The Widdershins

Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Is This Who the Democrats Want to Be?

Remember this horrible logo Obama came up with? I admit, I made some little additions on the sides. 😉

Wendy Davis, that’s who! (Our Lady of the Pink Tennis Shoes) Her strategy is…interesting.

Wendy Davis has a new video promoting her bid for Texas governor.

Let us review:

— Field of bluebonnets? Check.

— Rippling Lone Star flag? Check.

— Hand-tooled cowboy boots? Check.

— Chugging oil well? Check.

What’s missing in the four-minute-30-second spot? Any mention of Davis’ party affiliation, to wit, her affiliation with the Democratic Party.

The two-term state senator from Fort Worth is waging a decidedly uphill fight in the race to succeed Republican Gov. Rick Perry. It’s been more than two decades since Texans elected a Democratic governor,  and Republicans are riding a winning streak of more than 100 victories in statewide contests.

Here’s what I find kind of amusing: This is the same “interesting” strategy used by Democrats and Republicans in New York. I see these campaign ads on peoples’ lawns, and I can’t even tell if they’re for Democrats  or Republicans from the color. There’s no donkey, no elephant, no “D” or “R.” I’m all like, “Do I have to, ya know, RESEARCH these people on the INTERWEBZ or something? Sheesh.” In fact, I seem to remember a certain Presnit who did the same….remember when naming his heroes, he couldn’t seem to find one Democrat to identify with? Instead, he picked my favoritest Chief Executive Evah, Ronnie Raygun.

Yes, I blame Obama for this whole “Who, me? A D?” campaign move.

Read the rest of this entry »


Good Thursday, Widdershins,

Our good friends at the University of Alabama find themselves in another “school-house door” row.  This time, the step-daughter of a prominent African-American jurist was denied membership in the sorority of her choice, presumably a victim of racial bias.  UA’s new – and first woman-  president Dr. Judy Bonner is now sticking her foot into the door of sorority houses and wedging them open.

The picture that you see on the right is my own chapter house at the University of Georgia.  It is on the historic registry, as is most of Athens.  While it looks antebellum, it is not, as few structures survived Sherman’s march.  It was built near the end of the 19th century as a residence for the mayor of Athens.  I spent three great years in that house in the room that you see on the upper left-hand side, and met some terrific young women who grew into useful, productive members of society. While I am aware that our Fredster did not enjoy his fraternity experience, I make no apologies for being a Greek. I continue to this day to support my sorority with small but regular donations, as well as by being on the alumnae advisory board of two local chapters.  I also admit to being both touched and gratified when my daughter chose to follow me into the sorority as well.

When I got to college, I had some pretty firm ideas about which sorority to pledge, as my mother and aunt belonged to the same well-known group.  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, while pretty much obliged to take me, they were less than thrilled because I am (gasp!) Catholic.  I briefly toyed with the concept of insisting, then decided that it would mess up whatever benefit I might derive from membership.  In fact, out of 22 sororities, only four accepted Catholics.  Two were Jewish only,  sixteen Protestant only.  In the end, I pledged the sorority that seemed to be the best fit, and have never regretted that decision,

The thing of it is, while the local chapter has some control over membership, there are other factors.  One is clearly the number of legacy applicants, and these women are generally considered first.  Chapters have defined numbers of members and are constrained in the number that can be pledged at any given time.  Also, the organization’s charter dictates who they may pledge,, which is really no different from the Knights of Columbus, the Masons,  or the Rotary Club.  If the charter specifies race and/or religion, the chapter is stuck.  My sorority was founded in 1874 at Colby college and I  bet that the only women there were white and Christian, so the founders did not address either race or religion, simply qualifying membership as open to women students of good character.  Therefore, we have pledged women of all ethnicities and religions for many years,  Our FIU chapter has AA women and Latinas galore, and FAU has several young ladies of East Indian background.  Then again, Sigma Kappa has produced women of substance for generations -a senator, an astronaut, the attorney who prosecuted Roe v, Wade, the creator of Barney,  Reagan’s speechwriter, and the dietitian who came up with Weight Watchers, to name only a few.  We also boast a number of beauty queens, including Miss Miami Beach, Miss Philippines, and reigning Miss America, Nina Davuluri.  (I encourage you to open the link and scroll to the bottom of the page to read the names and accomplishments of the brilliant women that I get to call “sister”) .

Most sororities are active in social and charitable endeavors as well, as evidenced by the time I spend every year helping to organize the Alzheimer’s Walk for my groups. I just have to believe that these are worthy purposes.

