The sheer number of patents in the U.S. is fueling frivolous litigation and drastic action is needed to make patents more difficult to obtain and easier to invalidate, U.S. Circuit Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit said Tuesday. > more ... (0 comments)
I’ve been getting progressively more alarmed at all of the shameful stories coming out lately on the spread of high-stakes testing into so much of our public school system. The simplistic argument underlying it smells exactly like most of the other simplistic bullshit Republicans incessantly excrete*:
The Bible for opponents of high-stakes testing is a 2010 book called The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education, by Diane Ravitch, perhaps the nation’s preeminent education historian. Ravitch, who grew up in Texas and attended Houston public schools, was once an advocate of both high-stakes testing and charter schools. She served as the assistant secretary of education under President George H. W. Bush and was later appointed by President Bill Clinton to head the National Assessment Governing Board. [...]
“Like everyone else,” she told me during a stop in Austin in February, “I was drawn to the idea that schools might benefit from a business sensibility, that we should set goals and then reward high performers and punish low performers.”
Throw our children into the cutthroat world of private enterprise and profit maximization? What could go wrong?
One of the key things that pisses me off when I read yet another story about the harm all of this is causing is that it seems to be the millionth recent example of trying to treat the symptoms without dealing with the underlying disease:
“The number one determinant of how well kids will do in school is socioeconomic background,” Ravitch told me. “It’s not how good your teacher is or which school you go to.” Ravitch makes a convincing case that those pining for a lost golden era of American education are misremembering. Sixty years ago, black and Hispanic kids weren’t allowed to attend public schools—or at least, not real ones—and most didn’t even go to high school. Kids with disabilities were excluded as well, and there were far fewer recent immigrants enrolled. Comparing that system with the one we have today makes no sense.
Why would we want to throw any additional money at alleviating poverty or child hunger, when we can just throw countless $billions at dubious, unproven band-aids that probably aren’t doing much of anything to cure just one of the dozens of symptoms of poverty and child hunger?
Read the whole article from which I took the quotes above. It will make you angrier than anything you’ve read recently.
* And yes, Democrats (the “Me too!” party) have, true to form, signed onto the same bullshit.
Yglesias makes a sharp point here:
One possible explanation for [Bush's failures] would be that he’s dumb. Or alternatively that he’s incredibly lazy. The president of the United States has a tough job, after all, and it’s totally possible to imagine a person with roughly correct ideas to nonetheless screw it up through incompetence and blundering. But if conservatives want us to believe that the United States blundered through a major terrorist attack, two major failed military adventures, dismal economic performance, and then finally an epic economic collpase all while under the watch of a very bright and attentive leader then it seems like a much deeper failure of the movement.
Intelligence and ideology were major causes of Bush’s disastrous reign, though there were many others.
I actually think it’s possible to make the scope argument here: that the presidency has grown so ridiculously large and unwieldy that it’s impossible not to find several areas to specialize in and pay only cursory attention to the rest. I definitely think you see this with the Obama Administration, where some areas of public policy are just completely delegated because there’s too much to do. Problem with that is much of that growth has been due to shifts in the scope of foreign policy since WWII, and Bush was absolutely horrible at managing foreign policy. Apart from the wars that sapped any post-9/11 goodwill in the Arab world, Bush managed to tank relations with Russia and much of Europe (with the exclusion, of course, of Poland), allowed Hamas to gain official power in Gaza, and so on. Bush had little foreign policy preparation before entering office–substantially less even than Barack Obama, with those couple years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee–and while he seemingly spent more than the appropriate amount of time on that subject for a president, to the detriment of domestic policy. What with the floods and bridge collapses and all that.
I think the other factor, aside from intelligence and ideology, that led to Bush’s disastrous tenure was character. Bush was no judge of it in others, and his flaws were so apparent that it made it easy for tougher, cannier men in the White House to handle him and turn him to their views. I’ve written in the past that you can make the argument that Bush grew a little bit during his time in office, and that he eventually learned his lesson and stopped letting Rove and Cheney and Rumsfeld jerk him around so much. But ultimately, a president who hadn’t been born to George and Barbara Bush would never have been able to rise to the top without finding ways to keep those flaws in check. Dubya basically went from nothing to a weak governor job to president, and never had to confront his own failures and make changes. There’s no real substitute for it in growing personally and careerwise. This is, perhaps, why the Bush years were so frustrating, because the guy had never really had to grow up.
Remember this from 2004?
President Bush proclaimed his election as evidence that Americans embrace his plans to reform Social Security, simplify the tax code, curb lawsuits and fight the war on terror, pledging Thursday to work in a bipartisan manner with “everyone who shares our goals.”
Bush staked his claim to a broad mandate and announced his top priorities at a post-election news conference, saying his 3.5 million vote victory had won him political capital that he would spend enacting his conservative agenda.
“I earned capital in this campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it,” Bush told reporters. “It is my style.”
Bernand Finel provides context for last night’s walloping:
Bush “won” in 2000 with 271 electoral votes. In 2004 he upped that to a massive 286.
