Kirner Update and Charter School Follies in the Nevada Legislature

Kirner There’s a difference between stale bread and stale politics; stale bread is useful.

“Well, this: Assembly Member Randy Kirner (R-Reno) is trying hard (perhaps too hard?) to be a “play-a”. He flippantly confirmed to Riley Snyder what we’ve been reporting about him killing Senator David Parks’ (D-Paradise) sexual orientation conversion therapy ban (SB 353). He then claimed he was “worried about litigation costs”, despite the Senate removing the law suit portion of the bill. The truth came out in private later, when he told a visiting constituent he just doesn’t like Senator Parks (and he’s just too obsessed with raiding PERS & busting unions to allow LGBTQ lives to be saved).” [LTN] (emphasis added)

The first indication of threadbare banality is Assemblyman Kirner’s worry about “litigation costs” in regard to SB 353.  This is the second to last resort into which a member of the GOP will dock when a bill or policy is presented that might protect potential victims of discrimination or abuse. (The last resort is “God Says…”)

Our second clue revealing  Assemblyman Kirner’s platitudinous and unoriginal offerings is his adherence to ALEC’s talking points about public employee retirement programs and labor organizations.  It’s fairly easy to spot a Talking Point Politician – when he or she is faced with current facts and social needs, our undaunted culture warrior reverts to hackneyed and uninspired reiterations of someone else’s phrases.  “I’m worried about the costs of litigation,” applied to everything from civil rights law to equal pay for female employees. “I’m concerned about the effect this will have on the free market,” applied to everything from environmental standards to the appointment of consumer protection advocates.   This isn’t politicking, it’s sloganeering.  Real players bring something to the table for discussion – something besides personal animosities and stale talking points.

Industrial education isn’t the same thing as industrialized educationSB 509 is still alive and in the Assembly Education committee. There’s a phrase in the bill which should catch our attention, here’s the LCB analysis:

“Existing law requires an application to form a charter school to be submitted by a committee to form a charter school. (NRS 386.520, 386.525) Sections 21 and 22 of this bill authorize a charter management organization to apply to form a charter school. Section 2 of this bill defines the term “charter management organization” to mean a nonprofit organization that operates multiple charter schools. Section 21 also revises the required contents of an application to form a charter school. Sections 21 and 36 of this bill authorize a charter management organization to request a waiver of requirements concerning the composition of a governing body. Section 22 revises the manner in which a sponsor is authorized to solicit and review applications to form a charter school.” 

Let’s differentiate between EMO’s  (Educational Management Organizations) which are for-profit educational enterprises and CMO’s which are non-profits.  While there is this crucial difference, they share some corporate interests.  One of those interests is the promotion of schools – not school districts.  This becomes an important point when we’re discussing overall school administration because when comparing “successes” schools and school districts are very different creatures.

For example, KIPP (a CMO) operates individual schools in urban areas. However, KIPP doesn’t run school districts. Recently a KIPP school in New Jersey was touted for it’s high performance in Newark, but when a bit of expertise was injected from Rutgers University scholars the results were less than stellar:

“The bottom line is that KIPP schools performance on comparable measures of student growth, controlling for demography, resources, etc., are relatively average (marginally above average). Many district schools, including ones in Newark, far outperform them.” [SchoolFinance]

In other words, anecdotal evidence of high performance (without running a model of demographics across the district to see deviations)  doesn’t mean a particular charter school operation is necessarily “successful” or that its operating plan is better than that which might be achieved by a local district itself.

