Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Bride is Back!

I'm thrilled to death to see Bride of Rove back on the rails and blogging again.  This makes me very happy.  She's one of the sharpest tools in the shed, brightest colors in the box, the french fry that completes the Happy Meal - pick your cliche.

Like many of us in the conservative blogosphere, Bride took a little break to reassess and refresh. It's good to have her back online.  You can't say that about a lot of bloggers because

a) some are just echo chambers that copy/paste what others have written and link to it, adding no original thought of their own 
b) some are so motivated by blog hits that it clouds their judgment when it comes to posting items of interest and you might as well just stick to Memeorandum.  
c)  some don't contribute to the well-being of the conservative blogosphere and post in a vacuum, never linking to other bloggers and thereby supporting smaller blogs; similarly, there are some that link only to their clique bloggers - aka the Kool Kids Klub

That being said, the landscape of the conservative blogosphere looks a little different than it did a couple of years ago.  Bride of Rove asks:

What the hell has happened to the conservative blog-o-sphere? I took a few months off. I admit it. Sometimes a blogger needs to take a break, get some perspective, reassess the situation and come back refreshed. But what I see now are dead bogs littering the web, blogs like Pundit & Pundette gone completely off the rails and an air of fear, almost, hovering over them. Did people get audited by the IRS? Freaked out over the NSA big data machines? What other buzz-search word can I invoke to end up in hell? Did I get them all?

Many of the great conservative bloggers are still here:  Legal Insurrection has never missed a beat, for example.   And Professor Jacobson has even expanded his blog empire with College Insurrection.  Another conservative blog that is doing just fine and growing is Da Tech Guy.  With his radio show and his Magnificent Seven bloggers, Pete is doing pretty well.  The Other McCain is holding steady.  Doug Ross is as consistent as ever and his daily Larwyn Linx sends his readers to blogs of all sizes.

Some other reliable conservative bloggers include Political Clown Parade, American Power, The Pirate's Cove, Reaganite Republican, Sister Toldjah, and Wyblog.  They've all held steady even when I faltered and burned out.

The big conservative blogs are still doing fine, like Michelle Malkin (who has linked me a couple of times), and Ann Althouse (who has never linked me).  Instapundit is thriving (who has linked me), and Gateway Pundit (who hasn't linked me).  Of course as an aggregation site you can't beat Drudge.

As to the fallen, I miss Backyard Conservative, Little Miss Attila (who has really migrated over to Conservative Commune), and what has happened to Jimmie Bise at The Sundries Shack?  Political Junkie Mom has been silent since April, and Mind Numbed Robot last posted in July.  Bungalow Bill is now a private blog (I didn't get invited).

Some of us have had life changing events occur, such as Obi's Sister.  I'm not sure what Pundette is doing; I hope she's just resting and reassessing and will be back on the political front soon.  Hey, if Mark Steyn was giving me shout outs and linking to me, I'd definitely plan on bouncing back!

There are some new blogs that I need to explore and get to know (new to me, at least).  Dan From Squirrel Hill's Blog looks interesting.   Constant Conservative has been around since 2008 but has been under my radar.  I like Right Wing Granny.  I'm sure there are more, but I've been on a bit of a break myself so I'm rather out of the loop.

At any rate, I'm thrilled that my buddy Bride is back on "The Internets" and I hope that more of us come back online in the days ahead. I hope the big blogs will continue to link and support those of us that are small and struggling because in the end, we need all of the conservative voices we can get.  It's not a competition among blogs.  It's about taking back America, at least in my opinion.

And hey, if you are a conservative blogger and want to be added to my blogroll, let me know.  Leave a comment or send an email.  I'm basically coming off life support so I can't send you anything like an Instalanche, but I will link you.

Spread the love.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Plagiarist In Chief

There is much discussion today about the SOTU speech last night, naturally.

The top of Memeorandum links to a Politico story in which Marc Thiessen suggests that Obama plagiarized George W. Bush's 2007 SOTU speech.

I don't know if he did or not because I didn't watch it and don't plan on reading the transcript.  I can't tolerate the man's voice anymore and his words are lies so there's no sense reading them.  He means nothing to me; I just want him to go away, back to Chicago, retire to Hawaii, wherever it is that he wants to go.  Just go.

As to the charge of plagiarism, I think Bride of Rove is more on target than Thiessen.  Obama plagiarized Reagan.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

New Orleans Jazz Musician Brutally Beaten Needs Help

There is no other city in the world like New Orleans.

All too often these days when we hear "New Orleans" we think "Katrina."  The association is probably unavoidable for some years to come, but there is so much more to New Orleans, of course.

Part of what I love about New Orleans is the music.  The food is great, but the music is the heartbeat of the city.  New Orleans jazz has a special place in my heart.

If you want to know what New Orleans sounds like, check out this video of the Steamboat Willie Jazz band playing at Cafe Beignet:

You see that bass player in the back?  He needs a little help right now.

The bass player is Doug Potter and he was savagely beaten after leaving his regular Cafe Beignet gig last Monday night.  Now he is comatose in a New Orleans hospital with a feeding tube; they had to drill holes in his skull to relieve the pressure.   By all accounts Potter is a fine man and much beloved by everyone.  He was just walking to his car to meet his wife after work when he was attacked.  The New Orleans police have arrested one of the thugs who did this and are looking for another one.

Meanwhile, Potter's medical bills are mounting.  His friends are trying to help with fundraising benefits.  You can read more about that here.

If you have any spare change and are looking for a good deed to do, consider tossing a few bucks Potter's way.  An account has been set up at Capital One for Doug.  You can call the branch in the French Quarter at 504-533-3586.

It would be a nice thing to do.

(Photo credit:  Brenda Mannon via NOLA.)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Full Metal Jacket Reach Around: The Head Cold Edition

It's a beautiful and sunny outside but still a little cold for my tropical taste and I'm still fighting off a cold, so I'm sitting in the warmth of my big picture window watching the neighborhood and enjoying some homemade vegetable soup.

