Thursday, November 17, 2005

Laughing about global warming

If you want to be educated and entertained at the same time -- and who doesn't? -- don't miss Larry David's comedy special Earth to America this Sunday night (7pm CST) on TBS. From Salon's preview:

The global warming yuk-fest has an all-star roster, featuring Will Ferrell, Jack Black, Cameron Diaz, Tom Hanks, Steve Martin and Ben Stiller, among many others. Writers from "The Daily Show," "The Simpsons," "King of the Hill" and "Everybody Loves Raymond" conspired to help with the event, which will be staged live at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas.

A snippet from Salon's interview with Larry David:

I loved your "Why I Am Marching" post on the Web site, where Laurie is organizing a virtual march on Washington to protest climate change.

What it says is: "The virtual march is a perfect opportunity for the lazy man to do something good without having to expend any effort. This thing was made for me."

It seems you've been dragged kicking and screaming -- or at least protesting -- into the role of environmental advocate by your wife. Is it safe to say that you wouldn't be discussing this issue if it weren't for her?

I started out doing this to support my wife, but you'd be surprised: The more you're around a subject, the more it starts sinking in. You can't help it, it's just by osmosis. It's discussed in my house 24 hours a day. So, I'm becoming educated about this issue just by living in this house, as are my kids. And it's become impossible now that I'm educated about it to completely turn my back on it, the way I do about most things.

What are some of your environmental concerns -- or neuroses?

Well, my toilet paper's been changed. That's been a hell of a struggle. Laurie switched brands on me so it doesn't use the virgin trees.

You prefer the fully quilted variety?

Yeah. I'm finding [the other kind] a little rough.

If you're an interested and very lazy activist, you, too, can go to and add your name to the petition.

But don't change your toilet paper. That seems a little extreme.

Finally! An explanation for...

Katrina's silver lining?

Perhaps the Christian Science Monitor is a bit premature to call the restructuring of New Orleans' school system "Katrina's silver lining." A lot remains to be seen before we can determine that. Of course, New Orleans schools were bad on so many levels that it would be hard not to improve on them. But with conservatives directing rebuilding money to ill-conceived voucher programs, I wouldn't bet on an improvement.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Muslim schools in France

As cars and buildings burned throughout France during the last weeks, many people wondered how the rage of young Muslims could be addressed and dissolved.

US News & World Report asked if Muslims schools might be part of the solution. The questions raised by such a solution are questions that must be asked in any society that values religion, diversity, tolerance, and universal education.

This is an article you shouldn't miss.

Micscellany: Spanking and sleeping

Just a couple of tidbits:

The Attorney General re-asserted the right of Texas school districts to use corporal punishment. (This is 2005, not 1805, right? Just checking.)

Dr. Ferber is revising his theory: Maybe not answering your baby's cries in the night isn't such a good thing after all...

SCOTUS rules on special ed case

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday in favor of a school district that was sued by parents who were dissatisfied with their child's special education program. Essentially, the majority in the 6-2 decision ruled that the burden of proof is on the family, not the district. Justice O'Connor wrote the decision for the majority. Justices Breyer and Ginsburg each wrote separate dissents..

Monday, November 14, 2005

Another voucher school bites the dust in Milwaukee

From tomorrow's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

State denies funds for school

Northside High fails to qualify under voucher plan rules

Taking the next step in a new strategy for enforcing rules on schools in Milwaukee's private school voucher program, the state Department of Public Instruction has notified a school that opened this fall it does not qualify to receive public money.


Northside High raised eyebrows even before it opened because [CEO Ricardo] Brooks was a key official of Academic Solutions, a large voucher school that the DPI ordered closed last winter, and because the school is located in space previously used by Academic Solutions. Under new regulations for the voucher program, leaders of schools ordered closed cannot open another voucher school for seven years, but Brooks applied to open Northside before the rule went into effect.

Northside received a voucher payment from the state in September of $309,611.25, based on having 194 qualifying students, according to the DPI. Voucher payments are made four times a year.

Under tightened rules, DPI has been increasing its oversight of private schools with voucher students, based on whether they are complying with rules on financial practices, other operating practices or safety and now on whether they meet the state's definition of a private school.

Another wedge issue they can't win

Even Rick Santorum doesn't think creationism qualifies as science. Well, at least, now he doesn't. You don't think that maybe has anything to do with the fact that the ultra-right wing Senator losing badly in the polls for his race next year and just saw eight pro-creationism school board members voted out right in the center of his state, do you?

Nah, it's principles, not politics, right? Uh, yeah. Maybe not. From the Beaver Creek Times (no really, it's from the Beaver Creek Times):

BEAVER FALLS - U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said Saturday that he doesn't believe that intelligent design belongs in the science classroom.

Santorum's comments to The Times are a shift from his position of several years ago, when he wrote in a Washington Times editorial that intelligent design is a "legitimate scientific theory that should be taught in the classroom."

But on Saturday, the Republican said that, "Science leads you where it leads you."

... [Last week, televangelist Pat] Robertson warned residents, "If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God, you just rejected him from your city."

Santorum said flatly Saturday, "I disagree. I don't believe God abandons people," and said he has not spoken to Robertson about his comments.

Though Santorum said he believes that intelligent design is "a legitimate issue," he doesn't believe it should be taught in the classroom, adding that he had concerns about some parts of the theory.

Earlier this summer, President Bush said he favored teaching intelligent design in the classroom.

With Santorum running for re-election next year, and with Bush and the Republican Party taking some significant hits in public confidence in recent months, Santorum insisted he is not trying to distance himself from Bush.

No matter what he says, he is distancing himself from Bush and the wingnut faction of the party that he is beholden to. Only problem is that Santorum is such a posterboy for that very faction that it will be hard to convince anybody that he's moderate.

One thing's for sure. The right has handed us progressives a wedge issue they can't win. The public doesn't want creationism taught in science class. And Republican politicians are figuring that out. Now they have two bad options: abandon the wingnut base and go after the sensible middle or stay with the base and lose the middle. I'll take either one.

(Hat tip to Pluto on Daily Kos.)

No-bid contracts for schools

In case you -- like me -- missed this NYT article, you should definitely read it. It's amazing but, at this point, depressingly unsurprising. This is the kind of thing that used to drive people crazy with outrage; now we're just used to it.

A no-bid contract was given to a well connected builder of portable buildings to provide classrooms for Mississippi children in the Katrina zone. From the NYT:

...[T]he classrooms cost FEMA nearly $90,000 each, including transportation, according to contracting documents. That is double the wholesale price and nearly 60 percent higher than the price offered by two small Mississippi businesses dropped from the deal.

In addition, the portable buildings were not secured in a concrete foundation, as usually required by state regulations because of safety concerns in a region prone to hurricanes and tornados.

The classroom contract has already prompted a lawsuit from one of the Mississippi companies and a government investigation.

"The fact that natural disasters are not precisely predictable must not be an excuse for careless contracting practices," David E. Cooper from the Government Accountability Office, told Congress recently. In testimony submitted this week, Mr. Cooper said, "We found information in the corps' contract files and from other sources that suggest the negotiated prices were inflated."

There's got to be a special place in Hell for people that profit from catastrophes. I haven't read the Inferno in a few years -- anyone know which ring that was?

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