Friday, March 30, 2012

Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana

Eager to get some more bug guts on the front of the new Jeep, Steve and I took off on a day trip to Logansport, Louisiana today.  We've never been on a day trip there and thought it might be interesting.

Logansport is an historic town (founded in 1830) nestled on the border between Louisiana and Texas.  At one time it was a bustling little town with the lumber and cotton business and the river boats steaming through.  The Sabine River marks the border and they've got a nice park there on the river and a Veteran's memorial wall.  The town holds festivals and celebrations there including the popular River City fest in May.

Before we set out on our adventure I hit up FIVE estate sales this morning.  I found a couple of glassware things to add to my collection but the real treasure, to me, was this cool book of WWII stories by Associated Press reporters; it was published in 1945 and has a section of full page black and white photos.

Here's part of the table of contents:

The best part?  I got it for $1.00.

I also found this little treasure for Mr. SIGIS:

Also $1.00.

So on to Logansport.  We like to take the back roads whenever we go anywhere.  We stopped in Keatchie when we saw an antique store.  I liked this sign:

All your needs are covered there, right?  The people in that store were really friendly and they had a beautiful pointer dog behind the counter.  Across the street was this neat old building (I love old historic buildings):

I like the tree growing out from under the front porch.  The place was apparently a mercantile store at one time:

I like the front porch, too:

So from there we headed on down the road to Logansport.  There's not a lot there anymore but everyone we met and dealt with could not have been friendlier.  The Georgia Pacific plant there has closed and the economy is hurting down there; plus they're widening a nearby highway which will bypass the town and just about shut everything down, I guess.

We stopped at ate at The River's Edge restaurant, run by Rosemary Grimsley.  We went there on the advice of Janet Palmer who runs N. J. Carraway & Co. hardware and mercantile store.

Steve had fried catfish and I have a big ol' bacon cheeseburger.  Both were great.  Rosemary could not have been more friendly or hospitable and I only wish we had gone after 5 p.m. when you get complimentary hot water cornbread and bean soup with every entree!  Everything is home made there; the hush puppies that came with Steve's catfish were the best I've ever had; they were the size of golf balls and seasoned with jalapeno and onion.

We stopped in at Doug's Jewelry & Antiques on Main Street; he had some cool military collectibles and some cool clocks.  Lots of military books and flags.  A few political signs:

I bought a book there and we went on down to N. J. Carraway & Co.

It's the oldest operating hardware store in Desoto Parish:

There you can buy everything from blue jeans, bib overalls, scented candles, antiques, and all your hardware needs.

They had a neat sign inside, too:

We bought a couple of cookbooks that proprietor Janet Palmer showed us: The Louisiana Proud Collection of Home Cooking and The Louisiana Proud Collection of Sweet Things.   Each consists of over 200 recipes and drawings from all over the state.  The author  crisscrossed the state taking photographs and making sketches of historic buildings in every town and in each town he obtained a recipe. From the forward:

"Two hundred and seventy six people, all from different towns, gave us a recipe.  Each page contains one recipe, an illustration of a building in that town and the contributor's name."

Here's an example (one which Stacy McCain might like):

We heard there was an antique mall in Tenaha so we ran on down the highway but we missed it; they closed thirty minutes before we arrived.  Steve liked this mural, though:

With everything shutting down for the day we headed on back to Shreveport.  Just outside of Carthage Steve pulled over at the Jim Reeves memorial:

The walkway leading up to it is neat:

All in all it was a fun day.  As I said, the people in Logansport could not have been nicer or more friendly.  It's definitely going into our rotation of day trips.  We thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful drive down the back roads, looking at the historic homes and buildings, and partaking of the local hospitality.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Summer Project

Having no pride whatsoever I just dug this poor thing out of my neighbor's trash pile.  I believe it's an antique telephone stand.

It's flat on the floor here because the legs need some work and it won't stand on its own:

Actually, a lot of it needs work, but it will be glorious when it's restored!

The door has some warp to it, and the veneer is peeling...:

...but I love the detail on it.  Inside there is a hole in the back left corner, presumably for the telephone wire to run through.

There's a hinged door, too, that works fine but the bottom piece for the storage area is gone and will have to be replaced:

There's some rot on the ball feet and I'll have to cut the legs off just a little so it will stand.

