Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Third Degree In 2016

I've talked about a possible conservative third party challenge to Trump, and I've even entertained Bernie Sanders breaking off and joining Jill Stein over in Green land, but as Clare Malone over at Five Thirty Eight reminds us, there already is a serious third party candidate on the ballot in November, and Libertarian Party mainstay Gary Johnson is polling in double digits in a three-way race.

At the moment, he’s probably most often confused with that plumber who fixed your running toilet last month or your spouse’s weird friend from work who keeps calling the landline, but he’s neither — he’s the former governor of New Mexico, likely Libertarian candidate for president, and he’s polling at 10 percent in two recently released national polls against Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. 
A Morning Consult survey published Tuesday and found Clinton getting 38 percent of the vote, Trump 35 and Johnson 10, with 17 percent undecided. A Fox News poll conducted from May 14-17 showed Trump leading over Clinton, 42 percent to 39 percent, but Johnson at 10 percent as well. Lest you think this is some fluky May development, a Monmouth Universitysurvey conducted in mid-March — while the political universe was still busy wringing its hands over the Republican nomination — found that in a three-way race, Clinton would get 42 percent, Trump 34 percent and Johnson 11 percent. 
Given that Trump and Clinton are sporting historically high negative ratings, Johnson’s polling makes a fair bit of sense; Gary Johnson is neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton. He might not win a state, but he could make some noise.

This seems like it could maybe turn into another Ross Perot moment.  Maybe.  Still a long shot.

The most serious third-party candidate in recent memory was Ross Perot, who third-wheeled his way onto the political stage in 1992 and 1996, eventually taking 19 percent and 8 percent of the national vote in those respective years. In May of 1992, Perot, a former businessman, was polling gangbusters; a Gallup poll found him at 35 percent and an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey had him at 30 percent. Perot entered the race in February of that year, a few weeks after the county was initiated to the first of Bill Clinton’s sex scandals, and in the midst of a tough economy for President George H.W. Bush — plenty of voters were looking for other options. Four years later, he was still polling well for a third-party candidate, but not nearly at his 1992 levels: May polls (not to be confused with maypoles) had Perot at 17 percent (ABC/Washington Post), 12 percent (NBC/Wall Street Journal), and 10 percent (Gallup1). 
But that was the ‘90s, back before most of us in the interior of the country had ever even seen an avocado let alone mashed it up on toast. How have third-party candidates polled recently? Johnson ran as the Libertarian candidate in 2012, and won about 1 percent of the national vote, becoming the most successful Libertarian candidate ever; in polls done in May and June of 2012, he was polling at 2 percent. Bob Barr, the Libertarian nominee in 2008, also polled at 2 percent in the late spring of that year. 
It must be noted that Johnson is not yet the Libertarian nominee. The party will be holding its nominating convention this weekend in Orlando, where he will face Austin Petersen, a young party operative, as well as former fugitive millionaire businessman John McAfee, who was once called“extremely paranoid, even bonkers” by the prime minister of Belize. 
Given that this is 2016, no result should be ruled out.

The point is there are people out there who have no intention of voting for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, and if they start seeing Johnson as a viable alternative, it's possible that he could get enough votes to swing a close state or two. As 2000 showed us, you don't need more than a few thousand votes in the right state to change the course of an election and of history.  Even if Johnson doesn't get 10% of the vote, 1% of the vote could be enough in places like Florida, NC, and even Ohio.

It wouldn't be the first time in American history.

North Carolina Goes Into The Crapper, Con't.

The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce is raging mad at NC GOP Gov. Pay McCrory and the state's GOP lawmakers as so far the state's idiotic HB2 "bathroom bill" has cost the state $285 million in lost business...

...and that's just Charlotte.

Mecklenburg County has suffered an economic blow of $285 million and a loss of as many as 1,300 jobs as a result of House Bill 2, a new Charlotte Chamber report says. 
The report also says inquiries about new economic development are down 58 percent since lawmakers passed the bill in March, and client visits down 69 percent from last year. 
“We have said all along that the economic loss has been real, the risk of further loss is great, and this is potentially catastrophic to our economy,” Chamber President Bob Morgan said. 
The report was distributed to Charlotte City Council members and some lawmakers. The council voted 7-4 Monday night against considering a repeal of the city ordinance that prompted lawmakers to pass HB2.

