April 23, 2014

Furthermore. . .

Watch the state by state incarcertation rate grow from 1978 to 2012

All four Republican candidates in the North Carolina Senate race were asked on Earth Day if they believed climate change is a proven fact. And all four candidates said 'no.

How to become a Nobel Prize winner: Eat chocolate

This story is two years but too self-serving to forget

Reuters -  Of all the chocolate research out there, the most unabashed tribute to the "dark gold" has to be a study just published in one of the world's most prestigious medical journals.

The higher a country's chocolate consumption, the more Nobel laureates it spawns per capita, according to findings released in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The Swiss, of course, lead the pack, closely followed by the Swedes and the Danes. The U.S. is somewhere in the middle and the nation would have to up its cocoa intake by a whopping 275 million pounds (125 million kg) a year to produce one more laureate, said Franz Messerli, who did the analysis.

"The amount it takes, it's actually quite stunning, you know," said Messerli, who runs the hypertension program at St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York.

"The Swiss eat 120 bars - that is, 3-ounce bars (85 grams) - per year, for every man, woman and child. That's the average."

Messerli admitted the whole idea is absurd, although the data are legitimate and contain a few lessons about the fallibility of science.

He came up with the idea for the study after seeing a study that linked flavonoids, a type of antioxidants present in cocoa and wine, to better scores on cognitive tests. He began with industry data on chocolate intake in 23 countries and a list from Wikipedia ranking countries according to the number of Nobel laureates per capita.

Another possibility is that the link is real, but meaningless.

"National chocolate consumption is correlated with a country's wealth and high-quality research is correlated with a country's wealth," said Eric Cornell, an American physicist who shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 2001.

"So therefore chocolate is going to be correlated with high-quality research, but there is no causal connection there."

When it comes to chocolate, several researchers have suggested dark varieties might benefit the brain, the heart and even help cut excess weight.

Messerli, who is of Swiss origin, admits to daily chocolate consumption and said that despite the tongue-in-cheek tone, he does believe chocolate has real health effects - although people should stay away from the sweeter kinds.

Taxpayers subsidize Walmart and the Walton family by $7.8 billion a year

AFL- CIO - A new report from Americans for Tax Fairness shows that taxpayers in the United States subsidize Walmart and the Walton family, who owns the majority of Walmart stock and is the richest family in the country, by at least $7.8 billion annually. At the same time, the report shows, taxpayers help pad Walmart and the Walton family's profits.

The report makes it very clear that not only do Walmart and the Waltons not need these subsidies, but that the company could more than afford to raise salaries and improve benefits for their workers, more than half of whom made less than $25,000 last year:

Walmart is the largest private employer in the United States, with 1.4 million employees. The company, which is number one on the Fortune 500 in 2013 and number two on the Global 500, had $16 billion in profits last year on revenues of $473 billion. The Walton family, who owns more than 50 percent of Walmart shares, reaps billions in annual dividends from the company. The six Walton heirs are the wealthiest family in America, with a net worth of $148.8 billion. Collectively, these six Waltons have more wealth than 49 million American families combined.

Yes, the cowboys and the Indians can be friends

DC Media Group-    [A] campsite by the Cowboy Indian Alliance for a week-long protest against the Keystone XL pipeline began on the National Mall in Washington, DC . . .So far seven tipis standing 20 feet tall have been assembled with one in progress and more to go up tomorrow. Several will be painted with ceremonial tribal designs as the week progresses.

Ranchers, farmers and members of native communities along the pipeline route formed the Cowboy Indian Alliance to stand against energy company TransCanada’s efforts to acquire land under eminent domain.

The Cowboy Indian Alliance will be joined by First Nations of Canada for a variety of ceremonies, story sharing, demonstrations, lectures, films and photography displays to help the public understand threat the Keystone XL pipeline poses to the environment.

John Kerry: Secretary of Buffoonery

Justin Raimando, Anti-War -  Oh, the burden of empire! It weighs so heavily on John Kerry’s shoulders:

"Secretary of State John Kerry attested Tuesday to the massively complex challenges Washington faces in Ukraine, Russia, Iran and the Middle East, declaring ‘it was easier’ during the Cold War.

"In a candid moment during a State Department speech, the top US diplomat said changing global power dynamics made a quaint memory of the early East-West stalemate, when American children would ‘crouch under our desks at school and practice’ safety steps for a possible nuclear attack.

“’During the Cold War… it was easier than it is today – simpler is maybe a way to put it,’ Kerry told aid and development experts.

“’The choices were less varied, less complicated, more stark, more clear: Communism, democracy, West, East, the Iron Curtain.’”

