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Member since: Thu Apr 29, 2010, 03:31 PM
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Teaching Controversy - How can we prepare our kids to participate in ... politics?


How can we prepare our kids to participate in the highly polarized world of politics?

In the volatile months leading up to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker winning a recall election in June 2012, principals in some schools in the state told teachers that they couldn’t discuss the historic event in their classrooms. At the same time, kids reported that their parents were getting into arguments at the grocery store and refusing to talk to family members due to disagreements about Walker’s decision to curb the power of state-employee labor unions. What was happening outside the classroom was exactly why teachers should have been permitted to talk about the issues and competing views in school, says Diana Hess, a professor of curriculum and instruction in the UW’s School of Education. Hess, a former high school teacher, has done long-term research in three states, including Wisconsin, on how middle school and high school teachers engage students in lively and respectful discussions about tough issues.

Civic education without controversial issues is “like a symphony without sound,” Hess wrote in her 2009 book, Controversy in the Classroom: The Democratic Power of Discussion, which cemented her reputation as a national expert on the subject. Hess says the key argument for civic education is patriotic: the role of schools has long been to prepare people to participate in democracy (see Jefferson’s letter to Madison, quoted below). “The challenge is that we need to prepare kids to participate in a highly partisan, polarized world, and yet, we need to do it in a nonpartisan way,” she says. “I call this the paradox of political education. And it’s really challenging.”

A telling example comes from Adlai E. Stevenson High School, north of Chicago, one of twenty-two schools in Illinois that the McCormick Foundation has recognized as Democracy Schools for their commitment to civic learning. Students there got together to advocate for “Suffrage at 17,” state legislation that would allow seventeen-year-olds to register and vote in primary elections.

McCormick’s other Democracy Schools got involved, submitting electronic witness statements and testimony from around the state, and Stevenson students went to the state capitol in Springfield to lobby their legislators in person. The bill was passed into law and took effect at the beginning of this year. Students in Democracy Schools spearheaded a massive voter-registration drive, with more than nine thousand students in the Chicago area alone registering to vote in the spring primary election. “To me, that’s a huge success story, and it’s what good civics looks like,” Healy says. “They’ll be lifelong participants in this process.”

Emphasis mine.

Wisconsin Is Open For Business

Rick Perry outlaws football in Texas!

BREAKING: After Michael Sam signed by Dallas Cowboys, Gov. Rick Perry outlaws football in Texas, rather than allow a gay player.


It's TOO SOON. Too soon after ISIS beheaded Steven Sotloff to talk about anything else besides invading all Muslim countries.

Eric Cantor got a job on Wall Street, though technically it’s only a formality since he’s been doing their bidding for years.

NRA: "The media is so biased they don't even mention all the times 9-year-olds HAVEN'T killed someone with an Uzi."

This is why the Republicans, despite always being wrong, still get the lion's share of airtime

Wisconsin Sen Kathleen Vinehout: Local Schools See Fewer Dollars ... "Voucher" Schools Win Big

from my email ...

School Bells Ring:
Local Schools See Fewer Dollars While Private "Voucher" Schools Win Big
by Senator Kathleen Vinehout

“How is it possible that private voucher schools can receive almost four and a half times the state funding per student as our public school district receives in equalized aid,” Pepin School Superintendent Bruce Quinton wrote me.

As a new school year begins, students and parents see changes; for example, increased meal costs, larger class sizes, retiring teachers not replaced and fewer teachers’ aides. There are fewer janitors and delayed maintenance; longer bus rides and fewer field trips; fewer music and art classes.

Many public schools are forced to do more with less because lawmakers who voted for the last state budget increased state tax dollars to private schools. Nearly half of Wisconsin’s public schools will receive less aid this school year than the last – including many of our local schools.

Eau Claire received the largest dollar amount cut statewide – over $2.3 million while Pepin and Alma received the largest local percentage cuts - over 15%. At the same time, state aid per pupil going to private ‘voucher’ schools reached its highest point in state history.

In his letter, Superintendent Quinton noted the difference between amounts of state aid for Pepin to that of private schools: for the 2014-15 school year Pepin receives $1,667 per student; public tax dollars to private ‘voucher’ schools are $7,856 per high school student and $7,210 per K-8 student.

“Pepin Area School District taxpayers will pay an additional $70,119 in taxes to educate children in other districts this school year,” Mr. Quinton wrote. “I cannot comprehend why taxpayers are willing to subsidize a private voucher school education system, especially when research indicates that private voucher schools perform at best as well as the public school system and in many cases below their public school peers.”

A memo from the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau (LFB) detailing figures from the 2013-14 school year show that Pepin’s state aid payment per pupil was $4,559 less than the per pupil state aid payment made to private ‘voucher’ schools.

