Friday, July 20, 2012

Are conservative intellectuals anti-intellectual?

Whatever happened to conservative intellectuals?

Dreaming of a World Without Intellectuals - The Chronicle Review - The Chronicle of Higher Education
A new book, America-Lite: How Imperial Academia Dismantled Our Culture (and Ushered in the Obamacrats) (Encounter), by David Gelernter, a professor of computer science at Yale, affords an occasion to revisit the issue: Do contemporary American conservatives scapegoat intellectuals and teachers? If so, they can claim an all-American pedigree.

William F. Buckley Jr. began his career in 1951 with God and Man at Yale, which lambasted his professors for their godlessness and socialism. Past and present American intellectuals on the right generally disdain economic or social analyses of political dislocations. They attribute socialism's appeal, for example, not to the condition of society but to the influence of nefarious professors and subversive writers.

National Survey Shows Support for Voter ID Laws Strongest Among Those with Negative Attitudes Toward African Americans

So, causation or correlation -- oh wait, it doesn't matter.

Voter ID and Race

A new National Agenda Opinion Poll by the University of Delaware’s Center for Political Communication reveals support for voter identification laws is strongest among Americans who harbor negative sentiments toward African Americans.
Voter ID laws require individuals to show government issued identification when they vote. The survey findings support recent comments  by U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who portrayed a Texas photo ID law now being challenged as similar to poll taxes used in the Jim Crow era, primarily by Southern states, to block African Americans from voting. Holder pledged to oppose “political pretexts” which, he said, “disenfranchise” black voters.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The New Totalitarianism: How American Corporations Have Made America Like the Soviet Union | | AlterNet

As we keep saying.

The New Totalitarianism: How American Corporations Have Made America Like the Soviet Union | | AlterNet
The great power struggle of the 20th century was the competition between Soviet-style communism and "free-market" corporatism for domination of the world's resources. In America, it's taken for granted that Soviet communism lost (though China's more capitalist variant seems to be doing well), and the superiority of neo-liberal economics -- as epitomized by the great multinational corporations -- was thus affirmed for all time and eternity.
There's a small problem with this, though. An old bit of wisdom says: choose your enemies carefully, because over time, you will tend to become the very thing you most strongly resist. One of the most striking things about our victorious corporations now is the degree to which they've taken on some of the most noxious and Kafkaesque attributes of the Soviet system -- too often leaving their employees, customers, and other stakeholders just as powerless over their own fates as the unhappy citizens of those old centrally planned economies of the USSR were back in the day.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Confessions of a recovering Objectivis

And while I'm thinking about it, another link from my department conversation:

Confessions of a recovering Objectivist | Victoria Bekiempis | Comment is free |
What's scary is that so many Americans have not grown out of that mentally puerile phase. Instead, this contingent – now largely comprised of Tea Party radicals – remains mired in her pop philosophy. 
(Only now has Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, perhaps realizing that supporting an atheist adulterer might hurt his veep chances,changed his tune from Objectivist fanboy to follower of Thomas Aquinas.) 

REPORT: Scott Walker, Right-Wing “Think Tanks” creating another crisis – Public Employee Pensions

Because if it's not broken, they can't 'fix' it... or put the fix in for their friends.

REPORT: Scott Walker, Right-Wing “Think Tanks” creating another crisis – Public Employee Pensions « Badger Democracy

Recent reports on the fiscal state of the Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) have been consistent. The Pew Research Center  rated Wisconsin a “solid performer” in employee pension funds. The Wisconsin Retirement System (WRS) Study  submitted under Act 32 on June 30 reported on the fiscal soundness of the fund as well as reforming aspects of the program, including allowing employees to opt into 401(k) style investment. This report was clear in its assessment of the WRS:

Given the current financial health and unique risk-sharing features of the WRS, neither an optional Defined Contribution plan nor an opt-out of employee contributions should be implemented in Wisconsin at this time.

Despite these two independent reports reaching the same conclusion; right-wing think tanks and corporate conservatives like Scott Walker are colluding to create a “crisis” of unfunded liability and debt. This crisis will be used (much like Walker’s $3.6 Billion deficit lie) to push reform of a successful program which needs no reform, is fully funded, and working. The November election outcome will decide if political will exists to push legislative pension reform in Wisconsin. If successful, corporate conservatives will decimate one of the most beneficial, responsible public pension programs in the world – selling it off to 401(k) investments companies like TIAA-CREF, which stand to profit greatly from “reform.”