Yes, those were the Good Old Days – when children in the schoolroom cowered beneath their desks – and we almost went to war with the nuclear-armed Soviet Union over missiles in Cuba which posed no more threat than missiles outside Moscow. Does "quaint" even begin to describe that vintage scene? It’s all so Currier & Ives.

We were the Good Guys and the Russkies were the Bad Guys – and never the morally equivalent twain shall meet! If only we could get back to those halcyon days, everything would be "simpler," says Kerry.

Having an implacable enemy of unrivaled evil supposedly bent on our destruction has its advantages – yes, a US Secretary of State actually does seem to believe this. Having nuclear-armed enemies is a Good Thing – because it makes the job of US officials so much easier. Should we support a South American dictator who murders his own people for looking at him cross-eyed – but of course we should, because he hates the Russkies! Do we really need to build more nuclear weapons than it would take to incinerate the world one-hundred times over? The answer – back then – was an obvious yes, at least to our wise rulers (who never considered how dangerous our arsenal would become once it started to age….). And how about getting involved in a war in Southeast Asia that would take tens of thousands of American lives – and easily a million non-Americans – a war this same John Kerry would refer to with unmitigated contempt as he threw his war medals right back at the Pentagon?

Ah, yes – the beauty of simplicity! No hard decisions. No moral conundrums...

"In the post-war 1950s and 1960s, Kerry said, ‘we could make really bad decisions and still win, because we were pretty much the sole dominant economic and military power around. It’s not true any more.’”

Poor Kerry: he must’ve been suffering from jet lag during that little convocation, because back in the cold war era there were two big powers, not one: he seems to have forgotten about the Soviet Union. But no matter: that’s just a not-so-minor detail, the kind that makes all the difference in the world.

USAID bribes foreign officials

Jonathan Turley, Information Clearinghouse -  Congressional members are moving to address what is being called a “slush fund” with the United States Agency for International Development ) where millions are paid to political figures in foreign countries. We have previously discussed such payments by the CIA to the openly corrupt Afghanistan government, including suitcases of cash to President Helmit Karzai. What is most interesting is that an act that is a federal crime for citizens doing business abroad can be not only legal but an official program by government officials. It appears that in the handshake shown on the USAID seal, there is often a sawbuck or two in the palm.

The USAID routinely makes “incentive” payments to lawmakers to pass legislation or enact policies throughout the world. Even policies that benefit their own people, like granting rights to women or protecting the democratic process, are secured by greasing the palms of corrupt officials. In doing so, the United States perpetuates the rampant corruption in these countries and enriches officials who will only act if it benefits them personally.

Consider the $15 million forked over to Afghan lawmakers in 2013 to get them to pass a law prohibiting violence against women. Remember these payments were made at the very time that the CIA was being hammered for publicly assuring Karzai that his regular delivery of suitcases of cash would continue despite an outcry from critics. USAID defended buying lawmakers by telling Congress that the lawmakers would not have protected women if they were not paid off. Such a law would be have deemed “unpalatable” without the effective bribes.

Now that U.S. money is declining, Karzai is openly denouncing the U.S. and seeking alliances with Russia, China, and Iran. That is the problem with dealing with corrupt politicians –they tend to follow the money.

Supreme Court says all it takes is an anonymous 911 call to abolish 4th Amendment

Slashdot -  The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that police officers are legally allowed to stop and search vehicles based solely on anonymous 911 tips. Justice Clarence Thomas, writing for the majority opinion, reasoned that 'a 911 call has some features that allow for identifying and tracking callers' as well as for recording their calls, both of which he believed gave anonymous callers enough reliability for police officers to act on their tips with reasonable suspicion against the people being reported.

The specific case before them involved an anonymous woman who called 911 to report a driver who forced her off the road. She gave the driver's license plate number and the make and model of his car as well as the location of the incident in question. Police officers later found him, pulled him over, smelled marijuana, and searched his car. They found 30 pounds of weed and subsequently arrested the driver. The driver later challenged the constitutionality of the arrest, claiming that a tip from an anonymous source was unreliable and therefore failed to meet the criteria of reasonable suspicion, which would have justified the stop and search. Five of the nine justices disagreed with him.

Fourth Amendment -  The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Chances are your vegatable oil is genetically modified

Mother Jones - Soybeans are the second-largest US crop after corn, covering about a quarter of US farmland. We grow more soybeans than any other country except Brazil. According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 90 percent of the soybeans churned out on US farms each year are genetically engineered to withstand herbicides, nearly all of them involving one called Roundup. Organic production, by contrast, is marginal—it accounts for less than 1 percent of total US acreage devoted to soy.

