Sunday, July 31, 2011

Obama Flunking Test on Education

Teachers March on Washington,

Demanding 'Save Our Schools!'

By Michael Alison Chandler and Sarah Khan
Progressive America Rising via WashPost

July 30, 2011 - There are many reasons thousands of teachers traveled across the country to protest in front of the White House on Saturday — including to oppose charter schools, to fight for equal funding for poor schools, and to have more say in public education policies.

But at a noisy rally starting at noon under soaring temperatures, their message boiled down to one point, which was summed up by the sound check before the first speaker took the stage:

Tap. Tap. “No testing, no testing, 1-2-3.”

The assembled teachers, education advocates and parents vented a frustration they said has been building since the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002, which made standardized testing the centerpiece of a school reform agenda championed by George W. Bush.

With the election of Barack Obama in 2008, many thought their long-standing complaints, about how the policy has imposed unfair penalties on the poorest schools and how it has narrowed curriculum to make time for test preparation, would finally be heard.

But three years later, the law is still intact, more schools are being labeled as failing, and standardized tests are starting to be used to make teacher tenure and termination decisions.

“We had reason to believe from his campaign promises that Obama was going to reverse the damage that this law has caused,” said Jonathan Kozol, a public education activist and author. “He has betrayed us. . . . That’s why we are here today.”

And so about 5,000 people, according to the organizers’ estimates, stood on the Ellipse between the White House and the Washington Monument and waved posters that read “Boycott NCLB” and “Teach Me, Don’t Just Test Me.”


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Congress: Beware of Yellow Stripes and Pot Holes

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity” –William Butler Yeats


The Centrist Cop-Out


Progressive America Rising via New York Times

July 28, 2011 - The facts of the crisis over the debt ceiling aren’t complicated. Republicans have, in effect, taken America hostage, threatening to undermine the economy and disrupt the essential business of government unless they get policy concessions they would never have been able to enact through legislation. And Democrats — who would have been justified in rejecting this extortion altogether — have, in fact, gone a long way toward meeting those Republican demands.

As I said, it’s not complicated. Yet many people in the news media apparently can’t bring themselves to acknowledge this simple reality. News reports portray the parties as equally intransigent; pundits fantasize about some kind of “centrist” uprising, as if the problem was too much partisanship on both sides.

Some of us have long complained about the cult of “balance,” the insistence on portraying both parties as equally wrong and equally at fault on any issue, never mind the facts. I joked long ago that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read “Views Differ on Shape of Planet.” But would that cult still rule in a situation as stark as the one we now face, in which one party is clearly engaged in blackmail and the other is dickering over the size of the ransom?

The answer, it turns out, is yes. And this is no laughing matter: The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. For when reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault.


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

GOP Still Trying to Dump FDR’s New Deal

Debt Madness Was Always

About Killing Social Security

By Robert Scheer
Progressive America Rising via Nation of Change Op-Ed

This phony debt crisis has now passed through the looking glass into the realm where madness reigns. What should have been an uneventful moment in which lawmakers make good on the nation’s contractual obligations has instead been seized upon by Republican hypocrites as a moment to settle ideological scores that have nothing to do with the debt.

Hypocrites, because their radical free market ideology, and the resulting total deregulation of the financial markets, is what caused the debt to spiral out of control this last decade. That and the wars George W. Bush launched but didn’t have the integrity to responsibly finance. The consequence was a banking bubble and crash leading to a 50 percent run-up of the debt that has nothing to do with the “entitlements” that those same Republicans have always wanted to destroy.

Even Barack Obama has put cuts in those programs into play, warning ominously that a failure to lift the debt ceiling could cause the government to stop sending out Social Security checks. Why, when the Social Security trust fund is fully funded for the next quarter-century and is owed money by the U.S. Treasury rather than the other way around? Why would we pay foreign creditors before American seniors? The answer, offered as conventional wisdom by leaders of both parties, is that we cannot endanger our credit by failing to back our bonds, even though the Republicans have aroused the alarm of the main U.S. credit rating agencies by their brinkmanship on the debt.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

For Those Dubious about White-Skin Privilege

Little Rock School District Won't Allow

Black Valedictorian, Lawsuit Alleges

The Huffington Post

By Laura Hibbard

After four years of nearly straight-As, Honors and Advanced Placement classes, 18-year-old Kymberly Wimberly achieved the highest GPA at McGehee Secondary School southeast of Little Rock, Ark., according to a court complaint.

However, instead of awarding the student for her hard work and dedication, the school denied her the valedictorian status because she was black, claims the document filed by Wimberly's lawyer, John W. Walker.

According to the court document, this is not the first time this has happened in the school's history:

"[The] defendant's actions were part of a pattern and practice of school administrators and personnel treating the African-American students less favorably than the Caucasian ones...Until Wimberly, the last African-American valedictorian in the McGeeHee school district was in 1989."

