Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Economic values the quickest route to killing education.

Saturday's column from March 20th, 2010.

A Pink Floyd education

District must not be just another brick in the wall

Construction on Badger Middle school and construction on the school district’s budget raise the same question in my mind: Are we allowing economic values to override human values in deciding what we build for the next generation? Are we reducing kids to being just another brick in the wall?

Philosophers, economists and theologians were worrying about this question for over a century before Pink Floyd posed it back in 1980. Catholic theologian Josef Pieper, in particular, worried about a process he saw well under way by 1950. He believed the human values that built western culture (friendship, loyalty, charity, and personal responsibility) were being replaced by a set of values grounded in economics (cost/benefit analyses and, most of all, efficiency). Nothing succeeds like success so, as the economies of the 20th century expanded, economic values began to shove human values aside.

We can hear the same conflict between human and economic values today in the School Board debate about how best to manage a school system on a tight budget.

We keep hearing that the “problems” with our educational system can be solved by treating schools as businesses – by letting economic values dictate what's best for us.

This is a dangerous idea. Most of the social catastrophes of the 100 years can be traced back to replacing human-centered values with economics-centered values; by replacing what’s good for humans, in other words, with what’s efficient.

The problem with this approach is that human beings are not merely economic beings – you’re not your job – and human values cannot be reduced to economic ones without reducing human beings to something less than human.

Think for a moment about all of your most important relationships. Are they governed by human values or by economic ones? (Frankly, this question should be too obvious even to bother with, but let’s indulge in a bit of logical fun and assume for a moment, that economic values are more important than human ones.)

Economic values are grounded in a single idea, that something is good when it’s efficient. Think about how this would play out in real life.

Is your relationship to your spouse, your partner, your significant other, efficient? Can love be captured as a kind of Pareto optimality in a spread sheet? Do you think it’s a good thing when your spouse, your partner, your significant other, kisses you efficiently? (Yuck!) Would we even call that kind of relationship a good one, much less a human one? I mean, seriously, don't you want to be kissed inefficiently?

Or what about your religious or spiritual life? Is religious or spiritual pilgrimage ever remotely efficient? Put another way, do you pray for money or do you pray for wisdom?

Or how about friendship? Would you even want efficient friendships?

These examples are clearly nonsense. Friendship is not about efficiency; religious commitment is not about efficiency; love is not about efficiency – and neither are our responsibilities to children.

The word economics literally means “household management” and economics is a perfectly appropriate way to determine what we can afford to run our households and even our schools, but that is the extent of its applicability. We must never use economics to determine our responsibilities or what we should sacrifice for those we love. Human responsibilities require us to know what’s good, not what’s efficient.

Put a bit more elegantly: economics is a wonderful servant, but a terrible master. Budgeting is the tool we use to implement what we think is important, but we shouldn’t let the process call the shots. We shouldn’t be victims of our financial situation – we have to suck it up and find a way to make the budgeting process express our values, not bend our values to fit the budgeting process.

Like our grandparents and great grandparents, people who lived through the Great Depression, we have a responsibility to make life for the next generation better than our own.

Besides, Americans never let circumstances limit their vision of the future – our vision of a better future is always put to work to change circumstances. Now is the time to remember that our real values are human, not economic, and, as the School Board goes forward to work within the constraints of our current economy, to remember that the economy was made for human beings – human beings were not made for the economy. We should resolve that our responsibilities will never be judged on the basis of convenience or efficiency – and that no kid from West Bend will ever be reduced to being just another brick in the wall.

I am, of course, completely at odds with the prevailing world view under which we are all reducible to our economic functions -- ironic, since it is exactly what Marx asserted. Maybe the Tea Party can be understood as a response to the alienation of labor rather than an affirmation of the alienation of labor. Hmm.

Nope... they affirm the beauty of their own alienation and call the rest of us "idealistic." Doubly ironic, that.


Scott Walker caught in the Zoo.




First the West Bend school board race -- now the Climate Denial Industry

I wonder what it'll be like when Koch Industries is supplying the economic advice to West Bend city council?

Greenpeace Unmasks Koch Industries' Funding of Climate Denial Industry

This would explain the Boots and Sabers idea of democratic government as something to do with, well, Boots and Sabers. Working for the man must be good. ;^)

A new Right Wing purity test. Are you conservative enough to do without socialism?

From one of my Conservative Friends, trying to make an obvious point obviouser.


With the recent passage of health care legislation, I (as a Republican or Tea Partier) will not do the following:

1) I will not partake in the Socialist health care system that is ObamaCare.

2) I will not be employed by a place that makes me pay a Socialist Social Security Tax. I will become an independent contractor, or live in the woods and support myself.

