Monday, September 30, 2013

Moronic and Bullies....Yep That About Sums It Up

It is official.  The government has shut down.  Why?  The GOP claims that it is because Obama and the  Democrats won't kill the ACA even though the majority of people in the country re-elected Obama and maintained the Senate in Democratic control and increased house seats despite GOP gerrymandering.  It leaves me and millions of others like Mr. Kalis scratching their heads.  It reminds me of the school bully saying give me your lunch money now or I will toss you into the trash.  The bully knows that if I give him the money then I become an easy mark, but if I don't then I become a threat that must be dealt with.  Except this time the bully then tries to blame me for the beat down because I refused to "compromise" and do what he wanted.

Harry Reid calls out the GOP for what they are:

“You know with a bully you cannot let them slap you around, because they slap you around today, they slap you five or six times tomorrow,” Mr. Reid, a former boxer, continued. “We are not going to be bullied.” 
In addition to criticizing Mr. Boehner, Mr. Reid excoriated what he called the “banana Republican mind-set” of the House. He called on the speaker to put the Senate bill up for a vote, which would almost certainly pass in the House because of overwhelming Democratic support and backing from moderate Republicans.
 But it seems that the Democrats are not the only ones calling out the actions of the House GOP.

“You have this group that keeps saying somehow if you’re not with them, you’re for Obamacare,” said Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California. “If you’re not with exactly their plan, exactly what they want to do, then you’re somehow for Obamacare, and it’s just getting a little old.” 
“It’s moronic to shut down the government over this,” he continued.
Yep, that is Republican Devin Nunes calling the actions of the House GOP "moronic."  Republican Peter King is quoted in the article that this is "a dead end that Ted Cruz created."  Sure, this is all the Democrats fault.  "They simple won't do what we want so we are going to find an innocent person, the American citizen, and beat on him/her until you give in," claim the GOP.  Maybe that is why 63% of the population believe the GOP are to blame for this mess and 69% think that the GOP are acting like children!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Boehner, Noem, and the GOP Have A Bitter Pill for America to Swallow

Remember that promise Kristi has made about a Farm Bill that will be done on time?  Remember how she sits and pouts with her leadership that she still runs around with to raise money, but still can't get the farm bill taken care of?  Me too.  Unfortunately that this promise for a farm bill done before it runs out is looking like it will be broken again.
There’s no chance of beginning before the current farm law — a one-year extension of the five-year program that already expired in 2012 — runs out Monday. And while the Senate has already appointed its conferees, it must repeat that process now — exposing Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) to more delays. 
So-called “preconference” talks among House and Senate staff are underway on some titles of the bill such as conservation, rural development and research. But the differences are so great on the pivotal commodity and nutrition sections that it will take getting the members together in one room to hammer out a real framework. 
Impatient with the pace, Lucas is reaching out to Stabenow. But given the repeated House holdups, the Oklahoma Republican has had to battle a level of skepticism in the Senate over where the House is going on a farm bill.
Noem and the House GOP love to blame the Senate for not getting things done, but here is the reality: the Senate has passed a bipartisan Farm Bill and Kristi and the House has not passed a bipartisan.  The Senate has passed a budget bill that the President is willing to sign, the House is still playing games.

I think that the problem Noem and friends are having is that they think that they are being culture warriors, but they are falling short when it comes to being wise leaders.  Explaining why she supports massive cuts to hurt children, seniors, and those in need, Noem said
Noem agreed, saying that talking about policies and not just dollars “shows that you really care about adding integrity into the program.” 
Still, she said, making cuts to the program is a “huge culture change” not only for Democrats but also for some Republicans who have a lot of food stamp recipients in their districts. 
“That’s all a big pill to swallow for some of them,” she said.
The problem Kristi is that you are asking people that are least able to swallow that "big pill" while you give the good stuff to increased insurance protections for and other benefits that other Republican's have compared to a boondoggle and soviet-style protections.  As Mr. Kallis points out that if you want to play doctor and prescribe pills for people to take you should remember "The first rule of legislating should be do no harm. Your food stamps vote likely violated that principle."  If you want people to swallow a big pill, maybe you should be the first to step up and talk to your party about doing things that needs to be done and to stop trying to score Tea Party points.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Vital Sectors of South Dakota's Economy Need Help Hiring and Daugaard Won't Have To Pay Manpower to Help