Obama underperformed his 365 from 2008 to end up with, likely, 332.
If Bush ever won a “mandate”, Obama just won a doubleplusgood muthafreakin mandate.
Update: Oh, Dickbag Morris, when will you be right about anything:
I’ve got egg on my face. I predicted a Romney landslide and, instead, we ended up with an Obama squeaker.
Obama’s win being a squeaker is like me being a ham sandwich.
From Townhall, naturally:
What we find is that the recovery from the bottom of the recession in January 2009 through June 2009, the official end of the U.S. recession, can only be attributed to policies implemented during the Bush administration, as no policy implemented by the Obama administration could have had any meaningful effect upon the economy during these six months.
That trend of improvement then continued during much of the period of overlap between the times when policies implemented during either President Bush’s or President Obama’s tenures in office could have affected the monthly employment data. In fact, if this were a trend in a stock price, a technical analyst would have been screaming to go “all in” at the time because of its upward momentum!
However, we see that the trend of improvement established during President Bush’s administration dies out toward the end of that overlap period, as the trend in the employment situation in the U.S. during the period where only policies implemented during President Obama’s time in office would have a stronger and stronger effect.
I thought Mitt Romney said we were supposed to consider the amount of jobs created since January 20, 2009, which proves once and for all that Obama is a job-killing failure.
ONCE AND FOR ALL!
Oh, yeah, about that…
I’m betting that the debt ceiling deal will pass Congress today. I don’t really have much to say about it, I don’t think it’s a very good deal and Jon Chait is persuasive when he says that it wouldn’t be a bad complement should Obama be ready to play hardball on the Bush Tax Cuts next year. But, like Chait, I think Obama has misjudged and mishandled the GOP far too often to have any real hope of that working out.
But, aside from that, this episode makes me wonder if Obama really has any real strategy for his domestic policy legislation. I’m beginning to seriously doubt it. Of course, if you look at it on a high level, what Obama’s doing doesn’t look that different from what George W. Bush did domestically in his first term (and failed to in his second), or from what Bill Clinton’s first term was supposed to be. In each example here, the president in question pushed two major policy initiatives, one of which was aimed at making the base happy, and the other of which was aimed at the moderate/independent axis. Here’s how it went:
- In ’93-’94, Bill Clinton pushed universal healthcare for the left, and NAFTA for the centrists. He failed at the first and succeeded at the second, which made business happy but pissed off labor and liberals, leading to the disaster of 1994.
- In ’01-’03, Dubya pushed tax cuts for his base, and Medicare Part D for the middle. Both were successful, and the result was a second term despite tepid popularity.*
- In ’05-’07, Dubya wanted to do Social Security privatization for the base, and immigration reform for the center. Both failed, and his party lost big in both 2006 and 2008, though there were other factors at play there for sure.
(*Also, there was No Child Left Behind in there, but that was more a mishmash of bad ideas left and right so it’s sort of sui generis.) This is just sort of how presidents usually behave these days–they try to give the base something they really want, and they try to give the mushy middle something they really want. Rarely are these the same thing–Bush’s tax cuts were (and are) quite unpopular with the public, particularly the upper-income cuts. Bush even lost a few Republicans by pushing so hard. But conservatives loved the tax cuts, and so they were willing to hold their noses at Medicare expansion and the like. Bush pushed hard for as much as he could get on tax cuts, which helped solidify his coalition. The result was a disaster in many ways, but not for Bush and the Republicans. At least, not then.
It’s hardly unlikely that Obama was trying to do the same sort of thing here–getting healthcare in the first two years for the left, and then a big deficit reduction package for the center. In fact, that might even be smart politics if it had been executed smartly. But it wasn’t, at least in the first part. Healthcare didn’t feel like a big win for the left, as many of the parts they cared the most for were bargained away behind the scenes but still appeared in limbo during the discussions, which led to a demoralizing debate in which the public option was killed a number of times. Financial reform was inadequate and mistimed, a B- bill after a Grade-A meltdown. The stimulus was too small and too heavy with unstimulative tax cuts to feel like anything other than the muddled (and self-consciously centrist) compromise it was. That they all were, ultimately.
