Sunday, January 27, 2013

Last Call

The biggest problem with the GOP remains that in a majority of states, they run the show.  At the local, county, and state level Republicans are politicizing every possible state government function and stacking the deck with like-minded Teabaggers with the goal of using "small government" to control as much as they can.

One big area where the GOP is causing lasting damage is in public education.  In Texas for example, the war over the state's school textbooks has been hard-fought and ugly.  That battle is the subject of a new PBS documentary, The Revisionaries:

The movie follows the testimony and actions of the board as it tears through—and in some cases, tears up—the science and history standards that were forwarded to them. It uses footage of hearings and votes, along with interviews of many of the participants, including a professor involved in writing the science standards, and Kathy Miller of the Texas Freedom Network, an organization dedicated to limiting the impact of the board's more ideological members.

And they are seriously ideological. McLeroy is quoted as saying, "education is too important to not be politicized," while fellow board member Cynthia Dunbar claims that "education is inherently religious." And she apparently treats the board meetings the same way, as she's shown giving an opening prayer in which she calls for Jesus to help everyone recognize that the US is "a Christian land, governed by Christian principles."

The existing Texas science standards had language that called for the "strengths and weaknesses" of evolution to be taught. That language has opened the door to the sorts of spurious criticisms that McLeroy is fond of (and apparently, subjects some of his dental patients to). So when the proposed new standards came to the board without any mention of strengths and weaknesses, McLeroy and others fought hard to put them back in. As a compromise, the board simply renamed them to "analyze and evaluate," creating awkward results like instructing students to "analyze all sides of scientific information" about evolution.

If anything, the history standards were worse. Dunbar claims she's a "big fan" of Thomas Jefferson, but thinks a "secular humanistic ideology" has clouded current interpretations of his work. So she cuts him out of the standards on the Enlightenment and its influence on the US' founding documents, instead substituting in pre-enlightenment figures like Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin. Further revisions to history come rapid fire, as others try to add the Heritage Foundation, Moral Majority, and NRA to a section on the '80s, and another person tries to make sure Barack Obama's middle name (Hussein) is added to the text where his name appears.

One board member, looking at the results, is seen saying, "I feel that I have let down the students in our state because all those kids in our schools right now, when they get to college, they're going to learn the real history."

The movie ends with McLeroy losing his reelection bid by a few hundred votes, but already thinking about running again at his next opportunity. But some of his many opponents note that the changes he helped make to the standards will be influencing entire generations of students before they're next revised in 2020.

And they will never give up until Americans are as stupid and as ignorant as they are.  A generation of talk radio and FOX News has given the reactionary right unprecedented power to eliminate critical thinking and turn us all into "Christians" who have only faith and no desire to learn anything but what they are told.

So get involved with your own school board, your own state textbook committee, your own city council, your own county commission.  The other side sure as hell is.

Priorities: Code Orange

It's nice to know that Republicans have America's top priorities in mind:  jobs, the economy, gun violence, the environm...what's that you say, House Speaker John Boehner?

In a special message to the annual anti-abortion protest March for Life, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) vowed that ending abortion would be one of the top priorities of Republicans this year.

“Defending life, of course, is about much more than voting the right way or saying the right things,” he said. “It’s about promoting a culture of life. It’s about understanding that abortion is a defining human rights issue of our time. Because human life is not an economic or political commodity, and no government on Earth has the right to treat it as such.”

“With all that’s at stake, it is becoming more and more important for us to share this truth with our young people, to encourage them to lock arms, speak out for life, and help make abortion a relic of the past,” Boehner continued. “Let that be one of our most fundamental goals this year.”

Boehner said the Republican-led House would again seek to pass the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which sparked controversy in 2011 because of how it defined rape. The bill was approved by the House but died in the Senate.

Yay, we're back to the War on Women as their top goal: ending safe, legal abortions and forcing women to resort to unsafe, illegal abortion! Woohoo!

Let's just criminalize the vagina, shall we?

Out Of Ammo And Shooting Blanks

Anyone surprised at this turn of events on the assault weapons ban 2.0 in the Senate hasn't been paying any attention at all.  Bloomberg's analysis:

At least six of the 55 senators in the Democratic caucus have expressed skepticism or outright opposition to a ban, the review found. That means Democrats wouldn’t have a 51-vote majority to pass the measure, let alone the 60 needed to break a Republican filibuster to bring it to a floor vote. 

Gosh, HOOCUDDANODE?  And guess what, they're all red state Dems:  Tester and Baucus of Montana, Begich of Alaska, Heitkamp of North Dakota, and of course, Joe Manchin of West Virginia.

In other words, if you thought for a second that Blue Dogs like Heitkamp and Manchin were going to actually risk their pristine A ratings from the NRA over silly nonsense like "What the people want", you really are nuts.

This is why the Dems don't even have a majority in the Senate, frankly.

[UPDATE]  Greg Sargent makes the point that the AWB 2.0 was always doomed, but universal background checks may actually pass.

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