Thursday Reads: Wild Weather, Climate Change, and Other News

 reading-lady-matisse-henri-fauvism-oil-on-cardboard-genre-terminartors-1372947212_orgGood Morning!!

It has been close to 90 degrees here for the past several days, and it’s technically still spring. I’m beginning to wonder if we are going to have a summer from hell as a follow-up to the worst winter in the half-century I’ve lived in Boston.

In addition to the unusually hot weather, the pollen is so bad that every morning when I wake up it takes a few hours for my scratchy, watery eyes to clear up enough for me to read comfortably.

I’m on a regimen of Flonase, Allegra, and Mucinex; but I still feel stuffed up most of the time. Sometimes I feel itchy and even dizzy and nauseated; and I think it’s from allergies. The itchy skin would be unbearable without the Allegra.

Is anyone else noticing worse-than-usual allergies this year? Last year’s spring allergy season was very bad; this year is far worse. Anyone who actually claims to believe that there isn’t something dramatic happening with our weather is either deluded or lying. I wonder if we will manage to do something about climate change before it’s too late.

What about all that awful weather down in Texas?

Here’s a story from the Texas Tribune, via KXON: Climate change, a factor in Texas floods, largely ignored.

“We have observed an increase of heavy rain events, at least in the South-Central United States, including Texas,” said Nielsen-Gammon, who was appointed by former Gov. George W. Bush in 2000. “And it’s consistent with what we would expect from climate change.”

But the state’s Republican leaders are deeply skeptical of the scientific consensus that human activity is changing the climate, with top environmental regulators in Texas questioning whether the planet is warming at all. And attempts by Democratic lawmakers during the 2015 legislative session to discuss the issue have come up short.

“In part, it’s ideologically driven and intellectually lazy,” said state Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, who earlier this year invited national security experts to the state Capitol to testify at a hearing on the risks of climate change. “My question is: What are people scared of? Are they scared of the truth?”

Asked about the role of climate change in the floods, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz declined to weigh in Wednesday. “At a time of tragedy, I think it’s wrong to try to politicize a natural disaster,” the Republican presidential candidate said during a news conference in San Marcos after surveying damage.

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How does discussing scientific research on climate constitute “politicizing a natural disaster?”

Extreme weather events, and more of them, are among the most agreed-upon effects of global warming in all the scientific literature on the subject, said Nielsen-Gammon, who is also a professor at Texas A&M University. Part of the explanation is that ocean temperatures are rising, bringing more moist air into the state that can create storm systems. In the past century, precipitation in Texas is up 7 to 10 percent, and the frequency of two-day heavy rainfall spells has nearly doubled.

The scientific consensus is much stronger on this point than on whether climate change can directly cause droughts. Nielsen-Gammon’s own research has shown that warmer temperatures due to global warming did make the drought in Texas measurably worse than it otherwise would have been.

But for the last several years, legislation calling for climate-change studies has not succeeded in the Capitol.

It’s a pretty long article, and very interesting. I hope you’ll go read the whole thing.

Hypocrisy personified

Hypocrisy personified

More on Ted Cruz’s remarks from CNN: Texas flooding puts Cruz, GOP in bind on climate change.

The Republican presidential contender has held two press conferences over the past two days to address the flooding and the government’s response. At each one, he was asked about the impact of climate change on natural disasters like the Texas flooding, and at each one, he dodged the question….

“I think the focus now is on caring for those who have lost their lives and lost their homes,” he said.

At least 31 people have died in Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma from the storm since this weekend, while another 11 remain missing in Texas. Cruz promised to do all he could to ensure that Texans get access to the resources they need during the recovery.

Wait a minute. Anti-government Ted Cruz wants the Feds to help Texas? Didn’t he oppose aid to survivors of Hurricane Sandy?

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Politicus USA: Ted Cruz Demands Federal Money For Texas Floods After Blocking Hurricane Sandy Relief.

During a press conference on the deadly flooding in Texas, Cruz said, “The federal government’s role, once the Governor declares a disaster area and makes a request, I am confident that the Texas congressional delegation, Sen. Cornyn and I, and the members of Congress both Republicans and Democrats will stand united as Texans in support of the federal government fulfilling its statutory obligations, and stepping in to respond to this natural disaster.

Sen. Cruz sang a completely different tune in 2013 when he called federal aid for the victims of Hurricane Sandy wasteful:

Two-thirds of this spending is not remotely “emergency”; the Congressional Budget Office estimates that only 30% of the authorized funds would be spent in the next 20 months, and over a billion dollars will be spent as late as 2021.

This bill is symptomatic of a larger problem in Washington – an addiction to spending money we do not have. The United States Senate should not be in the business of exploiting victims of natural disasters to fund pork projects that further expand our debt.

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Back to the CNN article for more Cruz climate change philosophy:

“It used to be [that] it is accepted scientific wisdom the Earth is flat, and this heretic named Galileo was branded a denier,” he said in an interview with the Texas Tribune.

Cruz also argued that “global warming alarmists” aren’t basing their arguments on facts, because “the satellite data demonstrate that there has been no significant warming whatsoever for 17 years.”

Oh really? The point of the article is that Cruz and other Republicans may be leaning toward more moderate attitudes toward climate change research. I’ll believe that when I see it.

More interesting recent articles on climate change:

Think Progress: If You’ve Wondered Why So Many Politicians Deny Climate Change, Science Has Your Answer.

Washington Post: Climate change could shrink Mount Everest’s glaciers by 70 percent, study finds.

Dallas Morning News: Exxon CEO holds line on climate change at annual meeting.

Mother Jones Exclusive: The CIA Is Shuttering a Secretive Climate Research Program.

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In other news . . .

Bobby Jindal got some attention in Politico for attacking another member of the GOP clown car: Bobby Jindal slams Rand Paul as unfit to be commander in chief.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal lashed out at Sen. Rand Paul for his recent comments about the Islamic State, saying the presidential contender is unfit to be commander in chief and is taking the “weakest, most liberal Democrat position” when it comes to fighting the militant group.

Using unusually harsh rhetoric and an unusual forum, Jindal posted a statement condemning Paul on Wednesday on his “office of the governor” website.

Story Continued Below

“This is a perfect example of why Senator Paul is unsuited to be Commander-in-Chief,” Jindal said. “We have men and women in the military who are in the field trying to fight ISIS right now, and Senator Paul is taking the weakest, most liberal Democrat position. It’s one thing for Senator Paul to take an outlandish position as a Senator at Washington cocktail parties, but being Commander-in-Chief is an entirely different job. We should all be clear that evil and Radical Islam are at fault for the rise of ISIS, and people like President Obama and Hillary Clinton exacerbate it.”

The statement from Jindal, who is also a likely GOP presidential contender, came after the Kentucky Republican suggested Wednesday morning that hawkish members of his party were to blame for the rise of the Islamic State, also called ISIL or ISIS.

Paul said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that “ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately and most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS.”

Joseph Hutchens

Joseph Hutchens

In Touch Weekly has more breaking Duggar news.

DISGRACED COP WHO DIDN’T REPORT MOLESTATION SHOOTS DOWN JIM BOB’S STORY

In 2006, Jim Bob told Springdale police that he took Josh to see State Trooper Joseph Hutchens and that Josh “admitted to Hutchens what [Josh, redacted] had done,” according to the police report, obtained exclusively by In Touch through the Freedom of Information Act. At this point, there were five victims and multiple molestations by Josh….

Hutchens is serving 56 years in prison for child pornography and admits his “reputation is shot.” He was interviewed by a representative of a local law firm at In Touch‘s request and promised nothing in return for his recollections.

Hutchens’ failure to report the abuse caused the police to halt their 2006 investigation because the statute of limitations ran out.

In the new interview from prison, Hutchens said he was told by Jim Bob and Josh that “Josh had inappropriately touched [redacted] during the time she was asleep. He said he touched her through her clothing and he said it only happened one time.”

He said the fact that it was a one-time incident influenced his decision not to report it. “I did what I thought was right and obviously it wasn’t,” he says. “If I had to do it over again, I would have told him immediately I am going to call the hotline and contacted the trooper that worked those cases and have a full report made. I thought I could handle it myself.

The Duggar family is so corrupt that I expect there could be new revelations about them for months to come.

Jim Bob and Josh

Here’s a little tidbit that Allie Jones of Gawker Defamer found: Duggar Dad’s Political Platform: Incest Should Be Punishable by Death.

[W]hat does Jim Bob think of his own response to his son’s familial abuse? In a brief statement to People, Jim Bob and Michelle said last week that “that dark and difficult time caused us to seek God like never before.” Maybe that’s because Jim Bob publicly stated during his 2002 campaign for U.S. Senate that he thinks incest should be punishable by death.