I spent some time this morning reading Asra Nomani's piece on Daniel Pearl, then ran a few errands, and am now settled in for the afternoon.  (I drove by the Centenary baseball field where it looked like they were practicing and longed to go in and watch, but I resisted the urge.  Two more weeks until the first home game.)

It sounds like a good time for a little linky-love.

Stacy McCain has a lengthy response to Paul Waldman's column in The American Prospect in which Waldman tries to make the case that the Republican party can't help themselves from alienating women.  Read Stacy's reaction.

On a related note, The Lonely Conservative was not offended by Mike Huckabee's comments.

The Reaganite Republican discusses the RINO amnesty plan.  And Michelle Malkin also examines the role of the Chamber of Commerce in this.

American Power takes a look at the new agenda for the Republican Presidential nominating process.

Pirate's Cove examines the latest Obamacare poll.

Da Tech Guy has a guest post by Gary Goldman about the postal workers union and their kerfluffle with Staples.  I don't know much about running a post office but it's easy to see why the post office is losing money.  My local post office building is in decrepit condition and the self-serve machines never, ever work.  I bought stamps at the grocery store today because sometimes you just need stamps; I pay most of my bills electronically.

The Foundry's look at "Obama's Foreign Policy to Nowhere" is blistering.
Since the start of his second term, Mr. Obama has exhibited a pretty clear idea of what he wants to do in the world—and that is to have as little as possible to do with it until he gets out of office. The President’s primary objective appears to be “no more Benghazis”—just ride out the second term, go build a library, and then mimic the line of his first former defense secretary: “Hey, everything was fine when I left!”
Sister Toldjah takes on those who would portray Wendy Davis as a "victim;" she's not.

Fausta has some interesting observations on the preservation of Cuba.

Professor Jacobson has a clever CI round-up and notes the loss of, well, The Professor.

Does Obama want to eradicate capitalism?  Check out Doug Ross

Marxism for Morons over at Wyblog..

My friend Mike was at Huntsville this week for the execution of cop killer Edgar Tamayo.  Be sure to read his post on the dramatic evening.

Adrienne noted the observance of National Handwriting Day this week; she has lovely handwriting!  I've taken to writing letters again to some folks.(That's why I needed stamps).  I have a relative in Mississippi who is actually from Argentina and she writes the most lovely letters ever; I treasure them.  It's a lost art.  Really.

Obi's Sister has a beautiful tribute to her father.

Political Clown Parade notes that our National Airhorn has more than a little hubris.

You know, it's the little things in life that make you happy, sometimes.  One of the (many) sucky things about 2013 was that my favorite local band, Soulfish, broke up.  All good things must end.  While composing this linkfest I got a message from my friend Julia that there will be a quasi-sort of semi-reunion at a local joint tonight with some of the members.  One of those spontaneous deals.  I'm so freakin' excited I can't focus.  I'm fighting off every cold germ in north Louisiana right now and eating ibuprofin at an alarming rate, but I'll be there tonight.

Ah, joy!

It's the little things!

Daniel Pearl's Friend Remembers

If you don't read much else this weekend be sure to read Asra Nomani's courageous and reflective story about her friend Daniel Pearl and her quest to find answers which led her to Guantanamo and back:
And so it became clear, at Guantánamo, that the only work left for me to do was to heal my wound. 
“What is grief?” I recently asked psychologist Steven Stosny, posing the obvious question I’d avoided for so long. 
“It’s an expression of love,” he told me. “When you grieve, you allow yourself to love again.” 
“How do you grieve?” I asked him. 
“You celebrate a person’s life by living your life fully.”

Read the whole thing.


Friday, January 24, 2014

I Think I Can Save the Government $2.7 Million...

It's really easy after you read this:
The Department of Health and Human Services is spending $2,797,979 on a study that brings television to more than a dozen remote villages in Vietnam to study its impact on their culture and reproductive behavior. 
“In cooperation with the Vietnam government, we have selected 14 villages in a remote, mountainous area of Vietnam that currently lacks electricity,” according to the grant description for ‘Television and International Family Change: A Randomized Experiment.' 
“Treatment villages will receive televisions and generators with gasoline to operate the televisions. Control villages will not receive generators or televisions.”   

I think the key word in that title is "Randomized."

Next thing you know these poor people in remote Vietnamese villages will be hooked on Downton Abbey and Honey Boo Boo and then who knows what will happen.

They're only getting four channels:
“One is really a news channel, one is a sports channel, one is a mix of entertainment and a little bit of education. For example, ‘if I was a farmer, what should I feed my pig to make my pig healthy?’ kind of things, and then the fourth channel is also a mix of entertainment and news,” Jayakody says.
If only I got channels about pigs on my DirectTV, but no, I get Wives With Knives and Rodeo Girls.  I try to ignore my television most of the time.

Apparently we have no other pressing needs here at home for $2.5 million bucks.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Two Movies in 24 Hours

I have seen two movies in 24 hours which is very unusual because I can't remember the last movie I actually went to see one in a theater.  Probably it was Runaway Slave.  Maybe True Grit before that.

Steve and I went to see Lone Survivor yesterday and today I went to see Wolf of Wall Street.

We wanted to see Lone Survivor because we'd both read the book when it came out and well, what a story it is!  I thought the movie was very good and it made me even more appreciative (if that's possible) of our military and what they are willing to sacrifice for this country.  Simply amazing.  I was sorry that the movie deviated from the book in the final scenes; wasn't the real story intense and dramatic enough without making up events?  That being said, it was well worth the time to see.  I highly recommend it if you get a chance.

