Newt Took Page from Perry Playbook

Well, Newt stole a play out of Rick Perry’s old playbook.  He’s decided to publicly announce that he has a heart.  This play actually backfired on Rick P. Guv. Perry and along with those abysmal debate performances sent him from front runner status to bottom feeder.  Republican voters apparently really don’t like candidates who say anything remotely sympathetic toward immigrants.  Some leading Republicans have little respect or patience for people who need a helping hand out of poverty, disease, hunger or unemployment.  They idolize author, philosopher, capitalist and atheist, Ayn Rand, who argued through her characters that the playing field is level or neutral and that success is achieved not with support, but by talent and hard work alone.  Of course in politics, each side needs an enemy.  For Republicans, the enemies appear to be immigrants and the Occupy Movement; for Democrats, the Tea Party and the 1%.

Now Newt either does not really want to be the Republican nominee or he was strategically pandering to Latinos when he said he didn’t want to break “illegal” immigrant families apart and thought that there should be a way to give them legal status so that they can continue to live and work here.   Ok, so this sounds pretty progressive when coming from a neoconservative, but I’m reminded of a point that Ezra Klein made on Up With Chris Hayes this morning.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing here, that Newt made it clear that there would be no amnesty.  That instead of offering a green card, his position is tantamount to red carding. And as such, in my view, this is a way to legislate a permanent underclass who could never become an organized voting block and thus never pose a danger to the white right power structure.

Newt is a savvy politician.  He knows what he is doing.  He’s aligned himself squarely against the Occupy Movement, figuring there would be no votes for him there.  And he has come out in “support” of the undocumented, in hopes that Latino voters will fall for his tactics and vote for him over Obama who has actually done very little to advance a new immigration policy as promised.  There is just one flaw in this strategy.  He’s looking too far ahead.  It won’t get him the nomination.  The Republican base controlled by the Tea Party doesn’t want to hear any candidate say anything about the rights of people, particularly the rights of the undocumented.

No, Newt ought to be out there campaigning for the rights of corporations and the 1% who have been so unfairly stigmatized and abused that they’ve been forced to create jobs abroad to make untaxed profits.  As we know, the 1% aren’t really people, they are the chosen few, the elite job creators who we all owe are very existence to.  Newt’s star will fall, because he’s strayed too far from the Republican playbook.  And Mitt’ll be back on top before you know it. One thing Mitt has not flipped flopped on has been his anti-immigrant stance.  It’s going to be an Obama vs. Romney duel in the general election.  But it won’t be about immigration, wealth inequality, or taxes.  It’ll be about “what have you done for me” lately.  The politics of me, unfortunately.  And it’ll come down to voter turnout between the haves and the have nots.

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High Stakes Testing

The SAT cheating scandal illustrates what’s wrong with the American educational system.   For so many students and educational institutions, it all comes down to a high stakes test.  We are a nation obsessed with testing – PSAT, ACT, SAT, GRE, MCAS, MCAT to name but a few.  Test scores determine rankings and ratings at schools, colleges and universities, which in turn impact fund raising, and the admissions process.  The multibillion dollar testing industry produces a dizzying array of test preparation and reference books, and promotes expensive preparation courses.

High stakes testing leads to enormous pressures on kids, families and educational institutions.   Such pressures inevitably lead to the type of cheating scandals that make headlines every year.  There is increasing evidence that standardized testing does little to promote learning in the classroom.  In fact, it often gets in the way of learning as teachers feel the need to teach to the test because tests scores have become a way to measure the effectiveness of their teaching.  And as some forward thinking colleges know, test scores are not the most reliable measure of aptitude or predictor of college success.  For a complete list of hundreds of U.S. schools that either do not require the SAT or ACT or do not place great weight on test scores in the admissions process, see Fair Test.org.

