You need to watch “Last Week” with John Oliver

John Oliver is one of the funniest, and most serious, people on TV. In my opinion, he is a better comedian and anchor than Jon Stewart of the Daily Show where he more or less got his start, tho Stewart (and Steven Colbert) are both quite good.

You can watch his shows on YouTube at this link. I don’t agree with everything John Oliver says or with his approach*, but he’s both funny and serious at the same time, as I said before.

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* For example, with the bit on gambling, it wouldn’t hurt to show that in blackjack, the average payoff is  negative  3% but for the lottery it’s negative 37%, which is a lot worse. In other words, if you are playing blackjack in a casino, on every bet of $100, on the average, you get back $97, losing $3. With a state lottery, if you bet $100, then on the average, you get back about $63, losing $37. It is very difficult to find any game of chance with worse odds than the lottery. In fact, we math teachers have a little saying: The Lottery is a tax on those who don’t learn anything about probability. And there’s this.

 

Published in: on November 18, 2014 at 2:47 pm  Comments (5)  
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A Revised and Corrected Ad for Koch Industries

Jon Stewart and the Daily Show made a few corrections to an advertisement extolling the enormous Koch corporation — one of their sponsors (sort of). It’s a hilarious and factual improvement on the original ad. Definitely worth watching at the Daily Show, which you can find here. Also, read the Rolling Stone expose of the Koch brothers. These are not nice guys, and they really are attempting to purchase our entire government….

Here is the text of the revised advertisement, if you don’t feel like waiting for the video to load:

We’re Koch industries — not just an energy company.

We’re in your food and in your pants and in your home.

If there’s a way to monetize your thoughts, we’ll find it.

All while backing seventeen shadow organizations to buy elections from Pennsylvania Avenue to Main Street.

You won’t always see our names on our campaign ads, because the politicians we own say that’s OK.

With our heartfelt devotion to fossil fuels, we make your planet warmer and your water more flammable, while lubricating your birds and rearranging your polar bears.

We can’t raise your little girl for you, but we can hand-pick her school board and approve her textbooks. And when she lands her first job, we’ll be fighting to reduce the miminum wage. Because we actually believe it [raising the minimum wage] could lead to Naziism.

Yeah. Naziism. We’re that [expletive deleted] out there.

Koch industries: the next generation of robber barons, bending the democratic process to our will since 1980.

Oh, and our brother David likes ballet.

By the way, the Koch brothers were not pleased by the Rolling Stone expose, so they fought back. They couldn’t actually deny any of the facts, but they still got nasty. You can read the response by the author to their criticisms, here.

Published in: on October 30, 2014 at 6:59 pm  Comments (2)  
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The Lies by Which Saint Michelle Built Her Brand

Bob Somerby of the Daily Howler and ‘Jersey Jazzman’ have some analyses of the lies peddled by my former chancellor, Michelle Rhee. I recommend reading (or re-reading) them. Disclosure: I was one of the ones who looked at the original UMBC study and found that Rhee absolutely did NOT bring a class of up to 70 students from below the 13th percentile to over the 90th percentile.

Somerby on Rhee’s fraudulent claims of success in Baltimore:

  1. part one  (at the bottom)
  2. part two (at the bottom)
  3. part three (at the bottom)
  4. part four (at the bottom)
  5. part five (as usual, at the bottom)

Jersey Jazzman on the same:

The fact that the Washington Post and other media and various billionaires continue promoting this serial liar (Rhee), and that interviewers like Jon Stewart don’t call her on those lies, is truly sad.

I’d like to quote the conclusion of Somerby’s part four:

In that telling of Rhee’s tale, you see the germ of the current idea of “educational reform” which has been pimped by our billionaire and “journalist” classes.

Note what Rhee said about the reason for her vast success. She didn’t engineer that miracle because she was super-smart. More specifically, she didn’t engineer that miracle because she was “a great teacher.” She didn’t succeed because “she found unconventional but effective ways to teach reading and math,” the explanation Jay Mathews offered when he told Rhee’s miracle tale one month later. Sorry! In the tale that was told to Thomas, Rhee had produced her astounding results because she was willing to work hard. The key to Rhee’s success was “sweat,” Thomas quoted her saying.

The inexperienced teacher had simply worked hard! She had stood in front of those children “every single day;” while there, she’d been willing to “teach them!” This of course implies the claim—the ugly, simple-minded, remarkable claim—which lies at the heart of Rhee’s “reform” ideas:

Why do lovely, deserving, low-income kids lag behind national norms in the classroom? It happens because their teachers are lazy—too lazy to stand up and teach them! Because their teachers—who are “shitty,” as Rhee told Mathews—refuse to do their jobs! (my emphasis – GFB)

Truly, that’s a remarkable claim, but the claim has a long provenance. For whatever reason, elites have always been drawn to this claim; this dates at least to the 1960s, when the nation’s movers and shakers began to wonder what could be done to improve inner-city schools. On Monday, we’ll offer a quick review of this history. For today, let’s reflect on the way this remarkable claim has affected ideas of “reform.”

Why don’t poverty children meet national norms? It’s because their teachers are lazy! This idea is remarkably simple-minded—but it makes life remarkably easy for a big public figure like Rhee. How sweet it is! As educational reformers, she and her colleagues don’t have to come up with “effective ways to teach reading and math;” they simply have to threaten the teachers! After all, those teachers would produce huge success if they’d simply get off their asses and teach, the way Rhee did, back in the day.

If public school teachers would just get to work, they’d produce miracles too!

What a life! Michelle Rhee’s simple-minded idea makes life easy for “educational experts” and for “education reformers.” The teachers already know what to do! All the “reformers” have to do is threaten them, fire and bribe them! This approach has lay at the heart of Rhee’s ministry, in which she has produced almost no ideas about how to succeed in the classroom.

America’s teachers just won’t do their jobs! Has a major movement ever been built on such a simple-minded idea? But Michelle Rhee’s simple-minded idea of reform has always been built on her miracle tale—a miracle tale in which she worked amazingly hard, a tale which never happened.

No, she didn’t produce those results. Why then have so many elites worked so hard to believe her?

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