Friday, February 27, 2015

Food Glorious Food

The New York Times had this editorial in response to the data with regards to food waste and its affect on the climate (article below)

Food Waste Grows With the Middle Class
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
FEB. 27, 2015

Massive food waste by humanity is an undisputed fact documented daily in tons of discarded scrapings from dinner plates around the world. It is now being measured as a serious threat to the global environment and economy, with an estimated one-third of all the food produced in the world left uneaten at a cost of up to $400 billion a year in waste disposal and other government costs.

The food discarded by consumers and retailers in just the most developed nations would be more than enough to sustain all the world’s 870 million hungry people if effective distribution methods were available.

Unfortunately, most of the uneaten food goes to landfills where it decomposes and produces the dangerous greenhouse gas methane at a volume that amounts to an estimated 7 percent of the total emissions contributing to the global warming threat. This puts food waste by ordinary humans in third place in methane emissions behind the busy economies of China and the United States, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. These stark facts have been laid out in a new report from the Waste and Resources Action Program, or WRAP, a British antiwaste organization. The organization warns that the problem is getting worse because the global middle class is, fortunately enough, expanding. According to the report, by 2030, consumer food waste will cost an estimated $600 billion a year — a 50 percent increase from current costs — unless there is a wide effort to change the trend.

Numerous antiwaste programs are underway, from backyard composting to restaurant donations to food pantries, from London’s campaign to cut food waste by 50 percent in five years to fish-drying innovations in West Africa that prevent spoilage. Reducing food waste by 20 percent to 50 percent could save an estimated $120 billion to $300 billion a year, according to the WRAP report.

This would take far more action by national and local governments, food producers and, most of all, consumers unaware of the mounting costs of their dinner scraps.

Of course this is the issue is it the growth of the middle class or literally the growth of our population and in turn the quest and need to belong to a higher class and that only bridge is consumption and that has now been relegated to food as the singular bridge. What little is left of one's disposible income is usually spent on "luxuries" and food is a luxury. Look at the shows and networks dedicated to food preparation and ultimate consumption. You would think everyone has an advanced pallet with a commercial kitchen available to indulge any current epicurean trend that is delighting the hoi polloi. Funny the 1% has just as pedantic tastes as the 99%, reading this little ditty about Warren Buffet I found quite an amusee bouche.

Or is that we have no time to actually cook food, that much food is consumed in cars, on the road and is utterly disposable both literally and metaphorically.

Much is made of farm to kitchen. When has anyone been to a farm lately? What about the green spaces and in turn in city gardens that could be used in public schools, homes for the elderly or the poor? Don't know of any? Well I have seen some then they fall into the developers hands and disappear or relocate. For the record I have actually never seen anyone working in a pea patch other than the one directly adjacent to my home. There is one attached to a local community center and it has goods but I am not sure if these are privately held ones or who or how they are maintained. It also has a professional hive but I have yet to meet the beekeeper. The alternative school located there was intending to do some of this but was told that this is not something the district wanted to engage in. Another alternative school with at risk kids claimed to be doing the same and selling the produce at the local farmers market then the farmers were robbed, the local community has decided to transform the area into a public park aka gateway to turn the blight into something the community can use.

I see few active Greenhouses used in schools and they exist but once thriving programs often maintained as both a curriculum and in turn after school program are too falling by the wayside. I have no idea if it is funding issue or simply disinterest or a combination of both.

Food has become a gross inequity and by gross I mean literally as in large and not attractive. I see more fat people daily swilling large Starbucks drinks, sodas and eating Chipolte as I do seeing people nosh on coddled eggs gathered from the neighbors coop. Seattle is a pretentious town and they book and the cover don't match well here. But I love the farmer's markets and frequent them religiously year round. But I grew up in house that cooked, emphasized cooking, had a full garden and cared deeply about eating. I went to a farm annually where my father had grown up. He wanted me to know who picked and processed my food and when we went out to eat to know how the food came too the table not just the farm it came from. In other words recognizing all those responsible from Chefs, to Waitresses to bussers. We were a working class family and that was all part of our legacy and history and role in society. Today's working class is pseudo middle class and they are barely floating letting alone treading water so drinking it is low on the priority scale.

Waste not want not. There are children starving in China. These were the mantras I grew up. Bless this food. There are many connections I have to eating and sharing food. Composting was not a novel concept it was a necessary one for the garden.

I can't say this is an industrial problem alone it is a societal one. One of many.




Food Waste Is Becoming Serious Economic and Environmental Issue, Report Says
By RON NIXON
FEB. 25, 2015

WASHINGTON — With millions of households across the country struggling to have enough to eat, and millions of tons of food being tossed in the garbage, food waste is increasingly being seen as a serious environmental and economic issue.

A report released Wednesday shows that about 60 million metric tons of food is wasted a year in the United States, with an estimated value of $162 billion. About 32 million metric tons of it end up in municipal landfills, at a cost of about $1.5 billion a year to local governments.

The problem is not limited to the United States.

