Saturday, September 10, 2011

Via JMG: Tribute 2011

Via the Coffee Party Movement / NPR: Thomas Friedman On 'How America Fell Behind' : NPR

‎"We shifted from [the] greatest generation that really operated on what we call in the book 'sustainable values' — saving and investing — and we handed power over to the baby boomer generation who really lived by 'situational values' — borrow and consume" - Thomas Friedman
In his new book, the New York Times columnist explores how the U.S. fell from industrial, political and academic glory after the Cold War. "Just when we needed to be lacing up our shoes and running faster, we put our feet up," he says.

Via JMG:

Friday, September 9, 2011

Via SFGate / Jon Carroll:

The Internets are buzzing about Mike Lofgren's takedown of the Republican Party published by Truthout, the left-wing rabble-rousing website. The news here is not that Truthout doesn't like
Republicans; it's that Mike Lofgren is a Republican who worked for 28 years as a legislative aide to various GOP members of Congress.

So it would be fair to say that he knows what he's talking about. What he's talking about is not exactly new, but it is a succinct (despite its length) statement of what has happened to the

Republicans, why it happened and how the Democrats - or indeed, patriotic Americans of all political orientations - completely missed the point and thus the boat.

The whole thing can be found at

The nut graf, as we say in journalism, of his introductory section goes like this: "It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe. This trend has several implications, none of them pleasant."

The unpleasant part: We're pretty much screwed.

It is tempting to just let the rest of the column be quotes from the piece, but let me bite off one little section and talk about that:

"A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

"A deeply cynical tactic, to be sure, but a psychologically insightful one that plays on the weaknesses both of the voting public and the news media. There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters' confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that 'they are all crooks,' and that 'government is no good,' further leading them to think, 'a plague on both your houses' and 'the parties are like two kids in a school yard.'
"This ill-informed public cynicism, in its turn, further intensifies the long-term decline in public trust in government that has been taking place since the early 1960s - a distrust that has been stoked by Republican rhetoric at every turn ('Government is the problem,' declared Ronald Reagan in 1980)."

I plead guilty to being deeply cynical. Nothing in the presidency of Barack Obama has done much to change my view, while the Republicans' taking the world economic system hostage merely plunged me more deeply into political despair. (We should not let that carry over into our personal lives, or we'd all be zombies.)

So go ahead, Jon Stewart, make fun of Congress. Hell, even make fun of Fox News. If people were to stop watching Fox, probably they'd stop watching TV news and start watching that show where the guy kills the rodents. So we get more of what Lofgren calls "low-information" voters ("ignorant" is another word for that) who will hear through the low-information grapevine about Obama's plan to Islamify America.

(Although, gotta say, the number of minarets going up in the left-wing bastion of the Bay Area is minimal. If that's Obama's plan, he's failing at that too. Also he's failing to soak the rich, despite Republican claims to the contrary.)

If people get out of politics, if people stop paying attention, stop even voting, then government really is left to the crooks and the liars. They will be abetted by large corporations, to whom the

Republicans have long since sold their soul. The eternally debated question - how can the
Republicans get people to vote against their own economic interests? - is answered simply enough by Lofgren: They lie.

He is pretty sure that the Republicans in Washington, including most of those running for president, don't even believe that stuff they're putting out - that's what makes the whole enterprise so deeply cynical.

So it's on us. If we turn away in horror, then our tax money will go to solidify a dual theocracy/kleptocracy such as the world has never seen before. If we pay attention and fight, with information and action, then at least there's a chance. But man, is that mud deep.

Everything you think is happening is in fact happening. No need to adjust your brain.

Well, sir, I'll bring you to our master Lear, and leave you to attend him: Some dear cause will in concealment wrap me up awhile, when I am known

This article appeared on page E - 14 of the San Francisco Chronicle

I Gotta Feeling (Electric Daisy Carnival Experience)

I Gotta Feeling (Electric Daisy Carnival Experience)

Dólar Americano

 Cotação de fechamento do dólar no dia 09/09/2011, sexta-feira:
  • Dólar-dos-EUA:
    DataTaxa de CompraTaxa de Venda
  • President Obama Presents American Jobs Act (Enhanced Version)

    Via JMG: Satan Runs The Senate

    "When I walk from the House side to the Senate side, I cross the middle line of the Capitol, I can feel a different principality because they have jurisdictions over different things. And there are principalities that sit over different government entities that cause them to think really goofy and you can’t get prayers through, they get delayed twenty-one days because the principalities are up there fighting in the Heavenlies. Because we’re not fighting flesh and blood." - Rick Perry's BFF David Barton, saying that "demonic forces" run portions of the federal government. (But not those, apparently, that have a GOP majority.)

    reposted from Joe

    Via JMG: The Myth Of Global Warming (Con't)

    One scientist says he is "gob-smacked" by the extent of the breakup of a Greenland glacier in just the last two years.
    Located in north west Greenland, the Petermann Glacier accounts for 6% of the area of the Greenland ice sheet, said Dr Hubbard. It terminates as a floating tongue of ice, measuring around 43 miles (70km) long by 12 miles (20km) wide, the largest of its kind in the northern hemisphere. At its thickest the glacier is 3,280ft (1000m) high. "Although I knew what to expect in terms of ice loss from satellite imagery, I was still completely unprepared for the gob-smacking scale of the break-up, which rendered me speechless," said Dr Hubbard. "It was incredible to see. This glacier is huge, 20km across and 1000m high. "It's like looking into the Grand Canyon full of ice and coming back two years later to find it's full of water."