That toll is expected to climb higher if the law stays in place, too.  $285 million in lost business and 1,300 jobs is nothing to sneeze at, and that's not counting any other of North Carolina's other 99 counties that have lost business and jobs because of NC Republican bigots.

That's the kind of losses that look bad to lawmakers, and look even worse to voters around election day.  Hopefully my home state will finally kick these idiots out of office in November, starting with McCrory.
Read more here:


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Last Call For It's Still About Suppression

Just another friendly reminder that new Republican voter suppression efforts in a dozen states will definitely lower turnout in the 2016 election, because voter ID laws are designed to keep people of color, the elderly, students, and the poor from voting at all.

In November, 17 states will have voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election. Eleven of those states will require their residents to show a photo ID. They include swing states such as Wisconsin and states with large African American and Latino populations, such as North Carolina and Texas. On Tuesday, the entire 15-judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans is to begin hearing a case regarding the legality of the Texas law, considered to be the most stringent in the country.

Supporters say that everyone should easily be able to get a photo ID and that the requirement is needed to combat voter fraud. But many election experts say that the process for obtaining a photo ID can be far more difficult than it looks for hundreds of thousands of people across the country who do not have the required photo identification cards. Those most likely to be affected are elderly citizens, African Americans, Hispanics and low-income residents
“A lot of people don’t realize what it takes to obtain an ID without the proper identification and papers,” said Abbie Kamin, a lawyer who has worked with the Campaign Legal Center to help Texans obtain the proper identification to vote. “Many people will give up and not even bother trying to vote.” 
A federal court in Texas found that 608,470 registered voters don’t have the forms of identification that the state now requires for voting. For example, residents can vote with their concealed-carry handgun licenses but not their state-issued student university IDs.
Across the country, about 11 percent of Americans do not have government-issued photo identification cards, such as a driver’s license or a passport, according to Wendy Weiser of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. 
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory (R), compares his state’s new voter-ID requirement to what is needed for “boarding an airplane and purchasing Sudafed.” Texas officials, who say the laws are needed to combat possible voter fraud, recently said in court papers that the Justice Department and civil rights groups suing the state are not able to find anyone “who would face a substantial obstacle to voting.” 
But former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr. has called the costs associated for voters seeking a photo ID a “poll tax,” referring to fees that some Southern states used to disenfranchise blacks during the Jim Crow era of laws enforcing racial segregation between the late 1800s through 1965.

And that's exactly what these new laws do: make it specifically more difficult for people who don't have the proper IDs to get one, and then keeping those people from voting.  Yes, the law does keep some people from voting Republican (mainly the elderly) but the effect is far more prevalent for groups that favor Democrats.

Republicans of course are fine with that, because that's the point.  Turnout among black voters, Latino voters, and students gave Barack Obama wins in states like North Carolina, Florida, Ohio and Wisconsin on the way to two terms, while coming very close to wins in Indiana in 2008.  Republicans are trying to make sure that never happens again.

Bottom line: if GOP voter suppression laws were in place in 2012, and flipped Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Wisconsin to the Republicans, Mitt Romney would be president right now.

2016 is going to be a lot tougher than Democrats realize, and the key to that is massive voter registration NOW.

Meet The Old Boss, Wish He Was The New Boss

Given the less-than-thrilling choices ahead of us this November, America is starting to miss Barack Obama as president already. I'm right there with them.

As the race to succeed President Barack Obama rages around him, the man who currently sits in the Oval Office has hit his highest approval rating since his second inauguration, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows. 
Fifty-one percent of registered voters say they approve of the job Obama is doing as president, compared to 46 percent who disapprove. 
The last time more than half of the electorate gave Obama a thumbs up in the poll was in January 2013, when Obama took the oath of office after his successful re-election campaign against Republican Mitt Romney. His approval rating sunk as low as 40 percent before the 2014 midterm elections but subsequently rebounded, particularly since primary voting in the 2016 presidential race got underway at the beginning of this year. 
Obama's approval rating remains dismal with self-described Republicans, who disapprove of his performance by an 88 percent to eight percent margin. It's nearly the inverse image for Democrats, who approve of the job Obama is doing by 88 percent to 11 percent. And more than half - 54 percent - of independents give Obama high marks, compared to 44 percent who do not. 
Voters overall were less enthusiastic about the idea of electing Obama to a third term in office if such a move was allowed by the Constitution, although about four-in-ten respondents said they were willing to entertain the idea. Fifty-nine percent said they would not consider voting for a third Obama term, while 39 percent said they would consider it. That's compared to 34 percent who said they would consider voting for a third term for Bill Clinton in September 2000.