Jim Bob’s platform on his campaign website—preserved via web cache—states that he believes “rape and incest represent heinous crimes and as such should be treated as capital crimes.” Jim Bob offered this belief to explain his position on abortion (only acceptable if both the mother and the baby were going to die anyway, of course)

See the screen shot at the link.

Other stories worth checking out, links only

A story from Politico that will make you–if not Charles Pierce–want to drink antifreeze: Dems view Sanders as bigger threat than O’Malley.

Since O’Malley is no threat at all, how worried could Dems really be?

Ezra Klein pontificates at length about why the SCOTUS anti-Obamacare case is total B.S.: The New York Times blows a hole in the case against Obamacare.

A poll from Qunnipac University: May 28, 2015 – Five Leaders In 2016 Republican White House Race, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Rubio, Paul Are Only Republicans Even Close To Clinton.

I haven’t read this story from the NYT yet, but I’ll bet it’s hilarious: What George PatakiWould Need to Do to Win. One more clown for the clown car.

NYT reports Climate news from India: Indians Scramble for Heat Relief, but Many Must Still Work.

Washington Post: Breakthrough HIV study could change course of treatment for millions.

BBC News: ‘New species’ of ancient human found.

What stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a tremendous Thursday!


Tuesday Reads: The GOP Clown Car

clown car via crooks and liars

Good Morning!!

In this today’s Washington Post, Dana Millbank belatedly latches onto a very old meme–The Republican field is a clown car–in order to promote one of the clowns.

“If you can’t take a joke,” Lindsey Graham has said , “don’t run for president.”

Graham, a senator from South Carolina and one of umpteen Republicans running for president, can take a joke — which is why he appreciates the absurdity that is the GOP field. There are far too many candidates (so many that there are concerns they won’t all fit on a debate stage), and to gain attention they are juggling, tooting horns and blowing slide whistles like so many painted performers emerging from a clown car.

“I do bar mitzvahs, birthday parties, weddings, funerals — call me, I’ll come,” Graham told a crowd in New Hampshire last month. He said voters should ignore Hillary Clinton and “look to the 35 people running for president on the Republican side. And just shoot up among us until you get one of us out of the tree.”

But what if you are the joke? Just think, Graham could be the first obviously closeted gay man to win the nomination of the party that hates gays and wants them to be second class citizens.

Ted Cruz tried for his 15 minutes of fame by holding the first announcement. Marco Rubio drew thousands to Miami’s Freedom Tower. Mike Huckabee brought in aging crooner Tony Orlando but was easily eclipsed by Ben Carson, who had a musical extravaganza and a video putting the candidate in the company of Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr.

Former New York governor George Pataki, perhaps the smallest of the GOP Lilliputians, announced on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” last week that . . . he will make his announcement on May 28. Donald Trump announced over the weekend that he would make an announcement in June and that “the announcement is going to surprise a lot of people.”

It would probably surprise a lot of people if Trump said something that made sense.

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Sigh . . . .

Also in this morning’s WaPo, Bobby Jindal hints that he too will have an important announcement soon: Bobby Jindal launches presidential exploratory committee.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) on Monday formally launched a presidential exploratory committee, the clearest indication yet that he is gearing up for a White House run.

“For some time now, my wife Supriya and I have been thinking and praying about whether to run for the Presidency of our great nation,” Jindal said in a statement. “If I run, my candidacy will be based on the idea that the American people are ready to try a dramatically different direction. Not a course correction, but a dramatically different path.”

The Louisiana Republican has made frequent visits to key early voting states in recent months, testing a message centered on the need to “restore the American Dream,” which he says President Obama’s “weak leadership” has diminished. But despite his experience as governor and a compelling personal background as the American-born son of Indian immigrants, Jindal has struggled to make an impact in national polls of potential Republican candidates.

If Jindal does anything “dramatically different,” I’d be stunned. But he’ll just be peddling the usual Koch brothers gibberish to very small audiences.

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What are the other clown car occupants up to?

Rick Sanatorum has been busy either grossly misinterpreting or blatantly lying about a book he supposedly read.

Buzzfeed: Harvard Professor: Rick Santorum Is Misusing My Book To Say “All Black Men Are Sexual Predators.”

Last week, former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum called men who father children with multiple women “sexual predators.”

When making his argument to the socially-conservative Cornerstone organization in New Hampshire, Santorum cited statistics on marriage from Harvard professor Robert Putnam’s book, Our Kids.

“Another new statistic just came out in his book. A majority of children being born out of wedlock today in America are born in families where the father is in the home. But they’re not married,” said Santorum. “So they are born to cohabiting couples. So the majority of children born out of wedlock are born to cohabiting couples. And what does Putnam say about these? They stuck to them longitudinally, they never get married. Let me use that term, never, like one or two percent ever get married.

“And he compared it when he was growing up in the 1950s and when children were conceived out of wedlock, what happened in the 1950s,” added Santorum. “We all know what happened in the 1950s and here is the amazing thing, this is Putnam saying this, 80 plus percent of these marriages succeeded.

“And children were raised in stable homes. Now these fathers leave the home and not just father children with that particular women, they father a child with another women, and another and another. We have created predators, sexual predators particularly where, again, Putnam—low income America.”

Voters will spend the next year trying to figure out the different shades of the GOP presidential candidates.

Voters will spend the next year trying to figure out the different shades of the GOP presidential candidates.

Here’s what Putnam had to say about Santorum’s comments.

“I’m a progressive and I think the evidence is that first of all, there has been a collapse in the working family class family, black and white, and that’s bad for kids,” Putnam said responding to Santorum in a speech to promote his book last week.

Putnam said Santorum misinterpreted what he was saying and took advantage of “the fact I was trying to be open.”

“But there is a presidential candidate, who yesterday quoted me as saying therefore—he’s quoted me as saying all black men are sexual predators. I’m not going to say who it is but what I’m trying to say is, he’s a conservative and he took what I was saying and sort of so misinterpreted it that it’s nothing like—it’s just isn’t even in the universe of what I said. But that’s an example of how at least this one guy was in effect taking advantage of the fact that I was trying to be open. He says ‘isn’t it amazing that this liberal’, actually he said ‘this extreme leftist at Harvard acknowledges that blah, blah, blah.’”

Another clown car occupant, Rand Paul wants to eliminate the Department of Education (Rick Perry and Mike Huckabee do too). Think Progress explains: What Would Actually Happen If Rand Paul Eliminated The Department Of Education. According to TP,

We wouldn’t have a federal department to administer Pell Grants to students….

There wouldn’t be any oversight over states when they break civil rights laws….

There wouldn’t be a department to check on rampant inequality between low-income school districts and wealthy districts.

We would have inconsistent education data, as the quality of data would vary among the states….

There would be more gender discrimination within schools….

There would be no way to hold schools accountable for the funds they receive.

Of course for the GOP clowns, those are goals that should be wholeheartedly supported.

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Jeb Bush stumbled out the block and has continued to stumble and stagger on his path to an as-yet unannounced presidential candidacy. Here’s the latest from Reuters, via Yahoo News: Jeb Bush sees no constitutional right to gay marriage.

(Reuters) – Republican Jeb Bush said in a weekend radio interview that he does not believe the Constitution grants a right to gay marriage, emphasizing his support for “traditional marriage.”

The Supreme Court is expected by the end of June to make a landmark ruling that could make gay marriage the law of the land or return the decision to individual states.

“It’s at the core of the Catholic faith and to imagine how we are going to succeed in our country unless we have committed family life, (a) committed child-centered family system, is hard to imagine,” Bush told the Christian Broadcasting Network show, “The Brody File, in an interview broadcast on Sunday.

“So, irrespective of the Supreme Court ruling because they are going to decide whatever they decide – I don’t know what they are going to do – we need to be stalwart supporters of traditional marriage,” said Bush, who converted to Catholicism 20 years ago….

Bush also said in the radio interview that Christian business owners should be able to refuse, “if it’s based on a religious belief,” to provide services to same-sex couples.

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But at Slate, Mark Joseph Stern notes that: Jeb Bush Accidentally Made a Brilliant Argument Against Anti-Gay “Religious Liberty” Laws.

Jeb Bush has an odd conception of liberty. As governor of Florida, Bush strongly opposed same-sex marriage, preferring to force committed gay couples to live as legal strangers with no ability to formally adopt their own children. As his presidential campaign warms up, though, Bush has taken a selectively expansive view of liberty.According to Bush, anti-gay business owners should have a legal right to refuse service to same-sex couples seeking to celebrate their relationship.

Bush’s support for anti-gay “religious liberty” laws are no surprise—unless you happen to have believed that silly BuzzFeed report that he would be “2016’s gay-friendly Republican.” What is surprising is that Bush framed his endorsement of such laws in a way that beautifully illustrates exactly why the usual argument for such laws is so fatuous. Take a look at his comment:

A big country, a tolerant country, ought to be able to figure out the difference between discriminating against someone because of their sexual orientation and not forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs. This should not be that complicated. Gosh, it is right now.