Dr.  Bonner is acutely aware that her primary challenge will not be the students, but rather the alumnae.  I am not the only old woman in America who sits on advisory boards, counsels young women and writes checks at regular intervals.  Many women my age and older would welcome a broader base of membership, but there are still some who are wedded to the past.  My particular alumnae group is on the younger side, but there are 85 year old members out there, and they may well not be on board with this. The South is still deferential to older women, and we might just have to wait for some of these ladies to die off.

Yes, I am fully aware that many consider all of this to be a royal waste of time, but bear with me just a bit longer.  In the South, the Greek system factors in to more than you would think.  In fact, the Greek system provides the basis of The Machine, which is the Southern version of Skull and Bones, and the power of The Machine in both business and politics is undisputed.The Machine is an offshoot of Theta Nu Epsilon fraternity, organized originally as a chapter of Skull and Bones.  TNE was a sophomore class society, consisting of outstanding students who were tapped for membership at the end of their freshman year.  Over time, TNE disappeared from most campuses, but only superficially so.  The membership called themselves something else, or consolidated into specific fraternities and sororities, but the Skull and Bones/TNE principles remained consistent.  In other words, “we are the people who will run this city/state/country”,  If you remain skeptical, just check out this list of winners from the 2010 election, and realize that this covers only those newly elected.  Also, it does not cover advisers, judges, or cabinet members.

For ever Skull and Bones member in the halls of government, there are probably five Machine members sitting next to them, as there are comparatively  few Ivy League schools.   The “machine” nickname came from the efficiency with which the group gets its candidates elected, first in student government, later to state and national government on every imaginable form.  During my college career I met Sonny Perdue, (Governor of Georgia), Senator Saxby Chambliss, and most of the members of the Georgia Mafia that helped elect Jimmy Carter at various Machine-affiliated frat parties,  The same methodology applies to the corporate world –  Machine members are there in seats of power, and it is these alumnae and their spouses that Dr. Bonner has chosen to tackle through their daughters ‘current memberships.

This will be interesting to watch.  Unfortunately, the sprocket in this wheel of progress may well be the fact that there are specified AA, Latina, and Asian-Pacific Basin sororities, as well as Jewish sororities who will be (and rightfully so) held up as examples of organizations of exclusivity.  I’m not even certain if anything can legally be done to change the basic charter of an organization that specifies exclusivity, unless the charter itself enumerates such a mechanism.  Courts have been historically reluctant to interfere with the membership requirements of private clubs, so the outcome of this is unclear.  All hell will break loose if Dr. Bonner takes the easiest and most obvious route of banning Greeks from campus, as Alabama has a long Greek tradition that contributes to campus life.  While it may seem relatively trivial in the grand scheme of things, I think that the outcome might possibly  influence business and government in the future.  If it goes well, it may breathe some fresh air into the system.  If this goes badly, it may further entrench matters for years to come.

This is an open thread.

The fjords are calling…

So I’m back from vacation, and this year, hubby and I met a very nice Norwegian couple in Aruba. Guess what they told me about working in Norway?

All employed Norwegians:

  • Get 5 weeks vacation on Day 1.
  • Get a guaranteed bonus in June, of 11% of their salary from the previous year. (11%?! I was extremely fortunate to get 4.5% last year, and it was certainly not guaranteed!)

Norwegian teachers:

  • Get all of these benefits, plus ADDITIONAL vacations in fall, spring, AND summer.

This is on top of national health care, and a government based on the idea that it is responsible to its citizens.

Oh, but they must give ALLL their money to the government, right? Sorry, no. They pay about 40% in taxes, which, if you add up state, local, city and federal taxes, is probably what most of us pay (unless we are super-rich, in which case we pay .004%.)

Having these conversations convinced me all over again that as a country, we could learn a lot from our older and wiser European comrades. Things aren’t perfect in Norway, but I can’t help thinking: Wouldn’t it be nice if we could work like a Norwegian?

This is an open thread.

Good Thursday, Widdershins.

Today, I’d like to discuss another Florida phenom, the “Zero Tolerance Policy”.  No, by that I do not mean shady businessmen that take your money, then close up shop leaving themselves immune from suit. That’s considered “business as usual”.   I do not mean politicians, either.  We tolerate amazing things in the political arena, usually shining on whatever  shenanigans our elected officials have pulled off until the time that they have become a national laughingstock.

So, then for what exactly do Floridians have “zero tolerance”?   Apparently, mostly  for children.  Remember when it was revealed that Trayvon Martin had a “history”?  One of the biggies there was a school suspension for possession of drug paraphernalia.  I recall reading that he had some cigarette papers in his locker.  Interesting, but not exactly a key of  pot interesting.  Recently we had a five-year old child sent home from school.  His offense?   Sporting a Mohawk haircut that his parents had authorized.    His teacher insisted that the other children found it too distracting, and he was suspended until he had a new haircut.

