Wednesday Reads: GOP, CBO and WTF

fbe2979d91223d5bb11cc7c5e36660f0Good Morning

My mind is not working properly today, after hearing the debate last night…the fear of America’s future in science and technology scares the bejeezus outta me.

Here in Banjoville, the county school system has been changed to a Charter School. The process will not be complete for a few years, which is fortunate because my kids are out of there in 2017…but I know that there are changes coming…and it is going to look like a Ham version of science when all is said and done.

Creationism in public schools, mapped. Where tax money supports alternatives to evolution.

Thousands of schools in states across the country can use taxpayer money to cast doubt on basic science.

A large, publicly funded charter school system in Texas is teaching creationism to its students, Zack Kopplin recently reported in Slate. Creationist teachers don’t even need to be sneaky about it—the Texas state science education standards, as well as recent laws in Louisiana and Tennessee, permit public school teachers to teach “alternatives” to evolution. Meanwhile, in Florida, Indiana, Ohio, Arizona, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere, taxpayer money is funding creationist private schools through state tuition voucher or scholarship programs. As the map below illustrates, creationism in schools isn’t restricted to schoolhouses in remote villages where the separation of church and state is considered less sacred. If you live in any of these states, there’s a good chance your tax money is helping to convince some hapless students that evolution (the basis of all modern biological science, supported by everything we know about geology, genetics, paleontology, and other fields) is some sort of highly contested scientific hypothesis as credible as “God did it.”

Go and see the map, it is frightening how many dots there are all over the country. And it makes the pleas from Bill Nye all the more important, that

“If we stop driving forward, looking for the next answer, we in the United States will be out-competed by other countries, other economies.”

I am going to give you a link dump of commentary on the debate last night between Bill Nye and Ken Ham:

Bill Nye, Ken Ham Creation and Evolution Debate | TIME.com

No debate about it, Bill Nye dissected Ken Ham in creation-evolution discussion | GlobalPost

Who Won Bill Nye’s Big Evolution Faceoff? – NBC News.com

Talking past each other: Bill Nye vs. creationist Ken Ham on evolution | Ars Technica

Yes, the Creation Debate Was Worthwhile- Mashable

Creation vs evolution: the debate that went nowhere- The Sydney Morning Herald

Bill Nye Takes On Creationist Ken Ham (VIDEO)- Huffpo

Students react to Nye-Ham debate | The Kentucky Kernel

Basalt, wood, and dodging straight answers: On Nye v Ham. iO9

this article through the reddit/r/everythingscience discussion thread on tonight’s debate, and thought I might find some interested fellows here.

At some point in the debate, Ham dragged up some anecdotal evidence about a 45,000 year-old piece of wood (maybe 450,000?) encased in what I think I remember as 4.5 billion year-old basalt. Nye sort of handwaved this away, saying perhaps the basalt “slid over” the younger material and never addressed it again, even after Ham brought it back up.

I’m pretty up on my creationism (sorry, ID) vs. evolution debate topics as I am an elementary school teacher and a former christian, but as this topic was novel to me I thought it deserved a bit of research. It seems to be similar to that classic creationist bit about polystrate trees.

Anyway, the article pretty much goes on to say that the person who made the original claim on the fossil essentially tucked it away in a drawer somewhere and won’t let anyone else look at it, hence why I designated it anecdotal above.

Check out that last link…some funny stuff there.

I think the whole thing can be summed up here:

So in consideration of the ridiculous exhibition of last night, by that I mean Ham and his followers…I have a shitload of science links this morning.

4,600-Year-Old Step Pyramid Uncovered in Egypt – Scientific American

Archaeologists working near the ancient settlement of Edfu, in southern Egypt, have uncovered a step pyramid that dates back about 4,600 years, predating the Great Pyramid of Giza by at least a few decades.

The step pyramid, which once stood as high as 43 feet (13 meters), is one of seven so-called “provincial” pyramids built by either the pharaoh Huni (reign ca. 2635-2610 B.C.) or Snefru (reign ca. 2610-2590 B.C.). Over time, the step pyramid’s stone blocks were pillaged, and the monument was exposed to weathering, so today, it’s only about 16 feet (5 m) tall.

Scattered throughout central and southern Egypt, the provincial pyramids are located near major settlements, have no internal chambers and were not intended for burial. Six of the seven pyramids have almost identical dimensions, including the newly uncovered one at Edfu, which is about 60 x 61 feet (18.4 x 18.6 m). [See Photos of the Newly Uncovered Step Pyramid]

The purpose of these seven pyramids is a mystery. They may have been used as symbolic monuments dedicated to the royal cult that affirmed the power of the king in the southern provinces.

“The similarities from one pyramid to the other are really amazing, and there is definitely a common plan,” said Gregory Marouard, a research associate at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute who led the work at the Edfu pyramid. On the east side of the newly uncovered pyramid, his team found the remains of an installation where food offerings appear to have been made — a discovery that is important for understanding this kind of pyramid since it provides clues as to what they were used for.

Hmmm, that puts this pyramid outside the 4,000 year old Earth age right? But wait…it still can be explained by one thing….Gawwwwwd.

The ‘Pompeii of the early Cretaceous': Researchers find stunningly well preserved specimens in China | Mail Online

Researchers have revealed one of the best preserved fossil sites ever discovered.

The fossil site in Jehol biota in the north-eastern region of China has revealed scorched tissue, and ‘re-crystallized’ sections of bone on fossil.

Experts say the site is similar to the effect of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 buried Pompeii, Herculaneum and other cities, entombing people and animals in suspended death poses.

The team studied 14 fossils along with the chemistry and mineralogy of the volcanic rock and sediment that formed the animals final resting place.

‘What we’re talking about in this case is literal charring, like somebody got put in the grill,” said George Harlow, a mineralogist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, one of the researchers of the study.

Okay, that is in a language I think many of those at the creation museum would understand, I mean….Sunday bar-b-que is a big deal around the bible belt.

An ancient ecosystem known as the Jehol Biota existed in north eastern China about 120 million to 130 million years ago.

It consisted of dinosaurs, mammals, early birds, fish, lizards and other creatures, with the red areas highlighted below having thrown up fossils.

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The animals lived among coniferous forests and lakes, in the shadow of volcanoes.
Fossils of these animals are found in the Yixian and Jiufotang rock formations, embedded in layers of volcanic material.

Hold up, 120 to 130 million years? Now that is for sure, most definitely outside the  6,000 year old Earth aka the Ham Young Earth belief system. I’ll point you to that iO9 link up top.

‘Severe reduction’ in killer whale numbers during last Ice Age

The scientists studied the DNA sequences of killer whale communities across the world.

They found a severe decline in whale numbers leading to a bottleneck and consequent loss of approximately 40,000 years ago when large parts of the Earth were covered in ice.

The only exception to this was found in a killer whale population off the coast of South Africa that retained high variations in genetic diversity.

As greater genetic diversity indicates larger population size, the researchers believe the South African community of killer whales escaped the bottleneck faced by other communities.

Genetic Diversity?

Madagascar’s tiny ‘sucker-foots’ give old bat new meaning | Reuters

You can call them the contrarians of the bat world.

While nearly all bats roost upside down from tree limbs or cave ceilings, two species of tiny “sucker-footed” bats currently found only in Madagascar roost head-up, typically in the furled leaves of a tree known as the traveler’s palm.

But these oddballs of the bat world once were much more common than they are today. Scientists reported on Tuesday the discovery in a desert in Egypt of the fossilized remains of two earlier extinct species of these bats – one that lived 37 million years ago and the other 30 million years ago.

What? Species? That doesn’t fit in with the Ham “kinds” graphic at all.

You really want to be scared: Study Guides – Answers in Genesis

Or how about this shit: | Answers in Genesis-Shop topic “Design”

I found myself looking through these titles of books, videos and shit…realizing my mouth was wide open…in disbelief? I don’t know, and Ham has the gall to say evolution in school is “indoctrination”?

Genes shed light on pygmy history

Scientists on Tuesday said they could fill a blank in the history of Central Africa’s pygmies, whose past is one of the most elusive of any community in the world.

At a key period in the human odyssey, these hunter-gatherer tribes shunned interbreeding with Bantu-speaking communities who were early farmers, according to a gene analysis.

The two groups first met when the Bantu groups, having acquired farming technology some 5,000 years ago, started moving out of the region of Nigeria and Cameroon into eastern, central and southern Africa.

Again with that whole greater than 4,000 years ago theme?

Whoa…

Well, as I was writing this post last night, my computer froze up and I just abandoned the post to finish this morning. So I guess like a Beatles song, this thread will play like two different blog post in one?

The big stink this morning?

The Best Of The Bad Reporting On Obamacare, The CBO And Jobs

The Congressional Budget Office issued a new report Tuesday on the federal budget deficit, Obamacare and jobs — and Official Washington exploded.

It all centered on one line about how the health care reform law would affect employment. CBO actually said that Americans would choose to work less, for various reasons, and that if you translated the fewer hours worked into full-time jobs, it would equal 2.5 million by 2024 (2.3 million by 2021). It didn’t say that Obamacare would cost the country 2.5 million jobs, but Republicans said so anyway.

But it wasn’t just the GOP, which had a political incentive to take advantage of economic jargon. It was the political press as well. They either misrepresented what the report said — or shrugged off the actual facts, opting instead to speculate on what the political spin would mean for the horse race.

The mememorandum page is so taken up with this CBO/Obamacare shit, I had to put a link up.

While I was there, this next article popped out at me…Justice Scalia: “You Are Kidding Yourself If You Think” SCOTUS Won’t Vote in Favor of Internment Again – Hit & Run : Reason.com

Enjoy that latest nugget of crap from Scalia’s mouth.

Another WTF moment: Gun lobbyist Larry Pratt: U.S. blacks need ‘attitude’ lessons from ‘happy’ Africans | The Raw Story

My state of Georgia was in the news recently displaying the horrible leadership skills of Governor Deal and Mayor Reed, well…here is yet another area that Georgia is failing in. (And I don’t think this is going to fix it) Bill filed to privatize Ga. child welfare services | AccessNorthGa

A bill has been filed in the state Senate that would have Georgia move toward privatizing some state child welfare services.

The bill sponsored by Republican Sens. Renee Unterman of Buford and Fran Millar of Atlanta would allow faith-based and community-based organizations to apply for “fixed-price” contracts to handle services including adoption, foster care and case management. The law would be contingent on the state receiving a federal waiver.

While on the subject of faith-based PLUB control…Women’s rights country by country – interactive | Global development | theguardian.com

But take a gander…La Course Will Include Women In Le Tour de France For The First Time

Also check out the latest candidate news:

RALEIGH: Clay Aiken makes it official: He will run for Congress | State Politics | NewsObserver.com

Sandra Fluke, Wendy Davis, And How The Fight For Reproductive Rights Is Inspiring Women To Run For Office | ThinkProgress

Victoria Jackson Files To Run For Tennessee County Commission Seat

There is a look back at:  How 10 years of Facebook design tweaks have shaped the way we behave on the Web | PandoDaily

And here is a graphic look at: The toll of the anti-vaccination movement, in one devastating graphic – latimes.com

Let’s end this post with a little humor: Walmart to Pay $25 Billion to Move the State Capitol of Arkansas to Bentonville | Rock City Times

BENTONVILLE – Gov. Mike Beebe and officials with Bentonville-based Walmart Stores Inc. have confirmed an agreement that, if approved by the Arkansas Legislature, would see the retailer pay the state $25 billion over five years in return for moving the State Capitol to Bentonville.