At bottom, Bush is arguing that the law should differentiate between identity and conduct. He believes the state may protect gays from discrimination because they’re gay (identity), but not because they’re celebrating a gay relationship (conduct). Unfortunately for Bush, this argument fails quite spectacularly in the wedding context, because homosexuality is an identity defined by its conduct. To be gay is to be attracted to, and maybe marry, someone of the same sex. There is no more fundamental way to discriminate against a gay person than to refuse to serve them based on the fact that they are marrying someone of the same sex.

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Koch brothers favorite Scott Walker is having some not-so-funny (from his point of view) problems. He has been a target of corruption investigations for the past couple of years. Now this from The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel: Records indicate Scott Walker was copied on letter promising loan to donor.

Madison — State records say that Gov. Scott Walker received a copy of a 2011 letter pledging a $500,000 taxpayer loan to a now-defunct Milwaukee construction company headed by a Walker donor, seemingly contradicting statements by the governor and his aides that he was not aware of the award.

A spokeswoman for Walker said that, in spite of the records, a copy of the letter from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. was never delivered to the governor’s office.

The Sept. 9, 2011, letter from Paul Jadin, WEDC’s chief executive officer at the time, was sent to William Minahan, owner of Building Committee Inc., a company that is now being sued by WEDC for defaulting on the unsecured loan without delivering the promised project and the jobs it was supposed to create.

Jadin said in his letter of intent that he was writing “on behalf of Governor Scott Walker” and noted “cc: Scott Walker, Governor” at the bottom.

Walker’s top cabinet appointee, then Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch, urged WEDC officials to provide the loan, and Walker’s then-chief of staff Keith Gilkes attended an initial meeting on it, according to records provided to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by the Walker administration.

“In closing Governor Walker and I are firmly committed to doing everything possible to expedite the processing and awarding of this incentive award,” Jadin wrote in the letter.

Read the details at the link.

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And from the La Crosse Tribune: Hours after damning audit, Scott Walker calls off WEDC-WHEDA merger.

Gov. Scott Walker has cancelled a planned merger of two economic development agencies after a new audit said Walker’s job-creating entity failed to follow statutes or its own policies when making financial awards.

The audit released Friday also says the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. failed to meet all statutory requirements related to program oversight and that staff “did not consistently comply with policies established by WEDC’s own governing board” which is chaired by Walker.

The audit comes as Walker had been calling for a merger of WEDC and WHEDA, the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority.

Within hours of the audit release, Walker issued a statement calling for that merger to be removed from the state budget along with a merger of two other state agencies.

“After hearing concerns from legislators, stakeholders, and the WHEDA and WEDC boards, we asked legislators to remove the proposed agency mergers from the state budget and we asked the bill authors to not move forward with the proposed separate legislation,” Walker said.

Walker also had proposed a merger of the Department of Financial Institutions and the Department of Safety and Professional Services into one regulatory agency. That merger is also cancelled, he said.

Wisconsin Democrats are gloating . . .

“While Scott Walker has completely abandoned Wisconsin to advance his presidential ambitions the continued incompetence and ineptitude at his Economic Disaster Corporation is bordering on criminal negligence at this point,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate said in a statement.

Meanwhile, wicked witch Hillary Clinton and her husband (who is a different person) got paid a lot of money for making speeches. Horrors!

 That’s all the clown car news I have room for today. What else is happening?


Friday Reads

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I’m trying to get grades in so this will be super short.  One of the most worrying trends to me is the disinvestment in public education. An important study was released that shows that a college education must be funded primarily by students or their families.  I’ve believed for some time that getting rid of higher education was a goal of many conservative politicians because an educated person is a clear and present danger to despots.  First, I’d like to share the study and a few articles written about it.  Then, I’ll show you how that’s been brought to fruition here in Louisiana by Bobby Jindal and his slavish relationship to Grover Norquist whose goal in life is to shrink government so you can drown it in a bathtub.

I think this study and its findings are important because the incredible increase in standards of living that came about during the 1950s and 1960s was partially due to the GI Bill and the opportunity it provided to so many poor and working class men to attend college.  Education is a path to better jobs and to smarter voting electorate.  It’s necessary for a functioning democracy.

As a result of this sharp decrease in state funding, more than half of education and related expenses at public universities is now paid by students’ tuition.

“Public higher education in this country no longer exists,” said Hiltonsmith. “Because more than half of core educational expenses at ‘public’ 4-year universities are now funded through tuition, a private source of capital, they have effectively become subsidized private institutions. To eliminate the pile of debt that most students must now borrow just to finance their education, we need comprehensive policy reform that views higher education as a necessity.”
The study finds that decreases in state funding to their public universities represents the overwhelming reason why tuition is so high and why so many students have to take huge student loans to facilitate their education.

Commitment to public education has been an American social contract for quite some time. I can’t help but think that it’s actually part of a bigger plot to privatize as much as possible and to further close the path of upward mobility.

A new Demos report, Pulling Up the Higher Ed Ladder: Myth and Reality in the Crisis of College Affordability by Demos Senior Policy Analyst Robbie Hiltonsmith, finds that declining state support was responsible for nearly 80 percent of the rise in net tuition between 2001 and 2011. Examining public university revenue and spending data, he determines that rising costs for instruction and student services is responsible for much of the remainder, largely due to growing healthcare costs. Hiltonsmith also disproves the theory that colleges are spending beyond what is necessary to support their core academic functions, commonly known as administrative bloat. Increased spending on administration accounted for only six percent of tuition hikes.

“While administrative bloat is a popular theory, the data shows otherwise,” said Hiltonsmith. “This myth is not only blatantly untrue, but takes attention away from the real problem: states aren’t investing in their students. Instead, they’re saddling them with crippling, life-long debt.”

Research institutions employ just seven more staff per thousand students than they did since 1991, and 17 fewer than in 2001. The relative number of full-time faculty has remained constant and the number of executives and administrators has decreased relative to the size of the student body. New technology needs explain much of the increase in professional staff. However, universities have also shifted to employing more adjunct professors as a cost-cutting measure, a problematic trend whose effects have been well-documented.

I put this study downthread in yesterday’s post.  NW Luna provided a link to the situation in Washington State–a liberal blue state–that has not bucked the trend.

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The cost of educating a student at the University of Washington is about $400 less today, in inflation adjusted dollars, than it was 20 years ago. As executives and directors of large business and philanthropic organizations in Washington state, our board members can attest that this could not have happened without a strong commitment to efficiency and cost control.

The next time anyone questions why public university tuition is rising faster than inflation, remember this: Twenty years ago, the state government paid 80 percent of the cost of a student’s education and a student paid 20 percent. Today, the state pays 30 percent of the cost, and the student pays 70 percent. The state has systematically disinvested in our children’s future, and we view this trend with disappointment and alarm.

We truly appreciate the hard work of the governor, the Legislature and many others who work in the business, civic and education communities who this year helped put a halt to further cuts in public higher education and gave us the tools and flexibility needed to help us manage through the current crisis. However, losing half of our state funding over just a few years has radically and unduly shifted the burden of financing the higher-education system to students, who are taking on more and more family and personal debt. This debt load restrains the ability of many Washingtonians to fully pursue life’s opportunities.

Public higher education is an essential ingredient of a functioning democracy and a healthy economy, but the current financial model for its funding is broken and not sustainable. If Washington is to maintain affordable access to quality higher education for its citizens, something has to change.

collectorvv1Louisiana is leading the pack in basically shutting down its universities.  Governor Bobby Jindal’s fiscal mismanagement of the state has left all of its institutions of higher education in desperate straights.  At this writing,  nearly every university in the state is on its way to financial exigency which is basically bankruptcy for a public entity.  Yet, this is a time when more educated workers are necessary.

F. King Alexander, the president of the Louisiana State University system, said Louisiana State (LSU) would consider declaring financial exigency—the equivalent of bankruptcy for academic institutions. And Alexander said as many as a dozen campuses throughout Louisiana could ultimately have to do the same.The cutbacks would mean an uncertain fate for all of the roughly three-dozen institutions within the state’s four university “systems,” including Louisiana state’s 10 campuses, the University of Louisiana’s nine, and 14 community and technical colleges. These institutions serve roughly 260,000 students total.

Declines in per-student legislative appropriations for public higher-ed institutions are almost ubiquitous across the U.S., a trend that traces back to the recession. Though levels have started to bounce back in recent years, the average state’s per-student allocation is still 23 percent less than it was before the economy took a hit. Generally, the federal government and taxpaying students end up shouldering that cost. Meanwhile, according to 2012 data, students are for the first time in years covering a larger chunk of their college tuition than their state governments are.

