Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Standardized tests

I've never been a fan of standardized testing.  Phyliss Steele (WSWS) reports:

Last month, President Biden’s Acting Assistant Education Secretary Ian Rosenblum sent a letter to state education administrators instructing them that standardized tests had to be administered to students in some form this spring, summer or fall.

Rosenblum—whose previous job was executive director of the Education Trust-New York, a pro-standardized testing and pro-business organization—said states could delay the tests but they could not be canceled like last spring and they have to be conducted as soon as possible. The spring testing window for state tests, including the PSAT and SAT, typically given to high school juniors and seniors preparing for college, has already started in the United States.

The states of Michigan, California, Illinois, Georgia, New Jersey and New York requested testing waivers for the 2020-2021 school year in December and January. Others, such as Texas, Tennessee, Florida and Indiana, are testing students regardless of the Biden administration’s decision.

Rosenblum, who currently heads the Education Department’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, claimed the tests were needed to “address the educational inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, including by using student learning data to enable states, school districts, and schools to target resources and supports to the students with the greatest needs.”

This is nothing but a political cover. Testing is being tied to school reopenings, with the push for standardized testing coinciding with the Biden administration’s plans to open up all K-8 schools by the end of April.

I think Goldie Hawn's character in Overboard sums up best my feelings towards standardized tests.

This is C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" for Tuesday: 

 Tuesday, March 16, 2021.  More attacks on US interests in Iraq (another reason to withdraw all US troops), more spin and lies from Joe Biden, and much more.

Attacks continue in Iraq and attacks on US interests in Iraq continue just as the start of the US led war is about to hit the 18th year mark.  THE DAILY SABAGH reports:

Seven rockets targeted an Iraqi air base housing U.S. troops north of Baghdad on Monday, a security source said, the latest in a string of attacks Washington routinely blames on Iran-linked factions.

Previously, an American sub-contractor was killed in a similar attack against another air base, Ain Al-Assad, in Iraq's western desert.

AFP notes, "The attacks had come to a near-complete halt in October following a truce with the hardliners, but have since resumed."  Yesterday, the Iranian government denied the previous attacks.  At RUDAW, Majeed Guy, reporting from the United Nations, stated there were few who didn't believe Iran was behind the attacks in Iraq.  Whether they were behind it or not, and with proof or not, US President Joe Biden ended the month of February by ordering retaliation by bombing . . . Syria.  Geography may not be the new president's strong suit -- but then what is?

Tensions escalate and the notion of proof or evidence or even straight forward statements fall by the wayside, lost in the smog -- not fog -- of war.  Apparently, the peacemakers may be blessed but they aren't on the US payroll.  Last week, Pope Francis completed a mission of peace to Iraq  -- the first trip to Iraq ever by a pope.  As we noted throughout the visit and ahead of the visit, the US press went out of their way to belittle the visit and try to create alarm.  Apparently, others noted some of this as well.   The editorial board of the PITTSURG POST-GAZETTE (vis SHELBYVILLE NEWS) offers:

It sometimes seems that we live in a time without leaders.

[. . .]

But there is one great exception to our leaderless age – Pope Francis.

Eight years into his papacy, and now at the age of 84, he keeps on, through his own highs and lows, and not only with doggedness but that necessary prophetic sense and courage.

The pope’s March 5-8 trip to Iraq is a prime example. It was a risk on many levels. And it will not be understood as the profound act it was by many.

Most of the media’s reaction has been: That was nice.

But this pope does not go for nice and is not himself particularly “nice.”

This pope is a bulldozer of a man, who believes in the radical change made possible by the mercy of Jesus of Nazareth.

Massimiliano Menichetti (VATICAN NEWS) reports:

"For us it was like waking up from a nightmare, we could not believe our eyes, the country really can get back on its feet." These simple words summarize the hope of an entire people, the Iraqi people, who embraced the Pope from March 5 to 8. The image of this trip is captured in a snapshot in Mosul, the former capital of the so-called Islamic State, where the rubble is riddled with thousands of bullet holes; where seeing churches, houses, mosques destroyed and disfigured, one touches the violence of the fighting and the fury of man who destroys, tramples and annihilates his brother.