Bob Mercer has had a very interesting article that appeared today in the Vermillion Plaintalk.  One of the things that or legislature is hearing from them that it is time to return the funding that was gutted a couple of years ago thanks to Daugaard and the GOP.
The Sioux Falls business manager and school superintendents for Tea, Milbank, Custer, Estelline, Burke and Custer on Monday detailed for the legislative committee the financial difficulties their districts are facing and their usage – or not – of capital outlay levies, opt-outs and reserve funds to offset revenue shortages.
One of the impacts that this lack of funding is having is the difficulty of retaining solid teachers.
A common theme in the testimony was increasing difficulty retaining solid teachers and attracting quality applicants for vacancies. The denominator seemed to be pay. Base salaries range from $26,000-plus in some small rural districts to as much as $35,870 at Yankton. 
Several superintendents including Scott Lepke of Custer said they see test scores falling.... 
Estelline has two opt-outs that are providing $145,000 on a permanent basis and $350,000 for two more years. Voters are paying about $2 of additional opt-out taxes on every $1,000 of property value, according to superintendent Pat Kraning. 
He said Estelline is 22 miles from Brookings and 24 miles from Watertown, which means he faces strong competition for teachers. Estelline is trying to offer attractive salaries, he said. 
“People will vote with their feet. Districts need to be able to compete,” Kraning said. “There is a scarcity of teaching candidates out there.” 
Stanley County principal makes it clear that the teacher crisis is at hand.
Doherty, who hired five teachers this summer — bringing the middle and high school staff to 26 for approximately 200 students — said the shortage won’t change until teachers are paid more. 
“It’s already at a critical point,” Doherty said. “When I was starting out, an older teacher told me, ‘If you want the best and brightest in education, you have to pay more money.’ It’s a matter of doing it. Legislators have to step up to the plate and make that happen."  
The article from the Capital Journal point out that education majors in South Dakota are on the decrease.  
The South Dakota Board of Regents said 617 students graduated with education majors in 2000 from state universities. In 2006, that number was 450. 
Mike Fugitt, Riggs principal, said 12 people applied for three English teaching positions at Riggs this summer. 
“There was a time when that was true in specialty areas — vocational technical courses, foreign language, music.” Fugitt said. “Now, we’re seeing that in core academic areas, like math and English.” 
Why should today's students spend $40,000-$50,000 to get a diploma when they can hope to get a job that will pay around $27,000, a GOP lead state government that likes to keep funding down for education so they won't see much of a raise, a GOP run government that can only see failure and consider teachers "lazy" and "incompetent" and only motivated when pitted against each other for a bonus based on a arbitrary tests.  

So Mr. Daugaard, if you want to help our schools with this recruitment problem, don't go to Manpower Inc. to solve it.  There are a few simple things you can do.  

1.) Stop bashing teachers and come out with much more supportive rhetoric.
2.) Stop trying to push dividing bills supported by ALEC but not supported by a single school district (except maybe Superintendents that reside in Mitchell).
3.) Start focusing on helping the biggest engine of job growth and work force supply chain: education, instead of running to other states that are more willing to support education to find workers.
4.) Do as you promised when you first ran for governor and make education funding a real priority.  Start by working really hard to get back to the education level before you decimated it.
5.) Finally, go to teachers first before you push education agenda.  Be open and up front that you no nothing about education and that you will try and get as much honest feedback and listen to them and not some national party group telling you what to do.
6.) Look for real ways to help students that want to go into teaching with the funding of education that is not based on area of study, but that is built on willingness to stay in South Dakota and teach at some of the smaller districts in our state.

