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Thursday, August 27, 2009
Cheney isms

  Attorney General Eric Holder has made a decision to continue investigations into detainee abuses and other legal elements of our nine year long War on Terror  Key Members of Both Parties Criticize Holder Decision to Look Into Alleged CIA Abuse of Detainees.  There has been a fair amount of conservative push back on this. Not least from the most centrally implicated of all in this, the former vice president  Cheney Criticizes Widening Investigation of CIA Counterterrorism Program.

  A plain rational for investigations is simply that Richard Cheney must be reproved or he will continue his campaign relentlessly until he is declared right, absolved, vindicated Cheney: Interrogations Probe Is a 'Political Act'.  He will insist on being placed in spirit, if not in literal being, back on the throne. If I use a word like throne understand I've chosen my words deliberately. Among the various slights of hand occurring is to get the American people to accept a supposed effectiveness in tortured interrogation as equaling the ethical high ground. Do men who trade so starkly in talk of strength and weakness, perceived and real, truly believe also in right and wrong, in good and evil? I don't think so. A genuine teleological sense is inconsistent of a world view of power and materialism. Empty talk of God and morality; though, is perfectly consistent with this, because so much here depends on what you can get people to believe.

 At this point in the debate the Washington Post prints a strange article that purports to show "enhanced" interrogation delivers the goods  Terrorist Recast as CIA Asset.. Even reviewing their story at face value it doesn't really. A main break came from classical methods: he, KSM, talked thinking (being allowed to believe) interrogators already had certain information from another source. He was subjected to repeated cross examinations on various details and information and a meta dossier built up slowly from this. Even if an individual does not talk much various responses to stimuli (certain images, names evidences) will tell a story. Supermax prison systems are crushing and isolating enough in their manner of being that with the added full court press of Army prisoner interrogation standards you have what psychological pressure you need for the job. There seemed little useful in Khalid Mohammed's later infomercial ramblings that might not have been obtained through conventional professionally applied means. The unending rounds of waterboarding and campaign to break the wills of detainees was done for the personal satisfaction involved.  You interrogate to gain "information". You torture to fill a hunger, an emptiness in yourself.

  The  CIA in particular is discontented even angry at being investigated. CIA must judge whether they made a mistake in deciding to let the Dick Cheney / John Yoo notion of ethics and national security be their cover. They had a larger national mandate to be guided by broader and more balanced approaches. Consistent with views of both political parties. Had they done this with due diligence they would not now be facing repercussions, over the potential illegality of their previous actions. This is no doubt a crisis of company morale occurring; however, this problem is a problem of their own making.

 The other part of this twisted web of reaction is our army of the detained interred throughout the world in named and unnamed camps and the legal tabla gris they live off of. These are the prisoners of this war, the dangerous, the unwanted, the inconvenient.

 I have said these things before, but as long a Mr. Cheney maintains his position, it bears repeating. The fundamental error is the a priori the assumption of guilt. Which flows back and forth between the interrogation and detainment issues infecting both.  POWs under international law can be detained and questioned because because they are from an state entity (if in uniform), declaring responsibility for them and can be foreseeably repatriated to that state entity upon cessation of hostilities. Irregulars and nonstate combatants, need their detainment to rest on some notion of criminality, unless some state-aspiring hierarchy can be assigned responsibility for them (this hierarchy either becomes a state or is reconciled to an existing state).  Some version of evidentiary rules obtains at this point and no notion of guilt or evil intent on which loss of liberty and secondary forms of information extraction depend can go forward without it. Attempting to deal with this by stuffing it into cracks of the law where you claim to be held to no rule, is questionable judgement, temperamentally questionable and unsupportable policy for legitimate government.  

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Saturday, August 22, 2009
Health Care Antidisestablishmentarianism

 I read a statement in the press last week - by blue dog democrat that universal coverage was not in his opinion one of the critical goals of health care reform. I combined this various other statements -- including some mixed messaging from the president himself that the "public option" or "single player" plans are not a necessary part of reform either. Even allowing that those last two terms seem to mean different things to different people. I really find myself asking at this juncture (I am prompted towards the past tense): "Then what was it all about?" 

 Is it all just a matter holding down costs? Perfectly valid in and of itself. A key point there, though is the more enrolled in the insurance pools of whatever varieties exist the more risk is apportioned, the more easily costs can be managed. Problems occur when segments such as the wealthy and the healthy calve off the main insurance pools. Also those referred to as the indestructables, 20 year olds believing themselves immune to sickness or harm, who opt out of health care altogether. They inflict costs on the system becoming sick or injured at the same rates as their demographic compatriots. The status quo will only produce accelerating costs.

