Double Taxing North Floridians for Roads
From the Times-Union: “Toll lanes will be installed from the Buckman Bridge to Interstate 95, from the Dames Point bridge to Interstate 95 and from Butler Boulevard to Florida 9B at a cost of about $200 million. These will be the first toll lanes in Jacksonville since 1989 when Duval County voters approved a sales tax increase to do away with tolls. But more could be coming soon.’ The Times Union is not happy: “Duval County residents should not be charged tolls for widening a state road they already paid for. Residents here already pay a half-cent sales tax to replace the tolls. And they pay a half-cent sales tax to build new roads as part of the Better Jacksonville Plan. Duval residents have been building state roads for years. In fact, Department of Transportation officials didn’t even know how much money Jacksonville has spent building state roads. Ask the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, they said. Why look a gift horse in the mouth? Wonderwood Expressway? J. Turner Butler? State roads built by Jacksonville residents. Little in return. So the plan to take a current road, Branan Field, built largely with local funds, add two lanes and slap tolls on it has rightly infuriated Duval County residents. […] The DOT should reimburse Duval County for the millions spent on state roads. Then the Jacksonville Transportation Authority could use some of that money to widen the eight miles of the road that is in Duval County – and keep out the tolls. Mayor Alvin Brown was absolutely correct in opposing these tolls. Not only that, he should ask for Duval County’s money back from the state. It’s time for some discussion about the bad deal Duval County taxpayers are getting from the state. No more building state roads with no payback from the state. And no tolls.” The full editorial.
Why Adam and Eve Never Existed
Richard Dawkins, the celebrated evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion, was at the New Yorker festival the other day. he explains:
Big Support for Obama’s Immigration Plan
From Politico: “The survey by Bloomberg found that 64 percent of likely voters approved of Obama’s new policy, while 30 percent disagreed. The order appeals most to Obama’s base, with fully 86 percent of Democrats supporting it, while a majority of Republicans, 56 percent, opposed the measure. Among independent voters the measure was popular with 66 percent backing the change and 26 percent opposing it. The president’s executive order, which bypasses Congress and is effective immediately, could affect hundreds of thousands of people who are in the country without legal papers. It applies to those under 30 who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 and are considered to present no risk to national security or public safety.” Meanwhile, Marco Rubio dithered: “Obama has now done an end run around Congress, and Republicans are howling that the White House has acted politically. Wow. I’ll bet there’s gambling in Casablanca, too. Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Cuban-American, has been talking about introducing his own semi-DREAM Act for a while. Rubio appears to be on a shortlist as a running mate for Mitt Romney, who may see Rubio as a way to attract Hispanic voters. Only 3.5 percent of the Hispanics in this country have a Cuban heritage, while 63 percent have a Mexican heritage. But Rubio could have gotten significant Hispanic support for the Republican ticket by introducing an immigration bill. And if he had introduced his bill, how could the Democrats have voted against it? But Rubio dithered. He never introduced an immigration bill. And while Rubio was talking, Obama was taking action. Rubio is now shocked, dismayed and embarrassed.” The full story.
French Elections: Socialists Win Big Legislative Majority
Francoise Hollande, Le Monde’s editorial today reads, has won it all: the leadership of the Socialist Party, the presidential election, and now the legislative elections. He’s won an even bigger majority in the French Senate than Francois Mitterand had. No more “cohabitation” (as we partially have in the United States: president of one party, but a legislature of another). The right-wingers’ argument against concentrating power in the hands of a single party was no obstacle to Sunday’s “crushing victory” for the left. But le Monde makes clear: that only raises the stakes, so that if Hollande is unable to restore confidence between citizens and their elected representatives, if he doesn’t restore the strength of the nation (economic or otherwise), “it is democracy itself which, in 2017 or before, could find itself threatened.”
Michigan Republicans’ Vagina Problem
From NPR: “During a heated debate on the floor of the Michigan state House, Rep. Lisa Brown made an impassioned speech against a bill that seeks to put new regulations on abortion providers and ban all abortions after 20 weeks. “I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?” she said. But what came next is what got her in trouble: “And finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.'”” Following which, the Detroit News reported: “House Republicans prohibited state Rep. Lisa Brown from speaking on the floor Thursday after she ended a speech Wednesday against a bill restricting abortions by referencing her female anatomy. […] “What she said was offensive,” said Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville. “It was so offensive, I don’t even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company.”
