March 21, 2010

One More Blog

Call me a maniac, but I've just started yet another blog. My interests are just too diverse to keep in one place, I guess.  So, there's this blog, the theatre blog, the photo blog, the genealogy blog (which I can barely count, it's been so long since I updated).  What's one more?

The new blog is Gluten-Free South Florida, a guide for people following a gluten-free diet due to Celiac disease or other medical conditions.  It's still under development, but eventually I will have links to restaurants and stores that cater to those of us with special diets.  I already have links to online outlets such as Amazon and The Gluten Free Mall.

I've wanted to write more on the subject, but it just didn't fit well with within the framework of MoM.  And after learning of yet another friend who'd been diagnosed, I realized that it was time. In fact, it's probably a little past time.

But it's here now.

March 18, 2010

Rest in Peace, Fess

I loved this show when I was a kid.

Davey who?

Nah, Dan'l Boone was a man, and THAT was the Fess Parker I aspired to.

March 12, 2010

Broward School Board; We Need The Arts

Facing revenue shortfalls from the state, the Broward County School Board is considering cuts to what it considers "non-core" classes.
The choices: Four schools in the same zone would share a media specialist along with an art, music and physical education teacher; electives would be incorporated into classroom teachers' daily lessons; teachers of electives would be required to teach two classes at once, with the help of an aide; or specialty teachers would serve as consultants to their colleagues on how to incorporate electives into the curriculum.
-- the Sun-Sentinel
So let's take an already largely compromised system that is already failing to adequately educate our children, and cripple it. Interesting approach.

Art, music, phys-ed, and the library are mission-critical in educating our children. They aren't some whimsy thrown in for looks. At least, they shouldn't be.

In a nation where obesity is an increasing problem, staying fit is a necessity. The habits we pick up as children stay with us our entire lives. If exercise isn't incorporated into your day early on, there's a real probability that it never will be.

A lot of people misunderstand what art is. They think of it as decoration; pretty designs on clothes, or patterns on the wall. But that's not art, that's decoration. Art is about learning how to see the world, how to discover new perspectives on our lives. How is that not a core part of education?

Music is math. I'm not making that up; think about it. You play a major fifth, modulate to a minor's all numbers.

And libraries are on the cutting block? Does anyone really have a coherent argument that libraries are not a necessary part of learning? Didn't think so.

"Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmatic" are certainly the foundation of a good education, but just as auto parts are not a car, the "three R's" are not a complete education. They are the tools to assemble a framework, and if we deprive our children of the entire package, we fail them.

And I know that if you glance at the proposals, it looks like they are keeping the electives But they are not. For example "incorporating electives into a teacher's daily lessons" sounds great if you don't consider what the teacher may know about the electives. It seems to me that most teachers are at wit's end just trying to teach the existing curriculum, without four very specialized fields being dropped in their laps.

If your child is not taking PE every day, if they don't have the chance to stop by the library on their way in or out of school every day, they are not getting an adequate education. While we need to find out where the state legislature lost 60-80 million dollars, we also need to consider the hundreds of millions the Broward School Board wasted on building schools in the wrong places, building them poorly, and how many nearly empty schools we suddenly have. If they had been responsibly spending our money at the outset, we would not have anything like the crisis we now face.

At least Robin Bartlet seems to understand her responsibilities:
Board member Robin Bartleman suggested scaling back work calendars of new administrators, or looking at district contracts to see whether there are programs that aren't worth renewing.

"Those music classes, those art classes … you can't take that stuff away from kids," Bartleman said. "Sometimes that's the only thing that's sparking the interest of the kid."
-- the Sun-Sentinel
Of course, the first place cuts should always be outside the classrooms.

Of course, an easy way to drastically save on administration costs would be to eliminate the white elephant that's been crushing education; it's time to get rid of FCAT. It has hindered proper education since its inception. All it has done is drive schools to teach children how to pass the test. So now we've got students who can do well on FCAT, but they haven't learned how to learn, the most important lesson our schools should teach.

The bottom line is this: you can't do a better job of educating our children by educating them less. And that's what the Broward School Board is proposing to do.

Speak out - to the school board, to your state rep, and to your congressional reps. Remind them that they answer to us. And let them know how badly they are failing us.

Miami Commission Turns Its Back on Citizens

The Miami City Commission has lost sight of its responsibilities to its citizens - ALL of them.

Commissioner Marc Sarnoff's incredibly bad proposal is this; to combat the problem of feeding the homeless of Miami, make it illegal to feed them. Instead of helping voters and taxpayers help the less fortunate, he's chosen to punish them. And that is not the purpose of government.

The intent of the ordinance is to stop various independent charitable groups from picking random locations around the city to do what the city is failing to do itself; prevent homeless people from starving on our city streets.

From Miami Today News:
The proposed ordinance would require anyone who wants to feed the homeless to get a license, and would also mandate how the food is to be handled, that trash will be removed, and that portable bathrooms will be available.
Next month I expect the county commission to take on those frickin' Boy Scouts who help old ladies cross the street. How dare anyone try to help others! There are paramedics relying on scraping grandma off the street to earn a paycheck.

That's not to say that there isn't a problem being created by the way groups feed the homeless at random spots around the city; there is. But criminalizing good deeds is not a reasonable approach to the problem. As the New Times points out, the commission's actions reduces the status of homeless people to that of pigeons.
Who cares about human decency and hunger if it gets in the way of pretty sidewalks, right?
-- Miami New Times/ Riptide
To be fair, the city has setup some shelters; there are just not enough of them. And with a flagging economy and slashed budgets, that's not going to change anytime soon. The commission should be praising these groups for stepping up to take up the slack, not turning them into criminals.

So instead of trying to arrest people who are doing the right thing the wrong way, the city should build help them partnerships to solve the actual problems.

