This week marks the third anniversary of Citizens United v. FEC, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that opened the floodgates to money in politics.
A picture is worth a thousand words. So ‘nuff said.
For information on how you can get money out and voters in, please visit Money Out/Voters In. An engaged citizenry will ensure that mo’ money will only bring mo’ problems for the fat cats who are undermining our democracy.
There is a STEM crisis in the United States. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. The U.S. ranks 25th in math and 17th in science among the 65 countries participating in PISA, the Program for International Student Assessment.
The STEM crisis is exacerbated by the shifting demographics. Whites make up 73 percent of the STEM workforce. Blacks and Latinos, who represent 28 percent of the U.S. population, make up only seven percent of STEM workers.
Over the holidays, I watched a documentary about American aviation. During World War II, there was a shortage of white male workers. Black workers were excluded from all but menial jobs. So the government, with the help of advertising agencies, gave factory jobs a makeover. And then the light bulb went off: The iconic Rosie the Riveter was a STEM worker!
One of the most popular versions of “Rosie the Riveter” was recorded by the Four Vagabonds.
Popular culture was used to encourage women to pursue “man-size” jobs.
The propaganda campaign worked. White women poured into factories and produced munitions and war supplies. The wartime workforce demographics also opened up opportunities for black women.
Fast forward to today. The shifting demographics and minority underrepresentation in STEM fields threaten our global competitiveness and national security. To borrow a phrase from President Obama’s election night speech, “We have to fix that.” To do so, we should go back to the future and give STEM a makeover.
A report by the Bayer Corporation found that one of the leading causes of minority underrepresentation is the prevalence of stereotypes that say STEM isn’t for minorities. Singer-songwriter will.i.am is determined to fix that. He recently observed:
I am trying to encourage kids to do something that isn’t yet on their mind because it is not in popular culture. Popular culture tells you “music, music, sports, sports.” It neglects the importance of a STEM education.
An innovator, will.i.am is rebranding STEM and making space history. For the first time, a recorded song was transmitted to Earth from another planet. His song, “Reach for the Stars,” was beamed down from the Mars Curiosity rover to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. How cool is that?
Hip hop icon GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan has teamed up with Columbia Teachers College professor Christopher Emdin and the website Rap Genius to use hip hop to teach science. They have created a contest, Science Genius BATTLES (Bringing Attention to Transforming Teaching, Learning and Engagement in Science), that requires students to write science-based raps.
At the launch of the pilot project, GZA said:
I am here not as a teacher, nor expert, nor genius. But I’m here as a science enthusiast who wants to inspire New York City public high school students to get excited about biology, chemistry and physics.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know the current approaches to STEM education are not working. According to the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress, only four percent of African American 12th graders were proficient in science. By contrast, 27 percent of white seniors and 36 percent of Asian American seniors performed at or above the proficient level.
GZA and will.i.am are bringing attention to the crisis and connecting STEM to students’ interests. At the same time, they are giving STEM a much-needed makeover.
On the eve of Independence Day, Pennsylvania announced that 758,939 registered voters, including 186,830 voters in Philadelphia, do not have a PennDOT ID.
The state plans to spend $5 million in Help America Vote (HAVA) funds “on educating voters with regard to voting procedures relating to the recently enacted House Bill 934, which imposes a new requirement for voters to present photo identification at the polls, beginning with the November 2012 General Election.”
In the run-up to the April 24 primary election, the Bravo Group proposed PSAs to educate voters about the new photo ID requirement. The videos show a stunning disconnect with the voters who would be blocked from voting by the restrictive photo ID requirement.
The Bravo Group has since been awarded a $250,000 contract to develop the “Community Outreach and Public Relations portion of the 2012 General Election Voter Education Media Campaign.” The contract was awarded under an “expedited RFP” in arguable violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The book reportedly tells how three stooges appointees – former White House Chief of Rahm Emanuel, former Director of the National Economic Council Larry Summers and Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner – “hijacked” the Obama presidency.
Frank Rich and Adam Moss of New York Magazine received an advance copy. Here’s what they had to say:
Adam: Hi, Frank. So there’s a little commotion about this new book Confidence Men, by Ron Suskind, which is being published on Tuesday. And as it happens, you and I have actually read it! So let’s talk about that this week. To give readers a super-fast overview, it’s a book, essentially, about Obama’s economic team during his first two years in office. The news of the book, according to some reports, is that Tim Geithner was insubordinate to the president, pursuing his own pro-banker agenda. Or, according to other reports, that Larry Summers was insubordinate to the president, pursuing his own — well, monomaniacal agenda. I’d add that it’s also about Rahm Emanuel being insubordinate to the president, just because. Basically, it’s about the presidency being hijacked by these three guys. And the guys thing is important because they’re pretty awful to women. Anyway, they’re the villains. Paul Volcker, Christina Romer, and Elizabeth Warren are the heroes. Bankers win, America loses. Did I get that right?
Frank: Hi, Adam, and yes, you did! I would point out that among the other heroes are more women (Sheila Bair, Brooksley Born, Maria Cantwell) and at least one man, the Princeton economist Alan Krueger, who also seems to be a serious Suskind source and who has now returned to the White House to succeed Austan Goolsbee and Romer as head of the Council of Economic Advisers. Not that that will do any good. I think the portrait of Geithner is devastating — his countermanding of the president’s wishes to make a Wall Street object lesson of Citigroup, his nasty “Elizabeth Warren strategy” to silence and neuter the administration’s rare genuine reformer. And yet Geithner is the only member of the original economic team still standing in the White House, poised to countermand any other rare independent voice that might yet speak up, like Krueger’s.
A: You think the portrait of Geithner is more devastating than the one of Summers? I guess. In that instance you cite, Obama asks to put the dissolving of Citibank on the table, and Geithner simply ignores him, “walking back” the decision, in political parlance. More insidiously, he creates the framework, borrowed from Hippocrates, of “first, do no harm,” which effectively cuts off any bold reforms for fear of their potential effects on the market. But Summers is portrayed as an egotistical nut job, single-mindedly determined to get Bernanke’s job; when he doesn’t get it, he goes bananas. He is supposed to be a conduit for the collective advice of the team, but undermines his colleagues, only passing along advice and information that supports his positions. I was kind of stunned how many officials were willing to go on the record against him.
Peter Orszag relays this eviscerating quote that Summers said to him about Obama during the worst of the economic distress. According to Orszag, Summers says, “You know, Peter we’re really home alone. There’s no adult in charge. Clinton would never have made these mistakes.” Later, Orszag says to Suskind, “Larry just didn’t think the president knew what he was deciding. Was this [obstruction of the president’s wishes] outright and willful?” In other words, asks Orszag, was Summers saying, “I know more than the president flat-out? That strikes me as ... likely.” In an amazing memo, Pete Rouse, who would replace Emanuel temporarily as chief of staff, recommends firing Summers for “Larry’s imperious and heavy-handed direction of the economic policy process.” Romer says Summers made her feel “like a piece of meat.”
In the end, nobody’s talking to Summers — not even his crony Geithner. Furious that Geithner didn’t recommend him for Bernanke’s job, he stands Geithner up at a dinner for all the former Treasury secretaries — Summers is the only living former secretary not there. Geithner says, “Larry would rather be in Davos than at dinner with me.” At least according to Suskind, the only person who could stand Summers was Obama, which — in Suskind’s telling — was a misjudgment that had a rather profound effect on the first chunk of Obama’s presidency.