Brown’s latest response? She will be performing Eve Ensler’s “The Vagina Monologues” on the steps of the Michigan state capitol
Watch Brown’s remarks on the floor of the Michigan House:
He’s Back: Charlie Sheen Does Lazarus
Dave Itzkoff sums it up in a Times feature: “It’s hard to believe that Charlie Sheen is about to star in another television show. It’s hard to believe that roughly one year after he was fired from an immensely popular and insanely lucrative role on “Two and a Half Men,” spent weeks popping up in TV interviews looking like a desiccated preppy ghoul and spouting catchphrases about “tiger blood” and “winning,” and then went on tour with a train-wreck of a live show, that a cable channel, a studio and a syndication company felt the best thing to do was to get him back on the air as quickly as possible. It’s hard to believe that Charlie Sheen is still alive. And yet there he was, vigorous looking if still wild eyed, calmly unwinding beneath a tent outside the remote Sun Valley studio here, where he was shooting his new FX series, “Anger Management,” having wrapped a full day’s work on its 10th episode. […] There are many compelling reasons Mr. Sheen should want “Anger Management,” which begins on June 28, to succeed without incident, and not just because he owns a portion of the show. It is his chance to restore his legacy after his troubled exit from “Two and a Half Men” — his last chance, if the new show is to be, as he vows, the “swan song” to his acting career. But there is an unpredictable and uneasy energy to being around Mr. Sheen for even a short while; you are never sure if you’re his new best friend, his audience or his hostage. […] Under his tent Charlie Sheen was adamant that he did not need to be subjected to drug tests while working on the show. “It’s an invasion of privacy, man, a total invasion of privacy,” he said. (Mr. Maron added that Mr. Sheen had passed random drug tests during his live tour, “and at a certain point, he just said, ‘Enough.’ ”) Asked if he felt he could remain clean going forward, Mr. Sheen replied, “I don’t know what clean is.” […] When Mr. Sheen was asked what he would do after “Anger Management,” Mr. Maron mimed pointing a gun to his own head and pulling the trigger. But Mr. Sheen said it would be simple to walk away from acting, and even easier to shed a celebrity status that he did not perceive.” The full profile. The Rolling Stone profile from last March, during Sheen’s meltdown, is here.
Today, We’re All Poles
June 16, 2012–That’s Agata Sokólska to the left, the actress and Flagler Palm Coast High School student, getting ready for the Poland-Czech match at Euro 2012 later this afternoon. It’s quite simple for the Poles. A tie or a loss won’t do it. They must beat the Czech Republic to advance to the quarterfinals. If the Czechs secure a tie, they advance, assuming the Greeks don’t beat the Russians
by three goals or more in the division’s other game. Poland are hosting the quadrennial tournament for the first time, along with co-host Ukraine. But home-field advantage wasn’t enough to overcome the Russians a few days ago: Poland tied 1-1 against their perennial invader. (The Poland-Russia rivalry is like the Red Sox-Yanks, with AK-47s for everyone). The Czech Republic are favored on paper, but after their 4-1 massacre at the hands of the Russians, and with home field in play, it’s anybody’s game. At 2:45 p.m. on one of the ESPNs.
Update: It was not to be. Poland lost, 1-0, and were eliminated. And Greece did the impossible (as it did in 2004, when it improbaly won the whole thing), defeating Russia 1-0 and advancing, along with the Czechs.
The Dark Side of Welfare Reform
From the Nation: “Since January 2011, Ohio has thrown nearly 70,000 people—including 40,000 children—off of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash assistance program, called Ohio Works First (OWF). That’s nearly 25 percent of the state’s TANF caseload. The reason? The state faces up to $130 million in federal penalties if 50 percent of the adults receiving assistance don’t meet the federal work participation requirement by September 30. “Seventy thousand people is more than the entire TANF roll in thirty-nine states,” says Jack Frech, director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services in Appalachian Ohio, where he has worked with poor people for over thirty years. “You can imagine if someone announced they were going to throw all the children in Virginia off of cash assistance it would be national news. But that many get thrown off in Ohio and it’s barely even local news.” Like Ohio, four other states face similar penalties for achieving low work-participation rates among TANF recipients in 2007. Advocates assert that forcing states to maintain those rates during a recession runs counter to the program’s goal of providing basic assistance to children in poverty.” The full story.
Free Lunch, Absentee Parents
From a Facebook poster: “There is a program in our school system that allows kids to eat free all summer and adults for minimal cost. I know it is a worthwhile program but there is no one in charge and I guess no rule about kids coming in alone to eat. Some kids I know came alone – the oldest is 10 – and the littlest one, 5, starting throwing a fit. I went over to settle things down, which really was not my responsibility and ticked me off because I’m there to teach, not supervise kids eating a free meal. I don’t understand parents. If you feel like your kids are going to go hungry without this meal, shouldn’t you make it your business to get off your ass and sit with them, rather than making them cross a major road (U.S. 41) alone, two times? Whatever happened to responsibility? Ugh!”
