August 5, 2014 archive

US Government Manipulating the Press

We all know that the government manipulates the news with its propaganda that became obvious with the exposure of New York Times reporter Judith Miller’s complicity in spreading the lies that led to the illegal invasion of Iraq. Since then the government has been caught requesting the press withhold stories, or like today, leaking a scoop to another media outlet, a new low.

Spy Agency Stole Scoop From Media Outlet And Handed It To The AP

By Ryan Grim, The Huffington Post

The Associated Press dropped a significant scoop on Tuesday afternoon, reporting that in the last several years the U.S. government’s terrorism watch list has doubled.

A few minutes after the AP story consisting of three paragraphs was posted at 12:32 p.m., The Intercept published a much more comprehensive article. [..]

The government, it turned out, had “spoiled the scoop,” an informally forbidden practice in the world of journalism. To spoil a scoop, the subject of a story, when asked for comment, tips off a different, typically friendlier outlet in the hopes of diminishing the attention the first outlet would have received. Tuesday’s AP story was much friendlier to the government’s position, explaining the surge of individuals added to the watch list as an ongoing response to a foiled terror plot.

The practice of spoiling a scoop is frowned upon because it destroys trust between the journalist and the subject. In the future, the journalist is much less willing to share the contents of his or her reporting with that subject, which means the subject is given less time, or no time at all, to respond with concerns about the reporting.

According to Mr. Grim, The Intercept editor, John Cook, called the National Counterterrorism Center, the subject of the story by The Intercept article by Ryan Devereaux and Jeremy Scahill. Mr. Cook informed the official he spoke with that in the future the agency would only be given a 30 minute time frame to respond to questions about articles before they are published.

I don’t know if Associated Press reporter, Eileen Sullivan, was aware of The Intercept article, or if she was given access to the classified documents (pdf) on which the articles are based. I suspect she was spoon fed the information for the government friendly piece she wrote since she has no links to the documents. The link to the classified file was tweeted by Glenn Greenwald this afternoon.

Now the government is telling CNN that they believe there is a new “leaker”. Nice try, “folks,” but this isn’t about who leaked what but exposing just how much the government us intruding into the lives of its citizens and totally disregarding guaranteed constitutional rights and the law.

Don’t forget to read the article, Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers by Jeremy and Ryan at The Intercept, it is quite an eye opener.

We love peace and motherhood

How Many Minutes to Midnight? Hiroshima Day 2014

By Noam Chomsky, TomDispatch via Truthout

Tuesday, 05 August 2014 10:35

If some extraterrestrial species were compiling a history of Homo sapiens, they might well break their calendar into two eras: BNW (before nuclear weapons) and NWE (the nuclear weapons era).  The latter era, of course, opened on August 6, 1945, the first day of the countdown to what may be the inglorious end of this strange species, which attained the intelligence to discover the effective means to destroy itself, but — so the evidence suggests — not the moral and intellectual capacity to control its worst instincts.

Day one of the NWE was marked by the “success” of Little Boy, a simple atomic bomb.  On day four, Nagasaki experienced the technological triumph of Fat Man, a more sophisticated design.  Five days later came what the official Air Force history calls the “grand finale,” a 1,000-plane raid — no mean logistical achievement — attacking Japan’s cities and killing many thousands of people, with leaflets falling among the bombs reading “Japan has surrendered.” Truman announced that surrender before the last B-29 returned to its base.

Those were the auspicious opening days of the NWE.  As we now enter its 70th year, we should be contemplating with wonder that we have survived.  We can only guess how many years remain.

Not much here about the noble goals constantly proclaimed — or for that matter the obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to make “good faith” efforts to eliminate this scourge of the earth.  What resounds, rather, is an adaptation of Hilaire Belloc’s famous couplet about the Maxim gun (to quote the great African historian Chinweizu):

“Whatever happens, we have got,

The Atom Bomb, and they have not.”

