The one thing that has become apparent to me recently is that privatizing anything related to important infrastructure is a recipe for one disaster after another. For-profit corporations are into maximizing profits to owners by either slashing costs or hiking prices. They rarely do anything that actually improves service or delivery quality. When you experience any kind of disaster that taxes the infrastructure, you learn quickly how negligent for-profits are when it comes to maintaining or fixing infrastructure. My reality since Hurricane Katrina is living with infrastructure that comes and goes on a windy day, on a drizzly day, on any kind of day that might cause our privately owned electric and natural gas company’s patched together infrastructure to hiccup. We get power outages at the super bowl, in my home, and in our water treatment plant. I’ve experienced two boil water orders in the last six months and dozens of electric outages for days on end. Cox cable’s infrastructure is just about as bad. They patch things up when they have to do it. I’ve heard excuses about hungry squirrels, curious racoons, and unusual wind events to the point I could just scream.
Then, there’s these oil pipe disasters. Why on earth would you trust an oil company with any kind of pipe line given their obvious neglect? There is a THIRD major oil spill in a week. This time it is in Texas.
Thousands of gallons of oil have spilled from a pipeline in Texas, the third accident of its kind in only a week.
Shell Pipeline, a unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc, shut down their West Columbia, Texas, pipeline last Friday after electronic calculations conducted by the US National Response Center showed that upwards of 700 barrels had been lost, amounting to almost 30,000 gallons of crude oil.
By Monday, Shell spokespeople said inspectors found “no evidence” of an oil leak, but days later it was revealed that a breach did occur. Representatives with the US Coast Guard confirmed to Dow Jones on Thursday that roughly 50 barrels of oil spilled from a pipe near Houston, Texas and entered a waterway that connects to the Gulf of Mexico.
Coast Guard Petty Officer Steven Lehman said that Shell had dispatched clean-up crews that were working hard to correct any damage to Vince Bayou, a small waterway that runs for less than 20 miles from the Houston area into a shipping channel that opens into the Gulf.
The spill was contained, said Lehman, who was hesitant to offer an official number on how much crude was lost in the accident. According to Shell spokeswoman Kim Windon, though, the damage could have been quite significant. After being presented with the estimate that said as much as 700 barrels were found to have leaked from the pipeline due to an unknown cause, investigators determined that 60 barrels entered the bayou.
“That’s a very early estimate–things can change,” Officer Lehman told Dow Jones.
Meanwhile, though, rescue works in Arkansas have been getting their hands dirty responding to an emergency there. A rupture in ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline late last week send thousands of barrels of oil into the small town of Mayflower, around 25 miles outside of Little Rock. Authorities evacuated more than 20 homes in response, and by this Thursday roughly 19,000 barrels had been recovered.
Mayflower, Ark is still fighting the sludge and will likely be doing so for some time.
We tend to think of oil spills on a massive scale, so large they are hard to imagine. Millions of barrels of crude pouring into the Bering Sea from the slashed hull of the Exxon Valdez. Tens of thousands of workers and volunteers combing hundreds of miles of Gulf Coast beaches after the Deep Water Horizon spill. But in Mayflower, Ark., the scale of an oil spill there is disturbing not for its size, but its proximity. On March 29, a 20-inch buried pipeline burst under the small town, turning backyards into tar pits and suburban streets into oil slicks.
This will probably be yet another part of our new reality given the age of pipelines–around 70 years old–and the continued negligence of oil companies who continue to make record profits and enjoy stupendous tax breaks in this country.
Residents of Washington, DC are used to jokes about metaphorical hot air, humidity, and the swampy history of their city. But there’s something they may not know about the District: it’s overrun with methane, which sometimes makes manhole covers explode.
Natural gas is mostly methane, and it is carried through underground pipes to heat buildings and cook food. Those pipes are often old, and this led ecologist and chemical engineer Robert Jackson of Duke University to drive around DC over a period of two months, regularly measuring the air to take methane levels.
He and his research team found methane leaks everywhere, with thousands of places having significantly higher than normal methane concentrations, and some places reaching 50 times normal urban levels (100 ppm vs 2 ppm). A similar study in Boston last year found essentially the same results. In DC, the source wasn’t the swamp on which the city was built — it was fossil fuel. (The methane they measured had more carbon-13 rather than the normal, modern carbon-12.)
