There is a place in Michigan called Hell. It’s an unincorporated settlement, meaning that it’s a place without any local government below the level of Putnam Township in Livingston County.
In its present incarnation, Hell is kind of hokey. It’s something like a Halloween theme park, populated by goofy cartoon images of vampires, zombies and werewolves. Hell has developed into a kind of business, it seems.
The appeal of Hell to little kids, however, doesn’t seem to be a solid foundation for a successful business. The owner of Hell, Michigan is selling it for a million dollars.
A more grown-up group is seeking to buy Hell. The organizers of the Damned Exhibition, an art show of “enlightened darkness”, is running a Kickstarter campaign to gain the money required to purchase Hell, Michigan and make it the headquarters of its “extraordinary creations that often emanate from within these prodigious moments to often reveal enlightenment within our most darkest hours… a minute glimpse within the vast shadows of id and ego…of overall mind and encompassing soul that may intrigue, disturb, inspire and/or repulse.”
On the morning of February 27 2015, Newt Gingrich issued a call for questions at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) via the Twitter hashtag #CPACQ:
Neither he nor any of the CPAC leadership had bothered to check the #CPAC hashtag they’d started up the day before: people everywhere, not just conservatives, were asking questions. By the end of the day yesterday, Newt Gingrich figured out what hundreds of astroturfers learned before him: you can control paid media, and you can delete comments to your Facebook posts, but you can’t control free speech on Twitter. Neither Newt nor the CPAC leadership can censor the #CPACQ feed now.
Here’s a small sample of what Americans have decided to ask Gingrich CPAC:
If Newt Gingrich can’t censor #CPACQ, what’s left? Gingrich answered only one canned question in the first minute or two (“What’s your favorite constitutional amendment?”) and ignored the rest. When questions from the masses get uncomfortable, Gingrich walks away
“I’ve found that for instance homeschoolers do the best, private schoolers next best, charter schoolers next best, and public schoolers worst,” Ben Carson said this week in a speech to CPAC – the Conservative Political Action Conference. Carson is running for President of the United States, so it’s important that we pay attention to what he says, and consider it carefully.
Ben Carson says that he has “found” that homeschooled students have the best performance, that private school students do that next best, and that public school students perform the most poorly. Where, though, has he “found” this fact?
Ben Carson has not conducted any actual research into the relative academic or professional success of homeschooling, private education, and public education. He didn’t cite any statistics to support his assertion. He just made a claim, and expected his audience to accept it on faith. He searched his own brain, and “found” a belief.
Let’s look at what actual research suggests.
Ben Carson’s categorical statement that public school students are outperformed by private school students isn’t an accurate of educational research. There is plenty of reason to think that public education is at least as effective as private education, and perhaps more effective. A 2006 study by the National Center for Education Statistics found that, when demographic variables were controlled for, public school students had a 4.5-point lead over private school students on standardized tests. Furthermore In 2007, a Center on Educational Policy study found that:
“1. Students attending independent private high schools, most types of parochial high schools, and public high schools of choice performed no better on achievement tests in math, reading, science, and history than their counterparts in traditional public high schools.
2. Students who had attended any type of private high school ended up no more likely to attend college than their counterparts at traditional public high schools.
3. Young adults who had attended any type of private high school ended up with no more job satisfaction at age 26 than young adults who had attended traditional pub- lic high schools.
4. Young adults who had attended any type of private high school ended up no more engaged in civic activities at age 26 than young adults who had attended traditional public high schools.”
So much for the private school advantage that Ben Carson “found”. What about homeschoolers?
Homeschooling proponents like to cite a study by Lawrence Rudner, published in 1999 in the Education Policy Analysis Archives. The study found that homeschooled students participating in the study scored “well above” both private school students and public school students on the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills.
The Rudner study was seriously flawed in many ways, however, as Lawrence Rudner himself has admitted. Rudner writes that, in his study “reported achievement differences between groups do not control for background differences in the home school and general United States population”. Additionally, “it was not possible within the parameters of this study to evaluate whether this sample is truly representative of the entire population of home school students,” Rudner acknowledges. In other words, the Rudner study failed to meet the basic standards of statistical research.
An additional problem with the Rudner study was that, while students in private and public schools took the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills under carefully proctored by teachers to ensure that no cheating took place, and to strictly enforce time limits in test taking. Homeschooled students, on the other hand, took the tests at home, with only their parents to watch over them, if they were watched at all, and with no time limits. It is little wonder that the homeschooled students got higher scores on the tests, and reasonable to conclude that these higher scores might have nothing at all to do with superior academic ability.
