Archives for category: Stupid

Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt accepted the resignation of Melissa Crabtree, whom he appointed four days earlier. Crabtree is a home-schooling parent who has vociferously opposed any mask mandate. She was selected to replace Kurt Bollenbach, also appointed by Stitt, who wanted to claw back millions from a for-profit virtual charter and who believed that students should wear masks in school. Bollenbach was too sane and reasonable for Governor Stitt.

Gov. Kevin Stitt’s new appointee to the state Board of Education spent months sharing debunked COVID-19 medical advice, conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine content before hiding the posts from public view shortly after news of her new position became public Friday.

According to The Oklahoman:

Enid resident Melissa Crabtree was named to the education board after Stitt abruptly removed board member Kurt Bollenbach, who the governor appointed in 2019.

Crabtree is a vocal anti-mask advocate who earlier this year founded a group called Enid Freedom Fighters, which had helped for months to block a mask mandate in the city and is now leading an effort to recall elected officials who supported the move. Enid’s mask mandate passed Tuesday on a third attempt, according to an Enid News & Eagle story.

Stitt’s pick was condemned Friday by Democrats in the Legislature who criticized Crabtree’s views on masks and her lack of public education experience.

Information reviewed by Oklahoma Watch also shows that Crabtree frequently took to Facebook to share other controversial opinions, unsubstantiated medical advice and misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed at least 1,860 Oklahomans.

The posts were either deleted or hidden from public view just before noon Friday, but Oklahoma Watch was able to review and capture screenshots of several postings before that occurred.

This includes a post from last month where Crabtree, who frequently posts on the supposed benefits of essential oils, claimed to her more than 400 followers that zinc could “stop Covid from duplicating” and “will help a body not freak out at an illness…”

In another post from July, Crabtree told her followers to seek out a viral video where a doctor falsely touted hydroxychloroquine as a COVID cure. Multiple claims in that video have been debunked by fact-checkers.

Crabtree went on to write that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has “known that hydroxychloroquine worked for 15 years” and, without providing any evidence to back up her claims, that “they are purposely distorting the studies and letting people die.”

Crabtree also posted multiple times endorsing the controversial strategy of achieving herd immunity without the use of widespread vaccinations. This includes a post from last week where she wrote that “once viruses are here, the way we get herd immunity is by people building immunity to the virus” and that she’d “rather have (the virus) than get the vaccine.

Apparently even Governor Stitt was embarrassed by his selection. And now he is looking for a new member of the State Board. Hopefully it will be someone who cares about the health and safety of students and teachers, and someone willing to call out grifters and frauds.

The accountability hawks have decided that NAEP testing must be canceled this spring because of the pandemic, but the burdensome, useless, meaningless annual testing of every single student from grades 3-8 should not be disrupted. Betsy DeVos proposed canceling NAEP, and the director of the National Center for Education Statistics complied. There will be no NAEP 2021.

This is backwards.

If we want to understand the impact of the coronavirus on American students, NAEP testing should go forward. NAEP—the National Assessment of Educational Progress—has been administered to scientific samples of American students since the late 1960s. Since 1992, it has provided state-by-state comparisons. It disaggregates scores by race, gender, income, English language status, disability status, and other criteria. It measures achievement gaps among whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians. It supplies the same valuable information for a score of urban district that volunteer to be tested. No stakes are attached to NAEP results.

In short, NAEP is the ideal gauge for measuring the impact of the coronavirus on students in every state and many cities.

The tests that should be canceled are the state tests mandated by ESSA, which every student in grades 3-8 is required to take. Many students will opt out. The scores rank students on a meaningless axis from advanced, proficient, basic, to below basic, or rank them 1-4. The mandated tests tell teachers nothing worth knowing since they mainly reflect family income and education. They do not tell teachers anything about what students know and understand since teachers are not permitted to see the questions or to know how students answered them. The results of these tests, useless as they are, have high stakes. They will be used to punish or reward students, teachers, and schools.

Yet NAEP will be postponed, and the state tests for individuals will go forward this spring! The meaningful measure will be canceled but the punitive and meaningless measure will be preserved.

Politico reported:

HITTING PAUSE ON THE NATION’S REPORT CARD  Education Secretary Betsy DeVos before Thanksgiving added another item to Congress’ to-do list, calling on lawmakers to postpone upcoming national tests that gauge student achievement in reading and math. DeVos said it would be impractical to conduct the National Assessment of Educational Progress, originally slated for January, during the pandemic because “too few schools will be providing in-school instruction or welcoming outside test administrators this winter to ensure a sufficiently large sample.”