A few years ago, another CMO, Rocketship was supposed to be achieving “astronomical” results, and was all the rage. [WaPo]  Rocketship used an “industrial model” with lots of computers and an equally large contingent of inexperienced teachers.  Rocketship moved into San Jose, California, but a year later the San Jose Mercury News was headlining, “Rocketship we have a problem.”  It seems that corporations like Rocketship DO have to follow local zoning regulations.  More issues arose with the charter non-profit, and by May, 2014 the Alum Rock CA Board of Education rejected a Rocketship charter, saying (1) it had not made Adequate Yearly Progress, there was no assurance made to investors that the schools would make AYP in the future, students spent a large portion of their day with no licensed teacher (a violation of state law), the CMO offered misleading figures on student-teacher ratios by not including Learning Lab Students in the calculations (creating a 1:37 ratio), and while Alum Rock School District spends about 6% on overhead costs, the Rocketship school was required to set aside 15% for its corporate headquarters.  The final point in the rejection was that for all the Wonders of Technology described in the Rocketship process, the students were actually encouraged to be passive rather than active users of the technology.

A third CMO, Green Dot Schools, has had a similar rocky history.  After much initial ballyhoo, Locke High School in Watts, CA was subdivided into segments under the management of Green Dot. Two years later the segments were themselves closed – for lack of “success” – the result?

“In fact, Animo Locke II, Animo Locke III, and Animo Locke Tech all failed the 2012 WASC accreditation. forcing Green Dot to merge all of the campuses, operationally, into the one school to receive accreditation. Animo Watts will continue to operate independent of the schools located at the main Locke campus.” [Ravitch

Eli Broad and other Silicon Valley ‘reformers’ were challenged by the LA Times:

“Charters claim that their schools score far better than traditional public schools serving similar students. That’s not true. The students at Locke or any of the other at-risk high schools in LAUSD are not “similar students” when compared to those who have left the public schools and moved to the charters. What Broad, Green Dot and the others do not reveal is the scores of those charter students when they were in regular public schools. It’s our belief that those students were already outscoring their fellow students in the traditional schools before they moved into charters. Low-scoring students do not enroll in Broad’s charters. His charters have skimmed off the education-oriented kids who otherwise would be raising test scores for traditional public schools.”

Cracks were showing in 2010, when it was reported that by Parent Revolution’s own definitions 14 out of 15 Green Dot Schools weren’t reaching their promised levels of success, [examiner] and to add substance to the LA Times critique, Green Dot Schools were targeting schools for takeover which were already exceeding Green Dot results. [SeattleEd] (More at MJ 4/1/2011]

By 2013 the Green Dot experiment in Los Angeles was plagued by high teacher turnover, inadequate administration, and unstable evaluation policies.  Meanwhile, a Tacoma, WA middle school is being taken over by Green Dot Schools, but parents are advised that “space is limited.”  [TNTRib]  — not an admonition which can be pronounced by public schools.  The Seattle Times reported that most seats were already taken by April 29, 2015 — ‘lotteries were held for 6 of 8 charter schools.”  There are no “enrollment lotteries” for public schools.

It would indeed be interesting, if JUST ONCE some legislative body decided to put the kind of care, attention, concern, (and potential funding) in the hands of its public school districts as it does into the hands of privatizing and elite exclusionist interests.

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Battle Born and Still Squabbling: The Waning Days of the 78th Assembled Wisdom

Nevada Flag

Battle Born and still fighting.  Day 116 and the the squabble over revenue plans and priorities continues in the Assembled Wisdom.  See Let’s Talk Nevada for daily details.  The Latin Chamber of Commerce has lined up with the Governor’s proposal. [Slash Politics]  This makes some sense because those business interests which are opposing the Governor’s plan would actually pay very little under it. [Ralston] No, it doesn’t come as any surprise that those who are opposed to the plan don’t bear most of the burden, while supporters would pay a bit more than their share.

This morning’s agenda for Assembly Ways and Means includes SB 491, “Provides for the award of a grant to a nonprofit organization for use in Fiscal Year 2015-2016 and Fiscal Year 2016-2017 for the recruitment of persons to establish and operate high quality charter schools to serve families with the greatest needs..” 

Also on the agenda, AB 480, which would allow mortgage wholesalers from outside the state to act as mortgage brokers.  AB 481 would strike the limitations on the Consumer Affairs Commissioner and B& I Director to provide investigative assistance to the Attorney General in cases involving deceptive trade practices.