Granted, 2000 wasn't exactly Clinton's best year, but still, where was Dubya in spring 2008? Somewhere in the 20's by now?   Seeing Obama above water despite the daily programmed hatred of the man by the right-wing noise machine just goes to show you that if Republicans were reasonable instead of being the bugnuts party of Trump, Obama would be staking out future real estate on Mount Rushmore.

It tells you just how badly we're going to miss the guy, despite my grumblings about his foreign policy.

OK GO: This Too Shall (Not) Pass

Earlier this month I talked about Oklahoma being in such a budget hole that Republicans were seriously considering taking Obamacare's Medicaid expansion as the state's oil boom turned into an oil bust.  Now however it looks like Republicans would rather close down dozens of hospitals and nursing homes rather than admit they took help from the first black president.

A bill to expand Medicaid eligibility in Oklahoma so that the state could tap into an infusion of federal funding available under the Affordable Care Act appears to be dead, the state's Senate leader said on Monday.

With just one week remaining before lawmakers are set to adjourn, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said there isn't enough support in the Republican-controlled Senate to approve the plan. A proposed $1.50-per-pack tax increase on cigarettes to help pay for the state's share was defeated in the Oklahoma House last week, and Bingman said that proposal is also likely dead for the year.

"I think part of the (plan) is the expansion of Obamacare, and I think the Senate has been pretty clear for the last six years that we don't want to expand that portion ... because Oklahoma can't afford it," said Bingman, R-Sapulpa.

The plan called for expanding Medicaid eligibility to about 170,000 uninsured low-income Oklahomans and shifting about an equal number of currently Medicaid-eligible pregnant women and children onto the private market. Because of Republicans' bitter resistance to the federal health care law, the plan was dubbed a "rebalancing" instead of an expansion since the overall number of people on Medicaid was projected to stay the same.

If the plan had received federal approval, the federal government would have covered 95 percent of the state's Medicaid costs. That figure would have decreased to 90 percent of the share in 2020.

Without more funding, the state's Medicaid agency has said it would have to impose 25-percent cuts to the reimbursement rates paid to Medicaid providers, a slash so deep that many hospitals and nursing homes have said they would be forced to close their doors.

Oh well.  I guess this is what happens when you put fanatics in charge of your state government. Republicans would rather do nothing and kick out elderly nursing home patients and close dozens of rural hospitals than take taxpayer money to keep even basic health care facilities open.

I guess if you kill off all the poor people, then your Medicaid problem is solved, right?


Monday, May 23, 2016

Last Call For Bad Morning Vietnam

Last night I watched the HBO movie about Lyndon Johnson's 1964 presidential run, All the Way. Bryan Cranston definitely deserves an Emmy nod for his performance as the embattled Texas Democrat, and Anthony Mackie played MLK, Jr.  The film very much centered on their relationship as both the Civil Rights battle and Vietnam War were heating up.  It's a good movie, I recommend it.

Which brings us to today, more than 50 years later as another US president seems to think that arming Vietnam again with US weapons is somehow a good idea.

As US President Barack Obama announced the lifting of the decades-long embargo on sales of lethal weapons to Vietnam, he seemed at pains to explain the decision "was not based on China or any other considerations". 
Yet his mention of China reveals some of the greatest security concerns brewing in Hanoi. 
Since a brief but bloody border war in 1979 that cost thousands of lives, Vietnam-China relations have been bumpy to say the least. From being Vietnam's biggest ally, ironically, in the war against the United States, China has increasingly been seen as a dominant, and at times, threatening neighbour. 
Recent tensions in the South China Sea have added to the growing mistrust. Vietnam protests against what it sees as excessive Chinese maritime claims and supports the court case brought against China by the Philippines. Not only does China's growing assertiveness in the area challenge Vietnam's sovereignty, it could greatly affect its fishery, oil and gas activities, too.

I'm not sure what President Obama's game here is, but the notion that this is not "based on China" is not complete garbage like it seems at face value, Of course this is about protecting Hanoi from Beijing's navy, happily building their own airstrip islands across the pacific to project power.