3) I will not join the Socialist Armed forces, which are funded by tax dollars in a Socialist-like manner.

4) (If I am over 65 years of age) I will not cash another Socialist Social Security check. I will live off of pety hand outs and whatever the AARP gives me. I will also not use Socialist Medicare or Medicaid. I would much rather pay premiums that go up by 40% each year.

5) I will not run for public office, since I would be enticed to take advantage of a Socialist health care plan and a Socialist Retirement Program.

6) I will not drive on paved roads, which is funded in a Socialistic manner. Instead, I will drive my automobile off-road to get everywhere or just ride a horse.

7) If I am the victim of a crime or circumstance, I will not call upon the Socialist Police Department or the Socialist Fire Department to help me. I would rather get robbed or watch my house burn than utilize a Socialist, Government-funded institution.

8) I will not send my children to Socialist public schools. I will either home school them or send them to a private school. Or heck, I could even have them listen to Rush Limbaugh. He seems like a nice guy.

9) If I go to college, I will not accept Socialist Government grants. I would rather pay my way through school virtually unassisted.

10) I will not mail letters from the Socialist Post Office. Instead, I will enlist the help of the Pony Express.

11) I will not answer the Socialistic, Government funded Census. I would rather have a minimal number of teachers, buses and traffic lights. In signing this, I won't be sending my kids to the Socialist schools and I'm riding a horse for the rest of my life instead of driving on the roads constructed by Socialist government funding. Why should I care about these things?

We will abide by these rules to ensure that Socialistic concepts and programs do not affect our lives.

The Undersigned

Thanks Troy.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tea Party Protesters Heckle Man With Parkinsons

Who doesn't love beating up on the disabled?

Tea Party Protesters Heckle Man With Parkinsons

The trouble with trusting complex science

Some new studies on an old problem: what St. Augustine called "incorrigible ignorance" and what explains why more than 2/3's of Americans believed Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.

The trouble with trusting complex science

There is one question that no one who denies manmade climate change wants to answer: what would it take to persuade you? In most cases the answer seems to be nothing. No level of evidence can shake the growing belief that climate science is a giant conspiracy codded up by boffins and governments to tax and control us. The new study by the Met Office, which paints an even grimmer picture than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, will do nothing to change this view.

I'm particularly baffled by the finding that when such people are confronted with actual data that contradicts their beliefs, they tend to commit even more profoundly to their falsehoods.


Rewriting History in Texas

They're just practicing in Texas. America is probably the next target.

Editorial - Rewriting History in Texas - NYTimes.com

Others are very worrisome, like questioning the doctrine of “separation between church and state” and dropping Thomas Jefferson, who coined the phrase, from a list of figures whose writings inspired political revolutions from the 1700s on.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Why would the Tea Partiers actually want change?

When they're largely the beneficiaries of inequalities in the status quo?

In Praise of Shared Outrage:

"A recent CNN/Opinion Research poll found that these activists are predominantly male, higher-income, college-educated and conservative, with 87 percent supporting the Republican candidate for the US House. That's certainly not the profile of a broad and diverse coalition of haves and have-nots fighting systemic injustices that do particular harm to the least fortunate among us."

Nope. It's a coalition of haves fighting to keep what they've got because order is more important to them than justice.

-- which is too bad since they could have both if they wanted both.


"Fear the Boom and Bust" a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem

Finally, some clarity. From the folks at EconStories

Monday, March 15, 2010

Like all radicals, the ultra-rights eventually eat their young.

Yep, they do.

Everyone At Fox Hates Glenn Beck Too

The most liberal generation in history. It's a start.

Here's some even worse news from the latest Pew Center study.

Politically, Millennials were among Barack Obama's strongest supporters in 2008, backing him for president by more than a two-to-one ratio (66% to 32%) while older adults were giving just 50% of their votes to the Democratic nominee. This was the largest disparity between younger and older voters recorded in four decades of modern election day exit polling. Moreover, after decades of low voter participation by the young, the turnout gap in 2008 between voters under and over the age of 30 was the smallest it had been since 18- to 20-year-olds were given the right to vote in 1972. (See chapter 8 in the full report)

Walker 'Brown Bagging' never cost so much.

For Walker, Meals Aren't Always A 'Brown Bag'. From wcco.com

The campaign rang up bills of $244 at the Bay City Smokehouse in Green Bay, $230 and $193 at Carrabba's Italian Grill in Greenfield, $230 at the Capital Grille in Washington, D.C., and $149 at the Waterfront in La Crosse, among others. The campaign also paid bills of more than $30 apiece seven times at the Ambassador Hotel in Milwaukee.