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Nickolaus changed software before April election breakdown - JSOnline

Probably nothing.

Nickolaus changed software before April election breakdown - JSOnline
Sometime after final testing of Waukesha County's election software - but before the April election - County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus mysteriously changed something in her office's computer programming, according to a consulting firm's report released Tuesday.
Only Nickolaus knows what she did. The consultants can't figure it out, and she's not talking.
But whatever she did, it caused a breakdown in reporting election results that will cost county taxpayers $256,300 to fix, the report says.

Two straightforward dismantlings of Ayn Rand.

We've had some conversations in my department lately about what to do with the disciples of Ayn Rand who occasionally show up and, then, disrupt the class with their attempts to proselytize.  This happens mainly in ethics classes where their insistence on what they unreflectively refer to as "selfishness" tends to blind them to the over 2000 years of clear thinking and rigorous argument that, as a rule, grounds coherent and rational ethics in a kind of altruism.

Frankly, I'm no longer able to distinguish Rand's followers from Scientologists -- except that Scientologists have snazzier technology and, of course, John Travolta.

Anyway, for those of you also interested in the nuts and bolts, the smoke and mirrors, of Ayn Rand's doctrines, two useful links.

Why I'm not an objectivist


Critique of "The Objectivist Ethics"

Monday, July 09, 2012

How the GOP saves money. Costs taxpayers $256,300 in Waukesha.

Investigating, fixing Nickolaus election errors to cost $256,300 - JSOnline

After Nickolaus stepped aside, Command Central LLC, the Minnesota election software vendor, wasn't able to arrange training for other county staffers until late August, Cummings said. That led the county to hire Command Central to program the software itself for the May 8 recall primary, the June 5 recall general election and the upcoming Aug. 14 primary, at a cost of $237,300, he said.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Turning the tide on corporate education

For-profit education is for profit.  Not clear enough?

Daily Kos: Turning the tide on corporate education
Progressives love reform, and our public school system could certainly use improvement. But any reform that seeks to introduce a profit motive to education while weakening our teachers is simply not progressive, no matter whether the word "reform" is a part of a carefully focus-grouped tagline or not. We don't consider "tort reform" to be progressive when it limits the rights of ordinary people to seek redress through the courts against bad corporate actors, and we don't consider Medicare reform "progressive" when Paul Ryan seeks to privatize it to make insurance companies even wealthier at the expense of our seniors. We need to apply this same suspicion to all the players in the increasingly complex movement geared toward changing education policy.
The progressive victory regarding is a small but significant step in raising awareness about this issue, but solidarity is key: Progressives must hold Democrats accountable for supporting the for-profit education agenda just as much as they would for supporting attacks on any other union or worker group. The fight to save public education can be won, but it will require standing together to recognize the threat and oppose it everywhere, every time

Last Weekend, Half of Germany Was Running on Solar Power

Oh well, we'll never be able to catch up with German technology -- not when we keep cutting education.  

Last Weekend, Half of Germany Was Running on Solar Power : TreeHugger
Now, FITs do make electricity more expensive, since the cost of subsidizing that higher fixed rate is absorbed by all electricity consumers. But Germanydoesn't really mind . And why not? Simple: its citizenry has agreed that producing more non-nuclear clean power is worth shelling out a few extra bucks for each month. Gasp.
Conventional wisdom here in the states is that proposing anything that would lead to higher utility bills would be impossible; the masses would revolt over "energy taxes." Well, that's what our political class would have you believe: in reality, a very recent poll found that a majority of Americans would indeed be willing to pay over $160 extra dollars a year  to buy cleaner electricity. Of course, support varies from region to region and tends to be consolidated in Democratic-leaning areas.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Reagan-appointed judge says Republican Party has become “goofy”

Judges are notorious for understatement.

Reagan-appointed judge says Republican Party has become “goofy” | TPMDC

Look out you rock and rollers: Marxism is on the rise again?

Thank you, Free-Market capitalism, for this.