  A co-worker pointed to a Krauthammer column  The Great 'Prevention' Myth  as a singularity of reason and clarity. I read it and thought Krauthammer was dissembling. The column dealt with a minor and only somewhat useful distinction on merits between preventive care and curative care. Given that a disease or illness will (usually) fall short of afflicting 100% of the population. A health care regime might conclude to place the bulk of resources towards ameliorating the effects of a condition rather than efforts to prevent initial contraction of it, at lesser overall cost. This is a thin contentious argument that not only fails to fall free of the moral trap that affects the mythic though popular death panels, but as well the practical matter that diseases appearing to suggest themselves to this approach do so only because of the enormous preventive efforts already expended on their behalf. This was not Krauthammer's real point. The more emotional weighted language of the first paragraph made it clear his real concern and satisfaction derive from the perception that "In the 48 hours of June 15-16, President Obama lost the health-care debate" and that the Obama's forward momentum had been firmly and permanently halted only a few months into his despised Marxist presidency.

 Richard Cohen  Echoes of McCarthyism From Sarah Palin and Harold Meyerson Lincoln's Prophecy for the GOP  in  separate opeds in the Washington Post this week make similar points about this cast of the health care debate. Republican slash and burn demogogory may indeed have limited even ended President Obama's ability to produce health care reform. But it comes at a cost to their own ability to positions themselves as responsible leaders. The ones hurt most are the working middle class. Killing the bogeyman of death panels doesn't keep those loved ones from dying, it just squeezes those discussions into rushed adhoc decisions in a hospital corridor. Meyerson similarly argues the republican party has evaporated more of their own reputation eroding Obama's political capital. A Pyrrhic victory. While they are in little danger of ceasing to be a political party, they are in the process of reshaping themselves as a subculture party.

 Tort Reform standing in for health care reform is a misdirection. In a system that chooses to regulate industry as little as possible. The primary tool for citizens is to have ample market choice which the current spider's nest of oligopies simply does not provide, it does nothing to redress injury once it has occurred at any rate. The other possible recourse is to allow the free right to bring suit, and for juries to allow substantive damages that might impel a corporation to change its product or behavior. Tort reform would do little to rein in structural health costs, though it might promote buy-in by health care providers. It would lower medical malpractice insurance costs, but so would removing licenses from the dangerous and incompetent, which is and always has been under the medical communities control.

  I am agnostic on the means of health care reform. No fixed interest in any particular approach. Not in making it a federal government project in order to ensure it as a thing of the American people. Nor in handing it over to the insurance companies to appease the sense of entitlement of the private sector. Fearing Government administration seems somewhat nonsensical though. Government programs, are composed of same people, having the same education and experience, as the rest of the nation. They are not intrinsically less capable, or more capable than a private incorporation set to the same task.  Any genuine reform  must at least attempt to provide elementary coverage plan for those who want one. It should not discriminate -- against the poor, against the the less healthy. It ought not produce coverage holes between jobs or among certain age groups. In care or prescription.  Structural cost containment probably can not be handled until the full health care mandate is owned up to and undertaken, and may present a logical second part to reform. 

Addendum {Also via Metafilter -- Digital Roam: American health care on (4) napkins! A hand drawn power point gloss to the debate. Best viewed at the slideshow site: Healthcare Napkins All}.

   After seeing what else has come by this summer I wasn't surprised by Sen. Joe Lieberman's (D-Conn) recent suggestion that at this point Health Care reform should be left for the next legislative term, or even some other time all together Lieberman says many health care changes can wait - Yahoo! News. A suggestion for Sen. Joe in return. Why doesn't he set aside his health care package and his family's until that day, when he deems it suitable to take up reform again, arrives?

 The U S health care regime will not collapse catastrophically. It will decay unevenly, become ever more inefficient. Some segments of society will never be troubled directly by the ruin of American Health which will still serve them. In the very long run even they will be affected as the practice of medicine returns to bloodletting, magick, and placation of princes. But portions of this nation will have gotten there already by then. 

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Thursday, August 6, 2009
SQRT Exceptional

 I have a friend - someone I knew in college years ago - who I know is endeavoring to start up her own grade school. Her name is Nancy, well not her real name which is Micaela, but the name I'll use here. The school I believe will open for classes in a few weeks. The weblog portion of the 2e newsletter indicated things were on track for a fall opening as of mid spring  2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter: From the Week of March 1.  I don't know a lot about this. Most of what I know comes from conversations a year and a half ago at an earlier point of planning, and a few emails since then. Plus a delicate shake of the internet tree a few weeks ago. The school will be in Brooklyn where she lives.

The impetus of the project was to create an decent educational environment for her own son where she perceived none existed. I have met this boy a number of times and believe her perception is correct. He always struck me as being extremely intelligent, but what was going on around him needed to be on a certain wavelength with him otherwise he tuned it out, and turned his attention elsewhere. Most schools - the ones I remember - just let this happen.  Starting your own school; though,  this is an impressive undertaking to say the least. Nancy was always the sort where if she decided something needed to happen, it happened.

  The early period of this endeavor led her through the thicket of alternative education the white board jungle: Montessori and Sudbury schools - democratic curriculum schools. Trying to find a method and philosophy that gave structure and opportunity, but not rigid and reflexive structure.The direction my friend Nancy seems to have gone with is to set up a school following principles grouped under the term twice-exceptional children or 2e in briefer form. To create a comprehensive curriculum and learning environment around such approaches. To have her tell it in her own words: the Lang School. Named after, I believe I read, her favorite teacher from Walter Johnson high school).