The Assembly Taxation Committee will take on SJR 13, the Settelmeyer, Gustavson, Goicoechea proposal to restrict property taxes — “no new taxes, and even less of the old ones” —  “This resolution proposes to amend the Nevada Constitution to limit the amount of certain property taxes which may be cumulatively levied per year on real property to 1 percent of the base value of the property. “ How does this fit with revenue plans and local government interests? It doesn’t.  The beast got out of the Senate on a 12-7 vote.  The city of Reno estimates it will cost about $8 million in lost revenue.

The Assembly Committee on Education will be looking at SB 509 which pertains to charter schools.  From the LCB analysis:

“Existing law requires an application to form a charter school to be submitted by a committee to form a charter school. (NRS 386.520, 386.525) Sections 21 and 22 of this bill authorize a charter management organization to apply to form a charter school. Section 2 of this bill defines the term “charter management organization” to mean a nonprofit organization that operates multiple charter schools. Section 21 also revises the required contents of an application to form a charter school. Sections 21 and 36 of this bill authorize a charter management organization to request a waiver of requirements concerning the composition of a governing body. Section 22 revises the manner in which a sponsor is authorized to solicit and review applications to form a charter school.”

“Existing law authorizes a sponsor to revoke a written charter or terminate a charter contract under certain conditions and requires a sponsor to take such action if the charter school demonstrates persistent underachievement. (NRS 386.535, 386.5351) Sections 5 and 27-29 of this bill: (1) authorize a sponsor to reconstitute the governing body of a charter school in such situations; and (2) revise the conditions under which such action is authorized or required.”

The Senate Education Committee will be looking at SB 92, which requires a teacher deemed minimally effective after the three year probationary period is reverted to probationary status.  And, then there’s the predictable assault on “seniority” as defined in master contract agreements:

“Existing law provides that when a reduction in the workforce is necessary, the board of trustees of a school district must not lay off a teacher or an administrator based solely on seniority. (NRS 288.151) Section 30 of this bill requires the board of trustees of a school district to consider certain factors when reducing the workforce. Section 30 also provides that, if two or more employees are similarly situated after the application of those factors, the decision by the board of trustees to lay off one or more of the employees may be based on seniority.”

Meanwhile, back at the Battle of the Budget……………..

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Kirner’s Folly

Kirner 2

Assemblyman Randy Kirner (R-NV26) is about to secure his position as the poster boy for ALEC in this session of the Assembled Wisdom.  From the ever informative LTN:

“As we discussed yesterday, the Nevada Legislature has devolved into chaos and treachery… Yet again. This time, Assembly Member Randy Kirner (R-Reno) is threatening to kill SB 353, the sexual orientation conversion therapy ban, and possibly additional bills that have nothing to do with union issues, because he’s upset his ALEC bills to blow up unions and hand public servants’ retirement savings (PERS) to Wall Street aren’t moving. Oh, yes. That’s right. He’s going there!

But wait, there’s more. Now that Kirner is hinting that he’s a possible swing vote for the Nevada Revenue Plan, Governor Brian Sandoval’s (R) preferred revenue raising tax reform package, there’s real fear that Kirner is trying to abuse this tense situation to extract some sort of PERS deform (in addition to the bipartisan deal already reached on SB 406).”

Follow The Money

And, why not?  A quick look at the funding behind Assemblyman Kirner’s campaign shows the predominance of right wing money flowing into Kirner’s campaign coffers.  That “Students First” item on the donor list should be a big clue.   “Students First” is Michelle Ree’s anti-union outfit, which was caught working with ALEC in Connecticut to promote the ALEC agenda in 2012.  [BProg]  This year the organization was caught in New Mexico trying to coordinate an anti-union and anti public school campaign using social media and bloggers to promote “educational reform.” [Ravitch]

Kirner’s positions on “reforming” Nevada PERS are straight out of the ALEC playbook. (pdf)  If we’d like a preview of what ALEC and the Koch financed State Policy Network have in mind – handing over public employee retirement funds to the players in the Wall Street Casino – look at Kansas. [Politicususa]