The $25 billion would essentially fund all state government operations for the next five years – which is the timetable for moving state operations to Bentonville.

“It certainly is an unusual move, but from a practical standpoint it makes sense. As we continue to increase our influence over state government officials, it becomes an issue of efficiency,” said Walton Richman, a spokesman for Walmart.

So….what you all reading about today?


Sunday Reads: What shall we hang…the holly or each other?

**Post updated below**

Irish actor Peter O'Toole studying for his role in Lawrence of Arabia.

Irish actor Peter O’Toole studying for his role in Lawrence of Arabia.

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“I will not be a common man. I will stir the smooth sands of monotony.”

Actor Peter O’Toole, who died last week at 81, in a note to himself as a young man.

tumblr_lxv6cupJ6V1qhx8k5o1_500“God, he was beautiful.”

So says a minor character toward the end of 2006’s “Venus,” looking at an obituary photo of an elderly actor named Maurice. The actor is played by Peter O’Toole, and God, he was.

Good Morning…

fc613e4495e5519970062aa71f531f37Funny, that quote above about the scene from Venus…its from the Boston Globe, but the thing is that is what I was going to use for the opening of this post. It is the only line I remember from that movie, the one line that stuck with me…that I made a mental note for, remember that one JJ, it is a good one.

f75cf8324d4009fc4f726611f6e6f1bcWhat can I say about Peter O’Toole that hasn’t been said in obituaries and blog post or commentaries posted online the last week since his death. Hell, you will be able to read a bunch of them in a minute, I’ve got plenty of links for you below.

z_otoolePeter O’Toole was more than a magnificent screen presence to me.  I don’t think there has been another actor who had such a profound effect on my life, and I know that sound sappy…but you all know how important film is to me.  I always felt his role as Henry II in both Beckett and The Lion in Winter is one of the reasons I decided to major in Medieval History. (I should say specialize in Medieval History.)

3e8d51ae2c7aaea4a5c57090828a7157Then again, my adoration of O’Toole goes back before college. Way back, to 1981 when he starred in a mini-series called Masada.

At that time girls my age had pictures of the Fonz and Scott Baio on their walls. Me? My walls had photos of Peter O’Toole, Jonathan Frid and Rod Stewart. (What can I say, I was a strange kid.)

My favorite movies star Peter O’Toole…Lawrence of Arabia, My Favorite Year, The Lion In Winter, these films are the kind of movies that I can see over and over again, they are fucking awesome. peter_otoole(Check out some clips down at the end of the thread.)

Other films of O’Toole are outstanding as well, Goodbye Mr. Chips, The Stuntman, Creator, hell…the list goes on. But for now we will get to the various links for Peter…starting with his home country of Ireland:

Farewell to hellraiser O’Toole – Independent.ie

16 December 2013

Tributes were paid last night to actor and hellraiser Peter O’Toole, who died at the age of 81.

The Connemara-born actor, who rose to fame in the 1962 Oscar-winning epic ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’ (left), died in London on Saturday.

Actors Peter O'Toole and Helen Mirren attend the  Miramax Films pre-Oscar party celebrating  Oscar nominees in Los Angeles...  REUTERS/Fred Prouser   (UNITED STATES)...E

Actors Peter O’Toole and Helen Mirren attend the Miramax Films pre-Oscar party celebrating Oscar nominees in Los Angeles…REUTERS/Fred Prouser

showbiz-peter-o-toole-feeds-baby-daughter-kate-1960Although he received eight Academy Award nominations for best actor, O’Toole never won the ultimate accolade. In 2003 he was given a special Oscar from his peers for his contribution to film.

He is survived by his family, including his daughters Pat and Kate, his son Lorcan, and former wife, actress Sian Phillips.

Peter O’Toole and the saucy Dublin nuns – Independent.ie

61dc2db155765cc6a475348ad78e3c24So farewell then, Peter O’Toole, the man who was either born in Connemara or Leeds, depending on who you believe.

O’Toole once said that as a boy he was terrified by “the horrible sexlessness” of nuns.

He later said this phenomenon had changed dramatically.

“They’re sipping gin and tonic in the Dublin pubs now, and a couple of them flashed their pretty ankles at me just the other day.”

Saucy nuns? It is quite possible that the notoriously bibulous O’Toole had a touch too much of the gargle, and was imagining things.

Peter the Great – Independent.ie

PETER_O'TOOLE

Asked once what being Irish meant to him, the legendary actor, Peter O’Toole deliberated slowly, before replying: “It’s almost the centre of my being.”

The occasion was an interview with US talk show host Charlie Rose to mark the release of the first part of his autobiography, Loitering with Intent in 1992.

Peter O’Toole and his eldest daughter, Kate

“Everything I think of is coloured by its history, by its literature, by its people, by its geography,” he continued.

O’Toole went on to recount how a return trip to Ireland in 1946 after the end of the Second World War, affirmed his sense of Irishness.

peter6

“I was a bit of a misfit, a bit of an odd man out, but when I went to Kerry with my friend, Father Leo Walsh, and it all clicked. I wasn’t different at all,” he said.

This particular obit has some good stories, so be sure to read that one in full. This tidbit about an interview with Letterman is something that I remember seeing when it first aired:

131214-peter-o-toole-dead-vert-1387135132He was a chat show host’s dream guest and the theatrical format with its live audience appealed to the actor who knew exactly how to play to the crowd.

He appeared on The Letterman Show in London in 1995, cigarette in hand, astride a camel. As if that wasn’t suitably outrageous, he proceeded to open a can of beer and feed it to the animal.

Asked once by Lettermen [sic] had he thought about a message on his gravestone, he told the story of an old leather jacket he once had, stained “with Guinness and blood”, that his wife had sent to the dry cleaners.

imagesIt came back with a note pinned to it saying, ‘It distresses us to return work which is not perfect’.

“I am having that on my tombstone. That’s my epitaph,” he said.

Which is why I was smiling when I saw this tribute Peter O’Toole obit by Political Cartoonist Milt Priggee

141944 600 OToole obit cartoons

If any of you get to see the dvd commentary that goes with the film My Favorite Year, you will hear some great stories about Peter O’Toole. He sounded like one of those actors you would love to work with.  One of the interesting things Richard Benjamin said was, O’Toole had not done a comedy, and because of that…

131215170623-13-peter-otoole-horizontal-galleryPeter O’Toole was originally hesitant about doing the film. However, in the script, the date of Swann’s death was, in fact, the date of O’Toole’s birthday. O’Toole phoned Richard Benjamin to find out if they did that with all of the actors they had offered the part to. The director replied that the script had not been given to anybody else, at which O’Toole agreed to do the film.

Anyway, back to the links:

Culture Shock: Peter O’Toole – a great actor undazzled by his own star – | The Irish Times – Sat, Dec 21, 2013

mqdefaultMuch of the British commentary on O’Toole since his death has painted him as a rather anachronistic actor, a 19th-century heroic performer in an age of method psychological realism. It is certainly true that, with his fellow so-called Celts Richard Burton and Richard Harris, he was a rebel against the new method orthodoxy. What is not true is the general depiction of the trio as Romantic, emotional, hot-blooded Celts at odds with the realism that was in the ascendant from the 1950s onwards.

ca87a30b632c83f88073ab7df71aa4b9Quite the contrary: O’Toole’s acting, like Burton’s, was sceptical, cool, intellectual. Far from being a fruity thesp, he was, at his best, almost a meta-actor. His best screen performances all comment on the nature of performance.

[...]

393b56d58076e854b37cffdb36e9f6a3Of O’Toole’s other best roles, two (in My Favourite Year and in Venus) are satiric portrayals of washed-up actors and one, in The Stunt Man, is a satiric portrayal of an insane film director. O’Toole’s best performances have quotation marks around them.

But what of the role that created the star in the first place? It too is a “performance”. O’Toole’s Lawrence of Arabia is so uncannily beautiful, so eerily mesmerising that you almost don’t notice that he’s just another actor: a strange Englishman, dressed in foreign clothes, pretending to be an Arab. O’Toole’s brilliance is to create a man who is utterly convinced by the role he is playing. But he himself was never so convinced: what made him great was the keen, appraising intelligence with which he seems to stand outside himself, undazzled by his own star.

It looks like O’Toole had two films in production, one Katherine of Alexandria is in post-production according to iMDB.

‘Lawrence of Arabia’s’ Peter O’Toole Dead at 81

380564f9fd66f691fe98833cbd768c14O’Toole announced in July 2012 that he was retiring from acting. “The heart for it has gone out of me: it won’t come back,” he said. He did, however, return with announced parts in Katherine of Alexandria and Mary, two films yet to be released.

Peter-OToole-9430474-1-402During a career that spanned nearly six decades, the son of an Irish father and Scottish mother also received Oscar noms for his turns in Becket (1964), The Lion in Winter (1968), Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969), The Ruling Class (1972), The Stunt Man (1980), My Favorite Year (1982) and Venus (2006). No one else has ever earned as many acting noms without a win.

‘Lawrence of Arabia’ star Peter O’Toole dead at 81 | AccessNorthGa

GTY_peter_otoole_jtm_131215_16x9_992He was fearsomely handsome, with burning blue eyes and a penchant for hard living which long outlived his decision to give up alcohol. Broadcaster Michael Parkinson told Sky News television it was hard to be too sad about his passing.

“Peter didn’t leave much of life unlived, did he?” he said.

peter-otoole-2-300

A reformed – but unrepentant – hell-raiser, O’Toole long suffered from ill health. Always thin, he had grown wraithlike in later years, his famously handsome face eroded by years of outrageous drinking.

But nothing diminished his flamboyant manner and candor.

peterotoole

“If you can’t do something willingly and joyfully, then don’t do it,” he once said. “If you give up drinking, don’t go moaning about it; go back on the bottle. Do. As. Thou. Wilt.”

[...]

Lawrence-of-Arabia

His sensitive portrayal of Lawrence’s complex character garnered O’Toole his first Oscar nomination, and the spectacularly photographed desert epic remains his best known role. O’Toole was tall, fair and strikingly handsome, and the image of his bright blue eyes peering out of an Arab headdress in Lean’s film was unforgettable.

peter o toole lawrence of arabia 1

Playwright Noel Coward once said that if O’Toole had been any prettier, they would have had to call the movie “Florence of Arabia.”

Peter-Lawrence-of-Arabia_01

That is another good Obituary…give it some of your attention too.

I remember another story O’Toole told, about the filming of Lawrence of Arabia. The scene where he walks down the stairs after telling the general about taking Aqaba was shot a year apart. So when he starts walking down the stairs, he is one year younger than the age he is when he reaches the bottom step.

