Sunday, October 30, 2005

Children and our economy

From a New York Times article today, in Business:
But what if our educational shortcomings could be put in strictly economic terms, instead of being part of a humanitarian debate? What, in short, does it cost the nation when a child drops out of high school? That was the focus of a symposium at Teachers College at Columbia University last week called "The Social Costs of Inadequate Education," part of the college's Campaign for Educational Equity.

The answer is hundreds of billions of dollars. Looking at taxes alone, the researchers calculated that federal and state income tax receipts would be at least $50 billion higher each year if every high school dropout had graduated instead. And billions more are lost, the researchers figure, to added health costs and increased crime.

Hubert B. Herring

The rest of the brief article is here.

Just thought this would be of interest to supporters of public education. Now the challenge from that is to see if No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is pulling its weight in educating competent young people.
I find it especially challenging because NCLB is punitive rather than proactive--starving schools of funding if they fail to meet certain criteria. And those criteria are met with scores from standardized tests.

And guess what: special ed students have to be included in these standardized tests with no modifications. Or bare minimum modifications. My son, who barely knows how to add will have to take the standard 9th or 10th grade exam. His score could drag the whole school down.

Is that fair?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Not for Johnson County Only: True Blue Women

TrueBlue Women is where you'll find information about a relatively new grassroots organization in the Kansas City area.

From their website:

The Mission of True Blue Women

True Blue gathers progressive women to advocate social change,
provide education and promote camaraderie.

I also liked their reading list.

I don't know why it took me so long to look at the website. Anyway, if you're reading this, you might also be interested in The MAINstream Coalition, also a local KC group that works to counter the political aspirations of the fanatic fringe which seems to have a chokehold on the area and the nation.

In any event--and I know I'm not the most skilled blogger--I plan on adding more links to Kansas Democratic and/or liberal and/or thoughtful & open-minded websites and stories as I go along here.

My original purpose in starting a blog was to practice writing little essays. And dang it all, here I am getting political!

Well, why not indeed?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

More for Morrison

To find out more about Paul Morrison and his candidacy you might want to check out the following:
The website for the Kansas Democratic Party.

Of course you can contribute money there too :)

I'm planning on it!

Paul Morrison for Kansas Attorney General!

This just (well, yesterday) in from the Kansas City Star:

Johnson County district attorney Paul Morrison made it official this morning: He will challenge incumbent Phill Kline for Kansas attorney general next year.

And he’ll do it as a Democrat.

Morrison made the announcement on the steps of the Johnson County Courthouse in Olathe. Other press conferences were scheduled today in Wichita, Topeka and Pittsburg.

Although never mentioning Kline by name, Morrison said it was time to put the office of attorney general in the hands of a prosecutor and not a politician.

“As attorney general, I’ll insist we get that office back to the basics: safety, security, and the kind of independent approach Kansans ought to be able to expect from the state’s chief law enforcement officer,” said Morrison, who previously has been affiliated with the Republican Party.

After Morrison’s announcement, a Kline supporter handed out a statement from Kline suggesting Morrison was soft on crime.

Welcome news in Kansas, indeed. Just so you know what Mr. Morrison is up against, here's something from the Washington Post, back in March on Phill Kline:
A Kansan With Conviction
Attorney General Sees Abortion Records Fight as Matter of Principle

By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 20, 2005; Page A03

Phill Kline, Republican attorney general of Kansas, is determined not to be defensive. Making headlines with his subpoena of abortion records and his closed-door discussions of evolution with State Board of Education members, the former scholarship wrestler comes across as well satisfied with what he has wrought.

He has a job to do, Kline explained during a break at a meeting of attorneys general in Washington. Principles are at stake, he said, and liberals who dismiss the conservative values agenda as a political stratagem really do not know what they are talking about.

"Kansans know that freedom does not mean license and that values do matter," Kline, 45, wrote in an op-ed article in the Kansas City Star last week. His theme was "what's right with Kansas."