    reposted from Joe

    Via JMG: To The Elderly: Don't Yell At Paul Ryan

    Clip description:
    As Congressman Paul Ryan cracked a joke about him, Tom Nielsen found himself face down on the floor being handcuffed by police. The 71-year-old retired plumber from Kenosha was thrown to the ground, placed in handcuffs, and arrested for trespassing and resisting arrest after objecting to Ryan's plans to gut Social Security and Medicare during his congressman's only public appearance scheduled during the August recess -- a $15 Rotary Club luncheon in West Allis on Tuesday.

    reposted from Joe

    Via JMG: The Onion Spoofs The "WTC Cross"

    Just in from The Onion.
    Despite the surprising coincidence of finding a perfectly formed swastika amidst the broken girders of the Twin Towers, 9/11 memorial curators have opted not to display the symbol, choosing instead to leave it in the storage facility where it has been located for the past 10 years. "On the one hand, it's pretty miraculous that there was a precisely shaped 80-by-80-foot swastika found in the rubble of the fallen World Trade Center, but in the end, we decided not to include it in our plans for the museum," said memorial spokesman Stanley Morgenstern, adding that it would probably be seen as inappropriate. "Although you've got to admit that it is pretty incredible. Mathematically, what are the odds? It's amazing but, perhaps, not right for what we are trying to achieve with the museum." Upon hearing the news, neo-Nazi groups have complained about the exclusion, arguing that the giant swastika is "a sign from heaven" and that "9/11 affected all Americans, including those who believe in the inherent genetic superiority of the Aryan race

    reposted from Joe

    Via Jerry P. Becker via The Washington Post / The Answer Sheet blog : Improving schools with 'The Project'

    From The Washington Post / The Answer Sheet blog [A School Survival Guide for Parents, by Valerie Strauss], Friday, September 9, 2011. See
    Improving schools with 'The Project'
    By Marion Brady  [veteran teacher, administrator, curriculum designer and author.

    A few days ago I got an email from Phil Cullen. Before he retired, Phil was director of Primary Education for the state of Queensland, Australia. He now lives in New South Wales.
    Responding to something I'd posted on my website [ ], he wrote:

    "I was visiting an Outback, one-teacher school of 21 pupils in Windorah. At the morning tea break, they were climbing and swinging on the windmill tower, a simple construction of ironŠfour long legs, some cross beams and triangles for strength. When they returned to the room, I asked them to draw the tower. Not one child did. They played all over it every day, but no one had seen itŠ"

    They'd seen it, of course, but the too-familiar tends to slip below ordinary levels of awareness. After awhile we stop seeing pictures on walls, patterns in carpets, views from windows, even family members and friends.

    What's true of our eyes is true of our ears. We stop hearing the ticking of a clock, the hum of a fluorescent light, the wind and road noise when we're driving.

    And it's true of our noses and mouths. Those who live downwind from a dump can't smell the odors, and after a few days of drinking chemically treated water the taste disappears.

    Interesting. "Experience is the best teacher," we say, and it's true. We learn to pound nails by pounding nails while thinking about pounding nails, learn to drive a car by driving a car while thinking about driving, learn to think about experience by experiencing and thinking about what we're experiencing.

    Everything we know about what's happening to us comes to us through our senses, but as soon as the senses do their job, they turn themselves off. Why isn't this obstacle to learning - our blindness to the too- familiar - a matter of major interest to educators? As far as I can determine, the problem illustrated by Phil's little unmet assignment isn't even talked about, much less addressed.

    I was reminded of this a day or two ago as I read the transcript of a speech by David Coleman, an author of and cheerleader for the Common Core State Standards being promoted by "reformers." It was loaded with advice to teachers, but it wasn't advice about how to help kids make more sense of experience. It was about helping them make more sense of "text" - words that grew out of somebody else's experience.

    Students, he said, have to be made to pay closer attention to text. They need to read "complex text," be exposed to "academic text," be challenged by "difficult text," and climb "staircases of text complexity."

    It goes without saying that kids need to know how to read. But something is surely wrong with an education that puts reading about experience ahead of experiencing experience.

    I have a proposal. We think of schools as places where the young are prepared for life. I say we discard that idea and instead think of them as full-blown, rich, fascinatingly complex, real-world slices of life.

    Let's treat schools themselves as powerful learning resources, as things to poke, prod, measure, examine, investigate, analyze, describe, take apart, and put back together differently to see if they work better.

    Simple questions focusing on immediate school experience can result in hours of deep, effective learning. For example, "What's the per-day cost of getting everyone in this class to school and back?" or "What ethnicities are represented in this school's population, how many are in each group, what's their history, and how are the groups evolving?"

    It makes no difference if schools are old or new, large or small, rural or urban, public or private, magnet or charter, ordered or chaotic, thoroughly wired or technologically primitive, loved or hated.

    The actual buildings and grounds, the people who spend their days there, the routines they follow, the beliefs and values that explain their actions, and the systemic relationships between these various "moving parts," model in miniature the world that schooling is supposed to help the young understand.

    Let's use the schools we have to operationalize the schools we need, call it "The Project," and make it the only universally required course.