Our latest foray into the Land of Zero Tolerance involves a sixteen-year old named Kiera Wilmot, of Bartow, Florida.  Kiera was expelled from school for bomb-making activities.  It seems as though Kiera was searching for a science fair project, and one of her friends suggested that she try mixing toilet bowl cleaner and aluminum foil.  Kiera went outside near the school gazebo, tried it out and a small explosion occurred.  An assistant principal heard the explosion and raced outside to ask what had just happened.  Kiera told him what she had done, and he immediately expelled her for “being in possession of an explosive device”, an offense for which the school might reasonably have Zero Tolerance, had that been what she actually did.

Science is messy, and anyone who has ever taken any sort of science class would have to agree.  Biology involves some rather nasty dissections, chemical experiments have gone “boom”, turned funky colors, and cleared rooms full  of folks with noxious gasses.    Every single day, I read something that tells me to be alarmed that our students are way behind in science and math – it is now almost an educational mantra.  Our governor has attempted to defund collegiate programs not tied to science and math.  Everything is science and math – except Zero Tolerance, of course.

Kiera has also been arrested and charged with a felony.  The Miami New Times RipTide blog and Slate have written posts about this matter, and I offer you this from Slate:

Playing with chemistry on a small scale, particularly with reactions that “snap, crackle and pop,” also fosters a sense of respect for the unexpected results that can happen when you mix things. Adults who have such formative experiences as kids might be less likely to contribute to the hundreds of non-drug related domestic chemical incidents each year. Note: Mixing bleach with almost anything is a bad idea. In a test tube it might send you scrambling for fresh air, in bucket quantities, it can kill you.

I don’t envy the school board or the judge who will have to sort out Kiera Wilmot’s motivations and rule on this case. Given her statement to police and her choice of location—not the center of the school but the grassy area in the back—it feels to me more like a case of out of control curiosity. Was it science done in the wrong place at the wrong time or malevolence? If they find it was the former, I hope that in spite of its zero tolerance policy, the Polk County school board will look at this incident in the context of Wilmot’s whole record. Then they might ask themselves if two of the junior varsity baseball players with similar records throwing a ball around outside school in the morning hit a window (and didn’t even break it), would they be expelled? Baseballs can be used as a weapon. Would they be charged with a felony? Perhaps the authorities should apply the same standards to Kiera Wilmot.

There is nothing I can say to top that, other than to leave you with this final thought:  In no way should “Zero Tolerance” mean “Zero Thought Process”.  This is an open thread.

educationPBS showcased a documentary this week on the Texas Board of Education meeting to decide what will and what would not be included in future textbooks for school children attending K through 12th grade. It was an eye opener to be sure.

First of all, this public meeting was opened by prayer. No such thing as the “separation of church and state” in this body of elected officials, most of whom seem to be Tea Party members doing their best to insert Creationism into the curriculum.

One of the members who was seeking the chairmanship believes that the world was created in 7 days and that Earth is no more than 10 thousand years old! How is that for “enlightenment”? He even went so far as to “create” a boat that represented Noah’s Ark which was to prove that yes, all species had enough space on this creation to withstand the “judgment of god” for ridding the world of sin. And he wasn’t alone in making this assertion.

The majority members of this assembly are from the Religious Right. Their overall goal is to bring the “word of god” into the classroom by arguing against science and evolution as merely a “theory”. Their votes would alter the current textbooks that would affect the nation at large and would be in effect until the year 2020 by which time scores of students would have been “indoctrinated” into the idea of “intelligent design” vs scientific truths. They succeeded.

But they didn’t stop there. Up next was the insertion of religious philosophy into history books. Thomas Jefferson was being replaced with the writings of John Calvin in explaining how America was founded on religious principles that are more in line with their personal beliefs. Students would be required to base their understanding of the Founding Fathers by embracing religion into political outcomes that are not represented by the Constitution.

The Texas State Board of Education is made up of elected officials. When the “favored” candidate for the chairmanship was defeated by two votes Gov. Rick Perry appointed another member who shared the same beliefs and who opened each meeting with a shout out to god for “guidance”. What is wrong with this picture?

The Tea Party movement is not simply confined to national campaigns. It is alive and doing quite well in places like Texas where they seem to have infiltrated a small group of elected officials determined to put their religious beliefs on display without fear. This is what “grass roots” and “states rights” represent when public forums take on the flavor of “old time religion” and prayer marks the opening of any assembly.