“States are getting out of the public higher-education business,” Alexander told me. Alexander, a vocal advocate for stronger state investment in higher ed, says he’s optimistic that the legislature will somehow cobble together a solution. (It has until June 11, when Louisiana’s legislative session ends.) But even if lawmakers pass measures that would offset most of the shortfall, including a number proposed by Jindal, state higher-ed funding would still be cut by 32 percent, Alexander said.

By 2025 six in 10 adults in the U.S., according to one report, will have to have a postsecondary credential if the country is to maintain its economic edge. But if current trends continue over the next few decades, most state university systems would soon lose all funding from their states. A new analysis by the Pell Institute predicts that, assuming trends persist, in 2025 Colorado would become the first state to allocate zero funding to higher ed; Iowa would follow in 2029, then Michigan (2030), then Arizona (2032). Louisiana (2027) would be No. 2 on the list—if the deficit is miraculously eliminated this year. Otherwise, according to King, even a 32 percent reduction would put Louisiana in front of Colorado. Most states wouldn’t appropriate any university funding by 2050.

Louisiana’s universities are the canaries in a bigger coal mine.  It should serve as a warning to any one who cares about access to higher education for all.

So, I’m going back to grading and I leave this as an open thread for you.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 


Tuesday Reads: NYT and WaPo Join With Fox News and Koch Brothers to Destroy Hillary Clinton’s Candidacy

woman-reading (1)

Good Morning!!

It appears that The New York Times and The Washington Post are determined to help the Koch brothers elect Scott Walker to the presidency in 2016. Dakinikat alerted me to this story by Dylan Byers at Politico:

New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News strike deals for anti-Clinton research.

The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have made exclusive agreements with a conservative author for early access to his opposition research on Hillary Clinton, a move that has confounded members of the Clinton campaign and some reporters, the On Media blog has confirmed.

“Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich” will debut on May 5. But the Times, the Post and Fox have already made arrangements with author Peter Schweizer to pursue some of the material included in his book, which seeks to draw connections between Clinton Foundation donations and speaking fees and Hillary Clinton’s actions as secretary of state. Schweizer is the president of the Government Accountability Institute, a conservative research group, and previously served as an adviser to Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Naturally, Byers article is accompanied by an unflattering photo of Hillary.

Fox News’ use of Schweizer’s book has surprised no one. The bulk of the network’s programming is conservative, and the book’s publisher, HarperCollins, is owned by News Corporation. But the Times and Post’s decision to partner with a partisan researcher has raised a few eyebrows. Some Times reporters view the agreement as unusual, sources there said. Still others defended the agreement, noting that it was no different from using a campaign’s opposition research to inform one’s reporting — so long as that research is fact-checked and vetted. A spokesperson for the Times did not provide comment by press time.

In an article about the book on Monday, the Times said “Clinton Cash” was “potentially more unsettling” than other conservative books about Clinton “both because of its focused reporting and because major news organizations including The Times, The Washington Post and Fox News have exclusive agreements with the author to pursue the story lines found in the book.

Anyone who calls either the Times or the Post “liberal” these days is either lying or ignorant. It both papers are morphing into something resembling The Daily Mail.

Peter Schweizer

Peter Schweizer

The author of the new “book,” Peter Schweizer is nothing but propagandist, as Media Matters demonstrates:

Clinton Cash Author Peter Schweizer’s Long History Of Errors, Retractions, And Questionable Sourcing.

Media should be cautious with Republican activist and strategist Peter Schweizer’s new book Clinton Cash. Schweizer has a disreputable history of reporting marked by errors and retractions, with numerous reporters excoriating him for facts that “do not check out,” sources that “do not exist,” and a basic failure to practice “Journalism 101.”

Read a compendium of evidence at the Media Matters link.

Echidne of the Snakes asks whether the Times and Post deals with Schweizer are ethical.

The Ethics of Journalism 101: Is it OK for NYT and WaPo to use Pre-Publication Opposition Research on Hillary Clinton?

I see three potentially serious problems with these exclusive arrangements.

First, depending on what newspapers are supposed to have as their objective*, getting opposition research on only one candidate can bias the reporting in the papers.  If conservative muckrakers are more diligent than liberal ones, the American people (how I love to be able to write that!) will be mislead, assuming that the Republican candidates might also have all sorts of skeletons in their mahogany cupboards.

Second, assuming that those at the newspapers know how to judge the research of Schweizer’s book may be a form ofhubris.  Or at least we should not just be told that there will be experts looking at all the stuff.

Third, and this links to my second point, using a book BEFORE it is published means that the newspapers won’t have access to the expert criticisms which follow the publication of a book.  It’s as if the book is allowed to hold the stage all alone, when the correct approach would be to wait to see what experts in the field might have to say about it.

It’s also important to note that Peter Schweizer writes for Breitbart. And Breitbart is crowing about the mainstream publicity their author is getting.

Scott Walker

As the NYT reported yesterday, David Koch has apparently picked Scott Walker as his preferred candidate for the Republican nomination. You have to wonder if Koch is completely detached from reality though.

From the New York Observer, David Koch: Scott Walker Would Defeat Hillary Clinton ‘by a Major Margin.’

Fuel mogul and conservative activist David Koch today declared to reporters that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker would easily beat former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a general election—shortly after the co-owner of Koch Industries heard a private speech by the midwestern Republican at the Union League Club in Manhattan.

After meeting with Mr. Walker and a group of GOP donors called the Empire Club, Mr. Koch told the Observer that he believed the governor would trounce the former first lady if a sufficient number of Republicans get involved in the race.

“I think so, no question about it. You know, if enough Republicans have a thing to say, why, he’ll defeat her by a major margin,” he said, effusively praising Mr. Walker’s performance. “I thought he had a great message. Scott Walker is terrific and I really wish him all the best. He’s a tremendous candidate to be the nominee in my opinion.”

Mr. Koch said the Republican candidates should focus their primary season fire on Ms. Clinton to reduce her appeal among voters, arguing that she will most likely be the Democratic nominee.

Koch brothers

Will it work? Hillary commented on the strategy in Keene, New Hampshire yesterday.

ABC News: Hillary Clinton Says Republicans ‘Talking Only About Me.’

During her first visit to New Hampshire as a presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton brushed off accusations about the Clinton Foundation‘s acceptance of donations from foreign governments, dismissing the reports made in a new book as simply being a “distraction” from the issues of her campaign.

“Well, we’re back into the political season and therefore we will be subjected to all kinds of distractions and attacks and I’m ready for that. I know that that comes unfortunately with the territory,” Clinton remarked at the end of a roundtable discussion at a local business here this afternoon, when asked by reporters about a new book, “Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich.”

It seems the Koch brothers are opening controlling the choice of the Republican nominee. Today they announced they will give Jeb Bush a chance to be their pick instead of current favorite Scott Walker. From Mike Allen at Politico:

Koch brothers will offer audition to Jeb Bush.

In [a] surprise, a top Koch aide revealed to POLITICO that Jeb Bush will be given a chance to audition for the brothers’ support, despite initial skepticism about him at the top of the Kochs’ growing political behemoth.

Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Rand Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz debated at the Koch network’s winter seminar in January, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker made a separate appearance. Those were the candidates who appeared to have a chance at the Koch blessing, and attendees said Rubio seemed to win that round.

But those four — plus Jeb – will be invited to the Kochs’ summer conference, the aide said. Bush is getting a second look because so many Koch supporters think he looks like a winner. Other candidates, perhaps Rick Perry or Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, may also get invitations.

Jindal is apparently not high on the Kochs’ list. He must be deeply disappointed after he has destroyed Louisiana with Koch-backed policies in his efforts to please the the powerful brothers.

For a change of pace from the mainstream Hillary hate and GOP love, I’ll end this post with Charles Pierce’s latest assessment of Scott Walker’s chances.

ScottWalker

Watching Scotty Blow, Cont’d: Governor Of His Own Fugue State.

Because it’s fking April, and because it’s fking 2015, and because I have something of a fking life, I decided to take in the Republican floor exercises up there in New Hampshire through the kind auspices of CSPAN. I was especially interested in the evening show provided by Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin. I had to wait for John Sununu, Sr. to go through an introduction that lasted longer than the Good Friday ritual. (Sununu may still be talking. CSPAN cut away to listen to Walker.) But Walker was worth the wait. We heard about how he’s going to ride his Harley to Bike Week in Laconia this year. We heard the bit about buying the shirt at Kohl’s. We heard “go big and go bold.” We heard about the death threats. And we heard a lot of stunning misdirection about how rosy things are with the Wisconsin economy. (I was especially taken with how he boasted that he had turned his state into a right-to-work paradise, Walker having denied up and down throughout the last campaign that he had any such plans.) And there is no question. Scott Walker is the best Governor of Wisconsin that New Hampshire ever has had.