In that context, where horror seemed to prevail, the Pope was greeted by the singing of children waving olive branches. Others, not far from that encounter, were playing on a dirt road; asphalt remained only in the central streets. A little girl of four or five, dressed in a pink floral onesie and a pair of slippers, broke away from her group of companions and walked backwards. Unconsciously she stopped at the feet of a soldier. She looks at him, running her eyes over his entire figure, from his head to his feet.

The soldier - with the explosives on his waist, the helmet, the glasses to protect himself from the sun - bends his neck and meets the gaze of the little girl, her face dirty with earth like the rest of her body. Behind them, only the rubble of what used to be houses. Their eyes met despite those dark lenses, the man stroked the little girl on the head and lifted her up. She bursts into a smile, which he instantly reciprocates. In that image we can see the whole present and future of Iraq.

It was a memorable trip for Pope Francis, the first Pope to set foot in the land of Abraham. He encouraged and confirmed in the faith the Christian community, which together with Muslims and minorities such as the Yazidis, had experienced unspeakable suffering. It was a historic journey, bridging the gap with the Shiites after the efforts made with regard to the Sunnis in Abu Dhabi. It was historic on account of the welcome he received. But above all, it was a historic journey on account of the light of goodness and redemption he brought to a place devastated by war, violence and persecution perpetrated by ISIS, and now experiencing the scourges of poverty and the covid-19 pandemic.

Gordon Campbell (SCOOP) weighs in on the Pope's visit:

As an exercise in global symbolic politics, it would be hard to top last week’s meeting in Iraq between Pope Francis and the most respected cleric in Shia Islam, the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Both men have strong liberal credentials. Francis has led a welcome break from his policies of his two arch-conservative predecessors. In fact, you would have to go all the way back to the early 1960s, to the widely loved liberal reformer Papa Roncalli (aka John XXIII) to find a Pope who seems more in tune with socially progressive forces.

The 94 year old al-Sistani is a more complex figure. His credentials as the most learned religious authority in Shia Islam are undisputed. From his humble home in Najaf, Iraq, al-Sistani condemned the disastrous US invasion of 2003 at the time. In 2014, he famously issued a fatwa that called on all able bodied Shi’ite volunteers to join the militias fighting against Islamic State. In the process, he urged tolerance towards all religious minorities, including the Christian and Yazidi populations that Islamic State and other Sunni fundamentalists had been targeting. He also supported the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran that eventually failed to expand the role of secular democracy in that country. Consistently, al-Sistani has opposed the involvement in politics by the mullahs in Iran. Correctly, he pointed out that the blurring of the lines between religious authority and political power would eventually end up discrediting religion in the eyes of the public.

Like Pope Francis though, al-Sistani is not a figure without controversy. Last year, the popular Iranian dissident and blogger Ruhollah Zam was lured out of his refuge in France on the (bogus) promise of a meeting with al-Sistani. Once in Iraq, Zam was seized by Iranian security forces, taken back to Iran and executed. While al-Sistani was not an accomplice in the trap, he has been criticised for not appealing (even only symbolically) to his fellow Shi’a ayatollahs in Teheran to spare Zam’s life. Many Iranians believe that the office of al-Sistani’s son-in-law Javad Shahrestanii (who is al-Sistani’s representative in Iran) was involved in the Zam plot

AFP speaks with some Christians in Iraq:

As for Nouri, her youngest child is nearing university age.

She will be sent to study in the United States, because in Iraq, "there are no opportunities... only a few make it" in a system known for its clientelism, she said.

Sara, another Christian among a handful who turned up for mass, has seen almost all her family and friends go into exile.

"They don't even consider coming back," said Sara, who works in the civil service.

And in a country where the constitution states "Islam is the state religion and the source of legislation", the pope's calls for "freedom of religion and conscience" are likely to go unheeded, warned William Warda of the Hammourabi minority rights watchdog.

Saadallah Mikhail, a 61-year-old Christian, has still not been able to rebuild his house in Mosul that he fled in 2014 when the Islamic State (IS) group burst into the northern city.

He was among the first to return once the jihadists had been expelled after fierce fighting three years later.