Why Marxism is on the rise again | World news | The Guardian

Class conflict once seemed so straightforward. Marx and Engels wrote in the second best-selling book of all time, The Communist Manifesto: "What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable." (The best-selling book of all time, incidentally, is the Bible – it only feels like it's 50 Shades of Grey.)
Today, 164 years after Marx and Engels wrote about grave-diggers, the truth is almost the exact opposite. The proletariat, far from burying capitalism, are keeping it on life support. Overworked, underpaid workers ostensibly liberated by the largest socialist revolution in history (China's) are driven to the brink of suicide to keep those in the west playing with their iPads. Chinese money bankrolls an otherwise bankrupt America.
The irony is scarcely wasted on leading Marxist thinkers. "The domination of capitalism globally depends today on the existence of a Chinese Communist party that gives de-localised capitalist enterprises cheap labour to lower prices and deprive workers of the rights of self-organisation," says Jacques Rancière, the French marxist thinker and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Paris VIII. "Happily, it is possible to hope for a world less absurd and more just than today's."

The Big Lie Machine practicing for November: Wisconsin Rep. Robin Vos says voter fraud accounted for a portion of Lehman’s victory margin over Wanggaard in Senate recall

Oh, pesky facts begone!!

PolitiFact Wisconsin | Wisconsin Rep. Robin Vos says voter fraud accounted for a portion of Lehman’s victory margin over Wanggaard in Senate recall

Wisconsin Rep. Robin Vos says voter fraud accounted for a portion of Lehman’s victory margin over Wanggaard in Senate recall

The balance of power in the state Senate is poised to flip from Republicans to Democrats after voters in the 21st Senate District chose Democrat John Lehman over first-term Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine.

Lehman’s margin of victory -- 819 votes out of 71,897 cast -- was confirmed July 2, 2012  after a recount. Lehman’s victory gives Senate Democrats a 17-16 seat majority -- at least until the November elections.

In the days following the vote, Republican leaders noted that Wangaard received 49.4 percent of the votes cast in the Senate district, while Republican Gov. Scott Walker racked up 51.04 percent. (The results showed that Wanggaard received 2,689 fewer votes than Walker, while Lehman got 310 fewer votes than Barrett suggesting that Democrats were more prone to vote for their party’s Senate candidate than the Republicans in that election.)

The Wanggaard campaign is considering a court challenge based on issues found during the recount. The problems identified included a variety of complaints from poll workers and election materials that were found in a garbage bin.

The idea that the election results were tainted was advanced most aggressively by state Rep. Robin Vos, R-Rochester, whose Assembly district is part of the 21st Senate District. He offered his views June 17, 2012 on WISN-TV (Channel 12)  "Upfront with Mike Gousha."

"Unfortunately, a portion of (the vote) was fraud," Vos said, adding "I’m not sure the entire 800 vote margin was..."

Gousha interrupted and asked Vos if he could make the statement about fraud "with certainty."

"I can, a portion," Vos said. "Yeah, I do believe that."

Time to start teaching Tea Pot Theory in science classes.

Publicly funded religion for me, not for thee

West Bend fundamentalists, take note.

Publicly funded religion for me, not for thee - The Maddow Blog

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Despite Misleading Conservative Claims, Outside Money Does Not Favor Obama

But it does depend on GOP voters not actually being able to do math.

Despite Misleading Conservative Claims, Outside Money Does Not Favor Obama | TPM2012
For example, while the National Review mocks Democrats for making a bogeyman out of American Crossroads, their myopic focus on super PACs leaves out their anonymous money machine sibling, Crossroads GPS. That group spent $24 million on a single ad buy in May, matching the Obama campaign’s first big ad campaign dollar for dollar, and almost single-handedly closing the super PAC gap cited by National Review.
Americans for Prosperity, a non-profit backed by the Koch brothers, recently announced a $9 million ad campaign against the Affordable Care Act. The group and others connected to the Koch family are planning to spend as much as $400 million this election cycle, but by the National Review’s standards, this overwhelmingly anonymous spending doesn’t count since it’s either not made by a super PAC or not explicitly opposed to a candidate. Ditto for the Chamber of Commerce, even though that group is explicitly cited in the National Review piece as an organization Democrats are worried about.


The trouble with Khan Academy -- the addicting failure of online education.

We don't need to cave in to the lure of a technology that makes kids dumber.

The trouble with Khan Academy - Casting Out Nines - The Chronicle of Higher Education

At some point around the beginning of February 2012, David Coffey — a co-worker of mine in the math department at Grand Valley State University and my faculty mentor during my first year — mentioned something to me in our weekly mentoring meetings. We were talking about screencasting and the flipped classroom concept, and the conversation got around to Khan Academy. Being a screencaster and flipped classroom person myself, we’d talked about making screencasts more pedagogically sound many times in the past.