Americans don't eat much of these lime-green legumes directly, but that doesn't mean we're not exposed to them. After harvest, the great bulk of soybeans are crushed and divided into two parts: meal, which mainly goes into feed for animals that become our meat; and fat, most of which ends up being used as cooking oil or in food products. According to the US Soy Board, soy accounts for 61 percent of American's vegetable oil consumption.

The FBI's illegal mistreatment of American Muslims

Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake - A lawsuit brought on behalf of four American Muslim men has been filed against the FBI for allegedly punishing them by placing them on the No Fly List when they refused to become informants and spy on American Muslim communities.

According to the complaint, the American Muslim men are “among the many innocent people who find themselves swept up in the United States government’s secretive watch list dragnet.” When they “declined to act as informants” for the FBI and to “spy on their own American Muslim communities and other innocent people,” they faced retaliation from the FBI and subsequently discovered they were on the No Fly List.

The complaint further alleges FBI agents “exploited the significant burdens imposed by the No Fly List, its opaque nature and ill-defined standards and its lack of procedural safeguards.” This exploitation was intended to coerce them into entering “places of worship” to conduct surveillance for the FBI.

The men were never informed of why they were placed on the No Fly List. In fact, according to the complaint, they were denied “after-the-fact explanations for their inclusion on the list or an opportunity to contest their inclusion before an impartial decision-maker.”

Department of Good Stuff: Community Courts

Center for Court Innovation  - Community courts are neighborhood-focused courts that attempt to harness the power of the justice system to address local problems. They can take many forms, but all focus on creative partnerships and problem solving.. And they test new and aggressive approaches to public safety rather than merely responding to crime after it has occurred. The first community court in the country was the Midtown Community Court, launched in 1993 in New York City. Several dozen community courts, inspired by the Midtown model, are in operation or planning around the country; click here for a list of active courts. International interest in community courts is also increasing. For example, community courts are already in operation in Canada, Australia, South Africa, and Singapore.

To get help planning, implementing, or evaluating a community court, click here.

Midtown Community Court

Launched in 1993, the Midtown Community Court targets quality-of-life offenses, such as prostitution, illegal vending, graffiti, shoplifting, fare beating and vandalism. Typically in these cases, judges are forced to choose between a few days of jail time and nothing at all—sentences that fail to impress upon the victim, the community and the defendants that these offenses are taken seriously. In contrast, the Midtown Community Court sentences low-level offenders to pay back the neighborhood through community service, while at the same time offering them help with problems that often underlie criminal behavior. Midtown's judge has an array of sanctions and services at her disposal. These include community restitution projects, short-term psycho-educational groups, and long-term treatment such as drug treatment, mental health treatment, and trauma-focused psychotherapy; for a list of current social service programs, click here. Midtown features an on-site clinic staffed by social service professionals who use trauma-focused, strengths-based, and evidence-informed clinical approaches to assess and connect individuals to appropriate services.

How it works

Making Justice Visible: Wearing bright blue vests, quality-of life offenders at Midtown pay back the community through visible community service projects—painting over graffiti, sweeping the streets, and cleaning local parks.

Making Justice Swift: Immediate sentencing sends the message to offenders that crime has consequences and that they will be held accountable for their actions. Offenders often begin their sentences within 24 hours of appearing before the judge.

Engaging New Partners: The Court works with local residents, businesses, social service providers and other government agencies to forge creative, collaborative solutions to neighborhood problems. The Court houses an array of non-traditional programs, including community mediation, GED classes and job training for out-of-school youth, and homeless outreach.

Offering Social Services: The Court uses arrest as a gateway to treatment, engaging defendants in on-site drug and mental health treatment, and job training.

Providing Better Information: The Court's award-winning computer application helps the judge craft individualized sanctions for each offender and monitor compliance. The system also provides police officers with regular feedback about the outcomes of their arrests.

The phlosophy of donut holes

Improbable Research - In 2001, professor Achille C. Varzi, of Columbia University, New York, very probably became the first philosopher to author a paper focusing specifically on the ramifications of holes in donuts, as we reported. In 2012 the subject received further attention, this time from professor Stephen Barker and Mark Jago at the philosophy department at the University of Nottingham, UK. Their paper ‘Being Positive About Negative Facts’. (in: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research has a section partially devoted to donuts. in which they point out that :

“Donuts are material objects. The thing about donuts, however, is that they have holes. If you get rid of the donut hole by filling it up with more donut-dough, then there is no longer a donut.”

