Monthly Archives: August, 2008

Cranston Schools Lose Caruolo Action

Consider this an open thread to discuss the Caruolo decision in which Judge Savage rejected the schools’ argument that they are entitled to $4.5 million in further funding. From the Projo:

CRANSTON –– In a blistering decision, Superior Court Judge Judith C. Savage yesterday rejected a School Committee lawsuit seeking a $4.5 million boost in education aid from City Hall.

The long-awaited ruling, issued late in the afternoon, will force the committee to make millions of dollars in cuts to an already pared-down school district budget.

“This puts us in a gaping hole the size of the Grand Canyon,� said School Committee member Frank S. Lombardi. “It’s a bad day for the Cranston schools, it really is.�

Lombardi said he would back an appeal to the state Supreme Court if district lawyers advise that the ruling could, in fact, be appealed.

According to today’s Projo, there is talk of an appeal, but not all school committee members agree with doing it.

Putting Science in its Place

Here’s a nice article in Salon about the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake by the Inquisition for not having enough faith to stop asking questions.

Faith-based Reporting

I don’t know about you, but I find it reassuring if my airline pilot has faith. I don’t really need to know what my pilot has faith in. That’s not necessary. Faith is a virtue that made our country great.

I find it reassuring that my President has faith. I don’t actually know where he goes to church, or how often, but he says he’s a Christian and that’s good enough for me. I have faith in him. When he is occasionally wrong, like when he launched an invasion of Iraq because they were about to send weapons of mass destruction to fall on American cities, or at least Israel, but it turned out there were none –well, anyone can make a mistake. The important thing is that he is a man of faith, not some heretical Anabaptist or something.

Faith is a lovely uplifting word. Say it out loud, don’t you feel exalted? Not like the word ‘religion’ which is such a downer. The Anabaptists claim to be a religion, and you know how they are.

If we admit that Faith-based means exactly the same thing as Religion-based we have to worry about exactly which religions our tax dollars are supporting. We might be uneasy about religions getting the government seal of approval. Or wonder exactly what those religions are doing with our tax dollars.

It was a stroke of genius to claim the word ‘faith’ as a political tool. Now when we use that word we are singing from the Republican Sanctified Hymnal. In Sunday’s New York Time a front page headline reads–‘A Teacher on the Front Line as Faith and Science Clash’. The story is about how difficult it is to teach evolution in a high school science class without getting burned at the stake. The problem isn’t faith.

No one knows what anyone else’s faith is. That’s between them and their conscience. The problem is religion — religion that organizes politically to impose its rules on everyone else because a majority can throw its weight around, religion that wants to make itself the official American creed. And if science is a problem, just censor science to fit religion. It’s been done before.

Joe Biden for Vice President

Gail Collins, editorial writer for the New York Times, wrote about Barack Obama’s promise to bring us all together. Did we think, she asked, that he would bring us all together in left field?

I am happy and relieved that Obama chose Senator Joe Biden as running mate. Biden is honorable, experienced and has served in the Senate for over thirty years. Senator Obama could have chosen a running mate whose qualification was being opposite, thereby achieving ‘balance’. That seems to be the quick and dirty method the News uses to avoid the hard work of actually reporting. Flat earth vs Galileo. We report, you decide.

I think Senator Obama made a good choice. I did a quick search and found this. My good friend from Vermont says that she cast her first ever vote for Joe Biden in 1972 and she has never regretted it.

The Invisible Warriors

If you are going to follow the way of the Ninja, and pass like a ghost unseen, it’s a really bad idea to dress up funny–

(CBS/ AP) Clifton police say they arrested two men dressed liked ninjas and armed with Asian martial arts weapons who said they were sending a warning to drug users.

Calling themselves “Shinobi warriors,” the men wore black SWAT-type vests and carried knives, throwing stars, swords, nunchucks and a bow and arrows.

Twenty-year-old Tadeusz Tertkiewicz and 19-year-old Jesse Trojaniak are charged with weapons possession. Tertkiewicz is also charged with harassment for a letter left for an ex-girlfriend.

I think they might have been watching too many Steven Seagal movies.

Their weapons, Detective Capt. Robert Rowan told The Bergen County Record, were to be a precaution in case they were confronted by the drug dealers.

The officers who arrested the men found the letters in five envelopes decorated with red Chinese designs, The Record reports.
Reports show the two men had already delivered one such letter to Tertkiewicz’ 16-year-old ex-girlfriend in Clifton. Police contacted the teen and her mother and alerted them to the situation.

The letters warned drug users and drug dealers that the “Shinobi will stop your cruel and sadistic intentions with justified yet, merciful force.�

Where was their sensei? I can tell you that my sensei, Dennis Passaretti, would have told me not to be an idiot and then made me do thirty knuckle pushups just for thinking of such a thing. Any half-blind, intoxicated fool with a gun can take out a Ninja warrior in a second if the Ninja walks up and confronts him.