    No other project will stretch learner intellect farther. No other project will make more direct, effective, memorable use of reading, writing, math, history, physics, economics, and every other school subject. No other project will be more relevant, do a better job of making abstract ideas concrete, adjust more readily to individual needs and abilities, offer ranges of difficulty more appropriate for every kid, or even come close to it in return on educational investment.

    Equally important, no other project will more thoroughly engage emotion. Challenging kids and their teachers to put The Project to real-world use by continuously improving their own school shows a respect for firsthand experience and those who have it that's presently non-existent.

    It maximizes autonomy-the engine of imagination, creativity, ingenuity, and successful adaptation to social change. It puts our actions where our mouths are when we talk about liberty, democracy, and individual worth. It replaces top-down mandates (which have never, ever improved classroom instruction), with the only kind of innovation that works and sticks-bottom up.

    And it breaks through the too-familiar-to-see barrier to learning.

    What's not to like?

    If you're concerned about all that material you studied in school that you don't think The Project would "cover," accept the fact that "covering the material" isn't educating. It's ritual. Covering the material is what has brought education to crisis. It's what drives mile-wide-inch-deep "learning" that evaporates as soon as tested. It's why adults retain so little of what they were once "taught." It's what underlies the institution's fad-prone but static nature.

    The Project won't take more than a couple of hours a day, will link logically to all traditional content, and leave the rest of the time for capitalizing on America's greatest asset and hope for the future - individual differences.

    Freed from "seat time" laws and an onerous list of required subjects, schools can get serious about individualizing instruction, developing specialized courses, meeting local needs, making extra-curricular activities curricular, and breaking free of innovation that merely gives old ideas new names.

    If America is to have an educational system as good as Finland's, we'll have to get serious about educating, follow Finland's lead, attract the cream of the crop to the teaching profession, and let them alone so they can do their job.

    If America is to have an educational system better than Finland's, we have to get past the assumption that rigorous math, science, language arts, and social studies instruction add up to a quality education; past the notion that educating is mostly a matter of transferring information; past the denigrating idea that the point of it all is just to prepare the young for college or work.

    Humanness has far more to offer than that, and America is better positioned than Finland and every other country to explore its potential because we're ethnically diverse. If we treat that as a wonderful educational asset to exploit rather than a liability to be minimized by standardization and social pressure, we'll go back to the head of the class.

    One more thing: Accountability. Those hostile to public schooling have blown it far out of proportion, so the public demands that the matter be addressed. Because The Project will trigger thought processes far too complex and idiosyncratic to be evaluated by standardized tests, contracts will have to be cancelled. Period. There's no way that test items written in cubicles at McGraw-Hill, Pearson, Educational Testing Service, or at any other remote site, can cope.

    But that's no problem. The job can be returned to those who had it before corporate heads, rich philanthropists, and politicians undermined respect for and confidence in them - classroom teachers. They're on top of the problem. They talk to their students every day, read their papers, watch their body language, listen to their dialogue, laugh at their jokes, cry at their misfortunes, look over their shoulders as they work. No one else is more qualified than teachers to say how well students are doing.

    And using the already employed will save taxpayers billions of dollars.


    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    Via JMG: Michigan GOP Gov. Rick Snyder Caps Welfare Eligibility At 48 Months

    Beginning October 1st, many Michigan residents who have been on welfare for more than 48 months will face homelessness and starvation. Because GOP Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a bill to that effect.
    Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed into law a stricter, four-year lifetime limit on cash welfare benefits, prompting advocates for the poor to warn that tens of thousands of residents will find themselves without cash assistance on Oct. 1. Michigan's first-year Republican chief executive said the state will offer exemptions to the limit for those with a disability who can't work, those who care for a disabled spouse or child and those who are 65 or older and don't qualify for Social Security benefits or receive very low benefits. Some recipients who are the victims of domestic violence also may be temporarily exempted. "We are returning cash assistance to its original intent as a transitional program to help families while they work toward self-sufficiency," Snyder said in a statement. He noted that the state still will help the poor by offering food stamps, health care coverage through Medicaid, child care and emergency services.
    Michigan is currently ranked 48th in employment rates. What, exactly, are people supposed to do?

    reposted from Joe

    MSNBC Republican Debate In 45 Seconds

    Via NPR: Look Up! It's A Star In The Midst Of A Violent, Bright Death

    Playing for Change: Episode 52

    Higher Ground | Playing For Change from Playing For Change on Vimeo.

    Edward Tenner: Unintended consequences

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    Via Supernova 'brightens up' 7-8 September

    supernova brightest no label M101 Pinwheel galaxy
    The supernova is in the Pinwheel galaxy. Image: BJ Fulton/LCOGT

    The nearest supernova of its type to be discovered for 40 years is predicted to be at its brightest 7-8 September and will be visible through a good pair of binoculars. 
    The supernova, which was first spotted on 24 August by scientists from Oxford University and the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) collaboration, is in the Pinwheel Galaxy, M101.

    Whilst not visible to the naked eye, with a clear sky anyone can observe the supernova using a good pair of binoculars or a small telescope:

    To find M101 look for the formation known as ‘The Plough’ or ‘Big Dipper’, trace from the end of the ‘handle’ of The Plough and find the second star along, Mirza, and M101 lies four degrees to the East. Observers will see a bright star at the edge of one of M101’s spiral arms.

