Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sarah Palin is not a scientist. Not even close.

I don't want Sarah Palin making policy on scientific research. Or casting the tie-breaking Senate vote on environmental issues.

Heck, I wouldn't even want her teaching my kids first-grade science class.

Reason #1 (via Newsmax)
Newsmax: What is your take on global warming and how is it affecting our country?

Palin: A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made.
Palin thinks global warming is not man-made. WTF?! That is simply ignorant.

No scientist will debate that humans have caused rising carbon-dioxide levels and therefore increased mean annual temperatures worldwide. It is simply a fact.

I can only assume that she is clinging to the Bush doctrine (More Oil = Good Policy) because it is politically expedient in Alaska.

Or else she needs to have serious environmental conversation with someone - anyone - at the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute.

Governor, if you are reading this, go ahead and email any professor at your state university. I guarantee it will be illuminating.

Reason #2 (via
Republican Sarah Palin said she thinks creationism should be taught alongside evolution in the state's public classrooms.

Palin was answering a question from the moderator near the conclusion of Wednesday night's televised debate on KAKM Channel 7 when she said, "Teach both. You know, don't be afraid of information. Healthy debate is so important, and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both."

So my Governor and Republican VP candidate thinks creationism deserves a place in my classroom. Umm, well... got an ethical problem here, boss. I would never present any mythological version of creation as a scientific fact.

To be fair, Palin does not advocate creationism as a mandated part of our state science curriculum. She "only" wants to allow the debate in the classroom.

So we can fairly say that she is not an off-the-wall-lunatic. She is "only" a scientifically-misinformed individual who is capable of pandering to religious voters.

Somehow, that doesn't make me feel much better.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

When cheerleading is not okay at school.

Some schools are banning cartwheels and others take issue with the short skirts.

I can only imagine what my daughter would say...

I can do a running round-off back-handspring with my eyes closed and, like, now you say cartwheels are too dangerous?!

All I can say is, like, whatever!

And how can do a Hurdler, Herky or Double Hook jump with a long skirt?! And I'm wearing spanks - so there!

Ruth Rosen on Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin and Feminists for Life | Reproductive Justice and Gender | AlterNet
Sarah Palin is the inexperienced woman Sen. John McCain has chosen as his running mate, hoping that she will attract the vital female vote.. It's the worst kind of affirmative action, choosing a person he barely knows, who is completely unprepared to assume any national office. It's like nominating Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court. It's all about ideology and not about competence.

To put it bluntly, Sarah Palin is no Hillary Clinton. Nor does she have the vision and brilliance of Barack Obama. This is an incredible insult to most American women. Just how stupid does he think we are?

Friday, August 29, 2008

Most Insightful Palin-as-VP Analysis I've Seen Today

Nicklas Johnson · - Palin?!
This pick completely mystifies me. Not only does she make McCain look even older by virtue of him looking old enough to be her father, but she undercuts the core message of McCain's candidacy, that Obama is not experienced enough to be President. If McCain thinks experience is so important, why would he choose for Vice President -- a job just one heartbeat away from the Presidency -- someone who has only been Governor of a small state for less than two years? In addition, the person Palin will have to compete with on the campaign trail in the next few months is Joe Biden. Joe Biden will shred her in the VP debate, and after watching her acceptance speech, I'm confident there is no way she could match Biden, let alone Obama, rhetorically on the stump.

Tracking bracelets for truant youth

School skippers forced to wear tracking bracelets - ParentDish
A new program designed to crack down on truancy will allow the Bexar County courts to fit habitual school-skippers with ankle bracelets outfitted with Global Positioning Systems. The bracelets will be worn at all times and will allow authorities to track the student's whereabouts twenty-four hours a day.

Wow. I've heard about RFID chips in student ID badges, but this takes it to a whole new level. I'm guessing that this will be reserved for habitual truants. And the court system will be making some tough decisions when it comes time to draw the line on which students get the tracking bracelets. What exactly is a "habitual school-skipper"?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Rhee: I'll pay students up to $100 per month

D.C. Tries Cash as a Motivator In School -
Beginning in October, 3,000 students at 14 middle schools will be eligible to earn up to 50 points per month and be paid $2 per point for attending class regularly and on time, turning in homework, displaying manners and earning high marks.