Peter O’Toole’s Most Iconic Movie Roles, From ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’ To ‘Ratatouille’

peter-o-toole-1968

O’Toole’s last years were quiet, but that doesn’t detract from his stalwart presence throughout much of the 20th century. Here’s a look back at a handful of his most iconic roles.

Peter O’Toole: Tales of the late film icon – People – News – The Independent

peter-o-toole-with-katherine-hepburn-november-1967

Peter O’Toole, who has died aged 81, possessed a prodigious acting talent, heart-stopping good looks, and an enormous capacity for booze. Here, he is remembered by those who knew him

TFCAF00Z

Michael Caine, who had been his understudy for the 1959 play ‘The Long and the Short and the Tall’ at the Royal Court Theatre went out to dinner with O’Toole and woke up in a strange flat days later.

“There was a wild weekend that I don’t remember… ‘What time is it?’ I asked. ‘Never mind what time it is,’ said O’Toole. ‘What fucking day is it?’

I love it!

peter_o_toole_walk_of_fame_daughter_son_2011_19asil4-19asilf

Peter O’Toole with daughter Kate and son Lorcan

More pictures of Peter here: Peter O’Toole’s Life and Career in Pictures Gallery – The Hollywood Reporter

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Postscript: Peter O’Toole : The New Yorker

6c686796580e4124226c399dc8731337

The deaths, over the weekend, of Peter O’Toole and Joan Fontaine reminded us, once again, what a strange principality movie stardom is. Think of it as a kind of Monaco: few are born there, but many arrive, some to disport themselves at the watering holes and gaming tables, others to cultivate that notorious anonymity that is the last redoubt of fame. The church mouse may be the neighbor of the libertine. Costs of living (not merely financial) can be exorbitant, and personal loyalties prone to decay; expulsions are cruel and common, and you dare not appeal against them, for they are ordained not by a court of the land but by the judgment of the world beyond. On the other hand, re-admittance to stardom, after exile, is not unknown; in the case of O’Toole, he would drift away, out of sight but never quite out of mind, and then, just as we—and, by all accounts, he himself—started to ask if he were technically alive, he would stroll back into the light.

Now don’t forget, TCM is going to have a tribute to Peter O’Toole on Sunday, December 29th: TCM Remembers Peter O’Toole (1932 – 2013)

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BTW, we lost quite a few people this year…you can find a gallery of pictures here: Hollywood’s Notable Deaths of 2013 Gallery – The Hollywood Reporter

Anyway, enjoy the videos below, some are clips but…the last two are full interviews. One, the Charlie Rose interview. The other is the hour-long interview with Robert Osborne. It is fantastic!

TCM Remembers…

The Lion in Winter:

My Favorite Year:

Lawrence of Arabia:

Interview with Charlie Rose:

Interview with Robert Osborn, at TCM Film Festival April 2011:

The special wraps with O’Toole providing his personal definition of acting: “In the beginning was the word and the word was made flesh. That is, to me, is what acting is. You make the words flesh.” Which is exactly what the man did…

Think of this as an open thread.

(Just a note, it is now 4:45 am and I am finally finished with this post. The formatting was a bitch! So I probably won’t be seeing you any time soon…have a great day!)

**Updated post with added links**

Since it is a very slow day, I’ve decided to just update this post with a few newsy links…in a dump-a-roo fashion.

Starting of with a bit of sad news, Claire Davis, the shooting victim from Colorado, has died:

Family of Arapahoe High School shooting victim Claire Davis issues statement – San Jose Mercury News

Photo of Claire Davis. Provided by  Arapahoe County Sheriff
Photo of Claire Davis. Provided by Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office. (Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office)

A statement from the Davis family

It is with unspeakable sadness that we write and say that Claire has passed away from the gunshot wound she received at Arapahoe High School on December 13, 2013. Although we have lost our precious daughter, we will always be grateful for the indelible journey she took us on over the last 17 years—we were truly blessed to be Claire’s parents. The grace, laughter and light she brought to this world will not be extinguished by her death; to the contrary, it will only get stronger.

Last week was truly a paradox in that we lost our daughter, yet we witnessed the wonderful love that exists in the world through the tremendous outpouring of support we received. We’d like to take this opportunity to thank the first responders, the school resource officer, security guard and vice principal at Arapahoe High School, the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s office, and the physicians, nurses and staff at Littleton Adventist Hospital. Each played a significant role in giving Claire a chance to live, and demonstrated extreme amounts of professionalism, courage and love. Please know that we will never forget the extraordinary work you did on Claire’s behalf.

We ask that you give us time to grieve the death of our daughter by respecting our wishes for privacy.

With much loving-kindness,

The Davis Family

I don’t know what you can say about that. It is so painfully sad.

There is another heart-wrenching story out there, remember Jaycee Dugard? Jaycee Dugard’s new “terror”: Her father – Salon.com

The road back home hasn’t been easy for Jaycee Dugard. She was only 11 years old in June of 1991 when she was abducted from a California street in full sight of her stepfather, Carl Probyn. Last August, when she and the two young daughters she bore while in captivity were rescued, Probyn described their return as “a miracle.” But while her captors, Phillip and Nancy Garrido,  are behind bars and Dugard is quietly rebuilding her life with her mother and children, she now faces a new “terror”: her biological father.

Kenneth Slayton, who has had no prior relationship with the young woman, has been speaking out lately about the child he never knew, and his wish “to be united with my daughter ASAP.” To that end, he’s retained the services of scandal magnet Gloria Allred,  has filed a court petition to definitively prove his paternity of Dugard, and held a press conference last week to plead for an establishment of family ties. Slayton claims that “The first time I knew there was a possibility that I had a daughter was when the FBI told me that she had been kidnapped.”

Dugard’s family, however, tells a different story. In a statement issued last week, they claim that Dugard’s mother, Terry Probyn, “told Mr. Slayton when she learned she was pregnant that he was the father and again when Jaycee was born. He showed no interest. The police advised him when Jaycee was kidnapped and again he showed no interest … At no point did Mr. Slayton offer any assistance beyond what was requested of him while Jaycee was missing. It is now Jaycee Dugard’s turn to express her feelings and she has no interest.”

Read more about this asshole at the link, and then think of the real motivation behind his lawsuit…and how much it must weigh on Dugard’s emotions.

Okay, did you all catch this other news story? Like I said, I’ve been awol from the blog so I don’t know if it has been mentioned.

Climate change expert’s fraud was ‘crime of massive proportion,’ say feds – Investigations

The EPA’s highest-paid employee and a leading expert on climate change deserves to go to prison for at least 30 months for lying to his bosses and saying he was a CIA spy working in Pakistan so he could avoid doing his real job, say federal prosecutors.

John C. Beale, who pled guilty in September to bilking the government out of nearly $1 million in salary and other benefits  over a decade, will be sentenced in a Washington, D.C., federal court on Wednesday. In a newly filed sentencing memo, prosecutors said that his lies were a “crime of massive proportion” and “offensive” to those who actually do dangerous work for the CIA.

Beale’s lawyer, while acknowledging his guilt, has asked for leniency and offered a psychological explanation for the climate expert’s bizarre tales.

If you want a good report of these “tales” check out the video of Jon Stewart here: Jon Stewart Goes Off on Perhaps the Best Political Scandal of All Time | Mediaite

There are scandals, and there are SCANDALS. And the story of an EPA official who cheated the agency out of a million dollars with an incredibly elaborate hoax might very well be, in Jon Stewart‘s opinion, one of the most amazing and unbelievable political scandals of all time. But despite the sexiness of this story, Stewart said, “this man is a liar and boring as f*ck!” John Beale even lied to get a handicapped parking space, which wasn’t even necessary, because “he could have gotten a handicapped parking space for a legitimate medical reason: his gigantic balls.”

But hey, not all of us can lead exciting lives: Hullabaloo

by digby

Oh boy. Howie has the latest on the Duck Dynasty flap:

Do you know what a fluffer is? The clinical Wikipedia definition: “A fluffer is a person employed to keep a male adult film star aroused on the set. These duties, which do not necessarily involve touching the actors, are considered part of the makeup department. After setting up the desired angle, the director asks the actors to hold position and calls for the fluffer to ‘fluff’ the actors for the shot. Fluffing could also entail sexual acts such as fellatio or non-penetrative sex.” …

Fluffer is also the name of a 2001 gay porn film that got a buzz because Blondie (Debbie Harry) was in it. But it will have a whole new life now because so was Scott Gurney, the creator of Duck Dynasty.

Howie’s got clips at the link. They’re actually quite tasteful, all things considered. Mr Gurney played one of the leads by the name of Johnny Rebel. He’s quite attractive.

Read more about Johnny Rebel at the link…

Since we touch on the subject of right-wing shitstorms…Keep Fox News out of the classroom! Rupert Murdoch, Common Core and the dangerous rise of for-profit public education – Salon.com

Take a look at that, but it isn’t only right wing…a big portion of the for-profit group is Bill Gates and friends.

Following the rich people connection: These 2 Cities Are Now Exclusively For Rich People

Few cities in the U.S. embody the growing divide between rich and poor quite like New York and San Francisco. In just the past 20 years, both have changed from economically diverse melting pots to exclusive playgrounds for the rich.

The change is clear in striking new visualizations from the U.S. Census Bureau, crunching data from its latest American Community Survey of population and income.

In each of the pictures below, the image to the left represents median household incomes in 1990 (“before”), and the image on the right is 2012 (“after”). Darker shades correlate with higher income, and brighter shades represent lower incomes. Use the slider tool (the button in the middle) to go back and forth in time between 1990 and 2012.

That is a fun interactive map, but to be honest…San Francisco hasn’t changed all that much.

Meanwhile: Prosecutors were ready to charge Va. Gov. McDonnell, but final decision delayed by Justice officials – The Washington Post

‘Hobbit’ Star Makes Truly Awful Joke About ‘Rape, or Whatever’

Women’s rights sold out again: McAuliffe’s betrayal – Salon.com

That story about McAuliffe is disgusting and it pisses me off…although it doesn’t surprise me.

Two links on the Boston Bombing brothers:

The fall of the house of Tsarnaev —Tamerlan’s dreams in shards, the voices inside grew louder – The Boston Globe

The fall of the house of Tsarnaev —Dzhokhar, the youngest, was drawn to risk and spiraled into infamy – The Boston Globe

Some history articles for you:

Women in the public life in late medieval England: A study through contemporary sources in the 1400s

Here Be Monsters by Marina Warner | The New York Review of Books

Parallels With The Era That Led To The First World War – Business Insider

And a couple of Christmas stories:

Why It Takes 8,500 Pairs Of Pointe Shoes To Put On ‘The Nutcracker’

pointe shoes

The pointe shoe room

I look at that picture and I know what those new pointe shoes smell like.

But What If Elf Was Remade Entirely With Pugs Though [VIDEO] | Geekosystem

And finally, tomorrow is Festivus!


Wednesday Reads: Purring Monkey, Spinning Atoms and Immigration Suits

fc66eb72eedbbd20793a50086d61c104Good Morning

I’ve got a mixed bag of goodies for you this morning. Let’s just get down to it shall we?