The effects of reduced state aid for schools are many and include lower salaries for staff. The Eau Claire School District learned their base salaries fall below the 50th percentile of the market’s base salaries. This makes it difficult to attract and retain top quality staff.

A study released by the Wisconsin Budget Project, an arm of Wisconsin Council on Children and Families, recounts the effects of several years of slim funds to local schools. “As the new school year approaches, Wisconsin schools face significant challenges, including class sizes that have grown faster than the national average, an increasing number of students living in poverty, and a reduction in state support for education.”

Fewer state dollars means higher property taxes as schools unable to make ends meet head to referendum.

Voters in Mondovi, Altoona, and Black River Falls face a fall referenda vote to raise property taxes to pay for building improvements or, for Mondovi, school operations. Voters in Black River Falls will decide, among other projects, whether to replace the ‘temporary’ trailers which housed elementary students for many years.

Voters in Eleva-Strum passed a referendum to exceed the revenue limit under threat of “massive budget deficits” that would lead to reduction in funds for a school psychologist, janitors, a library aide and a bus route. The district is also considering closing elementary schools in Eleva and Strum.

Resolving problems facing local schools will require a shift in state policy. A majority of lawmakers must realize Wisconsin cannot afford two parallel school systems. Without significant increases in taxes we cannot use state tax dollars for both public and private schools. One will suffer while the other thrives. We can see this happening already in the Milwaukee area.

State Superintendent Tony Evers proposed changes to the school aid formula that would address some of the difficulties facing rural schools. In addition to his proposed changes, sparsity aid - which I created in the 2007-09 budget - must be expanded. There is no other aid that directly assists suffering rural schools with no strings attached.

Public education is the key to prosperity. Our future depends on our investment in our children.


Somewhere north of $25 billion has been wasted on phony scandal investigations, government shutdowns and now this stupid lawsuit which is bound to fail. Fiscal conservatives, my ass.


How much have the Republicans cost the taxpayer, directly and in terms of hindered economic potential, since they took over the House in 2010? A few days ago, the price tag was announced for the Republican lawsuit against the president. House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller, R-Mich., said the firm BakerHostetler has been contracted to represent the Republican House in the district court civil suit. According to the contract, the lawsuit will cost up to $350,000, billed at a rate of $500 per hour.


In 2011, the House Republicans engaged in a prolonged showdown with the administration over the raising of the debt ceiling, a procedure which, up till then, was largely considered a formality. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimated that the delay in raising the debt ceiling increased government borrowing costs by $1.3 billion in 2011. The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence index plunged from 59.2 in July 2011 to 45.2 in August in the wake of the debt standoff and credit downgrade. The index didn’t recover to its July level until December.


From October 1 through 16, 2013, the Federal Government entered a shutdown and curtailed most routine operations after the Republican led Congress failed to enact legislation appropriating funds for fiscal year 2014. During the shutdown, approximately 800,000 federal employees were indefinitely furloughed and another 1.3 million were required to report to work without known payment dates. The financial services company Standard & Poors estimated that the shutdown, which lasted just over two weeks, cost $1.5 billion per day, took a total of $24 billion out of the U.S. economy, and shaved 0.6% off fourth-quarter GDP growth.


When House Republicans voted on a resolution calling on the Department of Justice to appoint a special counsel for the IRS investigation, House Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member, Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI) responded by saying, “The IRS has spent more than $14 million in taxpayer money accommodating Republican requests, turning over more than 600,000 pages of documents, none of which substantiate the GOP’s wild attempt from the get-go to tar the administration.”

A Bill to Get the Labor Movement Back on Offense


For years, the American labor movement has been on the defensive as it has become harder and harder for workers to join or maintain a union. But some House Democrats are planning a dramatic counter-offensive: a bill that would make union organizing a civil right.

Representatives Keith Ellison and John Lewis plan to introduce a bill Wednesday that would make labor organizing a basic freedom no different than freedom from racial discrimination. That sounds like a nice talking point — but this isn’t just another messaging bill. The Ellison-Lewis legislation would amend the National Labor Relations Act to include protections found under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to include labor organizing as a fundamental right. That would give workers a broader range of legal options if they feel discriminated against for trying to form a union.

Currently, their only redress is through a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board — an important process, but one that workers and labor analysts frequently criticize as both too slow and often too lenient on offending employers.

If the NLRA were amended, however, after 180 days a worker could take his or her labor complaint from the NLRB to a federal court. This is how the law works now for civil rights complaints, which gives workers the option, after 180 days, to step outside the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission process. Then, workers would have sole discretion on whether to push a complaint, as opposed to relying on a decision by the NLRB on whether to forge ahead. Workers could also move the process along much faster than the NLRB handles complaints, which can often take years.