It looks like hell right now but this summer, when school is out, I'll have some time to work on it.

I love a new project!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

That's What Freedom Sounds Like!

Mr. SIGIS and I are headed to Steak Night on the deck at Barksdale AFB, home of the B52s.  I so love sitting on the deck, watching the sun set on a spring or summer evening, surrounded by brave military members dedicated to preserving our freedom and listening to the B52s on the nearby air strip.  I love how you don't even hear this plane until it's on top of you.  Glorious!

Jindal's Education Reform Moves to The Senate and Tina Korbe Criticizes the Protests

The lightening pace of Governor Bobby Jindal's education reform has slowed a little bit.  The next step for the package is the Senate Education Committee which is expected to take up consideration of the bills possibly tomorrow.


The two bills were adopted by the House after a session that ran from 9 a.m. Thursday until early Friday.House Bill 974 by Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, which establishes new employment rules for teachers, was approved by a 64-40 vote, and House Bill 976, which would expand charter schools and establish a statewide private school tuition voucher program paid for out of the financing formula established for public schools was passed, 61-42. In each case, as many as a dozen members from each party switched sides. 
The two bills are anchors of an ambitious agenda that Jindal pitches as a way to improve student performance and, in turn, economic opportunities and overall quality of life in Louisiana. The tenure changes have drawn the ire of teachers associations and rank-and-file educators, who accuse the Republican chief executive of a frontal assault on public education, classroom teachers in particular.

The reform has been contentious and controversial at every step.

Many are unhappy with the speed with which the legislation is being passed.  It is, some think,  reminiscent of the way ObamaCare was bullied through in Washington and passed in the dead of night.  There's been no time, really, for public debate; not much time to contact legislators.  This is probably by design.  Oh, there have been teachers protesting on the steps of the State Capitol, but no real legislative hurdles have slowed Jindal's reform package which has often kept House members in session late into the night:


Late into the night, the House debated a second Jindal initiative on its way to approval in some form. House Bill 974, also by Carter, would curtail teacher tenure and scrap the existing teacher salary matrix, tying public school instructors' job status and pay to student performance measures.

The session is open until early June; what's the big rush that we have to have legislators staying in session through the night, rushing debate, curtailing public input?

Why debate at all?  NOLA is declaring this whole spectacle to have a "predetermined outcome," anyway.

No matter what side of the issue you're on, nobody can disagree with Rep. Steve Carter (R.-Baton Rouge) who said:

 "I want to give every child in Louisiana an opportunity to succeed. ... These are the most important bills we can ever consider." 

But, doesn't the fact that this is "the most important" education legislation we can consider merit more debate rather than passage at warp speed?

Don't misunderstand; clearly reform is needed.  But Jindal's plan will not solve the problem.  His plan is based on three main tenets:  get rid of bad teachers through tenure reform, enable parent choice through a voucher system, and restructure the pay scale to reward effective teachers.  It sounds good enough on the surface, right?  But there are still too many unanswered questions.  It's like you have "to pass the bill to find out what's in it," it seems.

Rep. Sam Jones, D-Franklin, said, "We had amendments today where the authors didn't even know what was in them. ... When we finish here, the press is going to read these bills and tell us what we did."

Many questions remain.  Where's the part about parent and student accountability?  While the reform package expands the voucher program statewide, will private and charter schools be forced to take these students whose parents are trying to flee ineffective schools?  Will they all go under a lottery system or will admission standards prevail?  What will the governor do about those students who wish to leave under-performing schools but can't meet the admission standards of a private school?  What will be the accountability for those private schools?  Will they be scored the same way public schools are?  And will their teachers also fall under Actt54 and be graded effective or ineffective based on student performance on standardized tests?  How is this plan going to help those struggling public schools other than boot "ineffective" teachers out of the way?  In calculating that "ineffective" label, do you take into account the difficulty these days in removing a disruptive student from the classroom?  Will the state untie the hands of local administrators in dealing with discipline issues that certainly have an impact on a school's performance?

