Category Archives: Politics

John Oliver tackles, destroys charter schools


Charter schools, those private institutions so beloved by Republicans, have been judged and the results are mixed.

One recent study [open source] concluded:

We estimate the impact of charter schools on early-life labor market outcomes using administrative data from Texas. We find that, at the mean, charter schools have no impact on test scores and a negative impact on earnings.. . .Moving to school-level estimates, we find that charter schools that decrease test scores also tend to decrease earnings, while charter schools that increase test scores have no discernible impact on earnings.  In contrast, high school graduation effects are predictive of earnings effects throughout the distribution of school quality.

More on the study from Education Week:

Texas charter schools on average have a negative effect on students’ future earnings, according to a new working paper by two economists.

Although attending a “no excuse” charter school, which the study describes as having stricter rules, uniforms, and longer school days and years, leads to higher test scores and four-year college enrollment, it has no meaningful effect on earnings.

Other types of charter schools, however, stumble on all three measures: hurting test scores, four-year college enrollment, and earnings.

These findings are almost the opposite of another study of Florida charter school students released in April from Mathematica Policy Research. It found that attending a charter school had little impact on test scores, but students went on to earn higher salaries than their peers in district schools.

Enough with the prefacing, and one with the show.

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Charter Schools: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Program notes:

Charter schools are privately run, publicly funded, and irregularly regulated. John Oliver explores why they aren’t at all like pizzerias.

Political thuggery on the right, U.S. & Greece


Trump blows his horn again

We begin in the U.S., with two of the usual suspects, starting with this from the Guardian:

Donald Trump veered off the teleprompter on Monday night to claim that “inner cities run by the Democrats” were more dangerous than countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Republican nominee was meant to be delivering a scripted speech calling for Hillary Clinton be investigated by a special prosecutor. However, once again he veered off message in an attempt to appeal to minority voters in apocalyptic terms.

“You can go to war zones in countries that we are fighting and it is safer than living in some of our inner cities that are run by the Democrats,” Trump said. The Republican nominee also promised if elected, “we’ll get rid of the crime. You’ll be able to walk down the street without getting shot. Now, you walk down the street, you get shot.”

A ZioCon Joe McCarthy brandishes a list

Sen Joe McCarthy became infamous for his self-aggrandizing Red Hunts during the early 1950’s, most famous brandishing a list with the names of 57 alleged secret communists in the State Department

From the Guardian again, the second of the usual U.S. suspects, this time deploying that nasty little trick of publishing a list, this time affixing the antisemite label on anyone who opposes Israeli government actions [a label that’s been attached to esnl for the same reason]:

Sheldon Adelson, the Nevada casino mogul and conservative mega-donor, is leading a campaign against pro-Palestine groups on US college campuses and has funded posters that accuse individual students of supporting terrorism and promoting “Jew Hatred”.

The multimillion-dollar effort, which has launched at six campuses in California, is targeting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement that has become increasingly popular among American university students protesting the Israeli government.

At the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), recent Adelson-funded posters named 16 students and professors, saying they “have allied themselves with Palestinian terrorists to perpetuate BDS and Jew Hatred on this campus”. It further claimed BDS was a “Hamas-inspired genocidal campaign to destroy Israel”.

Robert Gardner, a 25-year-old UCLA senior, saw his name on one of the posters outside a grocery market. “I was really shocked and felt really disturbed,” he said.

“They are trying to cast us as antisemitic, that we are somehow a discriminatory group,” said the political science student, who is a member of the college’s Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) organization. “That is a completely spurious accusation. One of our core principles is anti-oppression and anti-racism.”

And a thuggish Greek legislator steps it up

And on to Greece, with a neo-Nazi national legislator joining the fray [literally], via eKathimerini:

Golden Dawn deputy Constantinos Barbarousis has been implicated, along with a relative and at least three other men, in a violent beating of a police officer at a coffee shop in the village of Fiteies in the region of Aetoloacarnania in central Greece Monday.

According to reports, the incident followed an altercation between one of the extreme-right lawmaker’s relatives and the officer over a traffic violation earlier in the day.

The policeman was off duty when he was attacked by his assailants, who, according to witnesses, pulled up outside the cafe in two cars, with Barbarousis and four other men inside. All five barged into the shop and attacked the victim using clubs, brass knuckles and bats.

The officer suffered head injuries and required stitches, while his brother and a friend, who were also present during the incident, suffered light injuries.

Quote of the day: Was NSA ‘hack’ an inside job?


The posting of a catalog offering the supersecret National Security Agency’s hacking tools has been blamed on Russia by the Obama administration, but America’s most respected journalist covering the NSA beat writes that rather than a Russia hack, the raid on the NSA’s family jewels was more likely an inside job.

From James Bamford, writing for Reuters:

Like a bank robber’s tool kit for breaking into a vault, cyber exploitation tools, with codenames like EPICBANANA and BUZZDIRECTION, are designed to break into computer systems and networks. Just as the bank robber hopes to find a crack in the vault that has never been discovered, hackers search for digital cracks, or “exploits,” in computer programs like Windows.

The most valuable are “zero day” exploits, meaning there have been zero days since Windows has discovered the “crack” in their programs. Through this crack, the hacker would be able to get into a system and exploit it, by stealing information, until the breach is eventually discovered and patched. According to the former NSA officials who viewed the Shadow Broker files, they contained a number of exploits, including zero-day exploits that the NSA often pays thousands of dollars for to private hacking groups.

