Monday, February 28, 2011

Even the Republicans are starting to worry

The Center for Public Policy Priorities released some rather startling, and depressing, research today. They focus on economic and social policies to help low and moderate income Texans. Their release today focuses on a county-by-county look into 4 areas that are getting hit hard by the budget shortfall:
Public Education, Higher Education, Health and Human Services and Medicaid.

I took I look at the Public Education numbers. They're damn depressing. Even Republican Senate Finance Chair Steve Ogden admits the budget proposal will "decimate public education".

The top 20 school districts by jobs lost are:

Houston ISD, Dallas ISD, Austin ISD, Frisco ISD, Plano ISD, North East ISD, Round Rock ISD, Lewisville ISD, Northside ISD, Leander ISD, Spring Branch ISD, Northwest ISD, Clear Creek ISD, Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD, Denton ISD, Richardson ISD, United ISD, Comal ISD, Katy ISD.

Those 20 districts reside in 10 counties. Even that doesn't really tell the entire picture. Three of those schools are the only schools in their county in the top 20 - United, Comal and Clear Creek. The other 13 districts are in Harris, Dallas, Collin, Travis, Denton, Bexar, Travis and Williamson counties. For those of you not from Texas (and I had to look up Collin county myself) the metro areas that you're probably familiar with in those counties are Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio. In fact, with the exception of United ISD which is in Laredo, the other two districts qualify as part of those listed metro areas (San Antonio and Houston, respectively).

The total estimated job loss for those 20 districts - 32,725. The total for the state - 79,161.

When you dig a little deeper and look at district enrollments, the numbers look even worse. The top 5 districts in that list have a combined enrollment of almost 600,000. Nine of them have over 50,000 students. Two of them have over 100,000. Houston alone has 202,773. For comparison, that means Houston ISD serves more children than live DesMoines, Iowa.

Yet HISD is loosing 6,890 jobs. Now, some of those may not be teaching positions, granted. No, they'll lay off librarians and custodians and aides. But they will lay off teachers as well. Ask the ones who remain to teach more classes, with more students, with less support and all for the same salary.

It's not enough that the State Board of Education seems hell bent on ignoring science and history and rewriting curriculums to proselytize to children. Now the state would rather gut our education system from the ground up rather than raise taxes. Texas does not have a state income tax. Since starting one would take an amendment to the state constitution, there's virtually no chance of one. We could raise other taxes though. 

But no. That can't be done. We must balance the budget without bringing in any more income. There's only one way to do that.

The cost will be borne on the backs of our children.

H/T to The Burnt Orange Report

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Good News, Bad News and WTF News

So, Good news first. Obama has decided to stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act, claiming that the Act is unconstitutional.. It's about damn time. Some are speculating that the Administration is setting up the Republicans by reminding them that Congress can chose to defend the law. Meanwhile, RWNJ heads are exploding

It's kinda of glorious all around.

Also in the Good News arena would be the dismissal of the Indiana Deputy AG for suggesting,  and then defending that suggestion, that live ammunition be used on Wisconsin protestors. Stupid move, dude. And I hope the door didn't hit you in the ass on the way out.

Bad news would be the ongoing crisis in Libya. (Though after 40 some odd years in office, you'd think the media could decide on how to spell the man's name.) It sounds more and more like open rebellion and bloodshed over there. How it will end is still unknown.

More Bad News: Montana passed legislation to ban all local LGBT rights ordinances. So the more progressive communities in Montana have seen the state legislature wipe out their local laws to prevent discrimination. Way to go Montana.

In the WTF News department, we have two contenders for craziest news item of the day.

One would be Glenn Beck comparing Reform Judaism to Radical Islam, claiming both put politics ahead of religion. He has since apologized (which is WTF News in and of itself.).

Second would be a lovely piece of legislation introduced by Iowa Republicans that would grant criminal and civil immunity to any person who uses deadly force to prevent an abortion. Again with the idea to decriminalize murder when the victim is an abortion provider. Do they really want to move us back into the Dark Ages?

I think the Iowa legislation wins for WTF News item of the day. Of course, the day is still young.