“Holes pose something of a philosophical quandary and, perhaps as a result of their mystery, are often treated as immaterial entities (Casati and Varzi 1994). Yet we seem to be able to perceive holes, gaps, dents and the like. The view of holes as immaterial objects is, we think, very much in line with thinking of the negative as the metaphysically undead. Given our acceptance of negative facts, we can offer a story about holes on which they are material entities. If there is a donut hole then there is a spatial region involving the instantiation of donut-dough which is intimately connected with an absence thereof.”

Improbable will of course endeavour to keep readers informed about future donut-centred philosophical investigations, should any arise to our attention.

Pocket paradigms: The Mid East

The most misleading myth about the Middle East is that an end to violence is a necessary precondition to peace negotiations. An end to violence should rather be one the goals of peace negotiations. Killings emphasize the need for such talks rather than serving as justification for avoiding them.

If what goes on in the synagogue doesn't stay in the synagogue than it can not be expected to be treated as though it were still there. In other words, if you're going to ask American taxpayers to subsidize Israel and back its policies, the matter should be handled no differently than building a B2 bomber or putting a federal agency's office in some congressmember's district. If you want to play by religion's rules act like a religion. Otherwise, the rules of politics govern. And anyone who calls that anti-Semitic is either a cry baby or a scoundrel.

The curable cause of the present disaster is not to be found in a cave in Afghanistan nor at a military headquarters in Palestine. Rather it is to be found in a half century of abusive American policy towards the Islamic world including a deadly, criminal embargo against Iraq; the permanent suppression of Palestinian statehood; the promotion, assassination and/or manipulation of a string of leaders against the best interests of peace and our own security; the covert employment (to our later regret) of the likes of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein; and our repeated refusal to listen to the nearly unanimous voice of the United Nations in general assembly. - Sam Smith


Implicit in the term `national defense' is the notion of defending those values and ideals which set this nation apart -- Justice Potter Stewart, 1967

The problem in defense is how far you can go without destroying from within what you are trying to defend from without. -- Dwight Eisenhower

Today in history

1932 -- Jim Fixx, author of Complete Book of Running, which kick-started the 1970s jogging craze, lives. He fixated on running until his bum ticker seized up like a rusty chain saw. At age 52, Fixx walks out of house & begins jogging. Goes a short distance when he has a massive coronary: His autopsy reveals one coronary artery 99% clogged, another 80% obstructed, a third 70% blocked .... Fixx had three other attacks in the weeks prior to his death. 

Wikipedia - In 1986 exercise physiologist Kenneth Cooper published an inventory of the risk factors that might have contributed to Fixx's death. Granted access to his medical records and autopsy, and after interviewing his friends and family, Cooper concluded that Fixx was genetically predisposed (his father died of a heart attack at age 43 and Fixx himself had a congenitally enlarged heart), and had several lifestyle issues. Fixx was a heavy smoker prior to beginning running at age 36, he had a stressful occupation, he had undergone a second divorce, and his weight before he took up running had ballooned to 220 pounds. 

1956 -- Elvis Presley, accompanied by Bill Black and Scotty Moore, makes his Las Vegas debut as opening act for the Freddie Martin Orchestra and comedian Shecky Greene. The two week run is called off after a week due to poor reception; Presley won't do Las Vegas again for almost 13 years.

1977 -- Dr. Allen Bussey completes 20,302 yo-yo loops & only loses 10.

1985 -- US: Sam Ervin dies. Senator "Sam" chaired the Watergate hearings in the spring of 1973. On the convictions of former attorney general John Mitchell and former White House aide John Ehrlichman for their roles in the scandal, he said: "I don't think either one of them would have recognized the Bill of Rights if they met it on the street in broad daylight under a cloudless sky."
Daily Bleed

From our overstocked archives: The real reason for the war on public education

One of the stop stories on our pages in the past 24 hours has been School "reform" is about class, not classrooms in which the gentrifying aspects of the war on public education was discussed back in 2010.

April 22, 2014

The road to literacy is paved with words, not tests

From 50 years of the Review's overstocked archives

Sam Smith, 2007 - Among the many myths of No Child Left Behind is that schools are in charge of literacy. I got an early inkling of the fallacy of this as I listened to black teenagers conversing in our DC neighborhood in the 1960s. As a writer, I was struck by their use of metaphor - trading insults while "doin' the dozens" - and by their clear acceptance of language as a weapon of survival in life. Yet these were the same kids who had already been largely assigned to failure by the schools and others.

Why the disconnect? I mentioned this the other day to an educator friend, David Craig, who soon returned with two academic articles that shed fascinating light on the topic.

