Some of the more interesting bits

From Obama‘s State of the Union speech, 2015:

  • End of Afghanistan “mission”
  • Appeal to double down on middle-class economics
  • Increase availability and provide tax credit for quality childcare
  • Getting paid sick leave laws on the books
  • Wage equality
  • Raising the minimum wage — “If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it.”
  • Lowering cost of community college to free
  • Asks companies to provide more job training, hire more veterans
  • Bi-partisan infrastructure plan to attract businesses / industries
  • Trade deals in Asia, Europe — “95 percent of the world’s customers live outside our borders, and we can’t close ourselves off from those opportunities.”
  • Precision Medicine Initiative — pursuing cures for cancer, diabetes; personalized health information
  • Free, open, and fast Internet
  • Colonizing space — “not just to visit, but to stay.”
  • Closing corporate tax loopholes brokered by lobbyists
  • Opposing Russia, supporting Ukraine
  • Opening relations with Cuba
  • Halting Iran’s nuclear program
  • Legislation around cyberattacks, identity theft, and child data
  • Pursuing climate change solutions, including getting China to commit to limiting their emissions for the first time
  • Free speech; religious rights; LGBT rights
  • Shutting down Guantanamo
  • Transparency on surveillance; civil liberties vs. counter-terrorism
  • Marriage equality
  • American values vs. partisanship
  • Plea for a better politics
  • Appeal to debate and reason on divisive issues: abortion rights, immigration, voting rights, police brutality
  • Mic drop — “I have no more campaigns to run.”
*where* are my dragons?!?!

President Obama’s tech-centered State of the Union: full text, and digital rights concerns – Boing Boing. p.s. cool visualization of Twitter mentions during the speech (via srogers @ cartodb)

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Both Ellen Pao and Obama are subject to an extra heaping of criticism, skepticism, and scorn because there is some culturally-validated argument to be made about how they are different from some perceived status quo. And in modern mercenary America, the mythology is “win at all costs” whether it’s politics, business, religion, education, or Returning That Thing You Broke even though it’s out of warranty because goddammit we’re entitled to All The Things!!!!

Ergo:

  1. To gain or preserve power, you need to win
  2. It is acceptable — even laudable — to win by any means necessary (legal, ethical, loophole, grey area, “disrupting” or otherwise)
  3. To win you must be good and work hard, but plenty of winners take shortcuts, cheat, break rules/laws, harm others, and/or fraud their way to the top — so in order to stay on the field, you need to become open to those tactics whether you believe it’s right or not (see: Lance Armstrong). Meanwhile internally, you have built-in psychological mechanisms that enforce your justification and carve out a special view of yourself as being ultimately a good person (see: Jonathan Haidt) and even, more twistedly, a “good person who does bad things” (see: BTK serial killer) — whereas other people who do bad things are not simply constrained by their environments (as you are); they are just bad people.
  4. In the struggle for power, those who have (or want) it aggressively seek out any thread of weakness, real or perceived, in whatever individuals or outgroups appear to threaten their dominance.
  5. Difference from the norm is widely and cross-culturally perceived as weakness and carries a negative connotation socially.
  6. Anyone who suggests or espouses difference is subject to derision and confrontation, as a matter of course.
  7. Those who have “outward difference” characteristics — i.e. women, members of different races, religions — therefore tend to be the subject of derision and confrontation as a matter of course: because it leads the Normal to winning, and therefore preserving power.
  8. Any method of fomenting confrontation and contempt is acceptable in the noble pursuit of power, even including vociferously denying and decrying the unethical tactics used by other Normals championing for the same outcome (see: Gamergate).
  9. The age of Political Correctness took some tactics off the table, namely the overt invocation of gender or race (to a lesser extent, religion) to “name” the difference and call out the offending anti-Normal, immediately discrediting any perspective they put forth via ad hominem attack.
  10. …but the underlying game remains the same. Identify and publicly shame a perceived difference — they “kill the buzz” or they “aren’t aggressive enough” or conversely are “too pushy” or they don’t lean in enough or they don’t have the mind of a hacker. Whatever the red herring is, it’s often a derivative of a stereotype we apply to a marginalized class — but it’s trumped up and re-packaged, perhaps with some shoddy, easy to find pseudo-evidence in support — not terribly dissimilar from the way Wall Street made subprime mortgage loans appear like the bedrock of America’s financial future via complicated and inscrutable re-branding.

Stinks just as bad.