But if there is somehow another country involved, it's actually Russia:

It is no secret that Vietnam is trying to boost its maritime defensive capability. Its largest arms contract to date with a foreign country was the $2bn purchase of six kilo-class submarines from Russia. 
A large number of patrol and missile ships and fighter jets have also been purchased from Russia, as Vietnam's military spending more than doubled between 2004 and 2013. It is now the eighth largest importer of weapons in the world.

"Better for Vietnam to be buying weapons from us than Putin" isn't exactly the kind of thing Obama should want to be remembered for, but here we are neck-deep in the realpolitik quagmire once again, hooray!

No way this will come back and bite us in the ass or anything.  Hey, those US jobs in the TPP have to be paid for by selling some sort of good or service, and that apparently includes military equipment to Hanoi. See, new markets!

New markets, and same old mistakes.  Sigh.

Bernie's California Love

To be honest, California's "jungle primary" rules are a flaming hot mess, and I definitely see why Bernie Sanders supporters are suing for extended party primary registration up to the June 7th vote.

A federal lawsuit alleging widespread confusion over California's presidential primary rules asks that voter registration be extended past Monday's deadline until the day of the state's primary election on June 7. 
"Mistakes are being made," said William Simpich, an Oakland civil rights attorney who filed the lawsuit Friday. 
At issue is whether voters understand the rules for the presidential primary, which differ from those governing other elections in California. 
Unlike statewide primaries — where voters now choose any candidate, no matter the political party — the presidential contests are controlled by the parties themselves. Democrats have opened up their primary between Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to voters that have no political affiliation, known in California as having "no party preference." 
But the lawsuit alleges elections officials in some of California's 58 counties aren't making that clear to these unaffiliated voters. 
"There's mass confusion," Simpich said in an interview on Saturday night. "This is a situation that really shouts out for some uniformity." 
Simpich said a judge should require state elections officials to conduct a broad public awareness campaign about the voting rules before May 31, the deadline for requesting a ballot by mail. 
And to ensure unregistered Californians aren't disenfranchised in the presidential contest, the lawsuit asks voter registration be extended from its deadline on Monday until June 7, the day of the election. 
There is no indication yet of whether a judge will agree with the suit.

Yes, this reeks of enlightened self-interest for Team Bernie, but the point is that it's not just red states that have issues with voting (Gosh, if there were only something like a national Voting Rights Act that would establish equal standards for all US voting, preferably legislation that hadn't been completely gutted by the Supreme Court recently.)

Sure, this is all about helping Bernie's vote (and delegate) totals in the Golden State, but it doesn't mean the changes aren't necessary.  California's primary system really is confusing and the rules need to be made more clear, and considering one in seven US voters live here, it's rather important to the nation that this gets fixed sooner rather than later.

So yeah, here's hoping the suit allows more people to vote and vote correctly in the state's primary. I'm no fan of open primaries, but if that's the rule of the state, it needs to be clearly enforced and made clear to voters that this is how the primary works. That's on the state to perform, and if they're not doing the job, then the federal government needs to step in.

It's the same principle that applies to voter ID laws, they are there simply to disenfranchise, and again, the feds need to step in.

Having said all that, Sanders is still lying to his supporters about his chances in interviews in California.

“Here’s the math,” he said. “there are polls that came out recently where Hillary Clinton actually lost to Donald Trump. So part of the math, is which candidate stands the best chance to make sure that Donald Trump does not become president of the United States? — and that’s me.” 
If he does win the California primary, does he expect a divided convention? 
I think we have a realistic chance in the sense that if we do really well in California, and in the other five states, and the non-state primaries, it will be possible for us to get 50 percent of the pledged delegates,” Sanders said.

Sure, he just has to win more than 80% of the remaining delegates.

That's "realistic" right?

The Viennese Gambit, Or Make Austria Great Again

With Sunday's votes in Austria's presidential election, far-right nationalist candidate Norbert Hofer has a slender lead against centrist Green Alexander Van der Bellen, and the final vote tally will be decided by absentee and mail-in ballots still being counted.

Austria is split. The soft-spoken, charismatic Mr Hofer, sometimes described as a wolf in sheep's clothing, caused turmoil in Austrian politics when he won a clear victory in the first round of voting in April.