What we didn’t hear, of course, was that, back in America’s Dairyland, they may never get out of the death spiral into which Walker has shown the actual state he allegedly actually governs. His new budget is so draconian that even some of the Republicans in his pet legislature are starting to get nervous. And the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, a newspaper of wild ambivalence regarding Walker and his prospective candidacy,dropped a dungbomb on him that demonstrated that, while Scott Walker may have bought a shirt at Kohl’s, he isn’t qualified to run a cash register there.
Go to the Esquire link to read the rest and get the Koch Brothers and the mainstream media’s Clinton Derangement out of your mouth.
What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!

Saturday Morning Reads: Assorted Nuts

nutsGood Morning!

BB had to cover for me yesterday because my allergies were just going so crazy that I was dizzy most of the morning and afternoon.  The combination of four nights of cigarette smoke and Live Oak Pollen have me suffering like crazy.

I’ve been putting ice on my red, swollen, and sore eyes, taking benedryl so I can breathe, and coughing/sneezing like crazy.  The usual antihistamines have not been enough.  My voice is so husky you’d think I was on the make for some one.

The good news is that it stormed today and I think the trees are through that phase and all bars in New Orleans go smoke free on the 25th.  I only have a few weeks left and will I be celebrating like crazy.

Speaking of crazy, an Iowa Homeschooling event hosted a few of the nuttier Republican candidates and my governor proved he was right there riding the crazy train with Ted Cruz.   Ted Cruz called the boycotts of states passing bigot bills “waging jihad” against religious freedom.   I wonder if he realizes that majority of people in this country–including christians–support civil rights over bigotry dressed up as religion.

“We look at the jihad that is being waged right now in Indiana and Arkansas going after people of faith who respect the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman,” Cruz said during a panel moderated by conservative radio host Steve Deace on Thursday. “We need to bring people together to the religious liberty values that built this country.”

The religious values that built this country are basically called “separation of church and state” not enshrinement of one cult’s pet peeves.

Yes, Jindal was there and was just as idiotic. Iowa is the state where he and his recently retired aides have Nuts01residency these days. BB rightly points out that Jindal now seems to have something against corporate America.  That ought to make the Republican Donor Class run away.

The main theme at an Iowa homeschooling event yesterday attended by four potential GOP presidential candidates was what Sen. Ted Cruz called the gay “jihad” against religious liberty in the form of nondiscrimination laws.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal attempted to add a populist bent to his remarks on the topic — an increasingly popular strategy among LGBT rights opponents — by declaring that “an alliance of Hollywood elites and corporate America” are “assaulting the rights of Christians” by opposing measures like those in Indiana and Arkansas that would have given broad leeway to business owners to discriminate against LGBT customers.

“We need to remind these elites, America did not create religious liberty, religious liberty created the United States of America,” he told the enthusiastic crowd.

Remember, “elites” mean people educated in facts not fantasy.  Jindal use to fancy himself one of those up until he switched from running for governor of Louisiana to leader-in-chief of the stupid party.

Huckabee and Santorum were there too with their usual brands of hate and stupidity. 

All of the hopefuls stressed their respect for and connection to home schooling. Jindal and Huckabee touted their state legislation supporting home schooling. Santorum noted “it’s great to be here with fellow home school moms and dads.”

He implored the parents to trust their judgment in choosing a president just as they trust themselves to make the best decisions about educating their children.

“Do not defer to the experts,” he said.

Home schooling isn’t easy, Huckabee said. He hopes there are enough Americans “who have the same conviction to make the sacrifice for the country that you are willing to make for your children.”

However, he worried that too many people will not make that choice.

There are 80 million self-identified evangelicals, but only half are registered to vote and only half vote in a presidential election.

“I worry there’s not the passion, the interest, and the commitment that is needed to get our country back where it needs to be,” Huckabee said. “You represent that passion.”

Jindal warned that winning the 2016 presidential race is not optional — “not because we are Republicans, not because we are conservatives, but because it is the future of our country that is at stake.”

“I don’t think we are beyond the tipping point, but I think it’s only four more years of this president’s policies, whether it is Hillary Clinton or whoever, we will get to that point,” he said.

Cruz drew a parallel between President Jimmy Carter and President Barack Obama — “same failed economic policies, same misery, stagnation and malaise.” The solution is another “Reagan revolution” by Republicans, Christian conservatives .and conservative Democrats.

“That’s what it’s going to take to turn this country around,” he said.

We’ve had enough of that kind of crap since the first s0-called “Reagan revolution.”  I think most of us recognize that nearly everything walnut-300he did has made us less. The biggest roots of income inequality came from the changes made back then. We’re living the results of less upward mobility and less real incomes daily now.  We’ve also seen assaults on women’s health and rights as well as assaults on science, public education and unions.  None of the outcomes have been pretty.

Republicans are already planning to run ads to assault Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid announcement.  She has them running scared and ugly.  One of the ugliest comments this weekend came from the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre whooping it up with his gun fetishists in Tennessee.

At the NRA’s annual convention today, Wayne LaPierre spent quite a lot of time in his speech talking about Hillary Clinton and how much they cannot let her become the next president. He joked about her history with various scandals, called her secretive, and asked if anyone really thinks she deserves to be the first female president.

Clinton is expected to announce her campaign on Sunday, but to LaPierre, another Clinton term in office should just mean more “scandal and deceit and self-serving behavior.”

And then, he offered this over-the-top dire warning:

“She will not bring a dawn of new promise and opportunity. Hillary Rodham Clinton will bring a permanent darkness of deceit and despair forced upon the American people to endure.”

As for the ugly ads, you can read about it in here.

The ads, highlighting controversies while Clinton was secretary of state and questions about foreign donations to her foundation, will run in swing states: Ohio, Florida, Virginia, Colorado, North Carolina and Iowa, according to Raffi Williams, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

“From the East Wing to the State Department, Hillary Clinton has left a trail of secrecy, scandal and failed liberal policies that no image consultant can erase,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said in a statement. “Voters want to elect someone they can trust and Hillary’s record proves that she cannot be trusted. We must ‘Stop Hillary.'”

That has been a Republican imperative for months. In Ohio, a state that Republicans historically have needed to win the White House, Clinton would beat any of the Republicans now considering a run, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. But Ohioans don’t many of those potential challengers, which will change in the coming months, and Clinton’s lead has slipped from a Quinnipiac poll two months ago.

I can only imagine they will be extremely misogynistic and hateful given that’s just about the Republican Playbook these days.

images (2)So, here’s something really nutty about Jeb Bush.  Why on earth has his voter registration listed him as Hispanic? 

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush updated his voter registration the day a New York Times story revealed he listed himself as Hispanic on the form in 2009.

A Bush spokesperson confirmed the change.

Bush, whose wife and three children are Hispanic, attempted to laugh off the mistake in a tweet.

If he can’t even check the right box on a simple question, would you trust this man with the button to our nuclear arsenal? Sheesh!

Okay, so this isn’t about a Republican nut, just a rapist nut.  Former Football player and rape drug using rapist Darren Sharper will be subject to a live time of penis monitoring.  I didn’t even know there was such a thing!

Convicted rapist Darren Sharper will serve nine years in prison for his crimes, but he won’t return to a regular life after he finishes his sentence. If two New Orleans judges approve the deal instead of issuing a 20-year sentence in Louisiana, Sharper will be treated as a sex offender, and closely monitored for the rest of his life.

The New Orleans Advocate has details of the pending agreement. After prison, Sharper would be on parole in California, registered as a sex offender and narcotics offender. He’d be tracked by GPS. After parole, he’d be moved to Arizona for probation for the rest of his life. Sharper would no longer be allowed to drink alcohol, go to a bar, use online dating, or travel more than 50 miles away from his home without permission from state officials. His penis would be also be monitored:

Sharper will be subject to lie detector tests and, while on lifetime probation in Arizona, to the “penile plethysmograph,” in which a sensor is attached to the penis while an array of sexual images flashes before his eyes, to gauge arousal.

(It’s unclear what exactly what the penile plethysmograph does or proves.)

Here’s an article from the NYD that explains just that.nuts-484262_640

Many convicted sex offenders are required to undergo this testing, which involves strapping a pressure-sensitive device to a man’s penis and gauging his reactions to stimulating pictures, video and audio, experts said.

Some experts said sex offenders’ responses — especially to “deviant” material — could determine their likelihood of reoffending.

Others contest the merits of penile plethysmography because it’s intrusive and not always accurate.

The test works by having sex offenders attach the device, which resembles an arm blood pressure cuff, to themselves in a separate room from a clinician at a doctor’s office or in prison.