    'The best view of this exploding star is likely to be this Wednesday or Thursday. Look for it just after evening twilight near the ‘handle’ of ‘The Plough’,’ said Dr Mark Sullivan of Oxford University’s Department of Physics, who led the Oxford team. ‘Whilst it looks more or less like just another bright star, unlike its companions this supernova will soon fade away, and after a few days it will only be visible with larger telescopes.’

    The discovery of the supernova is particularly important because it is a type 1a supernova – the kind used by scientists to measure the expansion of the Universe.

    Dr Sullivan added: ‘For many people it could be a once in a lifetime chance to see a supernova of this kind blossom and then fade before their eyes; we may not see another one like it for another forty, or perhaps over a hundred, years!’

    The Oxford University-PTF team are using the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the supernova. These observations began about five days after the explosion and will continue into mid-October, including investigating the supernova's ultraviolet properties which cannot be studied from the ground.
    supernova brightest no label M101 Pinwheel galaxy Above: The supernova highlighted within the Pinwheel galaxy.

    Via Jerry Becker: What teachers really want to tell parents

    From CNN News,  Tuesday, September 6, 2011. See
    What teachers really want to tell parents
    By Ron Clark

    Editor's note: Ron Clark, author of "The End of Molasses Classes: Getting Our Kids Unstuck -- 101 Extraordinary Solutions for Parents and Teachers," has been named "American Teacher of the Year" by Disney and was Oprah Winfrey's pick as her "Phenomenal Man." He founded The Ron Clark Academy, which educators from around the world have visited to learn.

    (CNN) -- This summer, I met a principal who was recently named as the administrator of the year in her state. She was loved and adored by all, but she told me she was leaving the profession.

    I screamed, "You can't leave us," and she quite bluntly replied, "Look, if I get an offer to lead a school system of orphans, I will be all over it, but I just can't deal with parents anymore; they are killing us."

    Unfortunately, this sentiment seems to be becoming more and more prevalent. Today, new teachers remain in our profession an average of just 4.5 years, and many of them list "issues with parents" as one of their reasons for throwing in the towel. Word is spreading, and the more negativity teachers receive from parents, the harder it becomes to recruit the best and the brightest out of colleges.

    So, what can we do to stem the tide? What do teachers really need parents to understand?

    For starters, we are educators, not nannies. We are educated professionals who work with kids every day and often see your child in a different light than you do. If we give you advice, don't fight it. Take it, and digest it in the same way you would consider advice from a doctor or lawyer. I have become used to some parents who just don't want to hear anything negative about their child, but sometimes if you're willing to take early warning advice to heart, it can help you head off an issue that could become much greater in the future.

    Trust us. At times when I tell parents that their child has been a behavior problem, I can almost see the hairs rise on their backs. They are ready to fight and defend their child, and it is exhausting. One of my biggest pet peeves is when I tell a mom something her son did and she turns, looks at him and asks, "Is that true?" Well, of course it's true. I just told you. And please don't ask whether a classmate can confirm what happened or whether another teacher might have been present. It only demeans teachers and weakens the partnership between teacher and parent.

    Please quit with all the excuses

    SIDEBAR:  Ron Clark: The truth is, a lot of times it's the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone.

    And if you really want to help your children be successful, stop making excuses for them. I was talking with a parent and her son about his summer reading assignments. He told me he hadn't started, and I let him know I was extremely disappointed because school starts in two weeks.

    His mother chimed in and told me that it had been a horrible summer for them because of family issues they'd been through in July. I said I was so sorry, but I couldn't help but point out that the assignments were given in May. She quickly added that she was allowing her child some "fun time" during the summer before getting back to work in July and that it wasn't his fault the work wasn't complete.

    Can you feel my pain?

    Some parents will make excuses regardless of the situation, and they are raising children who will grow into adults who turn toward excuses and do not create a strong work ethic. If you don't want your child to end up 25 and jobless, sitting on your couch eating potato chips, then stop making excuses for why they aren't succeeding. Instead, focus on finding solutions.

    Parents, be a partner instead of a prosecutor
    And parents, you know, it's OK for your child to get in trouble sometimes. It builds character and teaches life lessons. As teachers, we are vexed by those parents who stand in the way of those lessons; we call them helicopter parents because they want to swoop in and save their child every time something goes wrong. If we give a child a 79 on a project, then that is what the child deserves. Don't set up a time to meet with me to negotiate extra credit for an 80. It's a 79, regardless of whether you think it should be a B+.
    This one may be hard to accept, but you shouldn't assume that because your child makes straight A's that he/she is getting a good education. The truth is, a lot of times it's the bad teachers who give the easiest grades, because they know by giving good grades everyone will leave them alone. Parents will say, "My child has a great teacher! He made all A's this year!"
    Wow. Come on now. In all honesty, it's usually the best teachers who are giving the lowest grades, because they are raising expectations. Yet, when your children receive low scores you want to complain and head to the principal's office.
    Please, take a step back and get a good look at the landscape. Before you challenge those low grades you feel the teacher has "given" your child, you might need to realize your child "earned" those grades and that the teacher you are complaining about is actually the one that is providing the best education.
    And please, be a partner instead of a prosecutor. I had a child cheat on a test, and his parents threatened to call a lawyer because I was labeling him a criminal. I know that sounds crazy, but principals all across the country are telling me that more and more lawyers are accompanying parents for school meetings dealing with their children.

