Public Opinion in persepctive

From the Onion:

Same Americans Who Made Taylor Swift Popular Polled On Constitutionality Of Health Care Reform

FEBRUARY 21, 2011 | ISSUE 47•08

WASHINGTON—Americans, a group of people directly responsible for the popularity of country-pop singer Taylor Swift, were asked by an independent research group Wednesday to share their thoughts on the constitutional implications of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. “They can’t force me to get insurance,” survey taker Carrie Hunstley, a woman who will purchase almost any magazine with an image of Swift on the cover and is intimately aware of the fact that the musician briefly dated Jake Gyllenhaal last year, said of the massive federal statute. “We need to protect the Constitution.” The survey also asked U.S. citizens, 1 in 15 of whom tuned in to watch the episode of CSI during which Taylor Swift made her primetime TV acting debut, for their perspectives on the nation’s fiscal policy.


All you really need to know about Wisconsin

Wisconsin Republicans are, with great political savvy, taking advantage of a short-term budget crunch to push through a long-term ideological agenda.  Hooray for Wisconsin’s public employees for standing up to it.  As to the gross cynicism of what’s really up in Wisconsin, I would argue there’s really just one thing you need to understand.  Drum:

Steven Taylor notes that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s union busting efforts are aimed only at some public sector unions, not all of them. This prompts a question aimed at Walker’s allies:

If it is a fundamental principle that public sector employees ought not to have the right to collective bargaining, why are the police, firefighters and state troopers of Wisconsin not part of the package? Why does Governor Walker and his allies believe that those workers ought to be able to retain their collective bargaining rights?

….However, I would go beyond that and not ask why Walker is doing what Walker is doing, but rather ask why we have not seen (or, at least, I have not seen) his ideological allies calling for him to include police, firefighters and state troopers in the bill? If there is a fundamental philosophical issue here concerning public sector unions, what is the possible rationale for any exceptions?

I dunno. Any conservatives want to take a crack at this?

Yet so see any such crack.  That’s too much mental gymnastics for even the most committed conservative.

How the Tea party is winning

Terrific column from EJ Dionne– read the whole thing.  But, since you’re here, I’ll summarize:

Take five steps back and consider the nature of the political conversation in our nation’s capital. You would never know that it’s taking place at a moment when unemployment is still at 9 percent, when wages for so many people are stagnating at best and when the United States faces unprecedented challenges to its economic dominance.

No, Washington is acting as if the only real problem the United States confronts is the budget deficit; the only test of leadership is whether the president is willing to make big cuts in programs that protect the elderly; and the largest threat to our prosperity comes from public employees.

Take five more steps back and you realize how successful the Tea Party has been. No matter how much liberals may poke fun at them, Tea Party partisans can claim victory in fundamentally altering the country’s dialogue.

Consider all of the problems taking a back seat to the deficit in Washington and the media. You haven’t heard much lately on how Wall Street shenanigans tanked the economy in the first place – and in the process made a small number of people very rich. Yet any discussion of the problems caused by concentrated wealth (a vital mainstream issue in the America of Andrew Jackson and both Roosevelts) is confined to the academic or left-wing sidelines.

One thing political scientists can state with some confidence is that winning in politics is often about who controls the agenda.  In this case, the Tea Party’s (faux) budget-cutting fanaticism has come to dominate the political agenda.  It’s working.  When politics is being played on your turf, you’re winning.  So, why is this?  I suspect that, at least to a degree, its that Democratic elites are so incredibly cowardly on these issues.  The truth is, if Democratic Senators, etc., give ground on the issue, you’re not going to get the meaningful push-back from the press.  Only if prominent Democratic elites (unfortunately, bloggers don’t count) respond forcefully to this non-sense will the press call it like it is.  Of course, also, there are long-term structural concerns with our deficit, but Democrats need to be strong and forthright in saying that 1) more revenue is part of the solution and 2) draconian cuts in a small portion of the overall budget are not a meaningful fix.

What is Great Britain Anyway?

Via Big Steve, here’s an amazing youtube video that explains the difference between Great Britain, the UK, England, why Canada still has the British Monarch, etc.  I loved it.  David was asking me explain all of this recently, and while I did a passable job– it’s tough.  Now I actually know.

Does the punishment fit the crime?

When I first saw this story about disicplinary procedures leading to a HS suicide at the Post on-line, I really just assumed it was sensationalist journalism, but I started reading out of curiosity.  Here’s the lede:

Nick Stuban was all about football, a quick-footed linebacker at W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax County who did well in the classroom, too: four As, two Bs and a C for first quarter. His history teacher described the 15-year-old as a “model student,” and his German teacher was impressed by his enthusiasm for language. His attendance record was nearly perfect.

That changed Nov. 3, when Nick was suspended from school for buying a capsule of a substance known as JWH-018, a synthetic compound with a marijuana-like effect. JWH-018 was legal – Nick had checked it out first on Google – but he soon discovered that he had made a mistake with consequences far beyond anything he expected.

“I don’t know what I was thinking,” his father recalls Nick saying.

Over the next 11 weeks, his mistake unraveled much of what Nick held close – his life at school, his sense of identity, his connection to the second family he’d found in his football team. Nick’s emotional descent was steeper than anyone imagined, and its painful finality brought light to a discipline system that many Fairfax families call too lengthy, too rigid and too hostile.

Nick took his life Jan. 20, the second student in two years to die of a suicide amid the fallout of a disciplinary infraction in Fairfax.

By the time I was done reading the story, I was outraged and just how willfully stupid my own former K-12 school system is about their drug policies.  In this particular case, a HS student was expelled from school for 7 weeks for a first offense in which he purchased a questionable, but legal drug, JWH-018, a synthetic marijuana-type herb.  Apparently,the average suspension in such matters is 20 days, but can be much longer.  Just what does it accomplish by keeping a student– especially one with no record of further infractions– out of school for such a long time.  Well, in this case, it’s clearly a lot of bad:

In Nick’s case, the suspension dragged on for seven weeks, and then it was winter break. He was banned from Woodson and other school system property during that period – no weekly Boy Scout meetings, no sports events, no driver’s education sessions, all held on school grounds.

He felt stigmatized and grew isolated, his parents say, as the teen rumor mill produced exaggerated versions of why he’d been suspended. Some friendships slipped away. His sense of accumulating unfairness rose.

Apparently, Nick’s crime was treated as if he were a drug dealer and much more harshly than if he were at school high on cocaine.  I just hate that the adults in charge of our children’s future can be so so stupid.  How on earth could it possibly be a good thing to separate a kid who is clearly at risk from all aspects of social stability they may know?

I’m no big fan of kids dealing drugs in High Schools, and surely schools need to discipline such cases, but what goes on in Fairfax County is an affront to common sense, human decency, and intelligent public policy.  Just one more piece of evidence that the war on drugs in this country does more harm than good.

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