The first, from the American Psychologist in 1989 by Shirley Brice Heath, dealt with shifts in the oral and literate traditions among black Americans living in poverty.

Heath pointed out that both cold stats and warm culture had changed dramatically among the black poor since the 1960s. This was a period of migration from the rural south to the urban north. Even the ghettos in the north changed. Instead of primarily two family dwellings or small apartment houses "with the 1960s came high rise, high-density projects, where people took residence not through individual and free choice of neighbor and community, but through bureaucratic placement." By the 1980s, not only did nearly half of all black children live in poverty, but "the proportion of young black families with fathers fell drastically."

Among the impacts: a loss of adult contact. Describing the earlier culture, Heath wrote, "Male and female adults of several ages are often available in the neighborhood to watch over children who play outside and to supplement the parenting role of young mothers." In the later urban inner city this was no longer the case.

And, of course, the more adults that are around, the more language is used in both quantity and variety:

"Children take adults' roles, issue commands and counter-statements, and win arguments by negotiating nuances of meaning verbally and nonverbally. Adults goad children into taking several roles and learning to respond quickly to shifts in mood, expectations and degrees of jest."

Further, in these earlier communities families were far more likely to be involved in other organizations, not the least of which was the church:

"For those who participate in the many organizations surrounding the church there are many occasions for both writing long texts (such as public prayers) and reading Biblical and Sunday School materials, as well as legal records of property and church management matters. Through all of these activities based on written materials, oral negotiations in groups makes the writing matter. . . The community values access to written sources and acknowledges the need to produce written materials of a variety of types for their own purposes, as well as for successful interaction with mainstream institutions."

Now jump to the 1980s:

"Young mothers, isolated in small apartments with their children, and often separated by the expense and trouble of cross-town transportation from family members, watch television, talk on the phone, or carry out household and caregiving chores with few opportunities to tease or challenge their youngsters verbally. No caring, familiar, and ready audience of young and old is there to appreciate the negotiated performances."

Heath got one mother to agree "to tape record her interactions with her children over a two-year period and to write notes about her activities with them." During "500 hours of tape and over 1,000 lines of notes, she initiated talk to one of the three preschool children (other than to give them a brief directive or query their actions or intentions) in only 18 instances. . . In the 14 exchanges that contained more than four turns between mother and child, 12 took place when someone else was in the room."

I have just been pouring over this years' dismal NCLB results for DC public and charter schools. As I did so, I wondered whether the experts with whom we have entrusted America's children's literacy are aware the sort of factors that Heath noted:

"In a comparative study of black dropouts and high school graduates in Chicago, those who graduated had found support in school and community associations, as well as church attendance; 72% of the graduates reported regular church attendance whereas only 14% of the dropouts did. Alienation from family and community, and subsequently school, seems to play a more critical role in determining whether a student finishes high school than the socioeconomic markers of family income or education level."

Heath wasn't too optimistic: "For the majority of students that score poorly on standardized tests, the school offers little practice and reward in open-ended, wide-ranging uses of oral and written language. . . Yet such occasions lie at the very heart of being literate: sharing knowledge and skills from multiple sources, building collaborative activities from and with written materials, and switching roles and trading expertise and skill in reading, writing and speaking."

Of course, the danger in all of this is that such occasions also encourage critical thinking, little valued by NCLB or by the establishment that created it, an establishment far more interested in compliant drones than in independent minds.

Once, talking to a large group of DC public high school students, I was struck by the fact that, concerned as they were about drugs and violence, they were unable even to phrase the questions they wanted to ask. I mentioned this to a friend with long experience in the DC public schools and she replied with sadness, "But they are not meant to ask questions; they are only meant to answer them" - perhaps the best summation of NCLB I've heard.

The second article came from a 2001 edition of Reading Research Quarterly, written by Susan B Neuman and Donna Celano, who had gone out and examined four Philadelphia neighborhoods of different ethnicities and economics to discover how much written material was easily available. The poverty rates ran from 0% to 85% and the percent of black residents ranged from 5% 82%.

It was a highly detailed and academic study but over and over again - examining different factors - the mere access to words seemed to play an important role. They considered signage, public spaces for reading and books in child care centers, libraries and drug stores.

The poorest neighborhoods, for example, had 4 stores selling children's reading material while the better off neighborhoods had 11 and 12. More dramatic was the number of titles visible in these stores: 55 in the poorest neighborhood (most in pharmacy and Dollar Store) vs. 16,000 in the wealthiest [including Borders) and 1597 in the second wealthiest. Signage was far more equal: 76 business signs in the poor neighborhood vs. 77 in the richest. But the content was different. In the better off neighborhoods "children could conceivably read their environment though these signs, with pictures, shapes, and colors denoting the library, the bank, and the public telephone." In the poor neighborhoods, signs "were often graffiti covered and difficult to decipher."

