Midweek of the long week.

It took close to two hours to drive to Ann Arbor today, usually a 50-minute jaunt. The roads would be fine, and then they wouldn’t be, and then traffic would back up, and then you’d be cruising along, thinking you could nudge it up a bit, and realize whoa! Black ice!

But then it warmed up, and the trip home was much more reasonable. And the phenomenon I spoke of earlier this week came to pass: It was 15 degrees, and felt really nice out. I left the Parka of Misery unzipped, and took Wendy for a walk afterward. She flatly refused to go out with me early this morning, when it was -1 or so.

By the weekend, it will be well above freezing, and raining — only a 50-degree difference in a week. Michigan weather.

So let’s round up some linkage today, shall we?

What’s the matter with Kansas’ schools? asks an op-ed in the NYT. See if any of this sounds familiar:

Kansas’ current constitutional crisis has its genesis in a series of cuts to school funding that began in 2009. The cuts were accelerated by a $1.1 billion tax break, which benefited mostly upper-income Kansans, proposed by Governor Brownback and enacted in 2012.

Overall, the Legislature slashed public education funding to 16.5 percent below the 2008 level, triggering significant program reductions in schools across the state. Class sizes have increased, teachers and staff members have been laid off, and essential services for at-risk students were eliminated, even as the state implemented higher academic standards for college and career readiness.

Parents filed a lawsuit in the Kansas courts to challenge the cuts. In Gannon v. State of Kansas, a three-judge trial court ruled in January 2013 for the parents, finding that the cuts reduced per-pupil expenditures far below a level “suitable” to educate all children under Kansas’ standards.

…Rather than comply, Governor Brownback appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court. A decision is expected this month.

This is, in rough outline, what happened in Michigan over the last four years — education spending cut (among other trims) to finance a business-tax cut, that is. Per-pupil spending is still far above what it is in Kansas, a jaw-dropping $3,838. A reader comment on the piece explains some nuances:

Governor Brownback is ultra conservative. He wants a strong educational system in Kansas. What he is doing is simply shifting the tax burden from the general fund to local school districts. For years, the wealthy districts have been subsidizing the poorer (more rural with a lower tax valuations) ones. I’ve always been in a poor area, so we have benefitted from our wealthier cousins in Kansas City and Topeka for a long time. That was nice, but now the per student cost is VERY high in some of these areas for the state to fund and the wealthier districts are paying an inordinate amount of money to fund the others. What the new finance formula will do is simply cause a consolidation of more rural school districts, creating a larger tax base to fund the new districts. I think that we will see more distance learning in some of the larger (geographically speaking) districts to reduce transportation costs. Local property taxes will have to be increased to fund those districts. It’s like business. Everything comes at a cost. This is simply a tax shift; not an end to public education in Kansas.

Wasn’t an end to exclusively local funding of education the result of years of reforms in the 1990s? States realized they were sitting ducks for a civil-rights lawsuit, seeing as how their constitutions guaranteed “free and appropriate” education for all citizens (that’s Michigan’s language) and children in wealthier areas were getting far better educations than those in poorer ones. Now feel bad for wealthy districts for “subsidizing” poorer ones, which should just go ahead and consolidate more. Get on the bus, kids! What’s a one-hour commute? You can do your homework.

Let’s lighten the atmosphere a bit, shall we? How about Gwyneth Paltrow’s January cleanse?

“Our winter detox has looser guidelines and restrictions than ones we’ve done in the past but here is what we’re avoiding: dairy, gluten, shellfish, anything processed (including all soy products), nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant), condiments, sugar, alcohol, caffeine and soda.”

Looser guidelines? Just don’t eat anything.

I haven’t read the excerpt from the Roger Ailes book yet, but I suppose I have to. UPDATE: Read it. Highly recommended, especially for you newspaper journos, past and present. It’s about when Ailes bought the small paper serving his exurban community, and proceeded to become the publisher from GUESS WHERE.

And now, on to Thursday.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events |

41 responses to “Midweek of the long week.”

  1. David C. said on January 9, 2014 at 6:34 am

    What an asshole. Take your pick, Brownback, Paltrow, Ailes, it applies to all.

    78 chars

  2. beb said on January 9, 2014 at 8:19 am

    And don’t forget Chris “I know Nut–thing!”) Christie.

    I gather that back-stabbing books by former bureaucrats is part of the territory. Ever so you wonder about Gates’ complaint: he says Pres. Obama had lost faith in his generals, in the civilian government we are supposedly supporting, and on a generally favorable outcome to the war. Was the pres. wrong on any of these counts? – No! Gates appears to be saying that the Pres. was wrong to be right about the war. Or was he just expressing astonishment that the comander-in-chief wasn’t a puppet of the Pentagon warhawks?

