In the political landscape that is Florida, Gainesville is a lonely, tiny blue dot in a vast sea of red. Last night, that blue dot celebrated a symbolic act that could have major repercussions in the national elections coming up next year. Kindergarten teacher Susan Bowles was named Teacher of the Year in Alachua County, adding further validation to the bold stand she took last September in refusing to administer a test she found to be flawed and an egregious waste of classroom time. In her bold act of refusing to administer the test, Bowles fully expected to lose the job she loves so much. Instead, her action prompted the state to drop the test and she has been given a high honor for her work.
Naming Bowles as Teacher of the Year takes on a special symbolism to me because it comes precisely when JEB! Bush is making his push to enter the 2016 presidential election. To JEB! fans, his educational “reforms” in Florida are one of his chief accomplishments. To those of us in the blue dot, we know that JEB!’s “reforms” had nothing to do with school performance and had everything to do with enriching the private firms run by his cronies to administer the tests. That enrichment of his cronies resulted in trickle down, but only to JEB! [And Rick Scott's "reforms" of JEB!'s testing program were merely a function of switching out JEB!'s cronies for Scott's, but I digress.] Adding even more to the symbolism here, Bowles teaches at Lawton Chiles Elementary.
The test to which Bowles objected was only one in a wide array of tests mandated by the test-crazed Florida Legislature. This test, the Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading (inappropriately marketed by Scott’s cronies as FAIR), was legislated to be administered three times a year. But as the Gainesville Sun reported in September, Bowles found that changes made for this year made the test meaningless and a huge waste of time:
In past years, both tests existed in paper format for kindergartners, but this year the FAIR became a computer-based test for the state’s youngest students, which has made it necessary for teachers to administer the test one-on-one.
Some kindergartners are coming to the test without ever having touched a computer mouse before, which Bowles said causes the testing time to stretch from the prescribed 35 minutes to 50 minutes or an hour.
There is also no way to go back and correct answers on the test, she said, so a student who accidentally double-clicks to enter an answer could end up skipping multiple screens on the test, rendering their results inaccurate.
But the main issue for Bowles, and others, is the loss of instructional time after administering these tests — a total of six weeks, in fact.
Bowles initially took to Facebook to announce her decision not to administer the test. Again, from the Sun:
Bowles said she was so frustrated after trying to test two students last week that on Sunday she took to Facebook to publicly air her act of civil disobedience, in a post titled, “Why I am refusing to give the FAIR test to my kindergarteners.”
“I know I may be in breach of my contract by not administering this test,” she wrote in the post. “I cannot in good conscience submit to administering this test three times a year, losing six weeks of instruction. There is a good possibility I will be fired.”
Attention to Bowles’ move snowballed, and her actions garnered huge amounts of support from parents. A blog at the Washington Post noted the attention. The blog post reproduced what Bowles posted on Facebook about the test. Bowle’s preface to her letter to parents is especially courageous:
To the parents of the boys and girls in my class,
I wrote you a letter over the weekend to let you know that I am refusing to administer the FAIR test [Florida Assessments for Instruction in Reading] to your precious little ones. I had hoped to send you an email or letter, but it would not be professional of me or allowed by the district for a letter to go out letting you know that I am doing something that is a breach of contract and therefore against the law. I want you to know that for the 26 years I have been a classroom teacher, I have been a good employee, and have always complied with my superiors. I also want you to know that this is not in any way being done because our principal or superintendent are mandating these tests. This is a government issue. So this decision does not involve anyone I work for. It is an act of civil disobedience.
I am hoping for government change in policy regarding testing.
That last bit turned out to be prescient, as well. Bowle’s letter to parents was dated September 7, 2014. The Gainesville Sun article came out on September 9 and the blog post at the Washington Post was September 11. On September 15, Florida’s Commissioner of Education caved in to public pressure about the test and cancelled it. As the Post stated in a blog post that day:
It turns out she wasn’t fired. On Monday, Owen Roberts, the superintendent of schools in Alachua County where Bowles teaches, sent a letter to parents saying that Florida Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart has decided not to require FAIR testing for any students in grades K-2. The e-mail doesn’t directly name Bowles but does refer to “all the attention focused on this issue over the past few days.”