— DeVos said in a letter to congressional leaders that she was halting any further expenditures to prepare for the federal assessments. But she urged Congress to include legislation in any year-end government spending deal to “lift the mandate for 2021 NAEP administration and postpone the administration of NAEP tests until the assessment will be able to produce useful results, likely in 2022.”

— It appears that DeVos’ request has bipartisan support. The Democratic leaders on the congressional education committees, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), said in a joint statement that postponing NAEP was “unfortunate” but also “understandable” given the circumstances. And Sen. Lamar Alexander(R-Tenn.), chair of the Senate education committee, said DeVos made “the right decision” and that Congress should act quickly to provide the one-year delay. “I will work with my colleagues to secure congressional approval of this request in the remaining weeks of the year,” Alexander said.

If NAEP had been administered in 2021, it would have told policy makers precisely what they want to know, at a cost of about $50 million.

If the individual tests are administered, with large numbers of students absent due to the pandemic or opting out in protest, it will provide no useful results but cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Why would DeVos cancel the efficient measure while imposing the pointless measure?

For sure, it’s a win for the test producers but a loss for students, teachers, and common sense.

I promised myself I would not post anything about Orange 45 unless absolutely necessary. Then I read this. Dave Pell asks a crucial question:

Is a coup still a coup even if that coup is totally coup coup? Yes, Trumpist efforts to overturn the election have been laughable, lawless, and ludicrous, and have officially put the Lame into this Lame Duck session. Rudy Giuliani literally melting down during a conspiracy theory filled presser attended by his son who hours later tested positive for coronavirus certainly had elements of dark (running) humor. Was it hair dye dripping down the side of his face? Was it mascara? My guess is that it was snake oil. Whatever it was, it’s rare that you can spring a leak from both temples and have it be the least embarrassing part of a public appearance. The assertions were so absurd that we felt nostalgic for Rudy’s better days back at Four Seasons Total Landscaping. And yes, amid all the weird theories thrown out by what Jenna Ellis described as the president’s “elite strike force team” there were only a few actual legal claims, all unsubstantiated, except those substantiated by the wrong data. For example, “the affidavit Sidney Powell hyped, which alleges that many precincts in Michigan have more votes than actual voters, is based on data from Minnesota.” At least they picked two states that begin with the letter M. And M&Ms melt in your mouth not on your face. So yes, yes, it’s all meme-ably hilarious. But this administration, with the backing of its party, is also launching very real attack on the core principles of democracy. The GOP’s official Twitter account shared an excerpt of the instantly infamous presser in which Sidney Powell explains that President Trump won by a landslide. General Services Administration Administrator Emily Murphy, whose job it is to certify the clear election outcome, has still refused to do so. President Trump is meeting with Michigan officials in the White House to convince them to reverse the vote in their state. And he’s trying to set up meetings with officials from Pennsylvaniaahead of that state’s Monday vote certification. Will any of this work? Almost certainly not. But if you try to shoot a person on Fifth Avenue and you miss because you’re a lousy shot (or because your leaking mascara-sweat dripped all the way to your trigger finger), it’s still attempted murder. And the president, with almost no pushback from his minions or his party, is attempting to murder American democracy. So it’s funny. But in a very unfunny sort of a way. But for the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of illnesses, and incalculable damage to America and democracy writ large, this would all be funny. 

+ “Trump’s effort to subvert the election results has been made explicit and unmistakably clear. He is no longer merely pursuing spurious lawsuits in state courts; in recent days, he and his lawyers have confirmed publicly that Trump now is trying to directly overturn the election results and the will of the American people by pressuring Republican state legislators to appoint electors who will vote for Trump in the Electoral College instead of Biden. The fact that Trump is almost certain not to succeed in actually remaining in office past January 20thdoes not in any way make this less alarming.” Susan B. Glasser in The New Yorker: Trump’s Clown Coup Crisis

+ Why Trump’s Attempts to Overturn 2020 Election Are Unparalleled in US History

+ A long, long, long shot? Yes. Impossible? WaPo: Just because an attempt to steal an election is ludicrous and ham-handed doesn’t mean it can’t work

+ Let the record show that Mitt Romney, from the impeachment to the coup attempt, is the one GOP senator to take a principled stand. He may not be your favorite. He may not have done the right thing every time. But as we remember the enablers, let’s remember those who spoke out. Sasse, Romney pan Trump campaign’s tactics in contesting election

+ Meanwhile, after the hand recount, Biden (on his birthday) won Georgia again. (Does that mean Trump now needs two conspiracy theories for Georgia?)

