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The Morning Grumpy – 8/8/12

8 Aug

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

1. Private education through school vouchers reduces herd immunity to stupidity. For example, here’s a list of “facts” schoolchildren in Louisiana will learn while utilizing education vouchers in evangelical schools.

  • Dragons were real
  • Dinosaurs and humans once coexisted
  • The KKK fought “the decline in morality”
  • The Great Depression was a liberal fantasy
  • Gay people are equivalent to rapists and child molesters

Thanks to a new law privatizing public education in Louisiana, Bible-based curriculum can now indoctrinate young, pliant minds with the good news of the Lord—all on the state taxpayers’ dime.

Under Gov. Bobby Jindal’s voucher program, considered the most sweeping in the country, Louisiana is poised to spend tens of millions of dollars to help poor and middle-class students from the state’s notoriously terrible public schools receive a private education. While the governor’s plan sounds great in the glittery parlance of the state’s PR machine, the program is rife with accountability problems that actually haven’t been solved by the new standards the Louisiana Department of Education adopted two weeks ago.

If you want to teach this kind of reprehensible and purposefully ignorant bullshit to your children, do it in the comfort of your own home or church. Don’t spend scarce public dollars on it, the rest of us want fact-based education for our children, not Christian melodrama.

2. Some of the best political writing in America emerges from the keyboard of Charles P. Pierce at Esquire. A daily must-read for me as I love his take on pretty much everything. Here, he lays out the mission and duty for the Democrats in 2012, bring the Republicans back from crazy town.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Republican party, root and branch, from its deepest grass roots to its highest levels, has become completely demented. This does not mean that it is incapable of winning elections; on the contrary, the 2010 midterms, as well as the statewide elections around the country, ushered in a class of politicians so thoroughly dedicated to turning nonsense into public policy that future historians are going to marvel at our ability to survive what we wrought upon ourselves.

The Democratic party has an obligation to beat the Republican party so badly, over and over again, that rationality once again becomes a quality to be desired. It must be done by persuading the country of this simple fact. It cannot be done by reasoning with the Republicans, because the next two generations of them are too far gone. The state legislators now passing all manner of crazy laws represent the next generation of national Republican leaders. They are proudly unknowing.

It took president Obama nearly three years to figure out what Pierce wrote in the second paragraph. His campaign strategy reflects these lessons learned. Now if only the rest of the party will come along with him, we might have something.

3. While Republican state legislatures enact sweeping legislation to disenfranchise voters and reduce access to the ballot box, the one federal agency chartered to ensure fair elections is currently leaderless and under constant attack from Congressional Republican who seek to defund it. It almost seems coordinated, eh?

As local officials gear up for a national election where razor-thin margins could tip the balance of power, the federal agency established after the Florida ballot disaster of 2000 to ensure that every vote gets counted is leaderless and adrift.

There are supposed to be four commissioners on the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC), but right now there are none.

President Barack Obama nominated two new Democratic commissioners last year, but congressional Republicans are trying to defund the agency entirely — which means for now no Republican nominations and no confirmation of the Democrats’ candidates.

“It is kind of disgraceful that we’re headed into a major election and the only federal agency that’s devoted to election administration has zero commissioners,” said Lawrence Norden, a lawyer at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.

If you can’t win on ideas, I guess the next best thing is to keep your opposition away from the ballot box.

4. Here’s some awesome guidance on public speaking from the irrepressible ZeFrank.

5. A great lesson on the value of corporate innovation.

Over five glorious years starting in 1971, researchers at Xerox PARC invented many of the core elements of information technology:

Personal Computers

Bitmap Displays

Overlapping Windows Graphical User Interfaces

Desktop Publishing (including the first WYSIWYG page layout and word-processing programs)

Object-Oriented Programming

Laser Printing Ethernet Peer-to-Peer & Client-Server Computing Internetworking (While PARC did not invent the Internet, PARC researchers made significant advancements and probably deserve half credit)

It is safe to say, nearly four decades later, that most of the information-technology industry and much of global commerce still depend on these 8.5 inventions.

Technology companies and many others in downstream industries have collectively realized trillions of dollars in revenues and tens of trillions in market value because of them. It’s true—and here’s where conventional wisdom constantly chimes in—that Xerox realized very little of these trillions. But consider this: The budget for the parts of Xerox PARC that focused on computing in 1974 was less than $3 million. Those 8.5 inventions cost about $10 million in total—about $43 million in today’s dollars.

Now compare that total investment against the return of just one of those inventions—laser printing—which Xerox did extensively commercialize. Let’s say, to be conservative, that Xerox generated $100 billion from laser printing over the ensuing years. That would mean Xerox PARC paid for itself more than two thousand times over. That’s not a bad return on investment.

In the upper echelons of enterprise technology, acquisitions have largely replaced innovation as the model for growth. It suits shareholders better as they are leery of large scale investments into ideas that may never produce fruit on the balance sheet. However, it might be time for a return to the glorious days of reckless corporate innovation.

Fact Of The Day: A Sikh must “defend the rights of all who are wrongfully oppressed or persecuted irrespective of religion, colour, caste or creed.”

Quote Of The Day: “Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism.” – Hubert H. Humphrey

Video Of The Day: For the readers in Sloan, here’s some tips on how to better “surf” the web, 1990s style.

Song Of The Day: “Baby Cakes” – Maxine Brown

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