Learning to Do Better in Florida

Florida Democrats took a shot today at one of the things Jeb points to as a glowing success: the state’s failing public education system. A press release from the House Democratic Caucus said:

Since Gov. Jeb Bush took office, student performance has significantly dropped as more and more emphasis has been placed on a school’s overall grade on the Florida Comprehensive Achievement Test (FCAT). Barely half of Florida children are reading at grade-level, resulting in the nation’s worst high school graduation rate, with just over 50 percent of all high school students graduating. According to recent data, Florida students rank 44th and 48th in the nation respectively on the verbal and math portions of the college-entrance SAT.

Small wonder. Under Jeb’s plan public schools have changed from places where kids learn about the world and develop a direction in life to institutions fighting for their existence. All other studies are subordinated to the narrow range of skills tested on the FCAT – gone are subjects like social studies, civics, art, music, science. Incredibly, with the obesity epidemic facing so many children, physical education classes have also been nixed.

Jeb’s reward/punishment system means that schools which do well on the FCAT continue to be fully funded. In one case, a school in a prestigious area was reportedly given such lavish bonuses for its FCAT scores that students, most already well-to-do, were taken on a field trip to a theme park. Meanwhile schools that struggle – for example, because they serve largely non-English speaking students or have a lower property tax base – see their funding drained away.

A lot of that money ends up in private hands, via vouchers. Florida’s voucher system has been as scandal-plagued as every other privatization initiative in the state, including money going to “schools” whose campuses are P.O. boxes, as well as schools run by terrorist sympathizers. Democrats said today that Jeb’s system is ruining Florida’s economy.

The Republican education system is having a serious negative impact on our economy. In March, the Palm Beach Post reported that Citrix, a large South Florida software company is looking to grow outside of Florida, primarily because our schools are not preparing students for tomorrow’s high-tech jobs…In their landmark New Cornerstone Report, the Chamber wrote that “basic education skills are weak…skilled labor (is) in short supply in many industries…advanced science and engineering skills also remain limited…technology discovery, development and deployment remains unbalanced.”

The plan announced by the Democrats doesn’t sound as if it broke new ground, but at least it’s a start.

The Democrats’ plan is partially based on a 2004 report authored by the University of South Florida’s Dr. Sherman Dorn, written for the Tallahassee-based think tank Civic Concern…

The Democrats’ plan would also overhaul the school grading system, by moving away from a system of grading schools A-F to a system that designates schools as “Passing with Distinction,” “Passing,” or “Failing.” The plan would also reduce the weight of school FCAT scores in determining a school’s overall grade and add new factors, such as parental involvement, school discipline, average class size and drop-out rates.

Dems Poke at Gops over Anti-Judiciary Remarks

Is this Round One in the fight that could lead the GOP to pull the trigger on the “nuclear option?” Democrats have threatened to shut the government down if the Republicans do the unthinkable and kill the fillibuster rule in the Senate, which is the Democrats’ only means of stopping President Bush’s relentless efforts to pack the federal judiciary with rightwing idealogues. Republicans are in bad odor with the public right now because of their blatant demogoguery in the Schiavo matter. If Democrats can connect the dots between GOP duplicity and politicization in the Schiavo case and the politics behind killing the fillibuster, we may just have a fight on our hands.

Congressional Democrats on Tuesday said Republican criticism of the federal courts following Terri Schiavo’s death showed an “arrogancy of power” that is leading to a Senate confrontation over filibusters of President Bush’s judicial nominees.

“If they don’t get what they want, they attack whoever’s around,” said Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada. “Now they’re after the courts, and I think it goes back to this arrogancy of power.”

Democrats are focusing on comments by two Texas Republicans, Sen. John Cornyn (news, bio, voting record) and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who gets no vote on judicial nominations since they are the purview of the Senate.

“The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior,” DeLay said after Schiavo died last week.

Cornyn, while criticizing a different judicial decision, wondered Monday if frustration against perceived political decisions by judges “builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in violence, certainly without any justification.”