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i relied on you  
as the harbinger of truth 
and you never gave me my due 

wanted to dance 
and sail off to France 
but you called me back here from the blue

i understand now 
it was all just a row 
we were slated to have from the start 

if i followed that path 
its inexorable math 
would lead me closer too far to my heart

cheated with coin 
like most prone to join 
we can't turn away from the chrome 

left on our own 
we haunt pursuit of our bones 
never expecting we'd end up alone

did what you said 
ended up in bed
with all the white ghosts of my youth 

i should have gone far 
drove away in some car 
than come back and face this truth

that we're all just a friend 
who'll be left in the end 
always to fend for oneself 

if you're nice to what made you 
some grace then may fade you 
else then you're left out on your own 
your own 
your own

if you can climb out of there 
find some nearby stair 
you've got a clean shot at the throne 

but miss your chance 
to strike out & dance 
you too could be left so alone

i cling fast to you 
like drowning men do 
when they're desperate to suck in some air 

but we'll both go down 
with spectacular frowns 
preventing each other's aware

it don't matter now 
been too long anyhow 
since anyone cared what we do 

i'll just stick here for now 
in this fantastical row 
'til i see a path out of this gloom

was meant for much more 
but got lashed to the door 
could never pass Go! once that took, 

try as i might 
through each horrored night 
i could never get free of that hook

it sticks in your mind 
won't believe what you'll find 
the truth spills out plainly one day 

when we least expect 
some camera crew leapt 
at the chance to reveal what we say

it wasn't my fate 
& i'm still super late
in taking my place on the stage 

hold back the crowd 
they're cheering so loud 
& i'm on my way still from this cage

let the spotlight so shine 
on what's yours & what's mine 
it hardly makes sense anymore 

but they told us we're cool 
& deserve to still rule
& they still come around to our door

don't leave us now 
we're OK anyhow 
don't need that whole world for our due 

i'll just use what i have 
and we'll be depraved 
but i'll love to be stuck here with you
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Tests are evaluating tools that can only act as a diagnostic — they offer no improvement in the actual ability of children to learn. In the so-called “real world” we don’t take tests — we solve problems and tackle challenges that (ideally) resonate with us somehow when we manage to solve them.

Unfortunately one of the more important parts of that equation — the passion, and the interest that drives us to ask questions in the first place — is often absent in many a modern life.

In service of stability, in service of family, of practicality, of a grim sort of tradition — for whatever reasons, we find ourselves here. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Moreover, tests are supposedly a heuristic that stands in for “teacher performance.” But there are many quite consequential other factors that affect students’ performance on tests, most of which have nothing to do with the teacher and everything to do with the child and his or her life outside of school.

In other words, judging teacher ability by test scores alone is a very “lossy” way to make a judgment to begin with — and we’ve dramatically increased the number of tests, to the point where there are precious few *other* judgments allowable or possible about our teachers. Plus, we’ve tied test scores to teacher salaries and district funding more broadly — all based on the notion that one very lossy metric is able to tell us everything we need to know about what’s going on in our schools.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Missing from that metric is any factor that accounts for what arguably *is* the most salient predictor of student performance: poverty level. This makes intuitive sense to anyone who’s ever taken a sociology class, or has experience with poverty itself — when you design a feedback loop to punish the poorest students, who already have the most difficult time prioritizing school life over the very real concerns waiting at home, we shouldn’t be surprised that the loop keeps tightening and ensuring the black hole of poverty is harder and harder to escape.

There’s nothing common about the Common Core

The standards for Common Core sailed through reams of political due process in record time, right on a wave of $230 million from Bill Gates — a man who went to an elite private school, and has sent his children to the same type of education. No dogfooding, Bill? If the improvements you’re making to our system are so awesome, why not entrust your own family’s future to the power of the robust American public school system?

Or is it just another thinly veiled form of colonialism, under a new guise — much like Zuckerberg’s boondoggle internet.org. We’re giving our children a better chance at becoming great test takers, much like we’re giving the third world a few tiny drops of Facebook-gated internet. Go us! This is what Great Men do with all that money they fleeced out of the American economy: Give Back. We applauded them as they siphoned it — slack jawed, drooling fanboys — and later lauded them as they gave slivers of it back in exchange for the modern version of the pyramids: your name on an edifice, to live on through the ages and be recognized by future men. This is how one escapes dying — so the story goes.

There’s another story.

You can escape dying in another important way: by living. Just choose to live honestly and openly every day, in every moment, in every moment of decision. 

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