The report estimates that a third of all the food produced in the world is never consumed, and the total cost of that food waste could be as high as $400 billion a year. Reducing food waste from 20 to 50 percent globally could save $120 billion to $300 billion a year by 2030, the report found.

“Food waste is a global issue, and tackling it is a priority,” said Richard Swannell, director of sustainable food systems at the Waste and Resources Action Program, or Wrap, an antiwaste organization in Britain that compiled the new report. “The difficulty is often in knowing where to start and how to make the biggest economic and environmental savings.”

The food discarded by retailers and consumers in the most developed countries would be more than enough to feed all of the world’s 870 million hungry people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

But it is not just those countries that have problems with food waste. The report showed that it is also an issue in African countries like South Africa.

The problem is expected to grow worse as the world’s population increases, the report found. By 2030, when the global middle class expands, consumer food waste will cost $600 billion a year, unless actions are taken to reduce the waste, according to the report.

Food waste is not only a social cost, but it contributes to growing environmental problems like climate change, experts say, with the production of food consuming vast quantities of water, fertilizer and land. The fuel that is burned to process, refrigerate and transport it also adds to the environmental cost.
Most food waste is thrown away in landfills, where it decomposes and emits methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Globally, it creates 3.3 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases annually, about 7 percent of the total emissions, according to the report.

The United Nations agency points out that methane gas from the world’s landfills are surpassed in emissions by only China and the United States.

“Seven percent is not the largest contributor of greenhouse gasses, but it’s not an insignificant amount,” said Helen Mountford, the director of economics at the World Resources Institute. “But this is one area — reducing food waste — where we can make a difference.”

Over the last several years, some cities and counties in the United States, including New York City, have started programs to tackle the issue. Hennepin County, Minn., the state’s most populous county, provides grants from $10,000 to $50,000 to local business and nonprofits to help recycle food products or turn them into compost.

“There is still a lot in the waste stream,” said Paul Kroening, supervising environmentalist at Hennepin County Environmental Services. “We are just scratching the surface.”

A coalition of food industry trade groups, the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, has also increased effort to combat food waste. Meghan Stasz, the director of sustainability for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a member of the alliance, said the group was working with supermarket chains to reduce waste by clarifying expiration dates and selling smaller portions of food.

Ms. Stasz said the group was also getting its members to donate more food and make changes in manufacturing processes to reduce the amount of wasted food. One member, the giant food company ConAgra, changed the way it placed dough in shell for its pot pies and saved 235 tons of dough in a year.

Mr. Swannell, of the antiwaste group Wrap, applauded those efforts, but said more still needed to be done.
“Awareness of food waste has risen, but we need to do more to tie that awareness to actions on the ground,” he said. “We need to find better ways to deal with food waste, but we need to prevent it in the first place.”

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What's that Smell

In line with my last few posts about how drugs and alcohol are the gates to sin and hell which must be illegal and those who use them punished in whatever means possible to ensure that the message is clear... just say no! And then go about your day.

My last hobby was looking up the PSA's on You Tube about a myriad of subjects, including the evil-ness of drugs, sex and my personal favorite the dangers of homosexuals. I never tire of that one!

I have long lamented that we have this interesting need to confirm our biases and we do so using whatever methodology or reasoning we have available. Police use their amazing olfactory senses equivalent to dogs that are superior in of course finding any illegal substance in whatever trace amounts conveniently on a metal automobile that was driving on a hot highway. Fascinating.

And then there is the junk science that is used until someone finally manages to actually demonstrate enough times that it is piece of shit. There is this article in the Intercept about another wrongly convicted man due to junk arson science. Again the fantastic olfactory capabilities of the Officer went unquestioned as did his conflicting to non existing memories. But hey who needs facts and logic and actual science I have my nose for crime.

Of Corey it also paralleled other crimes and stories of this nature that the "suspect" did not seem stunned or in grief enough. I am unsure how we project our reactions to trauma in one singular way that would be perceived sufficient to demonstrate innocence but okay. And my favorite the lie detector. A well worn out piece of equipment that still is used as some sort of pliers to the fingers technique. Frankly that would be a better way to see if they are telling the truth. Oh wait they do that too! Or not depending upon whom you ask.

Then we have the numerous stories of innocence almost daily who have been victims of Police Abuse and the costs to the cities that are in the double digits millions. Chicago that can't seem to elect a Mayor and fund schools but can pay off the numerous claims against them. Gee think of what it could to to actually help people!

Then we have the most hilarious read of the day - the false positive - and not in a pregnancy way. This is another way that given the hands of Police and the morons in their labs that have done more to harm people and in turn building those civil asset forfeiture accounts via the "positive" drug test.

The link to Radley Balko's column is here and the sheer ineptitude is laughable only that it has cost people their livelihoods, incomes, savings, reputations and of course municipalities millions to resolve the matters. I love Jolly Ranchers by the way, green apple.

The story on which this is based is below. The usual suspects appear just not the ones you think. I wonder if the Westminster Kennel Club winner, Miss P, is a beagle sniffer extraordinaire? She is adorable.