Dude, you're barking up the wrong tree

Here's a "comment" I got on my last post. Clearly, he doesn't realize I be of the female persuasion.
BOYCOTT AMERICAN WOMEN Why American men should boycott American women I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women? American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least. This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women. BOYCOTT AMERICAN WOMEN!
I took a gander at the "site". It has one misogynist rant after another all written by different men.  I have to wonder what he was thinking when he posted that comment. Was he just doing the Blogger two-step? You know, the next blog link at the top right of a Blogger blog. (I think you can only see it if you're logged in as a Blogger member) Click the link and leave the same comment on every blog he encountered. That's the only explanation I can find. Especially when you consider the topic of that post.

Men. Sometimes, you just want to punch them in the face.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Revolution and Theocracy Watch

As I've watched events unfold in the Middle East over the last month, I've been reminded of a great TED lecture by Clay Shirky:

While his discussion is a bit dated - the November 2008 elections, China, etc - his points are fascinating, timely and prescient. As we saw in Iran last year and as we've just seen in Egypt and Tunisia, and now in Bahrain and Libya, social media has been integral to these revolutions.

More importantly, they have not just changed how we communicate, but they've empowered a generation. A generation less likely to be extremist. These revolutions have not been about extremist religious groups taking over, as in Iran in 1979, but the people challenging their governments to be more democratic, as in Poland and Eastern Europe in 1989.

And so, on the heels of Egypt, we have Wisconsin.

With a manufactured budgetary crisis, the Wisconsin governor has decided this is the time to break the unions. The Democrats in the state legislature have left the state rather than allow this legislation to pass. And the people have taken to the streets in Madison. Not a scheduled demonstration with a beginning time and an end time and designated location with designated clean-up. No. Just mass gatherings of people. Demanding that their government stop the madness.

This needs to happen more in the US.

In South Dakota, the country learned about an insane piece of legislation to redefine justifiable homicide to include homicide in the protection of the unborn. We learned about it through blogs, twitter and the new media. It became a national issue, not just a state issue. And the state has backed down.

In Congress, H.R. 539, "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act", added the language "forcible rape" in  an attempt to limit abortion coverage. Through the new media, the country learned of this outrage and the language was removed. But that is not the end. No, the GOP taketh and the GOP giveth. They've now added language to the bill that allows hospitals to refuse to perform an abortion on a woman, even if that refusal threatens her life.

Now, the House has voted to suspend funding for Planned Parenthood. In part because of a poorly executed video "sting" operation a la James O'Keefe that has been shown to blatantly false. Still, truth matters less than the culture wars to the GOPers and their Tea Party brethren.

But there's more:

In Montana, a state representative has introduced legislation to overturn all local LGBT rights laws in the state and allow for discrimination on religious grounds.

In Wyoming, the state House passed a bill banning the recognition of out-of-state same-sex marriages.

In Georgia, state Representative Bobby Franklin has initiated a bill that would define abortion as murder and require the investigation of all spontaneous abortions to determine if there was an human interference. Now someone, usually Franklin, introduces a bill annually that would define abortion as murder in Georgia, but this year he's added the "Uterus Police", as the Daily Kos calls it.

The list goes on.

It's no coincidence that all of this legislation, whether federal or state, has been introduced and passed, in some cases, by Republicans. The GOP was elected on the platform of jobs. Since they can't affect the job situation, they've turned to the culture wars. In reality, it's clear to me that they told people what they wanted to hear and then proceeded to do as they really wanted - which is turn back the tide on women's rights and dismantle any progress made on LGBT rights.

There is a unifying theme in all of this legislation. If they could some how get it all passed, we'd be one step closer to a theocracy, which, I believe, is the ultimate goal.

It's past time that those of us in this country who have no desire to see this come to pass, step up. We need to blog, we need to tweet, we need to go to the streets and protest the insanity.

Otherwise, when the revolution comes, we will be silenced.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Memory Lane

Maybe it's the tequila talking, but today seems to have been a major trip down memory lane.

First, I was googling for something completely different,micro SD cards I think, and found this:
I completely geeked out in the optometrist's office. You see, way back when I was an actual photojournalism major I used a Minox B camera. A real life spy camera. There was one photography shop in Houston that sold and processed the tiny ass film canisters it took. They weren't the greatest of quality but it was a real spy camera. Imagine my surprise when googling something else that I found a digital version of my old camera (see above). And at only $148 at Amazon, quite a steal, I think. At least that's what I tried to convince my husband. 

This is my Minox B. I have the original box, manual and registration card. It included a flash attachment that used the old square instamatic flash cubes. Remember those?

