Month: February 2007

Stupidest analogy of the House debate on Iraq

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Among the “pro-surge” Republican there were plenty of silly comments, but the worst analogy has to go to Missouri Republican Todd Akin who compared the war in Iraq to the battle of the Alamo.

Picture Davy Crockett at the Alamo. He has his back to the wall. Santa Ana has got thousands of troops. So he gets his BlackBerry out. He checks with Congress. Congress says, ‘Hey, Davy, we really support you but we’re not going to send you any troops.’ That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.”

I am not real sure who Davy Crockett is in this analogy. I suppose Bush? In any event, it demonstrates the nuanced understanding of the whole complicated mess in Irah demonstrated by the surge supporters.

Spinning and Spying at the Department of Education

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At the same time U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has been spinning and fabricating about the success of No Child Left Behind, her Department has been engaged in some disturbing intrusions into the lives of people who do contract work for them.

Spellings has been touting NCLB as a rip-roaring success in boosting academic achievement. “According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress [NAEP],” she says, “9-year-olds made greater reading gains in five years than in the previous 28 years combined.” What she failed to mention is that virtually all of those gains occurred before the 2002-03 school year, when NCLB took effect. Spellings also claimed recently that Bush’s new budget would result in a 41% increase in school funding. This is simply not true. In fact, as Scott Lilly points out, NCLB should be called “No Gimmick Left Behind.”

Now it turns out that “Spinmaster” Spellings has been demanding such intrusive background checks on researchers who contract with the department that they border on invasion of privacy. According to an article in the New York Times,

As a condition of his work for the federal government, Andrew A. Zucker was willing to be fingerprinted and provide an employment history. But then he was asked to let federal investigators examine his financial and medical records, and interview his doctors.

Dr. Zucker was not tracking terrorists or even emptying the trash at the Pentagon. He was studying how to best teach science to middle school students. He was stunned at the breadth of the request for information.

“To me, personally, it’s shocking,” said Dr. Zucker, who worked for a contractor doing research for the Education Department. He withdrew from the job. . . .

This is the same Department of Education that wants a national database to track students from the time they are subjected to their first kindergarten tests. It is all a bit scary, but certainly in keeping with the attitude of the Bush Administration across the board.

The Phoenix is not Rising

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The Nation’s largest “for-profit” University, The University of Phoenix, is in trouble. The New York Times has an article today outlining the problems facing the institution that has a reputation for being little more than a diploma mill.

The University of Phoenix became the nation’s largest private university by delivering high profits to investors and a solid, albeit low-overhead, education to midcareer workers seeking college degrees. But its reputation is fraying as prominent educators, students and some of its own former administrators say the relentless pressure for higher profits, at a university that gets more federal student financial aid than any other, has eroded academic quality.

According to federal statistics and government audits, the university relies more on part-time instructors than all but a few other postsecondary institutions, and its accelerated academic schedule races students through course work in about half the time of traditional universities. The university says that its graduation rate, using the federal standard, is 16 percent, which is among the nation’s lowest, according to Department of Education data. But the university has dozens of campuses, and at many, the rate is even lower.

In recent interviews, current and former students in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington who studied at University of Phoenix campuses in those states or online complained of instructional shortcuts, unqualified professors and recruiting abuses. Many of their comments echoed experiences reported by thousands of other students on consumer Web sites.

The complaints have built through months of turmoil. The president resigned, as did the chief executive and other top officers at the Apollo Group, the university’s parent corporation. A federal court reinstated a lawsuit accusing the university of fraudulently obtaining hundreds of millions of dollars in financial aid. The university denies wrongdoing. Apollo stock fell so far that in November, CNBC featured it on a “Biggest Losers” segment.

I Wonder Who Idaho Legislators Think They Represent?

It certainly isn’t the average working man or woman. This comprehensive study indicates that 34% of the available jobs in Idaho don’t pay a living wage for a single person. The number jumps to 80% for a single parent with two children. Meanwhile, the House Revenue and Taxation Committee rejected Gov. Otter’s plan for tax breaks to low income residents. Rep. Moyle echoed the libertarian philosophy that any plan that might provide some help for those most in need is “social engineering.”

The committee iced Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter’s plan to give up to $90 a year in tax relief to low-income residents. Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star. . .said Otter’s approach amounted to “social engineering.”

Meanwhile, the House State Affairs Committee rejected the Democrat-sponsored measure that would have raised Idaho’s minimum wage to $7.25 an hour and indexed it to rise with inflation. Most Republicans who voted against the measure were content to do so without bothering to explain their reasoning to the voters. Those who did comment demonstrated the critical thinking and sharp analysis we have come to expect from Republican legislators

The “Dim Bulb” award goes to Russ Mathews, R-Idaho Falls, for this great quote:

“If it’s so exciting and neat to raise it, why don’t we just raise it to $17 an hour?” “Would that be a good idea?”