Given the amount of bizarre Chinese herbs and concoctions I take I would be a walking lab.



What can happen when police mistake your vitamin powder for amphetamines
By Abby Phillip
The Washington Post
February 17, 2015

A Minnesota man spent months in jail on drug possession charges after police mistook a half-ounce bag of vitamin powder for drugs.

Police pulled over Joseph Ray Burrell, 31, outside of a Mankato, Minn., grocery store in November for driving without lights on, according to the Mankato Free Press.

A subsequent search of his car turned up a small bag of powder that police believed were illegal drugs. They conducted a field test, which came back positive for amphetamine and Burrell was charged with two felony counts of drug possession.

“I told the judge I couldn’t plead guilty to something I knew wasn’t a drug,” Burrell said, according to the Mankato Free Press. The judge set his bail at $250,000.

He stayed locked up for months while he waited for a more sophisticated drug test to clear his name.

According to Burrell, it took a month for prosecutors to send the powder to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension crime lab for more advanced testing and more than a month passed before the results came back and nothing illegal was found in the powder.

On Feb. 4, Burrell was released– a day before he was scheduled to appear in court.

“I was furious, I was hot, I was pissed off. At the same time it was like, unbelievable,” he said, according to KMSP.

Burrell says that the vitamins were prescribed to him for shoulder pain. And despite his criminal history, he had recently left a drug treatment program right before the arrest.



Bars of Iron(y)

If one wonders that the surging growth in prison populations had to do with a surging growth of crime and the sudden excessive legislation to combat said crime, then look no further than this recent case in Mississippi about graft and the construction of private prisons.

Guess this is kind of ironic, yep pun intended.

2 Former Mississippi Officials Plead Guilty in a Graft Case Involving Private Prisons
By ALAN BLINDER
New York Times
FEB. 25, 2015

ATLANTA — Two former Mississippi officials, including the head of the prison system, pleaded guilty to corruption charges on Wednesday amid a federal inquiry that rattled the state’s government and raised new questions about its use of private prisons.

The guilty pleas, entered in Federal District Court in Jackson, came nearly four months after the authorities announced a 49-count indictment that named Christopher B. Epps, the former commissioner of the Department of Corrections, and Cecil McCrory, a onetime state lawmaker who had become involved with the private prisons industry.

In the indictment, which formed the basis of Wednesday’s pleas, federal prosecutors accused the men of a scheme in which Mr. McCrory directed more than $1 million to Mr. Epps, including cash and mortgage payments, in exchange for lucrative state contracts.

Mr. Epps pleaded guilty on Wednesday to money laundering conspiracy and filing a false tax return. Mr. McCrory pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy.

Judge Henry T. Wingate scheduled sentencing hearings for June, and a lawyer for Mr. Epps, John M. Colette, said he expected him to be sent to prison.

“He worked his whole life to attain the pinnacle of his career in corrections, and now he’s facing a jail sentence,” Mr. Colette said in a telephone interview. “It was not a good day for anybody.”

Mr. Colette said that Mr. Epps was cooperating with federal investigators, and that “there are others involved allegedly who have not been charged just yet.”

Mr. McCrory’s lawyer did not respond to a message seeking comment.

The United States attorney’s office had no comment beyond an announcement of the guilty pleas, but Gov. Phil Bryant said in a statement that Mr. Epps’s downfall “serves as an example that there are consequences for public corruption.”
Mississippi officials opened a review of state contracts after Mr. Epps’s indictment, and Mr. Bryant on Wednesday called for “meaningful reform to the state contracting process.”

During his 12 years as corrections commissioner, Mr. Epps was praised by some as a positive force in Jackson. But he was also criticized for poor conditions in the state’s prisons, as well as for Mississippi’s reliance on the private facilities that were ultimately connected to his own criminal conduct.

Despite his critics, Mr. Epps was well respected in Mississippi, where he cultivated a prominent profile built in part on his 20-year rise from prison guard to corrections chief. But by Wednesday morning in Judge Wingate’s courtroom, The Clarion-Ledger reported, Mr. Epps was reduced to offering an apology.

“I’m sorry for what I’ve done,” Mr. Epps said. “I’ve repented before God. I apologize to my family and the State of Mississippi.”

They're Here!

I spoke to soon yesterday when I wondered if there was a parental "advocacy" group ready to take on the ever growing push to legalize Marijuana, and I found them CALM - citizens against legalizing marijuana. Nice acronym and clearly they are not very good at it. Despite even Congress threatening Washington DC for their move towards legalizing, it appears they have not gotten MADD enough.

Their website is of course the requisite source of both paranoia, exaggerated facts and junk science. I am not sure what I found more amusing

Conservative estimates show that 20% of crashes in the U.S. are caused by drugged driving. This translates into about 6,761 deaths, 440,000 injuries and $59.9 billion in costs each year.

In a national survey, drugs were present more than 7 times as frequently as alcohol among weekend nighttime drivers in the U.S., with 16% testing positive


versus this from the perpetual MADD

In 2012, 10,322 people were killed and approximately 345,000 were injured. Each crash, each death, each injury impacts not only the person in the crash, but family, friends, classmates, coworkers and more. Even those who have not been directly touched help pay the $132 billion yearly price tag of drunk driving. But together we can eliminate drunk driving
.