 The article Bordering on Excellence  EBSCOhost: Bordering on Excellence: A Teaching Tool for Twice-Exceptional Student [Sara Jeweler et al. Gifted Child Today. Spring 2008 vol. 31 no.2) gives a definition of twice exceptional as  students identified as gifted and talented, but also identified with a disability defined by federal or state criteria.  A similar description of 2e  exists in the first paragraph of the wikipedia article  Twice exceptional - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

  • 2e, is commonly applied to high-ability children who have learning difficulties [...2 to 5 percent of all gifted children]
  • A 2e child may be one who is diagnosed with one or more disabilities such as dyslexia, visual or auditory processing disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, sensory processing disorder, Asperger syndrome, or Tourette Syndrome.
  • The child might have a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder, with or without hyperactivity, or diagnoses of anxiety or depression.
  • Some 2e children have no formal diagnosis, but do have learning differences of other kinds, such as in learning style or preference, that make it hard to function in a traditional classroom.

There seems to a sense among some, that many of the issues facing 2e children are not formal clinical disabilities as much as learning difficulties or challenges.  And much of it reflects a reality that traditional instructional methods and environments will only ever be appropriate and effective for a certain percentage of children, and simply not for others. 

  Best Practice notions have held  that education of 2e students should occur with other average to high achieving children rather than in a strictly remedial setting. The goal it was felt was to keep them at their true cognitive level. This is often called differentiated instruction within integrated classrooms. The Bordering on Excellence article's frame instruction tool  represents a teacher's organizing guide for such  differentiated teaching. A sheet for each type of instruction. (writing in the example) four columns border an empty space (teacher notes) listing possible stumbling blocks, teaching methods, instructional materials (classroom materials), and assisstive  technologies that may ameliorate disabilities.

 All this is meant to occur within the frame work of traditional schools: made inclusive through IEP's (Individual Educational Plans). Double Tracked and doubled-down. Montgomery county is an example of this approach. They pride themselves on how well they've been able to make it work, and have recently been the subject of a Harvard Business School case study on management in a school system  Leading for Equity (the Post reviewd this somewhat: 6 Lessons From Montgomery County Public Schools That Mostly Missed the Point - My sister Susan, who was during the previous two years head of the PTA at my nephew's school Kennsington-Parkwood Elementary in Montgomery county, pointed out there are some drawbacks to this approach as a practical matter. It places a great burden on the teachers dealing with multiple multitrack individuals in the classroom, not all teachers can make it work well. During periods of budget tightening the infrastructure and professional assistants which aid teachers in managing differntiated instruction are often cut or eliminated first, increasing the burden further.  As well there is no way to keep the children from become acutely aware of differentiated instruction among them, which may create hard to control dynamics among them as peers.

 The new idea is a partly separated approach. To have whole schools for 2e children. To have all the resources of the school directed towards them. I had never heard of the 2e concept [ERIC] before this. My sister could not recall the specific term either, though she was familiar with what it represented. She asked some other parents and found some who were familiar with it, and they mentioned that there is an existing 2e school in Washington DC, the Lab School, already. One of my nephew Grant's friends exhibits some of these characteristics. A thirteen year old, he has an intense comprehensive knowledge of many subjects, a sharp but somewhat brittle confidence. He has hyper-interest in airplanes and flight, and a fair amount of apptitude going with it. He spent part of the summer at a flight camp in Oshkosh, and is resolutely set towards a career as a pilot at the moment.

 My own education experience; call it the Square Root of Exceptional. A non-distinguished life beset by various in-abilities and dis-congruities. Education, all experience really in the end is a matter of challenge to the individual and it is the child individual who must respond. My eductional experience to the extent I can remember any of it now - more a half life remembered - was a painful clueless struggle between myself and various environments. Between adaptation and separation, assimilation and infiltration.  I don't recall ever having that sense of being on the cusp that is the mark of 2e individuals. Of encountering barriers that present themselves at the tipping point to success or high achievement. Possibly I had rolled well under the curl of that tipping point in the six or seventh grade without any idea I'd permanently wiped-out on a wave of seemingly trivial quizes and writing assignments. Looking backward, I see you are either in AP  classes and college bound, or you are not.

 I read a book recently, written in the half year after the end of world war ii by a man who was educated and an occasional college professor. Reflecting on matters in his hometown (which was the point of his book), he questioned primary education's adequacy for college preparation. A study had come out indicating colleges increasingly were turning their first year over to matters that in an earlier generation a prep school would have covered. He noted that the high school/public school system's critical role in the new late-phase industrial post-war world. A world  of K-12 +4 education, may not have been fully explained to them (small town school boards) and represented in modern parlance, an unfunded mandate.  Schools were accustomed to their previous simpler role of generally preparing individuals to live in society productively and satisfactorly. This now grew with little warning logarithmically more complicated. The post-industrial world has little use for semi-skilled labor - use maybe, but not attention or concern. I can testify to this. School for me was a balancing act not successfully managed. Ending in terms never agreed to. Eloquence of language and reasoning not attained.   

11:57:28 PM    comment [];trackback [];

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