A 2011 study by Sandra Martin-Chang, Odette Gould, and Reanne Meuse found a remarkable variability of achievement within homeschoolers. While those homeschooled students in the study receiving structured education at home were able to achieve higher scores on standardized tests than public school students in the study, homeschooled students in the study receiving relatively unstructured education at home performed much worse than public school students. On the whole, the homeschool difference was a wash.
The 2011 study also should give pause to those like Ben Carson who seek to extrapolate educational research findings into educational policy. Statistical correlations do not indicate particular directions of causation. The fact that homeschoolers with structured education in the study were achieving better at standardized tests than public school students does not necessarily indicate that structured homeschooling leads to increases in standardized test scores. An alternative explanation is that families with children who are already academically high-achieving tend to take their children out of public school in order to provide structured education at home that is more adequately-matched to ability.
Furthermore, the 2011 is limited in its measurement of academic success – the standardized test. Standardized tests are highly-structured modes of assessment, and so may reasonably be considered biased toward students who have received highly-structured forms of education. Academic achievement isn’t as simple as a score on a standardized test, but Ben Carson doesn’t seem capable of understanding this sort of nuance. Carson only speaks of which groups of students perform “best”, without even bothering to define what “best” means. Who says that Ben Carson’s idea of what’s best in education is something that most Americans want to go along with?
Ben Carson hasn’t even exhibited the sufficient intellectual rigor to carefully define what he considers to be educational success. Why, then, should Americans accept his conclusion that homeschooling is best, and public education is worst? Why, if Ben Carson is willing to engage in such sloppy thinking as he exhibits in the area of educational policy, should Americans support his bid to become President of the United States of America?
What did you learn in school today?
Brad Rogers writes in the Bangor Daily News about a simple choice by high school seniors in South Portland. The senior class President of South Portland high school noticed that teachers were harassing students who chose not to say the Pledge of Allegiance, so she looked up state law, which declares that no student can be forced to say the Pledge. After doing her research, Lily SanGiovanni started carrying out her responsibility of leading the pledge by adding some words noting students’ rights: the simple words “if you want to.”
For this, the Principal of South Portland High pulled SanGiovanni aside and asked her to stop informing students of their right to choose not to say the pledge. A school administrative committee approved a policy of not telling students of their right to refrain. Community members who found out started calling SanGiovanni names, declaring that “Our flag is a symbol of freedom — if you can’t respect that then leave.” SanGiovanni and her fellow senior class officers, who support her action, have been forbidden from telling students the truth. As it stands today in South Portland, the freedom of the flag is now celebrated through coercion, misinformation, obedience and silence.
In an article seven years ago, we decried the corruption in the funding of George W. Bush’s presidential library. Now, planning for Barack Obama’s presidential library is beginning behind the scenes.
As we decried the corruption in the presidential library funding process before, Republicans will decry it now. The change in the political party that is engaging in presidential library corruption does not change the consistency of the corruption. Secret Presidential library fundraising is a means for the bribery of a sitting President of the United States. It must be prohibited.
In the Senate, Tom Carper, Kelly Ayotte and Tim Johnson (two Democrats and a Republican) have sponsored S. 558, a bill to require the disclosure of the identity of people funding presidential libraries. In the House of Representatives, John Duncan and Elijah Cummings (a Republican and a Democrat) have sponsored a companion bill, H.R. 1069.
I had always considered the Walt Disney company, especially in its 20th Century incarnation, to be staid, conservative, safe, dull, and obvious. That assessment falls away in the face of Disney’s My Very First Dictionary, copyright 1989. The book was open to the page you see above at the pediatrician’s office this afternoon, and with a second, third and fourth look I couldn’t believe my eyes. An x-ray revealing an oil pump for a heart is mildly imaginative. But who would think to put a prickly pear cactus, which grows only in deserts at the bottom of the sea? The image of a joyous Goofy wearing a housedress and a coon-skin cap, strangling a teddy bear unconscious, is more bizarre than anything out of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?
Hours after leaving the pediatrician’s office, I am still unsure as to how I ought to react to these images. I feel a strong urge to reject these pictures as dreck because they come from Disney, and I was raised to reject everything Disney as trite, saccharine and crassly commercial. There’s a strong second feeling I have to embrace the pictures for being bizarre. But is oddity itself a virtue? The more I look at the top two images, the less impressed I am by them. Perhaps they’re nothing more than cartoons Mad-Libbed. We’ll draw an x-ray, but instead of a heart in the chest there will be a (insert noun). It’s an ocean scene, but we’ll make it zany by putting in a (insert noun). Is that sophomoric? Maybe. Maybe I want it to be because my parents decided so long ago that our family would hate Disney.