Watching these people with their eyes closed and arms raised to heaven as they call upon” god” reminded me of those who stood at attention giving the nazi salute as proof of their allegiance to a belief system that eventually overtook commonsense. I may be a bit “offbase” in my assumption but this attempt to foster religious theory in place of scientific proof left me unsettled.

It is more alarming to appreciate the fact that these are elected officials. They have a constituency out there who support their positions. And it is not confined to just this one state alone. In watching and listening to some elected members of congress who have emerged over the last few years these beliefs are finding their way into the public sector by way of proposed law. Just a few more sitting in these seats of power could have more dire consequences in years to come as the separation of church and state continues to dwindle under this form of ideology.

One cannot ignore the warning signs of this movement. They may not be a force in national elections as of now but they are gaining strength in local, regional and state elections where women’s issues and educational platforms have been infested with ideologues carrying bibles and fervor aimed at “the cause”.

The “cause” is the development of a Christian Nation and where better to begin than with the teachings provided by public school textbooks challenging the fundamentals of science with biblical renderings.

We are on the “road to ignorance” if policies continue to infuse the public sector. There is a well funded, highly supported “campaign” out there focused on doing just that.

I’m beginning to think not after two weeks of staged conventions and the attendant hoopla that barely touched the issues we face in our daily lives.

The “who said it better” crowd of pundits and talking heads fighting it out to lay claim to “their guy” beating the pants off the other one belies the facts.

Romney’s “bounce” apparently earned him a big one pointer whereas Obama’s is said to have racked up a meager 3. What does this tell us?

It might tell us that most of the nation is “campaign weary”. Each election cycle seems to last forever offering nothing but buckets of hot air, lies, distortions, and just plain foolishness masked as political dialogue. The GOP managed a few laughs along the way when considering the likes of Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Herman Cain as future POTUS. In the end the selection boiled down to one of the most disingenuous, lackluster, flip flopping, candidates ever to emerge as their standard bearer.

The Dems found themselves “stuck” as well. Disenchanted with their current title holder, their suspicions that perhaps this guy could not be wholly trusted to stand firm was seen willing to “cave in” to the crazies in the spirit of “compromise”.  “Catfood Commission” anyone?

What is at stake in November is not the candidate as much as what we regard as our way of life. One side is eager to dismantle every social contract that binds government to its people.

The other side is declares their willingness to “fight” against these proposals. The question remains: who do we trust to stand up for us?

Still mired in a bloody conflict in Afghanistan, still dependent upon foreign oil, still subsidizing that same industry raking in billions, still waiting hat in hand for the banks to loosen its grip, still bogged down with high unemployment numbers, still arguing over the right to privacy, still expecting some measure of accountability from those who f*cked up in the first place, the nation itself is at the mercy of a handful of politicians whose appeal is less than inspiring.

These politicians refer to us as lazy, slutty, fools, and whiners. We “leech off the tit of government”. We sit around in hammocks waiting for the mailman to deliver our unemployment checks. We are failures. We are mocked, ridiculed, vilified and demeaned for wanting to stand up to power. Women victims of rape are consdidered “blessed”.  We are treated as faceless numbers until that 4 year cycle of proposed “change” rolls around but shelved during the interim as if we don’t count for much.

Treated to a few days of soaring rhetoric and lame speeches that mean absolutely nothing in the real world, these supposed “leaders” offer up the usual piles of smelly manure with promises that will never be fulfilled. No wonder the “bounce” becomes a “thud” when the stage is dismantled and the confetti is swept away.

I’ve had it with the Tea Party crazies, the racist rants, “U.S.A., U.S.A.” chants, the birthers, the “job creators”, the woman haters, the budget cutters, the anti unionists, the voter suppressors, the privatizers, Citizens United, the rape redefiners, and the wealthy apologizers.

I’m sick of listening to liars pretending to care about education while making cuts to the education budget. I’m incensed listening to claims that cutting back on healthcare access will make this nation strong. I’m exhausted listening to idiots proposing to turn the environment into one big strip mall as a means of creating jobs. I’m weary with those who prefer fantasy over facts when it comes to climate change. I’m disgusted by those who declare they are implementing “god’s will” into a secular society to punish “god’s children” in making discrimination the law of the land.

The anticipated “bounce” that never happened tells us that the majority of the nation has had it when it comes to any more of the abuse.

And that was never more evident when a “reality show” as dimwitted and offensive as “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo!” led in the ratings game during the speeches outlining their future vision.

The public at large “gets it”. We don’t care whose husband is more “loving”. Or whose ancestors were more “determined”. Or whose life story compares with Huck Finn.

When they turn their backs on us it is only expected that we do the same in return.