There is some news out of Alabama on the immigration front. Y’all remember those awful laws put on the books down in Sweet Home Alabama?  Well, there has been a settlement between the state and the ACLU. Settlement ends suits over Ala immigration law

The state of Alabama agreed Tuesday to settle the remaining challenges over its toughest-in-the-nation crackdown against illegal immigration, which has mostly been gutted by federal court decisions.

The state and the American Civil Liberties Union filed a proposed settlement that would end a federal lawsuit over the law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature in 2011, and the state separately filed documents to end a similar suit filed by the Justice Department. Federal courts later blocked main sections, including a one-of-a-kind provision that public schools must check students’ citizenship status.

[...]

ACLU lawyer Cecillia Wang said the Alabama agreement also means a so-called “show me your papers” provision that allowed police to ask for citizenship documents cannot lead to detentions, as many immigrants had feared.

“Overall this is really a significant win for immigrant families in Alabama and anyone who cares about the rights of immigrants,” said Wang, director of the ACLU’s Immigrant Rights Project.

The agreement permanently blocks sections of the law that were temporarily stopped by courts. The state also agreed to pay $350,000 in attorney fees and expenses for groups that sued to block the law.

[...]

The Montgomery-based Southern Poverty Law Center, which was heavily involved in the legal challenges, said legislators should repeal the act now that the state has settled the lawsuits.

“We warned the Legislature when they were debating HB 56 that if they passed this draconian law, we would sue in court and win,” Kristi Graunke, an attorney with the organization, said in a statement. “That we have done.”

That about sums it all up. Guess we will have to wait and see what the state will do with all this talk of immigration reform, cough…cough.

I am just going to put this next link here because it is a very depressing read. It’s a review of a book: Got His Gun — Lost His Legs, Arms, Penis

Ann Jones’ new book, They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars — The Untold Story, is devastating, and almost incomprehensibly so when one considers that virtually all of the death and destruction in U.S. wars is on the other side. Statistically, what happens to U.S. troops is almost nothing.  In human terms, it’s overwhelming.

Okay, now on to a bit more “positive” news, via John Oliver: Australia Is An Example Of Effective Gun Control. America Is An Example Of Ignoring Australia.

The similarities between Australia and America are pretty striking. The enormous difference, however, is the distinct lack of pro-gun special-interest power in the Australian government. If that blows your mind, check this out: Australian gun control was enacted by conservative politicians against the will of their conservative constituency. If Australian politicians can overlook a powerful minority to pass something that a nationwide majority approves of, why can’t our own suits and ties do it too?

Trick or treat by Political Cartoonist David Fitzsimmons

139379 600 Trick or treat cartoons

Too funny….

Moving on rather quickly, next up: two articles on spinning and weaving, but not the way you may think. These have nothing to do with fiber:

Spinning atoms in light crystals

After more than 40 years of intense research, experimental physicists still seek to explore the rich behaviour of electrons confined to a two-dimensional crystalline structure exposed to large magnetic fields. Now a team of scientists working with Prof. Immanuel Bloch (Chair for Experimental Physics at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich and Director at MPQ) in collaboration with the theoretical physicist Dr. Belén Paredes (CSIC/UAM Madrid) developed a new experimental method to simulate these systems using a crystal made of neutral atoms and laser light. In such artificial quantum matter, the atoms could be exposed to a uniform effective magnetic field several thousand times stronger than in typical condensed matter systems.

Charged particles in a magnetic field experience a force perpendicular to their direction of motion — the Lorentz force -, which makes them move on circular (cyclotron) orbits in a plane perpendicular to the magnetic field. A sufficiently strong magnetic field can thereby dramatically change the properties of a material, giving rise to novel quantum phenomena such as the Quantum Hall effect. The cyclotron orbits shrink with increasing magnetic field. For typical field strengths, their size is much larger than the distance between neighbouring ions in the material, and the role of the crystal is negligible. However, for extremely large magnetic fields the two length scales become comparable and the interplay between the magnetic field and the crystal potential leads to striking new effects. These are manifested for instance in a fractal structure of the energy spectrum, which was first predicted by Douglas Hofstadter in 1976 and is known as the Hofstadter’s butterfly. Many intriguing electronic material properties are related to it, but so far experiments could not explore the full complexity of the problem.

Way over the top for my brain, especially now that I am so stuffed up and sick.

Now for the weaving article, but this is something more wicked and with a twist for Halloween: Looming Danger and Dangerous Looms: Violence and Weaving in Exeter Book Riddle 56

16th century depiction of a loom

The Loom Riddle: I was inside there where I saw a wooden object wounding a certain struggling creature, the wood turning; it received battle-wounds, deep gashes. Darts were woeful to that creature, and the wood skillfully bound fast. One of its feet was held fixed, the other endured affliction, leapt into the air, sometimes near the land. A tree, hung about by leaves, was near tot that bright thing [which] stood there, I saw the leavings of those arrows, carried out onto the floor to my lord, where the warriors drank.

Violence in the Exeter Book riddles is not a new topic. Many discussions of these fascinating texts focus on the way in which commonplace objects are personified and then attacked, bound, mutilated and/or killed. This violence, which is both carried out by humans and at the same time frequently punctuated by expressions of human empathy for the wounded objects, has been explained as acceptable because it occurs in the safe, playful and inverted world of the riddle.

It may not be a riddle that involves a giraffe, but you can go and read more of the abstract at the link, and get further information from Megan Cavell’s website.

Oh, this post is turning into more of a link dump than I thought it would. So I’ve got one more spooky story for you: Haunted Churches Will Give You The Shivers

Halloween comes just before Dia De Los Muertos, All Saints and All Soul’s Day, which are times to remember and honor the souls of those who have passed before us.

However, some churches claim that the spirits of the dead are still hanging around their hallways and graveyards. Mysterious lights, muffled voices, and weird apparitions are just some of the many unexplained phenomena that persist around these places.

From the ghost of a long-dead sea captain in Florida to the phantom of a governess that perished in a house fire, these churches swear that they are haunted by spirits that refuse to leave. Look through them, if you dare..

Dare…dare….(Well, for a little heathen like me, any church is bound to give me the shivers. ;) )

And lastly, Close To 500 New Species Discovered In The Amazon, Including A Purring Cat-Monkey

Monkey

Thanks to an intrepid team of scientists and the WWF, we know just a little bit more about our amazing planet. During a four-year expedition to the previously unexplored interior of the Amazon Rainforest, the team discovered 441 new species of life – including a purring monkey!

In total, the group discovered 258 new plants, 84 new fish, 58 new amphibians, 22 new reptiles, 18 new birds, and one new mammal – not to mention the innumerable new bugs they came across (in an unpleasant way, I’m sure).

The awesome new finds include a flame-patterned lizard, a frog the size of your thumbnail, a 9-pound vegetarian piranha, a snake they named after a character from The Lost World, a pink orchid – and, of course, the Callicebus caquentensis monkey, which purrs when contented.

That is wonderful…and surely it gives us reasons to protect this world we live in, we have to save the purring monkeys.

Well what are you reading and thinking about today? Go ahead and share with us down in the comments and have a happy Halloween eve.


Sunday Reads: Take Five or Ten

1645a3f7f36a125c0f6ee780a5615be6Good Morning

Hello…today is going to be my last post for the month of August, I am taking the next seven plus days off…and will be back in full force the first Wednesday in September. I’ve needed this break more than you can imagine, the news has been so depressing, the lack of function in DC is even worse. The War on Women gets me so pissed off, and the ridiculous actions of the right-wing goes beyond stupid and into the realm of fuckin’ idiotic dumbshit assholes . Uh, want a perfect example? How is this? From The Daily Banter: State Senator: High Minority Poverty Caused by Genetics, Fried Chicken, Porno | BobCesca.com

We see and hear so many awful things come from the mouths of Republicans, it’s easy to become desensitized and no longer blink when they say it, but this from Colorado State Senator Vicki Marble (R-Fort Collins) is impressively bad.

According to her, black and Hispanic people suffer from higher rates of poverty because of their genetics, fried chicken, and porno.

Audio from KDVR

MARBLE: When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race. Sickle-cell anemia is something that comes up, diabetes is something that’s prevalent in the genetic makeup and you just can’t help it. Although I’ve gotta say, I’ve never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down south and you, I mean I love it and everybody loves it. The Mexican diet in Mexico with all of the fresh vegetables. And you go down there and they’re much thinner than when they come up here. they change their diet. I’ve read studies on that. They become Americanized. Down the street near five-points there used to an old cafe there called Type-2 Chicken and I wanted to eat there for years because I knew it was just going to be the best ever.

You know these things aren’t good for you. And it’s really funny because there’s so many attributing factors as to why these graphs look the way they do. And I think when we look at things we have to take into a lot of attributing factors that one can’t be helped like genetics and the others that can be worked around, maybe the addictions. Certainly some people have addictive personalities. Addictions come in all different forms. You have alcoholics, rageoholics, drug addicts. You have people who are addicted, they say, to porn.

Holy shit.

You got that right!

Poor diet does not lead to poverty, poverty leads to poor diet. And poverty is not caused by genetics or pornography. It’s caused by social apathy and ignorance from people like Senator Vicki Marble who are elected to serve the public interest.

Marble also went on to blame bad parenting and government regulations as reasons why black and Hispanic communities suffer from higher rates of poverty. Because she only had a limited amount of time to spout every stereotype and trope swirling around in her head before being cut off by her colleagues who were having a deer-in-the-headlights moment.

Marble says she is “saddened” that her comments came off the wrong way, as if they could have been taken any other way.

Sigh…

Then you have the stupid assholes that put other people’s lives in danger because of their own ridiculous actions: Vaccine-fearing Texas megachurch urges flock to immunize after measles outbreak | The Raw Story

A Texas megachurch whose leaders have linked vaccines to autism is now asking its members to get immunizations or stay quarantined after an outbreak of measles was traced to the congregation.

Instead of her normal sermon on Sunday, Eagle Mountain International Church Pastor Terri Copeland Pearsons was forced to spend the majority of her time explaining how the congregation should react to the news that all of the 11 measles cases in Tarrant County had been linked to members or visitors of the church.

“You are more than enough, Jesus, you are more than enough!” Pearsons began. “You’re more than enough for any need we have. More than enough, Jesus. For things known and unknown, Jesus, you are more than enough. Can you shout, amen?”

“We’re going to talk about some things affecting our church, and as we go through it, we remain steadfast that Jesus is more than enough,” she told the congregation. “There has been a … confirmed case of the measles from the Tarrant County Public Health Department. And that is a really big deal in that America, the United States has been essentially measles free for I think it’s 10 years. And so when measles pops up anywhere else in the United States, the health department — well, you know, it excites them.”

Pearsons went on to say that the church was offering free vaccination clinics, and urged those who did not attend to quarantine themselves at home for two weeks.

But the call for vaccinations was made awkward by the fact that Pearsons’ father, televangelist Kenneth Copeland, has promoted the idea that vaccines may lead to autism, according to the Dallas Observer.