I went to Wolf because my 22-year old son wanted to see it and asked me to go with him.  Yeah, it's not really a movie to see with your kids, no matter how old they are, but there we were.  I have mixed feelings about Wolf.  I thought that artistically the movie was well done, especially with regard to how it represented the eighties.  But there was an awful lot of gratuitous naked people and sex that could have been left out.  The three hour movie could easily have been done in 2 hours if some of that was trimmed.

My other problem with Wolf is that it seems the older I get the less tolerant I am about glorifying criminals.  The guy needed to be in jail (not a federal country club) and needs to be held to his restitution agreement.  I'm all for freedom of artistic expression and I know a lot of people enjoy movies like that.  I have certainly watched my share of Godfather movies and own a copy of Scarface.  I can't really put my finger on why this one bugs me; maybe it's because this real person defrauded other real people and so far doesn't seem to have paid much of a price.  Maybe it's just that I don't like Belfort.  There's nothing likable about him.

Leonardo DiCaprio probably did a fine job in his role of Jordan Belfort (although I think I would have preferred it if he and Matthew McConaughey had switched roles.  McConaughey would have been excellent in that role.)

I am content now to sit back on the couch and stick to reading books.  And considering the previews I've seen, that's probably going to be a very wise decision.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Please Watch This Viral Video

I'm working 16 hours today y'all so no time to post anything profound or any deep analysis on anything but - please, do me a favor and watch this video:

And then go here and watch Glenn Beck's interview with this woman.

I'm literally drowning in work, paperwork, absorbing new initiatives, making new manipulatives, writing lesson plans, monitoring senior projects, responding to parents, attending meetings, and trying not to get the flu.

Watch Karen Lamoreaux's video and interview and let me know what you think.  I really want to know.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Little Free Library

Three houses down from me! I love it! It's pretty active, too. I've visited it a couple of times and the books definitely change. So cool! I love the little community neighborhood aspect of it.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Thug Notes: To Kill a Mockingbird

Wrong on so many levels but I still love it.  Stay with it for the analysis which is actually very good!

There's a whole series of these things.  Check out the one for Hamlet.

Read more about Sparky Sweets, PhD here.
(H/T:  Colene)

Sunday, January 12, 2014


Middle school teachers in New Jersey may be soon designing units around the intricacies of social media.  If a proposed bill passes, social media instruction will become mandatory:
A new bill would make a social media class mandatory for all sixth-through-eighth grade students in New Jersey Public Schools. 
The purpose is to teach responsible use of social media. The class would teach students about the acceptable use of various social media, cyber safety, cyber security and cyber ethics. 
A big emphasis will be on the negative consequences of using social media irresponsibly, like cyberbullying.
The text of the bill, which is expected to pass, can be found here (PDF).

I honestly don't blame New Jersey too much for this one.  

Is it "nanny state"?  Sure it is.  Is it something teachers should have to teach?  Of course not.  Obviously this is something parents should cover with their own kids.  We had this same discussion over sex ed in schools back in the day.  Parental territory.

However, when you have parents suing school districts because allegedly bullying was not addressed in the schools, or when a child commits suicide over bullying and a lawsuit is filed, or when kids are disciplined for posting pictures or video of teachers in the classroom, well, this sort of proactive instruction is bound to arise.

It's a shame, really, that it has come to this.  With new accountability standards for teachers and school districts in place across the nation (thanks to Common Core which requires a rigid evaluation system as well), teachers don't need the added burden of teaching kids how to behave.  It's unclear whether New Jersey would treat this as a full term curriculum, a two-day unit, or just require teachers to work it into their regular classes, but no matter how you slice it, it's parental territory. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

It's Not Really Welfare, It's a "Transitional Living Fund"

The always entertaining Sheila Jackson Lee thinks we need to stop calling welfare what it is:  welfare, and call it something less demeaning, like "transitional living fund."

That's a great solution and probably why the people of the great state of Texas have kept her in office since 1995.  You don't like something, just change the name.  Problem solved!

So, for example, instead of saying she's a "brainless idiot" we could just say that hungry zombies won't bother with her.


Not to get into all my personal business here but I just want to take a moment to note the ignorance of the VA.

I'm doing a homeowners refinance to take advantage of lower interest rates; my interest rate will be about half of what I'm currently paying.  This part is good.

With this refi money I'm also going to replace some windows with energy efficient double-pane vinyl windows.  This part is good.

One of the reasons I'm replacing windows is that my current wooden windows have some rotting wood around them and rather than replace this wood, I'm just going to replace the windows.  This part is both bad and good.

To approve the loan, or refinance, the VA says I have to replace the wood.  Then if I want to rip it out and replace it, I guess that's my business.  Bad.

Just seems to me that it's dumb to replace and repaint wood that I'm fixing to rip out.  

Waste of money.  


Monday, January 6, 2014

Education Challenges in Louisiana for 2014

Michael Deshotels has a new post regarding education challenges (and progress) in Louisiana for 2014:

Unfortunately the new Common Core curriculum was adopted by Louisiana and many other states sight-unseen. None of it was tested before being mandated. As a result, we are finding many flaws in the program relating to early childhood education, English standards that seem to be too narrow, and math standards that require unorthodox and impractical methods. Now many parents are finally demanding accountability from the reformers!They are objecting to their kids being guinea pigs for untested math and ELA methods. They are siding with teachers against the abuse of standardized testing and the use of their childrens' private data to create profit opportunities for multinational corporations, and to prejudice future employers against their children.  

Teachers are finally talking to their elected legislators about the abuses of VAM and Compass and the lack of support from the state Department of Education as officials mandate untested curricula and expect the teachers to fend for themselves while remaining vulnerable to firing based on student test scores. One legislator commented at a recent hearing on the botched Common Core implementation in Louisiana, that he had visited all schools in his district and had found almost all teachers considering either leaving the state or taking early retirement.

Read the whole thing.

Downton: So What Did You Think?

