Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Reading

Ta-Nehisi Coates reviews the Tea Party protesters and decides that they need to learn the art of effective demonstrating.

I hear GOP folks and Tea Partiers bemoaning the fact that media and Democrats are using the extremes of their movement for ratings and to score points. This is like Drew Brees complaining that Dwight Freeney keeps trying to sack him. If that were Martin Luther King’s response to media coverage, the South might still be segregated. I exaggerate, but my point is that the whining reflects a basic misunderstanding of the rules of protest. When you lead a protest you lead it, you own it, and your opponents, and the media, will hold you responsible for whatever happens in the course of that protest. This isn’t left-wing bias, it’s the nature of the threat.

There is of course a deeper question about the limits of strategy. It’s possible that if the Tea Partiers cleaned up their ranks–purged the birthers, publicly rebuked people like this guy, banned Hitler signs, loudly rejected any instances of racism–that they simply wouldn’t have much of a movement left. Martin Luther King was trying to lead a black community that was demonstrably patriotic, and had, in the main, rejected political violence as a strategy. He could afford to be picky. In the case of the Tea Parties, it’s possible that once you subtract the jackasses, you just don’t have enough energy left.

More below the fold.

Fred Grimm on Florida’s plan to get rid of teachers.

The plan: Get rid of teachers. Run the suckers off. Send them to bartenders’ school. Let them go teach in highfalutin states like Mississippi or Alabama.

The fellows in the Senate have taken a first drastic step, passing a bill that explodes any notion of classroom-job security — ending tenure and putting all Florida teachers on one-year contracts.

The bill, if it passes in the House (which is about like wondering whether it’ll rain in August) would eliminate bonuses teachers receive for National Board Certification. The Legislature — the Republican majority, anyway — wants to rid Florida of this notion of giving teachers raises based on seniority or (God forbid) advanced degrees. Last thing we need in Florida are a bunch of professorial eggheads filling young minds with nonsense like evolution or global warming.

Instead, teachers’ jobs and salaries will rely on two criteria: First, professional evaluations. (How well they suck up to the principal. Principals, under this new law, will be addressed as ”your greatness” and will be hand-fed peeled grapes by young teachers in school cafeterias.)

The old FCAT tests are out. Instead, teachers will devote all their classroom time to teaching to new, even more intricate tests. Because job security and pay now depend on the results.

Senators have not yet written the new tests, perhaps calculating that it would be hardly worth the trouble if the state’s teachers flee en masse. But it’s apparent Florida’s legislative leadership wants a cheaper, more realistic approach to public education. (The senate has already figured a way to render 14,000 high school grads ineligible for Bright — now known as Dim — Futures Scholarships.)

Here in Florida, we don’t want public-school kids to waste their time on artsy pursuits or on high-concept math and science. The new tests must reflect the economic reality of modern Florida. Instead of conventional geometry, kids will be tested on how to construct a pyramid scheme. (Scott Rothstein, with many friends in the Republican Party, can provide his expertise.)

Tests should explore whether a student grasps the formula necessary to qualify an unemployed, previously bankrupt felon for a $500,000 subprime mortgage. Or how to bill Medicare for the care of nonexistent patients.


Face it. The Legislature has no interest in tests tailored to smarty-pants kids from Silicon Valley. Not for a Hooters job here in silicone valley.

The 2010 Legislature has a new motto for public education: ”This ain’t rocket science… whatever that is.”

Crocodile tears — Steve Benen on the GOP’s hypocrisy on recess appointments.

A few days ago, Senate Republicans started expressing their concerns about possible recess appointments. Sure, they said, President Obama easily won his election. And sure, they noted, he had sent qualified nominees to fill key government posts. And sure, they conceded, if the Senate actually voted on these nominees, they’d be confirmed.

But, these Senate Republicans said, if the president interfered with their blind, reflexive obstructionism by making recess appointments, they were going to complain a whole lot.

And complain they did.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) pronounced himself “very disappointed” with the move, charging that it showed “once again” that the Obama administration has “little respect for the time honored constitutional roles and procedures of Congress.” The president’s team had “forced their will on the American people,” McCain fumed in a written statement. […]

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell also joined in the protests of Obama’s recess appointments on Saturday, calling them “stunning” and “yet another episode of choosing a partisan path despite bipartisan opposition.”

The whining is cheap as it is hypocritical. It’s not the president who’s shown “little respect for the time honored constitutional roles and procedures of Congress” — that’s actually backwards. Obama has been reluctant to use recess appointments specifically because he wants to see the Senate do its job. But it’s reactionary Republicans like McCain who prefers to ignore “time honored constitutional roles and procedures” — such as the notion of giving qualified nominees up-or-down votes.

Also note the selective outrage. McCain was only too pleased to support George W. Bush’s recess appointments, even for outrageous nominees like John Bolton. Indeed, during Bush’s presidency, McCain implored the then-president to use this tactic more often. There were no bitter press releases about “time honored constitutional roles and procedures.”

McConnell is hardly any better. On Fox News five years ago, McConnell not only defended recess appointments, he noted, “[T]ypically senators who are not of the party of the president don’t like recess appointments.”

You don’t say.

Doonesbury: say what?