The reasons given for laying the blame on Russia appear less convincing, however. “This is probably some Russian mind game, down to the bogus accent,” James A. Lewis, a computer expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, told the New York Times. Why the Russians would engage in such a mind game, he never explained.

Rather than the NSA hacking tools being snatched as a result of a sophisticated cyber operation by Russia or some other nation, it seems more likely that an employee stole them. Experts who have analyzed the files suspect that they date to October 2013, five months after Edward Snowden left his contractor position with the NSA and fled to Hong Kong carrying flash drives containing hundreds of thousands of pages of NSA documents.

So, if Snowden could not have stolen the hacking tools, there are indications that after he departed in May 2013, someone else did, possibly someone assigned to the agency’s highly sensitive Tailored Access Operations.

>snip<

[W]e now have entered a period many have warned about, when NSA’s cyber weapons could be stolen like loose nukes and used against us. It opens the door to criminal hackers, cyber anarchists and hostile foreign governments that can use the tools to gain access to thousands of computers in order to steal data, plant malware and cause chaos.

It’s one more reason why NSA may prove to be one of Washington’s greatest liabilities rather than assets.

Headline of the day: Pay to play with Hillary


From the Washington Post:

Emails reveal how foundation donors got access to Clinton and her close aides at State Dept.

  • A sports executive who was a major donor to the Clinton Foundation and whose firm paid Bill Clinton millions of dollars in consulting fees wanted help getting a visa for a British soccer player with a criminal past.
  • The crown prince of Bahrain, whose government gave more than $50,000 to the Clintons’ charity and who participated in its glitzy annual conference, wanted a last-minute meeting with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
  • U2 rocker and philanthropist Bono, also a regular at foundation events, wanted high-level help broadcasting a live link to the International Space Station during concerts.

Philippine cops, vigilantes kill nearly 2,000


When he became president in June, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte [previously] gave free rein to police and vigilantes to kill anyone suspected of being a drug dealer, as well as others deemed outside the law.

He promised free pardons to anyone who pulled the trigger, and the results of his program of extrajudicial murder have been gruesome, with nearly 2,000 dead already, though presumably the actual figure is much high.

Lynching, in short, has become the law of the land.

From BBC News:

The head of the Philippines police has said more than 1,900 people have been killed during a crackdown on illegal drugs in the past seven weeks.

Ronald dela Rosa was speaking at a senate hearing into the sharp rise in deaths since Rodrigo Duterte became president.

He said police operations had killed about 750 people, but the other deaths were still being investigated.

Mr Duterte won the presidency with his hard-line policy to eradicate drugs.

He has previously urged citizens to shoot and kill drug dealers who resisted arrest, and reiterated that the killings of drug suspects were lawful if the police acted in self-defence.

He’s back. . .Sarkozy to run against Hollande


The loathsome former French president, defeated by the nearly equally loathsome socialist-in-name-only François Hollande four years ago, wants his old job back.

Sarkozy, the man who implemented purge of the county’s Roma and Sinti residents [gypsies in common parlance], has a good chance, given that Hollande has been unable to ease the country’s economic plight.

Hollande has proven equally eager to go to war as his predecessor, but without the zealous bombast Sarkozy brings to the table.

From France 24:

France’s former leader Nicolas Sarkozy announced on Monday that he is running again to become president in next year’s elections.

“I have decided to be a candidate for the 2017 presidential election. I felt I had the strength to lead this battle at a troubled time in our history,” Sarkozy wrote in an excerpt of his upcoming book “Everything for France” (“Tout pour la France”) posted on his social media accounts.

“The five years that come will be full of danger, but also of hope,” he added.

Sarkozy, 61, served as president from 2007 to 2012, when he lost re-election to the now deeply unpopular President François Hollande.

A hyperactive and divisive figure both loved and loathed among right-wing voters, Sarkozy did not say whether he would join his conservative Les Républicains party (formerly the UMP) primaries scheduled for November.

Quote of the day: Trump’s right; game’s rigged


But it’s rigged in favor of his own party, at least when it comes to the House of Representatives, the body that holds the purse strings of the national government.

Bill Moyers breaks it down:

Can Democrats retake the House of Representatives?

It’s not going to happen. Democratic House candidates will likely get many more votes than Republican ones – as they did in 2012, when Democrats received 1.4 million more votes nationwide, but Republicans maintained a 234-201 advantage. Indeed, Trump is more likely to rebound in swing states than Democrats are to capture the 30 congressional seats they need to pry the speaker’s gavel from Paul Ryan.

The reason why is simple, structural and too often absent from the conversation: It’s the radical GOP gerrymander imposed after the 2010 census on purplish states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and North Carolina – all of which are likely to go for Clinton, while also electing a bright-red Republican delegation to Congress. Even if Hillary Clinton wins the presidency in a landslide, there are simply not enough competitive districts remaining to give the Democrats any chance at winning the House.

For all of the misleading nonsense about “rigged elections” coming from the Trump camp this summer, we haven’t talked enough about the way our electoral map really was rigged by Republicans after the 2010 census. These tilted maps make it possible for the Republicans to govern with a supermajority in Ohio, North Carolina and Wisconsin – despite getting less votes overall. And they’ve created a firewall in the House of Representatives that’s built to withstand a Clinton landslide upward of 10 percent.

Democrats, however, prefer to raise false hopes — and raise money — by pretending the House is in play. The media, desperate for any suspenseful narrative, pretends that gerrymandering is politics as usual and that both sides do it — stubbornly refusing to understand how the brazen and technologically savvy 2011 remapping was different from any other in modern political history.