    I could never understand conservative thinking about education. Do they not believe that we need an educated populous to have a prosperous tomorrow? Don’t they understand that an educated society benefits all – even the childless among us? Don’t they think it is immoral to not have lots of children? How are the poor supposed to share in the American Dream with a substandard education? Sadly, they seem to think that the role of government is limited to blowing up heathens on the other side of the world.

    1091 chars

  3. coozledad said on January 9, 2014 at 8:34 am

    David C.: Add Christie. The reason they accuse Obama of totalitarian moves is that’s how they behave in office. One bigass frat party to end all frat parties, but with more high school team managers and towel boys.

    Christie may have turned a couple of medical emergencies into fatalities with his mob posturing. He’s lawyering up this minute, redundantly.

    Ailes has built himself “a fear of a black president escape hatch” probably filled with peanut butter cups, freeze dried spaghetti bolognese, an 84 inch TV and a graphite reinforced sex harness capable of supporting a dead bull.

    You know who else had a goddamn bunker mentality?

    Every thing with these guys is projection, except when they’re just beating each other off:

    818 chars

  4. coozledad said on January 9, 2014 at 8:53 am

    The current Republican educational model is Calvinist exhibitionism at work. Being born to wealth is grace, and having parents who struggle is a sin. When they talk about values, all they mean is the purity of intent required to look the unfortunate directly in the eye and tell them they’re not worth it.

    These people need to be loaded onto shipping containers and removed to recolonize the Russian interior.

    541 chars

  5. Bitter Scribe said on January 9, 2014 at 10:17 am

    You forgot the last step in the conservative plan for education: After the defunded schools do a predictably shitty job, point to the results as proof that “government schools” don’t work and demand tax-funded vouchers for “educational choice.”

    244 chars

  6. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 9, 2014 at 10:22 am

    Coozledad and I are closer on this subject than we are on many: that line “What he is doing is simply shifting the tax burden from the general fund to local school districts” is what’s going on across the country. It takes different forms, and looks different in some settings, but it all adds up to a mix of D & R state legislators wanting to either not raise taxes, or look like they’re lowering taxes, when what they’re doing is shifting the state level revenues to Medicaid and other costs in education, and pushing local districts who usually have effectively no choice in the matter to be the punching bags for tax increases.

    The role lottery & casino revenues have played in this is huge; it’s where otherwise obtuse statehouse goons realized they could do this bait and switch game with local voters on education spending. A huge lie that no one has ever had to face up to, but everyone knows it. And second to the willful enmeshment with racism after 1964, the GOP has a huge karmic debt building up over the fact that we’ve been in bed with “gaming” interests almost from the word “go.” The Dems jump on board after the R’s have done the dirty work of legalizing through the unions staffing these hellholes of commerce twisted out of recognition, but they are unambiguously in second place when it comes to guilt over that development.

    And schools continue to get sucked dry by all sorts of entities wanting access to that mandated funding stream, with our expectations rising day after day — and somehow, they keep meeting them. If you say “wait, I thought our schools sucked in comparison to [Blank],” please read http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/28/shanghai-china-schools-terrible-not-ideal. Our educators (who I spent the morning meeting with, and God bless ’em, every one) are figuring out how to get the job done despite the active oppositional connivance of pretty much everyone not working in them, parents included (a whole ‘nother rant).

    1989 chars

  7. Jeff Borden said on January 9, 2014 at 11:27 am

    I’ve followed the adventures of Roger and Beth Ailes with their small newspaper in the past, but Lord, this is truly some crazy, crazy stuff. It does suggest to me that I’ve misjudged Ailes. I’ve usually figured Faux News amps up all the scary black folks. . .lazy poor people. . .degenerate liberal policies stuff for ratings, but this article makes clear Ailes is a true believer. What a sick and demented character.

    418 chars

  8. DellaDash said on January 9, 2014 at 11:28 am

    Off topic…For a better review of 12 Years a Slave than I could offer, check out David Simon’s entry on his blog The Audacity of Despair (Nancy may have posted the link a while back…can’t remember if that’s how I found it):

    “Slavery, a film narrative and the empty myth of original intent”

    Note – look for Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) playing Solomon Northrup’s young daughter.

    434 chars

  9. Deborah said on January 9, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Della, I can’t get your 12 Years a Slave link to work?