The Trump campaign put out a press release announcing that its lawyers would be holding a press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Philadelphia. But the Four Seasons Hotel knew nothing about it, and the press conference was switched to a drab landscaping business called Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

Rudy Giuliani did indeed conduct the event in a light industrial neighborhood in front of Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

When journalists arrived at the site of the news conference, they were flabbergasted by the scene and many quickly speculated that someone in the Trump campaign made a serious mistake. After all, the parking lot of a landscaping business in the outskirts of the city in an industrial part of town was a drab backdrop for a news conference by a president who wanted to convince Americans he still had a chance of winning. And making matters even stranger, the landscaping business was between an adult bookstore and a cremation center. The location led to lots of mockery online, and many people were very happy with the scene that was ripe for mockery, and some saw as a poignant metaphor of the failure of the Trump campaign.

There were many funny tweets remarking on the fact that this momentous event was held between a porn shop and a crematorium.

Polymath Bob Shepherd wonders if our society can survive kakistocracy, the rule of the most ignorant among us. He recalls profoundly dumb things said by Sarah Palin when she ran as John McCain’s vice presidential running mate in 2008. Then came Trump, whose ignorance is profound.

He writes:

Can we survive the likes of Trump?

How well I remember Sarah Palin giving a speech, very shortly after she was chosen as McCain’s running mate, in which she laughed and sneered, outraged, that the government had spent some x amount of dollars studying fruit flies. “Fruit flies!” she exclaimed, as though this were the most insane thing one could imagine.

Of course, this profoundly ignorant person had no idea that much of our understanding of genetics and of genetic disease comes from studies using Drosophila melanogaster. I laughed and laughed that she didn’t know the science she might have learned from a third grader’s Scholastic Weekly Reader. Such profound ignorance. But then, horrified, I saw John McCain pick up the same talking point the week following, and I thought: well, here we are. We are on the cusp of the most significant change in the history of life on Earth, when we eliminate genetic disease and then people start taking evolution into their own hands and it becomes, for the first time, TELEOLOGICAL (purposefully engineered/directed by us). The consequences of the latter will be profound beyond any current reckoning. It changes the basic rules that have always held.

And this is happening at a time when our politicians, at the highest levels, don’t know even the most basic science.
All this was prelude to Donald Trump, the stable genius who thinks that we should nuke hurricanes, that climate change is just weather, that we could send astronauts to the sun, that Alabama is in danger from hurricanes skirting the East Coast, that windmills and low-energy light bulbs cause cancer, that stealth planes are actually invisible, that a dementia diagnostic is a test of general intelligence, that we need to return to using asbestos in our buildings, that HIV and HPV are the same thing, that the primary cause of California wildfires is bad forest management, that coal and natural gas are “clean energy,” that “the ice caps” are “at a record level,” that global warming is a hoax invented to reduce U.S. competitiveness with China, that we are better off without federal regulation of pollutants of air and water, that exercise needs to be avoided because it uses up energy, and that injecting disinfectant might be a great way to treat Covid19. But remember that Trump has told us that “nobody knows technology like Donald Trump,” and that he is on top of “the cyber.”

So, this raises a question: Why do Americans elect to high office such ignorant people? the Sarah Palins and Matt Gaetzes and Donald Trumps among us? In dramatic contrast, I read a speech, last year, by Putin in which he talked intelligently, at length, about genetic engineering.

And that raises another question: can we survive this tendency to elect the profoundly ignorant?

We have heard a lot about some cult-like group called QAnon, but I for one know very little about it. I think it had some connection to Pizzagate, the incident when some guy rushed into a pizza place in D.C. with an assault weapon, in search of a basement where Hillary Clinton supposedly had imprisoned little children who were going to be sexually abused or someone was planning to drink their blood. As it turned out, there were no children, there was no basement. Fortunately, no one was killed.

QAnon is back in the news after Trump was asked about them,and he feigned ignorance (he has praised them in the past).

I know far less about QAnon than Trump (who gets briefed by the FBI). So when I saw that the Financial Times, a reputable publication, had released this video that is supposed to explain QAnon, I watched it.

I am now more confused than ever. I feel like I just slipped down a rabbit hole, but it’s not Wonderland.