The device measures blood flow to the penis, either through changes in the volume or circumference, as subjects view stimuli that are tailored to their problems or fetishes, according to guidelines by Oregon’s Department of Health.

Pictures and videos show people of different ages and genders partaking in various sexual scenarios and states of undress.

How often the test is conducted depends on the offender.

Orleans Parish Assistant District Attorney Christopher Bowman told the Daily News he could not comment on how this testing would be conducted with Sharper because he could not discuss open cases.

Some experts claim penile plethysmography can help stop sex offenders from acting on their arousal by pinpointing what they’re subconsciously attracted to.

“Once an offender’s deviant sexual arousal patterns have been identified, treatment interventions can be introduced which are designed to reduce or eliminate these deviant response patterns,” the Council on Sex Offender Treatment wrote.

“Behavioral treatment teaches the offender the sequence of events leading to the commission of his deviant behavior and then provides the offender with specific methods to disrupt the offense cycle.”

It’s important to know what sex offenders’ deviant fantasies are, especially because self-reporting can be inaccurate, they said.

“Those sex offenders with the most deviant phallometry patterns have been found to have the highest recidivism,” the Council said, calling it “among the most successful” tactics.

But penile plethysmography can’t go as far as conclude whether someone will reoffend, David Samadi, the chairman of urology at Lenox Hill Hospital, told the Daily News.

I’m not sure if this actually works. I’m sure there are studies out there somewhere.

So, this is an open thread and please post whatever you want today!  Have a great Weekend!!


Monday Reads by The Numbers

letters-and-numbers-biagio-civaleGood Morning!

One of the hazards of my occupation is the use of statistics.  Statistics can be very useful for spotting trends and outliers in all kinds of things.  Many researchers and all politicians are selective about which statistics to share.  They generally want the outcome that proves their hypothesis or case.  I came across a variety of stories this weekend that caught my eye because descriptive statistics played a role.  I thought I’d share a few with you.

We are less than a year from the Iowa caucuses.  These odd little political happenings in an odd little state generally kick off the hopes and fears of presidential wannabes.  I lived in Iowa as a kid and my father owned a business there for 30 years so I know a little about the state and its quirks.  This essay in the Denver Post  makes some very good points to argue that  the “Iowa caucuses are a poor proxy for America”. Iowa manages to put forth some of the whackiest Republican candidates possible. They usually fail miserably when New Hampshire holds its primaries and fall out by the time the bigger states come into play.  Why does the press spend so much time in Iowa then?

Considering they are the first in the nation for presidential delegate selection, the Iowa caucuses present quite the contrast to the United States as a whole. Iowa is not remotely demographically representative of our nation.

It is significantly more white, rural and Christian than the national average. Only 12.4 percent of Iowans are minorities, while nationally minorities comprise 28 percent of the population. Thirty-six percent of Iowans live in rural areas or small towns, whereas in the United States overall, 19.3 percent do. About 54 percent of Iowans identify as religious, whereas 49 percent of Americans identify as religious nationally.

While the disparity in the level of religious involvement is not shocking, the percentage of those religious people who are Christian stands out. Of the 54 percent of religious Iowans, only .5 percent identify as Muslim, Jewish, or of Eastern religion. This is markedly lower than the 4.7 percent of Americans nationally who identify themselves as religious but practice a religion other than Christianity.

On a racial basis, the Iowa caucuses skew significantly from the national average. The attendees are really white. Indeed, at the Republican caucuses of 2012, a full 99 percent of attendees were white, while nationally about 89 percent of the Republican Party is white. There was virtually zero representation at the Republican caucuses from the near 12 percent of Republicans who are from minorities.

The makeup of the Democratic caucuses is somewhat more representative of America, but not much. In 2008, the last time there were contested caucuses in Iowa, 93 percet of Democratic caucus-goers were white, with 4 percent of attendees reporting as African-American and 3 percent reporting as another race. Nationally, in 2008, the Democratic Party was 66 percent white, 16 percent African-American, and 12 percent Hispanic.

Perhaps the lack of participation among minority voters has something to do with the caucus process itself.

JJ did an excellent job covering some of the events of International Women’s Day yesterday. One of the issues that has always been near and dear to me–and Patricia Arquette it seems–is pay equity.  Here’s some 42464400depressing numbers on that.  Basically, a report by the U.N. states that it will take 70 years for the gap to close at this rate.  That’s completely disheartening.

Women will continue to be paid less than men for the next 70 years if the gender pay gap continues to reduce at the present rate, according to a report by a UN agency released ahead of International Women’s Day.

The document published by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) comes 20 years after 189 countries adopted a blueprint to achieve equality for women in 12 critical areas, including health, education, employment, political participation and human rights.

The historic agreement marked the first time that the UN recognised a woman’s right to control her own sexuality without coercion, and reaffirmed her right to decide whether and when to have children.

However, despite the agreement women still lack access to education, training, recruitment; have limited bargaining and decision-making power; and still shoulder responsibility for most unpaid care work.

And while women have slowly taken up more places in the global workplace since the 1995 Beijing Platform, the percentage that women earn in comparison to men has only crawled up by one point to 77 per cent.

The report also revealed that women across the world are also faced by a “motherhood pay gap”, over and above the gender pay gap, with women in developing countries suffering the most.

3f7497dab478e8f2fec261190f95b232The country of Germany has taken one step to increase the number of women in corporate boardrooms.  They’ve legislated quotas.

Germany on Friday became the latest and most significant country so far to commit to improving the representation of women on corporate boards, passing a law that requires some of Europe’s biggest companies to give 30 percent of supervisory seats to women beginning next year.

Fewer than 20 percent of the seats on corporate boards in Germany are held by women, while some of the biggest multinational companies in the world are based here, including Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler — the maker of Mercedes-Benz vehicles — as well as Siemens, Deutsche Bank, BASF, Bayer and Merck.

Supporters said the measure has the potential to substantially alter the landscape of corporate governance here and to have repercussions far beyond Germany’s borders.

In passing the law, Germany joined a trend in Europe to accomplish what has not happened organically, or through general pressure: to legislate a much greater role for women in boardrooms.

The law was passed after an unusually passionate debate, and much talk of milestones, cracking glass ceilings and making history. Chancellor Angela Merkel, in her 10th year in power, was on hand as deputies in her governing grand coalition of center right and center left stood to register their votes in favor of the law, which passed by a simple clear majority. The small opposition of Greens and leftist deputies abstained, believing the measure did not go far enough.

“You have to be sparing with the word ‘historic,’ ” said Justice Minister Heiko Maas, who with a Social Democrat colleague, Family Minister Manuela Schwesig, spent months steering the law over legal and political hurdles. “But I think today we can apply it.” For Germans, he called the law “the greatest contribution to gender equality since women got the vote” in Germany in 1918.

With women still lagging globally in corporate offices, on governing boards and in pay, and many still struggling with family-work policies, pressure has been growing for legislative solutions.

Norway was the first in Europe to legislate boardroom quotas, joined by Spain, France and Iceland, which all set their minimums at 40 percent. Italy has a quota of one-third, Belgium of 30 percent and the Netherlands a 30 percent nonbinding target.

Britain has not legislated boardroom quotas, but a voluntary effort, known as the 30% Club, has helped to substantially increase women’s representation. The group, founded by Helena Morrissey, a money manager, has used persuasion to help double the percentage of women on the boards of major British companies since 2010, to 23 percent.

The United States has also seen women’s representation grow slightly, up to 17 percent of board seats, without legislative mandates, though its growth has been extremely slow.

In-Control-24x36-e1358464005233 There seems to be a definite movement by corporations and religious types to make sure that schools don’t teach any form of critical thinking.  That and other trends make for an interesting question of the direction of culture in the US.  Here’s a few numbers and question on that from The American Scholar and Scott Timberg.

Traditionally, bookstores were where aspiring writers earned a living, and where readers went for sustenance and community. Yet in the two decades since the mid-1990s, during which the U.S. population has grown by 60 million—we’ve lost half of our independent bookstores, and record shops have virtually disappeared. The causes are mostly technological and involve online outlets like Amazon. Meanwhile, in parts of Europe, especially the German-speaking world and France, independent culture merchants are at least surviving rough times, and some are thriving. Are Americans hopelessly mired in neoliberal economics, technology worship, and the logic of winner-take-all, or is there something we can do to save these places and the people who work in them?

If you really want a deranged use of statistics.  Take a look at what USA just let my Governor pen for them.  There is a total disconnect between what Jindal has written and what’s in the news about the Jindal “economy” on every newspaper in Louisiana.  Why on earth would a newspaper publish such obvious bull shit and propaganda?  Who owns that damned newspaper?

Seven years ago, I ran for governor promising to make the economy bigger and the government smaller. We have lived up to that, accomplishing in Louisiana what the federal government has failed to do. We have balanced budgets, drastically reduced the size of government and empowered growth in our private sector.