You can laugh about this but I’ve actually seen exploding manhole covers in action. I was gigging at Balconies restaurant down in the French Quarter. The piano was situated under a window and the restaurant–now defunct–was located in a building on the 600 block of Royal. It’s a really famous intersection and the building is one of those that gets photographed all the time. The window is basically to the left of the open door where they black car is passing the building. Mule drawn carriages would stop there frequently to listen to me play and to have a cocktail or cafe au lait brought out for the occupents. Anyway, one night, after a series of exploding man hole covers had been shutting down the electricity in the Quarter, one of them in the middle of this street took off like a cannon and sliced through the top part of a car right before my eyes. Of course, the electricity went off in the area and shut down the grocery across the street, the restaurants and everything in that locale. But, I’ll tell you, that manhole cover was an unbelievable projectile. Oh, it of course, the natural gas in town is Entergy-controlled. The other thing I recall was the distinct smell of ozone burning up and the wierdish green light show. This was about 15 years ago, but damn, I will never forget watching the roof of a hard top car get sliced off like a piece of salami. It’s been fixed now since the city doesn’t tolerate anything being wrong in the French Quarter, but for about 3 months of the summer 1996, it was a wild trip with a series of exploding manhole covers and black outs. It was also the same summer I got Karma so, who knows. Maybe it was just one of those summers.
Anyway, after having lived in a city where levees failed us and electricity fails us all the time, I would just like to say that no private corporation should be left on its own with unmonitored vital infrastructure. All kinds of things are at stake. Also, you can’t trust any oil company to do right by any one but themselves after a spill. I have experience in that area too.
Minx is stuck in the snow and holed up in a hotel so I’ve got your reads this morning!
I was one of those earth mother types to Doctor Daughter and I tried to do the same with youngest daughter although the cancer thing got in the way and the grandparents had to step in for me. I still am an earth goddess wannabe. I admit, I’m a hippie at heart. I breast fed Doctor Daughter until she took her first step on her first birthday and weaned herself on the same day. I had to wean my second one to soy formula at 5 months because of the chemotherapy. Well, that and the shock of the stage 4 diagnosis just dried me up.
I was never away from Doctor Daughter’s side for well over a year. I actually joined the La Leche League because I wanted to be around other nursing mothers and bought their cookbook. I love to cook and so we made everything from the garden when possible and always by hand. The cookbook had a kid’s snack section and we used to make everything together. Making healthy food was part of our together time.
My daughter had really healthy snacks. I decided to turn to teaching at the college level rather than return to corporate life when she turned 18 months. She went to Montessori preschool while I taught in the morning. Her dad stayed with her for my one evening class. Montessori insisted on healthy snacks. It wasn’t until we moved from our condo to a newly built, two story house in a neighborhood with lots of stay-at-home moms that I had folks calling me up about her weird predilections. Did I know my daughter had no idea that kids ate Spaghettios and that pasta could come from a can? How come she’s never seen candy before? Well, she had, it was just my Dad’s homemade fudge that didn’t come in wrappers. How come she always asked for Apple Juice when offered Koolaid or Cola? My daughter didn’t eat or drink anything she hadn’t seen before and I guess they were shocked!
I always laughed a lot at this because I worked as a full time college instructor teaching finance and economics so I juggled all kinds of roles. But both my daughters had fresh, soft clean cotton diapers and home made meals. Both were introduced to junk food by stay-at-home moms who should’ve had time to find their inner earth goddesses too. I later learned that her friends spent more time in the local spa/salon’s childcare than she spent at Montessori with her pink tower, her sandpaper letters, and her healthy snacks. Maybe that explains why I’m the only one with the doctor, but hey, I really shouldn’t be judgmental, should I?
It wasn’t me that introduced Doctor Daughter to junk food. It was the local stay-at-home suburban moms who needed me to tell my daughter that what they wanted to feed her wasn’t weird and she should stop giving it the evil eye. I mean, wouldn’t you shriek if some one tried to serve you Spaghettios?