Thank goodness racism is now mainly economic.

Before racism was about skin color. Now racism is about skin color AND economic inequality.

Study: Median Wealth for Single Black Women: $100, Single Hispanic Women: $120, Single White Women: $41,000

No Child Left Behind needs to be left behind.

Time to raise and restore tough standards in the schools.

Emphasizing the 'Public' in Public Schools
The testing regime established by the No Child Left Behind Act, she argues, has only encouraged states to dumb down their proficiency standards and to hollow out their curricula. And the law, she says, has prompted too many states and cities to close failing schools when instead they should pour resources into them. Shutting down schools and creating new ones from scratch often hurts more than it helps, she writes.

In New York City, for example, "half of the 10 worst-performing schools in the city on the state math tests in 2009 were new schools opened to replace failing schools." (Interestingly, she cites Florida, which is often thought of as ground zero of conservative education policy, as a state that has wisely chosen not to shutter many schools. The state has done a good job, she writes, of rehabilitating schools that were ranked D or F in its accountability system.)

Limbaugh Endorses Socialist Paradise | OurFuture.org

I'm going to have to completely recalibrate my irony meter.

Limbaugh Endorses Socialist Paradise

I’m not Satan, and you ain’t Lucifer … even though you drink coffee, tea and/or koolaid.

Real conservatives are coming back to coffee...

"#coffeeparty Bill Golden, a self-identified conservative, writes about his experience at a Coffee Party event on Saturday: Hmmm…so the rumors that I heard beforehand that this was just a disguised group pimping for liberal causes or the Democratic party were…they were…bogus. Solidly bogus."

I’m not Satan, and you ain’t Lucifer … even though you drink coffee, tea and/or koolaid.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

If Health Care Reform Fails

A nice reminder from the NY Times: If Reform Fails - NYTimes.com
WHAT ABOUT THE DEFICIT?: Republican critics of health care reform have done an especially good job of frightening Americans with their talk of bankrupting the Treasury. The truth of the matter is that the pending reform legislation has been designed to generate enough revenue and savings to more than offset the substantial cost of expanding Medicaid and providing subsidies to the middle class.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Senate bill would reduce deficits over the first 10 years by $132 billion and even more in the second decade.

What critics certainly do not talk about is what happens to the deficit if Medicare costs continue their relentless rise. That is something that should keep Americans up at night.

Employers Rapidly Shifting Health Care Costs to Workers

More profit for the corporations. More good news for Americans for Prosperity and Common Sense (sic) Citizens of Washington County.

Employers Rapidly Shifting Health Care Costs to Workers | Crooks and Liars

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Doubling of maternal deaths in U.S. 'scandalous,' rights group says

Holy smokes.

CNN reports
Deaths from pregnancy and childbirth in the United States have doubled in the past 20 years, a development that a human rights group called "scandalous and disgraceful" Friday.

Another example of why America has the best health care in the world... oh, I mean, the 37th best.

What's in the Tea? Peeking behind the right-wing political curtain.

The question remains: why would hard working Americans, backs against the economic wall, side with billionaires against their own best interests?

Saturday's column.

Peeking behind the right-wing political curtain

A wolf in sheep’s clothing is one thing, but what happens when the wolves show up dressed as shepherds? The wolves start giving the sheep advice, and the sheep listen.

Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin is having its annual “Defending the American Dream by Keeping America Asleep” banquet at a resort in the Dells this weekend. They advertise themselves as just plain folks trying to get their country back, but when you follow the money, the picture changes. Littlesis.org and Jim Hightower have been hot on the funding trail and have finally tracked down the Wizards of Oz, the two men behind the curtain, pulling the strings of today’s right wing political chorus.

Americans for Prosperity, and most of the angry media voices that continue to throw kerosene on the national debate, are being bankrolled through a network of interlocking foundations, funded by the biggest corporation you’ve never heard of: Koch Industries.

The billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David, are tied for 19th richest men in the world in the latest Forbes list. Koch Industries is America’s second largest privately owned corporation with 70,000 employees. They own Northern, Brawny, Dixie Cups, Lycra, Stainmaster Carpets, and Teflon. They are a major producer, refiner, and transporter of petroleum and petroleum based products.

