The Morning Grumpy – 6/4/13

4 Jun

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy. But first, let’s check in with “Old Economy Steve“, the best meme on the Internet.


1. As I hope you know, the school budget battle being waged in Clarence and the annual fight over charter schools in Buffalo is part of a larger national war on public education. While each battle is fought on individual terms and on different fronts – the overall goal is the same – to privatize and dismantle the public education system. David Sirota takes on the “reform” movement.

In the great American debate over education, the education and technology corporations, bankrolled politicians and activist-profiteers who collectively comprise the so-called “reform” movement base their arguments on one central premise: that America should expect public schools to produce world-class academic achievement regardless of the negative forces bearing down on a school’s particular students.

For education, technology and charter school companies and the Wall Streeters who back them, it lets them cite troubled public schools to argue that the current public education system is flawed, and to then argue that education can be improved if taxpayer money is funneled away from the public school system’s priorities (hiring teachers, training teachers, reducing class size, etc.) and into the private sector (replacing teachers with computers, replacing public schools with privately run charter schools, etc.).

Meanwhile, despite the fact that many “reformers’” policies have spectacularly failed, prompted massive scandals and/or offered no actual proof of success, an elite media that typically amplifies — rather than challenges — power and money loyally casts “reformers’” systematic pillaging of public education as laudable courage (the most recent example of this is Time magazine’s cover cheering on wildly unpopular Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel after he cited budget austerity to justify the largest mass school closing in American history — all while he is also proposing to spend $100 million of taxpayer dollars on a new private sports stadium).

The way we need to educate our children has drastically changed in the last twenty years due to radical shifts in technology, tools, and family structure.  However, I’ve always found the arguments behind the charter school movement and most reform programs to be wholly disingenuous. We need a national conversation on education policy, curricula, classroom innovation, and cost; what we get instead is bleating by entrenched interests and wars fought over the most incendiary of issues, dollars. We do a disservice to our children by putting money first when we should first do no harm.

2. Before we can address big problems like education policy, perhaps we should discuss the real problem. Larry Lessig breaks it down for us.

There is a corruption at the heart of American politics, caused by the dependence of Congressional candidates on funding from the tiniest percentage of citizens.

3. Craig Kanalley is the senior editor for “Big News and Live Events” at Huffington Post and operates at the forefront of new media and journalism. If something is happening in the world, you can count on him to curate the news, weed out the phony information and bring you the story that matters. In other words, he’s doing it right in the confusing world of journalism in 2013. Craig also happens to be from Buffalo and is universally regarded as a nice guy with an excellent ethical compass.

Several years ago as a journalism student at DePaul University, he started a Blog/Twitter Account called “BreakingTweets” which revolutionized how news was distributed on Twitter. He wrote about how he grew his little project into a global phenomenon and turned it into a job at Huffington Post and (for a spell) at NBC News before returning to a senior position at HuffPo.

The Internet, I’ve learned, is a great place to throw up ideas and see what sticks.

Some things resonate with people more than others. Some things that deserve attention, sadly, don’t get it. Some things you don’t expect to get any attention are wildly successful, “going viral.”

In the case of Breaking Tweets, it was a personal blog that I started for fun on Jan. 31, 2009. I had just witnessed the power of Twitter for news as mainstream media highlighted it covering the Hudson Plane Crash on Jan. 15, 2009 and many (including myself) live tweeted Barack Obama’s Inauguration at the National Mall on Jan. 20, 2009.

Twitter was becoming a powerful tool for breaking news, and I wanted to round up — again, just for fun — tweets about breaking news events around the world in one place.

The idea was to go to the scene of breaking news, to get as close as possible through eyewitness tweets. Photos? Even better. Along the way, I used a series of steps to verify tweets as credible.

If you don’t follow him on Twitter or Facebook, you should. I’m excited to watch his career blossom and see what else he has up his sleeve.

4. Those pinkos over at the RAND Corporation have done some research on Obamacare and have some interesting information to share.

The US Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act in 2012 allowed states to opt out of the health reform law’s Medicaid expansion. Since that ruling, fourteen governors have announced that their states will not expand their Medicaid programs.

As it turns out, states would save money and expand coverage by accepting the Medicaid expansion.

With fourteen states opting out, we estimate that 3.6 million fewer people would be insured, federal transfer payments to those states could fall by $8.4 billion, and state spending on uncompensated care could increase by $1 billion in 2016, compared to what would be expected if all states participated in the expansion.

Wait, it gets better!

Governors rejecting the Medicaid expansion often cite the costs to the state, but the Rand analysis said rejecting the expansion will actually raise those states’ healthcare costs without covering the uninsured.

“State policymakers should be aware that if they do not expand Medicaid, fewer people will have health insurance, and that will trigger higher state and local spending for uncompensated medical care,” Price said. “Choosing to not expand Medicaid may turn out to be the more-costly path for state and local governments.”

The federal government initially pays the entire cost of the expansion, dropping to a 90 percent share by 2020. 

