Postage stamp tempest: Why can’t the U.S. have scandals like this?

July 15, 2013

Hey, David Dewhurst:  Do you really think the women who opposed your oppression of them were out of line?  None of them has said you must lick her derriére.

Here’s how they do it in Europe; from The Guardian:

Femen-inspired postage stamp angers French right

Designers say youthful depiction of Marianne for new stamp was partially inspired by Femen founder Inna Shevchenko

You know enough about France from your world history class to know that the nation has, for decades, used an image of a woman as their symbol of liberty (“liberté“).  For obscure reasons, the French have come to call their Liberty, Marianne.  Her image appears on coins, stamps, and wherever else an image can be used.  Most often an artist uses a beautiful French woman — Catherine Deneuve was the model for years — but about as often the name of the model is more obscure.  This is the first time anyone has said a non-French woman might be the model, though the woman named is living in France now, as a refugee from the Ukraine.

Francois Hollande at the unveiling of the new Marianne stamp. Photograph: Francois Mori/AFP/Getty Images

Francois Hollande at the unveiling of the new Marianne stamp. Photograph: Francois Mori/AFP/Getty Images

 

It was supposed to be a straightforward new postage stamp to mark François Hollande’s presidency: a more youthful depiction of Marianne, the feminine symbol of the French Republic, reflecting the Socialist president’s promise to help the younger generation.

Instead, the portrait has sparked a spat on the political right after one of its designers said it was partially inspired by Inna Shevchenko, a leading member of the feminist activist group Femen.

The designers, David Kawena and Olivier Ciappa, had previously said their inspirations ran from the Renaissance to French comic strips and Japanese manga. But after the stamp’s launch on Sunday, Ciappa tweeted: “For all those who are asking who the model was for Marianne, it’s a mix of several women, but above all Inna Shevchenko, founder of Femen.”

Probably the most famous image comes from the painting by Eugene Delacroix, Liberty Leading the Nation:

Eugene Delcroix's paiting, Liberty Leading the Nation,

Eugene Delacroix’s paiting, Liberty Leading the Nation, commemorating the 1830 uprising against the French King. That’s “Marianne” holding the flag.

That painting is in a division of the Louvre; it was defaced just this past February, in an odd September 11 protest, by a wacko who insisted the attacks on the World Trade Center and the United States were government-sponsored.   But I digress.

Christine Boutin, a former minister under Nicolas Sarkozy and founder of the Christian Democrat party, tweeted her disgust and her party called for a boycott of “this outrageous stamp”, saying it was an attack “on the dignity of women and the sovereignty of France” and should immediately be withdrawn.

Inna Shevchenko, a member of the women's rights group Femen. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters

Inna Shevchenko, a member of the women’s rights group Femen. Photograph: Charles Platiau/Reuters

Femen, which often stages topless street protests, was started in Ukraine but is now based in Paris after Shevchenko was granted political asylum following outrage at her felling of a giant cross in Ukraine in support of the Russian band Pussy Riot.

Femen’s most high-profile protests in France have targeted the street demonstrations against same-sex marriage. It also recently staged an anti-fascist protest in Notre Dame cathedral and attempted to ambush the French president at an airshow.

Ciappa, whose exhibition of photographs of imagined gay couples was vandalised in Paris the anti same-sex marriage protests, wrote on Facebook on Monday that he had received “messages of threats and hatred” against him on Twitter, “some violent and some funny, such as Christine Boutin’s call to boycott my stamp”.

Yeah, but here’s the money line:

Shevchenko tweeted: “Femen is on French stamp. Now all homophobes, extremists, fascists will have to lick my ass when they want to send a letter.”

Several French artists have designed different Mariannes for French stamps, but this is thought to be the first inspired in part by a woman who isn’t French.

I have some bad news, perhaps, for U.S radical right-wing wackoes:  I understand that the model for the French symbol of Liberty, Marianne, was really Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis.   The artist was seeking a model who demonstrated the French ideal of a woman standing up to lead her nation against the supposed juggernaut of Fascist oppression and repression.  President Hollande is fearful of noting that, however, because he doesn’t want Texas Gov. Rick Perry to make a trip to France to poach businesses to move to Texas.

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis reading documents at her Senate desk, in the photo perhaps used as a model for the new Marianne.

Texas State Sen. Wendy Davis reading documents at her Senate desk, in the photo perhaps used as a model for the new Marianne.

