated.


Among other things it would do is to effectively END the highly obstructionist Hastert rule.  And THAT would open up, potentially, a backlog of legislation that would be brought forward for a vote, including most likely effective and comprehensive immigration reform and universal background check gun control legislation.  It would effectively end the witch-hunting committees like the Benghazi committee, and it would likely mean the end of attempts to repeal Obamacare.  The debt ceiling would be raised, and government shut downs would recede into memory.


And THAT in turn would turn the 2016 election cycle inside out and upside down, especially with those candidates for president who want to be the right wing nominee in 2016.  They have been falling over each other to go further right.   Off the top of my head I cannot begin to imagine what effect this could have on the Senate, but Mitch McConnell is no fan of the radicals, and would be badly hamstrung as majority leader of the Senate without the partnership of Boehner.  Turtle-man could still obstruct, but not nearly as effectively, and possibly not past the next year.  At the very least I would expect McConnell to work with such an alliance at least part of the time, while happily giving the bad finger to the extremists like Ted Cruz or even Rand Paul.


This may very well be just a pipe dream and wishful thinking on the part of Rep. Dent.  It may be too good to ever happen, and would certainly require the approval of the behind the scenes big money that controls the moderate puppets, those sometimes referred to as being in the pockets of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  But with the dances going on among those seeking Boehner’s job……………it is a long shot, but not impossible.  It all hinges on the capacity for one of the two GOP factions to capitulate, compromise and cooperate.  They have shown a decreasing inclination to do that.


THIS may very well be why Boehner was laughing as he contemplated his exit at  the end of this month on Halloween.  Who knows? Truth and reality may turn out to be, if not stranger than all fiction, as strange as comic book fiction.  We can hope, for real governance for a change.
Comments below fold.


miningDue to depressed and likely to stay that way global markets for industrial metals. The final Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed PolyMet sulfide mining project in northern Minnesota is expected in November. Subsequently, Gov. Mark Dayton will have a big decision to make. Presumably he will take matters like this into account.

You see, PolyMet recently released its second quarter financials, and it made just as much money in the last quarter as it has every quarter of its existence, going back to 1981.
None. Zero. Zip. Zilch. That’s thirty-six years of solid financial performance. That’s because PolyMet has never been a miner and has never operated a mine. All hat and no cattle, except without the hat…
That just leaves prominent underworld figure Glen Core to loan shark PolyMet out of the jam. After all, he’d done so several times in the past. But dealing with Glen Core always has a price: loss of equity by other shareholders, including Sen. Housley, because Glen always gets an equity spiff.
Glen Core is, of course, Glencore PLC. Glencore is the largest shareholder in PolyMet, and it is PolyMet’s Sugar Daddy, too. It has PolyMet tied up six ways till Sunday; it has loaned PolyMet millions and has a first lien position on everything that PolyMet owns.
But sadly, even the Sugar Daddy has fallen on hard times. The Business Insider reports that Glencore’s stock is on a skid, too, and that its credit rating is imperiled. Glencore stock is way off for the last year:

We may as well be ready for efforts during the next legislative session to hit up Minnesota taxpayers in general for subsidies to keep PolyMet going. Though they’ll presumably try the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Board (IRRRB) first.

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Boehner leaving and the TPP

by Dan Burns on September 30, 2015 · 0 comments

tpp2Regarding the following, I’m not that optimistic that we’ll now totally crush the horror that is the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership “trade” agreement. But it’s good news, in context.

We have heard so little about the Trans-Pacific Partnership over the past couple of months that you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Obama administration simply abandoned it. But (today), representatives from the 12 TPP nations assemble in Atlanta for a two-day meeting designed to produce a final agreement.
Previous “final” talks in Maui revealed multiple hurdles, from dairy markets to auto parts manufacturing to the length of prescription drug patents. But this Atlanta meeting was abruptly put together, suggesting progress on the sidelines. While nobody thought TPP could conclude before Canada’s parliamentary campaign ends Oct. 19, the New Zealand prime minister said Canada is “negotiating as if there’s no election.”
But even if negotiators work out a tentative agreement this week, the biggest announcement on TPP may have already happened. That would be last Friday’s resignation of House Speaker John Boehner.
Trade promotion authority, which allows the president to negotiate trade agreements and bring them to Congress for an expedited vote, barely passed the House earlier this year. Fifty-four Republicans voted against it, among them practically all the ringleaders of the campaign against Boehner – like Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who took the leadership role in ousting him; David Brat, the man who upset Eric Cantor and took his House seat; Jim Jordan, chairman of the anti-Boehner House Freedom Caucus; and 23 members of that caucus in all.

A recent World Trade Organization ruling against India’s push for solar energy is regarded as just a preview of the sort of corporate greedhead vileness that would become epidemic under the TPP.


nemn(Update: Rob Ecklund won.)
It’s for the seat left vacant in 3A by the recent passing of Rep. David Dill. I wrote about the DFL candidates here. The general election will be on Dec. 8.

MN Progressive Project does not, as an organization, endorse DFL candidates against one another. Individual contributors can do so on the blog, as long as we’re explicit that we’re typing only for ourselves. On that basis, I hereby note that Bill Hansen is a strong progressive, and the only DFL primary candidate who opposes sulfide mining, and if I lived in HD 3A I would crawl to the polling place on my hands and knees, if necessary, to vote for him today.

When the vote tally page shows up on the MN Secretary of State website, probably later this morning, I’ll link it here. Here’s the results page. Of course there won’t be numbers on it until after the polls close at 8PM. I would guess/hope that we’ll know who won by 10:30 or so, if not sooner. In the past results from up north have been known to really come slowly, but I think that’s been less of an issue the past couple of years. No guarantees, though.