The money, as they say, rolls in – and then flows out into the Cato Institute, Freedomworks PAC (to which, the NY Times reported, Tea Party members are now being sent for organizing seminars), Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

David Koch started AFP in 1984 as “Citizens for a Sound Economy,” changing the name in 2003. It’s purpose is to encourage citizens to fight those darned government regulations that impede the profits of … you guessed it, the Koch family of industries. They found the perfect office manager, too. AFP President Tim Phillips is a long time Republican campaign director and lobbyist. He’s the dirty trickster who helped George W. Bush smear John McCain in South Carolina’s 2000 primary, using pictures of McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi daughter to suggest McCain had fathered a black child. He also helped defeat Sen. Max Cleland by claiming that this Vietnam War vet, who won Silver and Bronze stars for valor in combat and who lost both legs in the war, “lacked the courage” to fight terrorists.

Despite billing itself as “the nation’s premier grassroots organization” AFP only has 8,000 members and is controlled by corporate dollars.

The tea party movement, focused as it is on government spending that’s left millions of regular Americans flat broke, is being financed and manipulated by the very people who have benefited most from that spending. What many of these folks probably didn’t know was that last month, when CPAC hosted the tea party movement’s coming out-party, CPAC itself was being cosponsored by the ultra-right John Birch Society, a group founded by Charles and David Koch’s father. The John Birch Society, we should all remember, believed that President Eisenhower was a Communist agent.

So, back to West Bend and our upcoming election. Our local rightwing political collective, the Common Sense Citizens of Washington County, is proudly affiliated with Americans for Prosperity. Members of this local group (including the two creationist candidates running for School Board, Ed Duquaine, currently running for the 3rd District alderman seat, and now District 5 County Board candidate Michael Bassill) embrace the same set of anti-tax, anti-government, anti-regulation sentiments. Wrapped in the flag, these views look patriotic, but they’ve been designed specifically to guarantee that billionaires can continue to pillage the US treasury and avoid paying their fair share of the nation’s upkeep. These anti-tax, anti-regulation based political premises serve the interests of people like the Koch family, not the interests of unemployed Americans whose jobs were shipped overseas to improve the Koch’s profit margins. There’s no reason to promote the interests of the corporate elite in West Bend where the unemployment rate is still setting records.

The increasing anger that’s characterized so much of the last few years – some of which we’ve seen in recent letters to the editor – is being manufactured, nourished and sustained by billionaires with a financial stake in preventing any movement for political or economic change.

People from across the political spectrum could do something about this. We could begin by finding common ground to take back control of the government. We could attend to what unites us: our belief that a government of the people needs to work for the people. We can no longer remain immobilized by the propagation of fear designed to distract us from these pickpockets rifling through our wallets.

But I’m pretty cynical. Maybe sheep need their wolves after all. Maybe H.L. Mencken got it right when he said “Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

On the other hand, I hold on to a tiny ray of hope. It’s this: hobgoblins disappear when you turn on the lights – and wake up.

And so it goes.


ps. a big shout out to Joy for putting me on the trail of these guys.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Those who edit the textbooks, rule the world.

Comforting to know that Texans now control history.

Texas Conservatives Win Vote on Textbook Standards

This again: Jesus not a 9/12er

Evangelical leader takes on Beck for assailing social justice churches

Obvious, of course, on reflection.

Why burgers out cost more than salads in.

Okay, quiz:

Who would make a living selling people food that's bad for them, and making a profit at it because all of that food is subsidized by the tax payers? Only some kind of pirate who needs government subsidies that short change farmers.

Shocking Graphic Reveals Why a Big Mac Costs Less Than a Salad

I kid, of course.

Peace Seekers of Washington County March events.

The Peace Seekers of Washington County: Coming Events March 2009

Rove 'proud' of US waterboarding terror suspects

Another proud legacy of the Bush Administration.

BBC News - Rove 'proud' of US waterboarding terror suspects

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Ryan 'Roadmap' wouldn't solve debt

Well, it wouldn't solve *our* debt. I imagine it'll have a wonder effect on the lives of his richest investors... um, I mean contributors.

WisPolitics DC Wrap: Report: Ryan 'Roadmap' wouldn't solve debt

The state Democratic Party is highlighting a new report from the D.C.-based Center of Budget and Policy Priorities on U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan's wide-ranging "Roadmap for America's Future" legislative package.

The report argues the Roadmap plan "calls for radical policy changes that would result in a massive transfer of resources from the broad majority of Americans to the nation's wealthiest individuals."

Ryan has taken heat from Democrats and the White House over his plan, which they argue undermines Social Security and Medicare and shifts the risks of those funds onto individuals. The Janesville Republican counters that both programs are moving toward bankruptcy and that his plan moves the country back toward fiscal solvency.

But the CBPP report alleges the large tax cuts included in the plan would cause the federal debt to "soar to 175 percent of the gross domestic product by 2050."