” I think it’s an arrogancy of power,” Reid said.

He might add that the GOP histrionics over the Democrats’ stalling of judicial nominations is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Bush nominated over 200 judges in his first term and all but 10 were confirmed by the Senate. That’s hardly a”obstructionism,” by any standard.

Gallup: Bush Is Most Unpopular Second Term President

You won’t see this reported in the MSM – via Editor & Publisher:

It’s not uncommon to hear or read pundits referring to President George W. Bush as a “popular” leader or even a “very popular” one. Even some of his critics in the press refer to him this way. Perhaps they need to check the latest polls.

President Bush’s approval rating has plunged to the lowest level of any president since World War II at this point in his second term, the Gallup Organization reported today….

Here are the approval ratings for presidents as recorded by Gallup in the March following their re-election:

Truman, 1949: 57%.

Eisenhower, 1957: 65%.

Johnson, 1965: 69%.

Nixon, 1973: 57%.

Reagan, 1985: 56%.

Clinton, 1997: 59% .

Bush, 2005: 45%

House Chair Suggests Jail for On-Air Indecency

I keep waiting for the Gops to go that extra step over the line – to take that final irresistable plunge into wingnuttery that proves once and for all to “normal” Americans that these folks are truly crazy. Jailing radio station managers or the likes of Howard Stern or, say, Bo Dietl, for off-color remarks might just do it.

Violators of federal broadcast decency standards should face criminal prosecution, U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner said on Monday.

“People who are in flagrant disregard should face a criminal process rather than a regulatory process,” the Wisconsin Republican said at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association annual convention.

“That way you aim the cannon specifically at the people who are committing the offenses,” and not at everyone, he said. “The people who are trying to do the right thing end up being penalized the same way the people who are doing the wrong thing.”

Rock on! Go for it, Rep. Sensenbrenner. After all, we’ve got plenty of jails. Let’s fill them with celebrities. That ought to help your party. (Btw, this is the same Rep. Sensenbrenner who served as on the House committee that prosecuted the Clinton impeachment.)

He’s Quacking But They’re Not Listening

The first person to feel the political fall-out from the Terri Schiavo fight is the big guy, himself: Jeb. The Southwest Florida Herald-Tribune says the lame duck probably sacrificed this year’s legislative agenda to his ongoing efforts to assert his will in the right-to-die case.

Medicaid reform, limits on legal settlements paid by businesses, elimination of a tax break for wealthy investors and rules to control growth in Florida were four of Bush’s major agenda items when lawmakers began the two-month session in March.

But to varying degrees, lawmakers are poised to only tiptoe forward. And next year, lawmakers may not have the appetite for a major agenda as they hit the campaign trail in 2006, Bush’s last year in office.

Nah, there’s still plenty of time, Jeb sputtered as he dipped his beak just below the water.

Bush acknowledged the nearly monthlong debate over the Schiavo case slowed progress.

“This issue transcends politics,” he said, “so yes, it’s taken — deservedly so — it’s taken some attention away from other matters. Having said that, we have time to deal with the policy initiatives.”

I don’t know, Jeb. The hotly contested and very high stakes battle over slot machines in Broward and Dade counties, as well as the Senate President’s personal goal of passing lobbying reforms might crowd your “starve the poor, feed the rich” agenda. Speaking of which, please pass the orange marmalade.

Another Reason I’m Ashamed to Be a Christian But Glad I’m Not Catholic

Why is it all religions have their bonko looney branch? The next Pope will have his hands full, trying to keep one church in place. With idiots like Father Frank Pavone, I can see deep division ahead. The L.A. Times ran a story about a new movement this fruitcake – fresh from the Terri Schiavo fight – is founding with full church backing.

The Roman Catholic Church plans to establish its first religious society devoted exclusively to fighting euthanasia and abortion, church leaders said this week.