Kirner was also the beneficiary of the Retail Association of Nevada, $5,500 in donations.  Interestingly enough, RAN is a first cousin of the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs; RAN’s CEO is Mary Lau, who is also listed as the treasurer of CPNJ for 2013.  In August 2013 RAN was pleased to insert a tip of the hat to the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs for its opposition to the “teacher tax” initiative. (pdf)

The District

Assembly 26 Assemblyman Kirner’s notion that he can blow up this session of the Legislature in search of satisfaction on right wing issues may reflect the district – the 26th is almost exclusively white (86%) and 46% Republican. Most residents live in owner occupied housing, and most are between the ages of 18 and 59. [LegNV pdf] [More: Statistical Atlas]   Kirner ran unopposed in the last election, getting 50.03% of the total vote. [SSE]

Questions

Given the last election results, even considering his close primary, is Assemblyman Kirner functioning as if he were in a safe seat?  Or, given the close primary is he sliding to the radical end of the right wing spectrum because of opposition which emphasized “no new taxes,” “school choice,” and “it’s not government’s job to create jobs?” [Krasner] Little wonder the primary was close given the ideological proximity of the two Republican candidates.

Can Democrats in Assembly District 26 move the needle?  There are 12,077 registered active voting Democrats in AD 25 out of 41,198 total. There are 18,763 registered active Republican voters in the district. There are 1,881 registered members of the Independent American Party, and another 445 registered Libertarians. 7,421 are non-partisan registered voters.  [NVSoS] There are 64,703 residents of the District.  Approximately 63.7% of the residents of the District are active, registered, voters.  First, it’s hard to move the needle without a race, and there is an obvious need for candidate recruitment in AD 26. Secondly, given the 81% turnout in 2012 compared to the 45.55% turnout in Washoe County in 2014, could Democrats “move the needle” if there were a candidate for the Assembly seat in a presidential election year campaign?

In the meantime, we’re treated to what can happen with a “safe seat” ideologically driven incumbent with funding and support from corporate interests and conservative allies – pro gun, anti-union, and anti-gay issues become the basis for retail politics in the District.  Waving these banners shouldn’t be allowed to obscure real issues facing real people in the Silver State.

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Filed under 2012 election, Nevada Democrats, Nevada politics, Politics

Emergencies: Creating and Sustaining Them in Nevada?

lack of planning Someone is asking the right question:

“Assembly Member Elliot Anderson (D-Winchester) then asked the biggest question of them all: Why is this “emergency measure” popping up now, and does it stand any better chance of passing the Senate than AB 148 or the proposed Fiore-Hansen SB 175 amendment. All Oscarson Therecould say was “I certainly hope so.” Meanwhile, a whole lot of students, teachers, and concerned family members certainly hope AB 487 meets the same fate as the dead AB 148 and the failed SB 175 amendment.” [LTN]

The measure under discussion is AB 487, another iteration of the ammosexual agenda Carry Everywhere nightmare, and it’s due for a hearing (of sorts) in the Assembly Judiciary Committee bright and early on Wednesday morning [pdf agenda] if it can get “emergency status.”  The tenacity of the gun advocates seems proportional to their delusion that somehow more guns will make up safer from more guns.  In case you missed it, this Salon piece does an excellent point by point deconstruction of the right wing’s ideological stance on the issue.

There’s another bill coming up on Wednesday which deserves more attention than it’s likely to get in the waning days of a legislative session, SB 292

“Section 1 of this bill provides that a board of trustees of a school district or the governing body of a charter school is not liable for any civil damages arising from any act or omission by a person employed by or volunteering at a school-based health center. Section 1 also defines “school-based health center” for such purposes.”