While national bloggers like Tina Korbe can sit in judgment of these protesting teachers, mocking their protest as "cornily themed," now might be the time to slow down and find answers to these questions and common ground on which we can all agree.  And while Korbe slaps the protesters on the wrist for not being in the classroom, she fails to explain when or how she thinks teachers might register their discontent with the Governor's steamrolling agenda or recognize that some of those districts from which those teachers come might be on spring break (as Caddo and Bossier parishes are, for example.)  Since the Legislature is meeting during school hours, when should the dissenting teachers protest?

As a public school teacher, I found this remark of Korbe's particularly offensive:

Still, protests like these suggest that adults care more to preserve the system than to improve the quality of education children receive. They also smack of a certain elitism that assumes union leaders know better than individual teachers and teachers know better than parents how to raise and educate children.  

I don't agree that protesting necessarily means a desire to preserve the system as is.  Nearly everyone agrees that some reform is needed; we have far too many kids in this state performing below grade level.  And I disagree that registering dissent "smacks of a certain elitism" or that it means that I as a teacher think I know more than the parent how to educate children.  I believe that not enough parents are involved in the process, actually.  In schools with poor demographics, for example, all too often the parents are never seen or heard from, yet under Jindal's plan they get a pass while the teacher gets hung out to dry.

The battle for education reform is nowhere near done in Louisiana but is underway and that's a start.  But Governor Jindal needs to slow it down a pace and listen to the people on the front lines.  Last time I checked, he hasn't spent any time teaching in the public school system.  There's room for us all to agree on the major issues if he'll just slow down and let us find the path.

For more on the education battle in Louisiana, The Hayride has a great aggregation of links.

Surviving Spring Break and Yard Work

Spring Break has been exhausting.   I had all these great plans for getting closets cleaned out and spring cleaning done but I've spent 2-1/2 full days working in the yard.  My backyard used to look fairly nice (pictured last summer pre-drought) but lately...well, it looks like hell.

 The drought last summer did a real number on my backyard and over the past few days I've cut out dead shrubs, cut back the English Ivy on my fence (a pollen nightmare, I'll tell you), weeded four large flower beds (the weeds survive even in drought), planted a few bedding plants, two azaleas, and replaced some doomed perennials.  I've spread ten bags of mulch, mowed the grass, edged, and have blown pollen tassels from the neighbor's oak tree off the driveway for three straight days.  I've just finished pruning the boxwoods, the nandinas and some dark green and yellow variegated bushes.  I've raked leaves and bagged all the trash.

There's not a muscle that doesn't ache right now.  I still have one more flower bed to weed and mulch but I'm going to hold off on that for a few days.  I also need to find someone in this town who sells sod and fill in some places.

Another day.  Right now, I'm exhausted!

Monday, March 26, 2012

"People Are Just Afraid of Change" Goes Before The Supreme Court

All eyes are on The Supreme Court this week as arguments against ObamaCare begin today.  For a summary of what will be argued when, check out this post at The Foundry.  Today's 90 minutes of argument are "mostly technical" on the issue of the Anti-Injunction Act.

Tomorrow things will get interesting with two hours of argument on whether the Constitution allows Congress to compel Americans to buy a product (in this case, a "financial instrument.")

The argument on this seems ludicrous to me (emphasis mine):

"The challengers to the reform say that never before has the government forced people to buy a product," Neal Katyal, who defended the legislation in appellate courts while serving as Obama's acting solicitor general, said in an interview with AFP. "We're not forcing you to buy a product. Health care is something all Americans consume, and you don't know when you're going to consume it." Katyal added that "we are not regulating what people buy, we're regulating how people finance it." 

 That seems to be no difference at all, to me.

Neal Katyal also provides yet another example of the liberal attempt to sway the court:

Katyal also framed any decision overturning the law as judicial actvism, bordering on tyranny. "If the Supreme Court struck this down, I think that it wouldn't just be abouthealth care," he said. "It would be the Supreme Court saying: 'Look, we've got the power to really take decisions, move them off of the table of the American people, even in a democracy.'" 

