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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.

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