Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tags: New Orleans Schools, the Pharmaceutical-Industrial Complex, and My Head

Though this entry was inspired by Slag's recent brilliant piece "FISA: The Mullet of Compromises," this really did happen today.

I had an appointment with the only person that I have trusted for years to cut my hair. For some reason, almost every other person who has ever taken a sharp instrument to my head has had a compulsion to cut layers, even though I have insisted otherwise. So many times have I ended up looking like a Dr. Seuss character on this account, I tend to forgo haircuts altogether if I cannot get them from her. Because I trust her instincts so much, I'll often just ask her do whatever she thinks will look nice because I have little sense of style and trust her judgment. No worries, ever.

Today I wanted this haircut exactly:

And I almost had it.

Except...just as I saw that she, the stylist, had, as usual, perfectly emulated the cut, and all that was left was some loose snippets and the blow drying, I realized that she had been unusually quiet and seemed stressed.

Here is the conversation that followed:
AF: How's your son?

HS: (Deep sigh.) Well, did I tell you we were paying over $6000/year to send him to ___ [private school]?

AF: Yeah, how's that going?

HS: Well they say they want him on medication because he has behavior problems and that if he's not on medication then he'll be on "behavioral probation," and so I want to take him out, but I already paid next year's tuition, and they say it's nonrefundable. And I would take him out anyway, but there is only one public school in our area, and it's a charter school, and I can't get him in.

AF: (Struggling to choose only one of these outrages to focus on)--Medication for behavioral problems? But he's four, right?

HS: He's four, going on five.

AF: Does he have behavioral problems??

HS: I don't think so, and nobody else does, either, but they say at the school he's probably ADHD. Well, his last teacher says that, and so they're acting on what she says. His teacher from the first of the year told me not to listen to them, that he was fine in her class. He has a lot of energy.

AF: Aren't four-year-olds supposed to have a lot of energy?

HS: See, that's what I think, too. I took him to the pediatrician the other day, and she said that she couldn't tell and that he's too young to be accurately tested for anything like that. So she said she could just prescribe the medication anyway.

AF: (Restraining myself)--What do you think?

HS: I don't see why the doctor would prescribe medicine for something that he can't even be tested for to begin with. I think the problem is with the school so I want to take him out, but I've already given them $5000 and we couldn't even afford that, and they just won't give it back. And if he goes back on "probation" and they expel him, then the tuition is still not refundable. We can't afford to send him somewhere else, I'd have to pay some other school more money, so I don't know what to do right now.

AF: (Tirade, support of her conclusions, sympathy.)
It was at this point that I realized the razor had continued to fly rapidly through my hair throughout this conversation, and for that reason I no longer have the haircut above but rather very, very little hair. Very little.

I really don't care about the haircut. That's not the point. I do care about about this young woman, whom I've known for a decade, and her son, and the vicious, blind, profit-driven systems that nobody, anywhere, should be subjected to, ever.

If any of you know what she might tell the school to get her money back or have any other related advice, please tell me, and I will pass it on.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Memo from the President of a Tennessee Chapter of Builders and Contractors Associated:

From: Robin Collier []
Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 10:42 AM
To: ABC Members
Subject: ABC Mid-TN - President's Message

By Pete Dickson, President

Last week, ABC National held their annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. ABC members from across the country, including Mid-TN Chapter members, came together for one purpose - lobbying Congress.

There has never been a time in our industry when the slogan, "Get into Politics or Get Out of Business", applied more. During our visit with members of the TN Congressional delegation, it became very clear that the Democrats are increasing their efforts to oppose most every bill that would benefit or protect our industry and seek passage of legislation which would harm our industry. The greatest example is organized labor, with the help of the Democrats, is attaching amendments to most any bill to expand the use of Davis-Bacon wages.

The main topics of discussion with members of Congress, including Davis-Bacon expansion, Immigration, Union Only Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), Protect the Rights to a Secret Ballot, Salting Abuse, and removing the 3% withholding tax on business. Last but not least, the fuel crisis. When communicating with Congress, ask them to support a House Resolution to "Expand American Refining Capacity on Closed Military Installations". This should assist in reducing the price of gasoline and diesel by streamlining the refinery application process and by requiring the President to open at least three military instillations for the purpose of housing new American refineries.

In the past, you may have felt your voice wouldn't be heard in regard to political issues and elections. It's a new day and you must take the time to join with other ABC members to let your Representatives and Senators in Congress know your position on these issues.

You also must talk to your employees about the Presidential election. You are not allowed to tell your employees who to vote for but you can express your thoughts on the best candidate for our industry and the protection of their jobs. ABC has resources to assist you in communicating with your employees regarding politics.

