Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Milwaukee School Choice Program

Gov. Scott Walker wants to eliminate the enrollment cap on the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, wherein a presently limited number of kids get to attend parochial and proprietary schools at public expense. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is wary of the consequences. He wants to "count all the kids" (public-school and "choice" enrollees both) in the state-aid formula as it applies to Milwaukee Public Schools.

Both of them are way off base. In particular, Barrett's proposal is like instituting a draft lottery in an effort to spread involuntary military service around more equitably. Fiddling with the details of a concept that's inherently bad to begin with doesn't make it any less invidious.

Public money has no business being used to support religious education, period. Moreover, in practice, the Choice program has been plagued by lack of accountability (no state testing requirements), fraud (private operators taking off with the state-aid check, leaving the kids without a school to go to, and MPS to try to deal with it), refusal to accept handicapped children, continued leeching off public schools for lab courses, and — most significantly — absolutely no educational advantage whatsoever for the "choice" students compared to their public-school counterparts, which was the ostensible justification for this whole fiasco in the 1st place.

Poor people in Milwaukee have been duped by the right wing into thinking that privatization of education is a solution to their educational problems, but the evidence shows that it's not. The Choice program is only a stalking horse for the neocon wet dream of dismantling the whole concept of common schools, along with government services in general.

The only real solution to the problem is to utterly eliminate the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program and return to public control of public money spent in public schools with public accountability.

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The 5 greatest bargains in America:
  (1) sunshine
  (2) fresh air
  (3) clean water
  (4) public libraries
  (5) public schools

Friday, April 15, 2011

National Severe Weather Awareness Week

April 10 kicked off national Severe Weather Awareness Week with 12 confirmed tornadoes in Wisconsin, the most ever in 1 day in April. That caut my interest, so I paid careful attention to what my NOAA weather radio had to say the rest of the week. Here's what I learned in a nutshell:

(1) On the road, you’re in danger from tornadoes. Get out of your car and lie down in a ditch.
(2) In low-lying areas, you can drown in a flash flood. Get out of that ditch and head for the hills.
(3) The highest object around gets hit by lightning. Get off of that hill and into your car.
(4) On the road, you’re in danger from tornadoes...

Monday, April 04, 2011

Which Fanatics Deserve Our Sympathy and Support?

As a bibliophile, I cringe when I think of people burning books. But I also think that you should be able to dispose of your own personal property (including books) any way you want (including burning) without having to answer to religious fanatics for it.

Recently some fundie Xian minister in Florida burned a Koran, which set off fundie Muslims in Afghanistan. They went on to kill actual human beings and destroy other people's property to show how upset they were. The same thing happened a couple of years back when Danish cartoonists "dared" to depict the prophet Mohammed, as was their perfect right in a free society.

Kowtowing to these fanatics, officials of the US military have condemned the free speech of the American pastor.

To me, this is just capitulation to terrorists. Why should Americans be browbeaten into self-censorship just because somebody halfway around the world is crazy, murderous, and destructive? And why does the US military side with the murdering bullies?

Blasphemy continues to be a victimless crime.

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Q: Is nothing sacred?
A: Bingo!