This is definitely an out-of-the-box idea. I'll be interested to see what happens.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Inspiration: good deeds

Homeless families have a street-wise 'Mom': Alaska News |
A street-wise advocate for children living with their parents in cars and motels and campgrounds, Neeson's a renaissance caseworker, a professional puller of strings, a one-woman social program called Beyond Shelters.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Can't find any scientists to challenge

Scientists dig into tundra's effect on warming: Alaska News |
"But the rate of change is alarming," he said. "Species can't adapt or keep up in an evolutionary sense because everything is happening so fast."

It's futile to engage polar researchers like him on whether the planet is warming naturally or if mankind is to blame. You might as well challenge these biologists on evolution.

This quote is interesting to me because it illustrates an important fact. There is no scientific controversy on global warming. (Or evolution.)

Why? Because all scientists agree... the facts support global warming. (And evolution.)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Multi-ethnic checkboxes needed here

I make it a point to introduce my family as mixed-race. I have always been Irish AND Italian. My wife has always been Inupiaq. So my children are Irish AND Italian AND Inupiaq.

Families are strange things. We identify ourselves by culture and race. But culture is very different from ethnicity/race.

I think of my family as genetic and cultural vegetable soup. Take some carrots, onion, garlic, and potatoes. Next you throw in celery, corn, green beans and tomatoes. Spice it with lemon-pepper, salt and chicken broth.

What do you get? It is a mixture that tastes different than any of the individual ingredients.

But strangers who meet my kids generally approach them as "native" or "half-native". (It can be a point of interest or pity on their part.)

On the surface, my kids are identifiable as multi-ethnic. Especially when they get dark brown in the summer. They look like gingerbread with a ginger father. And so they "see themselves in others' eyes" as multi-ethnic.

Very-very-rarely someone will treat my kids as "white". That usually happens to my daughter when she starts using 50-cent words like exhilaration and vigorous to describe why she likes cheerleading.

The perception of adults is reflected back from adult to child. I can see the influence on my kids expectation of themselves.

What am I'm trying to say? Just that other peoples' perception does make a difference to the way that children view themselves.

Therefore, schools (and parents) must be very careful to acknowledge and value every child - regardless of race. Take this case in point:

Child's school enrollment isn't black or white - ParentDish
In the section where it asked what race/ethnic group the child belonged to, none of the available options fit 10-year-old Kenny. Lovelace was asked to choose from Asian/Pacific Islander, Black not Hispanic, Hispanic, American Indian/Alaska native, or White not Hispanic. Since Kenny is biracial with one white parent and one black, Lovelace checked both Black and White boxes.

That didn't go over well with the secretary at the Kenosha Unified School District's Educational Support Center. "She handed the form back to me and said I had to pick one, otherwise, someone would pick his race for me," Lovelace said. District policy dictates that if the race of the child is not indicated by the person filling out the form, an "observer identification" must be made. By that logic, Kenny Lovelace looks white, so he is white.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mother on Fire

Interview with Sandra Tsing Loh, "Mother on Fire" | Salon Life
For any parent who has ever worried that her children will end up uneducated and deprived of art and music because she has chosen a career in the creative fields rather than, say, podiatric surgery, for any parent who has ever dissolved in tears after being ignored by the self-important secretary behind the desk at her corner public school, for any parent who has ever felt the searing pain of unrequited love after touring a fancy private school or suffered an existential crisis while considering a move to the suburbs, "Mother on Fire" will function as much-needed salve -- and inspiration. Because if public school is the urban middle class's tragic fate, it is also one that can end in a catharsis. And after we follow Loh on her journey -- through fluorescent-lit schools, complicated female friendships, the elaborate dances of decades-old marriages -- we emerge euphoric, flush with community spirit and able to laugh at our own insanity.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Children caught in the housing foreclosure crunch

Foreclosures and the schools via creative loafing:
You can add another casualty to the mess created by subprime mortgage lending. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools are projecting the system could see more than 3,000 homeless children when schools open this month -- a 17 percent increase since June.

Laurie Schwartz, development director with A Child's Place, a nonprofit that works closely with CMS, said officials counted 2,493 homeless children enrolled in the school system two months ago. That's a 13 percent increase from June 2007, and a 35 percent increase from the June prior.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Dyslexia prevention

Pre-school Age Exercises Can Prevent Dyslexia, New Research Shows
According to Lyytinen, the predictors of reading and writing difficulties are evident primarily in two contexts: on the one hand as a delayed ability to perceive and mentally process the subtleties of a person’s voice, on the other hand as a sluggishness in naming familiar, visually presented objects.

