So, I’m having the usual “Pizza and Mind Rot” get together. We’ve been doing this for about 30+ years now. My old “College Roomie” and I get together. It started as just us, eating pizza and watching Magnum PI and Simon and Simon on TV. Eventually he found out he was “Gluten Intolerant” so we swapped over to Chile, but the name stuck.
Later, I got married and we had the wife and kids join, now her twin and her kid too. Sometimes we tried “Noodles and Numb Noggins” (as I could make Rice Noodles…). Eventually it’s “moved on” to a mix of foods as other folks have accumulated various dietary needs. But it does continue on. Almost every week, for one night, we gather, share food, and semi-mindless TV. (Lately it has been more of Eureka and Fairly Legal or Burn Notice, sometimes other things.) And the Old Roomie has adopted the habit of bringing newspaper clippings “of interest” as conversation starters. (So now you know why I’m talking about Pizza and SciFy in something titled “Republican Idiots”…)
One of these clippings is titled “Panel votes to kill ‘net neutrality’ regulations”. A version of it (AP stories are often emitted in various lengths or different editors snip different bits) is here:
WASHINGTON — A Republican-controlled Congressional panel has voted to repeal new Federal Communications Commission rules that prohibit phone and cable companies from interfering with Internet traffic on their broadband networks.
The House Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology voted 15-to-8 along party lines Wednesday to overturn the FCC’s new “network neutrality” regulations. The FCC’s three Democrats voted to adopt the regulations in December over the opposition of the agency’s two Republicans.
The rules are intended to prevent phone and cable companies from using their control over broadband connections to dictate where their subscribers go and what they do online. They prohibit broadband providers from favoring or discriminating against Internet content and services, including online calling services like Skype and Web video services like Netflix that could compete with their core phone and cable operations.
Basically, these Republican Idiots have voted to hand monopoly power over what kind of internet access I get and what kind of sites I can contact to those folks with a vested interest in capturing my traffic for their gain on their system.
I’m sure someone will try to argue that the “competitive market” will result in some carrier providing a net-neutral option, so what’s my beef? But the fact is that there is ONE provider of the wires into my home. ONE. AT&T owns the wire. ALL the other providers can only provide service over that wire. Other PUC rules say that if I have my telephone service from a non-AT&T provider (also over those wires) that I must buy my DSL from AT&T.
(No, that is not an error on my part. Yes, I’ve tried repeatedly to find a way around it. “Cable Modem” is the only alternative, and I don’t have cable TV. So I will be forced – and in fact was forced – to buy my service from the monopoly. ONLY if I buy my phone service from the monopoly can I then buy DSL from some other carrier; who uses the monopoly AT&T wires and gives them a cut. THEY MUST, by PUC tariff, get one of the two lines of business. As my phone is long term contract to someone else, I have a choice of ONE DSL provider. AT&T. Please do not suggest I can get DSL from someone else. Re-read this text.)
But at least “Net Neutrality” assured that they could not “bugger packets” headed to companies with which they were in competition. This can be as simple as setting a “quality of service” (or QoS) value in the router. So anytime I’d go to THEIR search engine, for example, I’d get fast response. Use a different one, it takes forever. Buy E-mail service from them? Fast. Anyone else? Slow. You get the picture.
It’s the lever that lets them exert monopoly power over what I do on the service I’ve already paid for.
There is no reason to compromise my right to use the product I’m buying as I see fit rather than to let some weasel “manage my experience” other than to let them control me, for a
kickback, er, bribe, um, “campaign contribution”. There is no valid reason what so ever to grant them that monopoly power over me.
(There is a valid general case for having some sites blackholed. You can make the case for authority to mark some sites as “spammers” or “used for illegal acts” and block them. IMHO, that is an orthogonal, though related, question to “Net Neutrality”. For example, if “online kiddy porn” is a felony, to block sites that distribute it is not granting monopoly power to my ISP, it is preventing a crime. The agent deciding that the Porn is a criminal act is not the Marketing & Sales Department of AT&T…)
So, if this stands, you can start by “Kissing off” things like Skype, Netflix, Vonage, and rapidly after that start finding that various other sites “don’t work very well” as soon as YOUR ISP rolls out their movies for a fee, Internet TV, search engine, email, etc, etc, etc…
It also means, for example, that if Fox TV or MSNBC is “out of favor” with your ISP (do you REALLY know who’s on the board of your ISP and what their political leanings are?) their web sites might just not work very well for you. Don’t like Iran this month? Well, just crank that feed down way low on the service queue. Got a new Director from China? Well, better give “Top Rank QoS” to THEIR sites in China and cut back on their competitor from Taiwan.