Our state budget is nearly $9 billion smaller, with over 30,000 fewer state workers, than when we took office in 2008. And guess what? After reining in the size of government and lowering taxes, Louisiana’s economy is stronger than ever.

Since 2008, Louisiana’s economy has grown nearly twice as fast as the national economy, and private-sector employment has grown at a rate of two-and-a-half times the U.S. rate, while our budgeting practices have earned our state eight credit rating upgrades. We now have more people working and living in Louisiana, with higher incomes, than ever before.

For next year’s budget, a dramatic drop in oil prices has meant less money for state government. That’s OK. It should come as no surprise to anyone that we plan to address this challenge by continuing to cut the size of government without raising taxes.

This is what was on USA Editorial page however.  “Growth has been sluggish in Louisiana and Kansas, and the plunge in revenue has devastated their budgets.”images

Here’s one worth steering away from: Governors in Louisiana and Kansas have been experimenting with big tax cuts that advocates claim will unleash explosive economic growth. The results have been dismal. Growth has been sluggish in both states, and the plunge in revenue has devastated both states’ budgets:

  • In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal pushed a big tax cut through the legislature after he took office seven years ago. Since then, the state budget has gone from a nearly $1 billion budget surplus in 2007-08 to a projected $1.6 billion shortfall for the budget year that begins July 1. Jindal, who long ago took a pledge never to raise taxes, has cut higher education and resorted to unsustainable one-time remedies such as draining reserve funds and selling state assets.

Louisiana’s jobless rate has gone from much better than the national rate in 2008 to much worse. Jindal claims his state’s economic growth has beaten the nation’s, but he cherry-picks the years and doesn’t mention that since 2010, the state has lagged behind the national recovery.

There’s like a total disconnect between what they’ve said on their editorial page and what they let Jindal blather on about. What a contrast in the Orwellian use of selected statistics by Jindal and the reality on the ground.  Oh, if you want to see what exactly type of industry that Jindal’s bringing in check out this shady deal.   This is a three part special from AJ called “China’s Louisiana Purchase: Who’s building a methanol plant on the bayou?”  It’s by the numbers, textbook environmental racism.

ST. JAMES PARISH, La. — A prominent Chinese tycoon and politician — whose natural gas company’s environmental and labor rights record recently started coming under fire in the Chinese press — is parking assets in a multibillion dollar methanol plant in a Louisiana town. And he appears to be doing it with help from the administration of likely GOP 2016 presidential ticket contender Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Not many locals in a predominantly black neighborhood of St. James Parish — halfway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge — know that Wang Jinshu, the Communist Party Secretary for the northeastern Chinese village of Yuhuang and a delegate to the National People’s Congress, is the man at the helm of a $1.85 billion methanol plant to be built in their town over the next two years with a $9.5 million incentive package from the state. The details of the project are unclear, residents say, largely because they were not told about the project until local officials, amid discussions with state officials and Chinese diplomats, decided to move forward with the project in July 2014.

“We never had a town hall meeting pretending to get our opinion prior to them doing it,” said Lawrence “Palo” Ambrose, a 74-year-old black Vietnam War veteran who works at a nearby church. “They didn’t make us part of the discussion.”

The Chinese company has filed for expedited permits to construct and operate a plant on a sprawling 1,100 acres — situated between a high school, two churches and an assisted living facility for senior citizens — from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which is set to study the impact on the local environment and deliver its decision on March 6, 2015.

The plant is part of a recent push by New Orleans–area officials to reach out to Asia’s growing economic powerhouse to redevelop communities still devastated by the effects of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina. Some of those projects, it appears, have since gone sour. In one instance, which Al Jazeera will explore in the third installment of this series, a company contracted by the city government stands accused of stealing millions of dollars from Chinese investors seeking U.S. citizenship in exchange for building businesses in an underserved neighborhood.

Local economic development authorities told Al Jazeera that St. James Parish is an ideal location for the methanol plant because of readily accessible deep water and cheap fuel from the shale oil boom that will help cut production costs. But it remains unclear what the impetus is behind a methanol plant that plans to send the lion’s share of its product back to China, which is struggling to find a market for the methanol already being produced.

What is clear is that there are links between Wang’s U.S. subsidiary — Houston-headquartered Yuhuang Chemical Inc. — and the Chinese government and the Jindal administration.

e64a88734d242750dfeec0f1320ffc43It seems China’s tired of being a polluted pissing pot so they’re joining with Jindal to stick it the poorest of the poor in Louisiana. This story series is a freaking eye-opener.  Be sure to read all three parts.

Here’s a very sad story.  I used to love to go pick out sheet music at the local music stores and in music stores in big cities when I was young.  It seems the very last New York Classical Sheet music store has closed. 

Even the home to Carnegie Hall and the New York Philharmonic isn’t immune to the realities of the digital age of music.

Frank Music Company, New York City’s last remaining store dedicated to selling classical sheet music, closed on Friday. Frank’s customers, a community of artists dedicated to playing music written with quills centuries ago, must now buy them online or download PDFs.

The store’s owner, Heidi Rogers, said dwindling sales killed the shop.

“Musicians are underpaid,” she said. “How can they buy music if they’re not getting paid enough?”

Here’s a number that’s a good one.  Baby giant tortoises were born on one of the Galapagos Islands for the first time in more than a century!!

For the first time in more than one hundred years, researchers have found newborn baby tortoises on the tiny Galapagos island of Pinzón. It’s a major win for a population that has struggled after being nearly decimated by human impact.

“We found ten tiny, newly hatched saddleback tortoises on the island early last month,” wrote a trio of researchers in the January 15th issue of the journal Nature. “There could be many more, because their size and camouflage makes them hard to spot. Our discovery indicates that the giant tortoise is once again able to reproduce on its own in the wild.”

So, that’s it for me today.  Just thought I’d let you know that I’ve gone back to gigging to try to make ends meet.  Yesterday, I played the most unique church service I’ve ever done.  Well, the service wasn’t unique if you understood Norwegian.  It was at the Norwegian Seaman’s church. It’s a Lutheran church funded by the Norwegian government for expats and visiting Norwegians.  It was truly an experience!  Oh, and Norwegian waffles are the best!!!  So, that’s the first adventure.  My second adventure will be on Bourbon Street where I will be playing three shows a night (4 times a week) as the straight woman and accompanist to Ms. Jessica Duplantier who is and up and comer and sure to head straight to RuPaul’s reality show Drag Race!!! So, how’s that for a stuffy old Finance professor?  Yes, there will be pictures, I promise!

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?  Any good news out there?


Monday Reads: We Do Not Welcome our Corporate Overlords

Beetlegeuse Chewbacchus 2015Good Morning!

The Krewe of Chewbacchus rolled through my neighborhood Saturday night.  I decided to post some of the photos I took of the participants to liven up the thread today.  The parade is a celebration of Fantasy and SF books, movies, games, and TV series.  More professional pictures can be found here. See if you can recognize them!  I only wish the celebration of fantasy was limited to movies and books.  Unfortunately, it isn’t and the Koch Brothers fantasy economics plans are ruining states around the country.

I keep having conversations with people who are either politically active or politically knowledgeable about finding a way out of our current mess.   There are several key problems that seem out of the hands of voters to solve. At least, those voters that actually vote.

Things have been on the down slope since the Reagan administration but have really picked up steam with the final fifth vote locked into the Supreme Court. The Citizen’s United Decision is throttling American Democracy which is why we really need to bring back the Fairness Doctrine among other things.  It seems odd that Brian Williams can be hounded out of journalism for one mistaken memory when at least 60%–if not more–of what Fox broadcasts daily is an out and out lie.  Is Facism on the rise in America and what can we do to stop it?

As the American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”

Well, it it may well on our doorstep.  And the oligarchs are plotting their final takeover by using their economic dominance to capture governmental power – specifically, the governmental power which sets the rules for the very marketplace that provides the oligarchs with such massive wealth.

Once the American corporate barons own the institutions that are meant to regulate them, it’s game-over for both rational capitalism (including competition) and for democracy.

Last week, at David and Charles Koch’s annual winter meeting near Palm Springs, California, it was announced that the Koch Brothers’ political organization would spend close to $900 million on the 2016 election.  If this goal is met, the group of corporate leaders will spend far more than the Republican Party and its congressional campaign committees spent, combined, in the 2012 campaign.

Once upon a time, it would have been illegal for the Koch Brothers and their fellow oligarchs to buy an election.  Of course, that time was before the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.

In 2010, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, presented the best opportunity for the Roberts Court to use its five vote majority to totally re-write the face of politics in America, rolling us back to the pre-1907 era of the Robber Barons.

