When you have someone with the background, education, and beliefs of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, you know you're not going to get any policies that benefit education. Sure enough, yesterday she started rolling back reforms begun under the Obama administration that tried to correct the abuses of the student loan industry:
The former president's administration issued a pair of memorandums last year requiring that the government's Federal Student Aid office, which services $1.1 trillion in government-owned student loans, do more to help borrowers manage, or even discharge, their debt.
But in a memorandum to the department's student aid office, DeVos formally withdrew the two Obama memos. The Obama administration's approach, DeVos said, was inconsistent and full of shortcomings. She didn't detail how the moves fell short, and her spokesmen, Jim Bradshaw and Matthew Frendewey, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
DeVos' move "will certainly increase the likelihood of default," said David Bergeron, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank with close ties to Democrats, who previously worked under Democratic and Republican administrations during his more than 30 years at the Education Department before retiring as the head of postsecondary education.
It's an absolute scandal that student loans, which are some of the safest investments a bank can make because they can't be discharged in bankruptcy, have high interest rates and a history of predatory collection practices. DeVos has investments in the for-profit education companies that benefit directly from this situation. And people wonder why the Republican Party has a reputation for screwing the disadvantaged in favor of rich businesses.
Now, I'm not likely ever to move to (a) any city with fewer than 2½ million people, (b) any city south of the 37th parallel, or (c) any city in a state that once attempted to leave the U.S. so it could continue the institution of slavery. But via City Lab comes Chattanooga's new P.R. campaign that...well, watch:
Or if you're pressed for time:
As you can tell by the dearth of posts lately, I've been a little busy. Apollo After Hours was a raging success but took a lot of effort, particularly while I dealt with some unprecedented (for me, anyway) workplace insanity.
According to my Fitbit, the last time I got more than 7 hours of sleep was the night of Sunday March 26th, more than two weeks ago. The night of After Hours I got 3:43; the weeks of March 27th and April 3rd I got averages of 6:35 and 6:01, respectively. Clearly this is not good.
Last night, though, I finally got enough: 7:32. And I actually feel like I can think today. And I have extra time, and the weather is spring-like, so I might even get some exercise.
I'll have more interesting posts later today and into the week. I just wanted to vent about a positive occurrence for a change.
Regular posting should return tomorrow. I've been a little swamped. Details soon.
When people see their fortunes waning, they get desperate. Enter Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate Republicans:
No man has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of U.S. government. His has been the epitome of unprincipled leadership, the triumph of tactics in service of short-term power.
After McConnell justified his filibuster-ending “nuclear option” by saying it would be beneficial for the Senate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said this: “Whoever says that is a stupid idiot.”
After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was confirmed last year, it took McConnell less than an hour to say that the vacancy should be filled by the next president. He called keeping Obama’s nominee off the court “one of my proudest moments.”
Two years ago, when a Democrat was in the White House, McConnell said he would only abolish filibusters of Supreme Court justices if there were 67 votes for such a change. This week, he employed a maneuver to do it with 51 votes. It suited his momentary needs, but the damage will remain long after McConnell’s tombstone is engraved.
Again, the Republican Party doesn't care about governing; they only care about winning. And now the dog has caught the car.
Our choral benefit is tonight, and I'm benefit chair, so posting will be sparse.
And hey, come to Uptown Underground at 7pm with an open checkbook! We've got a few tickets left.
The Archdiocese of Chicago is in negotiations to sell a parking lot at the southwest corner of Chicago and State to a real-estate developer:
A venture led by Jim Letchinger, president of JDL Development, has emerged as the winning bidder for the property at the southwest corner of State Street and Chicago Avenue, currently a parking lot for Holy Name Cathedral, according to people familiar with the property. He's agreed to pay more than $110 million for the property but is still negotiating a purchase contract with the Archdiocese.
But the parking lot has an interesting history. Ninety years ago, there was a flower shop there owned by Dean O'Banion, the gangster who controlled Chicago's north side. And on 10 November 1924, he was gunned down by the Jenna mob on orders from Al Capone's boss, Johnny Torrio, right on that spot.
It's unclear when the shops were torn down.
Josh Marshall says the filibuster is already dead, so it's the right thing to do for Democrats in the Senate to force the Republicans to take the next step:
If Gorsuch will be confirmed one way or another, why go through the nuclear option motions? I would say it's important for this reason. I've heard a number of pundits arguing that the real issue here, or much of the issue, is that Democrats still haven't gotten over the treatment of Judge Garland. That argument is both deeply flawed and entirely correct. This really is mainly about Judge Garland.
As Rep. Adam Schiff put it yesterday on Twitter, Mitch McConnell's historically unprecedented and constitutionally illegitimate decision to block President Obama from nominating anyone a year before he left office was the real nuclear option. The rest is simply fallout. Senate Republicans had the power to do this. But that doesn't make it legitimate. The seat was stolen. Therefore Gorsuch's nomination is itself illegitimate since it is the fruit of the poisoned tree.
Democrats likely have no power to finally prevent this corrupt transaction. It is nonetheless important that they not partake in the corruption. Treating this as a normal nomination would do just that. There are now various good arguments to vote against Gorsuch's nomination on the merits. But to me that's not even the point. Democrats should filibuster the nomination because it is not a legitimate nomination. Filibustering the nomination is the right course of action.
The Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the nomination.
Author Tim Harford, who wrote The Logic of Life and a few other books I've liked, yesterday published an explanation of what telling time is all about:
Water clocks appear in civilisations from ancient Egypt to medieval Persia. Others kept time from marks on candles. But even the most accurate devices might wander by 15 minutes a day. This didn't matter to a monk wanting to know when to pray.
But there was one increasingly important area of life where the inability to keep accurate time was of huge economic significance: sailing.
By observing the angle of the Sun, sailors could calculate their latitude - where they were from north to south. But their longitude - where they were from east to west - had to be guessed.
Mistakes could - and frequently did - lead to ships hitting land hundreds of miles away from where navigators thought they were, sometimes disastrously.
How could accurate timekeeping help? If you knew when it was midday at Greenwich Observatory - or any other reference point - you could observe the Sun, calculate the time difference, and work out the distance.
But does anybody really know what time it is?
Via a longtime reader, geologists have new evidence clarifying how Britain split off from the European mainland 450,000 YBP:
Researchers have found geological proof of one theory, that a catastrophic flood sparked massive waterfalls that cut through the rock ridge running through what's now the Dover Strait.
Analysis of [sonar] imagery, alongside existing supporting data, has led Collier and Gupta to report that Britain left Europe via a much more catastrophic route than erosion simply nibbling away at our connection to the continent. Instead, a glacial lake — perhaps sparked by an earthquake — over spilled its bounds in giant torrents of water.
"The waterfalls were so huge they left behind the plunge pools, some several kilometres in diameter and 100 metres deep in solid rock, running in a line from Calais to Dover," Collier said.
The chalky escarpment - similar to the cliffs at Dover - fell apart and released an epic flood, partially washing away the British land bridge to Europe.
That event wasn't enough to entirely separate the UK from Europe, with the final breach caused by a second megaflood that followed the first by as much as a hundred thousand years.
They conclude, "Had the initial flood not happened, the researchers added that Britain could still be connected to Europe, jutting out the same way Denmark does today."