This is good news and underscores the importance of learning games and activities for pre-school kids. At least until gene therapy produces a cure for dyslexia.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

McCain on Russia-Georgia

Found this story on The Huffington Post.

To sum up, McCain held a press conference on the Russia-Georgia conflict and repeated the Bush-Cheney doctrine of condemning the Russians.

Forget for a minute that McCain is the one stuck in 20th century, cold-war-mentality, empire-of-democracy politics. He actually said, "In the 21st century, nations don't invade other nations."


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

War on Drugs

Should Barack Obama and Cindy McCain be in Jail? | Rights and Liberties | AlterNet
On January 20th 2009, either the president of the United States will be a man who used to snort coke to ease his blues, or the First Lady will be a former drug addict who stole from charity to get her next fix.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

DNA, dopamine, addiction, and learning

What Your Child's DNA Can Tell You About Parenting | Newsweek Culture |
In about 30 percent, the coils of their DNA carry a glitch, one that leaves their brains with few dopamine receptors, molecules that act as docking ports for one of the neurochemicals that carry our thoughts and emotions. A paucity of dopamine receptors is linked to an inability to avoid self-destructive behavior such as illicit drug use. But the effects spill beyond such extremes. Children with the genetic variant are unable to learn from mistakes. No matter how many tests they blow by partying the night before, the lesson just doesn't sink in.

Monday, August 11, 2008

NYC gets an education in no-bid contracts

ED. DEPT. 'NO BID' MESS - New York Post
The city Department of Education paid nearly $10 million to a nonprofit group to train Big Apple teachers to "demystify" their students - but the group trained less than one-fifth of the teachers planned

That's a big oops. But wait 'til you find out who is in charge of the nonprofit group.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pipeline bomber sentenced

Alfred Reumayr plotted a pipeline blast (ADN):
A Canadian man was sentenced Thursday to 13 years in prison for plotting to blow up the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and get rich off the resulting disruptions to the oil supply.

In other news... Bush & Cheney plot to kill Saddam Hussein and get rich off the resulting disruptions to the oil supply... 100,000 dead so far (conservative estimate) and no trial.

Guess we have to wait until Bush & Cheney are out of office so they can't issue pardons to each other. But don't hold your breath.

Habbush letter - more evidence for Dick Cheney's trial

The Habbush letter is in the news again, thanks to Ron Suskind's new book The Way of the World.

Simply put, the Habbush letter was a forgery designed to connect Saddam Hussein with al-Qaeda and 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta. William Saffire in The New York Times and The Telegraph in the UK were completely deceived and reported the letter as authentic back in 2003. The contents of the letter were used by Dick Cheney and others to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Juan Cole speculates that the letter was designed to cast doubt on Ambassador Joe Wilson's revelation that Saddam did not buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. (And we all remember what else the White House did to discredit Wilson, don't we ?)

Ron Suskind alleges in his book that the Habbush forgery was directly ordered by the White House and carried out by CIA officials. Furthermore, Suskind wrote that Tahir Jalil Habbush al-Tikriti (Habbush) was secretly resettled in Jordan by the CIA.

Former CIA officer Phillip Giraldi reported an "extremely reliable and well placed source in the intelligence community" confirmed much of Suskind's allegations. Giraldi's source confirmed that Dick Cheney was behind the forgery but used the Office of Special Plans, not the CIA, to do the job.

I'll leave you with some relevant bits of Ron Suskind's interview with the CIA's Rob Richer as they discussed the Habbush letter. My only conclusion is that Cheney somehow directed the forgery with Scooter Libby's help.

Since Cheney and Libby got away with discrediting our own Ambassador and illegally revealing the name of a covert CIA operative, I'll assume they did the same with the Habbush letter...

Ron Suskind: The Way of the World Transcripts
Rob: No, no, no. What I remember is George saying, 'we got this from'--basically, from what George said was 'downtown.'

Ron: Which is the White House?

Rob: Yes. But he did not--in my memory--never said president, vice president, or NSC. Okay? But now--he may have hinted--just by the way he said it, it would have--cause almost all that stuff came from one place only: Scooter Libby and the shop around the vice president.

Ron: Yeah, right.

Rob: But he didn't say that specifically. I would naturally--I would probably stand on my, basically, my reputation and say it came from the vice president.

Ron: Right, I'm with you, I'm with you. But there wasn't anything in the writing that you remember saying the vice president.