Michael Hammond, writing at Red State, points out that the liberal media has a long-standing practice of attempting to intimidate the court:

The justices are only human. 
And conservatives have fallen down in failing to make a bigger issue over liberal attempts to threaten and intimidate the court -– first, in the New York Times, then in the Washington Post [“Will Conservatives save Obamacare?” by Robert Barnes, the Washington Post, March 18, 2012, page B1] -– and repeatedly by Bob Beckel and others on Fox. 
All of the threats are thinly veiled (“Roberts is protective of the court’s reputation, however, and sensitive to the perception that its decisions are politicized.”), but they are nothing more or less than disguised threats to attack the court if it doesn’t do as liberals want.
There's absolutely no point in falling down the rabbit hole trying to anticipate how the court will vote and I'm not about to try.

What IS clear is what is at stake.  The objections conservatives (and others) have to ObamaCare have been made clear and it is now up to the Court to decide.  My position has always been that this law is a huge over reach of government authority and treads on state's rights, individual liberties, and personal freedom, not to mention the staggering expense and new taxes:

Neal Katyal says the opposition to ObamaCare is just that "people are afraid of change."  I'm afraid the problem is a lot more serious than that.

I'm apprehensive and naturally pessimistic.  I'm the one who never believed Obama would get elected in the first place ("How in the world could people vote for him?  You can't elect a president on the basis on one speech!"  "He's got no record!  He's only been in the Senate for 117 days!").  I am not particularly optimistic about how this will turn out.

As the Supreme Court does not allow live-coverage you will have to wait for audio later in the day.  The Foundry will be posting updates as will others.  Jamie Dupree is inside hearing arguments and will update when he gets out.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Take A Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River

It was just about a perfect day in SIGIS-land.  Glorious spring weather, pollen everywhere, clear blue skies, and a balmy 78 degrees, so we took the top off the Jeep and hit the road.

Our first stop was to visit our friend Nancy who moved from across the street a while back.  We haven't seen her since she left the neighborhood and have really missed her.  Yesterday, when visiting Milly, I picked up these cool sterling combs for Nancy; she has l-o-n-g red hair and she's half Cherokee so these combs just reminded me of her. 

We had a nice visit and then kept on heading south down Highway 71 to Lock and Dam #5 on Red River.  It's south of Taylortown.

We turned the radio up and drove along admiring the scenery and all the outdoor smells along the way: burning wood fires, cow pastures, fresh air, and the occasional dead animal!  Steve keeps a cap in the Jeep to help keep the sun off his face and I tried to pull my hair back but it was pretty futile:

The Lock & Dam area is pretty neat; there are picnic tables and grills, restrooms, and plenty of fishing.  The roar of the water coming through is impressive and powerful:

The water is calm and tranquil on the other side of the locks but on this side it's quite turbulent.  It circles around like a whirlpool catching debris, sticks, logs, and vegetation in a continuous circle until it can break free.

There were people lined up all along the rocks fishing:

We never saw that guy catch anything but sticks but we did enjoy watching this fellow work a net:

He would cast it out and drag it back repeatedly.  I'm not sure if he caught anything or not.  The guy he was with sure did: we saw him pull at least two huge catfish out of the water:

After a while we climbed back in the Jeep...

...and headed back to town. 

We stopped at Ming Garden for some Pad Thai and some Tsingtao before coming home. 

Properly sunburned and windblown, we're settled in for the night.  We broke 100 miles on the Jeep now and have a respectable amount of mud on the fenders and bug guts on the grill so all is well.

It was about as perfect a day as they come.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Louisiana Welcomes Stacy McCain

Did you hear about the earthquake that hit Vanatu?

I'll let Stacy McCain tell the story but let me suggest that it might be a nice thing to do to go hit his tip jar today. Our meeting in Shreveport today didn't pan out as he encountered some, uh....complications in Livonia, Louisiana today as he was ... racing...toward Shreveport, and well, right now he's working his way toward Pineville for the Santorum event tonight.

I was looking forward to finally meeting Stacy but that's the way things roll sometimes.  Another time.

Tomorrow we're headed to Minden to finally pick up this Jeep we ordered the first week of February!

And so it goes.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Should Rick Santorum Quit the Race?

Pressure is mounting for Rick Santorum to quit the race; I can't figure out why nobody is calling on Gingrich to quit the race.  Seems to me Santorum is doing better than Gingrich in the overall count so why isn't the establishment calling for Newt to bail?