Congratulations to Susan Bowles for her brave act of civil disobedience and the benefit to the youngest Florida students that it produced. Congratulations also to Alachua County Public Schools for rewarding Bowles’ principled stand.
Vote Jeb! 2016: Because every American man deserves a seat for each of his balls.
Perhaps I’m being petty, getting so bugged by Jeb’s utter lack of awareness not just by his body language, but the message that that most annoying male body language sends to those who’ve had to spend their life squishing into a half seat to make room for some man who believes his balls take precedence over the other human beings in his space.
(Also note, at around 49:00, precisely when Jeb! starts talking about his brother’s WMD lies but then claims the surge the most courageous political act ever, he crosses his legs.)
I mean, much of the speech was word salad. The last few minutes of his speech could have been delivered as convincingly by Sarah Palin — just a string of words about American leadership without any substance to what that really means.
Then there was the contradiction within his message. He’s branding his whole spiel “Liberty Diplomacy!” Yet the guy who claimed a “liberty” agenda objects to Obama’s effort to end what he called the “NSA metadata program,” either displaying ignorance that the Section 215 program that Obama wants to alter is just a small fraction of the metadata NSA collects, or even greater ignorance that Obama has done and will do nothing to end all the other means of collecting metadata, including on Americans. Not to mention real ignorance about the NSA’s own evidence about how useless the 215 phone dragnet has been.
Similarly, Jeb!’s Liberty Diplomacy! bemoans the disrespect he sees Obama extending to Egypt’s brutal dictator Fattah al-Sisi. “Now we’re pulling back from providing support to al Sisi.”
That’s was consistent with his theory that if we significantly increase funding for our national security budget, we’ll never have need to go to war. “Others should want America as a friend,” Jeb! said, presumably at the tip of vastly increased defense spending.
Jeb! clearly believes he projects strength in Latin American foreign policy. The brother of the man whose DOJ chose not to charge any of the big white GOP donors at Chiquita who knowingly funded right wing terrorists in Colombia hailed Uribe’s great success there. Which, presumably, reflects his larger conflation of capitalism and democracy, which permits him to ignore the way Bolivarist countries have improved their countries’ well-being. He positively drooled over Venezuela becoming a failed state with low gas prices (though many Democrats are too). Then again, the Bush family has a well-established fondness for terrorists in Venezuela, so he’ll probably be thrilled if more arise in such a failed state.
Well, about one thing Bush was right on the mark. He noted that neither ISIL nor Twitter existed when his brother invaded Iraq. That is, ISIL didn’t exist until his brother fucked up the joint.
All in all, though, I can only conclude that by Liberty Diplomacy he means he will open new space for American mens’ balls to colonize, around the world.
Although he has been under house arrest since shortly after his return to Pakistan while facing trial on charges of arranging the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani Army Chief and President Pervez Musharraf was given a lifetime ban from holding political office by the Peshawar High Court:
The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Monday banned former military ruler Pervez Musharraf from politics for life.
The ruling came in response to an appeal filed by the former army strongman over the rejection of his nomination papers for the National Assembly seat in Chitral.
A four-member larger bench, headed by PHC Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and comprising of Justice Malik Manzoor, Justice Syed Afsar Shah and Justice Ikramullah ruled that since Musharraf had abrogated the Constitution twice, he could not be allowed to contest elections for either the National Assembly or the Senate.
Isn’t that interesting? In Pakistan, violating the country’s constitution as President gets a lifetime ban from politics, while in the US the same offense allows the perpetrator to open a Presidential Lie Bury.
