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Stand up if you would buy an ointment that would cure cancer, arthritis, warts, athletes foot, headaches, bad breath, and hair loss for the mere sum of $22.95 for a ten day supply! I’ll bet not many folks are standing as they read this.When advertising claims are unbelievable, are designed to scare, or cite facts without citing the appropriate authority one ought to be wary of the claim made. When the advertiser deliberately misleads its intended audience relying on the likelihood that the “facts” of the message will not be checked, rather they will be believed uncritically, that advertiser is no better than a snake oil salesman and ought to be run out of town, tarred and feathered, and otherwise subjected to ridicule and derision.

FactCheck.org exposes this kind of monkey business. I applaud those efforts.

clipped from www.factcheck.org

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is running a TV ad alleging that “lawsuit abuse” is costing “your family” $3,500 a year. That’s false. The figure is from a study that estimates the cost of all lawsuits, not just abusive ones.

Even the author of the study cited by the chamber says its ad is “misleading.” The fact is his study makes no attempt to specify which lawsuits are legitimate and which can be considered abusive. Furthermore, the study specifically warns against drawing any conclusions about the costs and benefits of the judicial system and even acknowledges that the benefits could outweigh the costs. The chamber ignores this warning. It also fails to note that the same study estimates the cost of all lawsuits at the lowest level in 10 years.

Sutter pointed out that his study “looked at all torts; we don’t segregate between legitimate and illegitimate.”
The chamber ignores the distinction between legitimate suits and abusive ones.

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Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales testified last week that the effort was limited to eight U.S. attorneys fired since June, and other administration officials have said that only a few others were suggested for removal.

If, as reported in the Chicago Tribune, the number of federal prosecutors suggested for dismissal was closer to 26 than the mere 8 that were fired, did Attorney General Gonzales lie to Congress when he testified under oath that the effort was limited to the 8 that were fired since June?

Why would the Justice Department withhold documents from the public if they were telling the truth on this matter? Does the Bush administration have so little respect for the democratic process that they simply do whatever they see fit?

I would argue that the Bush White House understands executive power as being more or less without limits, subject to little more than fiat which places the administration and all of its power outside the realm of responsibility to the governed. This is the very arrogance that inspired Thomas Jefferson (cribbing extensively from John Locke) to write–“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

When the king acts outside the bounds of civility and against the best interests of the governed it is within the bounds of politics to sever the ties that bind one to the sovereign.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Jefferson begins his list of grievances against George III with the following words: “He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.”

In this scandal ridden White House, George II “has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. ” His support for AG Gonzales, Karl, Rove, Paul Wolfowitz and Margaret Spellings at the DoED, each a Bush appointee and each deeply mired in scandal that are not in any meaningful way “he most wholesome and necessary for the public good,” smacks of an arrogance that is beyond all reason.

William Shakespeare puts these words in the mouth of Richard III:

Why, I, in this weak piping time of peace,
gave no delight to pass away the time,
Unless to see my shadow in the sun
And descant on mine own deformity:
And therefore, since I cannot prove a lover,
To entertain these fair well-spoken days,
I am determined to prove a villain,
And hate the idle pleasures of these days.

I think they fit in George W. Bush’s mouth as well.

clipped from www.chicagotribune.com
WASHINGTON —
The Justice Department considered dismissing many more U.S. attorneys than officials have previously acknowledged, with at least 26 prosecutors suggested for termination between February 2005 and December 2006, according to sources familiar with documents withheld from the public.
Atty. Gen. Alberto Gonzales testified last week that the effort was limited to eight U.S. attorneys fired since June, and other administration officials have said that only a few others were suggested for removal.
In fact, Gonzales’ former chief of staff, Kyle Sampson, recommended more than two dozen U.S. attorneys for termination, according to lists compiled by him and his colleagues, the sources said.
They amounted to more than a quarter of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys. At least 13 of those known to have been targeted are still in their posts.
When shown the lists of firing candidates late Wednesday, Sen. Charles Schumer
said they “show how amok this process was.”

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Seed Newsvine

Alleged conflict of interest charges now swarm around the DoED’s sponsorship and use of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS). DIBELS serves as the flagship assessment instrument for the billion dollar a year Reading First program administered by the DoED.In addition to significant charges of not properly screening consultants, many of whom had financial ties to DIBLES, the DoED appears to have promoted the use of DIBELS over any other early literacy indicator.

Furthermore, DIBELS does not appear to be a good indicator of whether or not children understand what they read. DIBELS also tends to be biased in favor of children that come from literacy-rich environments according to Samuel J. Meisels, president of the Erickson Institute for Advanced Study in Child Development.

One study found:

That DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency scores did predict performance on the TerraNova, a standardized achievement test, although students’ performance on DIBELS accounted for less than 20 percent of the variability in those scores. The study also found that students scored poorly on their ability to retell stories they had read, suggesting the tests may be sending a message that reading rapidly is more important than reading for comprehension.