This is just evil, and the folks promoting it are idiots. They have no idea what they are doing, and are, IMHO, just having “friends with money ask for a favor” and don’t see a reason not to “go along to get”…
Republicans argue that the rules will discourage phone and cable companies from investing in costly network upgrades by barring them from offering premium services over their lines or prioritizing traffic from business partners in order to earn a return on those investments. They also maintain that the FCC overstepped its authority in adopting the rules.
Got that? MY MONEY that I’m paying for service is not enough “encouragement” for them to make their product work. They need to be able to get
kickbacks a return from “business partners”. In other words, selling access to YOUR EYEBALLS to the highest bidder. No, thankyou, I decide what I look at and don’t need your sleaze “helping me”, nor selling me as “cattle that have paid for my own pen”. Cable TV is bad enough at that already.
Verizon Communications Inc. and Metro PCS Communications Inc. are also challenging the rules in federal appeals court in the District of Columbia.
Last year, that same court ruled that the FCC had exceeded its legal authority in rebuking cable giant Comcast Corp. for blocking its subscribers from accessing an Internet file-sharing service used to trade online video and other big files. Comcast maintained that traffic from the service was clogging its network.
Oh, Comcast is my only “other choice” here, if I were to let them put a cable on my home. They want to be able to block “file-sharing services”. Gee, want to watch that Youtube? Well, only if it’s got a Comcast Price Tag on it… And what about those Climategate Email archive downloads? Think that website would stay “accessible” for long? Or would it be found to be “clogging up the network”?
They can already throttle my total bytes, and even bytes per minute. They have no need to change my service level based on the percentage of “cut of the action” they get. I’m the customer. I’m buying the access. I get to choose what I do with it.
Ask yourself this: How long would your phone stay as usable as it is today if when you called Verizon from AT&T or Sprint from MetroPCS you had crappier calls than to folks on the same system? What if only 1 in 10 “went through” to other providers? What if 20% of text messages from a friend not on your system “Family and Friends Plan” got “lost”? That is the equivalent of killing “net neutrality” on the phone system. As ever more “stuff” is going over the internet side (i.e. those message you type on your broadband tablet) and not over the phone side (think “voice, live”) there are ever more opportunities for just those kinds of “games”.
Just Say No.
NCLB or “Nickle-Bee”
This one is not JUST Republican Idiots (in particular, Baby Bush) but includes the interaction with Dimocrats (the most Dim of the Democrats).
NCLB was originally proposed by the administration of George W. Bush immediately after taking office. The bill, shepherded through the Senate by Senator Ted Kennedy, one of the bill’s co-authors, received overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress. The House of Representatives passed the bill on May 23, 2001 (voting 384–45), and United States Senate passed it on June 14, 2001 (voting 91–8). President Bush signed it into law on January 8, 2002.
NCLB supports standards-based education reform, which is based on the belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grades, if those states are to receive federal funding for schools. The Act does not assert a national achievement standard; standards are set by each individual state.
Two law interact to make an idiotic outcome… seasoned with local bureaucratic idiocy for effect.
My wife is a teacher in a local school district. She teaches a variety of “Special Ed” kids. Sometimes “Severely Emotionally Disabled” (only 1.5 years… it’s hard to describe how bad / hard that type is. One teacher and 3 “aides” for at most 12 kids. One of the aides was a woman about 240 lbs and built like a football player. She would tackle the 12 year old that would go nuts and start throwing the desks at other kids… Any 3 out of the 4 staff could hold the kid down until he “recovered”. Fewer was a ‘challenge’…) Sometimes it’s special “pull out” sessions. Often it’s kids in 4th or 5th grade that are still learning how to tie shoes and write their name.
I used to think this was a stupid waste of money. Why waste money on kids that will never make any progress and never be able to ‘pay off the cost’ at a social cost level. Then “one of her kids” made it to finalist on Jeopardy… and a couple of others were mainstreamed back in at 8th grade and have gone on to college. I was wrong, and what she does is recover lives from a black hole and give them the entire world. No, not all of them, maybe only 10%? 20%? Some, the majority, will never even be able to flip burgers or sell ice cream for a living. (That whole “counting” and being oriented to place and time thing…) But “enough” are saved to be worth it, to have a significant result.
OK, so what’s that got to do with Republican Idiots?
No Child Left Behind.