“Honey Boo Boo” may be a piece of garbage by any cultural standard but it doesn’t pretend to be otherwise.

There’s a lesson there somewhere that both parties would be wise to discover in seeking that elusive “bounce”.   Otherwise they may discover that they too are “on their own”.

Good morning Widdershins!

No, that’s not the beginning of the Canadian National Anthem, but that’s how our fellow Widdershin Chatblu learned it.  😉

Lately, I’ve been feeling very envious of our friends to the north.  They have national health insurance.  They have far less crime than we have (I’m ignoring the nut job who carved up his boyfriend and sent his parts hither and yon).  We all know they are far more polite in general than we are – thank you kindly.  But apparently they also have some very kind and thoughtful (and polite) religious folk up there too.  No one there is shouting “death to gays” or calling them ungodly or standing around screaming and hollering about how the government is taking away their “religious freedom”.

Ontario Province recently passed Bill 13, also called the Accepting Schools Act which dealt mainly with bullying but also protects young gay and lesbian youth in particular.  I’m just going to touch on some of the highlights here:

The people of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly:

  • Believe that education plays a critical role in preparing young people to grow up as productive, contributing and constructive citizens in the diverse society of Ontario;
  • Believe that all students should feel safe at school and deserve a positive school climate that is inclusive and accepting, regardless of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status or disability;
  • Believe that a healthy, safe and inclusive learning environment where all students feel accepted is a necessary condition for student success;
  • Understand that students cannot be expected to reach their full potential in an environment where they feel insecure or intimidated;
  • Believe that students need to be equipped with the knowledge, skills, attitude and values to engage the world and others critically, which means developing a critical consciousness that allows them to take action on making their schools and communities more equitable and inclusive for all people, including LGBTTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, transsexual, two-spirited, intersexed, queer and questioning) people;

So far that sounds pretty damned good and for us in the U.S. it’s amazing that a government body would be involved in such a thing.  But then…here comes the part that created a bit of a ruckus:

9.  The Act is amended by adding the following section:

Board support for certain pupil activities and organizations

   303.1  Every board shall support pupils who want to establish and lead,

(a)  activities or organizations that promote gender equity;

(b)  activities or organizations that promote anti-racism;

(c)  activities or organizations that promote the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people with disabilities; or

(d)  activities or organizations that promote the awareness and understanding of, and respect for, people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, including organizations with the name gay-straight alliance or another name.

Oh my…well we know how well that would go over in the U.S.  Now imagine this:  In Ontario, if not all Canada, Roman Catholic schools (and I would suppose any other private schools) receive federal funding too, so the Accepting Schools Act will affect them also.  Now can you imagine how that would go over here?  The Men in Black (or Red) would be having a conniption fit, just as they did over the regulations in “Obamacare” covering reproductive rights for women, having to cover contraception meds.  Religious Freedom!  Going against our principles!!  Form a protest!  Sign petitions!!  You get the drift.  So how did Toronto Cardinal Thomas Collins respond to the bill’s passage:  He said “it is now the law“.  He had more to say:

“The Assembly of Catholic Bishops of Ontario has expressed serious concerns regarding certain aspects of this legislation, as have numerous other individual citizens and groups,” said the statement.
“Recognizing that the Accepting Schools Act is now the law, Catholic partners will seek, as we have always done, in a way that is in accord with our faith, to foster safe and welcoming school communities.
“Bullying, in any form, is unacceptable. At the core of our Catholic Christian beliefs is the command to welcome every person with love and respect,” the archbishop said.

Geez, they’re so polite up there!!!  Note for HT:  I’ll leave it up to our fave Canadian to to provide any additional information or corrections that she wants to add.  I was working from two articles on this.

Hats off to this Baptist Minister

We know how “not happy” the black community in general was toward Obama’s marriage equality statement and the subsequent statement by the NAACP on marriage equality.  Dr. Frederick Haynes III of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas took to his pulpit and gave a sermon that  many in his congregation and the black community in general may not have liked but they needed to hear it.

This is an open thread.

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January 2019
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Kellyanne Conway’s new job

Take the kids to work? NO!

That moment when *your* pussy gets grabbed

You go gurl! h/t Adam Joseph

“The” Book

Nice picture of our gal

Time till the Grifter in Chief is Gone

Hopefully soonerJanuary 21st, 2021
24 months to go.

Mueller Time!

Wise Words from Paul Ryan


Only the *best* politicans bought by the NRA

Marching for their lives

Perfect Picture

Rudy: oh shit the pee tape IS real!

Need Reminders?

Never too early to shop for Christmas

“Look this way”

Manafort’s Jail Photo

Indeed who?

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Simply Put


Awrite! Here’s your damned wall