Oh yeah…I got the stuff!
Plenty of things for you today, so much that I have decided to break this post up into two…one for the morning…one for the early afternoon.
First some headlines:
A 21-year-old Hofstra University student who was killed in a home invasion on Friday was mistakenly shot in the head by an officer who fired eight times at a man who was holding a gun to the student’s head and then pointed it at him, the police said on Saturday. Seven of the bullets hit the man, who was also killed.
At least one officer had entered the home as Mr. Smith, clutching Ms. Rebello in a headlock with a gun to her head, tried to get to the back door, Detective Azzata said. After noticing the officer in the hallway, Mr. Smith brought Ms. Rebello closer to his body, Detective Azzata said. Mr. Smith then pointed his gun at the officer.
“At that point, the police officer fires several rounds,” Detective Azzata said. “Seven of those rounds struck our subject; one of those rounds struck the victim.”
Ms. Rebello was taken to the hospital, where she died. Mr. Smith’s weapon, a 9-millimeter handgun, had one bullet in the chamber and another in the magazine, Detective Azzata said. He never fired a shot.
Detective Azzata said the officer who fired the shots was a 12-year veteran of the force, but would not identify him or say whether the officer had acted according to protocol. He said the authorities were still investigating the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
When this shooting first took place, the police insisted the victim was shot by the suspect.
A Hofstra University student was killed in her home Friday morning during a botched robbery.
Andrea Rebello, 21, of New York, was shot dead by a masked gunman while her twin sister was in the house, cops told the New York Post. The gunman was also killed in a firefight with police.
The intruder broke into the home at about 2:20 a.m., where the sisters, one of their boyfriends and another woman were staying. The suspect held them hostage for a short time, but let the unidentified woman go to get cash from an ATM. She called police, NBC News reports.
Rebello and the gunman were killed during a firefight that erupted when police arrived. Police told the Post that the suspect killed Rebello, and cops killed him.
It is a shame that this young woman is dead, I won’t get into a debate about the details of how she became a victim of a policeman’s bullet…considering this was a hostage situation, the police knew it was a hostage situation, a lone cop entered the house, the gunman was found to have had two bullets in gun and did not shoot his weapon, the cop unloaded his gun (well, fired 8 times and hitting suspect 7 times, Rebello once) and the investigation is ongoing.
I guess we all expected this nugget of news about the IRS thing: Evidence emerges that Obama administration official knew of IRS targeting during 2012 campaign – CBS News
There were new questions Saturday night concerning if anyone in the White House was aware of the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups.
Inspector General Russell George said he informed a deputy at the Treasury Department in June of 2012 about the probe into the IRS.
The Treasury Department confirmed the timeline but said they did not know the details of the investigation until last week.
It’s the first evidence that someone within the Obama administration knew about the practice during the presidential campaign.
It is unknown whether anyone in the White House was told of the federal investigation.
And, if any of you are lucky enough: Lucky numbers for biggest Powerball jackpot are…
The winning Powerball numbers are 10, 13, 14, 22, 52 with a Powerball number of 11.
After all the mess BP caused with their Deepwater Horizon Spill you’d think drilling into deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico would be out of the question. Shell presses ahead with world’s deepest offshore oil well
Royal Dutch Shell is pressing ahead with the world’s deepest offshore oil and gas production facility by drilling almost two miles underwater in the politically sensitive Gulf of Mexico.
John Hollowell, a Shell executive vice-president, said: “This important investment demonstrates our ongoing commitment to usher in the next generation of deepwater developments, which will deliver more production growth in the Americas. We will continue our leadership in safe, innovative deepwater operations to help meet the growing demand for energy in the US.”
The move comes despite ongoing controversy over offshore exploration – especially in the Gulf of Mexico, where in April 2010 a fire and explosion on the BP Deepwater Horizon rig killed 11 workers and started a leak that took three months to cap. Last month BP said it had paid $25bn (£16bn) of the $42bn it has set aside to cover the damage caused by the spill.
Shell’s Gulf of Mexico field, called Stones, was discovered eight years ago 200 miles south-west of New Orleans and is 2,900 metres (9,500ft) below the sea. Perdido, another Shell site in the region, is currently the world’s deepest offshore well at 2,880 metres below the surface. Meanwhile the company has several other projects nearby, including its 900 metre-deep Mars field, where it is adding new infrastructure, plus its Appomattox and Vito discoveries.