MADD is mad about drugs it is just not as aggressive about the issue. So the include it with their site to say that most drunks are druggies. I love this stat and fact which of course is their biased data collecter NHTSA which includes any drugs or alcohol be it victim, perpetrator or just bystander. And given that all of us at some

<blockquote>About 4,000 drivers are killed each year with drugs in their systems. This doesn’t count those who had drugs in their system without test results, or those killed by drivers with drugs in their system. (NHTSA, 2010) (http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811415.pdf)
•57% of fatally injured drivers had alcohol and/or other drugs in their system – 17% had both.
•Almost 7% of drivers, mostly under age 35, who were involved in fatal traffic crashes tested positive for THC, the principle ingredient in marijuana.
•Alcohol levels above the legal limit were found in 21% of such drivers.
•Drugs other than alcohol (e.g., marijuana and cocaine) are involved in about 18% of motor vehicle driver deaths. (NHTSA)
•More than 16% of weekend, nighttime drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over-the-counter drugs. Of these, almost a quarter also had alcohol in their system. (NHTSA 2007 National Roadside Survey)
•More than 11% of driver tested positive for illicit drugs. (NHTSA 2007 National Roadside Survey)
•In 2013, 9.9 million people (3.8% of the population) reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs. This was highest among 18-25 year olds, where 10.6% reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs. (SAMHSA’s 2013 NSUDH survey (http://www.samhsa.gov/data/sites/default/files/NSDUHresultsPDFWHTML2013/Web/NSDUHresults2013.htm))
•More than a third of teens mistakenly believe they drive better under the influence of marijuana. (Liberty Mutual/SADD poll of 1,708 teens in the 11th and 12th grades. Margin of error is +/- 2.16 percentage points. Janet Loehrke, USA TODAY. As cited in http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/25/teens-drunken-driving-impaired-survey/2106325/)
Over half of all drivers admitted to a level-1 trauma center for traffic crashes had drugs other than alcohol in their system; marijuana was present in nearly a quarter. (Walsh JM, Flegel R, Atkins R, et al. Drug and alcohol use among drivers admitted to a level-1 trauma center. Accid Anal Prev. 2005;37(5):894–901
.)

The data used is largely the collection of the usual suspects, NHTSA and SAMSHA - The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. SAMHSA is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that leads public health efforts to advance the behavioral health of the nation. SAMHSA's mission is to reduce the impact of substance abuse and mental illness on America's communities.

I think given the state of homelessness and mental health SAMSHA is largely ineffective if not incompetent. Well that is not much different than most glargely derided and ineffective government agency. My favorite is this You Tube award by a Doctor with regards to SAMSHA and there are many more compliants and issues regarding this agency.

*** for the record I believe is it is the systemic underfunding and in turn nepotism, benchmarking, gamesmanship and other means that fund and de-fund departments in the Government. So that constant ebb stream leads to a problem holding qualified staff, consistent leadership and clear direction that enables them to function. Which is why they rely on private funding and other methods to substantiate their existence

So once again the data is as good as you buy it, alter it or collect it with an agenda or purpose. If curious about how faux scientists are quoted as experts and the data and information they use to pursue an agenda look not further than this bullshit quack who is cited as an "expert" on climate science. Or the bullshit former licensed Physician who claimed vaccinations caused Autism. There are no shortages of experts that self publish and in turn are paid assassins to do the dirty work, be the spokesmodel and represent the interests of the noblesse oblige who pay them.

I found another recent article on Vox about drugs and alcohol and they largely seem to cite the same sources with the same information repeated ad infinitum. And then I found the study they cited and actually read it.

My favorite part of the survey was that using crash data and of course that would include the DUI stats collected at the time of the accident as in citations, not necessarily convictions or pleas which may challenge the data and in fact exonerate them. No we just go with guilty immediately. And then there were the voluntary idiots who actually allowed the NHTSA to take samples but those who did refuse breath alcohol tests were given a "passive alcohol sensory test" I have no idea but this has to be equivalent to the fantastic olfactory skills by both Police and Dogs to smell drugs or booze. The of course the that was used to determine the likelihood of being a drunked up drugged driver.

Here is the deal. Regardless of the idea that drinking and drug taking does affect some NOT all people differently and that getting behind the wheel of a killing machine is not a good idea, to believe that a specific amount of either will determine the reflexes and in turn abilities of drivers skills or danger level is not good science. And in turn the whole a drunk driver killed my mother is tragic but I would like a few details. Like how many times had he been cited in the past, what was his history with drugs or alcohol and why was he allowed to carry on with no treatment and no follow up to ensure that his behavior and health were now both compliant and safe for all? Well we don't do that we just nail em and jail em.

By the way in this study over 64% of the participants were excluded so out of 10K of stops (approximately) they are basing this hard hitting research on about 4 thousand people. We have no data on gender, race, body weight, size or any other information that would affect absorption and in turn levels of risk.