Letting ideology get in the way of smart decisions is a sure ticket to getting voted out of office.

5. I love oral histories/long reads about absurd pop culture touchstones, like this one about the duo behind the 90’s hip-hop classic “Whoomp There It Is“.

In 2003, the actor Will Ferrell danced to “Whoomp!” in a scene for the movie Elf. DC didn’t know the song had been picked up for the movie until he was sitting in a theater. “All of a sudden, the song comes on and I smile, because a check will soon be coming to my mailbox,” he says. The movie scored big—and just like that, “Whoomp!” was a thing again. The song showed up in three movies the next year—including the Will Smith-Robert De Niro animated flick, Shark Tale—then it started getting dropped into television shows, like South Park and Scrubs. Money rolled in again. Ten thousand here, 20 thousand there. (The song generates up to $500,000 in a good year, which is divvied up among the rights-holders and lawyers; DC and Steve might collect up to $70,000 each, DC says.) The two traveled a bit, to corporate events, mostly, where they’d collect their cash—oftentimes around $5,000 per performance—play the song, and jump the next flight out of town.

Then, in 2010, “Whoomp!” got more juice when a writer thought he saw President Barack Obama in the song’s video.

As an aside, here’s a list of 20 rap songs that were ruined by white people.

Fact Of The Day: Greenland has the highest suicide rates in the world — 1 in 4 people will attempt it at least once in their lifetime. No word on whether it was Cleveland or Detroit that finished second in the ranking.

Quote Of The Day: “You never know what is enough, until you know what is more than enough.” – William Blake

Video Of The Day: This dog has seen some shit. Every time he barks, the neighbors probably call 911.

Song Of The Day: “Got To Give It Up” + “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” = “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke

(NSFW Version of Video Here, SFW version embedded below)

The video (especially the NSFW version) is an absurdist romp that is also a heavy-handed homage to the work of Terry Richardson. At least, that’s what I’ll tell anyone who makes an issue of a nudity filled video. It’s all about the art.

Follow me on Twitter for the “incremental grumpy” @ChrisSmithAV

Like The Morning Grumpy on Facebook

Email me links, tips, story ideas:

22 Responses to “The Morning Grumpy – 6/4/13”

  1. Michael Rebmann June 4, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    What we need to reign in cost, and improve education, is a strong voucher program. That would empower the parents, not the government, to make the educational choices for their children’s futures. Competition breeds innovation and improvements. The schools doing a good job would flourish, the poor schools would fall by the wayside, where they belong. Students from poor backgrounds would see the most improvement. Currently, it costs over $20,000 to educate each Buffalo school student. If a voucher system was instituted that provided $15,000 per student, I am quite confident private schools, competing for those dollars, would materialize and do a much better job. The schools would most likely be smaller and foster greater home support through the involvement of parents in the selection process.

    One of the driving forces behind Urban Sprawl is education. Middle Class parents can’t afford private schools and flee to the suburbs for a decent public education. The dynamics would change under a voucher program as school choice provides more viable education options in urban areas.

    In the words of Alan Bedanko, “I have two children in the [Clarence school} system and we moved here for them.” Sprawl at its finest.

    • Mike_Chmiel June 4, 2013 at 9:20 am #

      I simply do not buy the premise that capitalistic competition between schools will ever benefit the students. What I can practically guarantee will happen is that corporate for-profit schools (where the teachers are earning $18 grand a year) will dominate by undercutting costs and passing on the savings to their wealthy CEOs.

      There are many things improved upon by healthy competition and the drive for profits. Education is not one of them. Educating children is a public trust and should not be determined by the whims of a board of directors – and this is where it will head.

      • Michael Rebmann June 4, 2013 at 9:55 am #

        You are completely ignoring the results of competition. The only way private schools could succeed in the scenario you have outlined is if parents had no choices available, or the government restricted competition. Also, keep in mind that school choice would include all private schools, including Catholic schools, which have done a very good job educating students. Their problem is funding, since most parents can’t afford school taxes and private tuition.

        The for-profit model only fails when government passes legislation and regulations that are favorable to some, while excluding others.

    • Matt Gracie June 4, 2013 at 10:00 am #

      “If a voucher system was instituted that provided $15,000 per student, I
      am quite confident private schools, competing for those dollars, would
      materialize and do a much better job.”

      I’m confident that private schools would spring up that would be absolute crap. It’s the same as the “for-profit” colleges and universities feasting on easy money from the GI Bill and federally-backed loans.

      Flooding a marketplace with easy money encourages scammers.

      • Michael Rebmann June 4, 2013 at 10:10 am #

        Why would a parent CHOOSE to send their child to a crappy private school? That makes no sense.

      • Matt Gracie June 4, 2013 at 10:30 am #

        Because it’s close to their house. Because it has a good football or basketball team. Because it claims to be specifically designed for the ethnicity / religion / favorite hobby of their child. Because they aren’t aware that the free iPads and new building are masking terrible academics. Lots of reasons, really.

