Friday, May 20, 2011

Schooling Superman

Diana Ravitch dismantles, yet again, the Charter School Myth.

Books Are Forever

For a while now, I've been worried that the book, the physical printed book, was going to disappear. I use kindle and its perfectly adequate, but books are the bee's knees. I am, therefore, heartened by this from Megan McArdle:
I'm pretty sure the print book's days are numbered for anything except specialty applications.  The die-hards will cling for a while, but ultimately, book buyers are already an extremely affluent group, and the convenience in acquiring, porting, and storing your library simply overwhelms the drawbacks, especially as Amazon has introduced innovations like eBook lending.
Inasmuch as she is wrong about everything it follows that she is wrong about this. For my money, if you want to know, the book's future lies in ondemand printing services like the Espresso ondeman book making machine.

Corporations Treated Better Than People: Example 11tybillion

Some poor slob in Michigan wins 2 million in the lottery but because he took it all in a lump sum he has no income and therefore continues to get foodstamps. For obvious reasons, the state is going to develop a new set of regulations to deal with this problem. Would that we could deal with wealthy corporations and their welfare payments with such alacrity.

David Brooks Uses Words As Weapons

Against reality and meaning, that is. Here is a paragraph from his op-ed thingy today:
Here in Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron’s government is trying to foster that sort of society. Until Cameron, Britain — like the U.S. — had one party that spoke on behalf of the market (the Conservatives) and one party that spoke on behalf of the state (Labour). But Cameron is initiating a series of policies, under the rubric “Big Society,” that seek to nurture community bonds, civic activism and social capital.
Labour spoke for, you know, laboring men and women and tried to use the state to overcome the unfair advantaged enjoyed by the monied classes and their dependents, like Brooks.  The "Big Society" seeks to privatize and individualize all positive state functions, positive in the sense of making life better for working men and women and the various kiddiewinks and seniors. So, in other words, after Blair the UK, like the US, has two parties dedicated to market fundamentalism with a basic disagreement about how much the state ought to protect its citizens from the rapacity and cupidity of capitalists.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Crises Management

When I think about a crisis, I think of a discrete moment during which the normal means of dealing with one or another of life's problems fails and the problem metastasizes and fundamentally alters the problems scale threatening lives, homes, and etc. During a crisis those actually dedicating to solving it pursue multiple paths, attacking immediate and underlying causes, and jettison those methods that fail. The same, it seems to me, is true of forest fires, floods, and the Berlin Air Lift. There is an underlying intractable problem that grows into a life threatening something or another, previous measures fail and therefore something new and dramatic must be done.

So, for example, contagious disease is a recurring problem for humanity in a social state, the flu pandemic of 1918-1920 was a crisis. The state operating through a variety of humanitarian and other organizations, sought to deal effectively with the dead, provide palliative care for the ill, inhibit its spread, and find a cure. San Francisco order everyone to wear a mask as means of stopping the dread disease's spread. When they figured out that the gauze masks were of little use, the stop enforcing the rule.

Lots of ideologically driven nimrods are insisting that the American educational system is in crisis. How can this be? Educating children, young adults, and adults, has always been a difficult task. But no one is going to die, lots of homes are being built, books written, and so on. The evidence is that the choice and accountablility don't work and, in fact, that whole dealio is a scam. Rather than abandoning choice and accountablity the people are pursuing it with greater vigor or moving the goalposts and generally denying that improvement has anything to do with it.

This isn't a crisis, it's an opportunity for people who hate people trying to rob us of yet another social good in favor of market fundamentalism, which is just another way of saying let's let the rich rule.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Socially Liberal But Economically Conservative

There is a post over to Crooked Timber concerning the split between cultural and economic leftists and liberals or, at least, that's how I read it. In the comments the notion of nominal Liberals who are Socially/Culturally Liberal but Economically Conservative comes up. I think they mean people like Heath Shuler. I would argue that eh s/cl ec wing of the Democratic or Republican parties mean that they are in favor of rich people running the country and don't particularly care one way or the other about anything else. When the "New Left" denounced big labor for protecting white male privilege it wasn't just an attempt to win for marginalized groups the right to be and to enjoy legal equality it was also an attempt to restructure the economy around the idea of justice as equality in all available meanings. What we got was limited, incremental improvement in the condition of women and minorities, which is now being destroyed by the Republicans, by Neoliberals like Clinton on the condition that the rich get to get richer and the poor ever more screwed.

She Turned Me Into a Newt

Newt Gingrich has been a boil on the body politic for a long time. He latest attempt to be interesting has blown up in his face. All his attempted backtracking and related eel like twisting and turning point to an important change in Republican politics. The only rogue going allowed is further into crazy land. Gingrich is now the victim of the climate of hate he created in his years of irresponsible pandering to the 27 percenters who make life miserable for the rest of us. Fortunately, this time they seem to be devouring Newtie; unfortunately, the next Republican candidate for president will make Rand Paul look sane.