I am not advocating that we have zero limits and a free pass to the matter of driving unsafely - period. But much of this is not about risk and danger but it is just another way to of course provide a scarlet letter for the morality crimes department and the other is a cash grab. The echo chamber uses victims to pursue an agenda of their own and in turn the same victims are used and exploited to form varying non-profit groups that use tax payer dollars and tax exemptions to fuel an agenda that is often faith based on junk based science.

The tools for education and information and the ability to provide free to low cost transportation to those who might think they are not able to drive safely and in turn should not should also be a part of the equation. Perhaps that is why Oklahoma has the highest rates of drunken driving, the lack of low cost transportation, a shitty infrastructure and a hell of lot of drunks who have nothing to do. But it was a hell of a musical.

The act of one should not affect the acts of all and in America we don't care. We find that a narrow broom can sweep a broad picture and we have experts, elected officials and others who will support that regardless of the truth and facts. America was supposedly found in pursuit of religious freedom. But they neglected to mention that it was the Puritan religion that was the one they were planning to freely pursue. And it is this that has led us to be the largest jailer in the civilized world and the only westernized country to still pursue the death penalty.

Aliens would never want to come here. And I mean the one's from space. Frankly I still can't figure out why the earthly ones still do. Better life really?



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Data In Data OUT

We just had headlines here that stoned driving is not as dangerous as drunk driving.  And once again the report was generated by the governmental arm wing of MADD, the NHTSA.   And why?  There is no way to test for the drugs presence other than blood and the costs and time involved as it includes warrants and taking people to hospitals for the test, waiting for results which means this is not the cash cow it needs to be.  So by saying they are not impaired they can wait it out til the appropriate victims groups solicit and in turn lobby for a new plan of action. 

I have no problem with any agency determined to make our roads safer and doing so via public awareness initiatives.  But the obsession with alcohol and the presumptive dangers of liquor infused drivers careening down highways has dominated the programs and in turn legislation that has resulted from the research and supposed science of the NHTSA. Meanwhile they have ignored the safety regulations and problems with varying auto manufacturers and their killing machines and of course they are utterly uninterested in the concept of distracted driving and speed, not the drug the mph kind.  And of course on that note how pharmaceuticals affect driving.  Remember Ambien driving?  That was a Kennedy's recent DUI charge.

Why?  They don't care.  Well thank MADD as they don't care. They are a temperance agency and their only interest is in demon rum and with DUI charges down across the country, thanks now to the rise of the UBER and LYFT, that enables people to not drive drunk, mildly buzzed and that in many jurisdictions the roadway block is increasingly becoming a matter for the courts, the DUI industry is going to have to step on the gas to ensure the monetary gains.  They will once they figure out a way to get those stoners.  The smokealyzer is coming your way.  And just wait for the MADD moms whose loved one was killed by a stoner.  Then they will become MADDS.

The CDC often the complicit agent to the NHTSA has recently found that while more people are drinking more they aren't alcoholic and that well makes the mad mothers madder.  And of course the Governmental Accounting Office that is non partisan and actually does research are saying as they have always said - you actually need to do research before setting alarms.   Well that is a downer? Have one by the way? Xanax perhaps?



Drug-Impaired Driving:
Additional Support Needed for Public Awareness Initiatives

GAO-15-293: Published: Feb 24, 2015. Publicly Released: Feb 24, 2015.


What GAO Found

Various state and national-level data sources—including surveys, arrest data, drug-testing results, and crash data—provide limited information on the extent of drugged and drug-impaired driving in the United States. For example, based on preliminary results from a representative sample of weekend-nighttime and Friday daytime drivers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) 2013-2014 National Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers ( NRS ) estimated that 20 percent of drivers would have tested positive for at least one drug, with marijuana being the most common drug. However, the survey does not capture the extent to which drivers were impaired by drugs. Arrest data and drug-testing results provide some information on drug-impaired driving, but these data are limited. For example, data for drug impairment may not be separated from that for alcohol impairment and drug testing is not standardized.

According to NHTSA officials, currently available data on drug involvement in crashes are generally unreliable due to variances in reporting and testing.

The lack of a clear link between impairment and drug concentrations in the body makes it difficult to define drug impairment, which, in turn, exacerbates challenges related to enforcement and public awareness. Compared to alcohol, defining and identifying impairment due to drugs is more complicated due to the large number of available drugs and their unpredictable effects. For example, the NRS includes tests for 75 illegal prescriptions, and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs identified as potentially impairing. Additionally, law enforcement processes for obtaining samples for drug testing can be time consuming and result in a loss of evidence.

For example, there is no validated device for roadside drug testing, and obtaining a search warrant to collect a blood sample to confirm the presence of drugs in a driver's system could take several hours, during which time the concentration of the drug in the driver's system could dissipate. Further, state officials identified limited public awareness about the dangers of drugged driving as a challenge. As a result, members of the public may drive while impaired without knowing the risks, potentially leading to collisions, injuries, and fatalities.

