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January 05, 2013 9:46 AM Saturday Morning Reads

By Samuel Knight

Here are some noteworthy non Fiscal Cliff (you’re welcome) related articles:

-President Obama said on Thursday that he would attempt to sidestep whistleblower protection provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013. The stipulations would extend safeguards to federal contractors who report waste, fraud and abuse. The Huffington Post’s Ryan Reilly reported that Claire McCaskill, a prominent champion of the provisions, wasn’t even made aware of the White House’s objections prior to the President’s signing statement.

-The Independent reported that Shell Oil’s failed attempt to move an offshore oil rig from Alaska to Seattle was part of an effort to exploit a tax loophole. Had the move gone off without a hitch, Shell would have saved up to $7 million in taxes, according to a local Alaskan official. The rig ran aground off the Alaskan coast on New Year’s Eve. It hasn’t yet spilled any fuel.

-According to The Washington Post, a forthcoming Frontline documentary about former Washington DC public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee sheds light on a scandal that raised questions about the efficacy of her reforms. The documentary contains an interview with Adell Cothorne, a former principal at a school where teachers tampered with high stakes standardized tests to appear more capable according to metrics championed by Rhee. Cothorne said that city officials investigating the matter never even spoke to her, theorizing that “they didn’t want to hear what I had to say.”

The New York Times has profiled the modest lifestyle of Uruguay’s President, Jose Mujica, who “shunned the opulent Suarez y Reyes presidential mansion, with its staff of 42, remaining instead in the home where he and his wife have lived for years, on a plot of land where they grow chrysanthemums for sale in local markets.” The Times paints Mujica’s lifestyle as sort of a humdrum radicalism: “We have done everything possible to make the presidency less venerated,” he said. A former guerrilla who spent over ten years in solitary, Mujica has overseen a government that has legalized marijuana and same-sex marriage, extended reproductive health rights and has encouraged investment in renewable energy.

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.

Comments

  • c u n d gulag on January 05, 2013 10:41 AM:

    Hmm...
    Jose Mujica, huh?
    Sounds good to me!

    Are we sure the US Constitution doesn't say that someone has to be born in "The America's?"

    As for Ms. Rhee, she is nothing but a grifter who chose to make her ill-gotten fortune on the future of this nation's youth.

    She is a shameless hack, who needs to be reviled whenever the opportunity presents itself. And, that reviling need not be dry. She deserves to be publically "spit" upon, and should 'expectorate' no less.

  • meander on January 05, 2013 11:16 AM:

    Another example of loophole exploitation is the train that crossed the U.S.-Canada border multiple times to get biofuel tax credits. The CBC:

    [begin quote]
    The mystery of the trainload of biodiesel that crossed back and forth across the Sarnia-Port Huron border without ever unloading its cargo, as reported by CBC News, has been solved.

    CBC News received several tips after a recent story about a company shipping the same load of biodiesel back and forth by CN Rail at a cost of $2.6 million in the summer of 2010. It turns out the shipments were part of a deal by a Toronto-based company, which made several million dollars importing and exporting the fuel to exploit a loophole in a U.S. green energy program. [end quote]

  • CRhetts on January 05, 2013 11:42 AM:

    You would have to be a complete idiot to conclude the miracle improvements in test scores during Ms Rhee's tenure were not the artificial result of tampering. Investigators found that, as a rule, the schools with the greatest improvements in test scores also experienced, on an impressive scale, the greatest number of erasures (and changed answers) on tests.

    In 2009, one class at Noyes averaged almost 13 erasures per student, as compared to a city wide average of less than one per student. To say this did not indicate cheating is like pointing to a bullet riddled body and claiming the victim died of natural causes. However, that was EXACTLY Ms. Rhee's response.

    No one is arguing that many of our failing schools would benefit from better management. Ms. Rhee's approach however, was rash, high-handed and unrealistic. A lot of the teachers who lost their jobs during that debacle were in fact dedicated professionals whose only fault was that they refused to alter test scores - and the biggest losers were the students.

    What galls me most is that Michelle Rhee has taken her self-confirming dog and pony show on the road and other school systems have bought into her magic cures.

    Genuine, effective reform in education is possible through mature, thoughtful partnerships between private and public interests. Ms. Rhee's D.C. experience is a case study in how NOT to establish them.

  • c u n d gulag on January 05, 2013 11:56 AM:

    Hmm...
    Jose Mujica, huh?
    Sounds good to me!

    Are we sure the US Constitution doesn't say that someone has to be born in "The America's?"

    As for Ms. Rhee, she is nothing but a grifter who chose to make her ill-gotten fortune on the future of this nation's youth.

    She is a shameless hack, who needs to be reviled whenever the opportunity presents itself. And, that reviling need not be dry. She deserves to be publically "spit" upon, and should 'expectorate' no less.

  • c u n d gulag on January 05, 2013 12:07 PM:

    Don't ask me why my same comment appeared twice.

    I don't know.
    I took the trash to the dump, then went to the library, and when I came back, and my comment was still lingering, so I typed in the new CRAPTCHA, and hit "Post."

  • Rick B on January 05, 2013 4:47 PM:

    c u n d

    My bet is that you posted, backed up one screen instead of two, went out and when you came back you were on the edit screen from before it posted the first time. If you then to the Captcha Crap and hit post you will duplicate what was posted the first time. Yeah, I've done that.

    The screen you edit on does not disappear when you post it. You can hit the back button and go right back to the edit screen and post it twice (or revise it and post the revised version) quite easily.

    I read the post and went to drop my pearls of wisdom, got to comments and there they were under your name. Twice even. I must be getting slow in my old age. No more cries of "Frist." [History, children, history.]

  • Doug on January 05, 2013 5:34 PM:

    re whistleblowers:

    I read the Huffington Post article and found these remarks by Jackie Speier (D-CA) intriguing:
    "Congress has the authority and responsibility to oversee the operations of the executive branch. It is our duty to ensure the laws we create are faithfully executed, and that taxpayer dollars are used responsibly...Without whistleblowers, Congress cannot effectively perform our constitutionally implied oversight obligations."
    Where in the Constitution does it say that Congress cannot include in any spending legislation a requirement for periodical updates on how that spending was done? Barring that, I do believe Congressional committees have the right to subpoena information AND people to appear before those committees.
    Can't perform their job without whistleblowers? Sounds more as if it's a case of "Whaddaya mean, ANOTHER committee meeting?"...

  • emjayay on January 05, 2013 7:39 PM:

    MODERATOR ALERT!!!!!!

    Why does a stupid spam post (11:44 am) stay up for eight hours? How hard is it for someone to read the usual low number of posts on this blog once in awhile and delete the spam?

    Back before the dreaded Captcha this was the norm for this blog - apparently complete inattention to spam. Now only a few get through, but they are similarly ignored by any real human or programmed moderator.