UPDATE: Ryan responds to the CBPP report, saying its analysts manufactured the higher debt levels by "extrapolating data" of the Tax Policy Center. Ryan also notes that without reform, the debt level in 2080 "would be a crushing 716% of GDP."

Americans don't drink tea. March 13th is National Coffee Party Day.

March 13th is National Coffee Party Day.

Find your closest Coffee Party here.

Ninth Circuit Court rules "under God" is constitutional

Interesting. Pat Robertson's God? Or Jefferson's?

Statement on Ninth Circuit's Decision in Newdow Pledge Case

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Saturday's column was killed.

Hi everyone,

Well, that was an interesting experience.

The column traced the funding for Americans for Prosperity, and most of the primary foundations funding the Tea Party movement (the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, Freedomworks, etc.) back to the massive and politically aggressive Koch Industries.

I noted that Common Sense Citizens of Washington County, a local political group running three candidates for local office (two of which are self-identified creationists running for positions on the school board), is affiliated with AFP and that these candidates parrot the same anti-tax, anti-government, ant-regulation rhetoric on which AFP has built a following. I noted that this rhetoric, designed to appeal to "just plain folks" actually serves the interests of billionaire industrialists, not working people trying to hang on to their jobs.

Either Conley Publishing didn't like something in the piece or I stepped over a line somewhere.

Next week's column, something about kittens.


Thursday, March 04, 2010

Anti-Gay State Sen. Got DUI After Leaving Gay Nightclub

No no no... it happened in California.

Roy Ashburn ARRESTED: Anti-Gay State Sen. Got DUI After Leaving Gay Nightclub, Sources Say

Maybe he too, was a meth addict -- easier for conservatives to swallow, if history is a guide, than being gay.

The Big Money behind Americans for Prosperity.

These guys don't want any more global warming research being taken seriously... not for a few years anyway -- and they can afford to fight it with money.

The Big Money behind Americans for Prosperity

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

A mental health break.

Barack Obama gets a surprise visit in the night from ex-Presidents Bush Sr., Bush Jr., Clinton, Ford, Reagan and Carter to get a few pointers about the Consumer Financial Protection Agency and why it's so important.

RNC document mocks donors, plays on 'fear'

Exclusive: RNC document mocks donors, plays on 'fear'

Shocking. Using fear to get elected? Mocking the donors?

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Cutting the Deficit like Reagan?

More pesky facts.

McCain: I'll Cut Deficits Like Reagan!

Reagan Tripled the National Debt...

For Tea Baggers supposedly concerned that "deficit spending is out of hand," history apparently began only on January 20, 2009. Because while President Obama rightly resorted to massive deficit spending to rescue the American economy from calamity, it was Ronald Reagan who ushered in the now-standard Republican practice of "spending our children's inheritance."

As Steve Benen rightly noted, it was not Reagan but President Obama whose stimulus plan delivered the largest two-year tax cut in history. And as it turns out, what Saint Ronnie giveth, he also taketh away.

As predicted, Reagan's massive $749 billion supply-side tax cuts in 1981 quickly produced even more massive annual budget deficits. Combined with his rapid increase in defense spending, Reagan delivered not the balanced budgets he promised, but record-settings deficits. Ultimately, Reagan was forced to raise taxes twice to avert financial catastrophe (a fact John McCain learned the hard way from Tom Brokaw last October). By the time he left office in 1989, Ronald Reagan nonetheless more than equaled the entire debt burden produced by the previous 200 years of American history.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Just musing.

Being a drug addict is a moral failing and a crime, unless you're a conservative radio host. Then it's an illness and you need our prayers for your recovery.

The United States should get out of the United Nations, and our highest national priority is enforcing U.N. resolutions against Iraq.
"Standing Tall for America" means firing your workers and moving their jobs to India.

The best way to improve military morale is to praise the troops in speeches while slashing veterans' benefits and combat pay.

Group sex and drug use are degenerate sins unless you someday run for governor of California as a Republican.

Providing health care to all Iraqis is sound policy. Providing health care to all Americans is socialism.

Global warming and tobacco's link to cancer are junk science, but creationism should be taught in schools.

A president lying about an extramarital affair is an impeachable offense. A president lying to enlist support for a war in which thousands die is solid defense policy.

Fifteen of the nineteen September 11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia.
None were from Iraq. It was therefore imperative that we go to war with
since Saudi Arabia is our friend?

Trade with Cuba is wrong because the country is communist, but trade with China and Vietnam is vital to a spirit of international harmony.

Jefferson on the aristocracy of corporations

Just while I was thinking about it, Jefferson usually got a thing or two right... From the Online Library of Liberty :
I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in it’s birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country.