But now his rival, Mr Van der Bellen from the Greens, has caught up. The far right has profited from deep frustration with the established parties of the centre left and the centre right in Austria. And in recent months, it has been boosted further by fears about the migrant crisis.

If Mr Hofer wins, it could have an impact far beyond Austria's borders - possibly giving momentum to far-right and Eurosceptic parties in other EU countries.

According to the interior ministry's final count of votes cast at polling-stations(in German), Mr Hofer took 51.9% to 48.1% for Mr Van der Bellen.

Postal voting accounts for 750,000 ballots, roughly 12% of Austria's 6.4 million eligible voters, said Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka.

"None of us wished for this," Mr Hofer said when he and Mr Van der Bellen were interviewed by ORF after the vote on Sunday.

"After all, both of us wanted to have a good night's sleep but it is so exciting. I've been in politics for a long time but I've never experienced an election night like this one."

Whoever won, he said, would have "the job of uniting Austria".

Mr Van der Bellen said that if he were elected president he would be welcome in all member states of the EU.

"I have been pro-European during the five months of campaigning," he said. "I made clear how important the European Union is for freedom, security and prosperity - also in Austria."

In the first round, Mr Hofer secured 35% of the votes, while Mr Van der Bellen polled 21%.

The two rivals had engaged in an angry TV debate earlier in the week, described as "political mud-wrestling" by commentators.

If this sounds familiar, there's a similar tune being played by Hofer's Freedom Party here in the States, and it sounds an awful lot like Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric.  We'll see where the voters stand after the mail ballots have been counted, but don't be surprised if the winner here wants to build a wall, kick those people out of the country, and want to Make Austria Great Again.

The same anger brought on by demographics in Europe is the same as the flames being stoked here, and the results may scorch a whole lot of Europe and the US before they are contained.

[UPDATE] : The BBC now saying that the postal votes are showing a Van de Bellen win.  Austria barely avoids a right-wing nationalist disaster.

For now.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Long Read: The Science Of Error

The science of DNA testing has been proven time and time again.  The problem is human error: lab technicians who make mistakes, overloaded crime labs with no funding, backlogs of evidence and police who mishandle all kinds of samples, by accident or even on purpose. The thing is in crime lab after crime lab in America, all of that has now become commonplace.

DNA analysis has risen above all other forensic techniques for good reason: “No [other] forensic method has been rigorously shown able to consistently, and with a high degree of certainty, demonstrate a connection between evidence and a specific individual or source,” the National Research Council wrote in an influential 2009 report calling out inadequate methods and stating the need for stricter standards throughout the forensic sciences.

The problem, as a growing number of academics see it, is that science is only as reliable as the manner in which we use it—and in the case of DNA, the manner in which we use it is evolving rapidly. Consider the following hypothetical scenario: Detectives find a pool of blood on the floor of an apartment where a man has just been murdered. A technician, following proper anticontamination protocol, takes the blood to the local crime lab for processing. Blood-typing shows that the sample did not come from the victim; most likely, it belongs to the perpetrator. A day later, the detectives arrest a suspect. The suspect agrees to provide blood for testing. A pair of well-trained crime-lab analysts, double-checking each other’s work, establish a match between the two samples. The detectives can now place the suspect at the scene of the crime.

When Alec Jeffreys devised his DNA-typing technique, in the mid-1980s, this was as far as the science extended: side-by-side comparison tests. Sizable sample against sizable sample. The state of technology at the time mandated it—you couldn’t test the DNA unless you had plenty of biological material (blood, semen, mucus) to work with.

But today, most large labs have access to cutting-edge extraction kits capable of obtaining usable DNA from the smallest of samples, like so-called touch DNA (a smeared thumbprint on a window or a speck of spit invisible to the eye), and of identifying individual DNA profiles in complex mixtures, which include genetic material from multiple contributors, as was the case with the vaginal swab in the Sutton case.

These advances have greatly expanded the universe of forensic evidence. But they’ve also made the forensic analyst’s job more difficult. To understand how complex mixtures are analyzed—and how easily those analyses can go wrong—it may be helpful to recall a little bit of high-school biology: We share 99.9 percent of our genes with every other human on the planet. However, in specific locations along each strand of our DNA, the genetic code repeats itself in ways that vary from one individual to the next. Each of those variations, or alleles, is shared with a relatively small portion of the global population. The best way to determine whether a drop of blood belongs to a serial killer or to the president of the United States is to compare alleles at as many locations as possible.