Sticking with environmental issues for now, Google Earth enters fourth dimension, highlights humanity’s heavy hand | Ars Technica
Roughly four years ago, Google engineers started working with the US Geological Survey to create what it’s now calling Google Earth Engine. Thanks to NASA satellite imagery obtained as part of the Landsat program, the USGS has decades of historic images of the Earth from space, totaling somewhere in the neighborhood of 900TB of data. Google has now combed through these pictures, finding a series of consecutive images that collectively cover much of the planet’s land surface. All of the images were chosen specifically for being cloud-free and having good lighting conditions.
But these are only links dealing with the earthly environment, let us take a look at something spectacular that occurred on the lunar surface. Check it out, Huge Rock Crashes Into Moon, Sparks Giant Explosion | Space.com
The moon has a new hole on its surface thanks to a boulder that slammed into it in March, creating the biggest explosion scientists have seen on the moon since they started monitoring it.
The meteorite crashed on March 17, slamming into the lunar surface at a mind-boggling 56,000 mph (90,000 kph) and creating a new crater 65 feet wide (20 meters). The crash sparked a bright flash of light that would have been visible to anyone looking at the moon at the time with the naked eye, NASA scientists say.
“On March 17, 2013, an object about the size of a small boulder hit the lunar surface in Mare Imbrium,” Bill Cooke of NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office said in a statement. “It exploded in a flash nearly 10 times as bright as anything we’ve ever seen before.” [The Greatest Lunar Crashes Ever]
Video and larger photos at the link.
Last week there was a showdown between Gohmert and Holder that involved a vegetable…asparagus to be precise. Colbert Takes On Gohmert’s ‘Asparagus-gate’: ‘How Dare You Cast Aspersions On That Man’s Asparagus!’ | Mediaite
Of all the contentious moments during Eric Holder‘s time before a congressional committee Wednesday, the one that stuck out to Stephen Colbert was when Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) exclaimed, seemingly out of nowhere, that the attorney general was trying to “cast aspersions on my asparagus.”
Gohmert’s remark was particularly appropriate, in the eyes of Colbert, since cable news pundits had spent the hours leading up to the hearing hyping the “grilling” Holder would receive and previewing the questions he’d be “peppered with.”
“Grilled and peppered,” Colbert said. “That explains why Darrell Issa was wearing that ‘Kiss the Cook’ apron.” But, he added, Holder “bit off more than he could chew” when he went face-to-face with “magical talking cantaloupe” Louie Gohmert.
Holder challenged Gohmert’s assertion that the FBI wasn’t completely thorough in their investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings, which led to Gohmert’s accusation that the attorney general was trying to “cast aspersions on my asparagus.”
“How dare you cast aspersions on that man’s asparagus,” Colbert fired back at Holder. “What is next, sir? Libeling his lettuce? Questioning his quinoa? Arguing with his arugula? Repudiating his rutabaga? Vilifying his vinaigrette before drizzling it on his scandal salad?”
“Clearly, nation,” Colbert concluded, “we are going to need a lot more hearings on Asparagus-gate. Because the more I digest this, the worse it smells.”
Now a bit on LGBT Rights…in the country of Georgia. What I find interesting is and the men of faith who are leading the violent protest: Gay Rights Rally Is Attacked in Georgia
A throng of thousands led by priests in black robes surged through police cordons in downtown Tbilisi, Georgia, on Friday and attacked a group of about 50 gay rights demonstrators.
Carrying banners reading “No to mental genocide” and “No to gays,” the masses of mostly young men began by hurling rocks and eggs at the gay rights demonstrators.
The police pushed most of the demonstrators onto yellow minibuses to evacuate them from the scene, but, the attackers swarmed the buses, trying to break the windows with metal gratings, trash cans, rocks and even fists.
At least 12 people were reported hospitalized, including three police officers and eight or nine of the gay rights marchers.
“They wanted to kill all of us,” said Irakli Vacharadze, the head of Identoba, the Tbilisi-based gay rights advocacy group that organized the rally.
Violence promoted at the hands of the priest, what I do find curious is the statement at the end of this article…regarding the priest and the law.
A police officer helped an injured man. Gay rights marchers said priests from the Georgian Orthodox Church led the charge past police cordons.
The attack comes amid an increase in antigay talk in Russia and Georgia, whose Orthodox churches are gaining political influence.
In a statement Wednesday, the leader of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Ilia II, compared homosexuals to drug addicts and called the rally a “violation of the rights of the majority” of Georgians.