The Democratic candidate has indicated he will work closely with organized labor if elected. There is "A Clear Choice" for our industry in regard to the Presidential election.

We must elect John McCain! Get involved! Don't wait!


Please contact ABC @ 615-399-8323 if you need additional information or materials for your employees.
ABC Mid-Tennessee Chapter
1604 Elm Hill Pike, Nashville, TN 37210
Phone 615-399-8323 * Fax 615-399-7528
h/t Kos

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rant that You've Heard Before

Photo: twas_brillig
What bothers me a lot: Hearing that Bush's presidency has been unsuccessful. That he has been the worst president in American history is evident from any humanitarian point of view, but his presidency looks unsuccessful only if one imagines that the aim of his administration was ever to place human welfare above that of multinational corporate interests. He was the perfect figurehead for the neo-conservative movement: marginally intelligent, easily manipulated, unable to think critically, shockingly unempathetic, and preoccupied with a stilted and destructive perception of masculinity. That he has been the worst president in our history and simultaneously the most successful at accomplishing his party's agenda are not mutually exclusive points. That agenda was and is to move away from the concept of government as we understand it and toward not just a nation but a world that is entirely corporate dominated, entirely privatized. In those terms, Iraq is a success story, New Orleans is a success story, the budget deficit, the collapsing economy, crumbling infrastructure, and the health care disaster are success stories. The majority of us are closer to wage slavery than we could have ever imagined. Our educational institutions, health care, retirement benefits, prisons, and military move closer and closer to thorough privatization. And it doesn't help that our governor of at least the next 3 1/2 years is entirely complicit. It's also dangerously naive to believe that an ample number of Democrats have not been complicit, as well. The political landscape of the past twenty years has ventured so far right that a moderate conservative looks far left to most Americans.

Kos via NYT recently provided the clearest explanation of soaring oil prices that I've seen, one that exemplifies the kind of twisted success story I'm talking about:
Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.

Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat. ...

The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India. The contracts, which would run for one to two years and are relatively small by industry standards, would nonetheless give the companies an advantage in bidding on future contracts in a country that many experts consider to be the best hope for a large-scale increase in oil production.

There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.
And despite all that, Blackwater, Halliburton, KBR, Dyncorp, Bechtel, et al, few Americans seem to be able to come to terms with the fact that Obama is (have you heard??) biracial and his wife is just outright black (!), HRC is a white woman who lost the nomination (Dear God!), and McCain is old and crazy.

End of rant.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Self-Absorption (Updated)

I have always been fond of reading about the distinctions arrived at by the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory. Therefore, I got really excited when I found this site, with a test included, that gives a more in-depth analysis of personality types than others I've seen. It doesn't sugar coat anything.

I'm ENFP (Extrovert/Intuitive/Feeling/Perceiving). The following excerpt gives me insight into a stable personality trait that I have struggled with and perhaps confused with dysthymia and other maladies:
Because ENFPs live in the world of exciting possibilities, the details of everyday life are seen as trivial drudgery. They place no importance on detailed, maintenance-type tasks, and will frequently remain oblivious to these types of concerns. When they do have to perform these tasks, they do not enjoy themselves. This is a challenging area of life for most ENFPs, and can be frustrating for ENFP's family members.
I hear that.

If you take the test and feel like sharing insights and surprises, please do.

Update: I couldn't help but include this find, the second comment beneath Jonathan Martins's article "DNC to file complaint to FEC on McCain." The comment is, by the way, a nonsequitur to anything reported in Martin's article:
Obama is an ENFP he will pick thinks off the floor and eat it . This type is not afraid of germs . Obama blew his nose at his raslly last week even telling everyone about it .
Well, now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Levee Breaks and MSM

Photo: Spiritwood Images

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed a curious lack of cause-and-effect reasoning from mainstream media sources regarding the 27 possible Mississippi River levee breaks in the past few days. Rachel Maddow did actually say the word "infrastructure" in a political context on MSNBC this evening, suggesting that the last effective focus on infrastructure was associated with the WPA. I apologize if I'm failing to credit other news sources who are not conflating overtopping with leaks and other malfunctions/design errors. All else I've seen or read matter-of-factly states that the sandbags just didn't hold up.

Jivamukti Yoga is Funky

Photo credit: geckonia

I just want to say that Jivamukti yoga really works for me. I say this as a former yoga-skeptic, attending classes here and there and not really understanding what the big deal was, for years. 1) Jivamukti is a serious workout, 2) It alleviates the back problems that I've had since age 27, 3) It lifts my mood, 4) It calms me down, 5) It makes me feel hopeful, 6) Classes provide a sense of community, 7) It is a real spiritual experience, 8) It tones the body as well if not better than strengh training, 8) It is the most likely means of turning around a day gone wrong, 9) A devoted practice can often have the effects of feel-good drugs (prescription or otherwise), without a prescription or, 10) I totally look forward to doing it (which is more than I could ever really say for my 15 years of running/strength training), and 11) It totally rocks.