Sans Matthew...

Sans O'Brien...

(No spoilers for the DVR folks).

Phil Needs Your Help

It takes a special sort of person to work in animal rescue.  

I couldn't do it because I'm too soft hearted in all the wrong ways; I'd cry every single day for all the starved, abused, and abandoned animals that you see.  I would want to take every single one of them home with me, and face it, you can't do that.

We are fortunate in our area to have several dedicated animal rescue organizations and the best most of us can do is to try to help them in whatever way we can.  Some of us can, and do, volunteer time and others of us can donate money.

The rescues need both.

Local animal lovers responded in a huge way when the story of Braveheart broke.  Braveheart today is a testament to the love and support of animal lovers.

Now there is another need.

Lumberjack Rescue in Springhill, Louisiana introduced Phil on their Facebook page this weekend. Phil was found starving and abandoned in Monroe, Louisiana.  Go here to see a video of Phil.  Justin Thomas, owner of Lumberjack, is having Phil vetted and evaluated; until he is able to get to a vet they are not sure of his age just yet or his medical issues, but clearly malnutrition is an issue.  Many dogs found in this condition are heart worm positive although we don't know about Phil yet.

I've made a donation to Phil and to Lumberjack Rescue. 

I know it's just after Christmas, everyone is clamoring for your money, and we're all broke or tightening down our finances, but please consider digging deep and donating to Lumberjack for Phil and for all the other dogs Thomas and his volunteers are working to save.  You may already have a favorite rescue organization for your donations, but consider this poor dog.  

Phil needs your help.

You can make a donation via Lumberjack's Facebook page:  there's a "Donate" button just under the cover photo, although use a browser other than Chrome to donate this way.  When I tried it with Chrome the PayPal window didn't open, but when I did it through Firefox it worked fine.  You can also donate straight to Lumberjack's veterinarian:  McMahon's Veterinary Hospital, 318-539-5114.  You can also donate through this blog via the Donate button on the sidebar; all donations received through January will go straight to Lumberjack for Phil's care.

Remember, no amount is too small.  

(I'll update this post once the vetting information comes in.  Check back.)

Our Ironic President

There's a certain kind of irony about a man who sits in Hawaii on a two-week taxpayer funded vacation and lambasts others for going "home for the holidays" and not taking care of their duties.

Added bonus:  he left Michelle there.


(via Memeorandum)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Note on Blogging

A note on blogging:

A Facebook friend noted today, "I can't keep up with your blog posts!"

Don't get used to it; I slacked off in 2013 because real life kept me busy.  I probably suffered from some blogger burnout, too.  Like a lot of conservative bloggers, I got real disheartened after the last presidential election.  Between the two, I didn't do a lot of relevant blogging last year.

I'm coming back off life support though, I think, and am feeling more motivated, as you may have noticed from the onslaught of posts over the past couple of weeks.  I'd like to thank Professor Jacobson for continuing to link and support me throughout my layoff.  I couldn't ask for a better blog-buddy.

As I get back to work next week posting will slow back down a little, but I intend to stay active here and make daily posts.  I'll continue to blog the political issues that pique my interest and there will likely be more local issues as well.

I'm not exactly a niche blog.  I write about whatever I want.  Difficult to pigeonhole.  Regular readers know on any given day I'm either a political blog or a travel blog, sometimes an antique blog, sometimes a local issues blog.

In other words, you never know what you're going to get.

I'm less motivated by site hits than I used to be, however it won't hurt my feelings if you share a post you like with your friends on Facebook or Twitter.  I like links, too, if you're a fellow blogger. Sharing is caring, as they say.  Sometimes hits equal cash via the Donate button or Amazon links, and I'm never averse to cash.  Most of my spare cash goes to animal rescue groups anyway, so it's a win-win for everyone.  Either that or beer.  Beer is good.

Anyway, glad you're still here, and hope you'll stick around.

(Oh, and a disclaimer:  I've blogged a few times recently about teacher issues such as low morale; that's just newsworthy stuff and in no way meant to reflect my own personal situation as a teacher.  I love my school, my kids, and my job.  I'm in a good place.  So don't take it personally if I write about teaching.)

Brace Yourself For Hillary

Via Drudge:

Sure.  Bring it on, Hillary.

Let's talk about Benghazi for starters. Then we can move on to Fast and Furious.

Drudge is, of course, stirring the pot a bit with his "She Makes it Official?" headline.  She has done no such thing although there is little doubt in anyone's mind that she will run.

The fundraising email to which Drudge refers is from Gen. Wesley Clark and directs recipients to a website where for just a simple trade of all your information (for future fundraising emails, of course) you too can have a free I'm Ready For Hillary bumper sticker.

If you want four years of Fast and Furious and Benghazi ineptitude, sign yourself right up.  If you think putting Hillary, a woman, in the White House (again) will be hip, cool, and progressive, sign yourself right up.  I think I'll pass, but "First Mate" Bill Clinton will be thrilled.

Added:  On a related note:  was it al Qaeda or wasn't it?

Frustrated Teacher in Maryland Resigns: "We have sacrificed wisdom and abandoned its fruits."

I posted last week on declining teacher morale across the country.  Here's another letter to add to the list; this is part of a resignation teacher from Maryland:
It is with a heavy, frustrated heart that I announce the end of my personal career in education, disappointed and resigned because I believe in learning. I was brought up to believe that education meant exploring new things, experimenting, and broadening horizons. This involved a great deal of messing up. As part of the experimentation that is growing up, I would try something, and I would either succeed or fail. I didn’t always get a chance to fix my mistakes, to go back in time and erase my failures, but instead I learned what not to do the next time. Failing grades stood, lumpy pieces of pottery graced the mantle, broken bones got casts. As a result of my education, I not only learned information, I learned to think through my ideas, to try my best every single time; I learned effort. I’d like to say that in some idealistic moment of nostalgia and pride, I decided to become a teacher, but the truth is that I never thought I would do anything else. I come from a long line of teachers and I loved school from day one. 
To pursue this calling, I worked hard to earn the title of “classroom teacher,” but I became quickly disillusioned when my title of teacher did not in any way reflect my actual job. I realized that I am not permitted to really teach students anything. When I was in middle school, I studied Shakespeare, Chaucer, Poe, Twain, O. Henry, the founding fathers, if you will, of modern literary culture. Now, I was called to drag them through shallow activities that measured meaningless but “measurable” objectives.
Read the whole thing.  Read the comments, too.