Okay, I gotta a name for Pearsons’ father, televangelist Kenneth Copeland… he’s a real dooflicker. (*Jan. 1, 1953 “foreskin/penis”)

If you want another story that deals with dooflickers, how about this one…a black family was discriminated against in a Wild Wings Cafe restaurant in South Carolina…and what was that crap about no more racism in America? Yeah, right :  African American Family Denied Service at Wild Wings Cafe | Mediaite

An African American family who were denied service at a Wild Wings Café in Charleston, South Carolina after another patron felt “threatened,” claimed they were discriminated against, and were not satisfied with the restaurant’s response.

After waiting over two hours, customer Michael Brown and his family, who were at the restaurant for a going-away party, were told that there was “a situation.”

“[The manager] said there’s a situation where one of our customers feels threatened by your party, so she asked us not to seat you in our section, which totally alarmed all of us because we’re sitting there peaceably for two hours,” Brown said according to WCSC. “Obviously, if we were causing any conflict, we would have been ejected out of the place hours before.”

When a member of the party began filming the exchange, the manager asked them to leave.

“I asked her I want to be clear with you,” Brown said. “I said, ‘So you’re telling me I have to leave.’ She said, ‘I have a right to deny you service.’ I said, ‘So you’re asking me to leave because you’re upset because he was recording you, after we’ve waited for two hours, and after you’ve already pretty much discriminated on us,’ and she answered, ‘Yes.’”

The company offered Brown a free meal….

When phone calls to the Wild Wings Café corporate office were not returned, Brown posted a critical message about the restaurant on Facebook, after which the company promptly responded.

“We had a conversation,” said the restaurant’s chief marketing officer. “It was a really good conversation. He and many of his family and friends were there about a month ago, and they are regular customers of ours. So, they were having a going away party, and they just didn’t receive the experience that they have come to know and love.”

Brown was offered a free meal, which he was not satisfied with. “We weren’t there for a free meal,” he said.

Video at the link.

There was another shooting yesterday, this time in Florida: Deadly North Florida shooting spree ends in suicide; gunman, 2 former coworkers killed – OrlandoSentinel.com

If you have not read the details behind the shero from this past week…the one woman who stopped a massacre from happening in a Decatur Elementary School, you need to. Antoinette Tuff-Michael Brandon Hill: Atlanta school clerk says she talked gunman into surrendering.

Meanwhile, a quick update on Russia: Critics: Putin’s Olympic Security Decree Violates Rights

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree to tighten security in the Black Sea resort of Sochi during the 2014 Winter Olympics, imposing restrictions on freedom of movement and assembly that critics said violated human rights.

The decree creates a “prohibited zone” encompassing much of the sprawling city, barring travel into Sochi by road without special permission and banning public gatherings “not connected” with the Olympics in high security areas on land and sea.

Putin has staked his reputation on the security and success of Russia’s first Olympics since the Soviet era and has ordered law enforcement authorities to prevent any attacks by Islamist militants based in the nearby North Caucasus provinces.

In early July, insurgent leader Doku Umarov revoked a previous order to refrain from attacking Russian targets outside the North Caucasus and urged militants to use “maximum force” to prevent Putin staging the Games.

Published in the official newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta on Friday, the decree enters into force on Jan. 7, a month before the opening ceremony, and expires on March 21, a month after the Olympics end.

Human rights activists said the restrictions were draconian.

Barring cars from outside Sochi restricts Russians’ freedom of movement and the ban on most public gatherings violates their constitutional right to free assembly, said Pavel Chikov, a human rights lawyer and head of the legal aid group Agora.

[...]

“Under such conditions the Olympics, which are supposed to be celebration of sport and democracy, will become the exact opposite,” prominent Russian environmental activist Alexei Yablokov said in a comment posted on the Internet.

“Nature is being destroyed, people are being evicted from their homes, and now it turns out that a state of emergency is being imposed,” he said.

Gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev said he planned to hold a gay pride march in Sochi on the opening day of the Olympics and that it could not be prohibited by presidential decree.

“Are the Olympics an emergency situation, like a war or a natural disaster?” Alexeyev was quoted as saying by the website grani.ru. “There has been no precedent in history in which peaceful demonstrations have been banned in a city where the Olympics were being held.”

Oh boy…that is one hell of a headache, something has to be done, but I get the feeling it ain’t happening.

There is an exhibit at The Met that ends today: The Metropolitan Museum of Art – P.S. Art 2013

This year marks the eleventh anniversary of P.S. Art, an annual exhibition of talented young artists from New York City’s public schools. The selection showcases the creativity of eighty-three prekindergarten through grade 12 students from all five boroughs and includes paintings, prints, sculptures, photographs, mixed-media works, collages, and drawings. Each piece demonstrates personal expression, imaginative use of media, close observation, and an understanding of artistic processes.

This juried exhibition is also a celebration of public school achievement in the arts. Dedicated art teachers support students’ creativity and help them look closely in order to respond to their worlds through art making. As students take art classes from one year to the next, they increase their understanding of art, sharpen their skills, and delve more deeply into their imaginations.

You can view a slide show with an essay written by some of the students at this link here: The Metropolitan Museum of Art – P.S. Art 2013: Student Artworks

Self-Portrait

Self-Portrait
Yasmine Kobt
Age 10, Grade 4
P.S./I.S. 49, Queens
Art Teacher: Katherine Huala
Chalk pastel on paper

Art comes from your heart and it’s full of magic. I remember drawing and doodling since the age of two. I feel that when I draw, I learn many amazing things. I would like to be an artist when I grow up.

I want you to feel the emotions that I am feeling in my drawing. Look very closely and notice that I am trying to show many different feelings in my portrait. I look quiet and in a good mood, but actually I want to show different feelings. One of my sides is a rainbow showing happiness, curiosity, and shyness. My other side shows sadness and upset feelings. I used many blues to show one strong feeling. My drawing shows that colors and lines may be used to show many different feelings.

Teacher Comments:

Yasmine’s piece is a final work in a drawing unit in which students were asked to make an expressive self-portrait using line, shape, and color to describe a feeling or mood. Students were inspired by the work of Picasso, Matisse, Chagall, Kirchner, Soutine, and Delaunay. The artists spent time exploring chalk pastels, and we discussed how controlling chalk is more challenging than controlling oil pastels. Students practiced various blending and texture techniques to develop imaginative capacities and observational and expressive skills.

Yasmine is an incredibly committed and enthusiastic artist. Her work has subtlety and thoughtfulness, and is exemplary for a fourth-grade student. Yasmine’s drawing shows a deep understanding of line, shape, and color. I particularly like the way she considered gesture and point of view. The slanted shoulders and tilt of the head add to the expressive quality of the portrait. The way Yasmine blended the pastels and used various degrees of pressure to create different visual effects is very advanced.

Go look at the rest of the artwork selected, it is wonderful.

Okay, there was some fuss this past week on Bradley Manning/Chelsea Manning, and the use of pronouns…and wigs and lipstick. Well, I will post a couple of links and see what kind of reaction you have to them:

Thoughts On Chelsea Manning’s Coming Out | Justice For All

I have some thoughts on how Pvt. Chelsea Manning’s gender dysphoria was rolled out.

Let me begin by saying I’m going to give, and I’m going to advocate for, respect for Manning’s chosen name and publicly embraced gender, and I’m going to use female pronouns and call her Chelsea. That; however, comes with a mixed bag of emotions.

Image: Chelsea Manning

I’m going to respect Chelsea’s public request in part because of the Biblical teaching I learned as Pentecostal youth that I still embrace today: treat others as I want to be treated.

But as I respect her name and identified gender, I’m cognizant that Chelsea didn’t respect the trans community — the trans community of which I am a part — in how she came out.

And this:

Chelsea WoManning? #AYKM? | Still4Hill

Yesterday, Manning made this statement upon sentencing.

“I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intent to hurt anyone. … When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.”

Certainly the probability exists that people were endangered and possibly hurt. The deception in Manning’s  words is his claim that he meant no harm. If you love your country, you do not violate oaths you have taken.  You do not expose fellow citizens to peril.  You do not provide classified and secret information to those who can and might make it available to enemies in time of war, and you do not do this as if your “practical joke” will cause harm to high officials in your government and other cooperative governments.  You do not do these things lightly in a time of war.

So this morning, we awakened to the news that Bradley Manning is no longer a man but rather a woman – a woman to be called “Chelsea.”  Really?

Bradley Manning wants to live as a woman

Following his sentencing to 35 years for leaking military documents to WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning now seeks hormone treatments and wants to live as a woman named Chelsea.

Who is Manning?

At left, Manning is escorted from a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., on Dec. 22, 2011. At right, in an undated file photo provided by the U.S. Army, Manning is shown wearing a wig and lipstick. (AP Photos)

Without getting into the LGBT issues here or the legal intricacies of the degree to which what a prisoner “wants” should be obliged or where we draw lines re: necessary medical interventions on their behalf – I mean I have committed no crimes and would like to be 5’7″ and might want a LifeStyle Lift one day (will you taxpayers please fund it?)  – without even asking if convicts have a right to a name change (spies do this all the time, after all)  – I do feel it incumbent on me to ask what name could have been more ironic?   Oh, wait!  I know!  Hillary Manning.  Yes, that would be a tad more ironic!

You did it, Manning, so man up!   To me, your name is Mudd!

Since I have lived under a rock since Tuesday night, I really don’t have an opinion on all of this. Blah…is what I feel at the moment.

Now just a few Hollywood links…

Quentin Tarantino’s Greatest Characters – Films – ShortList Magazine

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat – there’s nothing great about cutting off another man’s ear. So when we’re discussing the merits or otherwise of Quentin Tarantino’s invariably aggressive characters, let’s all accept that by “great” we don’t mean admirable. We mean memorable. And there’s a hell of a lot of them.

We set ourselves the task of whittling dozens and dozens of QT’s finest creations down to just 25. You can let us know how horribly wrong we are in the comments, but bear in mind that for every negative comment made, the editor picks one of us writers to suffer his infamous Five Point Palm Exploding Paycheck Technique.

Hmmm, I have to put Jackie Brown up there at the top…along with Odell Robbie of course. But then…Hans Landa was one hell of a NAZI.

On to Anna Gunn from Breaking Bad. Gunn plays Skyler White, the wife of bad guy and homicidal meth making monster, Mr. White. She wrote an op/ed for the NY Times about the hate her character receives on a daily basis around social media sites. Check it out: I Have a Character Issue

PLAYING Skyler White on the television show “Breaking Bad” for the past five seasons has been one of the most rewarding creative journeys I’ve embarked on as an actor. But the role has also taken me on another kind of journey — one I never would have imagined.

My character, to judge from the popularity of Web sites and Facebook pages devoted to hating her, has become a flash point for many people’s feelings about strong, nonsubmissive, ill-treated women. As the hatred of Skyler blurred into loathing for me as a person, I saw glimpses of an anger that, at first, simply bewildered me.

You should read the whole thing because she explains a lot, but I want to bring your attention to this:

At some point on the message boards, the character of Skyler seemed to drop out of the conversation, and people transferred their negative feelings directly to me. The already harsh online comments became outright personal attacks. One such post read: “Could somebody tell me where I can find Anna Gunn so I can kill her?” Besides being frightened (and taking steps to ensure my safety), I was also astonished: how had disliking a character spiraled into homicidal rage at the actress playing her?