Conservative-minded Georgians traveled from other cities to condemn the gay rights demonstrators, and one told a television station that she had come to “treat their illness.”
“We are trying to protect our orthodoxy, not to let anyone to wipe their feet on our faith,” said Manana Okhanashvili, in a head scarf and long skirt. “We must not allow them to have a gay demonstration here.”
In a telephone interview, Mr. Vacharadze of Identoba said that priests from the Georgian Orthodox Church had led the charge that broke through a heavy police corridor.
“The priests entered, the priests broke the fences and the police didn’t stop them, because the priests are above the law in Georgia,” he said.
Things never change do they. Priest always seem to be above the law.
As far as women’s rights go, in Egypt: Man Dresses As Woman to Experience Egypt’s Sexual Harassment
Would men stop sexually harassing women, or at least understand what it feels like to be verbally and physically abused, if they were to experience it themselves?
One TV program in Egypt has looked at the issue of sexual harassment by doing just that.
“Awel el Khayt” – roughly translated as “The Thread”–- is a seven-episode series aimed at covering longstanding socio-political and economic problems in the North African country.
In a recently aired 30-minute episode titled “Sexual Harassment in Egypt,” young actor Waleed Hammad took to the streets of downtown Cairo dressed as a woman in order to experience harassment firsthand.
According to an interview with Waleed Hammad at AllAfrica.com,
Hammad, who studied Economics and Theatre at the American University in Cairo, told Aswat Masriya on Monday that he blames neither men nor women for sexual harassment, but society as a whole.
“Honestly, I felt sorry for all Egyptians because the harassment wasn’t only from men; it was from women as well,” Hammad told AM, adding that receiving assaults from women was even sadder because they were oppressing their own gender.
The 24-year-old actor said that some of the catcalls were mild, while others were obscene, adding that when they first started filming, he feared that someone would blow his cover and “make a scene”.
He explained, however, that his fear was minimal as he was surrounded by the television crew which followed him during the experiment.
“When I put on the veil in the experiment, harassment became more vicious and in your face, so it’s not a problem of covering up,” Hammad said, explaining that his experiment proves wrong the argument that covering up is the solution for sexual harassment.
Take a look at the rest of the allAfrica article to read the rest of the interview with Hammad, interesting to see what his experience has showed him about living as a woman in Egypt.
And since we are on the subject of Egypt, I don’t know if you could call this life imitating art? Or at least life imitating South Park…Tunneling KFC to Gazans Craving the World Outside
The French fries arrive soggy, the chicken having long since lost its crunch. A 12-piece bucket goes for about $27 here — more than twice the $11.50 it costs just across the border in Egypt.
And for fast-food delivery, it is anything but fast: it took more than four hours for the KFC meals to arrive here on a recent afternoon from the franchise where they were cooked in El Arish, Egypt, a journey that involved two taxis, an international border, a smuggling tunnel and a young entrepreneur coordinating it all from a small shop here called Yamama — Arabic for pigeon.
Professor Abu Heen noted that when Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls the Gaza Strip, breached the border with Egypt in 2008, during the height of the Israeli siege, thousands of Gazans flooded into El Arish and bought not just medicine and food staples but cigarettes, candy and things they did not need — just to show they had managed to bring something back from outside. Breaking the blockade, then and now, is seen as part of resisting the Israeli enemy, giving a sense of empowerment and control to people here, even if it comes in the form of fried chicken.
Even as Israel has relaxed restrictions on imports over the past few years, hundreds of illegal tunnels have flourished in Rafah. Weapons and people are smuggled underground, but so are luxury cars, construction materials and consumer goods like iPads and iPhones. And now: KFC.
Yes, they smuggle KFC through tunnels, like drugs are smuggled through Border tunnels here in the US. Now that image up top, look how closely it resembles the one below, taken from the South Park episode Medicinal Fried Chicken where:
You Got The Stuff? In this clip Cartman is picking up a delivery of goods and discovers a problem…
[Elsewhere in South Park, Cartman walks into an alley and looks around. Further in the alley he runs across a man]
Cartman: Are you Teabag?
Teabag: Maybe I am. Who’s askin’?
Cartman: Cut the crap. You got the stuff?
Teabag: Oh, I got the hookup. Question is, you got the money? [Cartman hands him a wad of bills] Alright, we’re in biz. [turns right and grabs a couple of bags of KFC food, then hands them to Cartman, who looks inside each bag] It’s all there, man.
