Saturday, January 13, 2007

A New Great Day In Harlem

The latest from John Edwards (he will speak at the Riverside Church in Harlem tomorrow at 4 PM EST)...

Forty years ago, almost to the month, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stood at this pulpit, in this house of God, and with the full force of his conscience, his principles and his love of peace, denounced the war in Vietnam, calling it a tragedy that threatened to drag our nation down to dust.

As he put it then, there comes a time when silence is a betrayal -- not only of one's personal convictions, or even of one's country alone, but also of our deeper obligations to one another and to the brotherhood of man.

That's the thing I find the most important about the sermon Dr. King delivered here that day. He did not direct his demands to the government of the United States, which was escalating the war. He issued a direct appeal to the people of the United States, calling on us to break our own silence, and to take responsibility for bringing about what he called a revolution of values.

A revolution whose starting point is personal responsibility, of course, but whose animating force is the belief that we cannot stand idly by and wait for others to right the wrongs of the world.

And this, in my view, is at the heart of what we should remember and celebrate on this day. This is the dream we must commit ourselves to realizing.

* * *

Escalation is not the answer, and our generals will be the first to tell you so. The answer is for the Iraqi people and others in the region to take responsibility for rebuilding their own country. If we want them to take responsibility, we need to show them that we are serious about leaving – and the best way to do that is actually to start leaving and immediately withdraw 40-50,000 troops.

That is why I have spoken out against the McCain Doctrine of escalation. That's why Congress must step up and stop the president from putting more troops in harm's way.

If you're in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction, it is no longer enough to study your options and keep your own counsel.

Silence is betrayal. Speak out, and stop this escalation now. You have the power to prohibit the president from spending any money to escalate the war – use it.

And to all of you here today – and the millions like us around the country who know this escalation is wrong – your job is to reject the easy way of apathy and choose instead the hard course of action.

Silence is betrayal. Speak out. Tell your elected leaders to block this misguided plan that is destined to cost more lives and further damage America's ability to lead. And tell them also, that the reward of courage…is trust.
And here is Edwards speaking on "The McCain Doctrine" (I think the quality of the audio and video is better than the one announcing his appearance in Harlem tomorrow, though both messages are extremely important).

"The Decider" Is Deaf

(To say nothing of stupid...)

In response to this news item based on Dubya's latest lies today, I have only this to add: we've been telling you all along what our alternative is to your "plan," you putz!

Redeploy our forces and start bringing them home.

Redeploy our forces and start bringing them home.

I'll say it one more time for you a little slower - maybe you need to read something three times before it has a chance of sinking into your tiny particle of brain matter.


I'll even try to space the words a little differently:









Does that help?

Of course, I'm sure the troops you posed with at your photo-op yesterday would have told you something like this also if they hadn't had a gag order put upon them (nice).

Yes, I know the U.S. House is going to come up with an alternative plan based on a consensus within the Democratic Party (that will be a fractious episode, I'm sure), but guess what?

It's not their responsibility to fix this mess.

It's yours.

Tony Blair and our friends in the U.K. are drawing down their forces - Blair is an opportunist to be sure as well as you, but he's a hell of a lot smarter than you'll ever be.

And God almighty, even Hillary Clinton finally said today that enough is enough.

Redeploy our forces and start bringing them home, Dubya.

That's our alternative. Get the crap out of your head and actually try listening to what we're telling you for a change!

Update 1/14/07: And this Letter To The Editor appeared in the Inquirer yesterday...

Who says the Democrats don't have a new idea about Iraq? Have you read the proposals of former Democratic presidential contender George McGovern and Middle East scholar William Polk in their book, Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now?

I thought not. The Inquirer, along with the rest of the media, has given it a wide berth. Nor do we hear political pundits or members of Congress discussing it. Yet it's radically different from the same old arguments that dominate public thinking about the Iraq dilemma.

The McGovern proposal is to substitute 15,000 temporary peace-keeping troops from Muslim countries for current "coalition" forces; provide a massive Marshall plan-type reconstruction effort; offer the Iraqi people compensation for damages (especially those who have been victims of torture); and more adequately fund American troops wounded physically or psychologically.

Would all this be expensive? Yes, but not nearly as expensive as the status quo.

The McGovern and Polk plan would remove all occupying troops by June 30 and close all U.S. bases in Iraq, 14 of which the Pentagon meant to be "enduring" (translation: permanent). McGovern-style compassion and restorative justice can win back quite a few friends in the Middle East, and dry up some of the anti-Americanism that pervades the region.

Gordon C. Bennett
Is that enough alternatives for you? If not, give us a few minutes and we'll come up with some more.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Friday Videos

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five (“The Message”)…

...Happy Birthday to Glenn Yarbrough (“Baby, The Rain Must Fall”)…

...Happy Belated Birthday to Clarence Clemons of the “E” Street Band (“Tenth Avenue Freeze Out” live from about ’78, I think)…

…Army of Anyone (“Goodbye”).

Save The FMLA

This message is from Working America...

If your parent, spouse or child gets sick, you should be able to take care of them. Makes sense, right?

That's why Congress passed the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in 1993. The federal law allows employees to balance their work and family lives by taking up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year to care for themselves or their loved ones in the times they need help most.

But now the Bush administration's Department of Labor is asking for public comments about FMLA regulations. Worker advocates believe this could be the first step toward revising the rules in a way that will hurt workers--by making it harder to take FMLA leave.

We can't let that happen. Help us collect stories about the importance of family and medical leave, so we can pass that information on to the Department of Labor.

here to make a comment now.

Here's what one Working America member had to say about family and medical leave:

"As a working woman, I have worked for 35 years caring for the elderly. I have raised a son and am now finding that my parents need more time and help with getting to medical appointments. As with many other workers in the same situation, this means missing work to help. We need laws to help us keep our jobs when illness happens." --C.J., Pennsylvania

If we don't speak out, there is a chance the Bush administration could revise FMLA regulations in a way that will hurt workers by making it harder to take family and medical leave. Please make your voice heard.

Take action now.


Working America, AFL-CIO
Jan. 12, 2007
Even though it's now a Democratic congress, that doesn't mean that we still don't have to fight Bushco every day.

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (1/12/07)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week (not a lot going on - yet - and the Senate cast no votes).

Ethics rules. Members approved, 430-1, new ethics rules (H Res 6) including ones to bar members from riding on corporate jets, accepting meals from lobbyists, and receiving gifts worth more than $50 from lobbyists, with a $100 annual limit from any source.

All Philadelphia-area members voted for the new ethics rules.
By the way, the lone “No” vote on ethics reform came from Repug Dan Burton of Indiana, and this Wikipedia article contains some interesting stuff on Burton.