Hollande doesn’t fear any businesses would actually relocate from France to Paris; he just doesn’t want to waste any good French cheese or wine on a visiting Rick Perry.

In other Austin rumors, according to my sources at the groseille à l’oignon,  the Texas Republic asked France for rights to the image for their own anti-State of Texas postage stamps just to tick off Rick Perry and the FBI, and the Texas Tea Party is considering using Marianne as their image on their stationery, posters and bumper stickers.  If only they knew.

In the end, we have an entirely pointless, postage stamp tempest, with an artist sneaking in as a model a topless protester to play the role of the top-slipping symbol of French liberty, and typical French insouciance in arguments.  You know darn well that Harry Reid would love to use that line Ms. Schevchenko Tweeted — and so would Wendy Davis, and Rick Perry, and Joe Biden, and even Orrin Hatch.

Maybe all they have to do is pose topless, protesting some infringement on freedom.  Would they do that, even for freedom?

More:

Delcroix's painting on display in Lens, France, earlier in 2013.  Foreign Policy image.

Delcroix’s painting on display in Lens, France, earlier in 2013. Foreign Policy image.

The 2008 version of Marianne, under President Sarkozsy.

The 2008 version of Marianne, under President Sarkozsy. This is the immediate predecessor of the 2013 version.

1945 version of Marianne

From Stampboards.com: “Marianne” is a national emblem of France and an allegory of Liberty and Reason. She has been portrayed in various ways on a number of stamps issued by France over the years, often wearing a Phrygian cap, symbolic of Liberty. Here is an image of a stamp featuring my favorite version of her: the “Grande Marianne de Gandon,” designed and engraved by Pierre Gandon, and issued by France on March 12, 1945, Scott No. 556, Y&T No. 733.

Bust of Marianne sculpted by Théodore Doriot, in the French Senate.

Bust of Marianne sculpted by Théodore Doriot, in the French Senate.

 


More GOP election fraud

September 27, 2012

Palm Beach, Fla., elections supervisor received 108 potentially fraudulent voter reg forms from firm w ties to RNC nbcnews.to/QXMDdr

Of course, voter ID laws won’t touch this stuff, so the GOP tries to run with it until they get caught.

Romney Ryan GODV Plan - Get Out! Don't Vote!

Romney Ryan GODV Plan – Get Out! Don’t Vote! (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

More:


Teacher ratings can’t tell good teachers from bad ones – back to the drawing board?

March 4, 2012

Corporate and business people who have lived through serious quality improvement programs, especially those based on hard statistical analysis of procedures and products in a manufacturing plant, know the great truths drilled by such high-quality statistical gurus as W. Edwards DemingThe fault, dear Brutus, is not in the teacher, but in the processes generally beyond the teacher’s control.

Here’s the shortest video I could find on Deming’s 14 Points for Management — see especially point #14, about eliminating annual “performance reviews,” because as Dr. Deming frequently demonstrated, the problems that prevent outstanding success are problems of the system, and are beyond the control of the frontline employees (teachers, in this case).  I offer this here only for the record, since it’s a rather dull presentation.  I find, however, especially among education administrators, that these well-established methods for creating champion performance in an organization are foreign to most Americans.  Santayana’s Ghost is constatly amazed at what we refuse to learn.

Wise words from the saviors of business did not give even a moment’s pause to those who think that we can improve education if we could only get out those conniving, bad teachers, who block our children’s learning.  Since the early Bush administration and the passage of the nefarious, so-called No Child Left Behind Act, politicians pushed for new measures to catch teachers “failing,” and so to thin the ranks of teachers.  Bill Gates, the great philanthropist, put millions of dollars in to projects in Washington, D.C., Dallas, and other districts, to come up with a way to statistically measure who are the good teachers, the ones who “add value” to a kid’s education year over year.

It was a massive experiment, running in fits and spurts for more than a decade. We have the details from two of America’s most vaunted and haunted school districts, Washington, D.C., and New York City, plus Los Angeles and other sites, in projects funded by Bill Gates and others, and we can pass judgment on the value of the idea of identifying the bad apple teachers to get rid of them to improve education.

As an experiment, It failed.  After measuring teachers eight ways from Sunday for more than a decade, W. Edwards Deming was proved correct:  Management cannot identify the bad actors from the good ones.

Most of the time the bad teachers this year were good teachers last year, and vice versa, according to the measures used.

Firing the bad ones from this years only means next year’s good teachers are gone from the scene.