Youngest daughter went on a jag as a toddler–like toddlers frequently do–and became a vegan for about a year. She would only eat salads, vegetables, and carbs. It totally freaked my dad out but she loved tossed salads with blue cheese dressing better than anything and I never could figure out why wieners and mac were some how more filling and hence,better. She was two years old. That’s why I have no idea why eating healthy is controversial or considered an impossible dream for kids. My kids never missed this kind of crap and were, well, really wierded out when their friends moms tried to feed them anything we hadn’t prepared ourselves. They also couldn’t understand why only their Montessori friends didn’t leave their playroom a mess, but that’s another story. Believe me, kids will eat healthy food if that’s the only thing they are offered from day one. One of the things Doctor Daughter complains about in her ob/gyn practice these days is the number of moms who are so overweight and have diabetes that many of them are classified as high risk in their prime child bearing years. Unfortunately, these are also the moms that are on medicare and are least likely to get help.
The Obama administration proposed regulations Friday that would prohibit U.S. schools from selling unhealthy snacks.
The 160-page regulation from the Department of Agriculture (USDA) would enact nutrition standards for “competitive” foods not included in the official school meal.
In practice, the proposed rules would replace traditional potato chips with baked versions and candy with granola. Regular soda is out, though high-schoolers may have access to diet versions.
“Although nutrition standards for foods sold at school alone may not be a determining factor in children’s overall diets, they are critical to providing children with healthy food options throughout the entire school day,” the proposed rule states.
“Thus, these standards will help to ensure that the school nutrition environment does all that it can to promote healthy choice, and help to prevent diet-related health problems.”
The rules are a product of the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, which also overhauled the nutritional make-up of regular school meals. They would apply to any school, public or private, that participates in the National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program.
Those rules saw a backlash from conservative lawmakers who said students were going hungry as a result of calorie limits. A GOP House member famously compared the rules to “The Hunger Games.” The USDA eventually relaxed some guidelines in response.
Believe me, kids that don’t eat junk food aren’t going hungry. They’re just not getting addicted to stuff that’s not good for them. My dad was always yelling at me to “give that kid some real food” when she was a few months old and only on breast milk. I dunno. That’s Dr. Daughter up there as a toddler with Arlo Guthrie Mousehound. Does she look like she was a neglected and starved child to you? Oh, and she got those glasses because she couldn’t read the music when I was teaching her to play piano. I caught her early on that too. I have no idea why so many adults underestimate kids but they do. I tried to get my children interested in everything when they were little. The deal was to let them find their thing and see what stuck. Both of them still play piano. Both of them still eat healthy. It wasn’t “The Hunger Games” at our house. Both my girls were off the normal growth charts so, I guess, congress thinks I’m a miserable excuse for a mother but really, I am glad they ate sushi in the high chair and never discovered the golden arches until some one turned the TV away from Sesame Street. Believe me, it wasn’t me.
I have many friends from Bangladesh including my primary professor. It’s one of the reasons that I watch its economy and my heart breaks when I read how so many young women are dying in its clothing factories. Factory fires in Bangladesh and Pakistan have killed more than 400 people. These factories
primarily make clothing for WalMart, Sears and other U.S. retailers. A lot of these deaths might be due to the governments who don’t seem to care about the safety of the factories, but don’t these companies bear some responsibility too? Economist Mark Thoma debates colleague Jagdish Bhagwati who argues that its the fault of the local governments.
I agree that the Bangladeshi government should “step up to the plate to establish proper regulations and monitoring,” but companies have a role to play too (they may, for example, have political power that can be used to block or encourage regulation and monitoring, and there is the moral obligation to protect workers as well). If we assume the companies can’t do much, and don’t hold them accountable — if we brush it off as an inevitable response to market pressures in an environment with few constraints on this type of behavior — they’ll have no incentive to change.
I continue to despair on what I consider a rise in a neoconfederacy and insurrectionist movement in the country. Why is the so? Chris Hedges writes that “as Southern whites sink into economic despair, more and more are retreating into a fictional past”. Where does this leave our country as a nation divided that cannot not stand? Why do some people glorify the likes of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest to this day?