Cartman: Extra crispy? [opens a small bowl of gravy and samples it carefully]
Teabag: ‘Course, man, I ain’t no fool.
Cartman: You trying to fuck me dude? This is cut with Boston Market gravy!
Teabag: Awww, it’s all the same shit, man.
Cartman: IT’S NOT THE SAME SHIT! [reaches behind his back for a pistol and aims it at Teabag]
Teabag: Okay okay I’m sorry, oh… [gets on his knees and shields his face]
Cartman: You’re cuttin’ Colonel’s gravy with Boston Market to try and save yourself some fuckin’ money!
Teabag: I’ll take back the gravy.
Cartman: [lunges at him with the pistol, making him get on all fours] Like anybody wants KFC without gravy!
Teabag: AAAH please. Please, I’m sorry! Take your money back! Take the KFC too! [Barbrady walks by and stops to look]
Barbrady: What’s going on back there?
Cartman: Nothin’, it’s cool.
Well, that all for this morning edition…I’ve got some real cool ass links coming up this afternoon! (Cool ass? That doesn’t sound right…) Anyway, be sure to let us know what you are reading about if you are around the internets and have a few minutes to comment today. Otherwise, see ya later on for the second half of the show.
I’m not the the resident psychologist here, but I really feel hyper-religiousity is a fricking mental disease. I know it is a social one. I have no idea why some people feel they have the right and duty to plaster their religious beliefs all over the rest of us, but it is clearly not an American idea. Here’s the latest whackadoodle attempt to do an end run around our constitution by a cluster of bananas in North Carolina.
The Constitution “does not grant the federal government and does not grant the federal courts the power to determine what is or is not constitutional” according to a resolution sponsored by North Carolina House Majority Leader Edgar Starnes (R) and ten of his fellow Republicans — a statement that puts them at odds with over 200 years of constitutional law. In light of this novel reading of the Constitution, Starnes and his allies also claim that North Carolina is free to ignore the Constitution’s ban on government endorsement of religion:
SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.
SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.
This resolution is nothing less than an effort to repudiate the result of the Civil War. As the resolution correctly notes, the First Amendment merely provides that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” and, indeed, the Bill of Rights was originally understood to only place limits on the federal government. For the earliest years of the Republic, the Bill of Rights were not really “rights” at all, but were instead guidelines on which powers belonged to central authorities and which ones remained exclusively in the hands of state lawmakers.
In 1868, however the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified for the express purpose of changing this balance of power. While the early Constitution envisioned “rights” as little more than a battle between central and local government, the Fourteenth Amendment ushered in a more modern understanding. Under this amendment, “[n]o State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States,” nor may any state “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” The Fourteenth Amendment completely transformed the nature of the American Republic, from one where liberties were generally protected — if at all — by tensions between competing governments to one which recognized that there are certain liberties that cannot be abridged by any government.
So, a few folk want a state religion in North Carolina because sectarian opening prayers just aren’t pious enough for them.
A bill filed by Republican lawmakers would allow North Carolina to declare an official religion, in violation of the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Bill of Rights, and seeks to nullify any federal ruling against Christian prayer by public bodies statewide.
The legislation grew out of a dispute between the American Civil Liberties Union and the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. In a federal lawsuit filed last month, the ACLU says the board has opened 97 percent of its meetings since 2007 with explicitly Christian prayers.
Overtly Christian prayers at government meetings are not rare in North Carolina. Since the Republican takeover in 2011, the state Senate chaplain has offered an explicitly Christian invocation virtually every day of session, despite the fact that some senators are not Christian.
In a 2011 ruling on a similar lawsuit against the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not ban prayer at government meetings outright, but said prayers favoring one religion over another are unconstitutional.
“To plant sectarian prayers at the heart of local government is a prescription for religious discord,” the court said. “Where prayer in public fora is concerned, the deep beliefs of the speaker afford only more reason to respect the profound convictions of the listener. Free religious exercise posits broad religious tolerance.”
Supplanting modernity, science, rationale thought and replacing it with government mandated religious views is the agenda here. Here’s another good example. RNC Chair Reince Preibus thinks he knows more than doctors. He equates letting doctors and women decide about the outcomes of late term abortions–and possibly pre-term births–to infanticide.
In an article published Wednesday on the conservative website RedState, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus blasted Democrats for supporting Planned Parenthood, while floating the damning suggestion that the likes of President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) support infanticide.