From Truth Beckons:
Sagan’s quote elicited the following: “The word “book” comes from Old English “boc”, which in turn is a form of the word “bec” (pronounced “baych”), which is “beech”, as in, the beech tree; the first books in the Anglo-Saxon world were peeled beech bark.” And: “Until we get to the digital age. Works written today can be more rapidly distributed and more easily lost through mechanical and electrical failures than ever before. We are facing a loss similar in size and scope as the fire at the ancient Library of Alexandria.” And, from Jeff Bryson: “Contradicts the point of Ralph Waldo Emerson that we read books and simply except their views forgetting that the author was likely younger and less wise than ourselves when they wrote that book.”
“I Hate Dreams”
Michael Chabon in the New York Review of Books: “I hate dreams. Dreams are the Sea Monkeys of consciousness: in the back pages of sleep they promise us teeming submarine palaces but leave us, on waking, with a hermetic residue of freeze-dried dust. The wisdom of dreams is a fortune on paper that you can’t cash out, an oasis of shimmering water that turns, when you wake up, to a mouthful of sand. I hate them for their absurdities and deferrals, their endlessly broken promise to amount to something, by and by. I hate them for the way they ransack memory, jumbling treasure and trash. I hate them for their tedium, how they drag on, peter out, wander off. Pretty much the only thing I hate more than my own dreams are yours. “I was flying over Lake Michigan in a pink Cessna,” you begin, “only it wasn’t really Lake Michigan…,” and I sink, cobwebbed, beneath a drifting dust of boredom. Dreams are effluvia, bodily information, to be shared only with intimates and doctors. At the breakfast table, in my house, an inflexible law compels all recountings of dreams to be compressed into a sentence or, better still, half a sentence, like the paraphrasings of epic films listed in TV Guide: “Rogue Samurai saves peasant village.” The recounting of a dream is—ought to be—a source of embarrassment to the dreamer, sitting there naked in fading tatters of Jungian couture. Whatever stuff dreams are made on, it isn’t words. As soon as you begin to tell a dream, as Freud reminds us, you interpolate, falsify, distort; you lie. That roseate airplane, that wide blue arc of cold water: no, it wasn’t like that, not at all. Better just to skip it, and pass the maple syrup. Worse still than real dreams, mine or yours—sandier mouthfuls, ranker lies—are the dreams of characters in books and movies.” The full post.
The Miseducation of Mitt Romney
Diane Ravich in the New York Review: “On May 23, the Romney campaign released its education policy white paper titled “A Chance for Every Child: Mitt Romney’s Plan for Restoring the Promise of American Education.” If you liked the George W. Bush administration’s education reforms, you will love the Romney plan. If you think that turning the schools over to the private sector will solve their problems, then his plan will thrill you. The central themes of the Romney plan are a rehash of Republican education ideas from the past thirty years, namely, subsidizing parents who want to send their child to a private or religious school, encouraging the private sector to operate schools, putting commercial banks in charge of the federal student loan program, holding teachers and schools accountable for students’ test scores, and lowering entrance requirements for new teachers. These policies reflect the experience of his advisers, who include half a dozen senior officials from the Bush administration and several prominent conservative academics, among them former Secretary of Education Rod Paige and former Deputy Secretary of Education Bill Hansen, and school choice advocates John Chubb and Paul Peterson. Unlike George W. Bush, who had to negotiate with a Democratic Congress to pass No Child Left Behind, Romney feels no need to compromise on anything. He needs to prove to the Republican Party’s base—especially evangelicals—that he really is conservative. And this plan is “mission accomplished.”” The full analysis.
Havana, City of Ghosts and Music
Teofilo Ruiz in Open Democracy: “After more than half a century and many unfulfilled promises, I traveled to Cuba in late February 2012. Having left the island in October 1961, I could not (or would not) return in the early years because of threats to my freedom. Later, restrictions imposed by the Cuban government on Cubans wishing to visit the island kept me away. Finally, already old, I continually reminded myself of how much I needed to take this journey. Yet, always at the very last moment, some other voyage beckoned, and again I postponed and/or delayed the trip, even though Scarlett would remind me that it was time for both of us to travel to Cuba. If I resisted my return, it was because I fully understood the psychological impact of such a re-encounter with my lost youth, and feared the possible erasure of carefully nurtured memories of my early life, of places, people, and events. […] . In the fifty years since I left Cuba, I have walked my town and La Habana endless times, reaffirming memories of streets, houses, parks, smells, and people. And although I have lived in many different places in the world and have felt somewhat at home almost everywhere, both my hometown and La Habana remained engraved in nostalgic memories, deeply alive in me, even though part of me realized that they had no objective existence anywhere else. I dreamed of them, longed for them, and waited in vain.” The full essay.