    Teachers walking on eggshells

    I feel so sorry for administrators and teachers these days whose hands are completely tied. In many ways, we live in fear of what will happen next. We walk on eggshells in a watered-down education system where teachers lack the courage to be honest and speak their minds. If they make a slight mistake, it can become a major disaster.

    My mom just told me a child at a local school wrote on his face with a permanent marker. The teacher tried to get it off with a wash cloth, and it left a red mark on the side of his face. The parent called the media, and the teacher lost her job. My mom, my very own mother, said, "Can you believe that woman did that?"
    I felt hit in the gut. I honestly would have probably tried to get the mark off as well. To think that we might lose our jobs over something so minor is scary. Why would anyone want to enter our profession? If our teachers continue to feel threatened and scared, you will rob our schools of our best and handcuff our efforts to recruit tomorrow's outstanding educators.
    Finally, deal with negative situations in a professional manner.

    If your child said something happened in the classroom that concerns you, ask to meet with the teacher and approach the situation by saying, "I wanted to let you know something my child said took place in your class, because I know that children can exaggerate and that there are always two sides to every story. I was hoping you could shed some light for me." If you aren't happy with the result, then take your concerns to the principal, but above all else, never talk negatively about a teacher in front of your child. If he knows you don't respect her, he won't either, and that will lead to a whole host of new problems.

    We know you love your children. We love them, too. We just ask -- and beg of you -- to trust us, support us and work with the system, not against it. We need you to have our backs, and we need you to give us the respect we deserve. Lift us up and make us feel appreciated, and we will work even harder to give your child the best education possible.

    That's a teacher's promise, from me to you.
    PHOTO SIDEBAR:  Teacher Ron Clark is pictured with his students.
    .  Ron Clark is an award-winning teacher who started his own academy in Atlanta.
    .  He wants parents to trust teachers and their advice about their students.
    .  Clark say some teachers hand out A grades so parents won't bother them
    .  It's OK for kids to get in trouble sometimes; it teaches life lessons, Clark says

    Brasil Day - 7 de Setembro - Ouro Preto ; Oldest living person in Ouro Preto - 110 years old!

    Oldest living person in Ouro Preto - 110 years old!

    Presidenta Dilma Rousseff - pronunciamento 7 de Setembro

    Via JMG: No True Christian

    Christianist dogma says that when Christians commit violent acts, they aren't real Christians. But when Muslims commit violence, they are totally representative of all 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. (Source)

    reposted from Joe

    Via JMG: Crazy Eyes: We Don't Need No Education

    "The Constitution does not specifically enumerate nor does it give to the federal government the role and duty to superintend over education. That historically has been held by the parents and by local communities and by state government. To put that into the federal government as we saw a Department of Education in the late 1970s has eviscerated the constitutional understanding that the control of education truly lies with the parents."- Rep. Michele Bachmann, telling a South Carolina audience that if elected, she will abolish the Department of Education.

    reposted from Joe

    Via JMG: TEXAS: Wildfires Continue To Rage

    RELATED: Texas cut the funding for its fire departments by 75% this year.
    Under Gov. Rick Perry (R) this year, Texas slashed state funding for the volunteer fire departments that protect most of the state from wildfires like the ones that have recently destroyed more than 700 homes. Volunteer departments that were already facing financial strain were slated to have their funding cut from $30 million to $7 million, according to KVUE. The majority of Texas is protected by volunteer fire departments. There are 879 volunteer fire departments in Texas and only 114 paid fire departments. Another 187 departments are a combination of volunteer and paid. For that reason, aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could be more important than ever to the state where wildfires have recently been raging.
    Perry plans to ask for federal disaster relief. NOW, he needs the feds.

    reposted from Joe

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    How big are solar flares? Eye opening perspective


    California Supreme Court mulls appeal rights of Prop 8 backers

    California's highest court seemed inclined Tuesday to side with backers of the state's same-sex marriage ban in thinking that the state Constitution gives ballot initiative proponents legal authority to defend their measures in court.

    Via Tricycle: BuddhaFest: Remembering 9/11

    Over the weekend on which September 11 falls, Tricycle will co-sponsor A Weekend of Peace, Compassion & Forgiveness, presented by BuddhaFest, in Washington, DC. Sylvia Boorstein, Lama Surya Das, Tara Brach, Hugh Byrne, and other teachers will offer teachings and lead periods of meditation. Videos of the teachings will be recorded, and excerpts will be presented here at following the the weekend. 

    Via Jerry Becker via Jamie Vollmer: The Blueberry Story: The teacher gives the businessman a lesson

    From Jamie Vollmer's blog  --  See
    The Blueberry Story: The teacher gives the businessman a lesson

    By Jamie Vollmer   []

    "If I ran my business the way you people operate your schools, I wouldn't be in business very long!"

    I stood before an auditorium filled with outraged teachers who were becoming angrier by the minute. My speech had entirely consumed their precious 90 minutes of inservice. Their initial icy glares had turned to restless agitation. You could cut the hostility with a knife.

    I represented a group of business people dedicated to improving public schools. I was an executive at an ice cream company that had become famous in the middle1980s when People magazine chose our blueberry as the "Best Ice Cream in America."