… Existing law limits the amount of noneconomic damages that may be an action for injury or death against a provider of health care based professional negligence. (NRS 41A.035) Section 3 of this bill limits noneconomic damages that may be awarded in such an action to $350,000, regardless of the number of plaintiffs, defendants or theories of liability. Existing law establishes a rebuttable presumption in actions for negligence”

This is NOT a School Nurse Protection Act, at least not the way it is worded.   Notice the phrase “…by a person employed by or volunteering at a school-based health center.”  So,  volunteers manning the school sick bay, and not school nurses, cannot render the school or charter operation liable for their actions or their failure to act?  If the person is a school nurse there are professional requirements for that.  However, (and this is a pretty big caveat) non-certified personnel may be allowed to administer medication, for which there are no pre-service nor professional development  specified training requirements. [NASBE] What could possibly go wrong?

But wait, there’s more! Senator Roberson seems intent upon his assault on the venerable Collateral Source Rule.  The Legislative Counsel Bureau explains what happens under SB 291:

“A common law doctrine, known as the “collateral source rule,” prohibits a defendant in a tort case from introducing into evidence proof of amounts that the plaintiff received or was entitled to receive from a source other than the defendant in compensation for the harms or injuries caused by the defendant.”

Existing law provides a limited exception to the collateral source rule by allowing a defendant in a case against a provider of health care based upon professional negligence to introduce evidence of amounts paid or payable to a plaintiff pursuant to policies of health or accident insurance, the United States Social Security Act, worker’s compensation statutes and other programs or contracts that pay for or reimburse costs of health care. (NRS 42.021)

This bill replaces the existing limited exception to the collateral source rule and instead requires a court, upon a motion by a defendant in any tort case, to reduce the amount of damages initially determined by the jury or other finder of fact by the amount of past medical expenses paid in relation to the injury or death sustained. However, this bill prohibits the court from reducing the amount of the damages by any amount: (1) paid for any treatment, care or custody provided by a provider of health care or medical facility on a lien; or (2) paid pursuant to medical payment coverage.  (emphasis added)

The “defendant” in this instance would be a negligent or otherwise incompetent health care provider.  Again, whatever success a plaintiff may have had in court against a person who negligently caused their pain, suffering, and possible disability – Senator Roberson would like to see reduced by any amount covered by Social Security disability benefits, worker’s compensation, or health or accident insurance.  The two bills are a double whammy for victims.

This session can’t end soon enough?

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GOP Far Away Land: Solutions in Search of Problems

Alien Planet guns

It’s like they live on another planet.  Republican legislators in Carson City appear to be marching to the same off beat drum kit as their Washington, D.C. counterparts.  Have problems with infrastructure? Education? Revenue? Income inequality? Unemployment? The solution is (staccato drum roll) Pass more laws on abortion! Allow more guns everywhere!

The Single Song Sallies of the Nevada GOP are absorbed by these two.  Assemblyman Ira Hansen (R-NV backwater) proposes the following:

“AN ACT relating to abortions; revising provisions regulating an abortion performed on a pregnant woman who is a minor or a ward; requiring notification of a parent or guardian under certain circumstances before a physician performs such an abortion; providing expedited procedures for petitioning a court for judicial authorization to proceed without such notification; providing civil liabilities and criminal penalties; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.”

How this bit of anti-choice legislation addresses employment, economic diversification, educational funding, transportation, infrastructure, local government resources, provisions for mental health services, or any other major issue facing the state is pure conjecture.  The nationwide abortion rate among those under 15 years of age is negligible for the period 1990 to 2007, and abortions for those aged 15 to 18 years has declined from 21,800 in 1990 to 16,200 as of 2007. [CensusCDC]  This decline mirrors the overall decline in teen pregnancies, which in turn is linked to economic considerations, more contraceptives, and more information (read: sex education). [Pew] However, Big Daddy Government Types exemplified by Assemblyman Hansen, won’t be satisfied until every woman has to carry every man’s fetus to term.  And for this, time is being taken from taxation and budget consideration in the Assembled Wisdom.