Rob: Nope.

Ron: It just had the White House stationery.

Rob: Exactly right.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Tasers in school

Would tasers for school security be a good idea in your neighborhood?
The Uniontown Area School Board, as well as concerned citizens and parents, had an opportunity Wednesday to learn about Tasers that will be proposed in the school district and share their opinions on the subject.

FYI: Bush Alaska Fuel Prices

From ADN: Villagers shudder at fuel price increases
A gallon of unleaded gasoline: $10. Heating fuel: $9.10 a gallon. Electricity: $1.17 per kilowatt hour - 11 times the national average.

Some heavily taxed European nation or a time in the future when global fossil fuels have grown dangerously sparse?

Try right now in the most remote villages of America's 49th state.


Alaskans in rural areas will spend 40 percent of their annual income on energy this winter compared with 4 percent for the average Alaska household, according to a University of Alaska Anchorage study published in May.

Pot asks kettle to stop boiling - or something like that

Via Reuters U.S. urges Russia to pull forces out of Georgia:
The United States told Russia on Friday to withdraw its forces from U.S. ally Georgia, stop its air attacks and respect Georgia's territorial integrity, following fighting in the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Now the USA thinks it is a bad idea to foment insurrection and ultimately invade an oil-rich country for no reason?

I'm just sayin'...

Friday, August 8, 2008

Arctic Map Plots New Gold Rush

On Science Daily:
Researchers at Durham University have drawn up the first ever 'Arctic Map' to show the disputed territories that states might lay claim to in the future.

Getting robbed by the people we hired

From Thomas Frank on AlterNet:
Mass firing of federal prosecutors; bribing of newspaper columnists; pallets of shrink-wrapped cash "misplaced" in Iraq; inexperienced kids running the Baghdad stock exchange; the discovery that many of Alaska's leading politicians are apparently on the take -- our heads swim. We climb to the rooftop, but we cannot find the heights of irony from which we might laugh off the blend of thug and Pharisee that was Tom DeLay -- or dispel the nauseating suspicion, quickly becoming a certainty, that the government of our nation deliberately fibbed us into a pointless, catastrophic war.

Sidney Blumenthal thinks that Republicans have seen enough:
Without the crackup of the conservative movement and the fragmentation of the Republican primary field, McCain would not have had his opening. His candidacy is as much a manifestation of the shattering of the Republican phalanx as Obama's. Whatever the outcome of their contest, the party as it was is over.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fiscal Policy

Via Digg. Any questions?

IHS loses $6 mill worth of equipment in Alaska

A recent report declares:
From 1999 through 2005, IHS did not follow required procedures to document the transfer of property from IHS to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, resulting in an unsuccessful 5-year attempt by IHS to reconcile the inventory

ANTHC says that they can account for $7 million in property. It is not accused of mismanagement.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Core Commitments

Change *We* Can Believe In
Add your name to this Open Letter calling on Barack Obama to stand firm on the principles he so compellingly articulated in the primary campaign.

Congressional subpoena doesn't mean what you think it means, either.

Last month, I wrote about how Karl Rove was issued a congressional subpoena but failed to appear. This month Dr. Kaye Whitley, Director of Sexual Assault and Prevention and Response Office (SAPRO) failed to show at a Congressional hearing despite being subpoenaed. Two examples of the Executive Branch refusing to play by the checks and balances rule.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

I don't think it means what you think it means.


As linuxwrangler explained on Slashdot:
Preparing for English-speaking visitors, a restaurant in China recently ran its name through an online translator, took the result, then purchased and mounted a large sign displaying the English version of their name: Translate Server Error.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Tobacco-free college campuses

MC-Rockville now has a strict no tobacco policy.
"Almost certainly within five years, virtually all college campuses will be smoke-free," said John Banzhaf, a professor of public interest law at George Washington University

I attended Montgomery College for two years and completed almost 60 core-class credits. I transferred them all to UM College Park, which still allows students to light up. Has your alma mater gone smoke-free or tobacco-free?

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Police and Third Grade Reading Scores

"You can predict the number of prison inmates based on third grade reading scores." I've heard that statement from educators and reading specialists. It has been been published in The New York Times.

Police in the UK are even funding anger management lessons for children as young as 8. But surely states don't build prisons based on third grade reading scores alone.