Forrest, who is buried in Forrest Park under a statue of himself in his Confederate general’s uniform and mounted on a horse, is one of the most odious figures in American history. A moody, barely literate, violent man—he was not averse to shooting his own troops if he deemed them to be cowards—he became a millionaire before the war as a slave trader. As a Confederate general he was noted for moronic aphorisms such as “War means fighting and fighting means killing.” He was, even by the accounts of those who served under him, a butcher. He led a massacre at Fort Pillow in Henning, Tenn., of some 300 black Union troops—who had surrendered and put down their weapons—as well as women and children who had sheltered in the fort. Forrest was, after the war, the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. He used his skills as a former cavalry commander to lead armed night raids to terrorize blacks.Forrest, like many other white racists of the antebellum South, is enjoying a disquieting renaissance. The Sons of Confederate Veterans and the West Tennessee Historical Commission last summer put up a 1,000-pound granite marker at the entrance to the park that read “Forrest Park.” The city, saying the groups had not obtained a permit, removed it with a crane. A dispute over the park name, now raging in the Memphis City Council, exposes the deep divide in Memphis and throughout much of the South between those who laud the Confederacy and those who detest it, a split that runs like a wide fault down racial lines.
Another thing that worries me is the current use of drones in our nation’s “war” against terrorist. Is Obama the “Drone Ranger” as Bill Moyers and guests suggest? Will any one criticize our policy at John Brennan’s confirmation hearing as proposed CIA director?
A key player in our government’s current drone program is John Brennan, who during the Bush presidency was a senior official at the Central Intelligence Agency and head of the National Counterterrorism Center. Reportedly, Barack Obama considered offering him the top job at the CIA in 2008, but public opposition — in reaction to the charges that the Bush White House had approved torture — caused Brennan to withdraw his name from consideration. Nonetheless, Obama kept him on as an adviser, and now, despite Brennan’s past notoriety, Obama officially has chosen him to head the CIA. This time, there’s been little criticism of the decision.
We hope Brennan’s upcoming confirmation hearings on February 7 will offer Congressional critics the chance to press him on drone attacks and whether the Obama administration in its fight against terror is functioning within the rule of law — or abusing presidential power when there has been no formal declaration of war.
Alright, so what would an electric post of mine be without a reference to my graves and graveyard interests? One of these days, I will find a place where I can plant a tent and dust off the remains of people past whose lives were lived in quiet desperation too.
A 1,300-year-old unidentified cluster of 102 tombs, 40 per cent of which were made for infants, have been unearthed in China’s restive westernmost province.
The tombs, found on the Pamirs Plateau in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, contain wooden caskets with desiccated corpses, as well as stoneware, pottery and copper ware believed to have been buried as sacrificial items, said Ai Tao from the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute.
“The cluster covers an area of 1,500 square meters on a 20-meter-high cliff, an unusual location for tombs,” Ai told state-run Xinhua news agency.
He added that his team was also very surprised to find such a large number of infant corpses.
But further research is needed to determine why so many people from that tribe died young.
Archaeologists said they have also unearthed a large number of well-preserved utensils made from gourds, some of which were placed inside the caskets.
“The burial custom is the first of its kind to be found in Xinjiang,” said Ai.
It is believed that the cluster dates back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907).
At that time, economic and cultural exchanges between China and the West flourished via the ancient Silk Road.
“The shape of the felt-covered caskets show that sinic culture had a great influence on the lives of local people’s some 1,300 years ago,” said Yu Zhiyong, head of the Xinjiang Archaeological Institute.
I’m going to close with a quote from Glenn Beck that I propose is the MOST lunatic thing he’s ever said. I know, that’s a BIG statement, but judge for yourself. Brace yourself for unisex bathrooms and mothers dying in combat! Oh, wait, we already have that, yes?
“This is the dumbest idea I ever heard. Women now fight on the front lines? Democrats are hailing the move as another giant leap forward for equality. Progress, you know. Forward! And on the outside looking in it’s one of those feel good stories—oh great, women are great soldiers too, they deserve an equal chance, oh that’s great.
War is the act of killing each other. And to win, you have to kill people faster than the other team. That’s what war is all about. The enemy’s not going to cower in defeat because we have a female Eskimo Hispanic dwarf cross-dresser and some handicapable, transgendered breast cancer survivor as a soldier on the front line, ready to unleash an attack of unparalleled diversity.”