But I finally realized that most people’s hatred of Skyler had little to do with me and a lot to do with their own perception of women and wives. Because Skyler didn’t conform to a comfortable ideal of the archetypical female, she had become a kind of Rorschach test for society, a measure of our attitudes toward gender.

I can’t say that I have enjoyed being the center of the storm of Skyler hate. But in the end, I’m glad that this discussion has happened, that it has taken place in public and that it has illuminated some of the dark and murky corners that we often ignore or pretend aren’t still there in our everyday lives.

As I said go read the rest, Gunn does bring up some valid points.

Then take a look at these responses from a few other online mags:

‘Breaking Bad’ Season 5: Anna Gunn Talks Skyler White And Being A Hated Woman On TV

Is “Breaking Bad’s” Skyler White (Anna Gunn) the most hated woman on TV these days?

Judging from Facebook pages dedicated to loathing her, it certainly seems like it. And Gunn isn’t shy about admitting it upsets her … not just when it comes to defending Skyler — the wife of drug lord Walter White (Bryan Cranston) — but women as a whole.

“As an actress, I realize that viewers are entitled to have whatever feelings they want about the characters they watch,” Gunn, who is in her final episodes of AMC’s critically-acclaimed drama, wrote in a New York Times Op-ed.“But as a human being, I’m concerned that so many people react to Skyler with such venom. Could it be that they can’t stand a woman who won’t suffer silently or ‘stand by her man’? That they despise her because she won’t back down or give up? Or because she is, in fact, Walter’s equal?”

“It’s notable that viewers have expressed similar feelings about other complex TV wives,” she continued. “Carmela Soprano of ‘The Sopranos,’ Betty Draper of ‘Mad Men.’ Male characters don’t seem to inspire this kind of public venting and vitriol.”

Perhaps Gunn has a point. While Walt, Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) got away with murder — at least in some cases — their stubborn wives somehow come out looking like the bad guys.

‘Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn Pens NYT Op-Ed To Internet Haters – Deadline.com

Haters gonna hate: Anna Gunncould nab an Emmy for her celebrated work on AMC‘s Breaking Bad. Comic-Con

But online her character on the show, Skyler White, has earned a “bewildering” amount of fan vitriol.

Anna Gunn’s Just Trying To Understand Why People Want To Kill Her- Huffington Post

As Breaking Bad comes to a close (AHHHH!), hopefully cultural critics will be examining viewers’ vitriol against Walter White’s complex, long-suffering wife — which has been so severe it’s been termed “the Skyler White” effect and applied to other TV wives — at length. [Spoilers to follow.]

Just as it’s hard to pin down at what precise point that Cranston’s character became more Heisenberg than Walt, it’s impossible to say when in the series Skyler became the most hated female character on television. When she devised, businesslike, the elaborate gambling-addiction cover-up to tell Hank and Marie? When she bought the car wash and became complicit in Walt’s crime? The infamous “I fucked Ted” line, basically the only way she could assert her autonomy? The latter would be my guess.

Anna Gunn, who has watched the criticism of her character become criticism of her as a person, even to the point of death threats, writes for the New York Times:

A typical online post complained that Skyler was a “shrieking, hypocritical harpy” and didn’t “deserve the great life she has.” “I have never hated a TV-show character as much as I hate her,” one poster wrote. The consensus among the haters was clear: Skyler was a ball-and-chain, a drag, a shrew, an “annoying bitch wife.”

She points out that other wives of antiheroes on popular TV shows have elicited similar feelings, e.g. Carmela Soprano and Betty Draper. But unlike Mad Men or The Sopranos, in the last few seasons, for better or worse, Breaking Bad has indulged in a certain fan-boy attitude towards its leading man (during an old-school Western standoff: “You’re Heisenberg.” “You’re damn right.”) that might attract the kind of male viewers who actually root for “badass” Walt — and detest Skylar for being a buzzkill, fucking someone else and giving the guy all of Walt’s money, even changing physically. Maybe a viable explanation for the phenomenon is that the type of audience has changed.

Wow…again…take a look at the rest of those links.

And finally, last night we learned that Julie Harris passed away. I thought she was a hell of an actress. God I loved her in The Haunting! Anyway, here is her Obituary: Julie Harris, Broadway star, dies at 87

http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/79670b36f540db78c9be192dc620b46eda4a3e87/c=16-0-1984-1483&r=x404&c=534x401/local/-/media/USATODAY/USATODAY/2013/08/24/1377391832000-AP-Obit-Julie-Harris.jpg

(Photo: Suzanne Plunkett, AP)

Julie Harris, one of Broadway’s most honored performers, whose roles ranged from the flamboyant Sally Bowles in I Am a Camera to the reclusive Emily Dickinson in The Belle of Amherst, died Saturday. She was 87.

Harris died at her West Chatham, Mass. home of congestive heart failure, actress and family friend Francesca James said.

Harris won a record five Tony Awards for best actress in a play, displaying a virtuosity that enabled her to portray an astonishing gallery of women during a theater career that spanned almost 60 years and included such plays as The Member of the Wedding (1950), The Lark (1955), Forty Carats (1968) and The Last of Mrs. Lincoln (1972).

She was honored again with a sixth Tony, a special lifetime achievement award in 2002. Only Angela Lansbury has neared her record, winning four Tonys in the best actress-musical category and one for best supporting actress in a play.

[...]

In the movies, she was James Dean’s romantic co-star in East of Eden (1955), and had rolls in such films as Requiem for a Heavyweight (1962), The Haunting (1963) and Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967).

Yet Harris’ biggest successes and most satisfying moments have been on stage. “The theater has been my church,” the actress once said. “I don’t hesitate to say that I found God in the theater.”

The 5-foot-4 Harris, blue-eyed with delicate features and reddish-gold hair, made her Broadway debut in 1945 in a short-lived play called It’s a Gift. Five years later, at the age of 24, Harris was cast as Frankie, a lonely 12-year-old tomboy on the brink of adolescence, in The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers’ stage version of her wistful novel.

The critics raved about Harris, with Brooks Atkinson in The New York Times calling her performance “extraordinary — vibrant, full of anguish and elation.”

“That play was really the beginning of everything big for me,” Harris had said.

The actress appeared in the 1952 film version, too, with her original Broadway co-stars, Ethel Waters and Brandon De Wilde, and received an Academy Award nomination.

[...]

Harris was born on Dec. 2, 1925, in Grosse Pointe, Mich., the daughter of an investment banker. She grew up fascinated by movies, later saying she thought of herself as plain-looking and turned to acting as a way of becoming other persons.

She made her stage debut at the Grosse Pointe Country Day School in The Hunchback of Notre Dame at age 14. In the years that followed, she studied drama in finishing school, prep school, Yale University and the Actor’s Studio.

[...]

Harris was married three times, to lawyer Jay I. Julian, stage manager Manning Gurian and writer William Erwin Carroll. She had one son, Peter Alston Gurian.

For a review of a couple of her movies I will post a two videos from Steve Hays aka Tired Old Queer…damn do I love this man…if you can catch some of her movies on TCM, please do!

The Haunting

East of Eden

Have a wonderful day,  and see you all in September!


Wednesday Reads: Link Dump, Cheaters and Muppets

2318187700_4d91d6e5bbGood Morning

I have only a few links for you this morning. On Monday I went to the neurologist, and it turns out I did have a seizure last month. The doctor put me on Topamax, aka “dope-a-max.” As if I needed any more help in the loopy department…

The side effects are scary, I am very sleepy and my fingers are tingling like the dickens. One possible thing I am looking forward to, is this medication causes loss of appetite, weight loss and anorexia.  I know there is no way in hell I will become anorexic, but shedding some pounds is a big plus. However, as my dad says…with my luck, fat chance.

On with the news reads.

WTF is it with the GOP and their hypocrite candidates?  Mark Sanford wins GOP nomination in South Carolina

It makes me want to puke…meanwhile, in Queens, NY:

Malcolm Smith Accused of Bribery for Spot on Mayoral Ballot

BTW, Smith is a Democrat…but he wanted to run on the Republican ticket.

N.Y. Lawmakers Charged in Plot to Buy Spot on Mayoral Ballot

What the senator, Malcolm A. Smith, wanted to do, the other man explained, was going to cost “a pretty penny.”

“But it’s worth it,” replied Senator Smith, a Democrat, according to a transcript of the January meeting. “Because you know how big a deal it is.”

His plan, described by federal prosecutors in a criminal complaint unsealed on Tuesday, was as ambitious as it was audacious. Mr. Smith was going to bribe his way onto the ballot to run for mayor of New York.

But he needed help, from a disparate cast of characters, including a Republican City Council member from Queens, Daniel J. Halloran III, and two Republican leaders from Queens and the Bronx, Vincent Tabone and Joseph J. Savino. And he needed the help of the other man in the car, who, unbeknown to Mr. Smith, was a cooperating witness for the Federal Bureau of Investigation and was recording the whole conversation.

There is a graphic here: Untangling the Arrests in the N.Y. Corruption Case

In Atlanta, cheating is in the news headlines these days.  Here is coverage from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

CHEATING OUR CHILDREN

Ex-Atlanta schools chief Hall leaves Fulton jail

Indicated APS educators
Beverly Hall leaves the Fulton County Jail on Tuesday night. | Ben Gray/AJC

All but a few of the 35 educators indicted in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal have turned themselves in to authorities.

Raw: Hall arrives at jail
Shirley Franklin: ‘Lynch mob’
Beverly Hall’s bond lowered
Photos: Jail scene
Booking photos
Video: Educators surrender
Photos: Who is indicted
Gallery: AJC reports
Read the indictment
Join Twitter conversation
AJC: Cheating Our Children
AJC editor on CNN

What a mess!

There is also some sad news as well, yesterday Jane Henson passed away, she was 78. Jane Henson, matriarch to Muppets, dies at 78

This 1960 handout photo provided by The Jim Henson Company shows Jane Henson, right, with Jim Henson and the cast of Sam and Friends, in Washington. Jane Henson died in her Connecticut home on April 2, 2013 after a long battle with cancer.

This 1960 handout photo provided by The Jim Henson Company shows Jane Henson, right, with Jim Henson and the cast of Sam and Friends, in Washington. Jane Henson died in her Connecticut home on April 2, 2013 after a long battle with cancer. / AP Photo/The Jim Henson Company, Del Ankers

Those are some scary looking muppets, must be the earlier models….but then again, nothing is more frightening than Elmo…especially now that we know what made him laugh like that. (Oooo, that was a little over the top huh?)

Well, my fingers are feeling like they are falling asleep, just think of this as an open thread.


The Tax Payer-Funded Dumbing of America

jesus_raptors It’s hard to believe that we’re living in a political environment where elected officials are bemoaning waste in all levels of government while sending so many public funds and assets to underwrite religious indoctrination and profit private businesses.  Southern states are the bottom crawlers of any measurement of academic outcomes. My state of Louisiana is no exception.  Texas is definitely a problem.  However, it’s a national problem so those of you that live in other parts of the country shouldn’t feel smug or think it couldn’t happen to your children or grandchildren.  Two fellow Louisianans–Melissa Harris Perry and Zack Kopplin– have found that vouchers spread creationism.  That cannot be good for a future that’s dependent on educated people who need to know real science.  Let’s examine exactly what our tax dollars are funding.