"For if we lose these common threads, common truths, then all liberty is truly in danger," Kline continued. "Kansans know that democracy without virtue is two wolves and a sheep deciding what is for dinner -- the sheep will always be eaten."

Kline, a fifth-generation Kansan, spent eight years in the Kansas House, adding an extra "l" to his first name to avoid mix-ups with a senior legislator with the same name. Becoming known as "Little Phill," he sponsored laws on crime victims' rights and was named legislator of the year by the state's developmentally disabled and mental health communities, according to his Web site.
Kline on Abortion Rights Issues (my headline here):
He ...helped write a state law restricting late-term abortions, the issue now winning so much national attention from friends and foes.

As attorney general, Kline sought to require Kansas health workers to report sexual activity of girls younger than 16, the age of consent. The workers filed suit, and a federal judge blocked the request. Kline then persuaded a state judge to back the subpoena for records of more than 80 women and girls who received abortions in 2003 at two clinics. He described it as a search for evidence of illegal late-term abortions and child rape.

Clinic lawyers made the investigation public last month when they termed Kline's quest a "fishing expedition" and asked the Kansas Supreme Court to intercede on grounds of privacy. Supporters of the clinics -- Women's Health Care Services in Wichita and a Planned Parenthood facility in Overland Park -- noted Kline's hope that Roe v. Wade (the case that resulted in a decision upholding the right to abortion) will be overturned, and said his true goal is to frighten women away from abortions.

Referring to the current battle with abortion clinics, skeptics said that if his ambition were to find criminal cases of underage sex, Kline would have targeted other categories of health workers and focused just as intently on girls who gave birth as on those who had abortions. They also noted that the Wichita clinic is operated by George R. Tiller, who channeled about $150,000 to Kline's opponent in 2002.
Kline insisted his goal is to uncover criminal activity, including at the clinics.

"They are a target of an investigation. It's like you show up at a bank robber's house and say, 'Hey, we think you robbed a bank. You have a ski mask inside, a gun and some money.' 'Well, let me go and check, and I'll get back to you,' " Kline said.

Kline on Evolution (
my headline here):
In February, Kline sparked complaints from six news organizations after he met behind closed doors with the six conservative members of the Kansas State Board of Education. He held back-to-back sessions, each attended by three members. Had he met with the six together, the media organizations wrote, the state Open Meetings Act would have required the session to be open.

Kline said he discussed education funding and the issue of evolution in both meetings. He said board members -- intent on changing how evolution is taught in public schools
(my bold) -- asked him if it would be constitutional to affix a sticker to textbooks saying evolution is a theory, not a fact. A federal judge in Cobb County, Ga., recently ordered such stickers removed.

"Yeah, it's constitutional. It is theory. I know the difference between scientific law, scientific theory, scientific hypothesis," Kline said in the interview.

Although evolution is commonly termed a theory, most scientists consider the evidence, accumulated over 150-plus years, to be overwhelming, and they say opponents misuse language to mislead the public.

It is a touchstone of Kline's political philosophy that Kansans -- especially conservative Kansans who gave the state to President Bush by nearly 2 to 1 in November -- do not always get the credit they deserve from outsiders, especially liberals.

"As our culture screams, eviscerating words through cheap use, Kansans assess," he wrote in the Kansas City Star. "As national pundits scurry, Kansans think. And as a national focus turns to the latest sexy voyeuristic tidbit, masquerading as news, Kansans decide. Then Kansans act with deep conviction."

In the interview, Kline decried "this almost silencing of dissent and debate . . . out of this false claim that we might be embarrassed by the discussion."

Kline's use of "dissent," Frank
(my note: Thomas Frank, author of "What's the Matter with Kansas?") wrote in an e-mail commenting for this report, "confirms my book's central thesis, that the conservative movement understands itself as a heroic uprising of the downtrodden against the powers that be.

