The Spectacle Blog

Common Core’s Blue Screen of Death

By on 6.29.15 | 4:50PM

The New Hampshire-based company Measured Progress, which developed online Common Core tests used in Montana, Nevada, and North Dakota, has acknowledged a major problem with the test’s rollout.

Technical malfunctions, such as servers crashing during testing, resulted in only 37 percent of Nevada students being able to take their exams. Montana and North Dakota only managed to test 76 percent and 84 percent of students online, respectively.

Though Measured Progress admits the online test completion rate in all three states failed to meet the federal mandate of at least 95 percent of 3rd through 8th graders, the company denies any breach of contract. Measured Progress had the task of rolling out the Common Core-aligned Smarter Balanced assessments online for all three states. 

Neal McCluskey, director of the Center for Educational Freedom at the Cato Institute, says the testing complications are not surprising.

Supreme Court Derails EPA’s Anti-Coal Agenda

By on 6.29.15 | 4:45PM

After a string of disappointing Supreme Court rulings on social issues, conservatives are celebrating the court’s ruling against a major EPA rule forcing coal plants to shut down across the country.

In a 5 to 4 decision the Supreme Court ruled the EPA acted “unreasonably when it deemed cost irrelevant to the decision to regulate power plants” when crafting its Mercury Air Toxics Standard, or MATS, regulation improperly. The rule would limit mercury and other emissions from power plants at a cost of $9.6 billion a year to comply.

MATS had been challenged by the coal industry and 23 states who alleged the costs of the rule exceeded its benefits. Indeed, hundreds of coal-fired generators were being forced to close down because it was too costly to comply with MATS. The EPA and its environmental allies argued the rule would yield $36 billion in benefits — the court disagreed.

“No regulation is ‘appropriate’ if it does significantly more harm than good,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in the majority opinion.

Egypt’s Top Justice Official DEAD In Car Bombing

By on 6.29.15 | 4:41PM

Egypt’s prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat died Monday from injuries sustained in a car bombing that targeted his convoy while driving to work in Cairo.

Barakat was at the center of Egypt’s ongoing crackdown on perceived terrorist threats, especially those associated with supporters of deposed Muslim Brotherhood-aligned president Mohamed Morsi. Egypt’s robust anti-terrorism policies — including thousands of arrests, hundreds of death sentences and countless instances of purportedly infringed civil liberties — have flourished since President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi came to prominence in 2013.

At least seven others, including bystanders, were also hurt in Monday’s blast.

Bobby Jindal Is ‘Tired Of Hyphenated Americans’

By on 6.29.15 | 4:28PM

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is in Iowa this week and he is hitting in hard with three town hall appearances across the state and a new television ad where he tells Iowans how “tired of hyphenated Americans” he is.

“I’m tired of hyphenated Americans,” Jindal said in the ad. “We’re not Indian-Americans or African-Americans or Asian-Americans. We’re all Americans.”

Jindal goes on to describe his own immigrant parents and how, when they came to America, they did it because they wanted to be Americans.

“The folks who want to immigrate to America, they should do so legally, they should adopt our values, they should learn English and they should roll up their sleeves and get to work,” Jindal said.

WATCH:

Puerto Rico Edges to Default

By on 6.29.15 | 4:24PM

Greece is expected to default on its government debts tomorrow as its bailout package from the European Union (EU) expires. The country will also hold a referendum on Friday on whether to accept the latest round of terms from its EU funders. Greece continues to grab all the headlines, but there is another government closer to home that is in a similar situation: Puerto Rico. Over the weekend, the governor of the island announced that Puerto Rico is unable to repay its $70 billion in debt.

The Washington Post describes the situation:

REPORT: Why Public Sector Unions Can Easily Break The Law

By on 6.29.15 | 4:15PM

Focusing on Michigan, a report released Monday by The Mackinac Center makes the case that there are not adequate laws to stop public sector unions from engaging in illegal activities.

In many states, like Michigan, and the federal level, public sector union members can be charged hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year in union dues. Unfortunately, as the report “Bringing Financial Transparency to Michigan’s Public Sector Unions,” argues, public sector unions are not held to the same standard of transparency and accountability their private sector counterparts are.

“This means that public school employees, state and county workers and all the other unionized public employees in Michigan do not have access to detailed financial information about the union to which they pay dues,” the report noted.

John Kasich Is Running for President, Too

By on 6.29.15 | 1:11PM

At this point, if you've ever wanted to be President at any point in your life, up to (and including) that time in Kindergarten where you were asked to draw your future career and your teacher forced you to choose President because, it turns out, being a fire truck wasn't a real option, now is the time to declare your intention and file your official paperwork. The clown car still has some room for anyone willing to squeeze into the middle seat (Donald Trump isn't worried about you crushing his hair, anyway, since he says he'll debut a brand new 'do for his inevitable inauguration).

John Kasich, not content to restrict his moderate conservatism and spiceless personality to the boundaries of the state of Ohio, is the latest in a series of unliklies to take the plunge, despite no evidence that anyone knows who he is or cares that he's interested in being the Commander in Chief.

Hillary Clinton Edited, Withheld State Department Emails

By on 6.29.15 | 12:39PM

I'm tired of writing and reading about the Supreme Court, and I've seen so many rainbows this weekend I'm pretty sure I have resultant visual color fatigue issues. So let's move on to more interesting fare than whether or not the very foundations of our republic are crumbling - specifically, whether Hillary Clinton's famed cache of personal emails was as properly sorted, dying ambassadors from yoga schedules, as she claimed at her UN press conference.

It should surprise literally no one that a further investigation into Hillary Clinton's work email seems to demonstrate that the presumptive Democratic frontrunner might have taken some artistic liberties with the "work-related" communications she returned to the State Department after her tenure. By which I mean, she was extremely selective in what she submitted and may or may not have "selectively edited" a few key communications themselves.

Concluding Colorado’s GOP Chaos (I Hope)

By on 6.28.15 | 11:59PM

To my readers, acquaintances and friends who are involved with Colorado Republican politics, whether as participants or spectators:

The last couple of weeks have seen the Colorado Republican Party organize the most remarkable circular firing squad I’ve ever seen, even for an organization famous for them. I haven’t been a Republican for quite a few years and I have no particular love for the GOP but whenever a Democrat gets elected I feel as if something bad just happened to my children. So I have a more than passing interest in the party’s effectiveness even if I won’t get involved in its operations – or machinations – because it seems so full of people who do what so many have done during the last 14 days.

So let’s discuss what has been achieved:

Chris Squire, R.I.P.

By on 6.28.15 | 1:32PM

Chris Squire, bass player for the prog rock group Yes, has passed away just over a month after being diagnosed with acute erythroid leukemia. He was 67.

Squire was a founding member of Yes in 1969 and remained with the group until his diagnosis. When Yes resumes touring in August, it will mark the first time that the group has performed without Squire. 

When I saw former Yes lead vocalist Jon Anderson in concert back in March 2012, he recounted that at the height of their fame the group hired a roadie whose only job it was to rouse Squire from his sleep.

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