“The President, the Senate Majority Leader, the House Democratic Leader, and the Chair of the Democratic National Committee (in whose home state this hearing occurred) made funding Planned Parenthood an issue in the 2012 campaign,” Priebus wrote. “They should now all be held to account for that outspoken support. If the media won’t, then voters must ask the pressing questions: Do these Democrats also believe a newborn has no rights? Do they also endorse infanticide?”
Priebus appeared to predicate much of his piece on recent testimony from a Planned Parenthood lobbyist before the Florida legislature. The lobbyist was posed a number of hypotheticals on what the women’s healthcare organization would do if a baby survived a botched abortion.
“Not once in her testimony did the Planned Parenthood representative say the newborn baby has a right to life. Not once did she say anyone has a duty to care for the child,” Priebus wrote. “Whether the living, breathing child survives is up to the adults in the room because, as we now know, Planned Parenthood doesn’t believe the baby has rights.”
Who better knows the outcome of this situation? The State? Priestb00 and his merry band of republican religious nuts?
This reminds me of the attempts in Louisiana and other places to drain money from public schools to religious-based schools. Republicans are horrified to think that religions other than their own might have access to the funds. This is playing out in Tennessee right now.
Republican lawmakers in Tennessee are threatening to block Republican Gov. Bill Haslam’s school voucher bill over fears that Muslim schools could receive funding.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported on Monday that Haslam hinted that he would withdraw his bill after objections from Republican lawmakers that it was not broad enough and that the vouchers could be used by Islamic schools.
Over the weekend, state Sen. Jim Tracy (R) had told The Murfreesboro Post that he had “considerable concern” that tax dollars could go to schools that teach principles from the Quran.
Tracy, who is on the Senate Education Committee and identifies himself as a member of the Church of Christ, insisted that Islamic school funding was an “an issue we must address” before the voucher bill can go forward.
“I don’t know whether we can simply amend the bill in such a way that will fix the issue at this point,” he said.
Yes, there is one Muslim school in Memphis that would have access to state funds under the bill. So, it’s wrong to fund Muslim schools, but you can guess which religious schools should be the only ones funded by government.
Look, I have nothing against other people’s free practice of religion. There are at least two great places for that to happen. The places are called THEIR home and THEIR place of worship. Every place else should be a religion-free zone. It’s obvious these folks didn’t get a very good education in American history or political thought. For that matter, the don’t appear to have been well-educated in much else. OR, they are just plain crazy. I’m going with the latter.
Perhaps one of the most overdone truisms you hear bandied about by people is “Actions speak louder than Words”. This is perhaps the seminal lesson that Today’s Republican Party should learn. They’re held captive by religious, white supremacist, and libertarian cults that operate in orbit around a corporatist elite and their cronies. They don’t really have any more core values or principles. The only have the major goals of their cults and billionaire enablers.
You can see the hypocrisy, the lies, and the actual agendas in their actions. In some ways, the worst of the cult priests are more honest than your establishment Republican which is why Karl Rove and others would prefer they stay silent while Republican Central fine tunes their messaging so they can fool more of the people most of the time. They are no longer a party of serious governance. Their goals are to further enrich and empower the wealthy, move as close to anarchy as possible with only the military left standing, and make as many states as possible adopt the bottom trawling quality of life one finds in Mississippi along with firmly entrenching one specific view of Christian morality into all institutions.
The party of “small government” is basically the party of huge military and international interventions and massive intrusions into people’s lives so that women, minorities, and children are forced into the appropriate biblical role of child bearing and slavery. They are also supportive of police state tactics that include government spying, torture, and denial of due process. Some of those folks are acceptable since they serve in the role of “House Eunuchs” where they proudly stand by or in for the master as long as they don’t get too vocal about their sexuality, their ambitions beyond child bearing, or the fact that their upward mobility is limited due to race, ethnicity, sex, or religion.
Let me source this rant to the naive ramblings of Josh Barro who wishes that Republican policies were more rooted in empirics and my now favorite Hillaryism “an evidence-based reality”. Greg Sargent did a great job this morning at Maddow Blog talking about why Barro’s wishful thinking is unlikely to come true. It simply doesn’t fit into what Republican want.
Conservatives tend to prefer a different approach that decreases the role of government, not to achieve specific ends, but because decreasing the role of government is the specific end.
This, of course, affects nearly every debate in Washington. When it comes to job creation, for example, the task for Democrats is pretty straightforward: let’s do more of what’s been the most effective, and less of what’s been the least effective. Again, it’s about pragmatism and results based on evidence.