Just some helpful suggestions that would allow the administration and the GOP to turn their image around when it comes to supporting education, if they care about their image.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Opt-out Votes For Schools Show Need to Return to Basic Democracy

Yesterday two school district suffered a defeat when it came to getting funds for their schools.  Democracy at in action right?  Except in one case a majority of citizens agreed to the opt-out.  In the Tea Areas case over 57 percent of voters supported the opt-out to try and find a way to get children out of mobil homes and into a real building.  I have taught in a mobil home after our school was condemned and it is not the optimum place for education.  There is no running water, no access to a bathroom without having to go outside in the weather to the main building.  Hard to fit classrooms that were not designed in the right shape for 25 students.  Those are just a few of the problems that come with teaching in a mobile home.

It has always confused me that 57% is no longer a majority.  It appears that school districts will not be getting any help soon.

The fastest way to reduce financial problems in many South Dakota school districts is to restore the state aid that was cut 8.6 percent in 2011 by the Legislature, leaders for two statewide school organizations told a panel of lawmakers Monday. 
 They said about $23 million is needed to return to the $4,805-per-student allocation (PSA) that comes from state aid and the general-education tax on property. 
 “It isn’t a big leap. It’s very close to what you did (this) year,” Wade Pogany, executive director for the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, told the legislators.
The Republican party calls for a continued opportunity to get schools functioning at levels that only punish our students.  The article by Bob Mercer continues:
Currently, state aid is due for a 1.6 percent inflationary increase — approximately $5.3 million — for the coming year. 
 “That won’t help our schools any,” said Sen. Chuck Welke, D-Warner, a retired educator. “We’re starving our schools to death, and it’s time we take some action.” 
  State law calls for the PSA to increase by the rate of inflation, but by no more than 3 percent. Another committee member, Rep. Bill Van Gerpen, R-Tyndall, said the Legislature should follow the law — a reference to the two years of the freeze and the cut.
 What does all this mean for our students?  Missing opportunities of a truly quality and rounded education.  Mercer report continues

Several superintendents, including Scott Lepke of Custer, said they see test scores falling. 
 “We currently offer a bare-bones education and we can’t afford to offer many of the opportunities the students are interested in,” said Lepke, whose district covers 1,208 square miles and has about 865 students. 
 At Milbank, Superintendent Tim Graf said they have “nowhere else to cut.” 
 Graf told the legislators every additional dollar of state aid would help, whether to increase teacher salaries, reduce class sizes or restore programs.
With legislators seemingly unwilling to do the work and take the pressure off of property taxes, we are getting to a situation that requires a return to majority votes for an opt-out.  Schools don't want to waste your money.  That is why we have school boards made of people the don't work for the district and are answerable to the public.  It might be time to change the law to that of a real democracy.

Because My Kids Love It When I Speak In a Squeaky Voice

It seems that Congress will get something done.  That is right Mr. Kallis, who despite awareness that this Congress has accomplished so little, it appears that a very important piece of legislation will get passed.  I bill to make sure that helium is available for today's market.  I happened to be flipping channels and stopped on C-SPAN (That's right, I watch C-Span from time to time) and saw the House taking action on dealing with a problem about the Federal Helium Reserve in a common sense bi-partisian manner.  Congress needed to act by October 7 to sell off the reserves and since they control 42% of sales, this was very, very important.

The Senate and the House, the Republicans and the Democrats actually got together to create a bi-partisan bill to deal with the problem.   Why is this so important, other than you can get helium balloons for your children's parties and everyone could speak in funny voices?  Because a lot of technology and our economy need to use helium.  KSFY ran a story showing the impact on South Dakota and the nation as a whole.