    I was convinced of two things. First, public schools needed to change; they were archaic selecting and sorting mechanisms designed for the industrial age and out of step with the needs of our emerging "knowledge society." Second, educators were a major part of the problem: they resisted change, hunkered down in their feathered nests, protected by tenure, and shielded by a bureaucratic monopoly. They needed to look to business. We knew how to produce quality. Zero defects! TQM! Continuous improvement!

    In retrospect, the speech was perfectly balanced - equal parts ignorance and arrogance.
    As soon as I finished, a woman's hand shot up. She appeared polite, pleasant. She was, in fact, a razor-edged, veteran, high school English teacher who had been waiting to unload.
    She began quietly, "We are told, sir, that you manage a company that makes good ice cream."

    I smugly replied, "Best ice cream in America, Ma'am."

    "How nice," she said. "Is it rich and smooth?"

    "Sixteen percent butterfat," I crowed.

    "Premium ingredients?" she inquired.

    "Super-premium! Nothing but triple A." I was on a roll. I never saw the next line coming.
    "Mr. Vollmer," she said, leaning forward with a wicked eyebrow raised to the sky, "when you are standing on your receiving dock and you see an inferior shipment of blueberries arrive, what do you do?"

    In the silence of that room, I could hear the trap snapŠ. I was dead meat, but I wasn't going to lie.

    "I send them back."

    She jumped to her feet. "That's right!" she barked, "and we can never send back our blueberries. We take them big, small, rich, poor, gifted, exceptional, abused, frightened, confident, homeless, rude, and brilliant. We take them with ADHD, junior rheumatoid arthritis, and English as their second language. We take them all! Every one! And that, Mr. Vollmer, is why it's not a business. It's school!"

    In an explosion, all 290 teachers, principals, bus drivers, aides, custodians, and secretaries jumped to their feet and yelled, "Yeah! Blueberries! Blueberries!"

    And so began my long transformation.

    Since then, I have visited hundreds of schools. I have learned that a school is not a business. Schools are unable to control the quality of their raw material, they are dependent upon the vagaries of politics for a reliable revenue stream, and they are constantly mauled by a howling horde of disparate, competing customer groups that would send the best CEO screaming into the night.

    None of this negates the need for change. We must change what, when, and how we teach to give all children maximum opportunity to thrive in a post-industrial society. But educators cannot do this alone; these changes can occur only with the understanding, trust, permission, and active support of the surrounding community. For the most important thing I have learned is that schools reflect the attitudes, beliefs and health of the communities they serve, and therefore, to improve public education means more than changing our schools, it means changing America.


    Since its publication, reactions to this story have been overwhelmingly positive. Heartfelt messages of thanks and appreciation have come from around the world. They are always deeply gratifying.

    There are people, however, who take issue with the lesson presented. The arguments usually fall into one of two groups. The first is comprised of those who claim that the story is simplistic, and the teacher painted with a broad brush. Sure she did. She had ninety seconds. Since that day, however, I have visited hundreds of schools and her point remains apt.

    The second group argues that the comparison of children to blueberries is specious. Most of these people contend that the children are "the customers," not the raw material. The truth is that no one can agree on who the "customers" are. Candidates include students, parents, grandparents, business owners, corporate executives, human resource directors, and college deans of admission. (I tend to designate the entire taxpaying public as the rightful customers. They are the ones who are paying.) This problem is further complicated by the fact that few of these "customers" can agree on what they want as a finished product, except in the broadest terms. Everyone has an opinion. Politicians and bureaucrats are left to define what children should know and when they should know it. And they are constantly manipulated by dozens of organized, aggressive, well funded special interest groups. Many of these groups have conflicting agendas that are directly at odds with the best interest of kids.

    If the final product of the PreK-12 enterprise is a young adult prepared with the knowledge, skills, habits, and values needed to succeed in a fast-paced, global, knowledge society, then the quality of the "raw material"-the student's talent, intelligence, physical and mental health, attention, and motivation-is a huge variable in the education process over which public schools have little control. Parents, teachers, administrators, board members, civic and business leaders must work together with the students to develop their potential and help them reach the goal. Whether they are called customers or workers is next to irrelevant.
    From Education Week, [American Education's Newspaper of Record], Wednesday, August 31, 2011, Volume 31, Issue 02, pp. 20-21. See
    Student Success Depends on Public Accountability
    By Jamie Vollmer  []

    The contract that exists between the American public and America's public schools has changed. For decades, the terms were reasonable. Parents asked schools to help them teach their children the things they needed to know to become successful, responsible adults. Those days are gone. Over the years, we have heaped a mountain of academic, social, and medical responsibilities upon our schools. With each new session, legislators from both parties add more to the burden, but they've not added a minute to the school calendar in decades. As a result, the contract has changed. It no longer reads, "Teach our kids." It now reads, "Raise our kids."

    Our schools cannot do this alone. Educators must have the understanding, trust, permission, and support of the American public if they are to accomplish this unprecedented goal. But rather than rally public support, shortsighted politicians, business leaders, talk-show hosts, and neo-reformers have chosen the opposite tack. They cite statistics out of context, make false comparisons between public, private, and charter schools, and present test scores in the worst possible light. The failure of some schools is attributed to all schools. Teachers and administrators are often vilified but rarely praised. These critics claim that greater student achievement is their goal. But if this is true, then everything I have learned in 22 years of working toward that end tells me that their negative campaign is misguided and wrong. Rather than expedite reform, their speech and actions retard the process by destroying the intellectual and emotional ties that bind the American people to their schools.