    54 chars

  10. Jolene said on January 9, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    Deborah, it’s not a link; it’s just a boldface title. Here is the piece Della is referring to.


    177 chars

  11. DellaDash said on January 9, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Never did take the time to learn how to post a link, Deborah. Here’s my first attempt:

    <a href="http://davidsimon.com/slavery-a-film-narrative-and-the-myth-of-original-intent/&quot;12 Years a Slave

    220 chars

  12. DellaDash said on January 9, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Woops…2nd try:

    12 Years a Slave

    152 chars

  13. Sherri said on January 9, 2014 at 12:39 pm

    With all due respect to Republicans like Jeff(tmmo), there are simply way too many Republicans and conservatives who simply don’t want their money going to those people. It’s a hugely tribal world, especially when you get to the fundamentalist crowd. For all they claim to believe in the Bible as the inerrant word of God, they have a cramped definition of those words. Like “Who is my neighbor?”

    396 chars

  14. DellaDash said on January 9, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Okay, now I know how you guys have been doing it. Thanks for the backup, Jolene. From now on, I’ll only put links in bold, nothing else. It occurs to me that Prospero was never too drunk to post links up the yingyang…until Nancy had to put a lid on it.

    257 chars

  15. beb said on January 9, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    A couple decades ago The New Republic had a fascinating article that argued that when you disaggregate the data about US schools one finds that except for inner-city schools, US schools compared favorable with the highly touted schools of other countries. It was the huge, huge failures of those inner-city (read poor, black) schools that brought down the US averages. Thus there never has been a need for school reform except in the inner-cities where the pathologies of poverty has destroyed all hope.

    Apparently Christie has thrown one of his aides under the bus, firing them because “she lied to me.” Ah, tears of the hippopotamus. I’m not sure which is the more approriate quote: “who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” or “If the President does it, it is not a crime.”

    784 chars

  16. beb said on January 9, 2014 at 1:05 pm

    Delladash, most of the time people just right-clicked on a link and selected the “copy link location” then pasted it into their post wich was quick and easy compared to writing out the complete “A HREF” stuff. NN.C is set up with a kimit of three links to a post and prospero would often forget that. That’s what Nancy would take him to task for.

    346 chars

  17. alex said on January 9, 2014 at 1:06 pm


    8 chars

  18. BigHank53 said on January 9, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    beb, some recent silicon valley millionaire just did the same de-aggregation of data from American schools and reached the same conclusion: most of our schools and graduates are as good as anyone’s. And the bad ones are the urban schools filled with immigrants and minorities who are mostly poor.

    296 chars

  19. DellaDash said on January 9, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    thanks for the tip, beb

    23 chars

  20. nancy said on January 9, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    It’s been a few years now since I first heard a childless, self-professed libertarian say that people should pay their own children’s way through schools, “unless they are very poor,” because after all, you chose to have those kids. To this individual, having children is exactly the same as raising shih tzus.

    Now, it’s more common. Few people state it that stupidly, but the idea is the same: Public schools are not a common good and the foundation of democracy, but a meddlesome drain on the public purse that needs to be properly managed. If you don’t have children in them, mostly because you’ve chosen to use private schools, well, then you’re due a refund of some sort, in the form of a voucher.

    I honestly cannot plumb the depth of this sort of stupidity, because it is bottomless.

    803 chars

  21. Ann said on January 9, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Re Gwyneth Paltrow. My sister eats gluten and a little dairy, but nothing else on that list and in addition, avoids meat and fish of all kinds, anything spicy, anything with added salt, onions, and garlic. It’s not too bad when she visits–I just stock up on oatmeal, brown rice, organic veggies, and tofu–but I have to tell you she’s no fun at all as a traveling companion. Things you could normally do with your vegetarian friends don’t work–no pizza or most other Italian because of the nightshades, no Indian or Mexican because of the spices. I hear they have some lovely food in Sweden, but when we visited with her we had tofu stir fries on brown rice, sans onion or garlic, every night. Last time she was at my house she made something she called soup, but I called boiling your sweet potato and broccoli without any salt and also pouring them into a bowl with the cooking water.

    891 chars

  22. Dorothy said on January 9, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    If any of you are on Facebook, check out the link at NPR’s page for their story about Jeff Bezos today. My niece wrote a very scorching retort about Bezos’s practices and Amazon.com in general. I wish I were as smart as she is. Her’s is a very long comment – her first name is Janet. It was posted four hours ago.