On Thursday afternoon, the Senate voted by a large bipartisan majority, 97-2, to approve the extension of the helium program. 
Linde's global head of Bulk, Helium and Rare Gases, Joe Horn, said the legislation will help stabilize helium markets and prevent disruptions in helium supply. "A final passage of this legislation is necessary or the Federal Helium Reserve, operated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), will be forced to cease operations by October 7, 2013," Horn said. Helium is critical to the manufacture of semiconductors, LCD screens, fiber optic cable and MRI machines. Linde refines helium that comes from the Federal Helium Reserve and provides it to high-tech manufacturers and government agencies.
Only 2 Senators voted against the bill: Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions (I guess they are against anything the government does, period) and Marco Rubio abstained.  HR. 527 makes sense.  As one Democratic speaker rising in favor of the bill stated that it is to bad we couldn't do this on the budget bills or the farm bill.  Kristi claims that they will get the Farm Bill done.  Maybe she should threaten to suck up all the helium in the reserve and speak in a squeaky voice until they can pass bi-partisian farm bill.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Examining the Lack of Logic in Charlie Hoffman's Editorial

The GOP is becoming more and more like the Frankenstein movie monster when it comes to how they approach everything: "Government BAD!!!  RAWR!  Government BAD!"  That is in part and parcel of Charlie Hoffman recent letter in the Argus Leader.  Unfortunately it has the same subtle of the movie monster rampaging through a helpless village.

Charlie comes out swinging with the opening line in his editorial letter when he writes, "What’s the best way government can help business? It’s simple — get outta the way."  Except Charlie fails to mention that many times Government is there to provide for businesses.  Look at the governors Future Funds and businesses like NBP.  In those situations, government stands there like a sweet little girl holding flowers by the river bed.

Charlie continues the lack of coherent logic when he writes, "When you tax something, you get less of it. By taxing energy, we will get less energy. However, the demand for energy keeps going up. This means the supply of energy is not able to keep up with the demand for energy."  If taxes are preventing people from using energy, how can demand for energy be going up despite the increased prices?  The law of supply and demand would suggest otherwise.  It also seems to fly in the face of logic when we are seeing a huge increase in energy production under the Obama administration.
"U.S. crude oil production increased to 7.5 million barrels per day in July, the highest output for any month since 1991," he said in a statement Tuesday. "EIA expects that U.S. monthly crude oil production will exceed U.S. crude oil imports as early as this October, the first time this will have happened since February 1995." 
New drilling technologies means energy companies have better access to oil and natural gas reserves previously out of reach. EIA said it observed similar production gains in natural gas.
So, how exactly has an increase in regulations and some taxes hurt the production of energy?

Remember that government is always bad until we want something done that we can't do ourselves.  We want roads, drinkable water, breathable air, food that won't kill us, police and fire to protect us, and businesses that won't take advantage of workers and put their life in danger.  I am a middle of the road guy when it comes to energy policy.  I don't think cap and trade is the best method to handle global warming.  I agree believe that we need to take pragmatic approaches to moving away from limited fossil fuels.  Buying into Charlie's "logic" is dangerous for everyone.  

"The last thing families in my district need are higher utility bills, more expensive gas and more expensive groceries. When policy makers say they are looking after the “average Joe” and small-business owners by attacking “big oil,” it seems rather counterintuitive to me," Charlie states.  I would think that the last thing families in your district needs is poisoned drinking water, cancer from pollution, unusable roads by out of control construction, or putting the lives of loved ones working at dangerous work sites to save a buck or two.  We can provide the ability to protect those people, but only if we can collect the funds to finance them.

I encourage people like Mr. Hoffman to avoid the logic of the Frankenstein monster as it applies to the role of government and try for a more nuanced approach.  Otherwise, we villagers will need to grab our pitchforks and torches to deal with the situation.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Help Daugaard Make the Right Choice

Daugaard seems a bit confused about what to do with expansion of Medicaid, but he is leaning to his right against the expansion and making tens of thousands of South Dakota citizens eligible for insurance coverage under Medicaid.  I would like to offer him some advice to Mr. Daugaard on why he should lean towards the citizens and away from party politics.