    SIDEBAR:  "If they are serious about raising achievement, media mavens, and reformers of every persuasion, must help Americans rethink our core assumptions about what constitutes real school."

    We have an enormous task before us. For the first time in our history, changes in society-particularly the challenges posed by the global economy-demand that all students receive a high-quality education. At a minimum, all must be prepared for education beyond high school. The vast majority of America's teachers and administrators pour themselves into this task each day. They work to engage the most diverse, distracted, demanding generation of students our country has ever seen. Many of these kids are victims of a pop culture that assaults their physiologies, fractures their attention spans, and breeds a dangerously overdeveloped sense of entitlement. A 40-hour workweek for most teachers is nothing. Fifty hours, 60 hours, is routine. But teachers could work 100 hours and they would not produce the graduates we need. Not because they are inept, indifferent, or unionized, as their critics maintain. America's educators cannot teach all children to high levels because they are working in a system designed to do something else: select and sort young people for an industrial society that no longer exists; a system designed to leave children behind. We have a system problem, not a people problem. Confusing the two not only wastes time and taxpayer dollars, it also allows the sorting system to grind on unfazed, churning out results we no longer want.

    We must transform this system. But 20 years of false starts and bloody battles have taught me that any attempt to restructure the system collides with local traditions and beliefs. Ask any superintendent who has been sacked because his or her plans ran contrary to established notions of "real school." Ask any board member who's been told, "That ain't the way we do it around here." The hard truth is that we cannot touch a school without touching the culture of the surrounding community. If, therefore, we seek to increase student success, we must do more than change our schools, we must change America. And when I say we, I mean everybody-including the 70 percent of adults who have no children in school.
    We need leaders within and beyond the school walls who will make this case to the American public.

    Instead of blaming the people who work inside our schools, which lets everyone else off the hook, the nation's governors must push for greater public accountability for student success: a shared sense of ownership for local schools, combined with a communitywide willingness to accept partial responsibility for their results. To achieve this end, our political leaders must help their constituents understand that their prosperity, security, and general well-being are tied to their ability to come together and remove all the obstacles to student learning, both in and out of school.

    Instead of bashing schools, which hinders progress and destroys morale, business leaders must help their educators challenge public resistance to change so we can break the grip of the status quo. They must explain the implications of changes in the workplace, and connect the dots between these changes and the rising need for workers who have postsecondary education and training. They must help the public see that the competitive equation has changed, and that the nation's human-capital needs will never be met if we cling to the schools of the past.
    If they are serious about raising achievement, media mavens, and reformers of every persuasion, must help Americans rethink our core assumptions about what constitutes real school. They must describe-in layman's terms-what we now know about how, when, and where children learn best. They must present this information in a way that makes it easier for everyone to understand why the system needs to change, and why it is vital that everyone support the change process.

    For their part, educators must do a better job of sharing their achievements with the public. They must get out in the community and prove that they are eager and able to prepare all children to succeed as adults, and that they are willing to be held accountable for results. They must also make it crystal clear that they cannot do it alone: They cannot meet the vast array of academic, social, and medical responsibilities that society has placed upon our schools without the active support of everyone in the community, whether or not they have children in school.
    From the White House to City Hall, in boardrooms, newsrooms, think tanks, and schools across the country, America's leaders must do everything in their power to create a new, national culture committed to unfolding the full potential of every child. Working together to accomplish this task is not only in everyone's best interest, it is the most important enterprise of our time.
    Jamie Vollmer is a former director of the Iowa Business Roundtable and the author of the book Schools Cannot Do It Alone: Building Public Support for America's Public Schools (Enlightenment Press, 2010). His website is

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Via JMG: Top Aides Bail On Crazy Eyes

    Like rats from a sinking ship.
    On the heels of our report that Michele Bachmann campaign manager Ed Rollins is stepping back into an advisory role, citing health concerns, comes word that his deputy, David Polyansky, is leaving the campaign. "I wish Michele nothing but the best, and anyone who underestimates her as a candidate does so at their own peril," Polyansky told POLITICO. But a GOP source familiar with the situation said that Polyansky had "strategic differences on the path forward" with the candidate, who has struggled to gain traction in the last few weeks.

    reposted from Joe

    Via Utne: Pride at Work

    We’re celebrating Labor Day with articles from our Jan.-Feb. 2011 work issue. Here, a writer ruminates on the value of treating both the employed and the jobless with respect.

    Read More >>

    Sunday, September 4, 2011

    Via JMG: Asshat Of The Day - Matthew Vadum

    "Why are left-wing activist groups so keen on registering the poor to vote? Because they know the poor can be counted on to vote themselves more benefits by electing redistributionist politicians. Welfare recipients are particularly open to demagoguery and bribery. Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals. It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country -- which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote. Encouraging those who burden society to participate in elections isn't about helping the poor. It's about helping the poor to help themselves to others' money. It's about raw so-called social justice. It's about moving America ever farther away from the small-government ideals of the Founding Fathers." - Matthew Vadum, writing for American Thinker.

    RELATED: Media Matters notes that Fox News has already given this fuckwad airtime.

    reposted from Joe


    Comment from Fritz:

    The rich use far more government services than the poor. Those services are paid for primarily by the middle class.

    So, who is really getting a free ride in America?