In 1997, Burton was accused of demanding a $5,000 contribution from a Pakistani lobbyist. When the lobbyist was unable to raise the funds, Burton complained to the ambassador for the Bhutto government and later threatened to make sure "none of his friends or colleagues" would meet with the lobbyist or his associates.

In 1998, Burton admitted to fathering a child outside of his marriage.

That same year, his investigation of campaign fundraising irregularities during the 1996 Presidential campaign ground to a halt when it was revealed that his staff had doctored transcripts of prison phone calls made by former Clinton administration official Webster Hubbell.

In 2006, he fought against extending the Voting Rights Act for minorities.
However, to be fair, Burton does advocate for breast cancer research and has pushed for an investigation into a possible link between vaccines and autism (I’ve found Wikipedia’s articles to be generally good, but I don’t understand the reference to “the mainstream medical establishment not considering a link between mercury and autism”…that needs further explanation).

Earmarks, pay-as-you-go. Members voted, 280-152, to end the secret "earmarking" of spending items and tax breaks. The measure, part of H Res 6 (above) also restores pay-as-you-go rules that require tax cuts and spending hikes to be offset elsewhere in the budget.

A yes vote was to adopt the spending rules.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.) and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.) and H. James Saxton (R., N.J.).
Good to see most of the Repugs doing the right thing for a change (and congratulations to Patrick and Admiral Joe for starting off on the right foot with this), though Pancake Joe Pitts used this as an opportunity to add to his odious record (I hope the methane dispensers in Lancaster County who voted for this joke last November are happy with themselves).

Minority rights. The House blocked, 222-197, a Republican bid to add Democratic reform proposals from 2006 to House operating rules for the 110th Congress (H Res 6, above). Republicans sought to add a "Minority Bill of Rights" that House Democrats championed while in the minority.

A yes vote was to block introduction of last year's "minority bill of rights."

Voting yes: Andrews, Brady, Fattah, Holden, Murphy, Schwartz and Sestak.

Voting no: Castle, Dent, LoBiondo, Pitts, Saxton and Smith.

Not voting: Gerlach.
The lesson? Don’t lose elections and subsequently lose your power.

Ah, how sweet the victory…

This week. The House will vote on 9/11 Commission proposals, raising the minimum wage, expanding stem-cell research and requiring federal leverage to lower Medicare drug prices. The Senate will debate a minimum-wage hike and ethics reforms.
I’m sure that, given the House’s “100 Hours” agenda, next week’s list of votes will be more extensive.

Giving Kids A Place To Grieve

This link takes you to a news story of a truly awful occurrence that I read about first in the New York Times yesterday, and it’s going to take a minute or two for me to make my point, but I feel like I should say something.

As noted in the story, police are still investigating the cause of a fatal two-car auto accident in Freehold, N.J. yesterday in which high school students Michael Dragonetti, 17, and his passengers, James Warnock, 17, and Andrew Lundy, 16, were killed; all three were from Freehold Township. Killed in the second car was Ruth MacArthur, 68 of Laurence Harbor, NJ. Police are still investigating the accident, but according to a preliminary investigation by Monmouth County prosecutor Luis A. Valentin, “excessive speed could have been a factor in the crash.”

It goes without saying that at a horrific time like this, it’s paramount to tend to the emotional needs of the immediate families and friends of the victims and provide for decent burials, as well as providing grief counseling for the friends of the high school students traumatized by this loss as well as those of Mrs. MacArthur (and of course, to allow police to complete the investigation and determine a cause). All of that is what truly matters the most.

However, the Times story notes that Andrew Lundy had a MySpace page where his friends left condolence messages to Lundy’s family and gave vent to their emotions.

And even though it’s mundane for me to think of this (hopefully not in bad taste), I couldn’t help but remember that idiotic MySpace bill that Mike Fitzpatrick managed to pass in the U.S. House that would have shut off access to these sites during school hours, and then I remembered that “that straight-talking maverick” St. John McCain has also proposed legislation aimed at community networking sites.

Yes, I know the purported goal of these bills is to cut off access to sexual predators. But suppose these bills had been signed into law and authorities believed that someone with a criminal record had accessed Lundy’s MySpace page, and it had been shut down before the kids had a chance to leave their condolence messages? Isn’t it more important to assist in the healing process for these kids than shut off the means to do that to try and nab an online predator who may or may not exist?

Update 1/18/07: And here, sadly, is another reason hitting much closer to home (our prayers and best wishes go to Ashley Zauflik and her family and friends).

You Go, Will

By the way, Will Bunch at Attytood is too good to miss today. See, Poppy Bush was named as the chairman of the board of the National Constitution Center (pictured) in Philadelphia today, and Will sez that, because Bush The Elder was hip deep in the Iran-Contra mess, the board should “just say no” on his appointment.

(I don’t think you have to register at to get here.)

This choice is slightly attractive only because he often automatically draws a favorable comparison to his horrible, loathsome progeny.

And I get a kick out of the maniacal freepers who posted in response about how much they hate liberals and how Will’s post is so typical of the behavior they despise.

If they don’t like what Will says, fine. Don't read him. Just go play games in traffic somewhere then, OK?

The Ghosts of Repugs Past

This excellent column by the Rev. Bob Edgar (pictured) appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday (as the Inquirer story notes, Edgar served six terms as the U.S. House Representative from the 7th district in the job currently held by Joe Sestak).

Three decades appears to be long enough to forget a few things, at least for President Bush and those who've been advising him on waging war in Iraq. However, the memory of being a freshman member of Congress standing to begin a floor debate over sending more troops to Vietnam will be forever with me.

It was April 22, 1975. President Gerald R. Ford had proposed a way to help us get out of Vietnam more quickly. He wanted hundreds of millions of dollars for something called the Vietnam Humanitarian Assistance and Evacuation Act of 1975. My recollection is that the administration wanted to send 20,000 more ground troops to secure Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam.

It was a proposal many members of the House of Representatives, both Republicans and Democrats, would not approve. One of my colleagues said he didn't "want 40,000 or 50,000 American troops going back into Vietnam to take out 100,000, 500,000, a million South Vietnamese. That can happen under this bill."

It was all intimidating for me, in my first elected political office, to rise and speak on the House floor to challenge the president. But that was what I had been elected to do, and this was a moment when it was the constitutional duty of the legislative branch to check the executive branch of our government.

I was 31 and in office just four months. I had just been elected the previous November, along with 48 other new Democrats, because Americans didn't like the status quo. They wanted a government they could trust. They wanted government officials truly to represent them in Washington.