Obviously, there are groups willing to FEED the homeless, but this is resulting in trash, and according to Marc Sarnoff, public defecation. Let's create sites near where these activities are taking place, and put in the necessary support systems. Get someone to underwrite the costs of port-a-johns, and someone else to underwrite the costs of garbage collections. The commission needs to be PRO-active, not RE-active.

The Miami Commission, and Marc Sarnoff, appears to have forgotten that they are elected to serve the public, not to hinder them.

The sad part is that these kinds of ordinances are overturned with some regularity; the city could choose to provide a small amount of funding instead of spending millions defending against a civil rights suit. But I guess it's not their money, why should they be expected to spend it responsibly just because we elected them to do just that?

March 5, 2010

Fitzroy Plays the Race Card

It's bad enough that former Miramar commissioner Fitzroy Salesman is trying to argue that he's honest while having a name like Salesman, but it turns out his real problem isn't that he got caught accepting bribes to convince the City of Miramar to award bids to someone other than the lowest bidder.

It's that he's black.

The Sun-Sentinel reports that his defense, rather than argue that he didn't take the money, has chosen to accuse the Federal Bureau of Investigation of racial profiling.
"The government sought out to blemish the record of several of the most prestigious African-American elected officials in Broward County," Salesman's attorney Jamie Benjamin wrote in court documents filed Friday
"It might be coincidental that this approximately four-year investigation involved mostly African-American elected officials but given the small number of African-American elected officials in Broward County and the methods used by the United States government to try and bring the honest elected officials … into corruption, one must wonder and give this Court concern,"
That's a pretty serious accusation. They gloss over the bigger coincidence that they found an actual criminal while committing this alleged racial profiling.

They offer evidence to back up their case: when Salesman offered to introduce the undercover agents to other politicians in a position to help them win a contract, they were interested.

But aren't they supposed to be? If an undercover agent discovers one criminal, and that criminal says "hey, you like that crime? I know another guy who does that crime. Wanna meet him," and offers to hook you up, aren't you supposed to go for it? Two birds, one stone, and all that?

One of them, Lauderdhill City Commissioner Dale Holness, turned down them down flat:
"They tested me but that's not the kind of person I am," Holness said. "I really distanced myself from Salesman after that and I think I talked to him maybe one time since that. I found the approach very distasteful."
Holness wasn't arrested or accused of breaking the law. Offered a chance to take a bribe, he turned it down. If this were the racist witch hunt that Salesman's defense team claims it to be, wouldn't they have simply kept after Holness until they managed to implicate him?

Are we supposed to be offended that a black politician is connected to other black politicians within the same county?

Another black politician who was approached at Salesman's suggestion was State Rep Hazel Rogers.
Rogers was approached in a similar way, and the "government reached out to try to put money in her pocket so that she would be guilty of a crime," Benjamin wrote. He did not respond to a request for further details. Rogers told the Sun Sentinel that she was not aware of any improper approach that was made to her. "Thank God, I do things the way they should be done," Rogers said.
So we're supposed to believe that these two black politicians, whom Salesman led the undercover agents to in the first place, who both turned down bribes and have not been implicated in any crime, are victims of the federal government because Salesman approached them?

Let's face it, if Salesman had the moral high ground, he'd have turned down the bribe in the first place. And if he had just a scrap of moral fiber, when the feds asked if he knew other politicians who would cooperate for a price, he'd have told them to screw off.

Instead, he asked for a cut, and went knocking on doors.

In an earlier move by his defense team to have the charges dismissed because the laws under which he was charged were, in the words of his defense team, "so vague as to be unconstitutional."

U.S. District Judge James I. Cohn dismissed this argument rather succinctly:
"Certainly, accepting a bribe cannot, under any circumstance, be considered an honest service on the part of the elected official,'' Cohn wrote.
Notice that Salesman's defense isn't arguing that he didn't accept a bribe and deliver the goods: he can't deny he didn't do it because he was caught doing it red-handed when he accepted the bribe from the agents, and then went on to arrange the deal for them. That leaves only two approaches; 'fess up and do the time, or squirm and find some way to make accepting a bribe to usurp the rule of law legal.

No, Salesman wasn't investigated and charged because he was black: he was investigated and charged because he's a criminal.

March 2, 2010

Well, it certainly disincentives your re-election.

This is the Quote of the Day over at Deus Ex Malcontent:
"(Extending unemployment benefits) doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work. I'm sure most of them would like work and probably have tried to seek it, but you can't argue that it's a job enhancer. If anything, as I said, it's a disincentive. And the same thing with the COBRA extension and the other extensions here."

-- Republican Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona

To which I am compelled to reply:

Mr. Kyl, NOT extending unemployment compensation ALSO does NOT create jobs.

If you've ever actually collected unemployment - which I did 14 years ago when my employer ran out of money and shut down - you'd know that it's absolutely no disincentive to seeking out work. Unemployment compensation is nowhere near what you make working - by design. In fact, you blow through savings and credit very quickly when you are collecting only a portion of what had been a salary just above the federal poverty level.

The reality is that when you don't have unemployment compensation, you blow through your savings and credit even faster, which means, in this economy, that you lose your home and your insurance and mount up insurmountable debt long before you find another job. With nearly half of all homeowners underwater in my region, that hurts mortgage companies and banks, which hurts businesses, which hurts those who still are fortunate to have jobs.

Failure to extend unemployment compensation does not benefit a single American taxpayer; it does not create a single job, it does not enhance a single business, it does not prevent a single American from losing their homes, and it does not stop a single business from folding.

Extending them helps fourteen million American workers. It helps ten million families keep their homes. It prevents millions of bankruptcies, saving hundreds of thousands of small businesses.

So please don't tell us that not doing it is somehow better than doing it. It's just not.