Archive for July, 2011

Changing answers not only way to fudge school data

In one of his first moves as interim Atlanta school superintendent, Erroll Davis announced that any unusual gain in test scores would trigger an automatic investigation into how those gains were achieved.

It’s such a simple step, and so obvious. If you have any real interest in protecting the integrity of a high-stakes testing regimen, instituting that kind of policy would seem essential.

In fact, if Atlanta Public Schools officials had implemented such common-sense safeguards back when credible allegations of cheating on test scores first began to draw attention, a lot of this controversy could have been avoided. There might have been no state investigation, and no international scandal.

But I guess that’s the point. Character is fate. The previous APS leadership, including the school board, was incapable of taking such a simple, proactive step. Maybe they feared that by implementing safeguards against cheating, they would have signaled that cheating was a problem. Maybe, at …

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Must-see TV, from across the Atlantic

Remember Jon Stewart’s epic dismantling of Crossfire hosts Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson?

Well, this is like that, only better. It’s from a broadcast a week ago of BBC2’s Newsnight program. Paul McMullan, a former editor and writer at Rupert Murdoch’s now defunct News of the World, attempts to defend the morality of tapping phone messages.

Greg Dyke, former head of the BBC, and comedian Steve Coogan are having none of it, and proceed to dissect McMullan on national TV. My instinct would usually be to side with a fellow journalist, but the baloney this guy spews makes that impossible. Along the way, McMullan reveals just how cavalier he and his colleagues had become about invasions of privacy.

– Jay Bookman

H/t Andrew Sullivan

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Who has upper hand in debt-ceiling standoff?

In news that will undoubtedly hearten conservatives, a new CBS poll reports that just 43 percent of Americans agree with President Obama’s handling of the debt-ceiling crisis, while 48 percent disagree.

On the other hand, however, the same poll reports that 71 percent of Americans disagree with how congressional Republicans are handling the crisis, and just 21 percent agree. Even among Republicans, 51 percent disagree with how their party’s leaders in Washington are handling the crisis.

Those are remarkably bad numbers, and they’re likely to get worse for the Republicans, not better, as the deadline looms nearer and nearer. Not only are they playing a bad poker hand poorly, everyone else in the game knows they have a bad poker hand.

For example, last week Obama mentioned almost in passing that if the debt ceiling isn’t raised by Aug. 2, he couldn’t guarantee that Social Security checks would be issued on schedule the next day.

That in turn provoked a chorus of outrage from his …

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Herman Cain: Americans have right to ban mosques

Herman Cain, supposed defender of the U.S. Constitution, told Fox News this morning that American communities have the right to ban mosques.

Like I said Friday, Cain has proved himself to be no better than a David Duke or a Lester Maddox. His campaign was never going anywhere and had already peaked. Now he’s in the process of throwing away whatever reputation his brief moment in the sunshine might have brought him.

UPDATE: It should be noted that at least some conservatives understand the issues at stake here and understand the dangers and repugnance of what Cain has said.

At RedState, a poster by the name of T Christopher, apparently a once-fervent Cain supporter, writes, among other things:

“I know the Cain defenders will be out in full force and I’m sure my previous support for Mr. Cain will be washed away with the fact that I am so absolutely appalled by his Sunday remarks. I’m also very aware that sites like HuffPo and ThinkProgress will probably be the only places …

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Tough times for Murdoch, and more to come

Rupert Murdoch has had a tough week.

A day after claiming “minor mistakes” had been made, he issued a nationwide apology in Great Britain for “serious wrongdoing.” His protege and close friend, Rebekah Brooks, has been forced to resign from News Corp. as has Les Hinton, publisher of the Wall Street Journal and former head of News Corp.’s British newspaper properties.

“Invited” to appear next week before Parliament, Murdoch and his son James initially declined. It was apparently explained that such an offer should not be refused, because later that day the pair announced they would appear after all. Murdoch has also withdrawn his bid to further expand his empire in Britain by trying to buy a major broadcasting outlet.

Here in the United States, where News Corp. is headquartered and where the Australian-born Murdoch is a citizen, pressure has grown for another set of investigations. Several members of Congress, including Republican Peter King of New York, have called for an …

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Travelin’ the long road of a rock ‘n roll lifer

Rock and roll has always been a young person’s genre. It began as the music of anger, rebellion, lust, heartbreak and sometimes violence, passions usually at their most heated among the young.