Reason #1:  The expansion would have a large benefits to many young, working citizens (voters) in South Dakota.  According to South Dakota Medicaid Opportunities and Challenges Task Force
61% of the uninsured population up to 138% FPL is between the ages of 18 and 34.
54% of people up to 138% FPL are working, and 57% of working individuals are employed full time. 
These members of our society are the ones trying to raise a family, trying to establish themselves for further growth and become the future leaders, trying fulfill the American dream by having a better life than their parents.  These are also able-bodied adults (many of them) that despite working full-time still can not afford health care.  This is a point that Cory Heidelberger made and showed that it would be very cost beneficial 

Reason #2:  The expansion will help keep taxes in check by helping the counties (many struggling already due to a lack of state support) with millions of dollars a year.

South Dakota counties operate what is known as the Catastrophic County Poor Relief Program (CCPR). CCPR assists counties with the payment of catastrophic medical expenses incurred on behalf of individuals who are medically indigent and who have no ability or only limited ability to pay the costs of hospitalization. Eligibility criteria and funding sources are determined at the county level. Counties also incur costs for county jail medical expenses and a Catastrophic Medical Pool. If the State decides to expand the Medicaid program, much of the cost for these programs – $3.3 million annually – will be shifted to Medicaid, thus saving costs at the county level. There will be no direct savings to the Medicaid program, however, unless there is agreement to shift savings to the state. 
 Right now many homeowners are feeling the threat of increased or already high property taxes (one of the main methods that counties use to fund and maintain roads, increase police security, etc.).  This would provide some relief to counties and allow them to use those fund on much needed services without having to worry about raising property taxes.

Reason #3: The majority of the reasons provided by the task force are political and not about South Dakota citizens or are hypothetical issues that can be dealt with.  They can be summarized as

1. We don't like Obamacare
Con: Expansion of Government and Implementation of Obamacare
Con: Effect of Expansion on the National Debt
Con: Risk of a “Bait and Switch” by the Federal Government

2. We don't like Medicaid
Con: Lack of Flexibility in Medicaid Program Design and Administration
Con: Concern that Nationally Medicaid is an Ineffective Program and Should be Reformed, Not Expanded
Con: Replacement of Private Insurance Coverage

There are a few legitimate worries like the cost, but we have rainy day funds grow by those amounts and could possibly be offset by increased economic gains:
Proponents of expansion argued that states that expand Medicaid will likely see revenue from the broader economic effects of the Medicaid expansion such as increased jobs, income and state tax revenues at the state level within the health care sector and beyond due to the “multiplier effect” of spending. Research has shown that federal Medicaid dollars spur economic activity beyond the initial investment.20 
A number of individuals who provided public testimony also argued that the State’s failure to expand Medicaid would have an adverse effect on the business community in South Dakota. Specifically, they argued that if lawmakers turn away federal money to pay for expanding Medicaid coverage, companies will restrict growth, businesses will move to states with more competitive health insurance markets, and that companies that pay for health insurance for their employees will see their premiums rise as hospitals and doctors shift their losses from the uninsured to them. Others argued that the availability of Medicaid in neighboring states will attract low-income workers to these states, placing South Dakota businesses that do not offer health insurance at a competitive disadvantage.    
The other major concern is a lack access to doctors for those that are added, but those people already can't access because of a lack of insurance.  The real issue is working to offset the lack of access and not say let's ignore the problem by not giving people access to affordable insurance.

The reasons for expanding are numerous and involve real human beings that could use this opportunity for real potential.  Maybe it is time for you Mr. Daugaard to stop leaning right toward political constituents and lean a little left toward the good of South Dakota.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Kristi Noem and the GOP Continue the War on Children and National Security

Okay, so the title is a bit hyperbolic, but it is really hard to understand how anyone can claim to care about the millions of children that live in poverty and food insecure homes after another round of legislation from Kristi Noem and the GOP controlled house that resembles The Hunger Games.