So it seems than not only is there a significant scandal brewing surrounding the use and implementation of the DIBELS instrument, it also seems that the administration that insists on research based teaching and learning eschews research when it comes to promoting their pals and their profits. The emperor has no clothes.

clipped from www.edweek.org
Although teachers in the Moriarty, N.M., public schools report positive experiences with the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, or DIBELS, the assessments have generated a lot of controversy nationally.
The assessment tool, developed by researchers at the University of Oregon, is now approved for use under the federal Reading First program in 45 states to monitor student progress on reading fluency and other measures.
But a contentious hearing before the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee probed allegations that the widespread use of DIBELS may stem, in part, from inappropriate promotion of the tests by federal officials as part of the rollout of the $1 billion-a-year Reading First program.
A report by the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general, released in March, suggested that a federal contractor did not appropriately screen consultants, some of whom had financial ties to DIBELS, for conflicts of interest.

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Wolfowitz “did not accept the bank’s policy on conflict of interest and tried to bypass rules that he believed did not apply to him.”

Paul Wolfowitz engaged in nepotism when he assured that his girlfriend, Shaha Riza was promoted and saw to it that she received a hefty pay increase, one far exceeding the standards set by the World Bank. And what does Wolfowitz (with the aid and comfort of George W. Bush) do? He thumbs his nose at the World Bank.

Wolfowitz called the findings “unbalanced and flawed” and argued that the panel had omitted statements and documents that support his position.

The fact that the United States official position is to continue to offer Wolfowitz continuing support is another sign that the Bush White House is simply out of touch with the realities of the US position vis-a-vis the rest of the world. Bush and Wolfowitz seem to believe that they can play at being the playground bully doing whatever they please.

37 country directors on the front line of the bank’s operations said in a letter to the board and to Wolfowitz that the leadership crisis had damaged the bank’s reputation and effectiveness in fighting poverty.

In refusing to accept responsibility, Wolfowitz displays a profound lack of ethical character. This denial is the height of arrogance in the face of resounding criticism of Wolfowitz’s actions.

The Committee said:The Group finds the submission notable for absence of any acceptance by Mr. Wolfowitz himself of responsibility or blame for the events that transpired.

clipped from www.reuters.com
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A World Bank committee found bank President Paul Wolfowitz violated ethics rules in his handling of a promotion and generous pay rise for his companion and his involvement represented a conflict of interest.
Wolfowitz rejected the critical report on Monday and the United States showed no sign of yielding in its steadfast support for the former U.S. deputy defense secretary, saying the findings were no grounds to dismiss him.
“Mr. Wolfowitz’s contract requiring that he adhere to the Code of Conduct for board officials and that he avoid any conflict of interest, real or apparent, were violated,” the panel said of Wolfowitz’s handling of a pay and promotion deal for World Bank Middle East expert Shaha Riza in 2005.
The panel said Wolfowitz believes the blame lies with others and not with him.
It said he did not accept the bank’s policy on conflict of interest and tried to bypass rules that he believed did not apply to him.

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Should anyone be surprised that Jeb Bush, the President’s brother and the former President’s son (oh gosh, I should leave him out of this mix) decided to go to work for a firm that is deeply involved in ethics abuse? Frankly, but quite unfortunately, I am not. While it must be difficult to turn away $37,000 per day as a salary, one must wonder what Jeb Bush must do to earn that kind of money. I hope it is to clean up the company Tenet Healthcare but somehow I doubt it.

I am constantly reminded by the antics of the Bush family that one should never tie one’s shoes in a watermelon patch. It gives the impression that one is about to steal watermelons, even if the intent is to simply tie one’s shoes. Appearances is everything in this world. We live and die by appearances. So Jeb, stop bending over to tie your shoes–You are in the middle of the watermelon patch.

clipped from www.thestreet.com
A senior member of the Bush dynasty is about to get a large sum of money from a company with a history of ethical violations.
Jeb Bush, the president’s brother and former governor of Florida, is up for election Thursday as a director of troubled hospital chain Tenet Healthcare (THCCramer’s TakeStockpickrRating). Assuming he’s waved through, his pay in his first year would come to nearly $37,000 a day.
This is the same Tenet that had to pay $900 million to Uncle Sam last summer to settle charges that it had overbilled Medicare and Medicaid over many years.
Nine hundred million dollars.
The U.S. attorneys announcing the settlement accused the company of “fraud” and trying to “manipulate and cheat the system.”
Mike Leavitt, the Health and Human Services Secretary appointed by Jeb’s brother George, said the company had “fraudulently abused the Medicare program.”
It’s also the same Tenet that just paid $80 million to the IRS after an audit found it owed back taxes

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David Berliner and Sharon Nichols, both well respected educational researchers, claim that NCLB is causing substantial harm to children, to schools, to teachers and to administrators of those schools that has the chilling effect of placing the Nation at Risk.