But the responsibility of the office, the widespread opposition to the war, and the support of Tip O'Neill, Massachusetts Democrat and the House majority leader, all combined to give me a voice on the House floor that began nearly 24 hours of very spirited debate. Occasionally, O'Neill came to the floor to whisper suggestions of legislative maneuvers about which I had no clue. Before my election to Congress, my main training had been as a minister, and I must admit the image of David and Goliath did cross my mind that day.

We lost vote after vote on substitution amendments. But, at last, the fall of Saigon made Ford's request a lost cause. Many of my colleagues were committed to exercising the check and balance of the legislative branch on the executive branch. We were determined not to allow any more money to be spent on more troops for a war we were not winning.

It is somewhat ironic that, on that same day, April 22, 1975, an official White House photograph captured the architects of the proposed troop surge. President Ford is seated behind his desk in the Oval Office. He is conferring with his chief of staff, Donald Rumsfeld, and his deputy, Dick Cheney.

Fast-forward 32 years. We are hearing the same talk. We are hearing the same reasoning that more troops will help us get out of a war thousands of miles away.

We have just seen a new Congress sworn in. Many say voters spoke loudly last November against the status quo. In 1975, the 49 of us were called "Watergate babies," referring to the crimes that brought down the Nixon administration. Voters then were tired of being lied to, and wanted desperately to get our troops home from the war in Southeast Asia.

The architects of the waning days of the Vietnam War are many of the same planners who pushed our troops into the current war in Iraq. Apparently history has taught them nothing.

History, however, apparently was not lost on the American voters last November. I suspect it will likely not be lost on their representatives in the 110th Congress. I suspect those elected by the people will not approve spending any more tax dollars to extend another unpopular, ill-planned and shortsighted war.
Amen, Reverend.

And by the way, Yahoo News via Refdesk notes the following:

(On this date) in 1966, President Johnson said in his State of the Union address that the U.S. should stay in South Vietnam until Communist aggression there was ended.

Somewhere, Bill Moyers Is Smiling

Even though Dubya renominated him to head the Broadcasting Board of Governors which oversees the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Tomlinson decided to step down anyway (and, with a pissy attitude right to the very end, Tomlinson whines about “a criminalization of political differences").

By the way, the account in the Moonie Times is a little disingenuous – no surprise, I know; Tomlinson isn’t leaving voluntarily, having barely survived an attempt by the BBG board to oust him last August.

According to a New York Times article cited in this recent Smirking Chimp post by Bill Berkowitz, Tomlinson “had used his office to run a horse-racing operation and that he had improperly put a friend on the payroll," among other nonsense.

Here's more...
The BBG vote on Tomlinson's removal was taken after the three Democrats on the board -- Joaquin F. Blaya, D. Jeffrey Hirschberg and Edward E. Kaufman -- offered two resolutions: One called for Tomlinson's "resignation" as chairman "during a continuing inquiry [while] the other sought to curtail his authority sharply.
So, with the departure of Tomlinson, I thought it best to review this cretin’s past misdeeds here and celebrate a fleeting moment when a Bushco bottom-feeder is served by something approximating justice (though we’ll find out if more legal fun with Tomlinson is coming down the road – and don’t worry; I’ll be watching for it).

And by the way, the "Private Profit For Public Trust" post contains the link to the Moyers speech that more or less explains the title.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Thursday Videos

Happy belated 90th Birthday to Jerry Wexler, one of the greatest music producers of them all, employed by Atlantic Records (one of his acts was The Drifters, who perform "Saturday Night At The Movies" from 1965; kind of funny the way it seems to come around twice and then fade - but hey, nice shoes, guys)...

...and Jim Croce would have been 63 ("Operator," accompanied by Maury Muehleisen of course).

Still No Census, No Feeling

I’m glad I could work in that Three Stooges reference again (this appeared on the New York Times Editorial page on Tuesday).

I’ll let the Times’ description of this utterly unbelievable circumstance (but predictable for Bushco) speak for itself.

Last November, the director of the Census Bureau, C. Louis Kincannon, and the deputy director, Hermann Habermann, abruptly decided to quit, acknowledging tensions with their bosses in the Bush administration but giving no other details. Both men are statisticians who had served in their positions since 2002 and, before that, had decades of experience as civil servants.

The leadership problems – on top of severe budget cuts – threaten to throw the preparations for the 2010 census into disarray. At stake is the accuracy of the next count and, with it, the legitimacy of important decisions that are rooted in the census, including the drawing of electoral districts and the allocation of government resources.

Various steps must be taken now to ensure an accurate count, starting with an investigation by the committees that oversee the bureau – Oversight and Government Reform in the House, and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs in the Senate – into why the men quit. This will clear up a distracting mystery and is necessary to ensure that the new directors do not confront the same obstacles.

Equally important, the appropriations committees in the House and Senate must quickly act to restore the roughly $50 million cut by the previous Congress from President Bush’s 2007 budget request for the bureau. Otherwise, the agency may have to forgo using hand-held computers for the next census, relying instead on paper and pencil, which is less accurate and would probably be more expensive in the long run because of its inefficiency.

An alternative and equally unacceptable way to cut costs would be to delay the economic census, which is currently conducted every five years and which serves as the benchmark for dozens of other government surveys, including reports on inflation, construction activity and retail sales.

Carlos Gutierrez, the secretary of commerce, should be pounding the tables in Congress to get this money; failure to do so would suggest that the administration is trying to undermine the census. For his part, Mr. Bush must swiftly nominate a new director – a nonpartisan, professional statistician with solid management experience.

Mr. Kincannon has graciously agreed to remain until his replacement is confirmed, but moving forward requires a new director. For the deputy director position, administration officials must resist any temptation to make a political appointment and should choose instead a top-notch statistician from the bureau’s career ranks.
I applaud the Times for bringing attention to this mundane but highly important issue, but to think that this administration would do anything without political considerations is as realistic as asking the paper to hire back Jayson Blair as managing editor.

This Ford Is A Lemon Too

You could argue that no Democratic candidate could have won the Senate race in Tennessee last year for the seat vacated by Bill “Cat Killer” Frist, and I don’t know if that would have been wrong. You could argue that Bob Corker had been prepped for battle by a tough Repug primary in that state. And you could argue that any Democrat running in that state (especially someone who is African American) should have expected a low, disgusting blow like the ad with the blonde party girl asking him to call her because that sort of thing works there (insert your snark here).

But to me, Harold Ford has never presented himself as anything more than a Repug-lite with his support of permanently repealing the estate tax, amending the Constitution to ban flag burning and sealing the border with Mexico, among other loony stands. You should stand or fall based on what you’re supposed to be, and only a Democrat-in-name-only would hold Ford’s positions (paging Joe Lieberman…and if that isn’t a cut, I don’t know what is).