But he has had to rent because his home in the Old City is nothing more than a pile of rubble.

"The homes of my relatives and 3,000 Christians are still in ruins and I don't think they will be rebuilt anytime soon."

So far in Mosul, of 50,000 cases of compensation for destroyed homes, only a few thousand families have received funds from Baghdad, which is mired in the worst economic crisis in its history.

That's why many of the Christians who flocked to see Pope Francis while he was in northern Iraq had travelled down from Iraqi Kurdistan further north where they have been living.

It was a historic visit, even if readers in the US were largely unaware of that fact -- unless they read international outlets or domestic Catholic outlets.  The same media that spent four years each day wasting hours and hours on Donald Trump's Tweets couldn't find the time to seriously cover the Pope's historic visit..  No ombudsperson or public editor has yet to weigh in on their outlets shameful performance when covering the Pope's visit -- maybe they're just too ashamed?

But it was very sad and the reasons of why that is need to be explored.  At a time when there is so little trust in the US media, their disgraceful 'coverage' of the Pope's visit isn't going to help them build confidence among news consumers.  

Protest took place throughout Iraq yesterday.

Protest in Karrada neighborhood of Baghdad this morning.

And Joel Wing notes:

Protests today in Dhi Qar Najaf and Babil where people want governors to be dismissed Also in Basra Wasit Maysan demanding jobs and better services

That's the Iraq created by the ongoing, US-led war.  It did not bring peace to Iraq, it did not even improve the lives of the Iraqi people.  It threw the country into disarray which seems intentional on the part of the US government.  It created a land of orphans and widows.  And no one in the US government seems to want to take responsibility.  

In related news,   some members of the US Congress want to repeal the authorizations that led to the attack on Iraq.  Rachel OswaldCQ-Roll Call  reports:

Leading House Democrats are making plans to begin repealing and replacing the anti-terrorism authorizations to use military force that have been on the books for nearly two decades.

Democrats told reporters on Friday that they were seizing on recent statements from the Biden White House that it wants Congress to replace the open-ended authorizations for use of military force with a legal framework that is “more narrow and specific.” The 2001 and 2002 war resolutions permit attacks against al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, respectively.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Gregory W. Meeks said during a video press conference that in the coming weeks he would hold a markup to advance legislation from Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., to repeal the 2002 war authorization that led to Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003. The repeal measure has 90 cosponsors, including seven Republicans.

Supposedly, there is a rush to repeal this.  I don't know how we use the term "rush" accurately 18 years after these resolutions were used to start the war on Iraq.  

In other attempts at shaping opnion, Joe Biden is taking to the raod to sell his latest corporate give away as something being done for the people, something that will benefit the people.  Patrick Martin (WSWS) reports:

At a brief White House ceremony Monday afternoon, President Joe Biden kicked off two weeks of campaign-style rallies at which Democratic Party leaders will seek to promote the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill he signed into law last Thursday.

[. . .]

It was in Georgia that the Democrats captured two Senate seats in a special election in January, after Biden promised immediate $2,000 checks if the Democrats won and gave his party control of the Senate. After the victory, Biden revised his promise, claiming that he was proposing to add $1,400 to the $600 already provided under the economic stimulus package passed in December and signed into law by then-President Trump.

The passage and signing of the American Recovery Act have been accompanied by an onslaught of populist demagogy of staggering proportions. Democratic Party spokesmen have proclaimed it the second coming of the New Deal, and vied with each other for superlatives. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki won that contest at a press briefing last week, when she called the new law “the most progressive bill in American history.”

So much for the Social Security Act, the Voting Rights Act or the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid, to say nothing of constitutional amendments that abolished slavery and gave women the right to vote.

The rhetorical overkill is only an indication of the scale of the political fraud that is being unleashed on the American people. What the Democratic Party characterizes as a history-making achievement is actually a one-time expenditure that, while providing a welcome cash infusion to the budgets of working class families, will be quickly absorbed in the payment of urgent bills, to be followed up by … nothing.

The new law does not establish a single lasting social reform or program. Every addition to workers’ incomes, from the $1,400 checks to the child tax credit to the federal supplemental unemployment benefits, will expire before the end of 2021.

The following sites updated: