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Election Countdown 2012: Despite Employment Rates, Obama Declares That the US Is Not In Decline, and More

The Election Countdown gives news from across the country as we get closer to November.

This week in the Election Countdown: Testing becomes a prevalent issue in the Chicago Teachers Strike people question the validity of “holding teachers accountable for numbers that were never designed to judge their performance;” Florida’s Department of Children and Families continue with its mandate to require drug testing for welfare recipients; Results of an investigation involving police brutaliy against the mentally ill in Portland were announced; and More.

Mission elapsed time: T + 7 and counting*

Good subjects must feel guilty. The guilt begins as a feeling of failure. The good autocrat provides many opportunities for failure in the populace.” –Frank Herbert, Children of Dune

Chicago teacher strike. Neoliberalism: “There is freedom in drawing a line in the sand. For too long now, teachers have known that they were participating in something cruel.” …. Deal tomorrow? “Under the [new] proposal, teacher raises would be structured differently, as requested by the union; evaluations of tenured teachers during the first year could not result in dismissal; later evaluations could be appealed; and health insurance rates would hold steady if the union agreed to take part in a wellness program. The new proposal also removes the district’s ability to rescind raises because of an economic crisis. The board stripped teachers of a 4 percent raise last year, sparking union distrust of the mayor.” … Deal: ” But given where the two sides started, it looks to me as though Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s team has moved further than the CTU.” … Testing: “These days it is unusual to find an editorial or opinion column asking whether the tests were designed to measure teacher quality. They were not. Frankly, the test publishers ought to be yelling bloody murder about the inappropriate use of the tests, but they are making so much money that it’s hard to hear their complaints or to expect them.” … Testing: “[T]here’s not a lot of research that says the key to better-educated students lies in holding teachers accountable for numbers that were never designed to judge their performance.” … Newark: “‘You have members who look at the news,” [Joe Del Grosso, the Newark Teachers Union president] said. ‘If the teachers there prevail in their way, the teachers here would want to prevail here, also. It’s just human nature.'”

AK. Climate: “King salmon fisheries in major Alaska watersheds have been declared failures by the U.S. Department of Commerce, making commercial fishermen eligible for disaster relief. The reason for the poor returns [from the ocean for spawning] remains unknown but researchers continue to suspect ocean factors.”

CO. Ban: “Residents of the region who oppose using hydraulic fracturing in oil and gas drilling say they will try to mount a ballot measure to ban fracking within the city limits of Colorado Springs. Ultra Resources of Houston wants to drill within the city limits on 18,000 acres it bought last year out of a developer’s bankruptcy.”

FL. Tinpot tyrants: “FL’s Department of Children and Families furthered its legal push for drug-testing welfare applicants this week, asking for a federal judge to grant a motion of summary judgment in favor of the program.” … Voting: “According to state elections officials, more than 367,000 people went to early voting centers, or about one of six voters who showed up. That compares with 363,000 in the 2010 primary and 240,000 in 2008. (Florida has had early voting since 2002.)”

IN. Teachers: “McCarty’s ruling makes permanent a preliminary injunction that barred the [contract] form from being used a year ago. He wrote that the form is “unconscionable in that it gives school corporations the authority to unilaterally modify the number of days and hours that a teacher must work, but it does not require the school corporation to pay for the additional labor or any other additional consideration.”

LA. Charters: “There is no possible way that Superintendent White or any other elected or appointed official can honestly argue that schools like New Living Word in Ruston or Cenla Christian Academy in Pineville, among others, offer a curriculum ‘as strong as the state’s‘ [as guaranteed by the state Constitution].”

MD. Alternative currency: “For Frederick artist Robert Strasser, what began several years ago as making small pendants with children at a summer camp has become a project of creating alternative currency [from small pieces of ceramic art] for three downtown businesses.”

MO. Handmaid’s Tale: “MO lawmakers voted Wednesday to override Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto and allow employers to refuse to provide health insurance coverage for birth control if doing so violates their religious convictions. Almost immediately after the vote, a Kansas City firefighter and the Greater Kansas City Coalition of Labor Union Women filed a lawsuit asking a judge to throw the new law out.”

NY. Pipelines: “A group known as Occupy the Pipeline temporarily blocked construction this afternoon of the massive, new natural gas pipeline that will run between New Jersey and New York, shutting down the build-out site for more than one hour near Gansvoort Street and the Hudson Parkway in New York.” … Fracking: “Though at first glance, hydro-fracked gas seems like an easy choice, a local resource, easily obtained, though upon examination, the process is a false friend,” said [J Henry Fair]. “The promise of money for troubled farmers and homeowners is poison; what good is a home or farm if the water is contaminated?”

OH. Charters: “K-12, Inc. is utterly dependent upon OH’s Charter School funding system to prop up its operations. That is because Ohio’s Charter School system pays virtual schools, like OHVA, as if they had brick-and-mortar expenses, when they do not.”

OR. Police state: “The U.S. Justice Department on Thursday announced the results of an investigation into the Portland Police Department, saying officers use excessive force against mentally ill people — violations that include frequently discharging stun guns without justification.”

PA. Fracking: “A new series of anonymous billboards on the PA Turnpike describes critics of natural gas drilling as ‘Green Slime’ who use ‘Lies’ to discredit the industry. But after AP began making inquiries, the Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association [(724) 933-7306] took credit.” … Fracking: “The Delaware River Basin Com­mis­sion con­tin­ues to remain silent on new drilling reg­u­la­tions for the water­shed.” … Privatizing: “Gov. Corbett says privatizing the state liquor stores is going to be held off until 2013. (And at that point, who knows, maybe 2014!) Since this is the single bipartisan issue in Harrisburg, it makes sense to continue milking the hope out of it for many years.” … Alternative currency: “The Pennsylvania Department of Banking says they want Ethan Clay to shut down the community bank he’s set up at Oh Yeah! ice cream and coffee shop. Clay [says] he’s not subject to the usual banking rules because his ‘bank’ is actually a gift card program that pays out its 5.5 percent monthly interest in a made-up currency that can be used at his store.”

TN. Police state: “Lawmakers said they were astounded that three pacifists, including an 82-year-old nun, managed to cut through several layers of fencing and spray-paint messages, hang banners and pour human blood on the [Oak Ridge] site.” … Charters: “School board members said they were concerned that a Great Hearts Academy would draw from affluent white families, rather than bringing in students from other parts of the city to create a more diverse student body. [Matt Throckmorton of The Tennessee Charter School Association] said the group may propose legislation in the upcoming General Assembly that will allow charter applicants to work with local boards of education during the application process without the intrusion of politics.” Ha ha.

TX. Open records: “A civil rights group is protesting a new $30 fee for submitting comments on some pending open-records requests to the state attorney general’s office. The group also wants to know where the money generated from the fee goes.”

VA. UVa putsch: “‘You’re trying to dig up things, and you’re trying to get answers and, in my opinion, you won’t get them,’ [a senior adviser to the University of Virginia’s Board of Visitors] told Faculty Senate Chairman George Cohen. ‘And the more you dig, the more you make the university look bad.'” (Oh?)

VT. Ballout access: “The VT SoS’s office has ruled that Jill Stein, Green Party presidential nominee, will not be on the Vermont ballot. The office ruled that the court victory won by Rocky Anderson of the Justice Party only applies to Anderson, and the principles set forth in that decision will not be extended to other presidential candidates who were in a similar situation.” Good for one time only, like Bush v. Gore!

WA. Coal: “D candidate Noel Frame, who wants to be the next state legislator from Seattle’s 36th District, is charging that her opponent, D Port Commissioner Gael Tarleton, is soft on coal trains.”

WI. Police state: “Capitol Police [(608) 266-8797] are actively filming people in the Capitol each day, in efforts that seem designed to intimidate protesters and the general public from being in the space. [B]ut two Isthmus employees were warned this week that they were ‘obstructing’ police officers while taking pictures in the public space.” … Police state: “Police officers showed up twice at [Capitol singer] Bart Munger’s workplace at UW-Madison to serve him with tickets. Munger: ‘I don’t feel easily intimidated but I’m certain that was their intent. Why not just send it certified mail rather than waste an officer’s time?'”