After Clinton came, of course, George W. Bush, whose broad endorsement of preventative war easily encompassed Japan’s attack in December 1941 on military bases in two U.S. overseas possessions, at a time when Japanese militarists were well aware that B-17 Flying Fortresses were being rushed off assembly lines and deployed to those bases with the intent “to burn out the industrial heart of the Empire with fire-bomb attacks on the teeming bamboo ant heaps of Honshu and Kyushu.” That was how the prewar plans were described by their architect, Air Force General Claire Chennault, with the enthusiastic approval of President Franklin Roosevelt, Secretary of State Cordell Hull, and Army Chief of Staff General George Marshall.

Then comes Barack Obama, with pleasant words about working to abolish nuclear weapons — combined with plans to spend $1 trillion on the U.S. nuclear arsenal in the next 30 years, a percentage of the military budget “comparable to spending for procurement of new strategic systems in the 1980s under President Ronald Reagan,” according to a study by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

Obama has also not hesitated to play with fire for political gain.  Take for example the capture and assassination of Osama bin Laden by Navy SEALs. Obama brought it up with pride in an important speech on national security in May 2013.  It was widely covered, but one crucial paragraph was ignored.

Obama hailed the operation but added that it could not be the norm.  The reason, he said, was that the risks “were immense.” The SEALs might have been “embroiled in an extended firefight.”  Even though, by luck, that didn’t happen, “the cost to our relationship with Pakistan and the backlash among the Pakistani public over encroachment on their territory was… severe.”

Let us now add a few details. The SEALs were ordered to fight their way out if apprehended.  They would not have been left to their fate if “embroiled in an extended firefight.”  The full force of the U.S. military would have been used to extricate them.  Pakistan has a powerful, well-trained military, highly protective of state sovereignty.  It also has nuclear weapons, and Pakistani specialists are concerned about the possible penetration of their nuclear security system by jihadi elements.  It is also no secret that the population has been embittered and radicalized by Washington’s drone terror campaign and other policies.

While the SEALs were still in the bin Laden compound, Pakistani Chief of Staff Ashfaq Parvez Kayani was informed of the raid and ordered the military “to confront any unidentified aircraft,” which he assumed would be from India.  Meanwhile in Kabul, U.S. war commander General David Petraeus ordered “warplanes to respond” if the Pakistanis “scrambled their fighter jets.” As Obama said, by luck the worst didn’t happen, though it could have been quite ugly.  But the risks were faced without noticeable concern.  Or subsequent comment.

As General Butler observed, it is a near miracle that we have escaped destruction so far, and the longer we tempt fate, the less likely it is that we can hope for divine intervention to perpetuate the miracle.


The Breakfast Club 8-5-2014

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Everyone’s welcome here, no special handshake required. Just check your meta at the door.

Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

On This Day In History August 5

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge

August 5 is the 217th day of the year (218th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 148 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1957, American Bandstand goes national

Television, rock and roll and teenagers. In the late 1950s, when television and rock and roll were new and when the biggest generation in American history was just about to enter its teens, it took a bit of originality to see the potential power in this now-obvious combination. The man who saw that potential more clearly than any other was a 26-year-old native of upstate New York named Dick Clark, who transformed himself and a local Philadelphia television program into two of the most culturally significant forces of the early rock-and-roll era. His iconic show, American Bandstand, began broadcasting nationally on this day in 1957, beaming images of clean-cut, average teenagers dancing to the not-so-clean-cut Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” to 67 ABC affiliates across the nation.

The show that evolved into American Bandstand began on Philadephia’s WFIL-TV in 1952, a few years before the popular ascension of rock and roll. Hosted by local radio personality Bob Horn, the original Bandstand nevertheless established much of the basic format of its later incarnation. In the first year after Dick Clark took over as host in the summer of 1956, Bandstand remained a popular local hit, but it took Clark’s ambition to help it break out. When the ABC television network polled its affiliates in 1957 for suggestions to fill its 3:30 p.m. time slot, Clark pushed hard for Bandstand, which network executives picked up and scheduled for an August 5, 1957 premiere.