Limiting their remarks to only the high-stakes testing requirements of NCLB, Berliner and Nichols said:

The stakes are high when students’ standardized-test performance results in grade retention or failure to graduate from high school. The stakes are high when teachers and administrators can lose their jobs or, conversely, receive large bonuses for student scores, or when humiliation or praise for teachers and schools occurs in the press as a result of test scores. This federal law requires such high-stakes testing in all states.

More than 30 years ago, the eminent social scientist Donald T. Campbell warned about the perils of measuring effectiveness via a single, highly consequential indicator: “The more any quantitative social indicator is used for social decisionmaking,” he said, “the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it is intended to monitor.” High-stakes testing is exactly the kind of process Campbell worried about, since important judgments about student, teacher, and school effectiveness often are based on a single test score. This exaggerated reliance on scores for making judgments creates conditions that promote corruption and distortion. In fact, the overvaluation of this single indicator of school success often compromises the validity of the test scores themselves. Thus, the scores we end up praising and condemning in the press and our legislatures are actually untrustworthy, perhaps even worthless.

Campbell’s law is ubiquitous, and shows up in many human endeavors. Businesses, for example, regularly become corrupt as particular indicators are deemed important in judging success or failure. If stock prices are the indicator of a company’s success, for example, then companies like Enron, Qwest, Adelphia, and WorldCom manipulate that indicator to make sure they look good. Lives and companies are destroyed as a result. That particular indicator of business success became untrustworthy as both it and the people who worked with it were corrupted.

Similarly, when the number of criminal cases closed is the indicator chosen to judge the success of a police department, two things generally happen: More trials are brought against people who may be innocent or, with a promise of lighter sentences, deals are made with accused criminals to get them to confess to crimes they didn’t commit.

When the indicators of success and failure in a profession take on too much value, they invariably are corrupted. Those of us in the academic world know that when researchers are judged primarily by their publication records, they have occasionally fabricated or manipulated data. This is just another instance of Campbell’s law in action.

We have documented hundreds of examples of the ways in which high-stakes testing corrupts American education in a new book, Collateral Damage. Using Campbell’s law as a framework, we found examples of administrators and teachers who have cheated on standardized tests. Educators, acting just like other humans do, manipulate the indicators used to judge their success or failure when their reputations, employment, or significant salary bonuses are related to those indicators.

clipped from www.edweek.org
In his 2007 State of the Union address, President Bush claimed success for the federal No Child Left Behind Act. “Students are performing better in reading and math, and minority students are closing the achievement gap,” he said
But, as with Iraq, a substantial body of evidence challenges his claim.
We believe that this federal law, now in its sixth year, puts American public school students in serious jeopardy. Extensive reviews of empirical and theoretical work, along with conversations with hundreds of educators across the country, have convinced us that if Congress does not act in this session to fundamentally transform the law’s accountability provision, young people and their educators will suffer serious and long-term consequences.
We note in passing that only people who have no contact with children could write legislation demanding that every child reach a high level of performance in three subjects, thereby denying that individual differences exist.

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I believe schooling must be authentic in order to have any value to the student. By authentic I mean 1) that all work assigned and all assessment tools must have value to the student beyond merely the four walls of the classroom, 2) that all work assigned and all assessment tools must be academically rigorous, and 3) that all work (including assessments) must have an audience beyond the teacher. In other words, all school work must have value, be rigorous and have an broad audience.When students feel the need to cheat it is because one or more elements of authentic schooling has gone missing. Often the only piece present is academic rigor that is attached to some form of high-stakes assessment. When this is the case, students, especially the ‘good’ students, feel the need to enhance their performance–something like athletes and steroids.

If principles of authenticity are followed the need for high-stakes assessment is diminished. Teachers can and do find low-stakes approached to assessing students rather than to brow-beat them into compliance with external demands on their brainpower. If principles of authenticity are followed, even the high-stakes assessments attached to No Child Left Behind will not be problematic and may even provide schools and districts with some really valuable data.

As the system now stands, however, cheating is the norm rather than the exception; a norm created by the interference of misguided legislation and misinformed adults.

Authenticity makes education engaging and fun. It makes education the responsibility of the learner, guided by a competent adult in the classroom. Without authenticity, education is alienating and a cauldron for adolescents to conjure ways to beat the system. Which would you rather have?

clipped from www.chicagotribune.com
MERIDIAN, Idaho —
Banning baseball caps during tests was obvious — students were writing the answers under the brim. Then, schools started banning cell phones, realizing students could text message the answers to each other. Now, schools across the country are targeting digital media players as a potential cheating device.
Devices including iPods and Zunes can be hidden under clothing, with just an earbud and a wire snaking behind an ear and into a shirt collar to give them away, school officials say.
“It doesn’t take long to get out of the loop with teenagers,” said Mountain View High School Principal Aaron Maybon. “They come up with new and creative ways to cheat pretty fast.”
Mountain View recently enacted a ban on digital media players after school officials realized some students were downloading formulas and other material onto the players.

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