So to me, Ford is absolutely the perfect choice to head the Democratic Leadership Council, since that organization stands for nothing whatsoever that I support (and my guess is that they’re already working on the first draft of their speech pledging everlasting fealty to Hillary Clinton, the presumptive – in their minds – Democratic nominee for president next year).

And by the way, even though Kos did not have good things to say about Tom Vilsack (admittedly, he is a long shot for the Democratic presidential nomination), at least he, along with John Edwards, has stood up to the “surge and escalation” proposed by Dubya for Iraq.

The best news about having Ford head the DLC is that this will kill any possibility of Ford taking over the Democratic National Committee, an utterly ridiculous notion put forward by James Carville; I honestly thought he knew better.

Save The Day For Bristol Bay

While we are quite rightly preoccupied with Dubya and the Iraq war, it should be noted that our illustrious red state president recently lifted a drilling ban in Alaska’s Bristol Bay, under the pressure of Repug Senator Ted Stevens (though I doubt Dubya had to be coerced on this one).

As noted in this Seattle Times article…

The area is a major fishing ground for North Pacific fleets, including many crab, salmon, pollock and cod vessels that are based in Puget Sound. The bay also supports an abundance of wildlife, including major seabird populations and marine mammals that include the endangered North Pacific right whale.

The bay is a part of the Bering Sea, notorious for winter storms with high winds and high seas that could increase the risks of a major oil spill.

"Why risk ruining a billion-dollar fishery, a valuable sport-hunting and fishing industry, a critical resource for Native Alaskans and one of the most important places for marine wildlife populations in the Bering Sea?" asked Bill Eichbaum, managing director and vice president of the marine portfolio at World Wildlife Fund.
This takes you to an online petition you can sign to do something about it (yes – like you also I’m sure, I get inundated with petitions to sign in order to get Dubya to try and do the right thing, and he almost never does without a threat of some kind, but when it comes to the environment, the importance of activism can’t be overstated).

And as you can read here, there is just about nothing Ted Stevens wouldn’t do to trash the environment so he can make a buck.

No Bridge To Tal Afar

Before I get to the part of this post mentioned in the title, I want to point out some other stuff.

Like many of you, I’m currently wading through the flotsam of Dubya’s speech last night in which he has pledged to send over 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. Since I can’t stomach watching or listening to this man, I navigated to the White House web site to read the transcript.

As I read this latest “plan for victory” filled with the usual vague, indefinite spin, I realize that it would take several days to properly examine and refute these too-little-way-too-late promises. However, one sentence hit me like a lightning bolt.

America's men and women in uniform took away al Qaeda's safe haven in Afghanistan -- and we will not allow them to re-establish it in Iraq.
Glenn Greenwald categorically destroys this lie here.

And by the way, I want to emphasize that what Dubya said is, in fact, a lie. It’s not a misstatement of fact or supposition or an erroneous claim based on bad intelligence.

It’s a lie.

And more than any other reason, that is why Dubya’s Iraq war has been such a horrible failure. It was a fundamentally flawed enterprise from its inception because he has never told us the truth (to say nothing of the legion of Repug and Dem politicos and media mongrels that are guilty of the same thing).

I just want to step back a bit and mention that I’m reading Bob Woodward’s “State of Denial” (at my typically glacial pace, so don’t expect an “omnibus” post on it anytime soon), and what comes across over and over about Dubya is the stunning arrogance and venality of this man. Yes, I know we’ve been inflicted with him for going on seven years now (ugh) and we know this too well, but only someone with this ragingly-out-of-control sense of self importance could concoct these Iraq fantasies and think they may actually come to pass.

And speaking of media mongrels (getting to the main point here), Atrios noted this exchange between Wolf Blitzer and Mary Matalin, in which Matalin said that Tal Afar is an example of Dubya’s “clear, hold, and rebuild strategy.”

Based on what I’ve read, I've come to think of Tal Afar as Iraq in a microcosm, rightly or wrongly.

Col. H.R. McMaster and Lt. Col Chris Hickey, as noted here, played a critical role in helping to restore something approximating order in Tal Afar, but unfortunately, chaos descended once more when McMaster’s Third Cavalry was replaced by a brigade of the First Armored Division, as noted here.

Don’t think for a second, by the way, that I’m blaming the First Armored Division for Tal Afar’s return to what you could consider a state of anarchy. I’m just pointing out that the only way you could ever hope to bring order to Iraq (or anything remotely like it) is to embed our forces for a long period of time in Anbar province or any other region containing the majority of the population.

And at this point, neither I nor the majority of the people of this country want to do that any more.

And I don’t want to hear scolding such as that from David Brooks in the New York Times this morning over that expressed wish (via a slam at the Democrats for “not having a plan,” of course). We have decided that the cost in life and limb to our service people and innocent Iraqis is no longer worth it (assuming it ever really was to begin with).

Last November, we told Dubya that we no longer trust him to conduct his war with any competency. And all the speeches in the world will never change that.

And by the way, I should point out here the class move by our corporate media in refusing to air Sen. Dick Durbin’s response.

And by the way (again), Eason Jordan has an interesting response to Dubya's speech here (haven't read through all of it yet), and Juan Cole makes good points also (via The Daily Kos).

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Tuesday Videos

Happy 66th Birthday to Joan Baez ("Diamonds And Rust," a song about that Zimmerman fellow of course)...

...and in recognition of the birthday of another rock icon (Jimmy Page), here's "Since I've Been Loving You" (I don't know how this qualifies as an "Unplugged" session, but it doesn't matter...I don't know anyone else who could pull off the blues with string accompaniment other than Led Zeppelin; maybe Cream also, a group about which I plan to say more in a few days and offer an explanation for the ad in the right column - stay tuned).

By the way, it looks like light-to-no posting tomorrow - we'll see.

More Old Media Wheezing On Iraq

After reading this, I can’t believe that the Philadelphia Inquirer doesn’t understand why it’s experiencing a loss in readership and ad revenue.

Even though this originated from McClatchy, the Inquirer still chose to publish it on Sunday (and please keep in mind that, somehow, this is supposed to be considered “hard news”).

Democrats now face biggest hurdle: Iraq

The party has offered no concrete proposal to end the war. That could anger its liberal base, which has been demanding action to stop the bloodshed.
Before the story even starts, I have a problem with the headline. Based on this CNN quick vote, I would say that a lot more people besides the “liberal base” of the Democratic Party want to see the Iraq travesty brought to an end.

By Steven Thomma
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON - As the applause of their first days in power fades, Democrats face the daunting reality that their reign probably will be judged not on easy tasks such as raising the minimum wage, but on how they handle the Iraq war, an issue that divides their party and defies easy solution.
First of all, who said that raising the minimum wage would be an “easy” issue? Are you parroting George Will, who of course thinks that the minimum wage should be zero?