Ahh, memories. The modern version is all digital, has a built-in flash and is altogether AWESOME. Wow.

After that bit of nostalgia, I should not have been surprised by the trip down memory lane I took at dinner. With the help of my half of a pitcher of margaritas, I somehow or another remembered a moment from my childhood that, with the help of modern technology, was both amusing and sad. 

Once upon a time there was this restrauteur in Houston named Sonny Look. He owned a few restaurant's in Houston including one Sonny Look's Sir Loin Inn.  It was at this fine eating establishment that my 6-year-old (or thereabouts) self was taken along with the family. The Sir Loin Inn was one of those restaurants people went to for special occasions. No idea what ours might have been or exactly how old I was. Old enough to be a snot nosed kid and not old enough to know better, most likely. At any rate, I ordered/had ordered for me a petite filet mignon.  Being the good Texan that I am and no doubt was, I had encountered this particular cut of cow before. When it arrived at our table, I was dismayed and disappointed at it's minuscule size. Therefore, I forked it up, held it up to the world and announced, "What is this?". 

While I shared this particular childhood moment of tact with Hubs, I got to wondering...does the Sonny Look's still operate? A quick google search via my phone later, I discovered that, alas, it closed in 1991. But I found a website filled with Houstonians reminiscing about Sonny Look and his restaurants, among others.

Such is life in the connected age. It reminds us of where we've been and where we may yet venture. Use the power wisely, my young padawan. I'm off to prepare for tomorrow's class on "To Kill a Mockingbird"  someone (who must be wiser than me) talked me into to teaching at church.

And to sleep off the tequila. Which order these two things occur in is yet to be decided. 

Fox Nation Screws Up

It's a shocker, I know. But with all the meaty news that's been going on around the world the past few weeks, and let's not forget Saint Ronnie's centennial, Fox Nation has the lovely story on their homepage:

Obama Botches Bible Verse at Prayer Breakfast

It's not enough that only 34% of Americans believe Obama is a Christian, Fox Nation decides to harp on the "fact", and I use the term loosely, that Obama misquoted the bible.

In actuality, Obama quoted Isaiah from the New International Version. Fox Nation quotes from the King James version. So, shocker, Fox was wrong. Despite this error being pointed out all over the internet and on their own comment section, the article is still on the home page. Truth matters? Eh, not so much.

I love the quote from Media Matters:
Somewhat ironically, while Fox Nation appears to be positioning themselves as the arbiters of authentic Christianity, they seem unfamiliar with the fact that there is more than one version of the Bible
Yes, there is more than one version of the Bible. Personally, I prefer the NRSV, but the King James version is often touted as the only "authentic" version. This tidbit always reminds me of those who believe the Bible is somehow meant to be taken literally. Despite the fact the it contradicts itself on several occasions and was written by men, inspired or not, the biggest thing to remember is that it was mostly written in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.

Let me show you a little experiment via Google Translate about the difficulties of translation.  Let's take the phrase in question, King James version:
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.
I'll run it through Google Translate, first into Greek, then into Hebrew and back to English. We come up with this:
But waiting for the Lord will renew their strength; are aggregated with wings as eagles; starts running, and she's not tired; and are not faint

Clearly, Google Translate is not an expert translator. But when you are attempting to translate from a language like Greek, which has four distinct words for love: agápe, éros, philía, and storgē, whose meanings are complex but for which English often translates as a single word, you begin to see the difficulties.  Not to mention differences in sentence structure and more. 

Even when I just run it through from English to Greek to English, it comes out different:
But waiting for the Lord will renew their strength; These accumulate with wings as eagles; starting to run, and is not tired; and they shall walk and not faint.
The point here is that no single translation gets it right. Debating the merits of one over the other is something best left to scholars, of which Fox Nation apparently has none.  What those of us who are non-biblical scholars are left with is a matter of preference. Which use of language do we like better. The King James has some mighty flowery language. Sometimes, that's wholly appropriate. Others, it just gets in the way.

One last little tidbit that made me giggle last night. The New International Version of the Bible is published by Zondravan. From their website
As the world's leading Bible publisher, Zondervan holds exclusive North American publishing rights to the New International Version (NIV), which has sold more than 300 million copies worldwide and is the bestselling modern English translation. 
Their website also mentions the fact that they were bought by HarperRowCollins Publishing in 1988. Guess who owns Harper Collins?

News Corp.