    315 chars

  23. Scout said on January 9, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    A deep, heartfelt thank you to all who expressed support to me yesterday. It was a very hard day, between feeling an almost inexplicable grief over the passing of Prospero, and the uncertainty between me and my partner. By the end of the day we agreed to seek couples counseling to work on rebuilding our foundation. I never discount the idea that the collective energy of loving support helps create better outcomes, and I would have said that even if we had decided walking away was the best for both of us. Again, thank you.

    527 chars

  24. brian stouder said on January 9, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    Scout – superb news; a ray of sunshine!

    Thanks for sharing, and here’s wishing you and yours success – whatever that looks like

    130 chars

  25. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 9, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    May you find a counselor you both can trust, and speak to with ease. (And if you don’t at first, don’t blame yourselves for checking with a new counselor, because it’s an art more than a science, and not every counseling style works for everyone. OTOH, if one party keeps wanting to switch while the other is fine, that’s a warning sign.)

    338 chars

  26. Sherri said on January 9, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Scout, I’m glad to hear you and your partner decided to seek couples counseling. My husband and I did so during a rough patch (what, being married to an alcoholic trying to get sober was easy?), and while painful, it was of tremendous help to both of us. Even if it hadn’t worked to save our marriage, I think the process was very valuable in understanding what was going on.

    (Lest anyone think I’m outing my husband, I was the alcoholic in the marriage…)

    460 chars

  27. BigHank53 said on January 9, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Ah, good news, Scout. I do wish my exes and I had done some counseling. It might not have rescued the relationships but at least we would have known how each other felt, and why we were dissatisfied. And I might have spent fewer years being angry and depressed.

    Nancy, it’s been my experience that men (and it’s always men) who dismiss the value of public education are people who never expressed the slightest interest in history of any sort, and think civilization fell out of God’s left ear on a Tuesday in 1954. Millions of people led short and desperate lives so these clowns could put in forty hours a week in air-conditioned comfort while Rush Limbaugh sizzles up their auditory nerve, and they think we’re done, that this is the pinnacle of human achievement, and asking them to even kick in pocket change to make the world better is a fool’s errand.

    861 chars

  28. LAMary said on January 9, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    One thing my otherwise very right wing dad supported was public schools. He grew up very poor and he was the only one in his family who finished high school. The rest went to work as children in the Paterson silk mills. He credited his education with making him a very successful business man. His siblings all had fairly low level jobs.

    338 chars

  29. coozledad said on January 9, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    Womenz is got to have them babbies. But they ain’t gotta eat.

    I would say this is a wingnut quandary, but there is no quandary when the only synapse in your brain that fires with any regularity is the one that helps you form “a word of Spanish origin describing the color black”.

    Louis Gohmert’s head has been duct-taped to his cracker ass so long you couldn’t patent him. He’s a perpetual motion machine of self-sustaining shit consumption.

    577 chars

  30. Heather said on January 9, 2014 at 4:23 pm

    Good news with the agreement to go to counseling, Scout. It can be painful, but I think it is absolutely necessary when a foundation has been cracked. And I second Jeff tmmo’s advice. Old boyfriend and I found someone else after one session with someone we both were a bit put off by. In the end we weren’t meant to be, but I definitely learned from our mistakes.

    Yes, too many people think that society happens in a vacuum. Everything and everyone is interlinked, like it or not. I wish they would teach that in schools, but now I think it’s called communism or something.

    576 chars

  31. coozledad said on January 9, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Nicolas Kristof, via commenter Callyson at Wonkette:

    The most accurate measures, using Census Bureau figures that take account of benefits, suggest that poverty rates have fallen by more than one-third since 1968. There’s a consensus that without the war on poverty, other forces (such as mass incarceration, a rise in single mothers and the decline in trade unions) would have lifted poverty much higher.

    A Columbia University study suggests that without government benefits, the poverty rate would have soared to 31 percent in 2012. Indeed, an average of 27 million people were lifted annually out of poverty by social programs between 1968 and 2012, according to the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

    The best example of how government antipoverty programs can succeed involves the elderly. In 1960, about 35 percent of older Americans were poor. In 2012, 9 percent were.

    So this week, when a Republican tells you the war on poverty was a failure, tell him/her to get back to munching Reagan’s liquefied dead ass, because it’s best to stick with what you know.

    1094 chars

  32. Judybusy said on January 9, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Scout I wish you and your partner the best, whatever the outcome.