(Actually, George may be onto something with his theory of letting “the market” determine how important one’s job is perceived to be by translating that into a dollar wage. I’d like to see that applied to him, because, in that department, I’m sure he’s sinking like the proverbial stone.)

And the whole “division” over the Iraq war is a pretty laughable non-issue at this point, but of course that fits well into the “irascible, childish Democrats not letting The Decider do his job” narrative.

Democratic leaders oppose President Bush's expected escalation of the war. They urge instead a U.S. troop withdrawal starting in four to six months. And they'll conduct oversight hearings on Iraq in Congress, starting Wednesday in the Senate and Jan. 17 in the House of Representatives.
Is there a problem here?

But Iraq isn't part of their much-ballyhooed agenda for their first 100 hours of business, even though 3 out of 4 Americans call it their top priority for the government and despite it's being a major reason for the Democrats' takeover of Congress.
I purposely left the “it’s” typo in, by the way, just because I’m in a snotty mood at the moment over this (and I got a kick out of “’much-ballyhoed’ against the backdrop of the ‘fading applause’” fiction).

So “three out of four Americans” call Iraq the top priority, huh? And, as that CNN Quick Vote I keep harping back to states, 81 percent of the people of this country don’t think additional troops will do anything about the violence.

And how exactly does all of this represent “division”?

The Democrats have offered no concrete proposal to end the war.
Define “concrete proposal?” Define “end the war?”

As noted here, Ted Kennedy is going to do all he can to keep Dubya from escalating the war. That sounds pretty concrete to me, and definitely a good first start. And if the vast majority of the people of this country didn’t trust the Democrats to do a better job than the Republicans (how could they have done any worse?), then they wouldn’t have won Congress on November 7th, and Dubya’s approval numbers probably would have broken the 30-percent ceiling by now.

And since Steven Thomma or whoever edited this dreck didn’t research what either Patrick Murphy, John Murtha or John Kerry have been proposing for Iraq before they made this ridiculous statement, then I won’t bother to do their work for them.

The only hope of ending the Iraq war rests in a political solution, not a military one. The vast majority of the people of this country have known that for some time, notwithstanding Dubya and some clueless journalists.

That could anger the party's liberal base, which demands action to end the war. At the same time, bowing to that base could threaten the party's broader appeal.
What the hell does “broader appeal” mean? Again, 81 percent sounds pretty “broad” to me.

Democratic leaders say there is little they can do directly to end the war. They note that Bush has the power as commander-in-chief to send troops where he will and that he would veto any legislation to withdraw troops.

"To pretend," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said, "that we could deal with that in the first 100 hours would be unrealistic and dishonest."
Good for Hoyer – he’s right, though it will have to be addressed PDQ after that, and the Dems know it.

Rather, Democrats hope their opposition to a "surge" in troop levels plus the publicity of televised hearings will satisfy their base while putting more pressure on Bush to end the war.
Satisfying a “base” isn’t the issue here. At this point, the “base” is the majority of this country (and somehow I think putting surge in quotes is an acknowledgement even by Thomma that what it really means is escalation).

Concerns about satisfying a "base" are ridiculous here, but this serves as a launching point to make this article even more ridiculous, if you can believe that.

"The public has spoken. The polls are very clear," said Rep. John P. Murtha (D., Pa.), who'll open the House hearings. "The policy has to be changed."

Given their reluctance to force that change now…
Here go those “weak-kneed, reluctant” Democrats again (so “divided” and all that, even though Hoyer just said why they’re not going to tackle Iraq in the first 100 hours)…

…Democratic leaders could be hoping to build a chain reaction. Their hearings could drive an already disgruntled public to demand stronger action, which then could embolden the Democratic-led Congress to use its power of the purse to insist that money for the troops be used to pull them out of Iraq.
OK, so…the Dems are going to launch hearings on the Iraq war…to get the public to “demand action” even though it did that pretty thoroughly on November 7th…to “embolden” a Democratic congress that has already stated what it plans to do…so that it uses its power of the purse…to get Dubya to pull troops out of Iraq…even though Dubya has already said that he has no intention of withdrawing anyone and plans only to escalate.

That is perhaps the most confusing bit of editorializing that I have ever read in what purports to be a “news” story (which, by the way, isn’t “news” about Iraq at all, but just commentary on some kind of “metadata” that was received from God knows where).

And as I said, this “story” is about to get even more ridiculous.

The antiwar left doesn't want to wait.

About two dozen war protesters disrupted a Democratic news conference on ethics reform last week, chanting, "Troops out now."

Emboldened by the primary defeat of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, though he went on to win the November election as an independent, antiwar liberals also warn of more primary challenges to those who balk at ending the war.

"It could get very nasty within the party," said Tom Matzzie, the Washington director of the liberal Political Action. "We have a presidential-nomination fight coming up. And we have a revived Democratic grassroots that feels confident challenging Democrats in primaries."

He said he welcomed Democratic opposition to the troop surge, as well as hearings. But he pressed for more forceful action, such as using Congress' power over spending or the War Powers Act to force a withdrawal.

"The grassroots wants to see opposition to escalation, but we're not going to be overly patient if there's no action on an exit," he said. "Oversight is needed. But that's not enough. Congress needs to force a change in U.S.-Iraq policy."
With all due respect to Tom Mattzie, this is not the time to be vocal about trying to turn out Democratic politicians (but of course, quoting him helps cultivate the “berserk left” theme, even though this is “in play.”) The Democrats have to be granted time to try and accomplish something.

Angering their base is risky for Democrats. But appearing captive to it also carries risks, as Republicans learned last year when they invited a public backlash by bowing to Christian conservatives in the case of Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged Florida woman.
Oh mah gawd…

If anyone can explain to me what the Terri Schiavo fiasco (who was a lot worse off than being merely “brain damaged,” by the way) has to do with our troops fighting, suffering and dying in Iraq, I would be extremely interested in finding out.

"Both parties have a base that is militant and angry, and they're very demanding," said Dick Armey, the former Republican House majority leader.

"And they're going to show up constantly and demand that each party conduct the affairs of the House in a manner to appease that militant angry base. If you do that, as the Republicans did in some instances, you make yourself less attractive to a broad spectrum of voters."
"Broad spectrum" and "broader appeal" are code phrases by the way which mean, in essence based on how they're used here, that the Dems should collectively sit down and STFU, if you catch my drift.

Am I the only one who thinks there’s something wrong when the Inquirer feels that it can quote someone like Dick “Barney Fag” Armey and consider him an objective source about anything?