These claims are mine alone and not those of any yoga school or teacher.

P.S. Thanks for bearing with the problems in parallel grammatical structure up there :)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Come Again? (Updated)

Doubtless, everyone has seen this news by now:
By increasing lawmakers' base salary from $16,800 to $50,700, Senate Bill 672 challenges the concept of a Legislature comprised of citizens performing part-time public service in favor of representation that is compensated like a full-time job.

Even without considering the overall expense payments and per diems in the package, which would push the new compensation to about $67,000, the raise would put Louisiana in the top 10 among states nationwide in legislative pay, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislators.
I'm not one who believes that pay increases should be linked only to merit, nor am I one who believes that because I make a substandard wage, everyone else should as well.

On this matter, though, hold the fucking phone! This is the same legislature who is cutting 240 million from health care and education in Louisiana? That includes ensuring stagnant salaries and hiring freezes and other cutbacks that compel state employees to do more than one person's work in exchange for one person's salary!

FYI, Louisiana Legislature: You want your pay to meet national standards? As a state employee, I have yet to reach the same income that I received in Florida, that mecca of high pay, ten years ago for doing the same job. When you can manage to fix that problem, rather than deliberately making it worse, I'll get behind you on a pay raise.

But wait, I don't have to get behind you. You're behind yourselves. So go ahead and fuck off.

Update: Daily Kingfish weighed in with a less reactive solution:
I say drop the percentage to 20% of Congressional pay, which would still be a raise for Louisiana legislators, who have not seen a raise in pay since 1993. That would bring their base pay to $33,860, and with the expense account and per diem, which regularly adds an additional $18,000 to $21,000 to their base pay, legislators will still be sitting pretty.

Oh, and one more thing ... these pay raises should not go into effect until after the next round of elections, which would be 2012. That's only fair, as legislators wouldn't know if they were voting to raise their own pay or not. The voters can make that determination.
As did Editor B:
I guess I’m in a very small minority with this opinion, but I actually support our Louisiana state legislature’s efforts to give themselves a huge salary increase. It’s not because I think they deserve a reward them for a job well done. It’s not because I like big government or higher taxes. It’s because when I looked into the prospect of running for the legislature myself (yes, I know, ha ha ha) I have to admit the salary was a nonstarter. I understand public service entails some sacrifices, but the pay really is paltry — a joke. What is it, like $23K? Oh, it’s supposed to be a part-time job, but that’s a joke too.

I certainly understand the kneejerk reaction against the pay raise. But I find myself, surprisingly, in the camp that says we get what we pay for, and maybe if the job paid a decent wage we’d getter a better quality of applicant.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Juvenile Justice, Louisiana Style

Remember the promise of SB 749, which ostensibly sought to address the needs of juvenile detainees by closing the humanitarian nightmare that is the Jetson Center for Youth in Baton Rouge? A refresher:
Under SB 749, Jetson would shut its doors by June 30, 2009. A provision would allow for an extension until November 2009 if problems develop.

The state would initially open three, 48-bed secure juvenile facilities in different regions into which Jetson residents would be transferred. No more than 12 juveniles could be housed in a unit.
That's a lie. The truth is that SB 749 contained no plan to establish more centers. It provided only a plan to close the Jetson Center.

The Bridge City Center for Youth (near New Orleans) will increase its population by over 50% in the next month thanks to this legislation. The harsh reality: Bridge City Center for Youth has too few guards to accomodate its existing population. One reason for that is probably Bobby Jindal's current hiring freeze on all state personnel.

If new or transferred staff appear at BCCY to ameliorate some of the problems associated with overcrowding, I'll let you know. I'll also try to find out if the State is ceasing to imprison adolescents for offenses such as possesion of marijuana or stealing a family member's necklace. But at the moment, it looks as though Louisiana's antidote to dangerous conditions for juvenile detainees in Baton Rouge is simply to recreate those conditions elsewhere.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Energizer, Please Take Out the Battery

Photo: john mcnicholas

1. What did Hillary Clinton say this afternoon that she could not have said on Tuesday night, or back when it became mathematically impossible for her to win the nomination?

2. I'm going to try to believe that she suspended rather than ending her campaign so that she can still try to recover some of her 20 million dollars and for no other reason.