Think of it this way: There are many thousands of paintings with blue backgrounds, but fewer with blue backgrounds and yellow flowers, and fewer still with blue backgrounds, yellow flowers, and a mounted knight in the foreground. When a forensic analyst compares alleles at 13 locations—the standard for most labs—the odds of two unrelated people matching at all of them are less than one in 1 billion.

With mixtures, the math gets a lot more complicated: The number of alleles in a sample doubles in the case of two contributors, and triples in the case of three. Now, rather than a painting, the DNA profile is like a stack of transparency films. The analyst must determine how many contributors are involved, and which alleles belong to whom. If the sample is very small or degraded—the two often go hand in hand—alleles might drop out in some locations, or appear to exist where they do not. Suddenly, we are dealing not so much with an objective science as an interpretive art.

And suddenly, a tool that is a lock for a conviction is increasingly something that can be wrongly determined or even falsified into a wrongful conviction.  DNA analysis is a tool and a powerful one, but any tool can be misused, and that's where we need far more oversight.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Last Call For Bernie vs. Debbie

The one thing the Sanders camp has right and that I wholeheartedly support them on? Bernie Sanders backing a primary challenge to DNC chair and Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Sanders came out today for her primary opponent, Tim Canova, in the August 30th state primary.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday said he supports Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz's Democratic opponent in her August 30 primary, adding that if he is elected president, he would effectively terminate her chairmanship of the DNC. 
Sanders, whose campaign has engaged in an increasingly bitter feud with the DNC chairwoman during his presidential bid, said in an interview set to air on CNN's "State of the Union" that he favors Tim Canova in Florida's 23rd congressional district. Canova is supporting Sanders. 
"Well, clearly, I favor her opponent," Sanders told Tapper. "His views are much closer to mine than as to Wasserman Schultz's." 
Sanders added that if he's elected president, he wouldn't reappoint Wasserman Schultz to head the DNC. 
In a response to Sanders on Saturday afternoon, Wasserman Schultz insisted she would remain neutral in the Democratic presidential race despite the Vermont senator's endorsement of her primary opponent. 
"I am so proud to serve the people of Florida's 23rd district and I am confident that they know that I am an effective fighter and advocate on their behalf in Congress," Wasserman Schultz said. "Even though Senator Sanders has endorsed my opponent, I remain, as I have been from the beginning, neutral in the presidential Democratic primary. I look forward to working together with him for Democratic victories in the fall."

This is the one thing that Sanders unequivocally has correct: Wasserman Schultz must go, I've been calling for her resignation for months and months now, and if Sanders is backing Tim Canova, I may throw a few dollars to the race in FL-23 myself.

She has been a total disaster for the Democratic party, under her tenure the Dems have lost 14 Senate seats and more than 80 House seats, not to mention over a dozen state legislatures and governor's mansions in 2010, 2012, and 2014.  In no way should she still be head of the DNC for any conceivable reason, and I actually do believe like Bill Moyers that the Dems will not be united until she's out.

In the fight between the long-time chair of the DNC and the Senator who only became a Democrat months ago, I'm backing Bernie here without hesitation.

Getting rid of her is about the only thing all sides in the Democratic primary mess that we can almost all agree upon.

Smacking Northern Kentucky Around

If there were any doubt left as to how bad the opioid epidemic is here in the NKY, the region's top football prep school is resorting to drug testing all students.

According to USA Today affiliate Cincinnati, Covington Catholic High School officially announced on Wednesday (May 18) their plans to implement the procedure for the 2016-2017 school year. The method is connected to Northern Kentucky’s battle with drug overdoses, mostly due to heroin usage. In 2015, it was reported 1,087 residents statewide died from drug overdoses, with 30 percent of the deaths stemming from heroin use. The Office of Drug Control Policy adds Senate Bill 192 (known as the Heroin Bill) was also passed in the same year, giving harsher penalties to dealers and better treatments for addicts.

Principal Bob Rowe says he wants the all-male student body to feel the pressure of saying no to drugs. While the school hasn’t had a rampant use of opioids, they’ve faced issues with drugs in the past. “This program, with technical and financial support from St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Medicount Management, and the Drug Free Clubs of America (DFCA), is intended to provide our young men with an additional tool for deterrence, as well as tools to address usage with appropriate treatment if/when it occurs,” the letter to parents read. “We try to change the culture to where they say I can’t do that, or I have no interest in that, it’s going to take me down the wrong road,” Rowe added.