The Washington Post:

He lost the Illinois primary badly to Mitt Romney on Tuesday and, in the process, fell 300 delegates behind the former Massachusetts governor. And, adding insult to injury, former Florida governor Jeb Bush finally decided to wade into the presidential race on behalf of Romney on Wednesday, a signal to the Republican political world that primary race is at an end.

The story goes on to quote such luminaries as Bob Dole, Steve Schmidt and Haley Barbour who both think Santorum's time is nigh.


“If Santorum runs a principled campaign and then concedes graciously then he has a big future ahead,” said Steve Schmidt, who managed McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “If he runs a character campaign attacking Romney, then Santorum’s future is more limited.”

And Barbour:

“I’d argue Santorum should start winding it down,” said Henry Barbour, a Mississippi Republican National Committeeman and Romney supporter. “That would preserve the most options for him — serving in a Romney presidency officially or unofficially or possibly running again one day.”

Where are the calls for Newt to get out?  Last I checked, he was in third place.

The Louisiana primary is Saturday and Santorum looks to be in pretty good shape down here.  Rasmussen reports Santorum has a 12 point lead over Romney and Newt is a "distant third."

Santorum's schedule shows he will be in Monroe tomorrow at 10 a.m., in Shreveport at the Holiday Inn downtown at 1:15, and then he's off to Pineville for a 7 p.m. appearance.

Stacy McCain is on the road, somewhere in Mississippi when we spoke this afternoon, and headed toward Baton Rouge.  He's going to stop in at the Monroe event then head over to SIGIS-land to cover the Santorum events.  We have tentative plans to get together tomorrow afternoon, schedules permitting.

As for the Romney camp, they've finally announced a public appearance in addition to the invitation-only fundraiser he will attend at The Petroleum Club:

Romney is scheduled to hold an energy event at QEP Resources at 12202 Harts Island Road in Shreveport at 2:40 p.m, according to a media release from his campaign. The meeting is free and open to the public.  Romney is also scheduled to attend a fundraiser on Friday, the day before the primary, at the Petroleum Club in downtown Shreveport. General attendance will cost supporters $1,000 per person or $2,500 per person to attend the VIP photo reception.

Check back for updates.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In Anticipation of Spring Break

Two more days until spring break!  My students have been busy working hard on research papers and are making good progress.  We've just spent two days in the computer lab drafting and typing papers.

I'm looking forward to resting and recharging my batteries for the last few weeks of school.

The Jeep we ordered at the beginning of February has finally arrived at the dealership and we're heading over to Minden to pick it up Saturday!  I've got an incredible amount of yard work to keep me busy next week, too.  After last summer's drought there is much to be replaced and replanted.

On top of all that good stuff, I've started reading Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead and can't imagine why I've never read it before.  I've read Atlas Shrugged a few times but never The Fountainhead.  It's wonderful (so far)!

Louisiana's primary is Saturday; by all reports Rick Santorum is doing quite well in the polls down here.  In fact, Santorum will be back in town Friday for a rally at downtown's Holiday Inn at 1:15.  I'll still be at work, of course, but if Stacy McCain ventures this way on his Santorum trek I might head over and check it out.

Two more days...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Newt Visits Shreveport

The candidates are making their rounds through Louisiana; today it was Newt.  He stopped in at Strawn's Eat Shop Too this morning to a reported crowd of about 200 to speak about his energy policy.

Northern Louisiana is a hot spot for the Haynesville shale and has been booming with natural gas production in the past few years.  Newt has done his homework and recognizes that:

(Video courtesy of The Shreveport Times)

Mr. Gingrich was off to Ruston, Choudrant, and other parts of the state after leaving here today.  He'll be in Baton Rouge Thursday.

Rick Santorum was in town Sunday.

Mitt Romney will swing through town Friday with an invitation only fundraiser at The Petroleum Club.

Louisiana's primary is Saturday

Sunday, March 18, 2012

A Lot of Red Tape

Your chart of the day courtesy of The Heritage Foundation:


This week’s chart tests Obama’s claim by looking at the number of major regulations imposed by each administration. Major regulations, as defined by the government, are regulations that cost up to $100 million or more each year.

In his first three years of presidency, President George W. Bush imposed 28 major regulations at a cost of $8.1 billion. Obama imposed 106 major regulations at a cost of $46 billion.

