Archive for May, 2011

…funding. A lot. Here at Floridianissen I haven’t been giving enough time and blog space to the wonder that is Rick Scott. I know so very little about politics that isn’t anecdotal, yet this guy seems determined to piss everyone off. Granted, budgets need to be brought under control. But last week reported on Rick Scott’s cut of all state spending to public television and radio stations. This cut 4.8 million dollars from a budget that is currently at 69 BILLION dollars. Let me put this in perspective real quick before I get into the educational side to this.

*Financial Sidebar: For those of us everyday schmoes that don’t count our money in millions, billions, or trillions; let me bring this down to our level. Let’s say that your paycheck is $690 (for two weeks of work) which is less than usual because you didn’t get as many hours. Your bills and expenditures (necessary or otherwise) exceed this by some unknown amount and you have to cut some of your usual stuff out of the budget. If you were to choose something to cut like Rick Scott chose to cut PBS funding as a “special interest” you would have to cut something that was worth about fifty cents. Not the $30 every other day you spend eating out. Not shaving down your grocery budget by twenty bucks for this paycheck. Not carpooling or turning your air conditioning down to save on energy costs. Rick Scott cutting PBS funding out of a 69 BILLION dollar budget is the equivalent of cutting a 50 CENT expenditure from your bi-weekly normal person budget. And while all of this illustrates how stupid it is, it ignores the fact that actual cuts would still have to be made to our everyday budget in order to make ends meet (or, if this cut in hours is permanent, a second job to bring in more revenue might be necessary). But I digress. I wanted to show that cutting PBS funding was unnecessary in these “hard times” and did not have to be one of the “hard decisions” that was made at the state level. *End Financial Sidebar*

I don’t want to get into the liberal vs. conservative/Tea Party bullshit here so much, but I will address it briefly. Currently, the media that has a conservative leaning relies on instilling fear and supporting that fear with actual news events. Are you afraid of the apocalypse this week? LOOK AT THIS EARTHQUAKE! Or it could work visa versa: These terrible earthquakes are shaking the region of oil-is-stan. EARTHQUAKES ARE A SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE! Cut to commercial: are you ready for the apocalypse? Buy these seeds! Ugh…again I digress. People can claim liberal or conservative bias all they want, but NPR and Talk of the Nation and things like that aren’t all that public broadcasting does. Quite a bit of public broadcasting is actually educational, something I thought that our nation had adopted as an extra special interest.

Just to be clear: Rick Scott cut funding to Elmo and Big Bird. Clifford the Big Red Dog. Programs which serve young kids and older kids as well as programming designed to prepare kids for school. There is even a resource site on the web for parents and an even more extensive one for teachers (oh wait, we’re not supporting their efforts anymore either…that’s right). These websites connect resources to the tv and radio programming so parents and teachers can be better for the kids and students they serve.

And what about these other resources? Nova: come on science is totally cool and Nova covers some pretty neat things. American Masters tries to continue to give attention to the dying art form of instrumental (specifically orchestral) music in this country. Hey political douchebags, it’s not all NPR and facts and junk! This is actual information that kids and families should have! Do we really want our old people IV’d up to Fox News all day while our kids get their educational shows from the Disney Channel? I think I just shuddered.

I talk a lot of crap about our local public radio station. My husband loves it, but he’s a bleeding heart liberal (I love you honey!). I find it to be dry and pretentious most of the time, but if I was honest with myself I have never found it to be partisan. Educational, but never hurtful. Their goal is to inform and educate and because they are publicly funded they can do that without fear of going off the air due to ratings decrease or lack of ad buy. Being funded by the state and “viewers like you” frees the public radio and tv stations up to be agenda free, focusing on facts and what actually benefits your child educationally. And now, in the great Sunshine State, Governor Rick Scott has stated that this is something that the government cannot get behind. Equal and non-partisan programming guaranteed for all citizens should they choose to watch it. It’s there. You want to have your kids watch a show that instructs and entertains without the endless Gogurt and Fruit by the Foot commercials? Better call your local PBS station and donate. Because the $10 you give is probably more than what the government would have taken from you in taxes to support it anyway.