Federal and state agencies—including NHTSA, the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)—are taking actions to address drug-impaired driving, including improvements in the areas of research and data, education for police officers, evidence gathering, and legal changes.

For example, NHTSA is currently conducting research to assess the crash risk associated with drug use (including illegal, prescription, and OTC drugs) by collecting samples from more than 10,000 drivers. However, public awareness of the dangers of drug-impaired driving is an area in which state officials told us that NHTSA could do more to support their efforts. As part of its mission to support state safety efforts, NHTSA has provided media and other materials to states for impaired-driving awareness programs, but these materials are focused on alcohol-impaired driving.

While NHTSA plans to improve public awareness through initiatives to conduct surveys on drug-impaired-driving behaviors and attitudes as well as training for medical professionals, these plans could take several years to implement. Additional efforts, such as general messaging reminding the public about the impairing effects of drugs, could help improve public awareness in the near term.

Why GAO Did This Study

The issue of alcohol-impaired driving has received broad attention over the years, but drug-impaired driving also contributes to fatalities and injuries from traffic crashes. However, knowledge about the drug-impaired- driving problem is less advanced than for alcohol-impaired driving.

Through Senate Report No. 113-45 (2013), Congress required GAO to report on the strategies NHTSA, ONDCP, and states have taken to address drug-impaired driving and challenges they face in detecting and reducing such driving. This report discusses (1) what is known about the extent of drug-impaired driving in the United States; (2) challenges that exist for federal, state, and local agencies in addressing drug-impaired driving; and (3) actions federal and state agencies have taken to address drug-impaired driving and what gaps exist in the federal response.

GAO reviewed literature to identify sources of data on drug-impaired driving; reviewed documentation and interviewed officials from NHTSA, ONDCP, and HHS; and interviewed officials from relevant advocacy and professional organizations and seven selected states. States were selected based on: legal status of marijuana, proximity to states with legalized marijuana, and drugged-driving laws.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that NHTSA take additional actions to support states in emphasizing to the public the dangers of drug-impaired driving. DOT agreed with GAO's recommendation.

The News is the News

I am now losing count of both the women who are now accusing Bill Cosby of drugging and sexually assaulting them and the exposes exposing the journalists who are exaggerating or confabulating their histories and stories to fit the narrative.

We had the Rolling Stone which has now gathered moss and heard no more on weather and if or and but the alleged assault and the young woman's veracity of her allegations are in fact just that or not.  We have moved on to the Brian Williams story which is now in rest mode as we have Bill O'Reilly and his guttersnipe accusations of smear campaigns and agenda seeking journalists.  David Corn may well be all of those things, frankly my exchanges with him have been interesting to say the least but the rest of the squad who have come out in this army seem to back the General.    And then there was the mass exodus of writers from the New Republic and their anger at the new owners agenda and the most recent abdication of another writer from the Intercept on the heels of the Taibbi fiasco of last year.  Ah the news is the news.

And now this article in the Toronto Sun which exposed their then Mayor as a crack addled fat baby of pugilistic proportions.  Rob Ford reminds me of our own Chris Christie only stoned.  This time they relied on the junk portion of science to suit the facts to fit the narrative with regards to an HPV drug.

Irony that at a time that we are debating the measles vaccines and the junk scientist now denigrated "Doctor" who started that hysteria being well refuted and in turn leading to what has become an issue of seriousity when Politicians are using it to frame campaign themes - "I am for vaccinations when I am against them when someone who doesn't want them will not do them but I will have one to show you that they are perfectly safe if you want to have one.  But if you don't wan t one that is okay too! And Obama is anti American"  I think that is a rather good example of poli speak.

As I like to say the source is as good as the writer and the writer crafts a story, a narrative or arc to suit the writer and in turn editors demands to get the story.  There is an agenda in media and that is to get papers sold or eyes to pages.   I truly believe that the crap fest that defines Buzzfeed and Gawker do it best.  Salacious, simplistic and utterly disposable.  They turn out writers like the Chinese turn out Ipods, fast furious and with a short shelf life.  That is what journalism has become and that is probably what really killed David Carr. New headline: Journalism kills Journalist!

The story below demonstrates how the media creates and in turn generates an echo chamber.  I remember when the New York Times had article after article on Autism and the first thought was not that this an issue of import but who there has an autistic child and this is somehow about them and not the greater problems at hand with regards to this disability.

I have never understood Malcolm Gladwell but he does write well.  Someone who does not write well but actually when compelled to do so is Jeremy Scahill but he is so enamored of his own voice that at times I cannot tell if the subject and in turn story is as important to him as he as story teller.

We all read into and comprehend materials with our glasses, shaded or pink.  We like our chambers to echo our own voices and validate our own beliefs regardless of how realistic, convoluted or based in rational thought and investigation.  The latter is something few do, ask Neil deGrasse Tyson who thinks thinking about something often called contemplating or analyzing a subject which takes time and energy before speaking about something.  We should all follow his lead.
 