Frustrated and devalued, she decided to quit.  She was not allowed to fail students because that meant that she was a failure.  Besieged by administrators, parents, an ignorant general public who assumes teachers only work between vacations, and a system that treats kids like data points, she quit:
I am paid to give out gold stars to everyone so that no one feels left out, to give everyone an A because they feel sad if they don’t have one. I take the perpetual, insane harassment from parents who insist that their child’s failings are solely my fault because I do not coddle them to the point of being unable to accept any sort of critique; if each student is not perfect and prepared for college and life by age twelve, then I must be wrong about the quality of their work. I lower my own standards so much that I have been thinking my grades were generous. After years of being harangued, I gave Bs to D-quality work, but that is never good enough. All I can do is field the various phone calls, meetings, and e-mails, to let myself be abused, slandered, spit at because that is my career, taking the fall for our country’s mistakes and skewed priorities. So if you want your child to get an education, then I’m afraid that as a teacher, I can’t help you, but feel free to stop by if you want a sticker and a C.
I'm not sure if this is a new thing, or something that has been ongoing; you know how once you're made aware of something then all of a sudden there are stories popping up everywhere on the same subject.  There are probably just as many letters of glowing satisfaction from teachers out there as well.  We just aren't hearing about them.  If you find any, link them in the comments or send them to me.  Fair and balanced, you know.

At any rate, it does seem to be a growing national problem.

Stacy McCain linked to this same letter and comments:
More and more good, honest, decent, caring teachers are quitting the public school system. The deteriorating quality of faculty and administration is increasingly pervasive because no intelligent person would willingly submit themselves to such an oppressive bureaucratic yoke. The public education system is doomed beyond all hope of redemption, and the sooner Americans cease cooperating with the system — get your children out and support alternatives — the sooner its final collapse will arrive.
Charter schools, home schooling, private schools, school vouchers.  Whatever the answer, we need to figure it out and we need to quit blaming the teachers.

How Are You Staying Warm?

Via The Blaze:

At temperatures of 15 to 30 below, exposed skin can get frostbitten in minutes and hypothermia can quickly set in.“People need to protect themselves against the intense cold,” said Dr. Brian Mahoney, medical director of emergency services at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. “They have to wear a hat, they have to have face protection.”Mahoney said mittens are better than gloves, layers of dry clothing are best, and anyone who gets wet needs to get inside.“A person not properly dressed could die easily in those conditions.”

So what are you doing to stay warm? 

In Shreveport we aren't expecting the extreme frigid temperatures of the Midwest but 17 degrees is pretty cold to us!

Global warming?  Seriously?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Was Marie Laveau Pretty in Pink?

Somehow voodoo queen Marie Laveau doesn't strike me as a girly-girl, but apparently someone thought her tomb needed to be pink.

Via The Dead Pelican and KATC:
Dozens of tourists in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 gathered around the tomb of Marie Laveau as tour guide Renee Dodge explained the mysterious history of the famed Voodoo queen. But most had one question on their minds: Why was the tomb painted bright pink? In mid-December, in the middle of the night, someone sneaked into the cemetery and painted the tomb, Dodge said, but she didn't think the person had malicious intent. "The person really came in to paint over the thousands of thousands of "X'''s all over this tomb," she said. "And that's the real desecration." Decades ago, someone started a rumor that if people wanted the 19th century voodoo priestess to grant them a wish, they had to draw an "X'' on Laveau's tomb, turn around three times, knock on the tomb, yell out their wish, and if it was granted, come back, circle their "X," and leave Laveau an offering, 
It seems the vandal used latex paint which traps in moisture; the soft, porous marble tablet on the front of the tomb was also painted - white.
Whoever painted the tomb used latex paint, which does not breathe and traps in moisture which is "the single biggest threat to the survival of these brick-and-mortar tombs," Dodge said. The vandal also painted the marble tablet on the face of the tomb with white paint. That is damaging because marble is very soft, porous, and fragile, 
Somehow I think Laveau would have preferred black, or purple, but who knows.  Maybe she just wants to be left alone.

Restoration methods are being examined.

Read the whole thing.

Why is Ron Burgandy's Memoir in Non-Fiction?

I don't mean to be dense, but can someone explain to me why Let Me Off at the Top by "Ron Burgandy" is in non-fiction on the NYTimes best seller list?

If it's a "memoir" by a fictional person, shouldn't it be classified as fiction?

What am I missing?

This Obamacare Letter Should Go Viral

This woman's letter ought to go viral.  What's happening to her is happening all over the country as people struggle to make their way through the Obamacare landmine only to discover they are totally screwed:

My family’s journey with securing our new insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) started on October 1, 2013. I have decided to write this letter to let the American people know what it has been like for us. We are a family of four, with two little boys’ ages seven years old and three years old. My husband and I have had full time jobs for 6 years and 13 years respectively. We have been with the same two companies for those years. We are a middle class family; we own our three bedroom two bath house, we own two cars, and previously provided our own insurance for the four of us. We have coverage through Individual Blue from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama until 12/31/13. Our premiums have been $380.00 a month, which also included dental coverage for all four of us. 
On October, 1, 2013 we received our letters like other Alabamians about our new premiums and plans for 2014 from Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) of Alabama. When I opened our letter to say I had sticker shock was an understatement. Our premiums for the Blue Saver Silver would now be $753.26. This included the ACA tax but did not include the additional $75.00 we would need to pay in order to keep dental for me and my husband. So we would need to pay total $828.26 to keep health and dental insurance for the four of us. This payment is roughly $64.00 less than what we pay for our mortgage each month. I was outraged that anyone thought we could afford this. Sure we have some savings, but with that price tag we would whittle it down to almost nothing very quickly. I consider savings as a rainy day fund, a start to saving for the kid’s college, our retirement, etc. I never dreamed in a million years we would need to use it to pay our insurance premiums each month – how in the world could this help the economy too?