"The day I take that narcissistic image seriously is the day that Mr. Kline goes to the masters of Kansas and tells them he is going to fight the agribusiness conglomerates, zealously defend the right of workers to organize in the state's meatpacking plants, and dedicate his career to ensuring proper education and health care even for the very poorest."

For the record, I am a registered Republican in this state, so I can vote in the primaries. Democrats just don't have the clout here in the primary elections. I vote for the moderate candidates, unless they're running against a Democrat in the general election and then I have to weigh in--do I vote in the primary at all.

I was a Democrat all my life until I moved to Kansas. In any event, I'm putting my political energy behind Paul Morrison. He's been a good and able district prosecutor and someone who seems even-handed. Not soft on crime. My guess is that Kline will cite something like the following (from the KC Star back in 2001):
Prosecutors urge appointment of more experienced lawyer to aid Robinson

By TONY RIZZO - The Kansas City Star
Date: 07/25/01 22:15

Does John E. Robinson Sr. have the absolute right to hire any lawyer he wants?

Johnson County prosecutors say not if that lawyer lacks the experience to handle a death-penalty case. On Wednesday they filed written arguments to back up their position that a more experienced lawyer should be appointed to assist Robinson's hand-picked defender.

District Attorney Paul Morrison and Sara Welch, an assistant district attorney, cited Kansas law as well as rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

They wrote that they knew "of no cases where a conviction has been reversed because of over-representation by counsel. We know of many convictions reversed because of under-representation by counsel, however."

According to the U.S. Supreme Court, they said, "the essential aim of the (Sixth) Amendment is to guarantee an effective advocate for each criminal defendant rather than to ensure the defendant will inexorably be represented by the lawyer whom he prefers."

Robinson has been represented by the Kansas Death Penalty Defense Unit since shortly after his arrest last summer. Those lawyers, paid by the state, were appointed after Robinson was found to be indigent.

But it seems to me, that's the law and Morrison knew the case against Robinson was airtight. It's a law that's supposed to help provide fair treatment.

That's what I'm thrilled about this morning. Wanting to see Kline & Morrison duke it out and eager to stand behind Morrison and help!!!

So now you know--the word is out! There's hope in this here red state!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Onion vs. the President of the United States!!!!

A quick and dirty post, reaction to something I just read, with a hovering migraine...

Oh no! The Onion, one of our favorite news sources, is facing a legal challenge.

Is nothing sacred? What is with these people? Karl Rove & Libby Scooter get in a heap of trouble and El Presidente loses his down-home sense of humor? Lighten up already. Especially if Rove, Scooter and Cheney go down...shoot, someone will come up smelling like roses...

Takes a heap o'manure to make purty roses, though.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Pencil Revolution and My Compulsive Nature

There’s The Pencil Revolution , a wonderful blog about…pencils and other somewhat anachronistic writing implements.

I have to admit, I love pencils. I have a thing about pens, too, but I rarely write by hand lately. One thing, I started doing these silly word puzzles in the newspaper and I’ll admit that I’m very compulsive about them.

I use a sharp pencil. I prefer a point that doesn’t blur. A #2 Dixon Ticonderoga would be perfect, for example but some of the cheaper pencils around today have lead that is too soft. After making sure my pencil is sharp, I get a piece of colored scrap paper, about the size of a 3” x 5” index card that I have for this purpose (and for grocery lists).

Whatever the word is, I write it in caps at the top of the scrap—which I hold horizontally, I write down the number of words (4 letters or more) I’m supposed to be able to get out of it. I draw a line underneath it. Then, in the space between the line and the top of the paper, I write, as small as I possibly can,the letters of the word in alphabetical order.

Then underneath the line, in columns for each letter in the word, I start my lists of words that I can make. My spouse and I used to do this together and compare our lists and fill in what each of us missed. Lately, it’s my thing alone.

See, compulsive—and I can’t do it in ink!!!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Migraine Remedy/Belchless in Kansas

I had a terrible migraine on Yom Kippur. Not as a result of, but starting the night before and laying me low for all the holy day.