It has a mandate that ALL children MUST perform at grade level by a specific point in time. I’ve not looked up exactly when it is. 2012 or 2015 or some such. Further, every child every year MUST take the grade level exam. There is no exception for “special ed”.
(I don’t know at what level that particular idiocy is introduced. Feds? Just California? It doesn’t really matter. It is just a ‘fact on the ground’ here, and is the case in this place and time.)
So she had kids that, with great encouragement, have finally learned what the numbers from 1 to 10 are, and how to write their name. LOADS of effort going into getting them to not be discouraged by being “slow”. And once a year they have it forcibly shoved in their faces that they are abject failures. They must sit, staring at a booklet where they can’t even read most of the problems, working to just get their name written in the right spot, trying to feel a bit of ‘pride’ in that accomplishment (that for them IS an accomplishment) and then they get to have that “motivational experience” of sitting feeling terribly stupid for the entire alloted time to expire while they stare at how badly they do compared to all the other students.
But that’s not the worst of it. The law MANDATES that everyone WILL perform at grade level. After all “No Child Left Behind”. None, not a one…
Then, we have “Race To The Top”. This is a Dimocrat program, near as I can tell. Per the wiki:
Race to the Top, abbreviated R2T, RTTT or RTT, is a $4.35 billion United States Department of Education program designed to spur reforms in state and local district K-12 education. It is funded by the ED Recovery Act as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and was announced by President Barack Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan on July 24, 2009.
Sounds really great, too. You can sign up for their “requirements” and when you ‘win the race’ they give you free money. Except that California has all the requirements, but has never made it to the “get some money” step…
Has great sounding goals, too. Things like:
Through Race to the Top, we are asking States to advance reforms around four specific areas:
Adopting standards and assessments that prepare students to succeed in college and the workplace and to compete in the global economy;
Building data systems that measure student growth and success, and inform teachers and principals about how they can improve instruction;
Recruiting, developing, rewarding, and retaining effective teachers and principals, especially where they are needed most; and
Turning around our lowest-achieving schools.
Awards in Race to the Top will go to States that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform. Race to the Top winners will help trail-blaze effective reforms and provide examples for States and local school districts throughout the country to follow as they too are hard at work on reforms that can transform our schools for decades to come
Sounds great, no?
One Small Problem… At least in California our “Lowest-achieving schools” are measured “on a curve”.
So my wife’s school MET every one of the “success criteria” given. The did EVERYTHING WELL and were recognized as a very good school. Parents love it. I’ve met the staff and they are all good and dedicated folks. The record of success, especially in the Special Ed area, is quite good.
But they were in the lowest “quartile” in their district so were a “Low Performing School”.
There was a school in Palo Alto (a very rich place, for folks who don’t know. Think multimillion dollar homes and Stanford University) that scored over 800 on the API test. The “goal” is to get all schools over 800. They met the goal. But, they were in the low scoring quartile of schools in their “area”.
The result for these areas that achieve excellence? The “low performing schools” get a Bureaucratic Proctoscope Review. Top to bottom, end to end. Folks can find their school summarily closed if the Powers That Be feel like it. Race To The Top requires that to apply, your state must pass certain laws, which California did, so even if we left the program, we’re stuck with the laws. And that means that schools doing a very good job, but in a stellar district, get the BOHICA moment. (Bend Over Here It Comes Again).
In the case of my spouses school, they found some cardboard boxes were placed on top of a cabinet along the side wall of the classrooms. This was deemed “distracting clutter”. Now I’ve never noticed a kid to be distracted by a box on top of a cabinet, but that was the sum total of what they found to “fix”. A few hundred staff hours, endless meetings, professional reviews, staff reviews, warnings to parents about potential school closures. 4 empty cardboard boxes being stored on top of the cabinet.
(Why did they have the boxes? Because each year, for reasons known only to the district, the teachers must pack up their entire classroom into boxes. They don’t go anywhere, well, not most years, one year they played “Musical Classrooms”… but most years they go nowhere for the summer. Then we get to unpack it all again. That’s WHY the boxes are there..)
But Wait, There’s More!
Ok, now: Put it all together.
Do you see the problem?
BY LAW: 100% of the children MUST succeed and the bottom quartile of schools must have failures.
No exceptions. No allowance for Special Ed or handicapped kids. Have an exceptional district where “every school is above average”? Well, not good enough, some school has to fail.
Why do we have this? Because we swing back and forth between Republican Idiots and Dimocrats, without a whole brain between them. And the intersection of the two is worse than either one alone.