Read the whole thing.  It's a nightmare.

Graphic via R.J. Matson

Crunchy or Smooth?

This all depends on what kind of jelly it was and if it was crunchy or smooth peanut butter  Via The Des Moines Register:
A man was arrested Friday after an angry confrontation with his brother over his eating habits, according to a police report. 
The two brothers, in their 50s, live together on Des Moines’ East Side. 
The victim told police that his brother, Jerome Davis, “made three peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and ate them in the living room. Within the next hour, the suspect made another 3 of these peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bringing his total consumption of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to six. This angered the victim…”
The victim confronted Davis about over-eating, which quickly escalated. “Both victim and suspect began yelling about the other being lazy and ‘eating again,’” police reported. 
Davis then pulled out a folding knife and held it to the face of his brother, threatening to cut him, according to the report.
Best comment from the Des Moines Register site:  "Imagine if he had six Steakumm sandwiches."


Cabin fever or just hungry?

Going Off The Grid: Crazy or Clever?

Roscoe Bartlett might be my new idol.   He takes "going off the grid" to new levels.   Via Memeorandum, this profile in Politico:

Now he’s midway through putting up a sixth house, a log cabin that will have a spacious kitchen, bathrooms with composting toilets, Internet access via satellite and a root cellar to store cabbage and potatoes through the winter. (Besides being more comfortable than his existing cabin, he needs the space to house his 10 adult children and their families, should his doomsday scenario come true.) The property also has a sawmill, a one-acre manmade lake with two pet swans, a gatehouse that arches over the long driveway and several gardens. It’s surrounded by mountains and wild apple trees and bears and tiny plants called club moss that look like pine trees if you get close. He’s got a mill for grinding flour, and on the day I visit his wife has whipped up potato onion soup made from produce grown in the garden and apple turnovers with apples that grow nearby.

This idyllic spot is in the mountains of West Virginia, miles away from supermarkets and cell phone towers.

At age 87, the former Congressman from Maryland spends his days working on his property, building cabins, working in gardens, tinkering with solar panels and watching the swans.

So what if he sees doomsday on the horizon; Bartlett is totally prepared for solar storms and the loss of our vulnerable power grid.  If the rest of us lose access to Downton Abbey or Facebook, Bartlett will just shake his head at our refusal to listen to him.  During his time in Congress he railed for protection of the power grid to no avail.

But he sounds like my kind of guy:
It’s all part of practicing what you preach, he says. In Bartlett’s case, that’s a lifestyle that relies on the government and other people as little as possible. Certainly, that was always his political platform; as the congressman from Maryland’s 6th district, he advocated limited government, living within one’s means—and, more surprising perhaps for a conservative Republican, expanding green energy. In 2005, he founded the Peak Oil Caucus, a group concerned that the world will soon deplete its supply of oil. (“Roscoe was green before it was cool to be green,” Maryland Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer once said.) He’s staunchly anti-abortion but searched for middle ground on stem cell research, and he’s a Second Amendment proponent who has never owned a gun.
He does have internet access through satellite but other than that, he's on his own.

I can think of worse places to live than the mountains of West Virginia with no television or cell phones.

Photo credit:  Jason Koebler

A Hometown Thank You Concert From Cole Vosbury

Last night at Sam's Town Casino, Shreveport welcomed home favorite son Cole Vosbury.  Cole reached the Top 5 in Season 5 of The Voice.  To say "thank you" for their support, Cole performed last night for fans in what was billed as "A Hometown Thank You" concert.

Fans clamored for tickets as soon as the concert was announced; tickets were free but limited to 1,000 people.  They were available Christmas Eve at noon and by the end of the day the tickets were gone with people begging for them; some were even offering to pay up to $100 for a ticket.  It looked like they all showed up last night.

The line to get into the venue snaked down halls and around corners; fans could buy t-shirts and fill out "Questions for Cole" cards.

Cole opened the show by thanking the fans, who roared when he walked on stage.  He explained that the original concept for the evening was going to be a meet and greet session so he could meet his fans and say thank you, then play a couple of acoustic songs and that would be it.  It didn't work out that way!

Cole's band stepped up in the days before the event to help him out and in the end they played for an hour and a half last night.  Cole kept saying, "OK I'm going to play one more, well, two more...", and he was having so much fun I suspect they just had to pull him offstage.

Wearing his trademark fedora and equiped with at least three guitars, Cole opened the show to wild cheers.  Early in the set was Clapton's "Crossroads" which just goes to show what viewers of The Voice never got to really see about Cole Vosbury.  The young man is a guitarist.  Oh, he has a great voice, no doubt, but he can tear up a guitar.

Fans wanted to hear songs from The Voice as well and Vosbury did not disappoint as he picked up his acoustic guitar and played "Maggie May," "Better Man," "I Still Believe in You," "Let Her Go," and "Adorn."

Time for another guitar switch and this time the left-handed Vosbury borrowed a bass (which he had to play upside down) for "Pumped Up Kicks."  Excellent!

