Department of Education

Mundane Strangeness

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses as he talks to members of the travel pool aboard Air Force One during a trip to Palm Beach, Florida, while flying over South Carolina, 3 February 2017. (Reuters/Carlos Barria)

This is one of those thing that … well, okay, so it is easy enough to get lost in the crashing waves of information tumbling across the land, as it is, but this is also the time of President Donald Trump, so we find ourselves suddenly having need for seemingly oxymoronic terms, such as mundane strangeness:

Sonny Perdue, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve as agriculture secretary, has not yet been confirmed, and nobody knows why.

It’s not that Democrats are obstructing his confirmation—since changes to the Senate’s filibuster rule, they can’t block a Trump nominee unless they recruit three Republican “no” votes. And in the case of Perdue—unlike, say, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos—they aren’t trying to do this. Nor are they resorting to extraordinary measures like the all-night debate that stalled Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s confirmation, or the committee walkouts that dramatized ethical issues hanging over the heads of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin or Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

The reason the Senate hasn’t yet approved his nomination is that he hasn’t actually been officially nominated yet. Paperwork hasn’t yet traveled down from the executive branch to the Senate, so no hearings have been scheduled, even though Perdue does not appear to be a controversial nominee.

(Yglesias)

We should probably take the moment to clarify: If, for instance, we say that nobody knows what the problem is it isn’t so much a matter of political parsing as a matter of practicality. “They don’t seem to have a reason,” explained Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-NE), last week, “as to why his name hasn’t come up.” Perhaps someone in the Trump administration knows why; meanwhile, neither is the speculation absolutely raw.

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What They Voted For: Why Government Doesn’t Work

#earthquakes | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks to employees in Washington, D.C., 21 February 2017. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

There is that part within that wonders―really, truly, genuinely in all good faith, wonders―who in these United States really thinks they can do that speech in which the audience is supposed to pretend they have no effing clue? Or, to check in with Rebecca Leber of Mother Jones:

If Pruitt’s address was meant to soothe staffers’ concerns about their incoming administrator, they may have come up short.

“Pruitt’s talk [was] as bad as expected,” said a current career EPA staffer of over 20 years, who requested anonymity, following the speech. “Not one word about public health. And talking about the rule of law as if we didn’t do EVERYTHING with the realization that it WILL end up in court. It was condescending and hypocritical.”

Some former EPA officials shared that view. “Trump’s team spent the entire campaign and the last few months railing against EPA’s existence, its staff, and its purpose,” Liz Purchia, an Obama-era communications staffer at the agency, said in an email. “Accomplishing agency priorities was no easy task when the administrator had staff’s back and politicals and careers agreed the majority of the time, so let’s see how well Trump’s EPA does getting staff to follow them when they feel disrespected. These are professionals with years of experience, who have been made to feel like their leader doesn’t trust their judgment. The American people are relying on them to defend the agency, protect its environmental statutes and stand up to Trump’s team to ensure they uphold science and the law.”

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#DimensionSteve (Theme Song Edition)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a press conference in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 16 February 2017. (Photo: Associated Press)

Notes and quotes from Steve Benen, at MaddowBlog, 20 February 2017:

#ProbablyNot: “If it makes Sweden feel any better, many Americans often have no idea what Trump is saying, either.”

#WatersEdge: “As a factual matter, the senator is a Maverick in Name Only.”

#WhatTheyVotedFor: “There’s no reason to go along with this as if it were somehow normal.”

#GettingWorseNotBetter: “Republicans may be eager to blast Democratic ‘obstruction’ and partisan delays, but the truth of the matter is simple: Democrats can’t block nominees who don’t exist.”

#McCarthysMouth: “That’s the kind of quote that could use some clarification.”

#Backfill: “The era of ‘fuzzy math’ is back with a vengeance.”

#WhyGovernmentDoesntWork: “So, the nation’s Education Secretary, even now, isn’t sure the position she now holds should exist―apparently because she’s still not on board with the idea of having a federal Department of Education, which she now leads.”

#MatthewFifteenElevenα: “The president is himself on board with the ‘Never-Mind-What-Trump-Said’ approach to foreign policy.”

#PutiPoodle: “Why Cohen would tell two very different stories to two different newspapers is unclear.”

