Politics laid bare

Of course we know this is how politics actually works, but rarely do we see it so brazenly laid out before us.  From right here in NC:

Last fall, Gov. Pat McCrory personally intervened on behalf of a friend and major political donor who wanted to renew $3 million in private prison contracts over the objections of McCrory’s top prison officials, records and interviews show.

Graeme Keith Sr., a Charlotte developer and retired banker once known as “Billy Graham’s banker,” has aggressively pursued private maintenance contracts in state prisons since 1999. Keith’s contracts at two prisons were set to expire Dec. 31, 2014; a third would have ended four months later.

The governor convened an October 2014 meeting in Charlotte, where, according to a Department of Public Safety memo, Keith told prison officials and McCrory that “he had been working on this project ‘private prison maintenance’ for over ten (10) years and during that time had given a lot of money to candidates running for public office and it was now time for him to get something in return.” [emphasis mine]

Oh, and as for concerns about what would make the most sense policy-wise?  Well, apparently that did not matter in the face of a major donor with profit to make:

Perry told Roberts and Stith he wanted to end the contract and allow state employees to resume maintenance. His staffers had been adamant that private maintenance wasn’t saving money and posed a greater security risk.

Perry protested the contract extension and said it wouldn’t save much money. But he said he would carry out the “marching order.”

“Very bad decision,” Perry texted. “Sorry, but this will soil our Gov.”

The sad thing is we all just know this sort of stuff happens all the time.  The only thing different this time is that the donor was dumb enough to make the tit-for-tat explicit.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Great NPR story on how old women are so often the face of evil in fairy tales.

2) An essay from a teacher on quitting teaching:

The solitary reason that I chose to leave teaching has to do with the politicized environment of education. People may wonder what politics have to do with teaching, and the answer is everything. When policies are made, the impacts come into our lives and change them drastically. Over the past few years, there has been widespread “educational reform.”  These reforms have increased the importance of spreadsheets, columns of data, evaluations by inexperienced observers, and the accounting of data in every teacher’s life. The focus has gone away from people; students, parents, teachers, staff, volunteers, and onto data. The most important elements of teaching cannot be quantified onto a spreadsheet and put into a power point. When data is given importance above all else, time and resources are directed as such.

It has been years, YEARS, since I was in a building inservice that was about connecting with kids, communicating with parents, designing meaningful anti-bullying lessons, incorporating literature into math lessons or any topic other than data collection, data presentation, data comparison, state testing and teacher evaluations.


3) I don’t care much about the New England Patriots in any way, but I did find this analysis as to the secret of their ongoing success to be quite interesting.

4) Dahlia Lithwick on  a Louisiana prosecutor who really likes killing people.  One of her commenters put it best, “I’m starting to get the feeling this guy is a serial killer who found a legal route to kill people.”

5) Sure politicians of all parties use appeals based on fear, but it sure seems to be a very central element of the GOP these days.

6) Had a little bit of a light bulb moment while listening the most recent Freakonomics podcast (on boredom, actually)

DUBNER: I want your secret view of success in life, definitely.

DUCKWORTH: Alright, so I’m just gonna go out on limb here and say it. You know it’s not that I have like all the, a mountain of evidence and so forth. But I think it really comes down to this. Every successful person that I’ve ever interviewed — and I do a lot of interviewing of successful gold medalists and CEOs of Fortune 100 companies and so forth — every single one is extraordinarily meta-cognitive. By that I mean that they are able to reflect on their own emotions, their own thoughts and their own behaviors. They’re sort of able to step outside themselves and say, “Hmm, what am I doing? What just happened there? Is that something that I liked? Did I not like it? What can I do to kind of go back into the situation and do it differently next time?”  To a one, I would say that is characteristic of successful people.  [emphasis mine]

Though, I’m not like those people, I am pretty damn metacognitive, but the light bulb was about my son who really struggles despite having good cognitive skills– it’s the damn metacognition he’s lacking.

7) Vox explains why China is changing their one child policy.

8) On Kansas‘ failed supply-side experiment.  Of course, there was plenty of evidence this was never going to work.

9) Jordan Weissman with a nice reminder that if a Republican president is elected, he very well could enact crazy Republican economic plans.  And then we get Kansas times 50.

10) Josh Vorhees on the self-fulfilling nature of the Jeb is toast narrative:

But. But! The Jeb is toast narrative will only make that more unlikely. Jeb began the year as the favorite for his party’s nomination—and, until recently, remained a favorite—exactly because the political and media establishments saw him as one. But while he benefited from that self-fulfilling prophecy, he’s now in danger of falling victim to a new one. If the establishment no longer sees him as a man who can bring order to a chaotic nominating contest, voters won’t either. The media used to present him as the smarter Bush, the more capable Bush, the Bush who should have been president. Now that’s all gone. And as Nate Silver points out, the conventional wisdom matters for Bush more than most “because Bush is running a conventional campaign.”

11) Some nudges are good (e.g., nudging for more retirement savings).  When private companies try to nudge you so they can profit more– not so good.

12) Kristof on “justice” in Saudi Arabia:

Saudi Arabia’s medieval criminal justice system also executes “witches,” and flogs and imprisons gay people.

It’s time for a frank discussion about our ally Saudi Arabia and its role legitimizing fundamentalism and intolerance in the Islamic world. Western governments have tended to bite their tongues because they see Saudi Arabia as a pillar of stability in a turbulent region — but I’m not sure that’s right.

Saudi Arabia has supported Wahhabi madrasas in poor countries in Africa and Asia, exporting extremism and intolerance. Saudi Arabia also exports instability with its brutal war in Yemen, intended to check what it sees as Iranian influence. Saudi airstrikes have killed thousands, and theblockading of ports has been even more devastating. Some Yemeni children are starving, and 80 percent of Yemenis now need assistance.

There’s also an underlying hypocrisy in Saudi behavior. This is a country that sentenced a 74-year-old British man to 350 lashes for possessing alcohol (some British reports say he may be allowed to leave Saudi Arabia following international outrage), yet I’ve rarely seen as much hard liquor as at Riyadh parties attended by government officials.

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