That's a lot of red tape.

Rick Santorum Visits Shreveport (Updated and Video Added)

Rick Santorum in in Shreveport today and spoke to two congregations at Sunday services.  This via The Shreveport Times.

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum gave personal testimony to congregations at First Baptist Church in Bossier City and Calvary Baptist Church in Shreveport this morning.
During his term as senator, Santorum fought against partial birth abortion, though the bill was vetoed by former President Bill Clinton.
“During that course in time, my faith life grew,” he said. “I started reading more and really trying to develop that relationship and be that husband and father.”
Santorum said losing his son, Gabriel, shortly after birth and being the father of Bella, a 4-year-old special needs child whose life expectancy was only days, has strengthened his relationship with God and made him even more pro-life.
More as it develops.

Kristi Johnston is tweeting.

Update:  Rick Santorum speaking today at Calvary via KSLA Facebook feed:

The comments there are interesting.  Santorum is drawing some heat for speaking in churches, for speaking at white churches, and for apparently being in politics in general.

 Update 2:  Video from Santorum's testimony at Calvary Baptist today:

Update 3:  From the KTBS story:

"I think it is important for candidates to let us know who they really are," Caroline Goodwin told KTBS after hearing Santorum speak at the First Baptist Church of Bossier, and he did give church goers a peek into his real life. He told the sometimes tearful crowds at First Bossier and at Calvary Baptist Church in Shreveport the story of when he and his wife lost a baby boy.
KSLA also has a story:

The candidate was not made available to the local media while he was in town, but KSLA News 12 was able to reach him on the phone, where he reiterated his stance on deregulation. "I have said on day one I would repeal every high-cost regulation that the president has put in place. He has set a record on the cost to the economy, over one hundred million dollars a year."
Also high on his list, said Santorum, the repeal of so-called 'Obamacare.'

On a related note, both Romney and Gingrich are headed to Shreveport this week, too.  So far the only announced appearance for Romney is a pricey fundraiser at The Petroleum Club (the average Joe won't be able to see him without forking over $1000, or $2,500 for a photo op.)

Newt will have two appearances:

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich will be in town Monday evening for a fundraiser at attorney Norman R. Gordon's home.  Admission to the event is $250 per person.

On Tuesday morning at 8:30 Gingrich will hold a town hall style meeting at  Strawns Eat Shop Too on East 70th Street.

The appearance at Strawn's is free and open to the public.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Full Metal Jacket Reach Around: St. Patrick's Day 2012 Edition

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  Mr. SIGIS and I are loafing about today and taking it easy.  I ran errands this morning and went by my mother's then came home and cooked corned beef, cabbage, and roasted vegetables for dinner.  No green beer but we have plenty of non-green beer.

Some random links:

It seems that the whole world is playing Draw Something.  I've finally succumbed and downloaded the game (SIGIS Pat) but I'm terrible at it.  The first word I tried was "picnic" and let me just say, that didn't go well.  I'm not very imaginative and way too literal.  I haven't yet had the nerve to challenge my son-in-law to play; he's an architect and his drawings come with a detail and accuracy I can only dream of.  Oh, the joys of idle time!

In the spirit of St. Patrick's Day, Pecan Corner has a wonderful looking recipe for Irish Soda Bread.  When I get off this low carb diet I'm going to try it!

Bride of Rove doesn't hold back her disdain of Panetta:

So. My husband sold the golf cart and boat stuff to buy an M16. Because … Really? Every household should have one. Actually what he said was, he believes that “when Obama gets re-elected the assault on the ability of US citezens to own guns will begin in earnest and you are an idiot if you don’t stock up now”.
But why an M16?
Husband: Because they are cool.
Me: Why isn’t it in the gun safe?
Husband: Because the gun safe is full.
Next purchase? A second gun safe, I guess. Hopefully he’ll get bored with this and buy another boat. Hopefully. At least I know Panetta won’t be stopping over anytime for dinner … because he’s afraid of guns. And we have them.

She reports that Mr. Bride of Rove fully expects Obama to be re-elected and for an assault on gun rights to begin.  The NRA is concerned about that, too.

Elsewhere, Obama condoms?  Seriously?

Pirate's Cove reports on the contraception mandate.