Honestly, the past two weeks I have sucked at blogging. Maybe I even sucked before that. Either way, today is my last day of hectic insanity at work so maybe, just maybe, I can get back to business here online. Thank you for your patience. I can’t wait to get better at this blogging stuff. Goodness knows that it’s more fun than some other things I’ve been doing lately.

Music Monday: Rap as Poetry

Last week Common was invited to the White House to read poetry. Republicans shit a brick over it and tried as hard as they could to link him to the cop killing themes that rap had in the 1980’s and early ’90’s. Apparently they can’t read. Despite a small affinity for the Black Panthers, Common’s music is a call to peace and a call to leave behind the gangster ways that African Americans (read: poor black people) are stereotyped as having.

I am always amazed at the analysis which is applied to 21st century rap music. It always seems as though the individuals doing the analysis stopped listening to hip hop in 1995 and assumed that it would continue along the same path forever and ever. That would have been convenient for TV personalities such as Sean Hannity or political figures such as Sarah Palin, because that would have given them some fantastic ammunition against the inclusion of Common at the White House poetry reading. However, this is not the case.

Hip hop and rap have evolved much as the rappers have. There are still rappers who get into trouble with the law constantly, however in most cases hip hop and rap artists use street living less as content and instead have turned to lyrics which include self-promotion (general awesomeness, possessions, skillZ) or extremely sexual content, again promoting how much juicy p*$$y they can get which is a sign of wealth. Rappers aren’t fighting the man anymore. They are clamoring to the top of the “Whoever dies with the most paper, bitches, and plantinum hits first wins!” ladder, appealing to more and more white teenage boys in the suburbs and relating less and less to the continuing African American issues which still exist in cities such as Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Atlanta.

That prominent (read: loud-mouthed) individuals have not been able to hire an intern young enough to explain this change in content speaks to their continuing effort to instill fear and mistrust. However, I would like to point out one hip hop artist who is actually speaking out through his music. His record company even tried to prevent his album from being released because they feared any backlash from powerful political figures due to the lyrics. This rapper is Lupe Fiasco and while I don’t agree with all of his lyrics, I commend him for being so current with his “lyrical thesis” (thanks Biggie). Please enjoy one of his most recent songs “Words I Never Said.” I like it because he basically calls everyone out on their complacency. I put the lyrics below the video if you want to follow along.

It’s so loud Inside my head
With words that I should have said!
As I drown in my regrets
I can’t take back the words I never said
I can’t take back the words I never said

(Verse 1)
I really think the war on terror is a bunch of bullshit
Just a poor excuse for you to use up all your bullets
How much money does it take to really make a full clip
9/11 building 7 did they really pull it
Uhh, And a bunch of other cover ups
Your childs future was the first to go with budget cuts
If you think that hurts then, wait here comes the uppercut
The school was garbage in the first place, thats on the up and up
Keep you at the bottom but tease you with the uppercrust
You get it then they move you so you never keeping up enough
If you turn on TV all you see’s a bunch of “what the f-cks”
Dude is dating so and so blabbering bout such and such
And that aint Jersey Shore, homie thats the news
And these the same people that supposed to be telling us the truth
Limbaugh is a racist, Glenn Beck is a racist
Gaza strip was getting bombed, Obama didn’t say shit
Thats why I aint vote for him, next one either
I’ma part of the problem, my problem is I’m peaceful
And I believe in the people.


(Verse 2)
Now you can say it aint our fault if we never heard it
But if we know better than we probably deserve it
Jihad is not a holy war, wheres that in the worship?
Murdering is not Islam!
And you are not observant
And you are not a muslim
Israel don’t take my side cause look how far you’ve pushed them
Walk with me into the ghetto, this where all the Kush went
Complain about the liquor store but what you drinking liquor for?
Complain about the gloom but when’d you pick a broom up?
Just listening to Pac aint gone make it stop
A rebel in your thoughts, aint gon make it halt
If you don’t become an actor you’ll never be a factor
Pills with million side effects
Take em when the pains felt
Wash them down with Diet soda!
Killin off your brain cells
Crooked banks around the World
Would gladly give a loan today
So if you ever miss payment
They can take your home away!


(Verse 3)
I think that all the silence is worse than all the violence
Fear is such a weak emotion thats why I despise it
We scared of almost everything, afraid to even tell the truth
So scared of what you think of me, I’m scared of even telling you
Sometimes I’m like the only person I feel safe to tell it to
I’m locked inside a cell in me, I know that there’s a jail in you
Consider this your bailing out, so take a breath, inhale a few
My screams is finally getting free, my thoughts is finally yelling through


Sports Friday: Allegiances

It has been a(n embarrassingly) long time since I followed hockey. I am from the northern United States, specifically from an area which values hockey over football (especially the college variety). I remember loving going to hockey games and getting into the plays, the penalties, the bad goal-tending, and yes, the violence. Mostly I watched NCAA hockey, but was passively a Boston Bruins fan. My dad didn’t do a lot to instill a love of the team in me, so while my dedication to the Red Sox is unquestionable, I am open in my allegiances to professional football and hockey teams.

When I lived in the Southwest I was tempted to begin following the Coyotes, but that seemed silly (a hockey team in the desert? Really?) and now that they are moving to Winnipeg they might become something different entirely. When I lived in the Midwest it was tempting to become a Chicago Blackhawks fan, but I was so busy with graduate studies that I never made the effort. Through it all I never though about following the Bruins, perhaps due to some kind of need for independence from the region. I am loyal to the Red Sox, but nothing says that all the teams I root for have to be from there because of that.

So now I find myself in Florida and the Lightning have caught my eye. Their rink is easy to get to and regular season tickets are a steal. They aren’t a horrible team, winning the Stanley Cup in the 2003-04 season and making the playoffs several times including this year, facing the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals. So they are convenient to follow and not so good that I appear to be a fair weather fan jumping on the bandwagon. My only reservation, as it was for the Coyotes, is becoming a fan of a hockey team that exists in a non-hockey climate. Perhaps that fear cam be overcome and despite my husband’s distaste for “soccer on ice” I can become a hockey fan once more.

Sexual Thursday will be changing to something new next week! Stay tuned for more info.

I used to think that Maine was a boring state. Non-diverse, highly rural, and moderate it was a state that rarely made news on a national scale unless it was to show off how much snow had fallen in a given day/month/season or to highlight the rampant poverty consuming many areas of the state. But now with the creative governor in place journalists have something to write about other than things happening in other states and the local agricultural fair.

All kidding aside, the Bangor Daily News saw fit to include this article from the Associated Press on Monday which criticizes the war on obesity and more specifically Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative. Considering that overweight and obese people (when their numbers are combined) make up 59% of Maine’s population, about 25% of high school students are obese, and 36% of Kindergarteners have a BMI greater than the 85th percentile (according to a 2007 study) this issue should hit home for the BDN’s target audience.

The gist of the article is the following:

1. Billboards in states such as Georga portray overweight and obese youths with negative messages in an effort to shame parents into getting their kids to lose weight. Opponents state that this portrays an already bullied youth population in a negative light, increasing and feeding the stigma attached to being overweight or obese.

2. Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign reinforces the idea that being overweight or obese is an undesirable condition and worthy of stigma and (oversimplified)  fast solutions. It states that increased exercise will (somehow) fix the childhood obesity problem which is growing in this country.

Discrimination against overweight and obese people is a real phenomenon. Studies have shown that such individuals receive sub-par service in retail establishments, pay more for services and clothes, and may be the most bullied group ahead of all other groups that are actually protected under law (i.e. sex, race, ethnicity). If you can prove that someone didn’t hire you because you are fat, you might be up a creek without a paddle. But that’s not the angle I want to take here.

There are several undesirable conditions that a child or adult might have and conceal in order to exist peacefully and productively in our current social environment. If a child is gay, they can hide that and no one would think to tease them if they seal the closet door well. If a child has depression or other mental illness generally it can be medicated to the point that they can continue normally, avoiding ridicule or isolation from social groups. Adults who have drug or alcohol addictions can exist in the world as recovering addicts without anyone ever knowing that they have a disease. I’m not saying that it’s good for people to hide these conditions, I’m just saying that it’s much easier to hide these conditions to avoid the isolation and ridicule that might generally accompany knowledge of the condition in an individual, and in the case of being an alcoholic or a drug addict, it is possible to continue recovery apart from any pressure or rejection.

Now let’s picture the fat kid, and let’s say he’s in middle or high school (ages 14-18). He’s exercising like Michelle Obama suggests. He’s eating veggies and great meals because his parents don’t want him to be fat forever. Even if he does everything and is losing weight, he can’t hide that he’s still fat. He can’t hide his condition until he’s ready to accept it. He can’t go to Weight Watchers once a week but go on with his life the rest of the time without anyone knowing that he goes to meetings. Even if he is trying to improve his condition, he may have to do so through a torrent of name calling, teasing, bullying, etc. And you can imagine how that contributes to a productive effort at weight loss.

Children are cruel. Junior High children are ruthless and high school students are no less so, but by that age students are pretty well parceled into social groups so they have people to ease the emotional pain. This article makes the great point that we should keep in mind that this is a war against obesity, not against obese people/children. Instead of screaming “EXERCISE DAMN IT!” or “Stop shoving food in your mouth fattie!” perhaps education is necessary about the process of losing weight, about how it doesn’t happen overnight. That fat people can’t just stop eating like smokers can stop smoking or alcoholics stop drinking. This doesn’t mean quitting smoking or drinking is any easier, it’s just that this process is not readily recognizable while being fat or losing weight is out there for all to see AND that person still has to eat to survive so they are under constant criticism.

Come on! Get thin! Hurry up and be acceptable! Why can’t you just give up being fat! You’re making us look bad as Americans! So now not only are we showing obese people lumber about headless on the news as we bemoan our fat population, we are victimizing our children who may or may not have control over whether or not they are fat. This is not how to deal with this problem. We need to educate the public not only about how to lose weight but also how to be tolerant towards those who may be battling obesity or being overweight. I think what this article is trying to say is that we are missing the tolerance and support pieces of the puzzle, and without these pieces we may never win the war on obesity.

Everyone remembers the rectangular pizzas of their public school days. The McRib equivalent. The tater tots. Public school lunches did not come into being in the broad sense until the early 20th century with the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. In the 19th century boarding school students received meals but urban and rural schools were either sent home for lunch or were required to bring their lunch to eat at the school if they lived too far away to make it home and back in time. With a greater focus on child psychology, sociology, and welfare in the early 20th century schools sought to even the playing field in terms of what children received nutritionally. Although the offerings in public schools have changed over time, scientists and social groups have always argued about what constitutes a nutritional lunch.

Childhood obesity is on the rise, and the Sauron eye is now focused on the effect that school lunch might be having on the epidemic. As is the case with many other aspects of current educational reform, blame needed to be placed on something in the public school lunch menu in order to distract from the greater problems, i.e. underfunding, urban vs. suburban vs. rural needs, differences in socioeconomic status, etc. In this case we would like to offer up as our sacrifice to the school reform gods: chocolate milk. (As covered by The Washington Post.)

With their added sugars chocolate and other flavored milks have been on the chopping block in several school districts including those in Florida at large and in Los Angeles. The reasoning behind this movement is that if we cut out flavored milk, children will no longer be fat (or less so). However, the statistics show that 70% of the milk that is consumed in schools is flavored, and so some parents and nutritionists are saying that the other nutritious benefits of drinking low- or non-fat milk of any flavor (calcium, vitamin D, protein, etc.) outweigh the the harm of any added sugar (which, by the way replaced old flavored milk which was flavored with high fructose corn syrup in favor of a more natural sweetening agent). Basically the fear is that if you take chocolate milk away, children will not choose regular milk and miss out on the nutritional benefits that they might not otherwise get at home.

The list of official groups which oppose the removal of chocolate milk from school lunches includes the following:

School Nutrition Association
American Academy of Pediatrics
American Dietetic Association
American Heart Association
National Medical Association

But what do they know? Anything sugar is BAD for kids. Get rid of chocolate milk! Kill the witch! Sacrifice the lamb! Make them believe that if they get rid of this, then everything will be okay…until we have to get rid of chocolate pudding. Or the McRib substitute. Or corn. Eventually we could be back to everyone bringing their own lunch which wouldn’t hurt anyone, right? Parents know best! Kids will always get everything they need at home. We have no right to say that parents are not feeding their children well. We just have to trust that it happens!

First chocolate milk. Then other things. Then it’s the end of public school lunch programs.

First it’s performance pay. Then school closures because there are either a) not enough teachers or b) horrible test scores. Then everyone has to attend a charter or private school.

Where does this leave our poor children? Our marginalized children? The families whose only hope is school lunch or free/reduced breakfast?

Some of you may be saying “But this seems like you are overreacting. It’s just chocolate milk. They’ll still offer milk and it’s not as serious as you are making it out to be.” Trust me, in a blog I wrote back in February I made a statement that with cuts to public education and a move to private and charter schools we could see moves to relax child labor laws, because if we cant put them in prison we’ll have to put them to work because a lot of kids won’t qualify for charter schools and families won’t be able to afford private education even with vouchers (which won’t exist anymore if the governments aren’t funding public education). A few weeks after my post Maine governor LePage announced plans to change the child labor laws in order to give kids “more options for their future” (read: we don’t want poor and disadvantaged kids mucking up our schools and our scores so we have to give them someplace else to go).

It starts with chocolate milk. It starts with performance pay. It starts with “hard decisions” that involve cutting education funding before taxes are raised. It starts by offering up “personal choice through vouchers” for senior medical care in lieu of Medicare. Nothing is too small to lead to a collapse of the social services meant to hold up the citizens who might not otherwise be able to hold up themselves. Do not be distracted by the pretty words, the claims that it’s all about YOU and YOUR CHOICES, or that we just want to focus on the CHILDREN! Won’t someone think of the children!! Their words may seem like gold in a new age bringing forth amazing change but not all that glitters is gold. Sometimes it’s just a wet turd shimmering in the sunlight.

Surprisingly there are not many songs dedicated to mothers, and those that are generally aren’t very flattering. For example, Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet” reflects a not so rosy view of his childhood.

Kelly Clarkson’s “Because of You” shows how a mom doesn’t deal so well with a crappy marriage and therefore negatively affects the life of her child.

Reba McEntire sings about a mom that teaches her daughter how to be a prostitute in order to escape poverty, and then promptly dies.

Perhaps the weirdest song involving moms is the popular Down by the Bay, which calls into question the sanity of a mom that is seeing a goose kissing a moose down by the bay.I wouldn’t dare go home either kids.

In my view the best popular music song dedicated to a mom is “Dear Mama” by Tupac. It shows the reality of being a single mother in the ghetto, and his lyrics describe perfectly the strife that is experienced by single African-American mothers and the respect that is held in the black community for them (especially those who are older and so feared and viewed as authority figures over many beyond their own children). So this Mother’s Day, I dedicate “Dear Mama” to all the mothers out there, especially those who didn’t receive a 1-800-Flowers box, a Sunday brunch, or even a phone call from their kids. Thank moms. You might not have wanted what you gave birth to, but you do what you think is best and the rest will take care of itself.

Don’t Worry…

For those readers who are probably like “Why isn’t there a post about the Indiana teacher pay law” or “No post about Osama bin Laden?” let me tell you that my job is revving up for the next couple of weeks and is such that effective and regular blogging is next to impossible. I had to work through this past weekend out of town and this week I have so many long days that I want to spend my down time resting and not working. I apologize for the break in posting but I will do my best to start back up next week. Thank you for sticking with me as I try to make this hobby a productive reality.