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Michele “Take Baking Soda for your Cancer” Fiore (R-NRA) would be happy to attach her Guns Galore amendment to any bit of legislation she can find. [LVRJ]  She lost the vote, 24-18 in the Assembly, but she’ll be back before the end of the session on June 1. [LTN]

What makes coping with single issue ideologues like Hansen and Fiore so frustrating is that Nevada does have some serious issues which need to be addressed.  Education, which was supposed to be the central feature of this legislative session, has some problems. For instance, Nevada schools ranked 50th in “overall state grades,” and 36th in K-12 achievement, 45th in standards and assessments, and 46th in school finance. [leg.state.nv]  The American Society of Civil Engineering grades Nevada a C- in infrastructure.  We “earned” a D+ in dams, and we have 36 bridges which are deemed “structurally deficient.”  The Mental Health Association reports the following in regard to Nevada’s mental health services: “The five states with the highest prevalence of mental illness and the lowest rates of access to care were Louisiana (47), Washington (48), Nevada (49), Mississippi (50) and Arizona (51).”

Speaking to the income inequality issue, Nevada’s not in a very good position in that regard either:  “The states in which all income growth between 2009 and 2012 accrued to the top 1 percent include Delaware, Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Washington, Louisiana, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, Rhode Island, and Nevada.”

Now, can we please talk about something other than government so small it can fit inside every vagina, and guns galore?

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Get Serious or Get Lost? GOP lack of focus on ISIS

ISIS I’ll take the Republicans, especially the ones in Congress, seriously when they speak of ISIS threats to national security when they take up the bill sent to Congress during the week of February 11, 2015 which authorizes U.S. action against the Islamic State.  The joint resolution had a bit of something for everyone:

“The proposed legislation limits Obama from the use of “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” deliberately vague language intended to win over those on the left wary of mission creep and those on the right who don’t want to restrict possible military action against ISIS.” [TheHill]

As of the moment it merely looks as if the GOP wants to turn foreign and defense policy into a semantic game for the purpose of giving Democrats headaches in an election many months away.  Witness the whinging from Senator Lindsay Graham:

“One by one, nearly a dozen GOP presidential hopefuls took the stage here last weekend for a Lincoln Dinner, each different in style and stature but all joining a rising Republican chorus that lays blame for the Islamic State terrorist group squarely at the feet of President Obama. “If you fought in Iraq, it worked. It’s not your fault it’s going to hell. It’s Obama’s fault,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) said to cheers.” [WaPo] …

“This deterioration of our physical and ideological strength has led to a world far more dangerous than when President Obama entered office,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in a speech this month. “We’ve seen [the Islamic State] sweep across multiple states, commit brutal atrocities and attempt to establish a caliphate.” [WaPo]

If the Republicans want more U.S. involvement in Iraq, then why not authorize the administration to apply more force in the region – as in bring the joint resolution to the floor for a debate and vote?

Perhaps the delay is because the Republicans don’t want to address key issues, and would rather launch verbal flames than real ones.  Consider the flap over the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government.

If the Obama Administration had been serious about winning in Iraq it would have negotiated a status of forces agreement,” wail the right wingers. Not. So. Fast. It takes two parties to negotiate such an agreement and the al Maliki government wasn’t playing the game:

“But ending the U.S. troop presence in Iraq was an overwhelmingly popular demand among Iraqis, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki appears to have been unwilling to take the political risk of extending it. While he was inclined to see a small number of American soldiers stay behind to continue mentoring Iraqi forces, the likes of Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, on whose support Maliki’s ruling coalition depends, were having none of it. Even the Obama Administration’s plan to keep some 3,000 trainers behind failed because the Iraqis were unwilling to grant them the legal immunity from local prosecution that is common to SOF agreements in most countries where U.S. forces are based.” [Time 2011]

The Iraqi government under al-Maliki, once touted as the harbinger of democracy, proved to be a colossal failure.

The Iraqis wanted stable government, less corruption, economic reconstruction, and all the other things modern governments can provide. However, rather than moving forward from the gains made during the last months of U.S. occupation, the al-Maliki government swung away. The situation fell apart almost immediately.