I dunno, I would find a female Eskimo Hispanic dwarf cross-dresser and some handicapable, transgendered breast cancer survivor on my team, woudn’t you?
Have a great Sunday! Oh, and I will be waving to you when those blimps cross my front porch today. All the Dakinis!!! Please save my city from these crazy celebrities and billionaires!! Here’s a primer on this gross interruption to Mardi Gras. Don’t forget to take a gander at the photo over there because my tax dollars paid for that giant multicolor egg just waiting to be fertilized by a black helicopter sperm.
Q: What is the Super Bowl?
A: It’s a football game! It’s the last one that gets played in the NFL until next season, meaning the winners get to be Best Football Guys for a year, and the losers are only Second Best Football Guys, which is way worse. It’s also a big event where famous musicians play and fireworks shoot off and so on.
Q: Fun! But what’s football?
A: Football is this game where one team tries to move a ball up a field by carrying it or throwing it and the other team tries to stop them by hitting them. Every time the guy carrying the ball falls down or the ball hits the ground play stops for a bit, then the players reorganize themselves and play starts up again. If one team doesn’t do a very good job moving the ball up the field, they give the ball to the other team. This goes on for three hours. The teams also kick the ball through a big yellow Y sometimes.
Q: That sounds terrible and boring. Why do people play this game?
A: Because they love it! Hahahahaha! No, actually many of the men playing in the Super Bowl get paid millions of dollars to do football.
Q: Whoooooaaaa! How did that happen?
A: Well, it turns out that people really, really like watching men play football on television. So many people watch football that companies pay the television folks a lot of money to show their commercials during the games, and that money trickles down to the NFL’s owners and then their players.
Yeah, and something tells me that we probably could’ve made more money off of not disturbing Mardi Gras had our Mayor not wanted to be on National TV so very much. What’s on your reading and blogging list this morning?
Okay, I have yet another rant in me. What is it with this week? I’m going to go check the moon phase calender after this one. So, as you know we’ve been invaded by Super Bowl Madness. We’ve also been invaded by Capitalists gone wild. Take a gander at this.
For those of you that have never been to Jackson Square in the French Quarter. This is the statue of President Andrew Jackson and it commemorates the War of 1812. That’s the last time we were invaded by England and the last time I checked my US history book, it was considered a big deal. This is a historic statue in a National Park in a registered Historic District. That’s a banner for the CBS day time gossip show “The Talk”. So, what ever happened to the idea of defacing public property? A bunch of us citizens who like our historic city and like to celebrate its status as a National Historic district twitter-bombed Mayor Mitch Landrieu about this. And, he answered with this …
Right … a light reflection issue lets CBS deface a historic statue.
So, ever seen about 3 miles of the world’s most expensive yachts in your back yard? Here’s the pleasure ship of the CEO of Jaguar (from the UK) lined up on our docks along the Mississippi. I can’t decide if this is going to impact the value of my property or not given that it’s probably worth more than most of the buildings in my neighborhood all put together.
I can just imagine the number of countries’ GDP that the price of that beauty rivals.
Is there anything in life that doesn’t have a price tag on it those days?
Next up! Which team gets to bid on putting its uniform on our statue of Joan of Arc? Any takers?
Mayor Landrieu, for pete’s sake … it’s a historic monument in a historic district!!! Show a little respect!!! Tell CBS to take the damn thing down!
Please ask “THE TALK” and CBS to stop defacing public property and historic art.
My city is hopping with all kinds of things for the next few weeks. Yesterday, one of my favorite parade krewes rolled! It’s the Krewe Of Barkus!! Honey, Karma, and I used to do this all the time when we lived in the Quarter and they were alive. It’s a dog krewe and a fundraiser and adopt-a-krewe member event that raises funds for our NOSPCA. It’s a great time. Honey and Karma loved it because the parade attendees throw dog biscuits. They used to think the streets of the French Quarter were lined with treats for weeks after the parade!!! Kids and Dogs are just about the happiest I ever see them when this parade rolls! Be sure too check out Channel 4′s photo gallery because it’s 100 photos of cuteness!!!