Guys, the whole point of the Ninja thing is to sneak up on them.

I was just enjoying a pleasant social event in a community garden in Providence. The neighborhood had long been a magnet for drugs and prostitution, but the invisible warriors are winning. Backyards are de-leaded and turned to gardens, houses are repaired. Small businesses have opened. City council members take an interest and get funds for affordable housing. Speed bumps appear on the demand of residents who need safe streets for their children. Recent immigrants put their heart and soul into making a life in America. Churches organize to stop the violence.

Must be Ninjas, hiding in plain sight.

A Taste of Sweetness

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
Please come to the gate immediately.

Read the rest of this lovely post by Naomi Shihab Nye on Jesus’ General and start your Tuesday with a smile.

Blame the Pill

“The Pill Makes Women Pick Bad Mates� is an actual headline from the dumbest version of this story I’ve seen yet. From ‘Live Science’ by Jeanna Bryner

While several factors can send a woman swooning, including big brains and brawn, body odor can be critical in the final decision, the researchers say. That’s because beneath a woman’s flowery fragrance or a guy’s musk the body sends out aromatic molecules that indicate genetic compatibility…the best mates are those that have different MHC smells than you. The new study reveals, however, that when women are on the pill they prefer guys with matching MHC odors.

I’m not sure that the new study revealed anything. Unless the women were sniffing actual men. But I think they were sniffing smelly pieces of paper, or little vials or something like that. Whatever a ‘male body-odor sample’ is.

The study involved about 100 women, aged 18 to 35, who chose which of six male body-odor samples they preferred. They were tested at the start of the study when none of the participants were taking contraceptive pills and three months later after 40 of the women had started taking the pill more than two months prior.

“When women are pregnant there’s no selection pressure, evolutionarily speaking, for having a preference for genetically dissimilar odors,” Roberts said. “And if there is any pressure at all it would be towards relatives, who would be more genetically similar, because the relatives would help those individuals rear the baby.”
So the pill puts a woman’s body into a post-mating state, even though she might be still in the game.

Let’s review why women take birth-control pills. We take them to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. We have no statistics on how many disastrous marriages result from unwanted pregnancy, but we all know it happens.

If you are a lab rat, selecting a mate may be as simple as sniffing out the best one. If you happen to be in a cage with lots of other rats. I suspect that even rats have to search for love sometimes, and their little rat brains balance multiple factors.

If you are a woman, finding a life partner is way more complicated than choosing which piece of smelly paper you like best. Speaking as a woman who married across racial lines, I don’t see a majority of couples making that choice. So I don’t think we are all that driven to seek out the most genetically dissimilar partner we can find. There are more ingredients to romantic chemistry than smell.

The reason I’m concerned about this piece of fluff writing is that the press always loves stories about how we girls are so driven by our hormones that our tiny rat-like brains hardly even need to be used.

More ominously — there is a political attack on birth control in general. The birth control pill has been falsely labeled as a form of abortion. Pharmacists refuse to fill prescriptions, not only for emergency contraception, but ordinary birth control pills, and they demand legal protection for this. In forty years the birth control pill has proven safe and effective. Like any drug, there are risks and benefits. The risk of an unwanted pregnancy is not a matter of ‘convenience’, but a life-changing occurrence. No way to measure the effect of unreliable contraception on marital happiness, but if I were younger I’d take my chances on the pill.

RI Future Highlights the Best Primary Races in RI

Rhode Island’s Future is showing who is in the ring for the most contentious primary races in Rhode Island, with John DeGenova’s battle with Peter Palumbo being one of the chosen. Here is a link to the post.

Working Conditions Not Kosher, and Neither is Food

Nomi at I Dreamed I saw Grace P. Last Night has a link to a fascinating op-ed from Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld concerning an immigration raid at a kosher meatpacking plant. The raid uncovered horrific working conditions. The Rabbi cites a precedent for declaring food non-kosher because of the mistreatment of the workers who prepare it. That’s a radical concept. The raid at Agriprocessors Inc. also points to the need for a better immigration policy, because what we have now isn’t working.

Fogarty Gets National Leader Endorsements

From the Projo:

Reed, Whitehouse, Langevin endorse Fogarty

CRANSTON Democratic mayoral candidate Cynthia M. Fogarty has been endorsed by U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and Congressman James R. Langevin.

Reed, in a news release issued yesterday by Fogarty’s campaign, said: “Cindy has a strong reputation for working to create a better future for Cranston. She has been vocal on issues of finance, education and health care, and knows how to listen and respond to the needs of the community.”

Whitehouse called Fogarty “a smart, tough, experienced leader who will put local government to work for Cranston families. I’m confident that she will work hard to make one of Rhode Island’s largest cities a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”

Langevin, whose 2nd Representative District includes Cranston, said, “Cindy has a great track record as an advocate for the taxpayers and residents of the city of Cranston. As a member of the City Council, Cindy demonstrated strong skills as a communicator and a fierce determination to implement real change.”

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