Maliki’s government used “de-Baathification” laws, introduced to keep members of Saddam Hussein’s regime out of government, to target his opponents — but not his many allies, who also had been senior members of the Baath Party. The 2010 government formation process turned out to be yet another opportunity for politicians of all stripes to grant themselves senior positions which they could use to plunder the state. When tens of thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in February 2011 to protest corruption, they were branded terroristsand were attacked and beaten by security forces and hired thugs. Dozens were killed and thousands arrested and tortured until the protests fizzled. Meanwhile, though terrorist groups were not operating as openly as before, hundreds of civilians continued to be killed every month, particularly in Baghdad, denying Iraqis in many parts of the country even a brief period of normalcy. [ForeignPolicy]

This is not exactly a recipe for popular government, or even a respected one. However, the situation with the Iraqi security forces was even dimmer.

“The security sector, which had an annual budget greater than the budgets for education, health, and the environment combined, was subject to minimal oversight. Soldiers were enrolled and paid monthly salaries without reporting for duty. Overpriced and faulty equipment was procured using the laxest standards. Training sessions were financed on paper but never took place in practice. Appointments were politicized. Officers close to the prime minister’s office who failed to investigate leads on terrorist attacks were almost never held accountable for their actions. Even the most grotesque failures, including the military’s passivity in the face of regular attacks against Christians in Nineveh over a period of years, went unpunished. Morale among the rank and file was low, and there was very little desire to take risks on behalf of political elites who were viewed as wildly corrupt.” [ForeignPolicy]

And we wonder why the Iraqi forces couldn’t hold Mosul, and  can’t hold Ramadi?   By 2006 the political atmosphere was getting obvious, only the willfully blind could avoid seeing the implications of the Sunni-Shia split, and al-Maliki’s role in that disintegration:

“By the time Maliki took office, the police and the Army were overwhelmingly Shiite, packed with former militiamen bent on cleansing Baghdad of Sunni Arabs. In the summer of 2006, each morning brought new reports of sectarian atrocities. Maliki did very little to stop them, according to Matthew Sherman, the civilian adviser to the U.S. Army. “We’d go into his office, we’d tell him about a massacre that had been carried out by his men,” Sherman told me. “And Maliki would just sit there and say, ‘I’m sure they were terrorists.’ We could never get him to act against the death squads.” (Maliki says that he never received any evidence that his soldiers or police had acted improperly.)” [NYorker 2014]

The eggs laid by the parliamentary elections of December 2005 were fully hatched by 2014.   By 2015 the eggs were completely scrambled, and not in a good omelet sort of way.

al-Maliki’s resignation in 2014 didn’t alleviate the situation. As of August 12, 2014 the Iranian government pulled its support for al-Maliki, offered him asylum, and backed his successor Hiadar al-Abadi. [Guardian] The disaffected Sunnis, the former criminal gangs, the death squads and the local militias were now a fact of life in Iraq’s daily existence.  Nor has U.S. policy been all that helpful.  The Iranians, who are positioned to assist the current Iraqi government in its fight with ISIS, are the subject of saber rattling by members of the U.S. Congress who want to do everything from bolster current embargo terms to engage in outright military action against Tehran.

In other, less elegant terms. if we weaken the Iranian government then we risk undermining the Iraqi government’s efforts to retain or retake territory seized by ISIS.

It is very difficult to have a consistent and rational foreign policy when the requirements are (1) opposition to the Iranian government, and to all forms of Iranian involvement in Iraqi military operations against ISIS; (2) opposition to ISIS which doesn’t incorporate Shia interests in Iraq; and (3) support for Sunni participation in Iraqi governance, when the Sunnis could be convinced that their interests would be better served by ISIS than by the governing Shia groups in Baghdad. Perhaps these contradictions help explain why the Republicans don’t want a full blown discussion of U.S. foreign policy vis a vis Iraq, and seem content to snipe from the sidelines?

If the GOP is serious about discussing our policy toward Iraq, then it’s time to bring the joint resolution to the floor, debate the ramifications seriously, recognize the historical and political implications of the policy, and to take a stand on those issues.  The rest is simply political noise making, the equivalent of slide whistles and noise-makers.