Meanwhile, the 49ers have landed and sportscasters from all over are begging we host the game every year. I’m not sure we could handle that but it’s interesting for awhile. We’ve been told to be nice to Roger Goodell despite the hooplah over the bounty fines and penalties. Most Saints fans feel the team was unfairly singled out for punishment since it’s been a practice in other places too. You can’t go very many places where fans go where there’s not a sign that says that a place won’t serve Goodell; and many of the krewes that have already had to roll due to the interruption have had floats that have also laid into him.
Political analysts James Carville and Mary Matalin have spent many years arguing their individual philosophies (in summary: He’s on the left, and she’s not) even as they’ve enjoyed a surprisingly happy marriage for most of the last two decades. One thing that brings them together right now is their work with the Super Bowl host committee in New Orleans, which they co-chair. It’s an especially meaningful honor for Carville, who was born and bred in Louisiana, and is a rabid football fan.
Carville and most other Louisiana natives seem to firmly believe that having the Super Bowl back in New Orleans is a great measuring stick for the ways in which the city has not only moved on, but rebuilt and improved, after Hurricane Katrina devastated the landscape in 2005. Getting the game back here, and for the 10th time overall, was a big part of that.
“My hope is it can help bring some real closure here, and that the city can show what it can do,” Carville said in a recent host committee conference call. “But you just don’t know that feeling until you’re through with it. All of us on the committee are trying not to focus on that. We’re trying to focus on the mission at hand. Sometimes I wake up at night and say if this thing goes well this can really help people put a lot of things behind ‘em. Yes, that thought has crossed my mind. But I can’t allow myself to think like that. We’re a little bit like these teams. You can’t think what it’s like to win, you just gotta prepare. That’s been the attitude here.”
Paul Krugman says the Republicans have a new “welfare” queen” stereotype to flog. This time it’s “disabled deadbeats”. Once again, they can’t seem to do the math to figure out the aging of the baby boom generation is going to cause the numbers to go up in absolute, but not relative terms.
So yes, there has been some liberalization of the criteria — if you have multiple interacting conditions or mental illness, you may qualify in ways you didn’t before — but that liberalization is pretty reasonable. It’s still quite hard to qualify for DI.
What strikes me, however, isn’t just the way the right is trying to turn a reasonable development into some kind of outrage; it’s the political tone-deafness.
I mean, when Reagan ranted about welfare queens driving Cadillacs, he was inventing a fake problem — but his rant resonated with angry white voters, who understood perfectly well who Reagan was targeting. But Americans on disability as moochers? That isn’t, as far as I can tell, an especially nonwhite group — and it’s a group that is surely as likely to elicit sympathy as disdain. There’s just no way it can serve the kind of political purpose the old welfare-kicking rhetoric used to perform.
The same goes, more broadly, for the whole nation of takers thing. First of all, a lot of the “taking” involves Social Security and Medicare. And even the growth in means-tested programs is largely accounted for by the Earned Income Tax Credit — which requires and rewards work — and the expansion of Medicaid/CHIP to cover more children. Again, not the greatest of political targets.
The point, I think, is that right-wing intellectuals and politicians live in a bubble in which denunciations of those bums on disability and those greedy children getting free health care are greeted with shouts of approval — but now have to deal with a country where the same remarks come across as greedy and heartless (because they are).
I made the mistake of watching bits and pieces of MTP yesterday where both Paul Ryan and Jim Demint –aided and abetted by Dancing Dave–tried to convince every one that we have a fiscal crisis. That is so not true. As we know here, it’s code for drown the Federal Government in Grover Norquist’s bathtub while starving granny and offing Big Bird.
The other drone war is in Washington. The drones are in groups with names like the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and Campaign to Fix the Debt. They drone on, and on, about the calamities that await unless we cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
That the goal of the deficit drones is to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid has been plain for years to anyone who looks at where the money comes from. It comes largely from Peter G. Peterson, a billionaire former secretary of Commerce under Nixon, who is Captain Ahab to Social Security’s Moby Dick. And when one trick, such as privatization, falls flat, his minions always have another, whether it’s raising the retirement age or changing the COLA. But a cut by any other name is still, and always, just a cut.