That particular day, Dave mentioned this idea about projecting a Khan Academy video onto the screen in a classroom and having three of us sit in front of it, offering snarky critiques — but with a serious mathematical and pedagogical focus — in the style of Mystery Science Theater 3000. I told him to sign me up to help, but I got too busy to stay in the loop with it.

It turns out I missed my chance at viral internet stardom, because Dave finally made the video along with John Golden ;(another GVSU math person):

Click the link for the video. It's hilarious.

From 2010: Health Insurer Profits Jumped 250% in Last Decade - DailyFinance

In lieu of all the hand wringing about insurance companies not being able to afford the new requirements set by the ACA, hogwash.

This is from 2010.

Health Insurer Profits Jumped 250% in Last Decade - DailyFinance
 Profits for the 10 largest U.S. insurance companies jumped 250% between 2000 and 2009 while millions of Americans have lost coverage, according to a reportreleased Thursday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The report found that the five biggest insurance companies -- WellPoint (WLP), Cigna (CI), UnitedHealth Group (UNH), Aetna (AET) and Humana (HUM) -- saw their profits increase 56% in 2009, a year in which 2.7 million people lost their private coverage.What's more, the report found that the companies combined earned a total of $12.2 billion last year. And lest we forget, on the executive compensation, CEOs of the top five received $24 million on average in 2008, the report said.

Given the timing of the release of the report, was the document an effort by the Obama Administration to increase pressure on the insurance industry as it looks to gain the public's support for health-care reform? It's clear that health insurance companies don't seem to have a lot of friends these days. 

Monsanto Fails at Improving Agriculture: Union of Concerned Scientists calls shenanigans.

Not entirely surprising.

They do have a LOT of money however plus a former employee sitting on the US Supreme Court.

Monsanto Fails at Improving Agriculture: UCS Spreads the Word | Union of Concerned Scientists
Monsanto's advertisements tell an impressive tale of the agribusiness giant's achievements: Feeding a growing population. Protecting natural resources. Promoting biodiversity. 
It sounds wonderful, but unfortunately, there's a catch: These claims are often exaggerated, misleading or downright false. Monsanto's products—and the practices they promote—may sustain the company's profits, but the evidence shows that they stand in the way of truly sustainable solutions to our food and farming challenges.
In the ads below, we counter Monsanto's feel-good rhetoric with some facts gleaned from UCS analysis. Share them with friends, and spread the word: when it comes to healthy farming, Monsanto fails!


Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Government and Economic Growth: Correcting Common Mythology

More news from the facts-based world.

Government and Economic Growth: Correcting Common Mythology | Next New Deal
The claim that the size of government is inversely related to growth is misguided and detrimental. 
A major purpose of the Rediscovering Government initiative is to counter unfounded and damaging claims about the effects of government on an economy’s growth. The Financial Times published a letter on June 27th, which asserted that all economists agree the size of government is inversely related to growth and that high levels of debt tamper growth. I wrote a brief letter challenging such all-too-common mythology, which was published on June 28th.
See the letter below, followed by links to first-rate scholars’ work that can be found on our web site. This in turn is followed by a link to a well-documented rebuttal to the widespread claim that debt of 90 percent affects growth negatively. Finally, the UNCTAD economist, Ugo Panizza, wrote us and sent his own fine work on the subject. We link to that here as well.

Messing With Texas Textbooks -- a future without Jefferson.

The ongoing attempt to strangle the Enlightenment.

Messing With Texas Textbooks |
One of the tasks of the Texas State Board of Education is to update curriculum standards and textbooks for Texas schoolchildren. The Texas school system is so large — 4.8 million textbook-reading schoolchildren as of 2011 — that revisions made by the board are often included in school books across the country, though digital technology has lessened this effect in recent years. In 2010, the board got a lot of attention when it approved over 100 amendments — many of which had a very clear conservative political agenda — to the social studies and economics curriculum standards. Here are some of the more pointed proposals.

Feeling the heat

Not that global warming is actually happening or anything since, like, it's just a liberal lie to help fund the world scientific conspiracy -- the same scientists who keep insisting The Visitors are actually dangerous lizard people.

Silly scientists.  Lock them up.

Eugene Robinson: Feeling the heat - The Washington Post