Muse in the Morning

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Muse in the Morning

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Talking Tenure

Fact-checking Campbell Brown: What she said, what research really shows

By Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

August 3, 2014

Former CNN correspondent Campbell Brown appeared on The Colbert Report last week in her role as head of the new Partnership for Educational Justice, an advocacy organization that is supporting seven parents in a lawsuit against New York State’s teacher tenure laws. (Supporting may be underestimating what the group is doing, given that she called the parents “our plaintiffs.”)  Colbert asked her some good questions but her answers were, well, questionable. In the following post, Alyssa Hadley Dunn,  a former high school English teacher who is now an assistant professor of teacher education at Michigan State University, fact-checks Brown’s answers. Dunn researches urban schools, educational policy, and social justice.

By Alyssa Hadley Dunn

Fact check time: On Thursday night, Campbell Brown, a former journalist and CNN correspondent, appeared on The Colbert Report. Stephen Colbert’s questions seemed difficult for Ms. Brown to answer. She was there to talk about her Partnership for Educational Justice, whose first initiative is supporting plaintiffs in a lawsuit against New York State’s teacher tenure laws.  Others have written about the ongoing debate between Ms. Brown and teachers’ unions leaders and about the connections between Ms. Brown and Michelle Rhee. Here, however, I am more interested in checking the “facts” that Ms. Brown uses to make her case. Quite simply: there is no research demonstrating causation between teacher tenure laws and lower rates of student achievement, which is the entire argument behind the lawsuit.

Let’s look at what she said versus what research actually shows.

Is it good for a child if those making the policies have no understanding of what is happening in the classroom and have never been teachers or administrators? This would be hard for Ms. Brown to answer, I imagine, because on the team and Boards at the Partnership for Educational Justice, there appears to be only one person with any in-school teaching or administrative experience. Instead, their biographies read like a Who’s Who of protégés of philanthropists and organizations that are well-known for education “reform.” These connections include Teach For America, StudentsFirst and Michelle Rhee, Eli Broad, and Chris Christie, to name a few.

Is it good for a child if organizations committed to “reclaiming the promise of public education” demonize teachers in the process?

On the contrary, what research actually shows is best for children is teachers with long-term and sustained preparation in content and pedagogy; an equitable education that is not segregated by race and socioeconomic status; and student-centered, hands-on pedagogy that sustains students’ cultures and challenges them to be critical thinkers and engaged citizens. None of this has anything to do with teacher tenure laws. None. If we keep blaming teachers, we are missing the bigger picture.

Education “reform’s” new Ann Coulter: A reeling Michelle Rhee passes the lead to Campbell Brown

Jeff Bryant, Salon

Wednesday, Jul 23, 2014 04:17 PM EST

Supported by shadowy money and shaky science, these wealthy folks have created a “blame teachers first” campaign that seeks to address education problems rooted in inequality and low investment by attacking teachers’ job protections and professional status. Their efforts are, of course, “for the children.”

The campaign’s latest victory was the court case Vergara v California, which threw out key job protections for teachers in that state. Now, Vergara-type lawsuits are expected to roll out across the country.

But recent developments in the career trajectory of (Michelle) Rhee may have prompted the Blame Teachers First crowd to pick a new front person to lead their campaign: former CNN anchor Campbell Brown.

However you feel about Rhee and her campaign to label “ineffective” teachers as the cause of just about everything wrong with public education, her luster certainly seems to be waning.

Her book “Radical: Fighting to Put Students First,” recounting her personal accomplishments as an education policy leader, has been a complete bomb.

Rhee’s StudentsFirst campaigns have done little to animate parents. In Connecticut, an investment of about $700,000 produced a rally at the State Capitol, with Rhee as the featured speaker, which drew only about 75 people. In Alabama, where StudentsFirst claimed 17,000 members, only about 20 showed up at a meeting she called at that state’s capitol.