Data have been published in a few places, generally over complaints of teachers who don’t want to get labeled as “failures” when they know better.  Curiously, some of the promoters of the scheme also came out against publication.

A statistician could tell why.  When graphed, the points of data do not reveal good teachers who constantly add value to their students year after year, nor do the data put the limelight on bad teachers who fail to achieve goals year after year.  Instead, they reveal that what we think is a good teacher this year on the basis of test scores, may well have been a bad teacher on the same measures last year.  Worse, many of the “bad teachers” from previous had scores that rocketed up.  But the data don’t show any great consistency beyond chance.

So the post over at the blog of G. F. Brandenburg really caught my eye.  His calculations, graphed, show that these performance evaluations systems themselves do not perform as expected:  Here it is, “Now I understand why Bill Gates didn’t want the value-added data made public“:

It all makes sense now.

At first I was a bit surprised that Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee were opposed to publicizing the value-added data from New York City, Los Angeles, and other cities.

Could they be experiencing twinges of a bad conscience?

No way.

That’s not it. Nor do these educational Deformers think that value-added mysticism is nonsense. They think it’s wonderful and that teachers’ ability to retain their jobs and earn bonuses or warnings should largely depend on it.

The problem, for them, is that they don’t want the public to see for themselves that it’s a complete and utter crock. Nor to see the little man behind the curtain.

I present evidence of the fallacy of depending on “value-added” measurements in yet another graph — this time using what NYCPS says is the actual value-added scores of all of the many thousands of elementary school teachers for whom they have such value-added scores in the school years that ended in 2006 and in 2007.

I was afraid that by using the percentile ranks as I did in my previous post, I might have exaggerated or distorted how bad “value added” really was.

No worries, mate – it’s even more embarrassing for the educational deformers this way.

In any introductory statistics course, you learn that a graph like the one below is a textbook case of “no correlation”. I had Excel draw a line of best fit anyway, and calculate an r-squared correlation coefficient. Its value? 0.057 — once again, just about as close to zero correlation as you are ever going to find in the real world.

In plain English, what that means is that there is essentially no such thing as a teacher who is consistently wonderful (or awful) on this extremely complicated measurement scheme. How teacher X does one year in “value-added” in no way allows anybody to predict how teacher X will do the next year. They could do much worse, they could do much better, they could do about the same.

Even I find this to be an amazing revelation. What about you?

And to think that I’m not making any of this up. (unlike Michelle Rhee, who loves to invent statistics and “facts”.)

You should also see his earlier posts, “Gary Rubenstein is right, no correlation on value-added scores in New York city,” and “Gary Rubenstein demonstrates that the NYC ‘value-added’ measurements are insane.”

In summary, many of our largest school systems have spent millions of dollars for a tool to help them find the “bad teachers” to fire, and the tools not only do not work, but may lead to the firing of good teachers, cutting off the legs of the campaign to get better education.

It’s a scandal, really, or an unrolling series of scandals.  Just try to find someone reporting it that way.  Is anyone?

More, Resources:


Tea Partiers slip into “elite lifestyle,” with parties and aides to do everything . . .

December 20, 2011

From the venerable and regenerated Capitol Hill journal Roll Call:

Heard on the Hill: Steven Palazzo’s Staffers Tapped for Odd Jobs

Covering the office of Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) has almost become a job unto itself for HOH. There are his staffers’ wild parties in Annapolis, the fallout of which involved pecans. There are his Mississippi accounting firm’s interesting ownership and business classification issues. And now there are his, or more specifically his staffers’, adventures in odd jobs.

Sources close to the office revealed that Palazzo and his wife, Lisa, used at least two staffers as de facto babysitters here in Washington and tapped federal employees to help the family move into a new apartment.

House ethics rules prohibit Members of Congress from using staffers for their “personal benefit” — see the farmer-staffer program of ex-Rep. Jim Traficant (D-Ohio) — though some personal tasks, such as picking up dry cleaning, can occasionally be categorized as official business.

One former aide apparently logged about 40 hours helping the Palazzos relocate from Capitol Hill to Penn Quarter in August. That time was spent moving and arranging the Palazzo personal effects as well as pingponging between the new apartment and home-decorating stores at the behest of Lisa Palazzo.

Palazzo aides confirmed that fellow staffers participated in the move but maintain those involved were compensated for their time from the Palazzos’ personal accounts.