First, here’s the results of Zack’s study.  Zack is currently studying at Rice University.

I first began investigating creationist school vouchers as my part of my fight against creationism in my home state of Louisiana. Over the past few months, I’ve learned creationist vouchers aren’t just a Louisiana problem—they’re an American problem. School vouchers are, as James Gill recently wrote in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, “the answer to a creationist’s prayer.”

Liberty Christian School, in Anderson, Indiana, has field trips to the Creation Museum and students learn from the creationist A Beka curriculum. Kingsway Christian School, in Avon, Indiana, also has Creation Museum field trips. Mansfield Christian School, in Ohio, teaches science through the creationist Answers in Genesis website, run by the founder of the Creation Museum. The school’s Philosophy of Science page says, “the literal view of creation is foundational to a Biblical World View.”  All three of these schools, and more than 300 schools like them, are receiving taxpayer money.

So far, I have documented 310 schools, in nine states and the District of Columbia that are teaching creationism, and receiving tens of millions of dollars in public money through school voucher programs.

There is no doubt that there are hundreds more creationist voucher schools that have yet to be identified. The more than 300 CreationismWitchDoctorschools I have already found are those that have publicly stated on their websites that they teach creationism or use creationist curricula.

There are hundreds more voucher schools, across the country, that are self-identified Christian academies, that appear very similar in philosophy to the ones I’ve identified in my research as teaching creationism. These schools may not blatantly advertise that they teach creationism on their websites, or often don’t even have a website, but there is a good chance that hundreds more voucher schools are also teaching our children creationism. Some states, Arizona and Mississippi, haven’t even released lists of schools participating in their voucher programs for the public to audit.

Here are a few highlights from creationist voucher schools I have identified:

  • The Beverly Institute in Jacksonville, Florida, teaches “Evidence of a Flood,” and “Evidence against Evolution,” and ”The Evolution of Man: A Mistaken Belief.”
  • Creekside Christian Academy in McDonough, Georgia says,“The universe, a direct creation of God, refutes the man-made idea of evolution. Students will be called upon to see the divine order of creation and its implications on other subject areas.
  • Life Christian Academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma says their life science class will “lead the student to recognize that God created all living things and that these living things are fearfully and wonderfully made.” Evolution is taught only in history class, where students “evaluate the theory of evolution and its flaws.” The school uses the creationist Bob Jones and CSI curriculums.
  • The principal of the Claiborne Christian School, in West Monroe, Louisiana, says in a school newsletter, “Our position at CCS on the age of the Earth and other issues is that any theory that goes against God’s Word is in error.” She also claims that scientists are “sinful men” trying to explain the world “without God” so they don’t have to be “morally accountable to Him.”
  • Trinity Academy, in Gary, uses the creationist A Beka curriculum and says it “presents the universe as the direct creation of God and refutes the man-made idea of evolution.”
  • Rocky Bayou Christian School, in Niceville, Florida, says in its section on educational philosophy, “God mandates that children be discipled for Christ. They must be trained in the biblical world view which honors Jehovah, the sovereign Creator of the universe. It recognizes that man was created in the image of God” and says “Man is presumed to be an evolutionary being shaped by matter, energy, and chance… God commands His people not to teach their children the way of the heathen.”
  • Wisconsin Lutheran High School, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, says in its biology syllabus that it teaches, “evolutionists are ‘stuck’ because they have no god, therefore they must believe in evolution” and “young earth evidence a disaster to evolutionists.”

This year, we may see even more creationist school vouchers. Both Tennessee and Texas are considering passing voucher programs. Indiana and Georgia may expand their programs.

CreationismJobsWe’ve seen some horrible examples what now passes as “science” in Louisiana thanks to the LSEA or the Lousiana Science Education Act pushed and signed by Bobby Jindal and some of the whackier senators in the Louisiana Legislature in 2008.  You can learn more about the law itself in the youtube. We’re not the only state that’s having problems now with taxpayer funded religious screeds.

The Texas Freedom Network has documented examples in Texas.  Texas passed a law that lets schools teach bible courses under the guise of discussing the importance of religion in history and literature.  They don’t even have vouchers draining funds to their evangelical madrassas yet.  It’s in the works. Right now, all this is going on in regular public schools. The stories from TFNEF are not very pretty and includes a lot of students basically getting lessons in anti-Semitism.  Here’s some examples of what they’ve found being taught in Texas. 

Today the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund released a report, authored by a religious studies professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, that examines what students are learning in the 57 school districts and three charter schools that teach Bible courses. Examples from Texas public schools:

  • Instructional material in two school districts teach that racial diversity today can be traced back to Noah’s sons, a long-discredited claim that has been a foundational component of some forms of racism.
  • Religious bias is common, with most courses taught from a Protestant — often a conservative Protestant — perspective. One course, for example, assumes Christians will at some point be “raptured.” Materials include a Venn diagram showing the pros and cons of theories that posit the rapture before the returning Jesus’ 1,000-year reign and those that place it afterward. In many courses, the perspectives of Roman Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Jews are often left out.
  • Anti-Jewish bias — intentional or not — is not uncommon. Some courses even portray Judaism as a flawed and incomplete religion that has been replaced by Christianity.
  • Many courses suggest or openly claim that the Bible is literally true. “The Bible is the written word of God,” students are told in one PowerPoint presentation. Some courses go so far as to suggest that the Bible can be used to verify events in history. One district, for example, teaches students that the Bible’s historical claims are largely beyond question by listing biblical events side by side with historical developments from around the globe.
  • Course materials in numerous classes are designed to evangelize rather than provide an objective study of the Bible’s influence. A book in one district makes its purpose clear in the preface: “May this study be of value to you. May you fully come to believe that ‘Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.’ And may you have ‘life in His name.’”
  • A number of courses teach students that the Bible proves Earth is just 6,000 years old.
  • Students are taught that the United States is a Christian nation founded on the Christian biblical principles taught in their classrooms.
  • Academic rigor is so poor that many courses rely mostly on memorization of Bible verses and factoids from Bible stories rather than teaching students how to analyze what they are studying. One district relies heavily on Bible cartoons from Hanna-Barbera for its high school class. Students in another district spend two days watching what lesson plans describe a “the historic documentary Ancient Aliens,” which presents “a new interpretation of angelic beings described as extraterrestrials.”

How could such courses have gone so wrong? The 2007 law included numerous guidelines designed to help public schools create academically rigorous and constitutionally appropriate courses. But the Legislature failed to appropriate funding to develop in-service training for teachers of Bible courses, and most school districts simply ignored the requirement that teachers get such training. Moreover, the State Board of Education — under the control of religious conservatives at the time — refused to adopt serious curriculum standards to help guide school districts as they planned their courses.

Jindal’s voucher experiment was recently found unconstitutional but not for the reasons that you think.  It was basically a technicality of funding and educational funding guidelines prescribed in the state’s constitution that got the law thrown out.  Address this issue and the vouchers could stick and stay.  Here’s some of the more recent news concerning what’s draining tax payer funds and passing as ‘education’ in Louisiana.

Jindal defended vouchers without once using the oft-toxic term, instead calling them scholarships, or putting them under the broader umbrella of school choice. “It is my sincere hope that what we are now putting in motion in Louisiana can be done across the country,” Jindal said. “I believe we’ve got an economic and a moral imperative to provide school choice and a quality education to every child, every student in America.”

Jindal made the case for making vouchers bipartisan. “I do not accept the notion that equal opportunity in public education should be a partisan issue,” Jindal said. Vouchers have been a third-rail policy among liberals, causing the Obama administration to do rhetorical summersaults. They’re controversial among liberals because they funnel tax dollars to private institutions — often, parochial schools that teach religion. In Louisiana, the private schools accepting voucher money have been found to teach about both creationism and the existence of the mythical Loch Ness monster.

Additionally, the schools that receive vouchers are not subjected to basic standards required of public schools AND many don’t even meet basic federal standards for basic services to special needs students.

Jindal said private schools in and near New Orleans that accepted vouchers saw more growth in student proficiency rates recently than schools statewide. (Proficiency rates are rarely reliable, since they measure two different groups of students.) Jindal also asserted that the vouchers serve all students. “It’s the money of a grandmother who wants to make sure her special education grandbaby gets the education she needs,” he said.

But according to public records, several private schools that opened their doors to voucher students with special needs had no services for such students. For example, the St. Angela Merici school’s application indicated it had no services for students with autism, mental disabilities or learning disabilities.

As for Jindal’s claims about high performing “charter” schools. I can offer you just a few links that show charter schools really aren’t performing as Jindal claims.   Again, the biggest problem is that these schools do not effectively address children with disabilities.  Schools that don’t address children with the highest needs can hardly be called anything but dysfunctional and discriminatory.  There are currently many lawsuits and stories concerning children with special needs and various charter schools.  These schools are cherry-picking students.

Families have attempted to place their disabled children in schools, but they have either been told that the school doesn’t have special-needs services or been told, gently, that their child would be better served at another school. These problems occur often enough that a due-process complaint has been filed against the Louisiana Department of Education on behalf of 4,500 students in the city with disabilities.

These issues have conveniently been left out of a number of Pollyanna-ish media reports touting the messianic nature of charter schools, and how Hurricane Katrina was a “blessing” to New Orleans’ children. A recent article at The Grio, “New Orleans Charter Schools Redefine Education Reform,” reads: “The standardized test results for fourth, eighth and tenth grade public school students have gone up since the storm hit in 2005. This may have something to do with the increasing presence of charter schools, though it is not clear.”

But test scores in those grades were already rising before the storm hit. Between 2003 and 2005, fourth-grade math results grew by 9 percent. Between 2007 and 2009, those results grew by 9.5 percent. In eighth-grade math, the growth in the percentage of kids scoring above basic levels between 2003 and 2005 was greater than the gains between 2007 and 2009. There has been a slight improvement in eighth-grade English and in math at the high school graduate level, but in both categories, the improvement in test scores builds on progress that was already occurring before the mass chartering of New Orleans.

We’ve also had problems with charter schools deliberately cheating on tests.

There’s a natural conflict there, experts say, in that most school districts are less than eager to announce they’ve found corruption in their midst.

At charter schools, the conflict might be more acute, some say, because charter boards play a role in investigations. Board members can be recruited by a school’s administrators, which might make it even more difficult for them to take a hard look at allegations.

“If you are committed to finding out the truth, you need individuals who are not connected in any way to the individuals involved,” said Robert Schaeffer, public education director of the National Center for Fair & Open Testing.

In Louisiana’s current setup, there is “a conflict of interest all the way up the line,” and not just as it relates to charter schools, said Gregory Cizek, a professor of educational measurement at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “No one has a really strong interest in investigating in a really searching manner,” he said.

That’s why some states have started putting such investigations under the jurisdiction of the state attorney general’s office or another independent entity, he said.

Asking the school’s own board of directors or district to handle a probe, Cizek said, is like having the IRS tell a taxpayer: “We have a problem with your tax return. Would you look it over?”

Studies of Arizona charter schools have found instances of tax payer “fleecing”.