Revelations about Rhee’s accomplishments while she was chancellor for Washington, D.C., public schools have also sullied her self-avowed reputation for “raising achievement.” PBS’s education reporter John Merrow likely knows more about that subject than anyone.

Merrow posted on his personal blog an op-ed he wrote about Rhee’s tenure in D.C. that he was unable to get accepted at other media outlets despite – or maybe because of – the devastating evidence he revealed about Rhee’s troubled track record. Wrote Merrow, “Because Ms. Rhee is trying to persuade the rest of the country to do as she did in Washington, it’s worth asking what her ‘common sense reforms’ accomplished when she had free rein to do as she wished.”

In the piece, Merrow proceeded to recount in detail how Rhee turned teaching positions into revolving-door jobs while bloating the central office staff and accomplishing very little in terms of improving academic achievement.

While student scores on the National Assessment of Education Progress – aka. ‘The Nation’s Report Card’ – did go up, “they rose in roughly the same amount as they had under her two immediate predecessors, and D.C. remains at or near the bottom of that national measure.”

Further, Rhee’s reform effort seems to have contributed to “a widening gap in academic performance between low-income and upper-income students, a meaningful statistic in Washington, where race and income are highly correlated.”

Darkening the pall cast over Rhee’s reputation is an unresolved cheating scandal on Rhee’s watch in D.C. The alleged scandals – and what, if anything, Rhee might have known about them – have never been adequately investigated.

A damning USA Today series cast serious doubt on gains at the Noyes Education Campus in D.C., touted as one of the shining stars of her turnaround when test scores soared.

Brown started her campaign against teachers some time ago, claiming that the New York City teachers’ union was obstructing efforts to fire teachers for sexual misconduct. Unfortunately for Brown, the ad campaign conducted by her organization Parents Transparency Project failed to note that, as The Post article recalled, at least 33 teachers had indeed been fired. “The balance were either fined, suspended or transferred for minor, non-criminal complaints.” Oops.

Further, as my colleague Dave Johnson recalled at the time, Brown penned an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal accusing the teachers’ union of “trying to block a bill to keep sexual predators out of schools.” It turned out, the union wanted to strengthen the bill, not stop it. Double oops.

Nevertheless – or as The Post reporter put it, “undaunted” – Brown has now decided to take on teacher personnel policies on behalf of, she claims, “millions of schoolchildren being denied a decent education.”

Rhee has long been able to keep her funders mostly secret, although an article in Slate reported her StudentsFirst organization is likely backed by “a slew of billionaire donors, like philanthropist Eli Broad, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, hedge fund manager Dan Loeb, and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.” Rupert Murdoch is also a likely contributor.

Likewise, “Brown’s effort,” as Post reporter Paul Farhi wrote, “is funded by … well, that’s not clear. An advocate of transparency and full disclosure as a journalist, Brown won’t say who is backing her nonprofit organization.”

At Mother Jones, Andy Kroll wrote last year, when Brown and her Parents Transparency Project were accusing public schools of being safe harbors for sexual predators, her operations and financing were closely linked with political consultants who worked with the Republican Party. She hired a consulting firm that had worked for numerous Republican candidates including Mitt Romney. There were also strong financial ties to organizations that work with StudentsFirst, including a firm that “helped launch Rhee’s StudentsFirst” and a PR firm that served both organizations.

Brown in fact is married to Dan Senor, an investment banker who is on the board of StudentsFirstNY, which is part of the StudentsFirst national organization.

Brown’s ventures also appear to be closely tied to another organization founded by Rhee and strongly associated with attacks on teachers’ unions: TNTP, the group formerly known as The New Teacher Project.

TNTP has lauded the teacher management policies practiced in D.C. public schools, which Rhee formerly led, despite those policies being soundly discredited by education bloggers who delved deeply into the data. Now it appears that TNTP is aiding Brown to help advance these flawed ideas.