Just a little while ago Kristi Noem and the GOP voted to cut $40 billion from the SNAP program.  According to Kristi,
The bill “will bring more integrity to the program,” Representative Kristi Noem, a South Dakota Republican, said in an interview. “When you look at the fact that this program was initiated and started to help those in need for a short period of time, this program will certainly do that after the reforms we put in place today.”
However, she forgets to mention that she made sure the family business of selling crop insurance got a nice increase in subsidies.  She also forgot to mention that these cuts were going to fall disproportionally on children.  As the New York Times reports the finding from the CBO (a non-partisan group)
“Yes, the federal government has budget problems, but children didn’t cause them, and cutting anti-hunger investments is the wrong way to solve them,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children, a child advocacy group. 
According to the Congressional Budget Office, nearly four million people would be removed from the food stamp program under the House bill starting next year. The budget office said after that, about three million a year would be cut off from the program. 
That is the problem.  The GOP lawmakers live in this world that if it is not impacting them, then it doesn't matter.  Why should I care about some poor kid in Hamlin or Castlewood that may not have a meal tonight.  It ain't my kid.  However, we should care about every child that lives in poverty and food insecurity.

In a Northern Plains News story, they remind us that children living in poverty is a problem right here South Dakota.
In 2012, the South Dakota child poverty rate was calculated at 17.5 percent, an improvement over the 2011 rate of 18.2 percent. However, the child poverty rate was calculated at 16.8 percent in 2007....
"Children's ability to survive, thrive and develop must not depend on the lottery ofgeography of birth,” said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the CDF. “A child is a child and should be protected by a national floor of decency. The greatest threat to America's national security comes from no foreign enemy but from our failure to invest in healthy and educated children." 
These cuts would have a huge negative impact on South Dakota's economy, but Kristi was already told that
Feeding South Dakota assists about 2,500 people each week. And Executive Director Matt Gassen says cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as SNAP, will stretch their resources even more. 
According to Feeding America, SNAP cuts would have a huge economic impact across the country, but they would also be felt here in KELOLAND.... 
Gassen says he has reached out Representative Kristi Noem to express his concerns about the impact SNAP cuts would have here in South Dakota. 
I noticed that there was nothing from Noem about a response, but why should she worry.  Her federal government benefits will continue to come in while she celebrates passing a bill that helps to remove food from a child's table.  


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Bolin Is Hollering That Feds Are Coming, But Is He Right

Bolin at times like to come across as the canary in the coal mine when it comes to warning us about the complete destruction of society as we know it thanks to the Feds and the Common Core.  Originally he was against the Common Core because he didn't want any one to tell him how to teach history.  Now he realizes that he has to "tear it out root and branch."

There was a lot of push back against the idea that the federal government is going to micro-manage your classroom as Bolin claims.  Dr. Schopp pointed out that she believes that it actually gives more flexibility to the schools.  Phyllis Heineman pointed out that she felt it will all be in the implementation of the standards.  That will be the key.  Dr. Melmer stated, “I believe that these standards are better off then what we have right now.” 

Who is right?  I think that the jury is still out on this one.  Bolin is sounding like a cranky old man off his rocker with the hyperbolic claims that the evil people from Washington want to claim your children; however, are they really better then what we have right now as Melmer claims?

Here are a couple of the reading standards for 11-12

1. Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.  6. Analyze a case in which grasping point of view requires distinguishing what is directly stated in a text from what is really meant (e.g., satire, sarcasm, irony, or understatement).

Here are a couple of the math standards for 3rd graders
Identify arithmetic patterns (including patterns in the addition table or multiplication table), and explain them using properties of operations. For example, observe that 4 times a number is always even, and explain why 4 times a number can be decomposed into two equal addends.  
Represent a fraction 1/b on a number line diagram by defining the interval from 0 to 1 as the whole and partitioning it into b equal parts. Recognize that each part has size 1/b and that the endpoint of the part based at 0 locates the number 1/b on the number line. 
Do as both Dr. Schopp and Mr. Vander Hart state and check out the standards.  I am not a huge fan of the Common Core.  I think that there are real concerns.  I think Mr. Vander Hart did point out one of the problems:  The standards are confusing and a bit unclear.  I also fear moving away from teaching fictional texts for memos and instruction books.  A fear that has been shared many times by other English teachers like Mr. Kallis.  A fear that intensified when I watched the Colbert Report and Arne Duncan could not deny that students will have to be able to interrupt memos and instruction books.