The male-only Missionaries of the Gospel of Life — founded by Father Frank A. Pavone, an outspoken opponent of abortion rights — will be housed in a vacant Catholic high school and dormitory on the grounds of the Diocese of Amarillo.

The order will have a decidedly political bent, and will be active rather than contemplative, Pavone said.

Is it me, or is it just wrong for men to be in charge of whether women have abortions? There, I said it.

Its priests will be trained to conduct voter-registration drives, use the media to get out their antiabortion message and lobby lawmakers to restrict abortion rights.

They also will learn to lead demonstrations outside offices where abortions and family-planning services are provided.

More harassment of family planning clinics is not what this world needs.

Healthcare professionals and women’s right advocates often criticize such tactics as acts of intimidation intended to shame women who already are facing difficult decisions

If there is increased activity of that sort, Planned Parenthood said, money likely will be diverted from healthcare to security. And if women are afraid to go to area clinics, the number of unintended pregnancies could rise, the group’s statement said.

That’s O.K. Just send the babies to the Catholic orphanage.

So Tell Us A.P., What Do You REALLY Think?

What’s up with the Associated Press? In a particularly egregious show of slanted reporting, A.P. writer Vickie Chachere makes it clear which side she’s on in the Schiavo affair. In the article, printed in today’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel and other papers, her lede throws the first punch:

Terri Schiavo’s body was cremated Saturday as disagreements continued between her husband and her parents, who were unable to have their own independent expert observe her autopsy.

“Their own independent expert?” If he or she is independent, how can they be “their own?” Six paragraphs on where Terri’s grave will be later, comes this tidbit:

The Schindlers had sought to have independent medical experts observe their daughter’s autopsy at the Pinellas County Medical Examiner’s office, but the agency refused their request, family attorneys David Gibbs III and Barbara Weller said Saturday…

Gibbs said the medical examiner’s videotape, pictures and tissue samples from the autopsy could be reviewed by other experts if the family asks.

Oh, so it wasn’t Michael Schiavo that kept their “independent” experts out, it was the county M.E. Sounds like the medical examiner is pretty damn independent too.

A few more paragraphs and then, just for background, mind you, Chachere takes some more shots.

Over the years, the couple have sought independent investigation of their daughter’s condition and what caused it. Abuse complaints to state social workers were ruled unfounded – although one investigation remains open – and the Pinellas state attorney’s office did not turn up evidence of abuse in one brief probe of the case.

Nice parenthetical phrase there: “although one investigation remains open.” And maybe if the state attorney’s office had just taken longer with their “brief probe,” they could have gotten the goods on Michael Schiavo.

Sheesh. This woman needs to find a home at FOX News.

Pay Backs are Hell

Poor Katerine Harris. The GOP is treating her just like the scum-sucking sell-out she is. The Tampa Tribune noticed when Ken Mehlman failed to give Katherine two big thumbs up.

Asked last week whether Republican Rep. Katherine Harris can unseat U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, national Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman praised Harris effusively – but didn’t say yes.

Mehlman’s response, when asked the question in an interview with the Tribune:

“I don’t know. I think it’s very early in the process. I think Katherine Harris is a great public servant. I think she’s somebody who’s got star quality, she’s smart, she has been a very effective legislator, she’s got a great ability to raise resources, and I like her a lot personally.”

You like her a lot personally? Well gee, Ken, don’t get all misty-eyed on us. Sounds like the GOP was happy to use Harris for all she was worth in 2000 and now they don’t want to pay her back. Yet she keeps cropping up, like Rumplestilskin, demanding tribute.

Mr. Pasty Face Karl Rove seems to have decided that Harris is too much of a reminder of stolen elections. As long as he is in charge, it’s likely that Harris will stay in the background. Whether she wants to or not.

It was widely reported last year that White House political operatives worked to dissuade Harris from running for the U.S. Senate in 2004. There have been reports that Karl Rove has asked Harris to stay out again in 2006.

Asked about a recent news story that said Rove was trying to keep Harris out, Mehlman didn’t deny it. “I don’t have any comment on that,” he said.