The New Political Rating System That Shows the Stakes This Year


The New Political Rating System That Shows the Stakes This Year
Elections 2014: Where the Candidates Stand

Any one of five or six campaigns could determine which party wins control of the Senate in November. Yet the race in Iowa is worth an extra dash of attention, not only because it’s been among the most entertaining – full of target practice, hog castration and the Koch brothers – but also because of the ideological distance between the two candidates. It’s even bigger than in many other races.

In Arkansas, Mark Pryor, the incumbent locked in a tough race, is among the Senate’s most conservative Democrats. In New Hampshire, Scott Brown, the challenger, is a well-known moderate among Republicans. Representative Renee Ellmers, left, a Republican from North Carolina’s Second Congressional District, is running for re-election against Clay Aiken. In Iowa, though, neither of the candidates – Bruce Braley, a Democratic House member, and Joni Ernst, a Republican state senator – qualifies as a centrist. Mr. Braley has a populist tinge to his politics, like the senator he’s trying to succeed, Tom Harkin. Ms. Ernst is an Iraq veteran who has questioned the need for a federal minimum wage. Come November, one of them, and only one of them, will have a national platform to advance his or her views.


Until now, it has been nearly impossible to compare the ideological gap in Senate and House campaigns systematically. But an online service making its debut on Tuesday, known as Crowdpac, aims to change that. Using the work of a Stanford political scientist, it gives an ideological score to all candidates, based on their donors and, for those who have held federal office before, their voting history. Other rating systems tend to be based only on votes and, as a result, don’t cover candidates who haven’t been in Congress before.

The Crowdpac database goes back to 1980, allowing for a portrait of American politics over the last generation. It shows, not surprisingly, that moderate candidates in both parties used to win elections more frequently than they do now. Today, elected officials within each party are more similar to one another – and more different from the other side – than in the recent past.

See link for more, including graphic of ratings.

Edited to add missing link.

Holy crap, even my sister is sending me pro-marijuana articles!


Old dope, new tricks: the new science of medical cannabis

Well, an article just published in the prestigious journal JAMA Internal Medicine provocatively suggests that US states with medical cannabis laws have dramatically reduced opioid mortality rates.

So the science is clearly every bit as alive and kicking as the political bluster, but rests on firmer, less emotive grounds. This is what we know: somewhere in that much-incinerated plant lies valuable medicine – perhaps a treatment for cancer or an antidote to obesity.

In fact, cannabis science is one of the fastest moving frontiers in pharmacology and has accelerated by the realisation that we’re all already marinated in cannabis-like molecules (endocannabinoids) and their receptors. Endocannabinoids help regulate many physiological processes: mood, memory, appetite, pain, immune function, metabolism and bone growth to name a few (there are even cannabinoid receptors in sperm).


Even THC is a legitimate target for ongoing medical research, particularly when dosed in forms that give slow and steady blood levels. THC clearly has important therapeutic effects in multiple sclerosis and pain, in stimulating appetite in HIV or cancer patients, and even for anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Many links in the article.

NYT: How to Buy a Mine in Wisconsin


How to Buy a Mine in Wisconsin
Did Gov. Scott Walker Violate Campaign Laws?

Last year, Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and the Republican-controlled State Legislature approved the world’s largest open-pit iron ore mine, a gash in the northern part of the state that could be as long as 21 miles, a half-mile wide and 1,000 feet deep. The mine legislation was bad enough from an environmental point of view: It allows the operator to fill streams with mine waste, eliminates public hearings and reduces the taxes the operator would have to pay.

It turns out to be even more shocking from an ethical viewpoint. Newly released documents show that the mine operator, Gogebic Taconite, secretly gave $700,000 to a political group that was helping the governor win a 2012 recall election. Mr. Walker had urged big corporations to give unlimited amounts, without fear of public disclosure, and many companies that wanted favors from the state happily obliged. Once the recall failed, the favors began to flow, even at the expense of the state’s natural resources.

The group that received the money, along with millions of dollars in other donations, was the Wisconsin Club for Growth, an “independent” conservative spending organization that state prosecutors say was actually controlled by R.J. Johnson, one of Mr. Walker’s closest campaign aides. Mr. Walker and his aides brazenly violated state campaign finance regulations barring coordination between independent groups and candidate campaigns, first by rounding up the money and then by telling the groups how to spend it.

“The governor is encouraging all to invest in the Wisconsin Club for Growth,” Kate Doner, a paid fund-raising consultant to the Walker campaign, wrote in a 2011 email to Mr. Johnson. “Wisconsin Club for Growth can accept corporate and personal donations without limitations and no donors disclosure.” She added that the governor wanted all the advocacy efforts to be run by one group, the Club for Growth, to “ensure correct messaging.”
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