Cole's proud father, Robin Vosbury, came on stage with some "questions for Cole" cards which fans had filled out as they entered the venue.  We learned that Cole's favorite color is purple and that it's difficult for him to name a "favorite guitar" but he noted that he does have a Fender tattoo, so, "you can't go wrong with a Fender."  One of the people that influenced him to sing was his grandmother, Nita Lynn.  She was, of course, on the front row!

Back to the music with another guitar switch and his next song was Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," and then it was time for a jammin' arrangement of "Movin' On Up" which is the song that turned C-Lo Green around for Cole on The Voice to get the whole journey started.  Vosbury said, "You know, when I woke up one day with this arrangement of "Movin' On Up" in my head, I had no idea it would take me to where I am today."  The crowd roared!

By this time the fans are dancing in the aisles as Vosbury launches into "Rich Girl," which was clearly one everyone wanted to hear.

Vosbury never appeared nervous or uneasy on the stage; he was completely humbled and thankful and at this point he was having a wonderful time.  He asked the crowd, "Okay, well, what do you want to hear now?"    He complied with a request for "Sharp Dressed Man," and then with a request for "Purple Rain" which was amazing.

Time for another tune from The Voice as Vosbury played "To Be With You."

The crowd clamored for "Shameless" and Vosbury gave thought to playing it on his keyboard but decided he didn't have something he needed so he explained he would try it on the acoustic even though they had not practiced that one as a band.  "We'll find out together" how it works out, he said.  There was no way he wasn't going to give them what they wanted, and "Shameless" was wonderful.

His last song of the night was an awesome "Dirty Diana" by Michael Jackson.

All in all he played about 18 songs in an hour and 40 minutes.  Midway through the concert Shreveport mayor Cedric Glover presented Vosbury with a plaque and a proclamation declaring January 3, 2014 as Cole Vosbury Day in Shreveport.

As I said, I don't think Vosbury was ready to leave the stage: he was relaxed and having a wonderful time.  The fans were more than willing to stay as long as he wanted to play.

After the show Vosbury met with fans, signed autographs, posed for pictures, and thanked everyone for their support.

A very humble and talented young man, it is safe to say that Cole Vosbury has a bright future ahead of him.  It's always important that young stars surround themselves with the right people to guide their careers and with such a wonderful family behind him I think Cole Vosbury is on the right track.

(Photos via the author; more pictures can be found at The Shreveport Times.)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Cole Vosbury Hometown Concert

We've spent the evening at Cole Vosbury's free concert to thank his hometown supporters tonight; check back tomorrow for the write-up and pictures.  He played for an hour and a half and it was just wonderful.  Shreveport proud.

Nothing Says "I Love You" More Than A Shrub

It must be tons of fun being the significant other of Gina McCarthy or any of the other EPA regulatory wonks.  Nothing says "I love you" more on Valentine's Day than fake flowers and a card made from scrap paper:
On one of the busiest days of the year for florists, the EPA says Americans should consider buying long-lasting silk flowers, potted plants, or live bushes, shrubs, or trees that can be planted in the spring. 
And instead of visiting the card shop, consider sending electronic valentines -- or recycled cards, the EPA suggests. 
“This Valentine's Day, show your love for the earth by sending recycled-content greeting cards. Consider making new cards from scrap paper or by attaching new backs to the fronts of old cards -- this can be a craft project for family and friends that helps everyone reduce paper waste while saving money!"

I'm all for recycling, but seriously, do we need these endless nanny-state suggestions?

Other suggestions for "February fun" including buying clothes from recycled soda bottles on President's Day.
What's next?  Toilet tissue wedding dresses for spring brides?

(Photo credit: Wedding Resource Blog)

Lie of the Year

The new AFP ad against Landrieu:

(H/T:  The Hayride)

Teacher Morale Across the Country Plummets

Teachers in the state of North Carolina, and probably lots of other states if truth be known, are demoralized and depressed.

Via The Huffington Post:
After North Carolina recently passed legislation that eliminated teacher tenure, halted teacher pay raises and initiated a statewide school voucher program, a new survey reveals that the state's educators are extremely frustrated with the way they are being treated
The online survey, conducted by University of North Carolina Wilmington professors Dr. Scott Imig and Dr. Robert Smith, asked over 600 North Carolina educators about their feelings on topics like recent changes to state education policy and teacher morale. Overall, the results of the survey, which were not based on a scientific sampling, are less than encouraging. 
Of the teachers surveyed, 96 percent signaled that they “think public education in North Carolina is headed in the wrong direction,” while 97 percent of those surveyed said they thought recent “legislative changes have had a negative effect on teacher morale.” Even before recent legislative changes, North Carolina educators were some of the lowest paid in the country.
Teacher morale is the white elephant in the room when it comes to "education reform."  As the experts focus on how to improve test scores and school report card scores, too often the blame focuses on the teacher.  If a child isn't learning then the teacher must not be doing something right.  None of the magic bullet answers to solving today's educational woes focus on the teacher except in a punitive way.  All of the onus for improvement is on the school administrators, passed on to the classroom teacher, yet no new accountability is placed on the student or the parent.

Simple fact:  no amount of Kagan strategies or Harry Wong magic will improve test scores and performance when parents are not involved.

Nobody denies the benefit of parental involvement.  Study after study supports this.

Obviously parental involvement varies across socio-economic backgrounds; What of the parent who is working two jobs just to keep the electricity on?  How much time does that parent have to come volunteer for the PTA?  What about that child whose only parent is incarcerated and the child is living in a hotel with a relative?

There are so many variables to consider.

So too often it's just easier to blame the teacher.  Let's accelerate the professional development, they say, and put these teachers in meetings to learn how to better reach kids like this.  Let's assign readings for teachers to do in their down time.  Well, okay.  No teacher, no good teacher, wants to leave any child frustrated and without hope.  All good teachers are open to learning new ways to reach students and help them achieve.  Frustration leads to behavior problems; behavior problems contribute to low academic success - not just for that misbehaving child but for all the kids in that particular classroom.