During the course of a month, “the employees worked nine and 15 hours [during work days] respectively,” Palazzo Deputy Chief of Staff Hunter Lipscomb asserted. According to Lipscomb, the then-office manager and Lisa Palazzo calculated the staffers’ hourly wages to be $16.83 an hour. The office deducted $151.47 and $252.45 from the respective staffers’ paychecks to account for the Congressional work hours lost.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the office budget manager, who has over twenty years of Congressional pay roll experience, recommended the strict following of standard Pay Roll Office practice of reducing pay and reimbursing with personal funds for work voluntarily done by the two former staffers during office hours. Any out of pocket expenses incurred have been reimbursed to the former staffers and they were compensated with personal funds for any additional after hour voluntary work. The office fully followed the recommendation of the office budget manager and has been in consultation with the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer to ensure total compliance,” Palazzo Chief of Staff Jamie Miller explained in an email statement.

At least one staffer acknowledged receiving a check from the Palazzos in October.

Whether any money changed hands for untold hours of babysitting remains in question.

Sources say that during the summer, the three Palazzo children were chauffeured to the weeks-long Capitol Experience Camp in the Cannon House Office Building — where Palazzo’s office is located ­— by a staffer each morning. After camp let out, a staffer — sometimes two — would collect the children and then return them home. Aides would routinely bathe and feed the children, chaperone them at the pool or movies and eventually put them to bed.

By all accounts, Palazzo covered all meals and extracurricular activities. The office insists staffers were also paid in cash for their lost personal time, a claim at least one babysitter refuted.

WarrenRojas@cqrollcall.com | @WARojas
NedaSemnani@rollcall.com | @neda_semnani

So now we know:  What will Tea Party people do to bring government closer to the people when they get elected?  They won’t do anything, but, perhaps, suggest the people should eat cake.  That could be the new Tea Party bumper sticker:  “Let them eat cake!”

Will the Tea Party complain? I wouldn’t bet on it.  It’s a “party” after all, right?

Will the news even make it back to Mississippi?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Sojourner Jim Stanley.


Rick Perry is the new Corrupt Bargain

November 1, 2010

The fiercely independent Democratic Blog of Collin County compiled a series of Burnt Orange Report posts that make the case that Rick Perry should be retired from the governorship, at a bare minimum.

Will voters wake up before Tuesday, and do the right thing?

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption

From the BOR:

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Texas’ Dropout Crisis

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Texas Forensic Science Commission

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Ethics Complaints

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Emerging Technology Fund

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Political Appointees

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Secret Schedules

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: The $500,000 Land Deal

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Texas Youth Commission

Rick Perry’s Cover-Up and Corruption: Teacher Retirement System

Rick Perry to Launch National Book Tour, Won’t Commit to Full Term as Governor

Bonus points if you know off the top of your head where “corrupt bargain” plays in U.S. political history.


Wegman Scandal: Attack on climate scientists based on shoddy scholarship

October 4, 2010

John Mashey assembled a massive document that nails down the case that bad science and politics make the complaints against scientists and the science that indicates global warming occurs, and can be attributed to greenhouse gases.  It is a scandal, though it’s unlikely to be reported that way.

Mashey’s entire paper — and it’s very, very large — is published at Deep Climate.

Mashey’s paper indicts staff work done for Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas — not that any of the voters in Barton’s district will let this major breach of ethics sway their votes, but those who want to vote against him can be gratified that they are on the moral side of the ballot.

Mashey wrote:

This report offers a detailed study of the “Wegman Report”: Edward J. Wegman, David W. Scott, Yasmin H. Said, “AD HOC COMMITTEE REPORT ON THE ‘HOCKEY STICK’ GLOBAL CLIMATE RECONSTRUCTION”(2006).

It has been key prop of climate anti-science ever since. It was promoted to Congress by Representatives Joe Barton and Ed Whitfield as “independent, impartial, expert” work by a team of “eminent statisticians.” It was none of those.

A Barton staffer provided much of the source material to the Wegman team. The report itself contains numerous cases of obvious bias, as do process, testimony and follow-on actions. Of 91 pages, 35 are mostly plagiarized text, but often injected with errors, bias and changes of meaning. Its Bibliography is mostly padding, 50% of the references uncited in the text.  Many references are irrelevant or dubious.  The team relied heavily on a long-obsolete sketch and very likely on various uncredited sources. Much of the work was done by Said (then less than 1 year post-PhD) and by students several years pre-PhD. The (distinguished) 2nd author Scott wrote only a 3-page standard mathematical Appendix.  Some commenters were surprised to be later named as serious “reviewers.”  Comments were often ignored anyway.  People were misused.