I told my son's trumpet teacher about this and he told me his wife gets migraine with aura. As soon as she has the aura, she chugs a can of something carbonated (he said, "Sprite," but I don't know why it couldn't be a beer...) and then lets out a mighty belch, sleeps for half an hour and she's fine.

So, anyone reading this--is this a documented remedy for migraine? I don't get the aura, myself (I have common migraine (scroll down)).

I wish I could make myself belch. I can't I've never been able to do that. I tried chugging a can of fizzy water just to see what would happen--and it swelled my stomach and I flet uncomfortable for the rest of the morning.

Couldn't belch.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Thoughts on science

From Leonard Pitts, writing in the Miami Herald on Friday September 30th (no doubt already blogged and reblogged, but I'm kinda slow):
The Ku Klux Klan is a terrorist group. It was organized in 1865 for the purpose of controlling and oppressing newly freed slaves through intimidation, violence and murder.

Not many people will argue with that. Historians in particular will find the statement uncontroversial.

But 10 years ago in Vicksburg, Miss., I learned an alternate view. Vicksburg was an especially stubborn stronghold of Confederate sentiment during the Civil War -- refused to celebrate the Fourth of July again until 1944. Small wonder, then, that a museum there featured an exhibit claiming the Klan was actually formed to save the South from corrupt black governments and that, while ''many people suffered, some no doubt innocently,'' the night riders sought only to ``restore some semblance of decency.''

It's a lie, of course, but it's a lie some of us believe. So here's the question: When we teach schoolchildren about the Klan, must we give equal time to this view? Are we required to treat it as if it has the slightest credibility?

Or would that not be an affront to scholarship itself?

Read the rest here.

I'm thinking about this because of what's been going on in Kansas schools.

Pitts also says the following:I would argue that faith and science are in some ways more complementary than contradictory. But it's telling that where they do conflict, as in the question of human origin, it's always people of faith who beg for validation. I mean, when has any scientist ever sued for equal time in the pulpit? There is an unbecoming neediness about these constant schemes to dress religion up as science. Why are some people of faith so desperate for approval from a discipline they reject?

Pushy people who want to impose their view of the world on us...that's who those people of "faith" are.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Time to leave Kansas...

I know I'm not the only one, but here's the reason why: The Kansas Board of Ed just picked a lawyer--a lobbyist--who is for the most part, against public education to be the state education commissioner. Here's a link to the latest misstep on the part of the Kansas Board of Education.
As if denigrating evolution isn't enough--

A colleague and I discussed this and in the light of corporate policy it makes perfect sense. You know what I'm talking about--it's when a corporation--whether publicly or privately funded perhaps deliberately, mismanages its operations so it can shut down and file for bankruptcy or claim other tax relief. Because its operations are not profitable or don't meet the corporate standards...I could go on.

The Kansas Board of Ed has a conservative majority--although the word conservative does not do this board's actions justice.
They are radical in imposing their misinformed views on the public.

We discussed if they succeed in infusing religion (=Fundamental Christianity) into the public schools, we wondered how they would do it?
Assuming they'd be fair and include all religions, the school year would have to be a full year to accomodate all the holidays and observances. School lunches would have to have separate meat & dairy kitchens with kosher food for Jewish students and provide halal meat for Muslim students. Think how long the day would be with all those times for prayer. Jews pray 3 times a day and Muslims, 5.

And let's not forget the competing sects of Christianity...whose version of the liturgy would they include--or have to include all? Would Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc students be excused from various Saints days observances? Or would that be considered exclusion...

But you know--they don't want to be fair. They want their version of what they think a deity said. They think that deity's name is Jesus--who happened to be a nice Jewish boy. And they think you're going to hell if you don't believe the way they do.

Damn. You know, I'm Jewish, proud of it and even though I don't think this Jesus guy is god, my guess, since he was a co-religionist, he'd probably be as upset as I am that there are people trying to impose their idolatrous religion on the public.