As Jeffrey Toobin wrote in The New Yorker (“No More Mr. Nice Guy”): “In every major case since he became the nation’s seventeenth Chief Justice, Roberts has sided with the prosecution over the defendant, the state over the condemned, the executive branch over the legislative, and the corporate defendant over the individual plaintiff.

You can see the influence of the Koch Brothers money in the states that have Republican Governors.  It is pimp darth chewbacchus 2015especially true of those Republican Governors with presidential aspirations who want the promised $1 billion the Kochs have pledged for the next campaign cycle.  I want to cover Bobby Jindal, Louisiana, and the horrible budget problems that we have from Jindal’s campaign to please the Kochs.  But first, I’d like to tell you what Scott Walker is doing to one of the nation’s premier public universities.

One of the major things the Kochs hate is people that aren’t miseducated or trained to be working zombies.  This fits right in with their agenda.This is similar to what’s going on with the destruction of public education and universities in Louisiana and similar issues in Kansas, both of which have Koch sucking Governors.

More than 35,000 public employees would be removed from state government rolls if Gov. Scott Walker’s budget proposal stays intact through the legislative process.

Walker’s 2015-17 budget proposal, which was introduced Tuesday, makes major changes to the operation of the state’s University of Wisconsin System. The second-term governor’s plan would split off the system into its own public entity.

By creating a separate authority for the University of Wisconsin System, it would no longer be under the direct management of the state.

According to Walker, University of Wisconsin System supporters have been asking for more autonomy for years, claiming it would help cut costs and better serve students. The Republican governor’s plan also includes a $150 million funding cut in each year of his biennial budget in exchange for the greater autonomy.

The annual reduction is equivalent to a 2.5 percent cut in total public funding. Opponents of Walker’s reform have claimed aid is being cut by 13 percent. That, however, only takes into consideration general fund spending from the state.

He also tried to actually change the mission of the University.

You might think that changing the mission of a flagship public university would be an issue put up for public discussion. Not in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker submitted a budget proposal that included language that would have changed the century-old mission of the University of Wisconsin system — known as the Wisconsin Idea and embedded in the state code  — by removing words that commanded the university to “search for truth” and “improve the human condition” and replacing them with “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

Walker, in a budget speech given earlier this week, didn’t bother to mention the change, which is more than a simple issue of semantics. There is a national debate about what the role of colleges and universities should be. One group, including Walker, see higher education in big part as a training ground for workers in the American workplace; another sees college education as a way to broaden the minds of young people and teach them how to be active, productive citizens of the country.

brainsHe earlier tried to tell University faculty and staff that they needed to work harder and not include “service” in their list of duties.   This is all part of the privatization craze that attempts to put union workers and public servants into the parasite category.  However, when privatized, the same workers suddenly are doing something valuable with lower compensation so that management and stockholders can skim profits from the actual work being done.

Governor Scott Walker–whom Charlie Pierce refers to as “the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to run their Midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin”–plans to unveil a budget on Tuesday evening that will reportedly “slash hundreds of millions of dollars from the state’s public universities over the next two years.” Alice Ollstein of ThinkProgress said that students, professors and state lawmakers “are already blasting the plan — the deepest cut in state history…” They told ThinkProgress that they are “organizing to block its passage.”

Even a Gannet owned newspaper complained about the cuts and the entire attitude towards faculty and higher education in general.  Oh, and he’s calling for nearly $500 million tax dollars for a new stadium for the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Gannett Central Wisconsin Media Editorial Board thinks that Walker’s proposed cuts to the university go too deep. With regard to economics, the board wrote “the more educated our workforce, the higher our state’s overall standard of living will be. And in all sorts of intangible ways the university system improves our quality of life — injecting culture into communities, offering broad-based liberal education, helping define our sense of Badger identity.” The board added that “Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed Draconian cuts to the system will undermine those values and hobble future economic growth.”

Gannett Central Wisconsin Media Editorial Board:

Walker compounded the sense that cuts are driven by political animus when, on Wednesday, he told a conservative radio host that faculty and staff should simply increase their workload to make up the difference. It was a condescending, somewhat nasty thing to say, and it was not based in fact. UW-Madison professors, a February study showed, work on average 63 hours a week; we see no reason to assume profs on stretched-thin regional campuses work less… 

Taking a chainsaw to the UW budget now is no way to make smart, lasting reforms. Insulting UW faculty is no way to demonstrate an interest in positive reform.

And $300 million in new cuts is too much to swallow.

In a commentary published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Friday, members of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Faculty Senate Executive Committee said that news reports had confirmed  that the “UW System campuses are slated to take a combined $150 million base budget cut (over two years, so $300 million total) in his upcoming 2015-’17 biennial budget proposal.” The Journal Sentinel claimed that the numbers were “staggering.” This will reportedly be “the largest cut in the 45-year history of the system.

Well, Wisconson, welcome to the world of Governors owned by the Koch Brothers.  Here’s our reality down here in Lousyana. We’re on our 8th of year the same kind of BS.  We’re sending tax dollars to Chinese falcor the luck dragon chewbacchus 2015corporations, Arkansas Corporations, and Hollywood, but taking money away from every school but the religious madrassas and for-profits preferred by Jindal and the Kochs.

Widespread layoffs, hundreds of classes eliminated, academic programs jettisoned and a flagship university that can’t compete with its peers around the nation — those are among the grim scenarios LSU leaders outlined in internal documents as the threat of budget cuts loom.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration is considering deep budget slashing to higher education for the fiscal year that begins July 1 to help close a $1.6 billion shortfall.

LSU campuses from Shreveport to New Orleans were asked to explain how a reduction between 35 percent and 40 percent in state financing — about $141.5 million to the university system — would affect their operations. The documents, compiled for LSU System President F. King Alexander, were obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request.

The potential implications of such hefty cuts were summed up in stark terms: 1,433 faculty and staff jobs eliminated; 1,572 courses cut; 28 academic programs shut down across campuses; and 6 institutions declaring some form of financial emergency.

At the system’s flagship university in Baton Rouge, the documents say 27 percent of faculty positions would have to be cut, along with 1,400 classes, jeopardizing the accreditation of the engineering and business colleges. Some campus buildings would be closed.

“These severe cuts would change LSU’s mission as a public research and land-grant university. It will no longer be capable of competing with America’s significant public universities and will find itself dramatically behind the rest of the nation,” the documents say.

Leias chewbacchus 2015One of the first things these folks want to do is to dumb up the population and get rid of faculty and schools that won’t teach the crap they want to continue to force their economic fairy tale.  No amount of peer review is ever going to make the trickle down economics crap do anything but float in septic tanks.  But, they’re sure doing a great job of forcing it into things by owning politicians.  Both Kansas and Louisiana are in freaking budget nightmares.

The country is full of examples illustrating the failure of Republican economic policies. Scott Walker’s Wisconsin and Sam Brownback’s Kansas have become poster children for the job killing, budget busting, folly of pursuing supply side economics. Were it not for the damage that right-wing policies inflict upon working families, the Laffer curve would be simply laughable.

Yet, Grover Norquist’s army of tax-hating Governors continues to run roughshod over red state budgets promising a fiscal utopia. The fact that the utopia never materializes apparently doesn’t matter. Red state voters re-elect them anyway. The words “tax cut”, like an elixir, cures their fears, even if the people whose taxes are being cut are not the ordinary voters, but rather the ultra wealthy.

Joining Brownback and Walker on the list of Governor’s facing serious budget problems, is Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. On Friday, The New York Times reported that Louisiana is anticipating a 1.6 billion dollar budget shortfall for next year, and that the deficit will remain in that range for years to come. When Jindal took office in 2008, the state had a 900 million dollar surplus, and the unemployment rate was just 3.8 percent. Now, in addition to having a gaping budget shortfall, Louisiana’s unemployment rate is at 6.7 percent, above the national average.Despite the state’s budget woes, Jindal has continued to resist any tax increases. He has depleted the state’s reserve funds to fill budget holes and is still coming up short on the needed revenue. Louisiana has one of the lowest tax burdens in the nation, and as a consequence, the state ranks near dead last in quality of education and health care. Nevertheless, the supply side dogmatism of Governor Jindal virtually guarantees that the state will continue on its current path to economic perdition.

Jindal is often mentioned as a possible Republican candidate for President. However, Jindal’s fiscal mismanagement has made him deeply unpopular even in his own state. A November 2014 Public Policy Polling survey found that only a third of Louisiana voters approved of the Governor’s job performance while 56 percent disapproved. Supply side economics has been a nightmare to the residents of Louisiana.

Notice the similar policies?  Kill the Universities or warp them into places to train the zombie drone workers of the future?    Anyway, I really hope that the 2016 voters change some of this.  I can’t wait for Hillary to tackle the Republican that tries to mainstream this crap.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?