In her examination of Arizona’s 50 largest nonprofit charter schools and all of Arizona’s nonprofit charter schools with assets exceeding $10 million, Ryman found “at least 17 contracts or arrangements, totaling more than $70 million over five years and involving about 40 school sites, in which money from the non-profit charter school went to for-profit or non-profit companies run by board members, executives or their relatives.” That says to me that in Arizona, at least, charter-school corruption isn’t the exception. It’s the rule. And that’s just in the nonprofit charter schools. Documentation for the for-profit schools is not publicly available. What are the odds that charter-school proprietors operating in the dark are less inclined to enrich themselves at public expense?

The self-dealing is entirely legal. All you have to do is get yourself an exemption from state laws requiring that goods and services be bid competitively. Clearly these exemptions aren’t difficult to acquire, because 90 percent of Arizona’s charter holders—not 90 percent of the charter schools surveyed by the Arizona Republic, but 90 percent of all the state’s charter schools—have acquired permanent exemptions from state competitive bidding requirements. No exemption has ever been withdrawn by the state. If you are a charter-school officer and you stand to benefit personally from some financial transaction with the school, you may not vote on whether to make the purchase. But that’s about the only rule.

The result? “The schools’ purchases from their own officials,” Ryman writes, “range from curriculum and business consulting to land leases and transportation services. A handful of non-profit schools outsource most of their operations to a board member’s for-profit company.”

Clearly, our state and many others have set up systems rife with self-dealing, cherry-picking and curricula that should stand in clear violation of the first amendment.  My bottom line here?  If any of these school reform initiatives come your way in your state, fight them like hell. They are just simply ways to bust teacher unions, deliver tax dollars to corporate cronies, and fund radical evangelical madrassas and religious indoctrination in the guise of science, literature, and history.  Of course, this means if you have a Republican governor, be prepared to vote and fight.


Sunday Reads Number Two: Rain go away!

Vintage advertisement for umbrellas.

Vintage advertisement for umbrellas.

Good Afternoon

The weather here in Banjoville is gloomy, making my fingers ache. In other words, typing is bothersome so this will be a short post. The gloom is also making me moody, giving me even less enthusiasm for typing today. Anyway, these are the rest of your Sunday reads.

BB sent me this link last night, GOP looks for ways to stop the rape comments.  I don’t think they can “stop” any kind of comments that discriminate or degrade women period.

Rep. Phil Gingrey’s attempts to explain Todd Akin’s rape remarks are leaving many Republicans beyond frustrated that a few in their party can’t help but insert rape into the already contentious abortion debate.

“This is actually pretty simple. If you’re about to talk about rape as anything other than a brutal and horrible crime, stop,” said Republican strategist Kevin Madden, who was a senior adviser in Mitt Romney’s campaign.

And who is coming to the Republicans aid by teaching the GOP how to control their archaic beliefs from spewing from their mouths? The Susan B. Anthony PLUB group.
…a training program that’s already being launched by an anti-abortion group — the Susan B. Anthony list — to keep candidates and lawmakers from continually making the same kind of comments that may have helped ruin Republicans’ chances of winning the Senate.
[...]

Marina Ein, whose public relations firm does crisis communications, said the party needs some kind of “sensitivity training” for its candidates if it wants to do better in the next elections.

“It all boils down to whether or not the Republican Party thinks this is a problem,” she said. “If they want to make inroads with women, then they need to subject every one of their candidates to sensitivity training — not to mention reality training.”

The training would have to “educate politicians on subjects that are absolutely taboo, except to say, ‘I sympathize with the pain of anyone who goes through fill-in-the-blank,’” she said.

Madden’s advice is simply to stop talking.

Yeah, don’t change the way these assholes think…just keep them from saying it.
Texas is really becoming one place to avoid (sorry Ralph)…if you are anything other than a wealthy white man: The Rich Male Whiteness, It Burns – Lawyers, Guns & Money : Lawyers, Guns & Money
A bunch of conservative Texas groups are taking history departments at the University of Texas and Texas A&M to task because they supposedly talk too much about race, class, and gender instead of rich white guys and awesome wars and America Rocks and Let’s Invade Iran! and other such things. Texas has a public school requirement that each college student must take 2 U.S. history classes. So these groups decided to look at syllabi to see what they could see. The answer, too much teaching topics that might make students question the current tenets of the Republican Party.
Read the rest of Erik Loomis post at the link.
I’ve got another legal blog post to share with you, this time from The Volokh Conspiracy » May Plaintiff Cut off a Poor Defendant’s Appeal, by Having the Sheriff Sell off Defendant’s Right to Appeal?
That is the question I’m facing with the latest twist in Obsidian Finance Group, LLC v. Cox, a pro bono First Amendment case that I’m litigating before the Ninth Circuit. For more on the substantive First Amendment issue, see the materials collected here. But this twist is all about procedure (as so many legal questions are).
It is wonderful to see that Eugene Volokh is helping this woman pro bono…take a look at his quick review of the case at the link.
You may have heard about the latest news from the land of the Happy Rat: Disney World to Issue MagicBand ID Bracelets This Spring
Don’t give us that look, you knew as well as we did that the Walt Disney Company would eventually cut its fang-like teeth on insidious global takeover. This spring, Disney World will feel more like an internment camp than a destination for exorbitant family entertainment when the park initiates the MyMagic+ vacation management system and MagicBand identification bracelets. These bracelets, if participating visitors are so inclined, will be encoded with a wealth of information including the individual’s name, credit card information, and other tidbits such as birthdays. Disney believes that this new system will mean faster purchase transactions and less time spent waiting in line to get on rides, but it’s natural if some people would rather not have corporate goons sifting through private information for their own ends. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the police state as envisioned by Mickey Mouse!
As usual, it is a guise for aggressive advertising.

The MagicBand bracelets will work in conjunction with a website and app called My Disney Experience. Here, users will be able to select three FastPasses for rides of their choosing in addition to VIP seating for special events like fireworks shows or those obnoxious meet-and-greets. What they probably won’t know during this entire process is that they’ve unknowingly put themselves on the grid and will be under the constant monitoring of Disney goons from some undisclosed location — likely a cramped concrete bunker underneath the churro cart.

And as if Disney couldn’t possibly cram anymore features into a dinky rubber bracelet certain to give one’s wrist sweat-induced rashes under the hot Florida sun, the MagicBands will also serve as room keys and tickets for attractions or parking.

The bracelets are convenient to say the least, but it’s difficult not to shake that overwhelming feeling of having one’s privacy invaded. Disney stresses that the bracelets are entirely optional and will be used solely to gather vital information — such as items purchased and which characters you embraced or ran away from in sheer terror — to better improve visitor experience. So, really, how can you hate on a bracelet that gives park employees the ability to address your family by their first names? It’s not like the reason for a long distance vacation is to physically get away from people who know you.

Ha…good point. I don’t know about you, but the thought of all that personal information being collected is just way too creepy for my sensibilities.
So, in a world where the technology is such that you can have your entire vacation plan controlled by a 10 cent rubber bracelet, there is this report out of Haiti: Three years on from earthquake housing situation catastrophic | Amnesty International
Three years on from the Haiti earthquake the housing situation in the country is nothing short of catastrophic with hundreds of thousands of people still living in fragile shelters, Amnesty International said as it urged the authorities and the international community to make housing a priority.The 12 January 2010 earthquake left more than 200,000 people dead and some 2.3 million homeless.It is estimated that more than 350,000 people currently live in 496 camps across the country.According to testimonies gathered by Amnesty International in Haiti, living conditions in the makeshift camps are worsening – with severe lack of access to water, sanitation and waste disposal – all of which have contributed to the spread of infectious diseases such as cholera.
Women and girls are vulnerable to sexual assault and rape.“As if being exposed to insecurity, diseases and hurricanes were not enough, many people living in makeshifts camps are also living under the constant fear of being forcibly evicted,” said Javier Zúñiga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International.
More misery at the link.
I can’t end on a sour note, so the next few links are up-beat special interest stories.
If you all missed Pat Johnson’s “Book List” post over at Widdershin’s, go read it now.  AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT…. « The Widdershins
Wow Pat, that is a huge amount of reading you did this past year. I’m impressed!
Over in England, they have been inundated with rain this season and it is beginning to cause landslides. One in particular will peak Dak’s interest.  Whitby landslip exposes human bones at ‘Dracula graveyard’

Human bones have been exposed at a church graveyard in Whitby after a landslide took away part of the cliff.

The large landslip, at the cliff on which St Mary’s Church stands, has exposed ancient graves when rock started to crumble.

The church, founded around AD1110, includes the graveyard that provided the inspiration for a scene in Bram Stoker’s horror novel Dracula.

The human bones have been collected and will be reinterred, officials said.

The landslide has been blamed on a broken drainage pipe which has become damaged and fallen away.

‘Only bones’This meant that after heavy rainfall the soil became saturated, leading to more of the cliff falling away.

A stream of water can now be seen flowing out of the rock face where the bones are believed to have been recovered.

St Mary’s rector, Canon David Smith said: “The cemetery has been closed for over a century, so if any graves are exposed it’s only bones.

Another old decrepit site is the focus of this next link:  ” The Thread That Connects Us All “ « mikepillowsphoto

"To Walk a Mile in..."

“To Walk a Mile in…”

I was treated to an early gift this season… it was a dusty, old, dark, and very magical treat to this photographer’s eyes. The present I am referring to, was my visit to the last intact silk mill left in the US. Built in  1907, and known as Klotz Throwing Company, it is located in Lonaconing, MD which is about a five and a half hour drive from where I live.

On rare occasions, you can feel a presence of history in a place. I felt it instantly, when I set foot inside this mill. What also set the mood was the ambient light I had to work in.  The smell and feel of a past life lets your thoughts drift back to when it was a booming factory. Seeing the thousands of spools, and their links to the machinery, led you to actually imagine the sounds and visualize the people who had worked on the factory floor.

Some interesting photos at that link, and I must admit…being a weaver and fiber nut I found the location of the photo shoot fascinating.
Another year is starting, and aside from Django Unchained, I have no desire to sit in a movie theater and watch the new movies coming out of Hollywood. As so many of you know, my days and evenings are spent watching old movies on TCM, so it should come as no surprise that I will end this post with a link to the TCM Blog MovieMorlocks.com – It’s a Mini-Team Effort written by Greg Ferrera
I recently did a post on great dual performance movies, that is, movies where two actors go head to head, both in the movie and as actors.  I brought up Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in All About Eve, Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier in Sleuth as well as many others.  Readers followed up with a lot of great match-ups themselves and I recommend giving them all a read.  But as Al Capone, played by Robert De Niro, famously said in The Untouchables, “I’m goin’ out there for myself. But… I get nowhere unless the team wins.” (psst, after he says that he whimsically crushes some poor sap’s skull in with a baseball bat)  And so this post isn’t about head to head, it’s about elbow to elbow and hand in hand.  It’s all about working together but not in the way you’d think.   Forget Nick and Nora, Oscar and Felix, Dorothy Gale and those three lugs.  This all about my favorite little teams, the ones that no one ever celebrates… until now.
Have a great day and enjoy your evening…think of this as an open thread so share whatever you like in the comments below.