Whatever I think of the top two images, there’s no way I can reject the bottom image. The combination of infantilism, innocence, rage and destruction is too creepy to be trite, too subversive of the Disney brand to be anything but art. I imagine it drawn by an employee on his bitter last day of work as Uncle Walt shuts down one division to start something more fresh.
Testifying today before the House Judiciary Committee, Rodney Monroe, Chief of Police of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department, warned members of Congress that, “Terrorism is a real threat that we face every day – both the Sheriff and I face threats of attack at public shopping malls in our communities. Domestic terrorism is prevalent. It’s not something that is simply going to disappear… As the number and variety of terrorism incidents and cases shows, violent extremism can be found everywhere.”
Is Rodney Monroe right?
Is domestic terrorism prevalent?
Prevalent is a word with specific meaning. When something is prevalent, that means it prevails. Something prevalent is not present absolutely everywhere, but the chances are that, if you look for it in a place, you’ll find it easily. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word “prevalent” as something “widely or commonly occurring, existing, accepted, or practiced.”
In the first ten years after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, only 30 people were killed inside the United States as a part of what might broadly be called domestic terrorism. That’s a rate of death from domestic terrorism of less than one millionth of one percent of the population per decade.
Among these incidents of domestic terrorism were attacks from right wing Americans. These include two people murdered by right wing Minutemen militias along the U.S. border, two people killed when when a man upset with the IRS purposefully crashed his small airplane into a government office building, and an abortion provider murdered in Wichita, Kansas.
Does Rodney Monroe face threats of attack at public shopping malls in Charlotte, North Carolina? Perhaps there may be some threats, but probably not. Last autumn, there were reports that someone who liked the Islamic State had a Twitter conversation in which he talked about wanting to die some day in the way Islamic State fighters do. During that Twitter conversation, the person with that Twitter account also mentioned that he knows of a mall in Charlotte. Though the conversation never actually threatened an attack against the shopping mall in Charlotte, rumors began to spread that such a threat existed.
The FBI statement about this case was as follows: “The FBI is unaware of any specific, credible threats to the U.S. or the Charlotte area at this time. The FBI works around the clock with our partners in the law enforcement community to share and assess information. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activities to your local police or the FBI.”
Likewise, this week, it was reported that someone had issued a threat of a terrorist attack against a shopping mall in the United States. Later, it was revealed that no specific, credible threat actually existed.
So, what it looks like is that Rodney Moore faces rumors of threats of terrorist attacks at shopping malls in Charlotte, North Carolina. Does the Charlotte Mecklenberg Police Department actually need help from the Department of Homeland Security just to deal with false rumors?
What about Rodney Monroe’s contention that “violent extremism can be found everywhere”? What he says is true, if we consider that every human being entertains thoughts of violent extremism every now and then. People who think about violent extremism are, indeed, everywhere. However, it’s not the job of the police to punish people for thinking bad thoughts. If we consider violent extremism in terms of people actually committing criminal acts of terrorism, then it’s clear that violent extremism is almost nowhere at all in the United States of America.
Rodney Monroe says he deals with threats of terrorist attack in Charlotte, North Carolina every day, but the fact is that there has not been a single terrorist attack in Charlotte in this century. The closest thing to a real threat of a terrorist attack in Charlotte was a right wing conspiracy theory spread last year by someone using the pseudonym Truther, claiming that Barack Obama was going to bomb the Bank of America headquarters there. “It appears that an Oklahoma City-like bombing is planned for the Bank of America Corporate Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. Although the attack could transpire at any time, one potential date is Father’s Day, June 15, 2014,” Truther said. Like everything that Truther predicts, the false flag terrorist attack in Charlotte never actually took place.
Another day, another crazy right wing conspiracy theory. This one comes from the National Draft Ben Carson For President Committee, which seems to be a magnet for mentally unbalanced extremists. An article posted by the committee starts with the old assertion that Barack Obama is secretly Muslim: “I think last week in Paris was Obama’s figurative ‘come to Jesus moment’ — but whom did he stand with; Jesus or Mohammad, I ask you?”
But enough of that. The people at Run Ben Run aren’t going to allow their campaign for Ben Carson to rest idly on such familiar ground. They quickly go off to explore new territory with the idea that Barack Obama is planning to prevent the presidential election of 2016 from ever taking place.