Now, I’m the last person to say that healthcare wasn’t worth doing, even in compromised form. People made a bit too much of the public option in terms of the policy impact it would have had, which would by all indications have been modest. But had Obama really pushed for it, and nailed Joe Lieberman’s hide to the wall to get it, he’d have had much more latitude to do deficit reduction than he has now. Of course, Bush’s tax cuts were compromises, too. But they were the minimal possible compromises needed to pass the thing. Obama was completely inured to what the public option battle meant to the left, treated HCR like every piece of legislation as another way of showing moderateness/reasonableness/compromise, which in retrospect just seems foolish. It presumes that independents follow every legislative debate closely, that they award points for every gesture of moderation, or that getting bold on occasion is a dealbreaker. In other words, it’s Village thinking, to the extent that’s not an oxymoron. And paying attention to politics proves that. Back during my Republican days, I knew a lot of Republicans who were frustrated with this or that with respect to George W. Bush, but they always came back to those tax cuts for a reason to support him. It’s a wrinkle in the game that Obama appeared not to understand–being stridently to the left on even just one issue and winning a big victory can make the job so much easier with your base–and can consequently create more latitude to go after the center with them behind you. Bush did this exact thing with the right, keeping his base intact while compiling one of the least right-wing domestic policy profiles imaginable. It’s interesting to imagine how the past year would have played out had Obama staked out one of the three major issues–stimulus, healthcare, and financial regs–and just throttled it with the base. Healthcare is the most blindingly obvious one of the three to have done so with. I doubt Obama’s standing with the base would be as strong as Bush’s was with his circa 2003–liberals are a much more fractious bunch than conservatives–but I strongly doubt the Republicans would have 240 seats in the House right now if he had. If the strategy really is to use every piece of legislation as a way of telegraphing reasonableness, it shouldn’t be surprising if the results are very tepid approval among core supporters. Just imagine how Republicans would have seen Bush had he done everything the same but had unilaterally dropped half the tax cuts he wanted to woo Democratic Senators, and I can easily see it being like Obama’s present situation, though probably worse.
So that’s that. This is o/t, but I saw Steve Coogan’s The Trip at the theater this weekend, and if it’s in your area, do go check it out. Some truly great improv comedy with a great concept and real heart. Here’s a great scene from the film:
I was talking with the significant other yesterday about the presidential race, and it got me thinking about just how odd it is that Tim Pawlenty is being treated as a top-tier candidate. I’m not saying that he has no chance, but knowing what we know about him just makes it strange to think of him that way. If you think about some of the more successful presidential candidacies of the past decade or so, what you have in the case of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush are politicians who were elected, became very popular in their states, to the extent of winning enormous re-election landslides in the case of Clinton and Bush (though Obama’s 70% in 2004 was pretty impressive, and better than Bush’s 68% in 1998 and Clinton’s 67% in 2006), which led to all of them parlaying this buzz onto the national stage. Now, obviously all three had some level of national awareness before taking office, but had Bush been an unpopular governor with tepid approval ratings who declined a bid for re-election and then ran for president, I hardly believe that the Republican elite would have been quite as assiduous in clearing a path to the nomination for him. Really, when you think about it, Pawlenty’s time in office followed an arc closer to Rick Santorum’s than to Clinton-Bush-Obama, in that Santorum got a second term before rapidly wearing out his welcome in a blue state, though unlike Pawlenty he tried for another term with awful approval ratings and failed miserably, which pretty much removed him from ever being considered top-tier in a national race. Pawlenty and Santorum are about similarly positioned in their respective states in terms of appeal, with the difference being that Pawlenty avoided a landslide loss by stepping down. This kept an ugly loss from Mark Dayton from appearing on his record–I can’t imagine Pawlenty being taken even moderately seriously in that event–but it didn’t really change his fundamentals.
Which is what makes Pawlenty so much weirder a case. He didn’t run a huge state like Bush, or come from media-heavy New York, or inspire the base with a big nationally-televised speech at a party convention. He won in 2002 with a plurality, and then won another term in 2006 with a much smaller plurality. He declined to run for a third term because he probably wasn’t going to win and he wanted to be free for a presidential run. In other words, his departure from state politics was based on the weakness of his future prospects. This isn’t like Bush or Clinton or Obama, who were pushed onto the national stage thanks to intense favorability in their big, politically prominent home states (and some powerful inside connections as well). Pawlenty doesn’t really even have a shot in his own state versus Obama, and who knows him better than they do? If one wonders why Pawlenty can’t really muster any enthusiasm, it’s probably because he’s never done it before, and he’s starting with none extant. Being the good-enough governor of a state that traditionally isn’t all that pivotal politically is not a natural springboard to the nomination. In a year with a stronger field, Pawlenty would be comfortably ensconced in the second-tier, and that’s probably where he belongs for 2012 as well. Hell, on paper he’s far less impressive than Tommy Thompson, who went nowhere in 2008 despite winning four gubernatorial elections and maintaining good approval ratings in neighboring Wisconsin. Thompson could plausibly have argued that he’d play better in the Midwest than a typical Republican. I see no reason why Pawlenty could.
Now, obviously, Mitt Romney doesn’t have much of a chance in his state either. But that was by design. Romney’s rightward shift (circa early 2006 or so) was designed to make liberal Massachusetts residents hate him, which would in turn make conservatives like him for Standing Up To The Liberals. Theoretically, anyway. In any event, Romney’s not campaigning on his ability to win Massachusetts. Pawlenty is very much running on being able to play better in the Midwest than other people in the race, but he’s just not someone like Obama who attracted a lot of positive energy in his state and then harnessed the spillover in a national campaign, first by winning Iowa and then by nearly sweeping the Midwest in the general election. Pawlenty just didn’t have that effect when he was running his state, and it would be unwarranted to think he’d have it in 2012. Romney has some glaring faults, but there was a time when Massachusetts voters were very favorably disposed to him. Republicans would be better served by a candidate who has at least shown in the past that he can muster some enthusiasm, instead of someone who never has done so.
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