Rest assured, Bruce Toll and Brian Tierney of Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., that your dwindling readership has thoroughly unmasked you as the bought-and-paid-for conservative hacks that you are based on nonsense like this, and your cheap attempts to use this once-proud newspaper to serve as your personal house organ is the main reason above all others why it is dying an inch at a time.

And by the way, our troops deserve much better reporting than this.

Money Left To Swat The Mosquito?

As we know, Patrick Murphy recently helped pass the so-called “PAYGO” rule in Congress, which, as stated here, would require new tax cut programs to be paid for with other tax increases or cuts in spending (Murphy was one of the co-sponsors).

While I definitely applaud PAYGO, I should point out what will likely be one of its first tests, and that is the continued funding of the campaign to fight malaria in Africa by providing bed netting such as the type in the photo (Ralph Nader has more in this Counter Punch article - continually trying to overlook his role from November 2000 and not create negative energy).

This is perhaps a historic post on my part because I’m actually going to give Dubya credit for doing something right, though this wouldn’t even be happening if it weren’t for the high-profile rock star pleadings and influence exertion of Bono. However, fair is fair.

The problem is that, while the now-dead-and-buried Repug congress was busy with tax cut giveaways to their pals in the energy, pharma and financial services industries, they underfunded the proposed $1.2 billion requested by Dubya to the tune of $30 million. And in my perhaps paranoid suspicions, I’m wondering why President Brainless started making a big show of providing funding for more countries in Africa to fight malaria last December after the Repugs had lost Congress.

Would I be too craven if I suggested that Dubya spotted an opportunity to put pressure on Dems to provide the funding that the Repugs didn’t and make political hay out of it (look how those “limousine liberals” are helping to kill the poor in Africa…more hypocrisy)?

I realize that I would have to be truly heartless to suggest that we shouldn’t fund this important cause just to balance some numbers. And that’s one reason why I won’t do that.

Another reason is because we have it in our power to provide the funds by reinstituting the full amount of the estate tax and saving the cost of providing for our troops in Iraq when we bring them home (and speaking of that, I would suggest Dubya study the results of this CNN quick vote yesterday before he makes any more speeches about “surge and escalation”).

Monday, January 08, 2007

Monday Videos

Shinedown ("Heroes" - not quite all have become ghosts)...

Candlebox ("Far Behind")...

Happy 60th Birthday (egads!) to David Bowie ("Let's Dance," sort of reprising the "Thin White Duke" thing here, with a kickass solo by Stevie Ray Vaughan - I believe you actually saw him playing guitar instead of Bowie in the extended version of this video)...

...and of course, "The King" would have been 72 today ("Little Sister/Get Back" - "let's end that sonofagun right there").

Dems, Don't Dread Fred

I predicted (re: guessed) that Bushco was showing the door to Harriet Miers because they wanted someone more combative in the role of White House legal counsel.

Enter Fred Fielding, as established of a partisan Washington Repug mouthpiece as they come (and speaking of dogs, Bushco tossed a bone to Mike Allen, its stenographic poodle, and gave him the exclusive here).

I located an interview that The Washington Lawyer magazine conducted with Friendly in an attempt to figure out what he’ll do on behalf of Bushco besides “stonewall” and argue, and I thought this excerpt was interesting:

TWL: After you left the Reagan White House, and the Iran-contra matter broke, were you surprised at how quickly the word impeachment started to be bandied about?

FFF: It became evident to me that there was a very serious political element at work. I know that the term impeachment was bandied about. I do not believe, however, that the word was used with the ferocity it was more recently or that it was in the Nixon years.

There has been a whole sea change in politics in the last 30 or 40 years. There has been a breakdown in comity. It makes relationships especially difficult if you have opposite parties on each end of Pennsylvania Avenue. We have three branches of government, but powers are shared rather than exclusive. Given this reality, governance requires comity. defines comity as “an atmosphere of social harmony.” Let’s see how much of that transpires over the next few months as the Dems try to hold Dubya accountable for a change, Fielding fires back and our corporate media “tut tuts” in indignation over those impertinent Democrats who refuse to let Dubya do whatever he wants (see, with Hillary Clinton running for president, the REAL story to them will be their Broderesque intrusions into the state of the Clintons’ marriage, as well as whether or not Barack Hussein Obama sniffed cocaine after all or how much money John Edwards made as a trial lawyer).

Also, I realize this doesn’t have anything to do with Fred Fielding’s legal ability, but I simply had to share this quote with you.

TWL: People have described (President Reagan, referring to Iran-Contra again) as being almost obsessed with the hostages in Lebanon. Did you get that sense?

FFF: He was incensed and outraged when the CIA station chief in Lebanon was murdered, and his heart was broken when the bombing at the Marine barracks in Beirut killed 260 Marines. He understood, however, that these things happen.
“These things happen,” huh? Yep, they do…when you don’t fortify your barricades properly and build the marine compound in the middle of an air strip (and I thought Atrios made a good point about the bombing versus other catastrophes involving our troops here).

Even though this is a freeper site (Censure Murtha? Please…), I’m going to link to it so, in the highly unlikely event that Fielding actually reads this post, he can learn more about the 241 service people who died that day because “these things happen.”

After reading that sentence with the Iraq horror fresh in my mind as well as many other people’s, I have to wonder why on earth anyone with a family member or friend in the military would ever vote for the Republican Party again.

Blame The Media For This Too

It’s more “water wet, sky blue” time, boys and girls.

As part of Dubya’s “No Way Forward,” it looks like he’s going to propose “benchmarks,” according to the New York Times…

The newspaper cited senior administration officials as saying that the goals include steps to draw more Sunnis into the Iraqi political process and to finalize a measure on the distribution of oil revenue.
Always about the oil first, last and in-between, regardless of the body count…

And “benchmarks,” huh? Didn’t that squinty-eyed blowhard who, more than any other living soul, is responsible for the carnage of Iraq laugh off the idea of “benchmarks” some time ago, as noted here?

And I found this interesting tidbit in the Sunday Parade Magazine, of all places…

Many of Iraq’s top politicians don’t live in Iraq anymore. Former prime ministers, cabinet members and even an heir to the throne have left the chaos of Iraq for the comfort of Britain. Adnan Pachachi, who headed Iraq’s governing council, now splits his time between London’s Chelsea district and a home in Abu Dhabi. Iyad Allawi, the recent prime minister, told a British newspaper that Iraq’s situation is “alarming and dangerous.” He’s living in a London suburb. Another former prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, also is living with his family in England.
In fact, the situation in Iraq is so “alarming and dangerous” that they got the hell out, right?