An analysis of the website associated with Brown’s effort to revamp teacher contracts has revealed that much of the site’s content appears to be written by TNTP without any attribution to the group. The site is listed as an “initiative of Parents Transparency Project,” yet metadata from various documents included in the site list the author as Elizabeth Vidyarthi. Vidyarthi works for the TNTP communications department.

Regardless of how you feel about the machinations behind the Rhee-Brown campaign, what’s clear is that it is hell-bent on imposing new policies that have little to no prospect of addressing the problem they are purported to resolve, which is to ensure students who need the best teachers are more apt to get them.

Research generally has found that experienced teachers – the targets for these new lawsuits – make a positive difference in students’ academic trajectory. A review of that research on the website for the grassroots group Parents Across America concluded, “Every single study shows teaching experience matters. In fact, the only two observable factors that have been found consistently to lead to higher student achievement are class size and teacher experience.”

The California judicial decision propelling these new lawsuits is fraught with bad thinking. A UCLA law professor who recently reflected on that decision noted, “My prediction is that [the decision] will not stand up on appeal because [the judge] never adequately shows that it is teacher job security that is responsible for the poor quality of some schools in California … It is easy to scapegoat teachers for the problems in schools. But it misdirects attention. California is one of the worst states in the country in student-faculty ratios. Estimates vary, but it is in the bottom half of all states in per pupil spending. Directing attention here would be far more important to improving education than eliminating job protections for teachers.”

Turning to Rutgers professor Bruce Baker again, he wrote on his own blog that the aims Campbell Brown has in mind for her new campaign are “an absurd smokescreen, failing to pass muster at even the most basic level of logical evaluation of causation.”

In the case of New York in particular, Baker concluded that finding enough good teachers to staff its schools – especially those serving high-needs kids – is not obstructed by tenure or seniority policies but more so due to the fact it “is abundantly clear that New York State school districts – especially those serving the state’s neediest children – lack the ability to pay the necessary wages to recruit and retain the workforce they need.

Brown recently struck back against her detractors in an op-ed for the New York Daily News, repeating the unproven claim that rewriting teachers’ job protections will result in “progress” for “children.”

Based on the California judge’s conclusion that teacher tenure laws amounted to “uber due process” (yes, a judge really wrote that), she claimed that what teachers are defending is “added due-process protections,” a new term to add to the lexicon of the Blame Teachers First campaign.

Brown ultimately rested her case on a meaningless trope – “tenure laws do not assure quality teaching,” an empty phrase for sure since her entire campaign and the lawsuits she favors never provide an adequate evidence base for what “quality teaching” is and how rewriting teachers’ job protections will ensure its spread.

Brown may be “the new face” of a “reform” campaign Michelle Rhee has become too discredited to lead.

If that’s the case – and it certainly appears to be so – with Brown as the new figurehead of the Blame Teachers First campaign, proponents may feel that a fresh face on a stale product is all they need to win over acceptance of their unfounded ideas. Don’t buy it.

In summary, Charter Schools are the latest corporate “greed grab”, milking the largest remaining portion of the public purse.  They achieve their “profits” by busting Unions and offering sub-standard wages to un-accredited “teachers”, and stealing the Public Infrastructure (School Buildings and Classrooms) at little or no cost for construction and maintainance.

Their much vaunted “gains” in educational performance are achieved by selectively excluding the neediest students (which Public Schools are obligated by law to serve) and flat out test cheating.

To call Campbell Brown a whore is an insult to sex workers and self promoters everywhere.  She is sleazy and foul, loathsome, distasteful, repellant, revolting, wicked, offensive, unpleasant and disgusting to the senses.

Did I mention Dan Senor?

Late Night Karaoke

TDS/TCR (Worse Than Watergate)


Are you ready for some Throwball?

Giants 17 – 13 over Bills in Hall of Fame Game.

A used $2 bill?!

For this week’s guests and the real news join me below.