The article from the National Draft Ben Carson For President Committee proposes that, “the more important question is where may this all lead to in the final two years of this President’s second term. Like Dr. Ben Carson, I’m truly beginning to wonder what this man might be capable of setting into place to stop or forestall the 2016 elections. It certainly isn’t far-fetched… The goal of the Obama/Soros duo seems to point towards the complete and thorough economic collapse of the United States by following the Cloward and Piven Strategy…look it up… I would guess by this March, April the latest we’ll see the true cards laid out — right now they seem focused on crashing the dollar.”
Let’s unpack this: The Cloward and Piven strategy is an old idea proposed by a couple of professors in the 1960s – half a century ago. They were reacting to the problem of large numbers of Americans trapped in poverty, without any access to government assistance. They speculated that if the social welfare system could be overwhelmed by their demands for help, then a national system of guaranteed income could be established, and poverty would be eliminated.
So, the National Draft Ben Carson For President Committee is asserting that Barack Obama is trying to use this strategy of provoking poor people to rise up en masse, by lowering the value of the U.S. dollar, in order to prevent the 2016 presidential election. It certainly is a curious conspiracy theory, but I’m not sure how it could actually work.
Well, we should find out soon if the people over at the National Draft Ben Carson For President Committee are right. They say that Barack Obama will openly propose his plan for calamity and canceled elections by March, or April at the latest. There are only a few days until March arrives, so sometime in the next month or two, we’ll find out whether the National Draft Ben Carson For President Committee is really on to something, or Run Ben Run is as full of nuts as a Snickers Bar.
I am apparently the first person in the world to notice the fallopian and uterine nature of this bottlecap from Seagram’s. My momma always told me I’d be first in something.
Today is National Adjunct Walkout Day, a day during which educators, students, parents, and other concerned citizens are joining together to protest against the abusive treatment of adjunct professors at colleges and universities across the United States. The promise of higher education is enlightenment and greater potential for employment, but an alarming number of college courses are being taught by adjunct professors who do not receive a living wage and have next to no benefits or job security. Over half of instructors at American universities are adjuncts, and 76 percent of teaching positions in higher education offer no route to tenure.
Last year, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce received a report on the condition of adjunct professors. Adjuncts responding to the research behind the report earned an average of just $24,926 – and had to try to pay off the substantial debts they had amassed during their long years of education. Many supposedly part-time faculty actually end up teaching a full load of courses, but don’t get paid fairly for their work, and remain stifled in their attempts to develop professionally.
If adjunct professors were to abandon their posts, the university system would quickly fall apart. Yet, even as college students are paying record-high tuition, being racked with debt, universities refuse to give adjunct professors even a basic level of respect and support. PhD programs keep on admitting high numbers of students in academic degrees that do not lead to employment outside of academia, while the number of PhD graduates in these programs is far more than could ever be employed in academia. It’s a system designed to create economic ruin for large numbers of people who successfully complete graduate degree programs.
What’s at risk is not just the economic condition of adjunct professors, but trust in the value of education itself. If colleges and universities, who claim to offer us paths to self-improvement, continue to provide exploitation instead, an advanced degree may soon come to be regarded as the mark of a fool rather than as a sign of wisdom.
The Shahadah conspiracy is back! Back in 2012, Jerome Corsi claimed that Barack Obama was wearing a Shahadah ring. Using nothing but a fuzzy, “digitally enhanced” photograph taken of a ring on Barack Obama’s finger, Corsi said that he could see clear Islamic symbols on the ring, proving that Barack Obama is a secretly a Muslim – a secret Muslim who wears a sign of his secret religion everywhere he goes.
Now, right wing writer F.W. Burleigh is following in Jerome Corsi’s footsteps, claiming that Barack Obama is showing the Shahadah with his finger again. This time, it’s not his ring that’s supposed to be Shahadah, but Barack Obama’s finger itself.
Burleigh writes, “Is President Obama a Muslim? A lot has been written about this, but if photographs speak louder than words, then a photo taken at last August’s U.S. – African Leaders’ Summit in Washington D.C. might shed considerable light. It shows Barack Hussein Obama flashing the one-finger affirmation of Islamic faith to dozens of African delegates.”
Here, you can see the photograph Burleigh claims shows Barack Obama flashing a Muslim gang symbol, the Shahadah. Secret Muslims tip each other off with the Shahadah, according to Burleigh, every time someone points their index finger up into the air.
If Burleigh is right, then we have the following additional revelations to share:
Katy Perry is secretly a Muslim.
Jan Brewer shares Barack Obama’s secret Islamic identity.
Donald Trump flashes the Shahada.
Scott Walker is a secret Muslim.
Chris Christie is an angry Muslim.
Nicolas Sarkozy has been secretly one of those Muslim immigrants in France many times.
George Clooney is ten Muslims.