None of this really surprises me. After all, I learned to read and write - despite my parents' prohibitions - with no small help from a massive number of comic books. It seems perfectly obvious to me that the easiest way to learn the word "deviation" is to read it in a balloon above the head of a mean looking Nazi officer shouting to his frightened mignons, "I will stand no DEVIATION from my orders!!!" The story-telling and the silent translation of the art combine to make one of the best reading aids of all times.

And at least one academic study found that:

"There was no difference in frequency of comic book reading between a middle class and a less affluent sample of seventh grade boys. For both groups, those who read more comic books did more pleasure reading, liked to read more, and tended to read more books. These results show that comic book reading certainly does not inhibit other kinds of reading, and is consistent with the hypothesis that comic book reading facilitates heavier reading."

But comic book sales have diminished and with them another door to literacy is harder to open. Now instead of Captain Marvel, we have No Child Left Behind, a program that gets reading off to a bad start by even lying in its title.

Among my other untested contact with matters of literacy:

- I was blessed to have been a parents' association president of an elementary school that understood the importance of quantity in teaching words. The school realized that the shortest route to good writing was to do it. The kids were always writing something: diaries, plays, stories, speeches, advertisements. There was also an emphasis was the arts, particularly drama and music, which among their other virtues offer the opportunity to sing or say words over and over until they become a part of your soul.

- Starting out in journalism, I had to write nine radio newscasts a day for a while. You won't find that suggested in any writing manual or school curriculum but I still recall trying to come up with new ways of saying the same thing just to keep from being bored.

- As an editor, I have often offered a standard cure for writers' block: just write crap and don't worry about it. Then go to bed and retrieve the good parts the next day.

- My own list of unauthorized literary aids would include memorizing Burma Shave signs, devouring Ogden Nash poems, reading under duress from the Book of Common Prayer at Holy Communion, learning jokes, listening to Edward R. Murrow, following instructions on how to build an HO gauge model freight car and absorbing the lyrics to endless popular songs.

Make a list from your own life and the virtues of constant exposure to words in sound and print without regardless of their purported quality will become clear.

Above all is the need to enjoy what you're reading or writing. The greatest sin of NCLB is to make what should be a lifelong joy into a tedious, bureaucratic exercise - making words far harder to learn and infinitely harder to love.

Kids need more words in their lives - and fewer tests.

Trends: New latino students out number whites at University of California

Huffington Post - The University of California has offered freshman admission to more in-state Latino students than white students for the first time, a change that reflects the state’s shifting demographics.

Fall 2014 admissions data reported by the Los Angeles Times showed that 28.8 percent of California residents accepted to one of nine UC campuses were Latino, bumping white applicants as the second most accepted group and increasing Latino acceptances by nearly a thousand from the previous year. At 36.2 percent, Asian Americans still make up the largest ethnic group among accepted students.

Family sues over school;s pledge citing "under God"

USA Today - A family is suing the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District and its superintendent, seeking to have the phrase "under God" removed from the Pledge of Allegiance that students recite every day.

A lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Monmouth County on behalf of the family, who wish to remain unidentified, and the American Humanist Association claims that the practice of acknowledging God in the pledge of allegiance discriminates against atheists, in violation of New Jersey's constitution.

But the school district's attorney says the district is simply following a state law that requires pupils to recite the Pledge of Allegiance daily.

The prekindergarten through 12th-grade district has five elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. Rubin said that although the law requires recitation in schools of the Pledge of Allegiance, students within the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District are not required to recite it if they object. And federal courts determined years ago that students cannot be forced to do so, he added.

But the lawsuit alleges that the daily recitation of the pledge in the school district "publicly disparages plaintiffs' religious beliefs, calls plaintiffs' patriotism into question, portrays plaintiffs as outsiders and second-class citizens, and forces (the child) to choose between non-participation in a patriotic exercise or participation in a patriotic exercise that is invidious to him and his religious class."

Our solution to the pledge is to recite it but to say "under law" rather than "under God."

Just politics

In case you're in that minority of the Democratic Party who would like to see a woman president but not one who is corrupt, dishonest and embedded with the Wall Street crowd, we offer a few quotes from Elizabeth Warren that you would never hear from Hillary Clinton;

There is nobody in this country who got rich on their own. Nobody. You built a factory out there—good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory.

People feel like the system is rigged against them, and here is the painful part, they're right. The system is rigged.