Peterson’s influence is vast; practically the entire DC mind-meld has bought his line to some degree.
The other day I was on CNBC, supposedly to discuss the debt ceiling, but the topic was Social Security all the way. My host, Andrew Ross Sorkin, was very blunt: “If now isn’t the time to cut entitlements,” he asked, “when would be?” My answer – in a word, never – is not one he seemed to have thought possible before.
Yet there is no good reason to cut Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. These are insurance programs. They keep the elderly, their survivors and dependents, and the disabled, out of dire poverty. We can afford this. There is also no financing problem; if there were, investors would not be buying 20-year US bonds at 3 percent. These days when some economists say that cuts are needed, they say it’s only for show – to establish “credibility.” Old-timers may remember, that’s what DC insiders once said about the war in Vietnam.
Jim DeMint’s performance on the MTP panel was so abysmal that the camera actually caught Andrea Mitchell shaking her head no in disgust at something he said and furrowing her brow. The worst part was his response to how the Republican Party Race baits to get to the Dixiecrats. When asked if the Republicans were going to quit campaigning to the lowest common denominator, Demint went off on abortion for a good 3 minutes. He totally avoided the question which I suppose is part of their new messaging strategy. Yes the answer to republican racism is a rant on aborted fetuses.
Pressing DeMint, Gregory asked if he regretted “some of the comments about abortion in this last cycle, about rape, about, again, what Colin Powell thought were veiled racist comments from the party?”
The former South Carolina senator ignored the reference to “racist comments,” instead responding with a rant about fetal personhood.
“The fact that we are losing over 3,000 unborn children a day is an important issue,” DeMint opined. “But Republicans or conservatives should not engage in a wish list about exceptions for abortion when the other side will not even agree that we have real people, real human beings. And we need to fight the battle where it should be fought. Life is important. We know from all the new technology and improved sonograms that we do have a baby.”
“Instead of just offering my opinion on some hypothetical debate about exceptions for abortions, we need to move it back and particularly work with the states that are fighting just for the personhood of the child. And if we can start there, I think America will move with us.”
“Little different than the question about rhetoric and how it reaches voters,” Gregory noted as he moved on to the next topic.
You can see the performance at Raw Story. Talk about your “offensive and bizarre comments” after Demint went crazy-go-nuts after Dancing Dave played the Jindal “Party of Stupid” lecture. You can watch Andrea shake her head at about 1:48 as he take after Detroit and LA for being devastated as the result of Liberal agendas. The fetus rant is shortly after that. It’s jaw dropping. Also, Demint seems to think that Louisiana is a success story. I just don’t even know what to say to that.
Thirty-nine years after the forum’s annual meetings began in Davos, Switzerland, female participation hasn’t topped 20 percent of delegates. And that’s for the entire conference: Excluding moderators, there were only men among the bankers and policy makers discussing “Global Financial Context,” for instance, and executives and lawmakers on the “Global Energy Context” were also all male.
“The debate is still dominated by males frustrated by the crisis created by male-oriented industries,” said Kim Sung Joo, a businesswoman who co-chaired the election campaign last year for South Korea’s first female president. “The forum is reflective of the industries that used to lead. It’s not broad enough.”
Kim, whose Sungjoo Group owns German fashion brand MCM, joins delegates who point to an array of mechanisms the forum, like the business and political world, could adopt to be more inclusive. The shift from a manufacturing to a knowledge, Internet-based economy is one element the forum is overlooking, and cheaper access might lure a wider spectrum of delegates including younger leaders, Kim said.
Davos reflects a global community in which women are still struggling to become leaders.
Women represent just 17 percent of independent directors at companies in the U.S. Standard & Poor’s 500 (SPX) stock index, barely above the 16 percent level of 2007, executive recruiter Spencer Stuart said in a November report. In the European Union, women with board positions climbed to 15.8 percent in October, according to European Commission figures.
Topless protesters from the activist group Femen clashing with police at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The Ukrainian protest group painted their chests with ‘SOS Davos’, calling attention to poverty of women around the world and what they perceive as sexism and male domination of the world economy
Well, I think that’s it for me today. What’s on your reading and blogging list?
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.