3. I was not thrilled that she seized yet another opportunity to popularize her vainglorious claim of victimhood:
"Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it has about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before."
4. Nor did I think that this statement was in particularly good taste:
"Well, this isn't exactly the party I planned but I sure like the company."
5. Enough said. I will suspend further commentary on Hillary Clinton pending any further outrageous behavior from her suspended campaign.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bobby Jindal's Intimate Friend

Photo: dsb nola

When someone sets about such reprehensible acts as freezing federal monies received by Louisiana state institutions in the aftermath of the Floods, cutting 240 million dollars from health care and education (in the midst of a state budget surplus), and simultaneously supporting a 300-million dollar tax cut, so that even when he leaves office the funding to restore services will be gone, I wonder what is wrong with that person.

I know that this behavior simply adheres to a neo-conservative agenda to starve all government services, lower taxes, and ultimately disabuse the populace of any idea that their government is good for anything but making war and protecting big bidniz. But what makes a person buy into that ideology?

Often I bandy about the term "evil" to describe the people who do, but I don't even believe in the simple equation of good vs. evil. Apparently Governor Bobby Jindal does.

Loki's recent post at Humid City, "The Exorcist, Jindal, and the Oxford Review," is an excellent read. She links to a 1994 article in which Jindal details his experience at the exorcism of an "intimate" but "platonic" female friend!

See what you think of the background information Jindal provided in the article:

Though she had not said anything, I knew something was wrong. Susan and I had developed an intimate friendship; indeed, our relationship mystified observers, who insisted on finding a romantic component where none existed. I called her after the University Christian Fellowship (UCF) meeting -- UCF is an Inter-Varsity Christian group composed of undergraduate and graduate students. Though the interdenominational group's weekly program of songs and prayers had produced the usual emotional high among most members, Susan had left the meeting in a very sullen mood. I asked her to join a group of us who were attending a Christian a cappella concert to be held on campus that same evening.

Despite our intimacy, Susan and I had not spent much time together this past year. We had succumbed to pressure from our friends and decided we should not be so emotionally interdependent without a deeper commitment. To be honest, my fears of a relationship and the constraints of commitment had kept us apart; our friends' objections merely provided a convenient excuse. Still, I felt comfortable asking her to come to the concert, and she accepted the invitation. Though Susan appeared composed throughout the concert, her sudden departure in the middle of a song convinced me otherwise and affirmed my earlier suspicions.

There was no doubt in my mind that I had to leave my friends and follow her outside. I was not exactly sure what I would do or say, but I knew I had to run after her. I found that she had not gone far, but was sobbing uncontrollably outside the auditorium. Since we had been very careful to avoid any form of physical contact in our friendship, I was not sure how to respond. My inaction and her sobs produced a very awkward situation. Fortunately, a female friend who followed us out was able to comfort Susan with hugs and soothing words of reassurance; her quick action was in stark contrast to my paralysis. Once Susan had regained her composure and fell silent, I knew I had to intervene. The female friend meant well, but did not know Susan well enough to provide the advice Susan was sure to seek.

Not even knowing the cause of this raucous scene, I asked Susan if she would like to talk, and volunteered to walk her home. Wanting to avoid any additional embarrassing scenes, I thought it best to remain in silence while we walked. I dared not cause another emotional outpouring until we were safely behind closed doors. When we finally reached her dorm room, I promptly sat Susan on a bed and placed myself in a chair located several feet across the room. This physical arrangement was hardly conducive to the love and support I was supposed to be providing, but I was too scared and unsure of myself to get any closer. (Loki's narration of the exorcism itself)
Jindal's obvious attempts to distance himself from a person he claims to care about, to bizarrely avoid the idea that he or anyone else is responsible for her emotional state, and to conclude that the culprit is The Devil him/her/itself, may be an inroad to understanding the personality of one who wreaks this kind of havoc on an already-hobbled state and feels great about doing so.

Just an idea.

P.S.: The New Oxford Review charges for a complete copy of the article. I have a complete copy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Monday, June 2, 2008

Vetting Jindal

I cannot adequately describe the dread with which I clicked on this article, In Louisiana, Inklings of a New (True) Champion of the Right, in today's NYT. Here is an excerpt:
Members of the State House of Representatives, following Mr. Jindal’s campaign vows to rein in government spending, cut some $240 million in health and education spending. Mr. Jindal now says he wants that money restored to his $30 billion budget proposal.

Meanwhile the House is considering an income tax cut that would cost the state $300 million, an idea that did not originate with Mr. Jindal, though he has endorsed it.

Mr. Jindal’s spokeswoman did not respond to messages on Friday.
The article contains no information of which we are not already painfully aware. My more optimistic assessment is that national recognition of Jindal's assault on the services we need so desperately could benefit us in restoring them to some meager degree. It also suggests that the bigger the microscope under which Jindal finds himself, the better. Simultaneously, I realize that my most optimistic assessments are often the most naive.