And fair is key here.  The SAT and ACT test cultural knowledge and values more than anything.  There was a study done where privileged suburban kids were given an SAT prep test without the questions.  A good number were able to identify correct answers even without the questions because they understand the cultural values system inherent in the test.   They chose answers that resonated with the values of their upper middle class upbringing.

If theses tests were to go away, more kids would have a fair shot at admissions to more colleges and universities which would bring more diversity of experience, thought and background to higher education in the U.S.   But these won’t go away, because higher education has been so thoroughly corporatized.   I wonder how many college professors and administrators are consultants to the test book and test preparation industry?  And to compete, and stay afloat, colleges and universities feel the need to play the game which reduces prospective students to a number.

The good news is that there are a growing number of institutions who have decided to change the rules of the game to attract students and families who are fed up with high stakes testing.   Now whether a school’s stance is one based on the principle of fairness is a fair question.  With tuition rates from 25-60 thousand a year, colleges are doing everything they can to attract “customers”.  In the end, higher education is big business.

Will Students Get Out the Vote for President Obama?

This was one of the articles I saved from my New York Times news feed for comment:

Students Lose Enthusiasm to Fight For Obama Again

This may be true but only a problem if students don’t vote, but I think they will.  Many students and recent graduates are involved in the various Occupy Movements.  They may have lost their enthusiasm for the President, but who else would they vote for?  Certainly not any of the front running Republican candidates.  The corporate pizza guy, Herman Cain, said of the Occupy participants: “they are trying to destroy the greatest nation in the world.”  Gingrich declared them “destructive, hostile and anti-civilization”.  Mitt Romney argues that corporations are people, with rights, and presumably feelings too, a stance that will surely not garner many Occupy Movement votes.  I don’t think Ron Paul cares a thing in the world about income inequality, but he has gone on record as supporting the protesters if they are against “crony capitalism”.  While the Occupy Movement would like to dismantle practices that have led to the growing disparity of wealth in this country, Ron Paul would like to dismantle the government.  I don’t think this is what Occupy folk have in mind.

As Laura Flanders asserted on Up with Chris Hayes today, if the Occupy Movement is going to be as successful as the Tea Party, they need to start backing political candidates to take the fight to Congress.  And I assert that otherwise, all that youthful energy, the camping out, the sign making, the demonstrations, proclamations and organized chants, the arrests, the occupations, will have all been for naught.

 

A Weak Republican Field

I was watching Up With Chris Hayes this past weekend and he had some interesting topics for discussion including the latest round of Republican debates, fracking and the border.  I’ll save the topic of fracking and the documentary Gasland for another post.  I want to focus for the moment on presidential politics.

Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico was one of the guests on the show.  He is a Republican candidate for President and has been virtually ignored by the national media.  He has been excluded from all of the debates save one, for reasons that are not altogether clear.  What is clear is that he has a few reasonable ideas that are worth discussing, but won’t be discussed because his views don’t align well with the Tea Party or social ultra conservatives.  He favors open borders, and a guest worker program for immigrants.  In true libertarian fashion, Johnson favors legalizing marijuana, arguing that to do so would take the criminal element out of it, and allow the government to regulate and tax it like it does alcohol and tobacco.  On foreign policy, he advocates bringing the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq.  On other issues, however, he sounds very much like the standard Republican – reduce taxes and reduce government spending on entitlement programs.

As a Democrat, I don’t endorse him, but I don’t understand why Republicans haven’t embraced him because he is more electable than the other candidates. Instead, the Party prefers candidates with exteeeeeme  positions (Bachmann and Paul) and controversial personalities with no experience and vague ideas (Cain) or the professorial type (Gingrich) whose Contract for America in the 90’s was more like a Contract on America, or the monied type (Romney) with more flip flops in a year than a regular beachgoer will own in a lifetime, or the goofy Rick P. Gov. Perry of Texas who has had some of the most stunningly bad public performances  of any candidate in the history of politics.