#YesWeHave: “Have we really reached the point at which Trump World is so accustomed to pushing bogus and misleading information that even the president’s golfing is fair game?”

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Our American President (Bathroom Bigot Brawl)

Obama Administration Warns Schools to Allow Transgender Access To Bathrooms (Huffington Post, 14 May 2016)

It really is a nifty headline from HuffPo’s Queer Voices.

The detail:

The Obama administration on Friday told schools and colleges nationwide they must allow transgender students access to bathrooms consistent with their gender identity.

Transgender signThe Justice Department and the Education Department, in guidance directed at every American public school district, admonished educators to treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity, regardless of what sex is listed on student records.

The guidance, which cites the gender equity law Title IX, further injects the federal government into a heated debate over controversial anti-LGBT state legislation, including a North Carolina law that bars transgender students from bathrooms that don’t match their birth gender. The Justice Department on Monday filed a civil rights lawsuit against North Carolina.

“No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus,” Education Secretary John King Jr. said in a statement.

(Kingkade)

Meanwhile, apparently something goes here about Disney freaking out zealots, and, you know, it must absolutely suck to be a bigot these days. To swallow their prude pride and just carry on with life is a bitter load to face. Still, there are times when it is worth pointing out that some people spend too much effort worrying about other people’s intimate lives; and then there are such occasions we might point out that some people spend too much effort paying attention to Disney. What sort of cruel God―? Oh, sorry, wrong monologue.

Anyway, Disney aside, everyone say thank you.

Thank you, President Obama. Thank you, Secretary King.

____________________

Kingkade, Tyler. “Obama Administration Warns Schools To Allow Transgender Access To Bathrooms”. The Huffington Post. 13 May 2016.

Sieczkowski, Cavan. “Religious Right Is Losing Its Mind About ‘Frozen’s’ Elsa Possibly Being Gay”. The Huffington Post. 12 May 2016.

The Curse of “Good” News

This is not the Playboy list of best schools to major in rape.

On a depressing note, Nick Anderson of The Washington Post pauses to consider sexual violence at American colleges and universities:

The number of federal investigations into how colleges handle sexual violence reports has jumped 50 percent in the past six months, reflecting a surge of recent discrimination claims and the difficulty of resolving high-profile cases that often drag on for years.

On May 1, the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights released the first public list of colleges and universities under scrutiny for possible violations of federal law in their responses to sexual violence allegations.

This is overdue. Not a matter of perhaps or slightly or whatever. It’s flat overdue. To the other, just how good is good news, really, if its context is established by atrocity? Because, really, all it means is that maybe some substantial aspect of sexual violence in our society will change for the better.

It’s a big maybe.

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Anderson, Nick. “Tally of federal probes of colleges on sexual violence grows 50 percent since May”. The Washington Post. 19 October 2014.

A Toxic Troika? A Note on ‘Optics’ and ‘Metrics’

Jeb Bush, left, speaking Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C., in support of Thom Tillis, a Republican candidate for the Senate. Credit Chuck Burton/Associated Press

When studying the Castor and Pollux of politics and punditry it might help to bear in mind that many of the buzzwords are intended to sound quasi-scientific in order to hide the fact that the terms describe artistic results. A metric, for instance, is simply an abstract measurement in unknown units compared to a presupposed psychomoral idyll that may or may not be available for examination and should never be trusted in the first place, anyway. The metrics of a situation are whatever the pundit wishes to describe in order to make his or her own narrative sound that much more compelling.

But then there are the optics of a situation, and this is a fairly easy explanation. Political optics are, quite literally, nothing more than appearances within a frame described by a pundit’s metrics.

In one of his first public appearances of the 2014 campaign, former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida had a vivid preview Wednesday of the challenges he would face with his party’s conservative base should he seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016.

Standing alongside Thom Tillis, the North Carolina House speaker and Republican Senate candidate, Mr. Bush outlined his views on two of the issues he cares most passionately about: immigration policy and education standards. But as Mr. Bush made the case for an immigration overhaul and the Common Core standards, Mr. Tillis gently put distance between himself and his guest of honor, who had flown here from Florida on a dreary day to offer his endorsement in a race that could decide which party controls the Senate.

(Martin)

Ah, optics!

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