Look around. Oil companies guzzle down the billions in profits. Billionaires pay a lower tax rate than their secretaries, and Wall Street CEOs, the same ones that direct our economy and destroyed millions of jobs still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them. Does anyone here have a problem with that?"

It is critical that the American people, and not just their financial institutions, be represented at the negotiating table.

If you’re caught with an ounce of cocaine, the chances are good you’re going to jail….Evidently, if you launder nearly a billion dollars for drug cartels and violate our international sanctions, your company pays a fine and you go home and sleep in your own bed at night.

Who wants to cut government services?

Richard Brenneman - From International Social Survey Programme data, complied by Larry Bartels of the Washington Post 

Morning Line

President: Paul Ryan is now the only GOP candidate who is within single digits of Clinton in the Review's moving average of polls. But Clinton has lost a few points against every candidate other than Rubio. She leads her closest Democratic opponent, Elizabeth Warren, by 54 points.
Here's are moving average of recent polls ink the GOP contest for the presidential nomination:


One must have some occupation nowadays. If I hadn't my debts I shouldn't have anything to think about. - Oscar Wilde

Pocket paradigms

One of the traits of a good reporter is boundless curiosity. If you can pass a bulletin board without looking at it, you may be in the wrong trade.

Reporters don't have to be smart; they just have to know how to find smart people.

I've never met an objective journalist because every one of them has been a human. Try going after the truth instead. It's an easier and more fulfilling goal. - Sam Smith

April 21, 2014


Elite college's acceptance rates decline

How 250 UPS wildcat strikers won their jobs back

The new before it happens

We are glad to see a recent academic paper lends support to what we have been saying for the past decade: that we have turned from a democracy to a plutocracy. We phrased it somewhat differently. In an apology to younger Americans in 2003, your editor wrote, his generation "will likely be known as the worst generation - the one that brought the First American Republic down -  unmatched in the damage it has done to the Constitution, the environment, and a two century struggle to create a society democratic and decent in its politics, economics, and social concourse." And in 2004, writing on Bush's reelection, "he is a tenured and servile member of an establishment that has trashed the Constitution, badly weakened the economy, made us hated around the world, and effectively brought to the end of the First American Republic."

Weak link between mental illness and serious crimes

American Psychological Assn - In a study of crimes committed by people with serious mental disorders, only 7.5 percent were directly related to symptoms of mental illness, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

Researchers analyzed 429 crimes committed by 143 offenders with three major types of mental illness and found that 3 percent of their crimes were directly related to symptoms of major depression, 4 percent to symptoms of schizophrenia disorders and 10 percent to symptoms of bipolar disorder.

"When we hear about crimes committed by people with mental illness, they tend to be big headline-making crimes so they get stuck in people's heads," said lead researcher Jillian Peterson, PhD. "The vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, not criminal and not dangerous."


In Washington today, knowledge is the only crime.  - Tom Engelhardt

Hil Clin behind millions in aid to corrupt Afghan ministries

Washington Times - In internal government documents with potential repercussions for the 2016 presidential election, top officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development repeatedly cited former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton for setting into motion a policy to waive restrictions on who could receive U.S. aid in Afghanistan, resulting in millions of dollars in U.S. funds going directly into the coffers of Afghan ministries known to be rife with corruption.

References to Mrs. Clinton’s role in the policy first appeared in a November 2012 USAID action memo, which outlined how U.S. officials made a “strategic foreign-assistance decision” two years earlier to provide “at least 50 percent of U.S. Government assistance directly to the” Afghan government.

The decision was “reaffirmed by Secretary of State Clinton” in July 2010, according to the memo, which highlighted her actions as justification for why USAID should waive an internal policy that otherwise would have required the agency to first assess the risk that such “direct assistance” might be lost to fraud, waste or outright theft.

USAID conducted such assessments anyway in recent years and reached sobering conclusions about the overall effects of billions of dollars that the U.S. has spent on nation building in Afghanistan.

Public universities giving less to poorest students

Popular Resistance - A ProPublica analysis of new data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that from 1996 through 2012, public colleges and universities gave a declining portion of grants — as measured by both the number of grants and the dollar amounts — to students in the lowest quartile of family income. That trend has continued even though the recession hit those in lower income brackets the hardest.

Credit card usury incrasing big time

NY Post - The average credit card interest rate for people with fair credit has hit 21 percent, up more than 2 percent from only a year ago, according to industry group CardHub.

Credit card companies, which attract new customers with zero percent teaser rates and more rewards, have raised rates while their costs remain historically low, industry observers say.