Professional development is fine and welcome.

The point is, teachers are trying.  Teachers go into those classrooms every day with the single goal of reaching that one child who is struggling.  Teachers want every child to succeed.

Teachers teach because they love what they do.

Where the teachers in North Carolina, as well as other states, are frustrated is that they feel "devalued."  The punitive evaluation rubrics required with the adoption of the Common Core standards puts in place an evaluation system which is designed to keep the majority of teachers from attaining a perfect score.  In many states teacher pay is tied to these rubrics.  Again, it's not about the money; the demoralization comes from being devalued.

Consider this excerpt of a letter blogger Michael Deshotels posted on his Louisiana Educator blog last month:

 “Everything has been put into action to be accomplished by the teachers and the schools. The entire burden is on us.--- In all the newspapers and press releases and theories proposed, the idea touted is that if the teachers change, improve, comply, then students will progress better than ever before. First, this idea is insulting to all of us because it negates what we have accomplished in all the years we have taught. Second it is a faulty “if/then” because there is MUCH, MUCH more to the equation than just teachers teaching. The unspoken issues that no one wants to utter are these: 1. Despite our best efforts, in reality some students are simply more capable than others, as is true and has been true for time and eternity in every place on this earth. 2. Many, many students have unconcerned parents who have, by the very nature of their faulty parenting handicapped their children long before they enter school. If I remember my educational psychology, the first three years of a child's life are pivotal ----- Many children are not being spoken to, read to, introduced to concepts and ideas in those years. Their learning only begins when they enter school, and at that point, a large deficit already exists. Even than, many parents don't concern themselves about homework, tests, projects or valuing school. I am weary of hearing “Every child deserves a great teacher”. How about “Every child deserves a great parent?” 

Can you feel that teacher's frustration?

Diane Ravitch posted this letter from a frustrated teacher:

I am exhausted from trying to figure out what to teach for the next county test……then state test. 
I am tired of the CLAWS that come at you and the Ugly Faces of the Powers that be when your class of 33 can not make an A on one of those SO BAD BAD TESTS!!!. 
Those “Frowny Powers that Be” people may not know it but they will die early and have so many wrinkles form those Ugly Ugly Facial Gestures!!! 
I am so tired of the hiring of all of the coaches that nag and nag and nag the veteran teachers and pretend to know more…but they do not.. 
I am tired of the Professional Learning whatevers where teachers discuss TEST SCORES for a kid with a 58 I.Q….while an administrator that has never taught more than one year takes notes back to the Super Powers…or they have some person whose position has been created to sit there and take notes to take back to the Super Powers.

Another letter posted by Deshotels notes the Louisiana COMPASS evaluation rubric:

This plan pushed through against the good advice of many knowledgeable people is ludicrously full of erroneous assumptions and unattainable goals. There is no way that it is a just and fair practice to put in something that is still evolving into motion and expect immediate proficiency to the point of using it as a ranking and punitive measure.---- Additionally the rubric itself is worded so that it is near impossible to get a 4 rating, to get the huge “carrot on a stick stipend”. The very creator of the rubric has admitted that earning “highly effective” several times in a row is highly unlikely. To earn a 4, students basically have to be in charge of the classroom. 

Louisiana has delayed implementation of some of the Common Core and COMPASS elements in order to address some of these concerns:

For the next two years, schools will be graded on a curve, not by absolute test scores: The distribution of grades will stay the same as they are now. While the specific formula for the curve remains to be determined, the 2012-13 tests showed 43 percent of schools were graded A or B, and 8 percent were graded F. 
The Louisiana School Boards Association and Louisiana Association of School Superintendents had asked to suspend school grades altogether for two years. A BESE motion to do that failed, 2-9. Metairie member James Garvey said good schools deserved to keep their hard-won A and B grades, and Stephanie Desselle of the Council for a Better Louisiana said families needed to know how schools were performing. 
Under the Compass evaluation system that went into effect this past year, about one third of teachers are evaluated based on "value-added" statistics that measure actual student test scores against how the student, based on past scores, was expected to perform. It's been a major bone of contention between White and the teacher unions. 
But White is now taking the issue off the table, saying he agreed with educators that value-added scores were meaningless when the tests were changing. For two years, the state will not issue those calculations, and local school systems will measure student growth through other means.

But teachers are still being evaluated under those rubrics and so when a good teacher gets a lower-than-expected score, morale plummets.

How is it fair to a teacher in a low socio-economic school with almost no parental involvement and no PTA in place to be graded the same as a high achieving magnet school with an active PTA and high parental involvement?   Are the teachers in those high-achieving schools really all that better than the ones in low achieving schools?  Is the system designed to make teachers in low achieving schools bail out of those schools and go to schools where they can get higher scores, and therefore more pay?

How is it fair for teachers of core subjects to be graded on the VAM model and other teachers not?

Maybe those teachers in those low performing schools should be valued even more for their commitment to the low achieving and struggling student - that student who despite all the odds stacked against him continues to try to achieve something nobody in his family has done before:  graduate.  Maybe those teachers should be encouraged for their commitment and dedication.

But, no.  Instead, those teachers are told that they work in a "D" or an "F" school and it's their fault.  They're told it's better to teach in a low performing school because then the only place to go is up!  Rationalizations.

No wonder morale is low.

Are there bad teachers?  Of course there are.  And good administrators get rid of them; tenure or not, a bad teacher can be terminated.

Education reform is a topic that will continue to be debated and tested.  The simple fact is, there IS no magic bullet.  The bottom line is that the federal government needs to stay out of education, leave it to the states as intended, and let good teachers do their jobs.  Stop implementing fad curriculum and standards requirements that take all the creativity out of the classroom; stop making students have to perform like robots, stop making education all about accountability, and above all, stop killing the souls of your teachers by telling them what failures they are.