How are the expatriates managing? Often quite nicely. Some who served in the Iraqi interim government – handpicked by the U.S. to replace administrator Paul Bremer – looted the Iraqi treasury to maintain lavish homes abroad. An Iraqi judge estimates that up to $2.3 billion was stolen. “Individuals in the interim government used their 10 months in office to massively enrich themselves,” Laurie Mylroie, an Iraq expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told us. “This is well known – and resented – among Iraqis.”
Good thing for Dubya that AEI found out about this so they could “sweep it under the rug.” Heaven forbid that a legitimate news agency had found out, or else it would have been properly reported.

Increasingly, Iraqi citizens also are voting with their feet: At least 1.5 million have already left, and about 3,000 more leave each day.
I think our good buddy Tony Blair ought to send a few of these bottom-feeders packing, and I would guess that they’d find a way to make do. I have a feeling they’re used to being “on the lam” anyway.

So it sounds like everyone is leaving except the ones who matter to us the most.


No Water Over The Dam

As I traveled over the Scudder Falls Bridge between PA and New Jersey this morning, I noticed a substantial rise in the Delaware River from recent heavy rains and hoped that residents who have been victimized by recent flooding will be spared further damage to their property.

That makes this Guest Opinion in the Bucks County Courier Times by former U.S. Representative Peter Kostmayer all the more important, published on December 30th (Kostmayer is also a senior EPA official and president of Population Connection, an organization formerly known as Zero Population Growth).

By the way, if Kostmayer seems a bit strident here, I’m sure it’s because he actually knows what he’s talking about.

Last spring, the Courier Times editorialized that the Tocks Island Dam, killed by Congress in 1978, should be reconsidered. Wrong.

The Courier said some might view my bill that killed the Tocks Island Dam and designated the 114 miles of the river as protected from all development under the federal Wild and Scenic Law “as one of Kostmayer’s biggest mistakes.” Wrong again. Here’s why.

Construction of the dam on the upper Delaware would cost $1.5 billion, according to the Delaware River Basin Commission. Ever hear of cost overruns for big government construction projects? With cost overruns, litigious delays and the passage of time it would more likely cost twice that - $3 billion.

According to the commission, that will result in a “small impact.” That’s a lot of money for a little impact. Flood stage at Trenton is 20 feet, somewhat lower at Yardley. The worst floods in recent history, those that occurred in 1955, brought the river to 28.6 feet. Tocks would reduce that, but not below flood stage. Better to ban all new construction on the flood plain starting now. All construction. And no expansions of existing structures.

Banning development on the flood plain is $3 billion cheaper than building a dam and protects open space at the same time. Much of the flood plain is rural and open and green. Let the flood plain, free of all structures, flood. But what about what’s already there? What about places that can’t be moved, like New Hope and Morrisville and the towns on the other side of the river?

A study should be made of property that can be bought and preserved as open space by the federal government. Such a proposal is not without precedent. When Tocks was first proposed, the federal government began buying up land that was to be flooded by the lake the dam would have created. That land is now part of the National Recreation Area. We can’t buy everything.

For those who remain, whose homes and businesses are in danger, the government (Which wrongly allowed building on the flood plain to begin with) should insure their properties with low cost insurance that otherwise might not be available. Even in areas away from the flood plain, development has made too much of the land impervious to runoff, increasing the likelihood of flooding.

The river isn’t the problem, we are. Ban construction on the flood plain, control development in areas just beyond the plain itself through zoning that recognizes that once the land is covered with shopping centers the soil doesn’t absorb the water anymore!

River towns like New Hope and Lambertville, Morrisville and Trenton and all the others large and small, up and down the Delaware must have hazard mitigation plans, which will qualify them for FEMA mitigation grants. Once a plan is in place and funding provided, towns hard on the river’s edge that have been there since before the American Revolution can qualify for structural projects to limit damage in addition to voluntary elevations, relocations and voluntary buyouts.

If I thought the dam would stop flooding I’d be for it. Who wouldn’t? The question is a simple one. What’s the best way to protect the lives and property of those who live on the river’s edge or nearby? People would like to believe the dam will bring an end to flooding. It won’t. Facts are stubborn things and as New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine’s task force he named to study Delaware River flooding last year said, “the flood plain should be expected to flood.” That’s why they call it a flood plain.

The Corzine report said, “No set of measures, alone or in combination will stop or eliminate flooding in the Delaware River flood plain.” If flooding is a fact of life we need to find the best ways to protect the lives and property of those who live along the river. Smaller dams on the Delaware’s tributaries from the big ones like the Lehigh, to middle-sized ones like the Neshaminy to the smallest like the Tinicum and Tohickon creeks (also given federal protection in my 1978 bill) can control the massive flow of water pouring into the main stem of the Delaware like a faucet being turned on and off making unnecessary the construction of a $3 billion pork barrel project upstream.

Leave the Delaware alone. Don’t dam it or build another bridge across it or a shopping center alongside it. Fight to keep it what it is, the longest stretch of un-dammed river protected by federal law east of the Mississippi.

I was right in 1978. I’m right in 2006.
I understand Kostmayer’s frustration and I respect it, but as much as I’d like to avoid any further construction along the river also, I should point out we need to plan for another bridge between PA and New Jersey in the Bucks County area due to the volume of vehicular traffic. Of course, the alternative is to actually get more serious about mass transit, but since apparently no one wants to go there (or consider mass telecommuting), then we have to look at the option of another bridge.

I’m glad Patrick Murphy will have a chance to revisit this issue; I hope he plans to secure FEMA funding so people living by the river or running businesses can do what they can to protect themselves. I know this involves dealing with the agency run by Mike “City of Louisiana” Chertoff, but at least this is an attempt at an actual solution as opposed to Mike Fitzpatrick’s “cotton candy” PR idea of trying to get New York City to lower its reservoir capacity to 85 percent (which, as noted previously, would likely result in decreasing water onto people’s property by about one inch).

I think Kostmayer is basically right, though (and I wish I had a nickel for every meeting I’ve ever attended where a residential or commercial developer said they were going to build some kind of drainage basin to capture runoff, and I’ve never seen that materialize once).

Pave over the flood plain, and it never drains again. That’s it.

A Test-y Milestone

According to this USA Today story, today marks the five-year anniversary of the No Child Left Behind law signed by Dubya. The story discusses the Stanton Elementary School in Philadelphia, which could be considered sort of a success story, as noted here…

At its simplest, the law aims to improve the basic skills of the nation's public school children, particularly poor and minority students.