The random testing will begin when the new school year kicks off on Aug. 10. Positive tests will be kept confidential at first. If a second positive test permits, the student will be axed from extracurricular activities. A third offense will likely lead to expulsion. Counseling and assistance to students will also be provided by the school.

If parents don’t want their children to be tested, they will not be allowed to register as “CovCath” students. “Why not educate our young men so they lead and have a safe lifestyle for the rest of their lives,” Rowe said.

Now keep in mind that CovCath is the big private prep high school around here, where the money as old as the rolling bluegrass hills send their kids so that they don't have be bothered by the unwashed public school masses.  It's all about sports here, particularly football, and avoiding those people.

For them to announce they are subjecting everyone to random drug tests is something of a major earthquake.  The kids who can afford CovCath don't exactly expect to be treated like plebes they expect to have people look the other way.

I find this very, very funny.  It's not heroin they are going to catch these kids for using, trust me.

School Daze, Con't.

A generation of exurban white flight, combined with rapid gentrification of urban neighborhoods, has led to the de facto segregation of America's public schools once again, undoing much of the progress made since I went to school 20 years ago. A new report finds almost two-thirds of poor public schools are racially segregated, and the situation is rapidly getting worse.

A report released this week by the Government Accountability Office illuminated the extent to which school systems across the US are, once again, becoming more segregated. The report found that more than 60% of schools with high levels of poor students were racially segregated, which the report defined as being at least 75% black or Latino.

The study reviewed federal data from 2001 to 2014 and found 16% of all US schools were both racially segregated and poor, increasing from about 7,000 schools in 2001 to 15,089 by 2013 to 2014. Observers and advocates for school desegregation said the report should be a “huge warning sign” that needs to be addressed. 
“There are many who believe in this country that we are operating on an even playing field,” said Jadine Johnson, staff attorney at the Massachusetts-based Opportunity to Learn Campaign. 
“I think what this report revealed … is that the legacies of slavery in this country, the legacies of Jim Crow, are alive and active,” she said. “That did not go away with Brown v Board of Education.” 
Compared to other schools, the GAO report found, segregated schools offered fewer college prep, science, and math classes to take, and a disproportionate number of students were either held back in ninth grade, suspended, or expelled.

So the number of poor, segregated schools in the US has doubled in 13 years.  Certainly the Bush years (and the resulting Great Recession) has made things worse, but the Obama administration's awful Race to the Top program and its dependence on charter schools shares much of the blame for refusing to correct the problem (thanks again, Arne Duncan.)

Here's the worse news: it's going to Democrats winning Congress back in order to fix it.

Michigan congressman John Conyers was among several lawmakers who requested the report, which was released on the 62nd anniversary of Brown v Board of Education. Conyers and Virginia congressman Bobby Scott are pushing legislation that would amend Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and restore the rights of parents to file lawsuits against segregated school districts under claims of disparate impacts, which are based on ascertaining the discriminatory effect of a policy rather than ascertaining a discriminatory intent.

“This GAO report confirms what has long been feared and proves that current barriers against educational equality are eerily similar to those fought during the civil rights movement,” Conyers said in a statement. “There simply can be no excuse for allowing educational apartheid in the 21st century.” 
Johnson said the loss of parents’ ability to file disparate impact cases was a “huge blow to the civil rights community”. Johnson has assisted in filing several Title VI complaints in recent years with the federal department of education – complaints that could have been filed in federal court under Conyers’ proposal. 
“Us having that right could have potentially … slowed down the school closures crisis that’s happening today,” she said.

And yet educational apartheid is the stated political platform of the GOP at the federal level and in dozens of state GOP platforms as well.  "We can't afford it!" is all we hear from the Republican party, who has decided that those people don't need or deserve education as a right, it's something we have to earn.  States setting up us vs them education funding plans pitting rich exurban white school districts against large, poor black and Latino urban districts is a battle that the white kids win every time, and the rest of the black and Latino kids end up several grade levels behind even in the same district.

Making education a civil right again is the only way to fix this, and you will never have that happen as long as the GOP is in charge of making laws.
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