    The rich benefit from:

    - Federal courts
    - The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
    - The Copyright Office 
    - The U.S. Treasury
    - The U.S. Department of State
    - The U.S. Department of Transportation
    - The Federal Aviation Administration
    - The United States Postal Service
    - The Federal Trade Commission
    - The United States International Trade Commission
    - The U.S. Department of Agriculture
    - The U.S. Military
    - The Army Corps of Engineers
    - The F.B.I.
    - The C.I.A.
    - The Court of International Trade
    - The Department of Commerce

    There are HUNDREDS of federal departments and agencies that are used primarily by the wealthy and big corporations in order to protect their business efforts and make them richer.

    Yet, the people who benefit most from these vital services DO NOT PAY FOR THEM. They have bribed our government to shift the majority of the cost to average people -- the middle class and working poor.

    For every dollar that a rich person makes, a significant percentage of our tax money was used to either help make it or protect it.

    Whether it is our State Department helping negotiate agreements with foreign nations or the use of our nation's highways, the rich would not be making the record profits they are making today if it were not for our strong Federal government.

    When the rich say "smaller government", they mean smaller for US and not for THEM. They want to continue using the Federal government to line their own pockets -- even if that means that they have to make millions of Americans live in poverty. 

    Ouro Preto, 4 de setembro de 2011

    Via ClimateProgress: Labor Day 2040: Endless Summer

    Who ever would’ve guessed that there would be a Labor Day card for global warming.  But that is what SomeEcards are for:

    But “The Onion” of e-card companies makes a serious point:  In the not-too-distant future, people are going to be amazed that anybody ever thought Labor Day signified the unofficial end of summer.  As Climate Progress discussed in “Mother Nature is Just Getting Warmed Up” in June:

    Stanford climate scientists forecast permanently hotter summers

    The tropics and much of the Northern Hemisphere are likely to experience an irreversible rise in summer temperatures within the next 20 to 60 years if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase, according to a new climate study by Stanford University scientists….
    “According to our projections, large areas of the globe are likely to warm up so quickly that, by the middle of this century, even the coolest summers will be hotter than the hottest summers of the past 50 years,” said the study’s lead author, Noah Diffenbaugh.
    And this could happen even sooner since, “actual GHG emissions over the early 21st century have exceeded those projected in the SRES scenario used here, suggesting that our results could provide a conservative projection of the timing of permanent emergence of an unprecedented heat regime.”
    In a terrific presentation from last year, Climate scientist Katherine Hayhoe has a figure of what staying on the business as usual emissions path (A1F1 or 1000 ppm) would mean (derived from the NOAA-led report):

    Yes, absent a sharp and deep reduction in national and global emissions, by century’s end, Kansas (!) could well be above 100°F for three full months.  Labor Day will mean a return to those pleasant mid-to-upper 90s!
    It truly will be an endless summer over much of Texas and Arizona and the Central Valley of California.  Not only will it be hot, but it will be very, very dry very, very soon:

    drought map 2 2030-2039

    The maps use a common measure, the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which assigns positive numbers when conditions are unusually wet for a particular region, and negative numbers when conditions are unusually dry. A reading of -4 or below is considered extreme drought.
    The PDSI in the Great Plains during the Dust Bowl apparently spiked very briefly to -6, but otherwise rarely exceeded -3 for the decade (see here).  So the numbers projected by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) are already near catastrophic by the 2030s.  And they are beyond catastrophic by the 2060s (see New study puts the ‘hell’ in Hell and High Water).

    The NCAR study warned, “The United States and many other heavily populated countries face a growing threat of severe and prolonged drought in coming decadespossibly reaching a scale in some regions by the end of the century that has rarely, if ever, been observed in modern times.

    This drying creates a vicious circle.  The heat dries out the land.  Then Dust-Bowlification exacerbates the warming because when large tracts of land are dry, the warming doesn’t go into evaporating moisture from the soil, but into heating up land.  It bakes.  That’s why, for instance, the U.S. set so many temperature records in the 1930s Dust Bowl.  And it’s why in July 2011, drought-stricken Oklahoma saw the highest average temperature of any state in the continental United States for any month since statewide average temperature records began in 1895.

    It’ll be a hellish summer for much of the West by mid-century — see Climate change expected to sharply increase Western wildfire burn area — as much as 175% by the 2050.

    Here’s the grim wildfire projection from a presentation made by the President’s science adviser Dr. John Holdren in Oslo last year:
    If you’re wondering what the worst-case might look like, then the UK Met Office has what you are looking for: Catastrophic climate change, 13-18°F over most of U.S. and 27°F in the Arctic, could happen in 50 years, but “we do have time to stop it if we cut greenhouse gas emissions soon.”
    This is the “plausible worst case scenario” for around 2060 from the Met Office that occurs in 10% of model runs of high emissions with the carbon cycle feedbacks [temperature in degrees Celsius, multiple by 1.8 for Fahrenheit]:
    Now that is an endless global summer.
    Related Post:

    Via Moveon: 20 Years Of GOP Strategy In One Little Cartoon

    Via Lester and Charlie: Michele Bachmann Has a Secret!

    Michele Bachmann Has a Secret!

    Lester & Charlie are busy compiling investigative reports about the 2012 hopefuls. First up: Michele Bachmann! Click over to our report for some shocking journalism!

    You might just learn something! 

    Copyright 2011 by Daniel C. Orey All rights reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.