    Stacking on Cooze’s link, this news told me we really are just incubators to the nuttier parts of the Republican party. A woman, who had been declared brain dead, is being kept on life support till she gives birth. It’s just creepy. Some commenters point out that the baby, if born, will likely have brain damage because it was without oxygen for an extended period of time. And whose gonna pay for this woman’s medical care? And the child’s ongoing needs? Medical Assistance in Texas? Fat chance. My heart just goes out to the family. If they were white and wealthy, would this have happened?

    782 chars

  33. Dorothy said on January 9, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    I’m so glad for you, Scout! I hope the counseling helps you find some kind of conclusion, whether it’s to be together or be apart. At least you’ll be able to say you did all you could to mend things instead of just walking away.

    229 chars

  34. MichaelG said on January 9, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    I’ve been out of town for the past few days and came home to discover that Prospero – Michael is gone. That hit me like a punch in the gut and I have to say that my eyes got moist. I’ve just read the last couple of day’s comments. I won’t try to say much as you have all spoken so eloquently and as the time for saying things has pretty well passed. What I suddenly remembered were the several times he felt that he was unwanted here and threatened to leave. I am glad that he didn’t and I hope that he felt some of the love people here had for him before he did, indeed, leave. Rest in Peace, Michael. I miss you.

    633 chars

  35. MichaelG said on January 9, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    Scout, I’m so happy to hear there is hope. I know how you feel with such a big break up and it isn’t good. Best wishes for reconciliation.

    140 chars

  36. David C. said on January 9, 2014 at 7:39 pm

    Christie got his mitty in a wringer this time.

    46 chars

  37. Jolene said on January 9, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    Saw this very interesting piece on heroin use on The NewsHour this evening. Thought it might be of interest here given our recent discussion, including Jeff’s analysis of how efforts to avoid detection of drug use may be increasing heroin use.

    The story here is that the governor of Vermont, of all places, is so concerned about heroin use in his state that he made it the central topic of his state of the state speech. He is arguing, strongly, that a law enforcement approach to drug interdiction is not working and may be making things worse. Is advocating specific changes in law enforcement and treatment in his state and nationally.

    Anything having to do with illegal drug use is so far outside the realm of my current experience that I find the whole issue sort of mind-boggling. Still, it seems worth knowing about. When the same topic starts bubbling up in multiple places–especially places that are, to me, unexpected–you can be sure that there’s more to come.


    1048 chars

  38. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on January 9, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    The thing is: I self-medicate. Most people self-medicate. Call it caffeine, call it chocolate, but most people do it. But what is it that’s going on when folks go with a quart of bourbon, or a gallon of ripple, or a straw of heroin? And keep going with it? We still don’t know as much as you’d think about the biochemistry or psychology of addiction & recovery. Lots of folks use, and walk away later, when life eases up or circumstances change. And some folks, as life gets better in every measurable way, hit on their crutch harder. So on the one hand, kicking a habit – even heroin – is easier for many than we’re generally led to believe, but for some, just stopping overeating or smoking Virginia Slims is well-nigh impossible.

    The Vermont deal is something I’m still trying to get more info on: are they particularly bad off, or is this a political maneuver with a grandstanding pivot at the center? I really don’t know. We all know some combination of BOTH supply and demand-side factors has heroin back in the mix when ten years ago it seemed gone, but you can’t just blame it on price, 9-11, or the CIA in Af-Pak. I think the testing factor is central, but there’s room to disagree.

    1199 chars

  39. Deborah said on January 9, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    Not that this has anything to do with anything in this comment thread, but boy howdy are there some crazy people in Santa Fe, the ex-wife of Cormac McCarthy no less.http://www.thesmokinggun.com/documents/vagina-as-holster-675432

    228 chars

  40. velvet goldmine said on January 9, 2014 at 11:14 pm

    Just catching up on the last few days. I’ve devastated about Prospero. I often joked that it was alarming that he was often the only one on my wavelength on any given issue, but in reality there was something about him that moved me greatly. I’m so grateful for the compilations of words here and elsewhere — don’t have it in my heart to start yet, though.

    357 chars

  41. BigHank53 said on January 10, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Jeff, I have a partial answer for you on the Vermont thing. I grew up next door in New Hampshire. Back in the seventies, they were two of the whitest states in the country and predominately rural: less than 700,000 total population between the two of ’em and the biggest city would have had less than 40,000 people in it. Heroin was something weird that happened in big, scary cities further south. I remember speaking with a cop in my hometown in 2008 who’d found a used syringe with heroin residue at a party spot. It was the first one he’d ever seen.

    I’ve no idea why heroin hadn’t arrived earlier, other than the market penetration one: no users means no dealers, and no dealers means no-one can start.

    709 chars