Meanwhile, as the May 11 elections draw nearer, violence is escalating. Today’s New York Times reports on a suicide bomber who killed nine in Peshawar in an attack that seemed aimed at creating an overall climate of fear rather than attacking a particular target:
An attacker riding a motorcycle detonated his explosives near the suspected target, a police patrol car, on busy University Road during the morning rush hour, killing a police constable and several bystanders, said Faisal Kamran, a senior police official.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although the Taliban have carried out a relentless series of attacks against secular political parties around the country in recent weeks as part of a drive to influence the elections.
Officials in Peshawar said the attack on Monday was different in that it did not appear to target a specific party but aimed instead to foster a broader climate of fear during the campaign season.
Sadly, two of the people who died were Afghan trade officials who most likely were not targeted but merely were victims of the senseless attack.
As stated above, most violence ahead of the election has been aimed at political parties and candidates. It has become so widespread that Human Rights Watch issued a statement yesterday, calling for more protection of candidates and political parties:
Pakistan’s interim government should take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of candidates and political party activists at risk of attack from the Taliban and other militant groups, Human Rights Watch said today. Nationwide parliamentary elections in Pakistan are scheduled for May 11, 2013.
Since April 21, when election campaigning formally began, the Taliban and other armed groups have carried out more than 20 attacks on political parties, killing 46 people and wounding over 190. Earlier in April, another 24 people were killed and over 100 injured in election-related attacks.
That violence is continuing:
An independent election candidate and two of his relatives from Balochistan’s Jhal Magsi area were killed by unknown assailants on Tuesday night prompting the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to postpone the elections in PB-32.
According to the police and relatives of the deceased, Abdul Fateh Magsi was kidnapped on Tuesday (sic) night and his bullet-riddled body was found on Tuesday morning.
Presumably, Magsi was kidnapped on Monday evening and his body found this morning.
There is a long article in today’s Washington Post handicapping the elections. I’m pretty sure that this passage is delivered without a clue to the level of hypocrisy it drips:
On May 11, Pakistanis will choose the next prime minister in an election hailed as a landmark of democratic progress for a country ruled by the military for nearly half its 65-year history. Yet decades of tradition dictate why democracy has remained more of a concept than a reality.
Even as Pakistan prepares to witness its first democratic transition of power, elite political families, powerful landholders and pervasive patronage and corruption undermine the prospects of a truly representational democracy, political analysts say.
Coming on the heels of Sandra Day O’Connor finally admitting the US Supreme Court should not have decided the 2000 Presidential Election and as the Post and other pundits continue to hype the Hillary Clinton vs. JEB! Bush 2016 contest, what more proof do we need that the US is completely free of corruption and elite political families?
Perhaps proving that the recent attempts to prepare JEB! Bush for another political run was not the only movement in the world intended to rehabilitate a name with a nuclear level of toxicity, Pakistan’s “Father of the Bomb”, AQ Khan, has registered a new political party. The party is named Tehreek-e-Tahaffuz Pakistan, which Wikipedia says translates to “Movement for the Protection of Pakistan”.
The Express Tribune brings us more details on the party:
TTP Secretary General Chaudhry Khurshid Zaman said Khan had yet to decide whether to stand himself for election. He added that as the chairman, Khan would guide the party through the campaign.
“Our party has been registered, we will take part in the elections with full strength,” Zaman told AFP.
“The whole country is burning, price hikes, unemployment, the energy crisis, poverty and other heinous problems have made public life miserable.”
“Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan has joined politics to change this face of Pakistan and he is the only hope. All other political parties have failed.”
Rohail Akbar, TTP spokesman, said the party would form an alliance with right-wing parties, but not those in government or main opposition party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N).
We get a slightly different take on the issue of Khan himself running as a candidate from PakPakistan.org:
Dr. Khan said he did not plan, at the moment, to contest the election. However, further fruition of his political organization is “in the hands of God”.
It would appear that the good doctor was paying attention to the number of Republican Presidential candidates in the US who stated during the primary that God wanted them to run. More from this same source on the religious connection:
He is considered as the star in Pakistan, while the religious right acclaims him for having created the “Islamic bomb”.