Although the high school is predominantly white, 46 percent of students are African-American.

Wimberly's mother, Molly Bratton, said in the federal discrimination complaint that after her daughter had been told she would be the class valedictorian, she heard whispers of discontent over her daughter's race.

According to an article in the Courthouse News Service and the court document itself, Bratton heard school personnel discussing that Wimberly's valedictorian status might cause a "big mess."

The next day, high school principal Darrell Thompson told the mother that he had decided to name a white student as "co-valedictorian," even though Wimberly had a higher GPA and a press release had already been sent out to the local paper naming her in the position.

Despite Bratton's protests, the school board would not hear her appeal on her daughter's behalf.

Wimberly seeks punitive damages for violation of equal protection rights secured by the 14th amendment of the U.S. constitution.

Read the official court document:



Thursday, July 21, 2011

Can 1600 Meetings Grow into Progressive Clout?

Bigger Than the Tea Party

By Van Jones
Progressive America Rising via

Last month, I joined with and launched the Rebuild the Dream [1] campaign to help give a voice to the millions of Americans who aren't being heard in Washington.

This past weekend, we organized nearly 1,600 house meetings across the country -- nearly double the number of protests the Tea Party held when they launched in April of 2009. The American Dream Meetings gave more than 27,000 people, from all across the country, an opportunity to come together and discuss what the American Dream means to them and their families.

They talked about how the jobless crisis and foreclosure mess is impacting their communities. They put forth creative ideas for the Contract for the American Dream [2] -- a bold progressive vision to help fix the broken economy and rebuild our communities. The Contract has already received nearly 26,000 ideas submitted online alone and over 6 million ratings.

While I'm beyond inspired by the enormous outpour of ideas we've received thus far, it doesn't surprise me that the American people are yearning to come up with practical solutions to our economic crisis. While so many Americans struggle with joblessness and rampant foreclosures, we keep hearing from Washington that we need to reduce the deficit, even if it means slashing Medicare or gutting vital programs families depend on. Washington appears to be operating on an entirely different planet than the rest of America.

There's an important story that's not being told in Washington. It's the story of the mother or father getting the dreaded call into the office where their boss informs them that they've been laid off. They were already underwater on their house, and now without a steady paycheck, they start to get behind on their mortgage payments. Then comes the big bad bank. They do everything they can to keep their house but it's no use. The bank posts that horrifying foreclosure notice on their door, and takes their home. They sell most of their belongings and move their entire family into a one-bedroom apartment. Or if they're lucky, they move in with grandma. It's a vicious cycle and it's happening every single day in America. It's the new American nightmare.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

GOP and Far Right Undermine The Vote

A Whiff of Jim Crow: The Right's

Effort to Suppress the 2012 Vote

By Malik Miah
Progressive America Rising via

THE REPUBLICAN PARTY and its rightwing base are on a concerted drive to suppress the vote in coming elections. The targets are African Americans, other ethnic minorities, the elderly and young.

Bogeyman reasons are given to justify these broadside attempts to suppress the voting rights of these groups. The number one tactic is to charge “ID fraud” aimed at poor Blacks and Latinos, and so-called illegal immigrants.

The Republican governors and state legislators (now aligned with the most extreme elements of the Tea Party movement) made this a priority after the 2008 presidential election. The right first targeted the community organization ACORN because of their work among the poor and organizing voter registration drives. Because of the capitulation of liberals and Democrats — many of whom joined the smear campaign — ACORN was destroyed.

Emboldened by that victory, the conservatives (backed by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed unlimited corporate money in elections) decided to step up their attacks. It seemed possible to further limit voting rights as well as go after public sector unions, women’s rights and immigrants.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

No Robbing the Poor to Pay the Rich!

Progressive Caucus To Obama:

No Cuts To Social Security,

Medicare, Medicaid

By Isaiah J. Poole

Progressive America Rising via

The Progressive Caucus, in a letter being sent to President Obama today, says any budget deal he agrees to that contains cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid won't get their votes. Given that any deal that President Obama agrees to is unlikely to win over enough Republicans to pass the House of Representatives unless it represents absolute capitulation to the most radical of Republican demands, push-back on Obama's left side from the Progressive Caucus at this stage of the game could prove significant.

Outrage from the left [1] could already be making a difference in the tone of statements coming out of the White House. After The Washington Post reported [2] that Obama was considering cuts to Social Security and Medicare in exchange for Republican agreement on revenue increases, a senior administration official e-mailed The Huffington Post to say that the report "overshoots the runway. [3]" The aide cited previous administration statements in opposition to benefit cuts but support for other actions that would "strengthen" the program.

At a news conference [4] today, Progressive Caucus leaders Reps. Raul Grijalva and Sheila Jackson Lee indicated they were willing within limits to give the administration wiggle room on what's being called measures to "strengthen" Social Security as well as Medicare and Medicaid. Still, the language in their letter is firm:


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