Goldfish and Clowns argues for more civility in discourse.

Zilla needs your prayers and your help.

Doug Powers attempts to reconcile how ending tax subsidies to oil companies will lower gas prices.  In related news, Paco reports on the EPA misery index.

Louisiana Educator updates Jindal's education reform package which is quickly making its way through to the House floor.  The Hayride has a massive aggregation of links on the subject.  The Hayride also quotes Senator Mary Landrieu in what must be the biggest face palm statement of the month given her role in the ObamaCare mess:

"The Governor is advancing one of the most far-reaching education reform packages of the last two decades.  Many individuals and respected organizations favor the thrust of what these proposals seek to accomplish. However, ample public debate is wise and necessary. Oftentimes, policy measures that are muscled through without reflection and discussion are dismantled later.  

“If the goal here is true, systemic and long-lasting reform, not only does the Legislature need to buy in, but so do citizens in every parish and every region of our state. A good reform package will survive a thorough review, because it will survive on its merits."

Irony in action.

I'm out for now.  Time for a beer refill and maybe I'll make it green.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

This Was Taped To My Classroom Door...

...this morning by former English students. I love my kids!

Jindal's Education Wish List Skates Through Committee

Yesterday a Louisiana House panel approved most of Governor Jindal's education plan and now it's on its way.  I posted on some of the events here.

The Senate education committee meets today and the issue will continue.

NOLA has a great wrap up of the events that went late into the night here and here.

No time for analysis right now; I have three groups of sophomores to teach today.  I'll post updates later today.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Jindal's Contentious Education Reform Debate: Day One

The education debate is about to blow sky high in Louisiana.

As previously posted, Governor Bobby Jindal has sweeping reform ideas.  His plan is here.  In short, Gov. Jindal wants to expand his Recovery District Voucher program throughout the state, reform teacher tenure, and expand charter schools among other things.   (Here's the PDF of the charter/voucher bill as introduced).

Now that the Louisiana legislature is back in session, Jindal's education reform package is cycling through committees.  Hundreds of teachers (not this one) played hookey today to protest Jindal's ideas in Baton Rouge:

At least four public school systems – Baker, St. Martin, Vermilion and East Baton Rouge – and several Baton Rouge charter schools canceled classes because teachers will be rallying at the Capitol today and tomorrow, according to local media reports. In other parishes, many teachers said they still planned to make the trip using personal days even though school won't be cancelled; substitute teachers would be filling in.

NOLA has an editorial about the protest today:

Shutting down schools so teachers can rally against education bills in Baton Rouge sends a disappointing message about their priorities, and it's a shame that some school districts are taking that step. Students are expected to show up in class every day, and no less should be demanded of those responsible for educating them. 

But many teachers are heading to the state Capitol this week when the House and Senate education committees take up Gov. Bobby Jindal's education legislation.

The Pelican Post also disagrees with this action:

Politically active union leaders should refrain from separating teachers from their classroom responsibilities with standardized testing set to begin, business representatives and reform proponents are arguing in response to recent school board actions.

On Monday, the Vermilion Parish School Board and the St. Martin Parish School Board approved a “professional development day” so that teachers would be able to attend a Louisiana Senate Education Committee hearing now scheduled for Thursday. Meanwhile, the East Baton Rouge Parish Public School system has canceled school for Wednesday now that over 900 teachers have said they will be absent.

“Our board felt like it was important for our teachers to have a voice in the legislation that will impact them,” Charlotte Waguespack, assistant superintendent in Vermilion Parish, said. “Nothing specific was mentioned, it was just a general concern about the overall package.”
Via NOLA's live coverage, Senator David Vitter weighed in on the protest:

Sen. David Vitter, a Republican, took aim at teachers for coming to the Capitol in the first place rather than remaining in the class room: "As a Louisiana citizen and parent, I'm really outraged. I guess the folks behind this are making their priorities clear--forget the kids; we just care about our tenure protection and benefits. This is exactly what's wrong with the system. These folks steal a day of learning from the kids to lobby on the taxpayers' dime. And what happens? They're rewarded with a 'professional development day' to do it."
Steve Monaghan of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers defended the protest:

"This body could have had a meeting just like on a Saturday," he reminds lawmakers, i.e. "teachers didn't set this schedule." Another process complaint from Monaghan: Long, complicated bill, introduced March 3 being scheduled for a vote on March 14.