But Seriously, Folks (a great album by former Eagles guitarist, Joe Walsh, not the politician by the same name) Can’t You See (a great song by the Marshall Tucker Band) that none of these weak Republican candidates stand a chance of defeating President Obama who has one of the lowest approval ratings of any President in recent times.  If the Republicans continue to pander to the narrow social interests of ultra conservative voters or the interests of corporate America as espoused by the Tea Party, they will lose a significant portion of the power they gained in the 2010 midterm elections and squander away the chance to privatize the country.

As an Obama supporter, it’s not in my best interests or the interest of the country for me to give Republicans advice, but they really should take a look at Gary Johnson.  He’s not nearly as cooky as Perry; not as dangerous as Bachmann; much more consistent than Mitt; far more experienced than Cain;  less divisive than Newt; more electable than Paul; more likeable than Santorum and more libertarian than Huntsman, to give him some credibility with the Tea Party.

I hope nobody is reading this, but if you are, don’t spread the word!

 

Bare Trees

I’ve been a little concerned about the two dead poplar trees in my backyard. I’ve been debating on what to do with them – whether to cut them down or just leave them be. I worry that the dead trees might carry some disease that could spread to other trees. Cutting them down might save the other trees, but could also wreak havoc on the natural habitat of wildlife, who don’t seem to mind or care about the health of the trees. Woodpeckers might even prefer they be dead. Obviously, I’d rather they be healthy, but there is one advantage to a dead tree – it doesn’t shed leaves. No raking! And that’s alright by me.

And my bare trees remind me of one of my favorite albums of the 70’s by the same name – The Fleetwood Mac 1972 classic,  Bare Trees. I’m a Spotify user, the website that streams music with a catalog of millions of songs, many millions more than Pandora. You can find virtually any song or album you’ve ever loved and new music that’s just been released. But one thing you can’t find is the album Bare Trees, or the song, Bare Trees.  It’s as if the album had been cut down or something. I don’t understand why it is not available while most of the other Fleetwood Mac albums are.  What a great album with some memorable songs including Sentimental Lady, a song written by Bob Welch that incidentally is available on Spotify under his name, not Fleetwood Mac’s.

Republicans Implode

Looks like the top Republican candidates for the U.S. Presidency have imploded, leaving room for the wackier bottom tier to make a serious run.

Herman Cain, with his 999 plan, 666 flipped, and his creepy smoke filled add, has some serious allegations of sexual harassment to deal with in the coming days. Whether he can weather the storm is unclear, but the charges have not curtailed his fundraising results.

Mitt, champion of the “mittle class” also known as the big corporation, has flipped flopped so many times on almost every issue from guns to climate change that he cannot possibly be a serious candidate, can he?

And Rick Perry’s latest speech in New Hampshire shows just how presidential he is not. Did you watch the speech. He was either drunk, stoned on meds, or had taken too much nitrous oxide. It was embarrassingly creepy. If this is the real P. Guv. Perry, he’s lucky if he raises another dime for the run. And Texas, is the guy for real? He makes W. look like an intellectual.

Now this leaves room for the most ideologically extreme to gain ground – the libertarian RINO Senator Ron Paul, who’d try to abolish practically every government service were he elected, deregulation to the extreme. And then, of course, there’s the rambling “intellectual” Newt “grinch” Gingrich who generally makes no sense at all, but more sense than the rest of the field. And finally, one can’t forget Senator Bachmann, a former Tea Party favorite whose stock has declined steadily. Could she make a serious run? Lord help us all if she does.

Frankly, with all of the chaos in the Republican ranks, and Congress’ 9% approval rating, President Obama should be a shoe in for reelection. Nothing of course is certain in politics, but Obama biggest rival could be within the Democratic Party who might put up a more progressive candidate supported by the 99%. This strategy, however, could backfire, were a progressive to win the nomination. With the culture wars such as they are, a more conservative candidate would be more electable, and that would give the edge to the Fox News watching Republican voter who would be tricked into believing that the country would be taken over by flag burning anarchists if the Democrats retain power.