        Why do people go into tremendous debt for a useless degree from some unaccredited online diploma mill? Because people are suckers who lack the tools to objectively evaluate an educational institution due to lack of experience and information asymmetry.

      • Michael Rebmann June 4, 2013 at 10:41 am #

        Now I get it. You don’t trust people to make decisions involving their own lives and you prefer government takes that responsibility, to be administered by people who don’t have a personal, vested interest. That makes sense. Government knows best and always does what’s best.

      • Matt Gracie June 4, 2013 at 10:44 am #

        Have fun punching that straw man. Come on back whenever you want to discuss what I actually wrote, as opposed to what you want to think I believe.

      • Michael Rebmann June 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm #

        Your whole scenario is premised on government having the responsibility for educational decisions instead of parents. That is what we currently have.

      • Matt Gracie June 4, 2013 at 12:31 pm #

        My whole scenario is neatly encapsulated at the end of my first post:

        “Flooding a marketplace with easy money encourages scammers.”

        Is it possible to put checks in place to ensure that the “private schools” that would pop up to take advantage of a voucher program are actually providing a proper education? That they’re not lying to students and parents about the offerings? That they’re not teaching nonsense, like the upthread reference to Loch Ness Monster Science? Sure, it’s possible.

        But after watching the easy availability of student loan money utterly gut higher education in this country, leaving thousands of students with tremendous debt and worthless degrees from for-profit “universities”, I wouldn’t bet on it. After all, many of those are “accredited” in at least a loose sense, but the education they provide is often subpar.

      • Michael Rebmann June 4, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

        The funding model for higher education is highly flawed, but it is not the same as a voucher program would be for K-12. Higher education is not mandated, it is a choice. Parents wouldn’t incur debt from a school choice program.

      • Matt Gracie June 4, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

        I’m not worried about the possibility of parents going into debt – I’m worried about schools misrepresenting themselves and hoodwinking students and parents in order to get a slice of the public money gravy train.

      • Michael Rebmann June 4, 2013 at 3:05 pm #

        That’s a bigger problem for parents with kids stuck in a crappy public school because they have no choice.

      • Matt Gracie June 4, 2013 at 3:56 pm #

        Why do you assume that one of these spontaneously appearing private schools will provide a better quality education than the public school that the student is leaving?

        I know it’s taken as gospel in some quarters that the Invisible Hand ensures that anything undertaken by the private sector will automatically be better than anything run by the government, but I don’t see education as being a case where that is necessarily true.

        Making student funding portable, as in a voucher system, will almost certainly help to defund public education and make those schools even worse, though. Whether this is a beneficial side effect or not depends on the viewer.

      • Some Guy June 4, 2013 at 11:59 am #

        Take a look at what’s happening in Louisiana. There are lots of crappy private schools popping up in order to get their hands on public funded vouchers. A lot of them are religious- based and are teaching kids Intelligent Design and other completely nutty shiat. One of them is actually teaching kids the Loch Ness Monster is real and its existence refutes evolution.

        This is what happens when idiots and ideologues are elected to government rather than people who actually want to make government work for people.

  2. peteherr June 4, 2013 at 9:44 am #

    How do you issue a $15,000 voucher when most people only pay $3000-5000 in school taxes?

    • Michael Rebmann June 4, 2013 at 9:50 am #

      The same way public schools are funded today. Either through school taxes or incorporate the cost into County or State taxes. Parents of Buffalo School students certainly don’t pay $20,000+ in school taxes.

  3. peteherr June 4, 2013 at 9:45 am #

    “Letting ideology get in the way of smart decisions is a sure ticket to getting voted out of office.”

    Really, Chris? I haven’t noticed this. Quite the opposite actually.

    • Christopher Smith June 4, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

      On issues of import in which the impact significantly affects the bottom line of constituents, I think it’s different.

  4. Jason June 4, 2013 at 10:47 am #

    The whole problem with Sirota’s argument is that, if its true that poverty is the most important determining factor in student outcomes, isn’t that an argument FOR marginalizing teachers? If the quality of teachers doesn’t matter, or matters significantly less than poverty does, then shouldn’t we be taking the money we spend on teacher salaries and benefits and putting it into correcting poverty?

    That’s why education reformers think poverty can’t be an excuse and why quality instruction matters, and why the emphasis of reform efforts is on demanding accountability. Instructional quality DOES matter more than poverty; that’s why teachers should be paid like professionals, but also treated (held accountable) like professionals. If poverty is all that matters, then that necessarily means teaching/instruction doesn’t matter.

  5. jimd54 June 4, 2013 at 2:42 pm #

    Giving crappy parents a 15k voucher seems like a really bad idea. Not long before they figure out how to scam the money. “Some Guy” has it right. Vouchers are a back door for public funds to be funneled to religious entities.

  6. rhmaccallum June 5, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    On your quote of the day: As a young man I was amused to lear that Iceland is mostly green and Greenland is mostly ice. I suspect the suicide rate might be related to seasonal stress disorder…or as we called it in the day…cabin fever.

Contribute To The Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: