Sunday, March 28, 2010
The big idea to improve Arkansas public education back in March 1981 was passage of Act 590, mandating the teaching of “Creation Science” in any public school classroom where evolutionary biology was mentioned. This offended almost everyone except a few zealots and was quickly declared unconstitutional. How did such an embarrassing travesty come to pass?
Wendell Bird of San Diego’s Institute for Creation Research helped write a draft for a state act mandating the teaching of creationism alongside evolutionary theory that ended up in the hands of State Senator James Holsted of North Little Rock, who introduced the bill into the Arkansas Senate, where it passed without hearings on March 13, 1981. The House of Representatives held no hearings either, debating the bill for only fifteen minutes before passing it by a vote of 69–18, with the support of Rep. Bill Ramsey of Prairie Grove. Governor Frank White signed it into law on March 19, 1981. After a vigorous and very expensive defense by Attorney General Steve Clark, the bogus bill was declared unconstitutional on January 5, 1982.
You'd a thunk the legislature would catch on about the constitution, but no. In 2005, Rep. Mark Martin of Prairie Grove tried the same stunt with a different name, introducing a bill to require the teaching of "Intelligent Design" in the public schools of Arkansas, although his own children do not attend the public schools. That ruse has also been discredited and declared unconstitutional.
Here we are in 2010, and they are still with us. Bill Ramsey, the former state representative from Prairie Grove who supported the Creation Science bill, is running to represent Fayetteville and the University of Arkansas campus in the legislature. He says he has some "innovative ways to address our educational concerns." I'll bet. Mark Martin, the current state representative from Prairie Grove who introduced the the Intelligent Design bill, is the Republican nominee for Secretary of State. If elected, he will certainly have some zealous ideas for the intelligent design of state legislative districts in Arkansas.
Of course, it's just a theory.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
It cannot be the cost of the health insurance reform bill, because the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office report this week shows that the legislation will actually reduce the federal deficit by $138 billion over the next decade. Yet, Senator Blanche Lincoln and Congressman John Boozman, the Tweedledum and Tweedledumber politicians with our vote, both say they will vote NO on the budget reconciliation proposal that requires only a simple majority to pass. It is expected to pass in the House tomorrow and in the Senate next week.
They will also be voting against provisions to reform the student loan program, increase the amount of Pell Grants to low-income students, and fund job training programs at NorthWest Arkansas Community College. First, the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act saves $61 billion by instituting direct loans to students instead of letting the banks skim off and charge large fees for processing the funds. Second, it adds $36 billion to Pell Grants at $5,550 per year for tuition. This is a huge impact locally, where NWACC had a 9.6% increase in students receiving Pell Grants last year that averaged only $1,738.
Even more disappointing is that Lincoln and Boozman will be voting against the $2.5 million that Arkansas is guaranteed to receive for job training programs and that NWACC is planning to use for jobs in the health care profession. Working with the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation to prepare competitive grant applications, Arkansas community colleges could receive even more job training funds from the $500 million appropriation.
Why? Boozman will vote NO, because he and the Republicans always vote no on everything. Lincoln will vote no, because she cares more about bank profits than affordable college education and job training. She also thinks she will get the votes of the Teabaggers and other Republicans if she continues to vote with them against health insurance reform. That we are represented by such tools is a shame for which Arkansas voters can only blame themselves.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Laurie Taylor Masterson, erstwhile bookbanner and wife of propagandist Mike Masterson, caught her breath today and took a short break from screeching about "Obama's radical agenda" and trying to get SFret Jim all fired up about the socialistic plot to build a new high school in Elkins. It appears that the Iconoclast has the scoop on this, because it is not yet moving on the wires or the internets.
Laurie Masterson endorsed Senator Blank Lincoln. She urged her Teabagger brigade to abandon Jim Holt's Senate campaign and General Skotch's race for Congress and to crossover to vote in the Democratic Primary. “MoveOn.org is funneling millions of $$ to Bill Halter, along with other very liberal organizations," she informed her Facebook Friends, then issued the clarion directive, "It will be incumbent on the ppl of Arkansas to make sure that our voters know he SUPPORTS - Cap and Trade, Governement [sic] Healthcare, Unionization of the state and government intervention on all levels.~ Please have these conversations with your friends, family and neighbors. And VOTE May 18th!!!”
Now, I could be wrong on this. She could have been urging her cult followers to vote for D. C. Morrison. She has done stranger things.
Fine, Laurie, if you want to send the nutters in to get a Democratic ballot and try to stop Lt. Governor Halter. Bring it on. But be prepared for your gaggle to be arrested when they try to vote in the Republican runoffs for Jesus Jim Holt and Steve Womack. It is a crime to vote in one party's primary and another's runoff.
Monday, March 15, 2010
Senator Mark Pryor (Liebermantarian -AR) and Congressman Vic Snyder (D-AR2) took no overseas trips at taxpayer expense last year. Neither did Senator Blanche Lincoln (Bought Waffler -AR). The Arkansas King of Foreign Junkets was Congressman John Boozman (R-Pinnacle Gated Compound), who says he is against wasteful spending but had no problem loading up his wife on a military airplane for free round-trip airfare to Edinburgh, Scotland, and drawing $3,623.81 in undocumented expenses from the taxpayers for those four days.
Boozman also took a Valentine's weekend trip to Brussells, Belgium, to study how to have better relations with Russia, although he and Mike Ross (BigPharm-AR4) claimed they were trying to get our allies to send more troops to Afghanistan. Boozman said it was a busy schedule, but he was also able to work in side trips to Austria, France, and Germany and pocket $2,880.55 in unitemized "expenses" and run up $6,472.08 for his share of "incidentals."
Grand Slam. According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, based on official documents, "In April, Boozman traveled through Germany to Africa and the Middle East, with stops in Afghanistan, Cape Verde, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Ghana, Qatar and Rwanda. The trip was paid for by taxpayers, out of an account reserved for members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee." He said he was conducting an audit of some foreign aid program that the State Department auditors must not have been able to handle. According to Air Force documents, it costs $4,821 per hour for a C-40 Transport used to shuttle Congressmen on these extended foreign junkets, so Boozman's per diem payments totaling $2,812.37 for the eight-day trip were a drop in the deficit bucket.
Nice work, John. We are so happy that you and your wife could see the world at taxpayer expense, even in tough economic times that you say made you vote against transportation projects, expanded health care, and job training programs for the common people here in Northwest Arkansas.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
The Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission meets tomorrow, in case you didn't know, and you probably didn't. I am sure that you have no idea what is on the agenda, even if you were somehow able to find a copy of it. Here's why I am certain of that.
Back in November, just before the A&P Commission funded two more biker events in Fayetteville and a bunch of UA sporting events that were going to happen even without funding from the limited A&P tax dollars, I tried to inform myself about what was going on. I wrote to the City Clerk, who informed me that the City did not have access to A&P Commission records, budgets, or agendas. I spent hours online trying to find the November agenda and the budget that was going to be approved at the meeting. Nada.
Then I heard from Chairman Tim Freeman, who told me, "We don't put our agenda on our website, which is experiencefayetteville.com, because it is primarily geared toward tourists and folks from out of town." If I wanted to see the agenda, he said, “Just go up to the office and get it on your lunch break or something.”
Finally, I did get a copy of the Agenda from Marilyn Heifner, the Executive Director. I had a false hope that this was the beginning of something new in the way of public access and accountability, because she promised, "We are currently working on our website to be able to include agendas, HMR statistics, etc. " Well, that was four months ago, and there is still no A&P Commission agenda, no minutes, and no budget information online. I wonder who is "currently working on" their website, how much they are being paid by the hour, who they are related to, and when we might expect them to be finished.
Not that it really matters, because the Agenda offers very little information to the public, certainly not enough to decide whether it is worth burning vacation time to attend the A&P Commission meetings that are inconveniently scheduled during weekday work hours. For example, at the November meeting, the A&P Commissioners approved all of the grants for the next year. The agenda I was provided gave no hint about who had applied, how much they requested, or what staff was recommending for funding. It merely said, “III. Special project requests – funding distribution.”
Only that night did I learn by reading Ozarks Unbound who were the Lucky Chosen Ones who were on "a laundry list of recipients who were awarded $182,850 today by the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Committee." If I had known these were on the agenda, I would have shown up and squawked, and I don't think I would have been alone.
The entire enterprise stinks. It is rife with nepotism and self-dealing. The budget and the agendas are squirreled away in some filing cabinet and not available online in the second decade of the 21st Century. Even more troublesome is the poor advertising of grant availability and deadlines. This allows the Commission and its staff to then hide behind the excuse that no one applied except their friends and organizations that certain staff members sit on their boards.
It is called insider trading, but none of it is illegal in Fayetteville. If the City Council would get serious about conflict of interest ordinances that hold the A&P Commissioners and staff to the same standards as City officials and staff, that would be welcome, and it would be far more effective than me whining on this blog or a three-hour public bitchfest after the fact.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
When the candidates for Congress, Senate, or any other office start talking about "economic development" and "creating jobs," as they are sure to do, ask them, "What kind of car do you drive?" If anyone knows what kind of wheels these ambitious office seekers are sporting, feel free to answer for them.