Here is CNN’s summation of a very peculiar belief system.
https://www.cnn.com/2020/10/16/tech/qanon-believer-how-he-got-out/index.html

Our wonderful reader Laura Chapman reports here on the origins of the laws that purport to measure teacher quality by the test scores of their students. The founding father of this methodology was the late William Sanders, an agricultural statistician who believed that the same productivity used to measure cows could be used to measure teachers. His ideas were adopted and promoted by Arne Duncan’s Race to the Top, which required states to adopt “value-added methodology” if they wanted to compete for a share of billions of federal dollars. The Gates Foundation also embraced test-based accountability. These methods proved to be ineffective at measuring teacher quality; they are inaccurate and demoralizing.


According to a 2019 report coauthored by Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, 15 states are still inflicting teacher evaluations by VAM (value added measures) and 28 are using the equally invalid process of writing up Student Learning Objectives (SLOs). SLOs require you to predict the end-of-year (or end of unit) achievements of students, among other ridicule-worthy feats. https://kappanonline.org/mapping-teacher-evaluation-plans-essa-close-amrein-beardsley-collins/

Vamboozled, the website of Audrey Amrein-Beardsley, is a great resource for anyone still being a victim of this method of estimating the “value you have added” to the test scores of your students.

But there is also a deeper and little known origin story for VAMs. That story was exposed to view in April, 2020, by Gene V. Glass, a Senior Researcher at the National Education Policy Center and a Regents’ Professor Emeritus from Arizona State University. Glass released a treasure trove of correspondence about VAM (value added measures), first used in education by the late William Sanders, an agricultural statistician. http://ed2worlds.blogspot.com/2020/04/an-archaeological-dig-for-vam.html

In his blog post “Archeological Dig for VAM,” Glass reveals how William Sanders borrowed statistical methods for calculating VAM, then began using those calculations to judge teacher productivity/quality, based on the test scores of their students, specifically in the Tennessee Value-Added Assessment System (TVAAS).

It turns out that Sanders’ TVAAS process (VAM) was “built on the formulation of the late C.R. Henderson, a Cornell statistician, a fellow in the American Statistical Association, known for his pioneering work in breeding animals, specifically herds of dairy cows. Henderson’s statistical methods of producing a “genetic evaluation of livestock have been widely accepted, utilized, and enhanced by animal breeders and statisticians.”

Until Henderson’s 1953 publication of “Estimation of variance and covariance components” in Biometrics,” no one had tackled the difficult problem of “estimating variance components from unbalanced data of cross-classified models, e.g., of milk production records of daughters of A.I. (Artificially Inseminated) sires in different herds – where sires are crossed with herds, and, for a large group of herds, each sire has daughters in many herds and each herd has daughters of many sires.” https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/31657/BU-1085-MA.pdf;sequence=1

If you have a background in statistics (mine is minimal and vintage), you may enjoy reading the extended “defense” of VAM/TVAAS by the late William Sanders who cites his debt to Henderson’s work. Sanders’ defense of using VAM with teachers and the test scores of their students is revealed in his answers to numerous questions from William Robert Saffold, Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies, who is well-informed about the results in TVASS in Tennessee and wanted more information to interpret the results of TVAAS for educators. The extended discussion reveals the many unwarranted assumptions Sanders made in constructing TVAAS.

I think the hoopla over the specifics of VAM (and SLO’s) is too often disconnected from the fact-based origin story on “how to cull herds of dairy cows to maximize their productivity.” VAMs and SLOs are designed to cull teachers based on their productivity in raising the test scores of their students.

Almost all of the accountability structures in education based on standardized test scores are designed to cull–select and discard–teachers who are not producing gains in test scores. In VAMs, test scores of students are not much different from measures of milk production, whether of individual teachers or the whole herd (school).

Some supporters of VAM’s are acting as if education geneticists. They seem to think that some teachers are destined to be more productive than others. They insist, for example, that Teach For America graduates with high GPA’s from selective colleges are good breeders of above average test scores in their students. Moreover, these potentially good breeders only need is a brief course in summer before they are ready to produce students who are high scorers on tests. That brief summer dose of instruction is analogous to providing artificial insemination in breeding females… or for males, perhaps a dose of Viagra.

VAMs and SLOs are flawed measured pushed by the Obama/Duncan administration’s Race to the Top. These measures are still present in many state ESSA plans. That may explain why Race to the Top testing resources are still available, even if developed under contract for Race to The Top by members of a “Reform Support Network.”