There are a number of teachers in the state who feel Jindal is "waging a war" on public education.  One (who asked to be anonymous) told me:

I regularly put in nine hour days at school then bring home papers to grade at night and on weekends.  I have weekly faculty meetings after school, sometimes before school, professional development on my planning period, workshops in the summer, (and the summer is shorter every year), more responsibilities, accountability, and paperwork piled on me each year while the students are held to very little accountability.  Now my governor wants to raise my retirement age to 67 while making me also pay more into retirement.  With the new VAT, half of my annual evaluation will depend on student performance - even the student who is just holding time until he's old enough to drop out.  Why is what I'm doing never enough for this governor?
Teacher morale is at an all time low on many fronts.  The new evaluation system that teacher references can be found here.  In short:

Act 54 calls for measures of student growth to comprise at least 50 percent of all educator evaluations, thus the new statute establishes a student-based method to assess success and incorporates other measures of professional practice in the remaining 50 percent.   To provide educators with consistent feedback, the new law also requires this process to be administered annually, instead of every three years.  Likewise, Act 54 requires intensive support for teachers who are identified as struggling.  Although thousands of educators have participated in pilot programs utilizing each of the components of the new evaluation system, the full model will be officially implemented in the 2012-2013 school year.

Some of the teachers at the protest today are worried about the fast-track Jindal's legislation is on:

"Folks are not going to have a fair hearing or the bills are not going to have a fair hearing because of fast-tracking this opportunity for people to hear the bills all in one day," said state Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge. "We've never done this before on such a major issue and fast-tracking it through the whole process is really not going to vet the bills as much as they should be vetted."

In fact, 113 amendments to the bill were introduced on the floor of the Capitol Tuesday night. The proposed changes led to a late night of work for the state's lawmakers. 

NOLA has live coverage of the committee hearings here.

As this debate unfolds in the coming days it is sure to be contentious.  Governor Jindal is adamant about the need for reform and is dedicated to seeing it through with as much of his wish list in tact as possible.  Here is his opening statement today (more video on Jindal's Facebook page):

Check back for more as this debate unfolds.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Wings of Freedom Tour Stops in Shreveport

Back in November Steve and I had the opportunity to tour the EEA Aluminum Overcast B-17 which stopped over at the downtown Shreveport airport.  There are only about 10 to 12 of these mighty World War 2 era aircraft still flying and today we got to see another one.

Today we went back downtown to see the Collings Aircraft WW2 planes: the B-17 Nine-0-Nine, the B-24 "Witchcraft", and the P-17 Mustang "Betty Jane."

It's truly fascinating to see these planes and realize their role in history.

We started with the B-17:

This plane was commissioned in 1945 and didn't see combat but did serve as part of the Air/Sea 1st Rescue squadron.  In April 1952 the plane was instrumented and subjected to the effects of 3 nuclear explosions.  After a 13 year "cool down" period it was sold as scrap and the restoration began.  For many years the plane was in service fighting forest fires.

The cockpit:

From a window:

Machine gun:

Ball turret:

Then on over to the B-24.  The Collings Foundation says this is the only restored B-24J in the world.  They say it completed 130 combat missions.

It's a big old bird:

What's really cool about going to these tours is talking to the vets that come out to see them.  Steve and this guy started talking until he was interrupted by a phone call:

Steve got to play with a machine gun:

Boys will be boys.

Some guys were working on this one:

A prop:

Inside, it's a tight squeeze; no fat pilots allowed:

The ball turret:

The nose:

From there we went over to the P-17 Mustang, "Betty Jane":

We couldn't get into this one but it's a sweet little plane.

My dad flew P-47s (as a training instructor) in WW2 and I know he would have loved seeing these birds.

I forgot the memory card for my camera today so that's all the pictures I've got.

We bought a book and a couple of t-shirts before leaving and headed to Monjunis for an early dinner and a cold Abita.

We were about the only people in the place and the sound system was playing Frank Sinatra tunes.  Good times.

If you get the chance to see these planes, don't miss it.  The schedule is here.