I’m not really sure why the pundits are wasting time deciding whether Nate Silver is a wizard or a washed out baseball junky. There’s another fairly clear sign that insiders believe Obama will win this election: the number of 2016 GOP contenders who are shifting into campaign mode.
Chris Christie can be forgiven for boosting up Obama’s image as President the last week of the campaign. After all it makes him look Presidential. More importantly, it’ll ensure NJ gets lots of quick federal attention. (Though it did remind me that Christie used his coming out party at Mitt’s RNC to talk about Chris Christie.)
Jeb! was a bit more circumspect, spending a Mitt campaign appearance bitching that Obama blames his brother for … things his brother did.
“His entire strategy is to blame others — starting with my brother, of course,” Bush said during a campaign rally for Mitt Romney in Coral Gables, Fla. “Basically, he blames every possible thing rather than having the humility to be able to reach out and to find common ground.”
But the most amusing bid for the 2016 front-runner position comes from Paul Ryan’s unnamed backers (though Governor Kasich is quoted by name) inventing reasons why Ryan wouldn’t fulfill the other position he’s running for (Congressman)–including that his newfound popularity would fracture the Republican caucus or that Democrats would make him cast difficult votes. So, these anonymous advisors say, Ryan should instead write a book or become a Professor or lobby or think tank.
Anything for an opportunity to make public use of PowerPoint.
That is why some of Ryan’s biggest boosters are considering whether it wouldn’t be better for Ryan to resign from the House. He could write a book — “saving America” is a theme often bandied about — or teach at a university.
After all, on the campaign trail, Ryan is as much lecturer as campaigner. Aides routinely set up giant video screens so Ryan can use visual aids to walk audiences through the minutiae of budget politics. Graphs and charts are as common as yard signs and American flags at some events, with Ryan settling into his role as explainer in chief.
Yet curiously, those aides mention a 2016 Presidential bid at least 4 [Update--oops! 5] times in the article.
…future President Ryan?
…biding his time until a presidential run of his own.
a leading White House contender in 2016…
…forcing him to take sides on measures that could come back to haunt him during a presidential bid.
Ryan’s allies aren’t ruling out a bid for the top spot for their friend.
5 mentions of the next Presidential cycle, about a guy who’s on the ticket for this cycle.
And finally there’s this “accidental” email sent by Newt’s people:
“The truth is, the next election has already been decided. Obama is going to win. It’s nearly impossible to beat an incumbent president,” advertiser Porter Stansberry wrote in the email to Gingrich supporters. “What’s actually at stake right now is whether or not he will have a third-term.”
You gotta get an early start, I guess, if you’ll be 73 when you run again.
It’s all rather ghoulish, this campaigning to take over Mitt’s position as the party’s standard bearer before the race has even been called.
I don’t feel all that bad for Mitt, though. After all, he has participated in the weird custom of posthumously baptizing people, basically converting people after they’re dead. Republicans, apparently, follow the opposite strategy, burying you while you’re still technically alive.
I’ve been puzzling all week since this happened last Saturday (January 30, from the pool report).
President Bush 41, with former Fla. Gov. Jeb Bush rolled up to the White House at 9:35 for a meeting with POTUS. At 10:09, the two emerged to fat, driving snow flakes. Responding to a called question, 41 said only, “Good meeting. Good meeting.”
But it does intrigue–nay, concern–me that Jeb! started preaching the gospel of bipartisanship shortly thereafter.
The capper came Thursday when, at the top of the 7 o’clock hour, right after Vice President Joe Biden, Bush made a rare network television appearance on NBC’s Today Show. The intensely private Bush’s interview with the overly familiar Matt Lauer rattled Florida political circles.
[snip]Bush’s comments about Crist’s support for President Barack Obama’s economic stimulus plan got the most attention, but his call for Democrats and Republicans to work together was the biggest clue to his national ambitions.
“I think that leaders on both sides of the aisle need to figure out where there is common ground and at least focus on that,” he said. “It’s one thing to give a good speech. The other thing is to invite people that don’t agree exactly with your point of view to build consensus.”