At Stanton, it seems to have made a difference. In 2003, fewer than two in 10 kids here met state reading standards; by 2005, about seven in 10 did.
Fair enough. But how are the kids responding elsewhere? Well, in Rockingham County, N.C., it’s a different story…

Dianne Campbell, director of testing and accountability, told the American School Board Journal in 2003 that administrators discard as many as 20 test booklets on exam days because children vomit on them.
To get young children so upset about testing that they actually spew all over a test booklet is grotesque. And as far as the teachers are concerned…

After five years, the law has even spawned an online petition that, as of Sunday, had about 22,500 signatures of people urging Congress to repeal it.

Along with his signature, teacher Mark Quig-Hartman of Vallejo, Calif., said: "I am well on my way to becoming an embittered and mediocre teacher who heretofore considered teaching to be a profession, not a job. I once loved what I did. I do not now, nor do my students; school has become a rather grim and joyless place for all."

And if you think it's just teachers who complain, think again: 2006 saw even the law's most ardent supporters complaining, but for a very different reason: They say states and school districts game the system by lowering their standards.
And how exactly can you “game the system”?

Well, one way is to do what former Houston School Superintendent (and first Bushco Secretary of Education) Rod Paige did, and that is to lie about the dropout rate of a school that was supposedly part of the “Texas Miracle” (NLCB came from Texas, of course, a state which Molly Ivins has referred to as “the breeding ground of bad government”).

This CBS News link has more information…

All in all, 463 kids left Sharpstown High School (in 2001), for a variety of reasons. The school reported zero dropouts, but dozens of the students did just that. School officials hid that fact by classifying, or coding, them as leaving for acceptable reasons: transferring to another school, or returning to their native country.

“That’s how you get to zero dropouts. By assigning codes that say, ‘Well, this student, you know, went to another school. He did this or that.’ And basically, all 463 students disappeared. And the school reported zero dropouts for the year,” says (Robert) Kimball (former Asst. principal at Sharpstown H.S.). “They were not counted as dropouts, so the school had an outstanding record.”
Another way to maintain NCLB funding and make sure the school is listed as “performing” is to make kids repeat a failing class, which would not be a big deal except for the law’s stringent testing requirements. In that regard, the CBS News article tells the story of Perla Arredondo, a Houston school student…

Houston also won national acclaim for raising the average scores on a statewide achievement test that was given to 10th graders. Principals were judged on how well their students did on the test.

But at Houston schools, Kimball says, principals taught addition by subtraction: They raised average test scores by keeping low-performing kids from taking the test. And in some cases, that meant keeping kids from getting to the 10th grade at all.

“What the schools did, and what Sharpstown High School did, they said, ‘OK, you cannot go to the 10th grade unless you pass all these courses in the 9th grade,” says Kimball.

What's wrong with that? Wouldn't this help students get the basics down before moving on?

“Because you failed algebra, you may be in the ninth grade three years, until you pass the course. But that’s not a social promotion if you just allowed the student to go to 10th grade, just you know, let him take algebra again, and work on it there.”

That’s just what happened to Perla Arredondo. She passed all her courses in ninth grade, but was then told she had to repeat the same grade and the same courses.

“I went to my counselor’s office, and I told her, ‘You’re giving me the wrong classes, because I already passed ‘em,” says Perla. “So she said, ‘Don’t worry about it. I know what I’m doing. That’s my job.’”

Perla spent three years in the ninth grade. She failed algebra, but passed it in summer school. Finally, she was promoted – right past 10th grade and that important test -- and into the 11th. Without enough credits to graduate, Perla dropped out. While she worked as a cashier, a secretary, and a waitress, she learned an important lesson: “I know I can’t get a good job without a high school diploma. You know? I can get a job as a waitress. I mean, and I don’t wanna be doing that all my life.”

Why? “For my dad and mom. You know, I wanna give ‘em, I want them to be proud, you know,” says Perla. “That’s another thing I want. I want them to be, you know, proud of what I am.”
In the USA Today article, Jack Jennings of the Center of Education Policy in Washington, D.C. was quoted as saying that “I don’t think you can go into a teacher meeting in this country without somebody bringing up NCLB.”

Jennings also noted the following (from this article in The Christian Science Monitor)…

"There is a palpable increase in the level of dissatisfaction that I see, but it's not being translated into legislation in Congress," says (Jennings). "There's really a disjuncture here between a growing dissatisfaction and the lack of a political response."
And by the way, concerning the USA Today story, I don’t see how something that has produced “a palpable increase in the level of dissatisfaction” can be considered “a truly bipartisan success.”

And how exactly can you fail under NCLB, by the way?

This column from Martin Frost, a former Democratic member of congress from Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, describes the role played by "subgroups" in NCLB testing:

While we clearly want elementary students to improve their math and reading skills, the legislation may be unrealistic in expecting that every single student achieve at grade level in every single school. Students have differing abilities and some may never reach grade level. Is an otherwise excellent school to be condemned as a failure if a few students cannot pass a standardized test (as in the case of Perla Arredondo)?

It is equally unfair that many outstanding schools are faced with the inflexible requirement that each subgroup within a school must meet the specified standard each year between now and 2014. Subgroups (minimum numbers for which are determined on the state level and can in some instances be quite small) include the following: African-American, American Indian, Asian/Pacific Islander, English Language Learners (ELI), Socio-Economic Status, Hispanic, Special Education and White.
And if a subgroup fails to make “Adequate Yearly Progress” or AYP, the entire school can be affected by the subgroup. This happened in Prince William County in Virginia, as noted in the USA Today story, as noted in this excerpt…

”It really has brought the Hounds of Hell down on the schools of Prince William County," says Betsie Fobes, a recently retired eighth-grade algebra and pre-algebra teacher at Parkside Middle School in Manassas, Va. "This AYP business is just killing us — absolutely killing us."

Parkside, which has seen a large Latino influx, didn't meet its goals two years in a row — so now teachers must attend twice-weekly meetings, often focused on testing. They've built in a tutorial period, and even secretaries do their share of tutoring.

"The entire school is revolving pretty much around these kids who fit into these subgroups," Fobes says.
Does that sound like progress to you, cramming math and reading into our kids so they can regurgitate it as efficiently as possible to pass tests so schools can maintain funding? And doing so at the expense of subjects like science and history?

To me, it sounds like a recipe for disaster. It sounds like, through this bogus law, we’re depriving our kids of the opportunity to receive the best-rounded education that they can (and OK, you’re weeding out an occasion “bad apple” of a teacher in the process, but like everything else with Bushco, the “risk-reward” aspect of this equation stinks).

The new Democratic Congress definitely should revisit this law, because I don’t see how it helps to educate our kids to the point where they can develop their problem solving and creative abilities so they can contribute to this country as workers and overall citizens as much as possible.

If they don’t, then I would venture to guess that Perla Arredondo will have a lot of company.