For Republicans, it doesn’t work quite that way — they have ideological ideals that outweigh evidence. GOP leaders could be shown incontrovertible proof that the most effective methods of creating jobs and improving the economy are aid to states, infrastructure investment, unemployment insurance, and food stamps, and they’d still refuse. Why? Because their ideology dictates the response.
The left starts with a policy goal (more people with access to medical care, more students with access to college, less pollution, more jobs, less financial market instability) and crafts proposals to try to complete the task. The right starts with an ideological goal (smaller government, more privatization, more deregulation) and works backwards.
For Barro, if Republicans “figured out” that their mistaken policy assumptions were, in fact, mistaken policy assumptions, they’d change direction. I wish that were true, but all available evidence points in the exact opposite direction.
Republicans that embarrass folks like Karl Rove and his donors are basically stating the goals of the party at the moment. They don’t care how they arrive there. There are no principles involved. There is no evidence involved. Each of the cults will violate all principles and all lessons of reality and science to arrive at these goals. The religious right want their perverted version of Christianity as the rule of the land. They want no birth control, no abortion, no visible or outward signs of homosexuality or anything other than how they define marriage, family, and morality. The Republican Party says it is the party that dislikes government interference and regulation. It wants ‘small government’. To see this Republican principle violated perpetually, one only need look at the agendas pushed through by the Religious Cult wing of the Republican party where we get state mandated sermons, procedures, and tons of regulation. Yes, we get Mississippi where the state regulates the one abortion clinic into illegality even though the right to an abortion is a constitutional right. These are the same folks that scream that any tiny bit of regulation of gun ownership is the end of the Bill of Rights and Constitutional rights as we know it. See, the principle is only valid when it works for them.
Then, there’s the entire cult of Austrian Economics and Ayn Rand which is what the Barro piece was focused on. Let me quote Paul Krugman on these folks:
Substance aside — not that substance isn’t important — Austrian economics very much has the psychology of a cult. Its devotees believe that they have access to a truth that generations of mainstream economists have somehow failed to discern; they go wild at any suggestion that maybe they’re the ones who have an intellectual blind spot. And as with all cults, the failure of prophecy — in this case, the prophecy of soaring inflation from deficits and monetary expansion — only strengthens the determination of the faithful to uphold the faith.
Barro even admits to the wrongness of the economic policies of this group. But again, Barro thinks that the principles are important rather than the outcomes. This group wants the outcomes only.
Political parties should differ on normative questions. They ought to strive for agreement on positive questions — questions such as, what policies cause gross domestic product and median incomes to rise, how unemployment insurance affects the unemployment rate, or how global temperatures are changing. Currently, Republicans make a lot more errors on these kinds of questions than Democrats.
Correcting errors on positive questions should cause conservatives to revisit some of their top policies, as Bloomberg View columnist Ramesh Ponnuru laid out this weekend in the New York Times. Conservatives say tight money and lower top tax rates would enrich middle-class families. But that’s wrong, and if they figured that out, they might stop supporting tight money and lower top tax rates.
The deal is Josh, that the Republican Party does not want to honestly state that their goal is to make the upper class much wealthier and the rest of us are other in the category of pesky servants or moochers who aren’t worth wasting anything on. Pesky servants should just work at their jobs and not be seen or heard and should just be thankful for the crumbs they receive. Moochers need to just self-deport or join the military to learn civility and servility. We got a glance of the true set-up here during the Romney 47% illumination because they though we weren’t listening in. The silly donors thought the room held only servants and house enuchs!!
You see, the Republican establishment really doesn’t care about the economy as long as the donor base and the corporate base do fine which is exactly what’s been going on for the last ten years or so. When they don’t do fine, they just dip into the public Treasury and replenish their gambling stakes. They don’t want to pay for anything that doesn’t directly benefit them. They want to be worshiped as gods for holding their vaulted positions which they honestly believe has come to them because their special. You can see this again in the places that Josh holds up as being great places because they’ve got Republican Governors. Again, let’s think about this. We’re talking the plantation mentality that thrives still in Mississippi and Louisiana. Everything’s just fine as long as the economy works for the Koch brothers, the Oil and Gas Companies, Pete Peterson, and the House Eunuchs. Let’s just use the Mississippi and Louisiana governor and state set up to illustrate their idea of Mississippi as the role model for the country.
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 schools 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.”
We’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.
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?”
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.