The Reform Support Network was nothing more than a huge marketing campaign for these flawed measures. Here, for example, is how they marketed SLOs as a substitute for subjects and grade levels for which there were no statewide standardized test scores for calculating VAM. One is the infamous collective measure where, as Diane notes, teachers “are assigned ratings for students they never taught in subjects they never taught.” https://www.engageny.org/sites/default/files/resource/attachments/rsn-slo-toolkit.pdf

The New York Times declared that its coverage of the pandemic would not be locked behind a paywall, so I’m assuming this article is available for free use.

It focuses on the fight to contain the virus in Harris County (Houston). One obstacle is the defunding of public health services in this country, which left us unprepared for the pandemic. Another obstacle is the actions of politicians who follow Trump’s lead and minimize the danger to the public. A third obstacle is the stubborn refusal of a large minority who insist on their “right” to do what they want without regard to the community.

This combination has crippled the nation’s response to the pandemic and will cost many thousands of lives.

This story appeared in the Washington Post. This refusal to follow medical advice will continue to spread the disease and cause unnecessary deaths. The world is watching our rudderless response to the pandemic and feeling sorry for us. Why ask a doctor for her best advice in a dire situation and then ignore it?

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) said Monday that he has no plans to close bars and curb indoor dining — minutes after White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx recommended those measures at a joint news conference with the governor.

Saying that the coronavirus situation in Tennessee was at an “inflection point,” Birx said Monday that diligence and targeted business restrictions statewide could have an effect on a par with a stay-at-home order.

“We can change the future of this virus in this state today,” she said. “If we continue to social-distance, if every mayor throughout this great state would mandate masks, close the bars and substantially increase indoor dining distancing, together we can get through this.”

But when Lee took the microphone later, he said there are currently no plans to close bars or limit dining. Some mayors can shutter businesses on their own, but the vast majority of Tennessee’s county health departments fall under Lee’s purview, the Tennessean reports.

“I’ve said from the very beginning of this pandemic that there’s nothing off the table,” Lee said after a reporter brought up the issue. “I’ve also said that we are not going to close the economy back down, and we are not going to.”

“But I appreciate their recommendations and we take them seriously,” he said, after thanking Birx for visiting his state and saying there were “productive meetings” about education plans and strategies to encourage mask-wearing, among other topics.

Lee has also declined to issue a statewide mask order, though he promoted their effectiveness Monday, and Birx said Monday that she believes the governor has a “sound strategy” and supports local officials taking the lead. Birx appealed to the mayors of rural counties in particular to mandate face coverings, saying that a majority of counties in Tennessee require them but that “we need 100 percent.”

On another front in the battle against COVID-19, the head of Baltimore’s Intensive Care Unit died of the virus.

Joseph J. Costa, chief of the hospital’s Critical Care Division, died about 4:45 a.m. Saturday in the same ICU he supervised. He was attended by his partner of 28 years and about 20 staff members, who placed their hands on him as he died. Costa was 56.

Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia has boldly asserted his claim to be the dumbest governor in the nation. This makes Florida Governor Ron DeSantis very unhappy, as he claims that title.

Kemp suspended all local laws and orders that mandate mask-wearing as the number of coronavirus cases rise in Georgia. He “encouraged” people to wear masks, but no mandates permitted.

Bob Shepherd explains why Florida is miffed:

 

FROM: the law offices of A. Wayne Kerr, Esq.

TO: The State of Georgia

OK. We here in Flor-uh-duh are not happy. We’ve spent years, literally, building our reputation as the dumbest state in the union. We’ve built rope swings over pits of alligators. We’ve worn “Seriously, I have drugs” T-shirts when we were carrying drugs. We’ve organized people to shoot down hurricanes. We’ve claimed in court that we weren’t drinking and driving because we only swigged alcohol at stop signs. We’ve committed criminal assault with fried chicken. We’ve passed resolutions banning Satan from our towns. We’ve committed armed robbery with transparent bags on our heads. We’ve elected Ron DeSantis our governor. We’ve passed stand your ground laws. We’ve driven on highways with a “Car in Toe” sign in the back window. And we’ve issued an order to open all our schools to full in-person instruction on the very day that we set a national record for new cases of Covid-19.

In short, we have worked extremely hard to build the brand of Flor-uh-duh Man. Now, the state of Georgia thinks it can capriciously encroach on our brand by rescinding its order to wear masks in public during the pandemic. This cannot stand. Please cease and desist from further stupid.

Thank you.