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Just Joking: A Brief Greeting (card)

There is an interesting collection of greeting cards at the local Wal-Mart.  In the “humor” department there are two categorized as “political,” and wouldn’t you know it, both feature a picture of the President of the United States, and both allow the sender to express his or her happiness that the Obama Presidency is about over.  Also, funny, there are no cards allowing me to say how pleased I am that the Republican controlled Congress has a 75.8% disapproval rating. [RCP]  And there’s no card to inform a recipient that Mrs. Clinton beats the latest incarnation of Bush by 7.7%, Walker by 9.2%, Rubio by 7.3%, the miniature Paul by 7.7%, the Cruz campaign by 11.7%, the Huckster Huckabee by 9.0%, and Dr. Ben Carson by 11.5%. [RCP]

However, the card-for-conservatives in the display doesn’t seem quite so amusing when juxtaposed with the Google map hack in which the search for “N—- house,” and “N—- King” both take the seeker to the White House. [TPM] [HuffPo] [WaPo] Google has promised an update on or before May 27th.

Nor is the sentiment level enhanced when we look at the press coverage of the Waco Shoot Out in comparison to the events in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD.   The prize for the most egregious differentiation goes to Fox News and its host Bill O’Reilly. [Salon] In some quarters. most noticeably Fox,  it’s acceptable to require representatives and spokespersons for various groups to absorb hectoring and lecturing on the many ways people are responsible for their own problems, in broad stereotypical terms.  “You people” need to get jobs, be better fathers, stay away from drugs, make better choices…..

But – let 9 people die at the hands of white biker gang members and the scene shifts – these are merely a few bad apples. Although there are some 44,000 biker gang members in this country.  Number of deaths caused by the one day of rioting in Baltimore? Zero.  Who needs the lecture about staying away from drugs, and about making better choices? [MMFA]  Whether the poor need it or not, they’re going to get it because they are all slobs, drunks, or addicts… so sayeth the conservatives. [MMFA]  So, why do liberals always bring up race, all the time? We elected an African-American President … racism’s over.  Enter the clowns once again.

A piece on the Bill Kristol v. Bill Maher exchange included the following analysis:

“…the trial of George Zimmerman produced a very different reaction. This case also hinged on race—Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen from his neighborhood in Florida, and was acquitted of all charges. But here the gap in disapproval over the verdict between white Democrats and white Republicans was not 4 points but 43. Americans had split once again into mutually uncomprehending racial camps, but this time along political lines, not by race itself.” [NYmag]

And once noting the political fracturing, the punch line:

“A different, unexpected racial argument has taken shape. Race, always the deepest and most volatile fault line in American history, has now become the primal grievance in our politics, the source of a narrative of persecution each side uses to make sense of the world. Liberals dwell in a world of paranoia of a white racism that has seeped out of American history in the Obama years and lurks everywhere, mostly undetectable. Conservatives dwell in a paranoia of their own, in which racism is used as a cudgel to delegitimize their core beliefs. And the horrible thing is that both of these forms of paranoia are right.”

Are the greeting cards “racist?”  The company would more than likely say, “No.” They were intended as purely political statements, for specific customers.  However, those customers are more likely to ascribe to the racism imbedded in their core beliefs: That the poor are Black, and Blacks are more likely to be uneducated, undisciplined, lazy, slovenly, drunken, drug addicted… and therefore unworthy.  A more sensitive perspective should yield the conclusion that while the cards were essentially political, the demarcation between what is racial and what is political in this country is a thin and permeable membrane.

The permeability allows for the kind of thinking which concludes all Blacks should take responsibility for the rioters in their neighborhoods, and the President should not use words like “bigotry” and “ideological” in the same paragraph. [NPR]   One academic study which may make for some uncomfortable reading needs to be a larger part of our national conversation on race.  The Rochester Study 2013, shows the powerful grip the legacy of slavery still maintains in our current political climate, and before we can analyze and evaluate our political institutions we should acknowledge all the factors which sustain them.

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