I think that Schopp was correct in saying that we need to move away from the old teaching style and try to engage students more.  I don't know if new standards are the means to do it.  I think the means to do that are to help train teachers in utilizing technology, encouraging teachers to move away from bubble tests that focus on memorization, and find new ways to reach students through things like teaching gardens that make learning real for students.

Starbucks Say No to Guns!

Manny Steele, Ernie Otten, and others are going to have to find a new place to show off their guns.  In July a group supporting open carry took a little walk through Sioux Falls and ended up at Starbucks for a refreshing iced latte.  It appears that next year they will have to go to Gary's Gun Shop instead.

Starbuck CEO in a reversal of policy has asked that people stop using the store as a staging ground for political posturing.

Here is what Howard Schultz has to say...
Recently, however, we’ve seen the “open carry” debate become increasingly uncivil and, in some cases, even threatening. Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called “Starbucks Appreciation Days” that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of “open carry.” To be clear: we do not want these events in our stores. Some anti-gun activists have also played a role in ratcheting up the rhetoric and friction, including soliciting and confronting our customers and partners.... 
I would like to clarify two points. First, this is a request and not an outright ban. Why? Because we want to give responsible gun owners the chance to respect our request—and also because enforcing a ban would potentially require our partners to confront armed customers, and that is not a role I am comfortable asking Starbucks partners to take on. Second, we know we cannot satisfy everyone. For those who oppose “open carry,” we believe the legislative and policy-making process is the proper arena for this debate, not our stores. For those who champion “open carry,” please respect that Starbucks stores are places where everyone should feel relaxed and comfortable. The presence of a weapon in our stores is unsettling and upsetting for many of our customers.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

More on Tonight's Common Core Forum

I am back home from tonight's forum on the common core.  There was a lot of interesting information presented at the forum.  I was glad for Linda Ronstadt on Fresh Air on MPR as a sort of cleanser.  So much information I am not going to try and tackle it all in one shot.  I plan to break down what was discussed over the next few days.

One of the most contentious how the standards were presented to the legislature and the general public. Bolin jumped on this right away by making claims that the whole process was secretive and quiet.  He continued with the idea that somehow the common core standards were a shock to everyone.

Shane Vender Hart, a blogger and home school parent from Iowa got the first applause of the night when he stated that he was glad to see all the people there and wished that there would have been discussions like this before the push for Common Core.

Dr. Melmer pointed out that he took offense with the suggestion from Bolin that this was done in secret.  He pointed out that there were several reports about the process and that if you want a secret process, take a look at the legislative process and how they meet in caucus groups that are not open to anyone.  He also pointed out that 62% of people surveyed had never heard of the Common Core.

Phyllis Hieneman pointed out that the reason we don't allow standards to be part of the political process is that we want to keep politics out of it.  The only vote she has made is while on the State Board of Education.

Dr. Melody Schopp explains that the adoption of common core standards went through several steps that included teachers, principals and superintendents and was open to the general public for information on the web.

Mr. Ernie Otten pointed out that in his discussion with superintendents from his district (District 6: Lennox, Tea, and Harrisburg) that the state had not been "heavy handed" in implementing the standards.

One of the more interesting quotes on this topic were from Dr. Melmer who said, “There are too many people out there that have no interest in what goes on in education” 

Many different people encouraged the audience members to go to the school board to find out what was really happening in their district.  Sadly, when Betty Otten asked the audience how many of them planned to go to the next school board only a smattering of hands went up.  

Quick update of the SF CC meeting.