The Wegman Report claimed two missions: #1 evaluate statistical issues of the “hockey stick” temperature graph,  and #2 assess potential peer review issues in climate science.  For #1, the team might have been able to do a peer-review-grade statistical analysis, but in 91 pages managed not to do so.  For  #2, a credible assessment needed a senior, multidisciplinary panel, not a statistics professor and his students, demonstrably unfamiliar with the science and as a team, unqualified for that task.   Instead, they made an odd excursion into “social network analysis,” a discipline  in which they lacked experience, but used poorly to make baseless claims of potential wrongdoing.

In retrospect, the real missions were: #1 claim the “hockey stick” broken and #2 discredit climate science as a whole. All this was a facade for a PR campaign well-honed by Washington, DC “think tanks” and allies, underway for years.

Now, if only Mashey had some e-mails stolen from Joe Barton, we could get some traction on the issue, eh?  ::wink-wink, nudge-nudge::

One may wonder what it will take to rehabilitate the skeptical side of the debate, to the point that they contribute more than mau-mauing.

Mashey’s paper makes that case that Joe Barton worked hard to pull off a great, hoaxed political smear, with a high degree of success.  Who will have the backbone to do anything about it?  Global cooling will proceed to the next ice age before any Republican shows backbone, I predict.

But, how long before the Fort Worth Star-Telegram or the Dallas Morning News picks up the story?

Other Texas bloggers?  Anyone?

It’s not an air-tight legal brief (I could quibble with some of the legal material), but in a better world, a world where politicians actually do good politics and public servants do public service, the House Rules Committee and Ethics Committee would be reading Mashey’s piece, and asking pointed questions.  U.S. attorneys in Washington, D.C., and the Northern District of Texas, would also be downloading Mashey’s piece, and puzzling it out.  Journalists in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Galveston and Houston in Texas, and Washington, D.C., and New York, would also be poring over the piece.  Ken Cuccinelli in Virginia would also be paying attention to it, if he were concerned about justice.

More (watch for updates):


Stolen e-mails report: Scientists in the clear, science solid

July 7, 2010

So far it’s a shut out against the “skeptics” of global warming.*

From Science Insider (the AAAS breaking news blog):

The fifth and, so far, most thorough major investigation into the published mails from the University of East Angia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) has given the CRU a relatively clean bill of health. (See the full report.) The independent inquiry into so-called “Climategate”, instigated by UEA and headed by former civil servant Muir Russell, examined the conduct of the CRU scientists following allegations sparked by the so-called “Climategate” e-mails. It looked at selective use of data, subverting of peer review, and failure to respond fully to requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

The report was unequivocal in its backing of the scientists in terms of research integrity, though it did criticize their openness. “Their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt,” it said. In response to the assertion that CRU had withheld data, the report found that it was mostly not theirs to withhold but was easily accessible in public databases. One of the report’s authors, physicist Peter Clarke of the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom, told a press briefing today that they were able to download the relevant data “in a few minutes” and then process it in the same way as CRU had done, producing similar final results. “It took a couple of days of code writing,” he said. The authors found no evidence of bias by CRU in its selection of data. Allegations of misuse of tree ring data were also put aside.

Some of the 1000 e-mails that appeared on the Internet suggested that CRU Director Phil Jones had tried to influence peer review of papers he disagreed with and prevented them from being cited by reviews of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

On the subject of peer review, Russell said that expressing “robust opinions [about papers] was typical during peer review.” And after consulting with editors of the IPCC report, the panel concluded that the CRU scientists were “parts of teams and not individuals responsible for the wording of the reports,” Russell says.

Where the CRU scientists did fall down was in their openness to requests for data. “There was a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness,” Russell says. And the report criticizes UEA for failing to recognize its statutory requirements under the FOIA and also the risk to the reputation of the university and to the credibility of U.K. climate science. Panel member James Norton said that “now more than ever scientists need to be open. Scientists don’t own their own data and at most have a temporary lease.”

More:

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*  They’ve complained about being called denialists — maybe we should start calling them “gullibles,” especially since they seized on the thin reed of these stolen e-mails to claim that the victimized scientists were the ones who had done something wrong, since they fell for the fourth-grade science project hoax, and since they fell for the Spanish bomb-in-the-mail hoax.


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