I began to wonder what factors accurately reflect current prison populations. I wanted some actual data on prisons and school success. Is there really an historical precedent for low-performing students ending up in jail?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, and...

Why Are So Many Americans in Prison?
by Glenn C. Loury opened my eyes to a wider problem. It goes something like this: socially disadvantaged -> poor school grades -> jail. This correlation goes way beyond a statistical anomaly.
Crime rates peaked in 1992 and have dropped sharply since. Even as crime rates fell, however, imprisonment rates remained high and continued their upward march.

The decreased crime rates are great news. But it represents a fundamental shift in the nature of our justice system towards more incarceration and longer jail time (i.e., punitive measures). The increased 'punitiveness' has come with some terrible, long-term consequences for society.

Take a look at some quotes:
• On average, state inmates have fewer than 11 years of schooling. They are also vastly disproportionately black and brown.

• Between 1980 and 2001, there was no real change in the chances of being arrested in response to a complaint: the rate was just under 50 percent. But the likelihood that an arrest would result in imprisonment more than doubled, from 13 to 28 percent.

• While three out of 200 young whites were incarcerated in 2000, the rate for young blacks was one in nine. A black male resident of the state of California is more likely to go to a state prison than a state college.

• Among black male high-school dropouts aged 20 to 40, a third were locked up on any given day in 2000

• nearly 60 percent of black male dropouts born between 1965 and 1969 were sent to prison on a felony conviction at least once before they reached the age of 35.

Glenn Loury makes an analytical argument that the white majority middle-class decided to create
a system of suffering, rooted in state violence, meted out at our request. We had choices and we decided to be more punitive. Our society—the society we have made—creates criminogenic conditions in our sprawling urban ghettos, and then acts out rituals of punishment against them as some awful form of human sacrifice.

And again,
a central reality of our time is the fact that there has opened a wide racial gap in the acquisition of cognitive skills, the extent of law-abidingness, the stability of family relations, the attachment to the work force, and the like. This disparity in human development is, as a historical matter, rooted in political, economic, social, and cultural factors peculiar to this society and reflective of its unlovely racial history: it is a societal, not communal or personal, achievement.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Young and Homeless

Kids age out of foster care to the streets: Life |
Nearly 38 percent of foster care alumni in Alaska said they were homeless at some point after leaving their foster homes, according to a 2005 study from the UAA School of Social Work -- much higher than the 12 to 25 percent for foster care alumni in other states.
Leaving foster care is an uncertain time for youth who are struggling through their coming-of-age years without a stable family. Add the pressure of graduating from high school and the need for employment... this can be the perfect storm.

Moving is an acute life stress for even the best-prepared and well-adjusted teens. (For the record, I was well-prepared by a loving family. No foster care.)

I left home at age 18, lived in at least 4 different apartments by age 20, moved back in with mom for a few months, and shared a house with friends for about a year. All the while, I worked full-time and paid my own college tuition.

With a B.S. and $7,000 saved up, I drove to Alaska. Enrolling in grad school cost $5K but I could get a job, right?

Wrong! Unable to find work in Fairbanks, I slept in a tent (or the UAF library) from June until late October. Yeah, the ground froze, snow fell, and I got rousted by police more than once for sleeping in my '69 Beetle. You gotta wear every stitch of clothing and slide into a sleeping bag to make it through an October night in Fairbanks.

This is the part in the story where I say thanks Paul. That little house out on mile 14 Chena Hot Springs Road saved me from a frozen a**. I lost touch after Teller but if you read this, please email. Cold fizzy drinks are on me.

Well, I lost 15 pounds in a couple months but was able to make it. January rolled around and I was still out of a job. Eating was a luxury that dwindled my bank account to just a few hundred bucks.

Fortunately my student teaching assignment came with free housing and the lunch ladies were very nice to me. What luck.

I skipped over most of the really good parts of this story but you get the idea. Bouncing around for the better part of 6 years and sometimes homeless.

But never desperate. Never hopeless. I always had the goal of a college degree and the confidence that I would survive and prosper.

The college goal, the self-confidence, the ability to learn, and the adaptability came from a loving family. If foster care kids get that much, then they will be okay.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Coming Soon: Volcano Energy For Sale

Alaska Opts for Underground Energy - TFOT
Officials are already set to begin auctioning off exploration rights - the first volcano to be tapped for geothermal power is Mount Spurr, a 3.4-km tall snowcapped stratovolcano in the Aleutian Volcanic Arc of Alaska.