Note: In the 1980s, the typical credit card rate was in the single digits

Obamadmin gagging internet companies to hide supoenas from the public

ACLU - The government is using shaky legal arguments to silence major Internet companies without giving them – or the public – the opportunity to respond. In three separate recent cases, the government has sent a grand jury subpoena to Yahoo or Twitter and requested a gag order from a magistrate judge, attempting to bar these tech companies from informing the customers in question. To make matters worse, the government won't disclose its reasoning for requesting the gag, effectively shutting the public out of the courthouse without any explanation.

The ACLU has filed a motion seeking to represent the public's interest in open court proceedings when the government seeks gag orders on Internet companies. We know about the three cases only because the magistrate judge pushed back on the government, inviting Yahoo and Twitter to weigh in and ordering the government to make its legal arguments public. The government appealed those orders to a district court, where the judge ordered the appeals sealed. The ACLU is now moving to intervene in the district court for the purpose of opening these gag order proceedings to public scrutiny. In a democracy, if your government is going to gag someone from speaking, it should publicly explain why.

Study: biofuels aren't what they promised

Guardian, UK- Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a new study shows, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

A $500,000 study – paid for by the federal government and released Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change – concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7% more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline.

While biofuels are better in the long run, the study says they won't meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel.

Today in history

1894 -- George Bernard Shaw's Arms & the Man opens to the unanimous cheers of the audience, with the sole exception of one who boos. Shaw bowed to his detractor: "I quite agree with you, sir, but what can two do against so many?"

1960 -- Dick Clark, described as "the single most influential person" in the pop music business, testifies before a congressional committee investigating payola. He admits he had a financial interest in 27% of the records he played on his show in a 28 month period. 

Daily Bleed

Pocket paradigms

Contrary to the view of many editors, most people still like finding out who, what, when, where, why and how more than hearing in the first sentence how it all affected Roberta Mellencamp, 46, of East Quincy. -Sam Smith


I never listen to debates. They are dreadful things indeed. The plain truth is that I am not a fair man, and don't want to hear both sides. On all known subjects, ranging from aviation to xylophone-playing, I have fixed and invariable ideas. They have not changed since I was four or five. - HL Mencken

Jesus wore a hoodie

The Rev.Matsimela Mapfumo (Mark A.Thompson), The Grio - Even for non-Christians, I believe it is necessary to acknowledge the historical Jesus, and the fact that for at least 2,000 years, humankind has worshipped, studied, debated and warred over someone who hung out with the poor, the oppressed, the sick and uninsured, and the imprisoned.... Renowned theologian and mystic Howard Thurman made the case in his landmark, Jesus and The Disinherited, that Christ was in the 99 percent.“The economic predicament with which he was identified in birth placed him initially with the great mass of men on the earth,” Thurman wrote, and “the masses of the people are poor.”..

Thurman described Jesus “as a member of a minority group in the midst of a larger dominant and controlling group.” Rome occupied the Holy Land, as Herod sold out to oversee the subjugation of his fellow Israelites. Jesus’ “words were directed to the House of Israel, a minority within the Greco-Roman world, smarting under the loss of status, freedom, and autonomy.”

So Jesus was a working class carpenter with no union in a poor, urban, diverse community, forging a style and language all its own, despite both oppression and an occupying force seeking to demoralize and discourage any resistance. Does not Jesus’ reality in His day describe the reality of the average youth of color today, except for the part about Jesus being employed


Five second rule works

Alternet - According to a new study carried out at Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences, the five-second rule actually has a scientific basis.

Research undertaken by biology students monitored the transfer of common bacteria E. Coli and Staphylococcus aureus from indoor floor types (carpet, laminate and tiled surfaces) to various foods like toast, pasta, biscuits and sweets, when contact was made from 3 to 30 seconds.

The results showed that time is a significant factor in the transfer of bacteria from a floor surface to a piece of food and the type of flooring also had an effect.  Carpeted surfaces posed the lowest risk while bacteria was most likely to transfer from tiled surfaces to moist foods when it has made contact for more than five seconds.

But before you go eating off the floor just yet, microbiology professor Anthony Hilton who led the study said in press release that consuming food dropped on the floor was not a good idea.

“Consuming food dropped on the floor still carries an infection risk as it very much depends on which bacteria are present on the floor at the time,” he said.  “However the findings of this study will bring some light relief to those who have been employing the five-second rule for years, despite a general consensus that it is purely a myth, he said.

The rise of transparency

A Google Ngram chart of the use of the word transparency in English books since 1800. As with many popular words in political discourse these days, its use has accelerated as what it is defining has collapsed.