It’s hard for most rock and rollers to sustain that passion over time. The Who, I imagine, has a hard time playing “Teenage Wasteland” with a straight face, and I doubt Elton John has “Saturday Night’s All Right (for Fighting) on his regular playlist. The hard-rockin’ Rolling Stones might be the most notable exception to that rule, perhaps because they still see themselves as old bluesmen at heart. (Do they still do “Street Fighting Man?”)

This guy is another one. I haven’t drawn up a formal list, but he’s probably one of my Top Five Rockers of All Time. He’s certainly on my list of Top Five currently plying their trade. And he doesn’t back down.

– Jay Bookman

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Herman Cain: Mosque infringes on his religious liberty

From the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tenn.:

MURFREESBORO — Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain said Thursday an effort by local Muslims to build a large mosque here is an attempt to “sneak” Shariah law into the fabric of the U.S. legal system.

“I think it is an infringement and abuse of our freedom of religion, and I don’t agree with what’s happening here because this isn’t an innocent mosque,” Cain told reporters after speaking to a crowd of hundreds on the Murfreesboro Public Square.

“This is another way to sneak Shariah law into our laws, and I absolutely object to that,” Cain said.

Imagine that: Building a mosque in Tennessee infringes on Cain’s freedom of religion and is an attempt to sneak Sharia law into American law.

What mind-numbing, head-shaking stupidity.

More importantly, it’s dangerous, because it legitimizes anti-Islamic bigotry in a community that is already struggling to find room in its conscience to allow Muslim neighbors the freedom to …

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Graham to GOP: ‘nobody to blame but ourselves’

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Lindsey Graham has regrets:

“Our problem is we made a big deal about this for three months. How many Republicans have been on TV saying, ‘I’m not going to raise the debt limit.’ You know, Mitch [McConnell] says, ‘I’m not going to raise the debt limit unless we talk about Medicare.’ And I’ve said I’m not going to raise the debt limit until we do something about spending and entitlements. So we’ve got nobody to blame but ourselves….

“We shouldn’t have said that if we didn’t mean it….

The problem is, I still don’t know how they — and we — get out of the situation they’ve created. They’ve said so many things and talked so much trash and created such high expectations among their followers that walking it all back into the Land of Reason is going to be difficult.

Their choices at this point seem to be to eat some humble pie or throw that pie at the wall, and a lot of these people are by instinct pie-throwers. They’re really not into that whole “it takes a …

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‘Privatizing’ Cobb EMC for profit and power

The 35 criminal counts filed against Dwight Brown, former CEO of the Cobb EMC, accuse the once-powerful executive of conspiring to steal millions of dollars from the 200,000-member electric co-op.

The list of alleged crimes is stunning, as is the amount of money that Brown is said to have diverted into his own hands. Reading the indictment is a little too much like reading the plot line to a John Grisham novel, in which powerful people in a community conspire to perpetrate and cover up a major scam, and to intimidate their critics into silence.

Of course, it’s impossible to know how the charges in the indictment will be resolved. A jury will have to hear the case and decide, and as we were reminded in the Casey Anthony murder trial, predicting how a jury will weigh complicated evidence is a job for the foolhardy.

Brown’s attorney, former Gov. Roy Barnes, claims that his client is innocent and expresses amazement that Brown has even been charged. As Barnes describes it, Brown …

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Rick Perry’s odd mix of church and state

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is being touted as a late but promising entry into the GOP presidential field, a candidate capable of emerging as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.

In the meantime, however, Perry is focusing his energy on organizing an all-day festival of Christian prayer and fasting on Aug. 6 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, called The Response. The intent of the rally is “to pray for a historic breakthrough for our country and a renewed sense of moral purpose.”

“We want the presence, power, and person of Christ to fill our nation and turn the hearts of millions to righteousness, peace, and joy in Him,” Perry and other organizers tell us. “We want the blessing and favor of a Holy God who loves righteousness and wants to see righteousness exalt a nation in our generation. We want to see real change across our nation that only our God can perform.”

I have no problem with any of that, although I do confess to some uneasiness with its sponsorship by a major …

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