I just made it to the Common Core meeting in Sioux Falls.  The place is packed.  I get to sit on the second floor on the ground because there is no sitting room at all.  Here are a couple of quick highlights:

1. Jim Bolin is breaking out the idea that the Federal government is coming for your children.  DOOM! I tell you!  DOOM!

2. Phyllis Heineman is a supporter of the Common Core.  Points out that all the teachers and college people she talks to is super supportive of it and implementation is going to be the key.

3. Ernie Otten did some research and seems to be a bit supportive of the Common Core after talking to teachers.

4. Dr. Melody Schoop also cleared the air about how the standards were handled before implementation.

5. Dr. Melmer is a big fan of testing!  He liked it with NCLB and likes it now.  He is also a little angry with Bolin.

I apologize for any mispelled names.  I am try to collect information and process it out to you while sitting on a floor.

Monday, September 16, 2013

SD GOP and the Hunger Games

Today Pat Powers twists a story from Politico about the new battle over the food stamps and the Farm Bill.  He makes sure that he includes the fact that the GOP have a new favorite "welfare queen" that they are trying to make the case to cut benefits for SNAP while increasing benefits for crop insurance.  Here is a slight re-examination of the article focusing on the parts Pat left out:
Welcome back to the farm bill — or Washington’s version of “The Hunger Games.” 
It will never match a government shutdown or Syria’s mayhem. But the farm bill fight is a civil war in its own right: pitting one region against another and creating its own set of refugees in a real test of the heart and soul of American agriculture. 
Two great battles are being fought at once. The first — over the future of food stamps, retitled the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — has already fractured the old alliance between farmers and food aid. 
With an eye toward the 2014 elections — and beyond — Cantor’s proposal is billed as Welfare Reform 2.0 with the goal of toughening work requirements while maintaining a core safety net for the very poor. But single mothers with preschool children are swept into the mix. Innovative training programs in states like Washington and New York could be put at risk. And the bill reinstates a flawed asset test on the poor that any farmer who has bought seed or a tractor in the past 20 years knows is hopelessly out of date. 
At a sugar lobby symposium at a Napa resort, of all places, Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas) chose to champion the cuts last month, preaching of “certain moral hazards we’ve built into most social safety net programs” — like food stamps. This from a commodity chairman who had just voted to make the sugar program permanent law and begin a new 80 percent taxpayer-financed insurance premium subsidy for cotton. Who writes this stuff: Jonathan Swift?
The problem is that the GOP creates this false image that SNAP recipients are lazy free loaders that are committing fraud and don't deserve tax payer money.  Whether it is Thune:
Opponents of the federally funded food stamp program are increasingly using the specter of fraud to justify leaving millions of Americans without vital access to food for their families. Republican members of Congress—Senator John Thune (R-N.D.), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) to name only a few—have all cited fraud as their reason for slashing funding to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  
or Kristi Noem:
Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD), who’s gotten over $500,000 in subsidy payments since 1995, is a particularly interesting case. While Noem is diplomatic in most public statements on food stamps, she endorses a common smear of the program when away from cameras. In a constituent letter obtained by ThinkProgress, Noem wrote that “loopholes and fraud in the current program have lead to federal spending on SNAP to increase [sic] by 270 percent over the past ten years.” Rep. Vicki Hartzler (R-MO) offers to same rationale for the cuts, and has taken $500,000 in farm subsidies as well. 
The problem with all this talk is that it ignores the real faces of those that utilize SNAP benefits.  Who are these people?
Who is using the program? According to 2010 data from the Congressional Budget Office, three of four households using food stamps include a child, a senior citizen, or a disabled person. The annual income of these families was on average $8,800 and they received an average SNAP benefit of $287 a month. Many people receiving food stamps are also working, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In families with children receiving food stamps, 60 percent work and 90 percent have worked within a year before or after. 
In South Dakota, where the average SNAP benefit is $132.80, the faces of those that receive SNAP benefits number more than 103,000.  It is a varied face of people that are by and far not looking for pity or scorn, but help in a difficult time.  Let's stop playing the hunger games with the people in our country that are least able to purchase our politicians and begin to see who they really are.