Outside baseball. Drones: ” The bill (see the [text]) would prohibit the FAA from approving drone use by law enforcement “including by any State or local government, except pursuant to warrant and in the investigation of a felony.” The bill would also prohibit drone use by ‘any private person to conduct surveillance on any other private person without the consent of that other private person or the owner of any real property on which that other private person is present.'” … Online learning: “Just as film enabled people all over the world to access movies, the Internet will democratize education, which today reaches a tiny fraction of those who yearn to learn, [Sebastian Thrun, a Google vice president and Stanford research professor] says. His vision of the future, he says, offers ‘a message of hope, of aspiration — not of destruction.'” … Voter rolls: “Jim Gilliam [of NationBuilder] has wrangled more than 170 million voter-registration records from all 50 states, cleaned them up and updated them. And he’s giving all that data away for free to candidates and Web developers.” … “The taxpayers, Charles Pierce: “It is an undeniable fact of history that the people who have profited most from the “taxpayer revolts” of the past 40 years — from Howard Jarvis to the Tea Party — are the people who have profited most from the upward transfer of wealth during that same period. Odd how that worked out, isn’t it?”

Grand Bargain™-brand cat food watch. Ice floes: “[Obama’s] Health and Human Services Department is launching a pilot program that would shift up to 2 million of the poorest and most-vulnerable seniors out of the federal Medicare program and into private health insurance plans overseen by the states. The administration has accepted applications from 18 states to participate in the program, which would give states money to purchase managed-care plans for people who are either disabled or poor enough to qualify for both Medicare and Medicaid.” What could go wrong?

Fracking. Chesapeake: “Chesapeake Energy CEO McClendon said the energy giant plans to get out of the red by changing its strategy from one of “asset capture to a strategy of asset harvest,” meaning the company will slow a formerly breakneck pace of lease acquisition on oil and gas-rich land. Instead, the company will focus on developing the land it already has under lease.” Hmm.

The trail. Bill Clinton: “Monica Lewinsky is shopping a top-secret book project. The former White House intern kept a very low profile since leaving for England in 2005 for the London School of Economics.”

DNCon. Corruption: “Charlotte’s host committee paid for one of the biggest Democratic convention expenses — $5 million for use of Time Warner Cable Arena — from a fund that accepted cash from corporations.”

Ron Paul. Electoral College: ” At least three [Paul-supporting] R electors say they may not support their party’s presidential ticket when the Electoral College meets in December to formally elect the next president” (one resigns).

The Romney. Taking a dive? “Sure, Bush’s operation was evil, but they took it seriously. They didn’t faff around. Their campaign show was the Death Star. Romney’s is turning into an Ewok add-on movie George Lucas crapped out to buy himself a new boat.” … Taking a dive? “‘You are left scratching your head wondering ‘what is the strategy’?” said one senior Republican strategist who asked not to be identified. ‘Literally every single day matters.'” Because I thought the message was the economy. So what’s with Benghazi?

The Obama. 3AM: “In 2008, candidate Hillary Clinton questioned candidate Barack Obama’s ability to handle that 3 AM phone call that would inevitably come. What we didn’t know then is that Barack Obama would be the man who — with Hillary Clinton’s assistance — would make the call to take out Osama bin Laden.” True, but not in the way this D loyalist thinks. … Money: “[Obama’s] big-dollar fund-raising has become more dependent than it was four years ago on a smaller number of large-dollar donors and fund-raisers. Obama’s top “bundlers” raised or gave at least $200 million for Mr. Obama’s re-election bid and the Democratic National Committee through the end of May, close to half of the total up to that point.” … Less than ideal headline: “After disappointing jobs numbers, Obama says U.S. not in decline” … Less than ideal headline: “White House clarifies Obama’s statement that Egypt is not an ‘ally’.” Imagine if The Romney had said that…

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