Botched exposé of HPV vaccine’s ‘dark side’ reveals dark side of news business

Washington Post
February 25, 2015
 

The Toronto Star’s front-page feature on the “dark side” of a widely used HPV vaccine had all the makings of a blockbuster: a grim, gripping headline, vivid accounts from teenagers who died or were debilitated, a wrenching image of a woman holding a framed photo of her dead daughter.

But it lacked a crucial component of any scientific investigation: good data.

“It’s too bad there isn’t a vaccination to prevent journalistic misstep,” wrote the paper’s public editor, Kathy English, who called the story “alarmist.” “I suspect we’d all line up for that shot about now.”

All reporters face dueling pressures when covering medicine and other science issues. On the one hand, they want to craft a compelling narrative. On the other, science values statistics, not stories and anecdotes. The Star’s vaccine article, which the paper retracted Friday after it was thoroughly panned by doctors and other experts, epitomized the failure to strike that balance. As the paper’s publisher put it in a note, the Star’s story “led to confusion between anecdotes and evidence.”

The Star, Canada’s highest-circulation daily paper, won a reputation for its investigative reporting after its high-profile exposé of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. The HPV vaccine article was meant to be one installment in a series of investigative pieces on drug safety.

The story was built around the accounts of five young women who suffered muscle pain, swelling, heart attacks and other health problems in the weeks after receiving shots of Gardasil, a vaccine that protects against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus. Published Feb. 5 under the headline “A wonder drug’s dark side,” it said that doctors and health officials are pushing the vaccine on patients without fully informing them of potential side effects. The Star also reported that it had found more than 50 self-reports of “serious” adverse reactions to the drug in a regulatory database maintained by Health Canada and thousands of suspected cases in a similar American database known as VAERS (an acronym for Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System).

The article acknowledged that none of the cases it discussed were conclusively proved to have been caused by the Gardasil injections and obliquely alluded to “comprehensive clinical trials and other data that show the vaccine’s well-studied safety and efficacy.” But those caveats were overwhelmed by descriptions of a 13-year-old athlete sapped of her strength by debilitating joint pain, a 14-year-old hospitalized for over a month after suffering a heart attack and, horrifyingly, another 14-year-old found drowned in her bathtub two weeks after receiving the vaccine.

Vox science writer Julia Belluz called it “everything wrong with vaccine reporting in one dangerous package.”
“These tales of suffering and death are awful. Stomach turning. But they are just that: stories,” she wrote.

The JAMA study also warned against reliance on self-reporting mechanisms like the Health Canada and VAERS databases, from which the Star got its only data about vaccine-related incidents.

“Not all reported events are systematically validated, and many may have only coincidentally followed vaccination,” the study said, adding that underreporting, inconsistency in the quality and completeness of reported data, stimulated reporting due to extensive news coverage and reporting biases could also skew these numbers.
Meanwhile, people on Twitter accused the paper of “fear mongering” and compared the report to claims from vaccination skeptics that the measles vaccine causes autism.
A week after the story came out, it was updated to reflect doctors’ criticism of the piece. The online headline was changed to the less-inflammatory “Families seek more transparency on HPV vaccine and a subhead was added stating “there is no scientific medical evidence of any ‘dark side’ of this vaccine.”
Last Friday, the story was removed altogether.

“All vaccines, including Gardasil, have side-effects. The better known they are, the more safely the vaccine can be deployed,” publisher John Cruickshank wrote in a note on the paper’s Web site. “… We remain committed to this line of reporting. However, we have concluded that in this case our story treatment led to confusion between anecdotes and evidence.”

The lingering outrage over the story among medical experts points to frustration with science journalism that allows narrative to eclipse hard data. An opinion piece submitted to the Star by two immunology experts and signed by 63 other medical specialists said that the article’s “litany of horror stories and its innuendo give the incorrect impression that the vaccine caused the harm.” Even the Star’s public editor acknowledged that the paper’s reporting wrongfully emphasized anecdotal evidence.

“In giving disproportionate and dramatic play to the heartbreaking stories of young women who suspect their illnesses are linked to having received the vaccine … the proven scientific evidence of the vaccine’s safety was not made clear enough to readers,’” she wrote in a Feb. 13 column.

It’s a criticism that has been lobbed at science journalism before. Some of science’s most compelling writers — Macolm Gladwell and Oliver Sacks, for example — have been accused of privileging individual stories over mass amounts of data.

The trouble is that individual stories are what make reporting on science interesting. Gladwell said as much himself in a 2013 interview with Brian Lehrer.

“I am a story-teller, and I look to academic research … for ways of augmenting story-telling,” he said. “The reason I don’t do things their way is because their way has a cost: it makes their writing inaccessible. If you are someone who has as their goal … to reach a lay audience … you can’t do it their way.”

It’s worth noting that the Star didn’t just fumble in its science reporting. The paper’s initial response to the backlash was to dismiss its critics. Here’s a tweet from editor-in-chief Michael Cooke:
Vox reporter Belluz says Cooke used similarly crude language in an e-mail responding to her questions about the article.

“Stop gargling our bathwater and take the energy to run yourself your own, fresh tub,” he wrote, according to her piece.



Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Teaching Sucks

I have been a substitute teacher for now 7 years after leaving the profession over 15 years ago. I was one of many statistics when it comes to the profession leaving after 4 years of teaching. I hated it because I worked with and "for" so few capable caring compassionate, individuals,  that without a network of support and financial compensation that equates the costs of the profession you end up leaving. I made more money refurbishing houses and loved it.  I miss it every day.

I know I am an intellectual and professional snob, I have unrealistic expectations and presumptions about what defines work, how to do work and what is leadership and management it in some way actually makes sense I would be a Teacher as I have always been a solo person who largely self manages.  But I do appreciate having collegiate working relationships and working with people who share the same values and attitudes.  And that is also why I quit teaching, as those are few and far between.    And people eschew the trades, funny you can't get anywhere in that field without the ability to work and support a team.  So why is that that Teaching which is not white collar in any sense of the word different?  Well that might be why it cannot be both blue and white and the debate about unions reflects that.   And maybe that is why many Teachers truly hate their jobs as that is the question of what kind of job is it exactly? And if it is white collar it should be compensated and treated accordingly and it is not and in turn it shows in and out of the classroom.

Why? It is because this system of education eats you alive. So when you do see/hear/know of these Teachers who are "highly capable"  you are in turn both shocked and relieved. I rarely meet them but I know of them today when I walk in their room I can tell instantly their approach to learning. The rooms are organized, the materials available, there are clear lesson plans that are easily adaptable and teachable, regardless of the curriculum, and the kids on average reflect a person who is large and in charge and they have no problem meeting the expectations that are left.

Much is made of students or "kids today." Well to some extent there is truth in that statement. But as I like to point out the basic principal of apple, tree kids are largely a reflection of the adults in their lives. Kids like to believe and think they are these massively independent walking talking adults at age 17 but they are 17. If I could remember 17 I would tell you how I know that to be true or not but I am 55.

That said I do meet kids who are clearly going to be exactly some version of themselves as they are at that minute. The baby duck imprint usually ends at 6th grade and you can see the adult emerging at that moment. It is brief and then in that same brief moment it is gone for the next 3 years the light and the tunnel seem years away.

So in other words I am more willing and able to excuse kids for largely being horrific individuals and sometimes I am not.

But this is not about kids. I simply see that they are also the whipping boys, the fake catalysts and the dollar signs used by the adults around them in whir of self preservation and monetary gain.

I found this comment on a blog about why a teacher elected to leave teaching. Her analysis and thoughts about the profession are spot on. But this comment stood out:

I am so glad that other people feel the same way about teaching. Teaching used to be great. But in the last couple of years things have really changed. We are given books that include everything and time lines to follow. You have 7 days to do this then you must go on whether the kids are getting it or not. We have to have all of this covered before the almighty test. Kids are dropping out of college more and more or taking many remedial classes to get a degree because all they do is bubble in an answer. We have more people walking into our classrooms with advice. There are the Coaches, Coordinators, the top administrators telling the principals and instructional staff that they have to get through a certain number of walk through weekly. I have seen more and more money wasted on hiring more administrators to develop this or to monitor that. Some months we will have three benchmarks that take 2 to 4 hours each for the students to do. Then we have the data meetings- more wasted time out of the classroom. One of the teacher remarked to me, remember when we used to do the fun units on pumpkins and all. If it is not on the test we do not teach it. Creative writing is gone because writing has to fit this mold. I feel refreshed this year because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I will be eligible for my full pension in 2016. So, I am doing the extra push. In all of my years of teaching, I never heard the horror stories that are coming out now with what is going on now. People are leaving in droves. We have the people that just do the minimum and those, like me that get it done and will stay until it is finished. I always thought that I would teach beyond retirement- because I am still really young, but it is not worth it. I never thought that I would be a yes person but if you are not a yes person in education now a days- you will be gone. Deviate from the timelines or question someone that comes into the classroom with advice- your life will be hell. Take a look around at the principals and all of the coaches and even the people running the show- none of them have been in the classroom more than ten years- I AM NOT KIDDING! it makes me so sad to see what has happened. I really think that I will write a book. Yes, I could do it objectively. There is no way that I would recommend going into teaching or having your children go to public schools anymore. College is so expensive- I really do not understand why people are still going into education. The only way that the system will change is if people stop teaching and the experienced teachers are asked how to change and form the education system. I will be glad to get out and I will never volunteer or do anything associated with public schools. This is only because of what the system has done to us and what is being done. I will help out at fundraisers for kids. Not to be all that or anything but when the big batch of us retire in the next 2 years, good luck. Yes, people will pick up the pieces- but not as many are willing to pick up the pieces aesthete used to be. I. Am putting in my time, doing my best for the kids, and trying to convince myself not to bail next January when I can receive my full pension. I get tired of being in the core group of teachers that are always expected to do this or that and to set the example, because we do not say no. We do it for the kids.thank you for listening.

Note the comment largely centers around the adults in the room. The insane are running the asylum and the insane are in fact a reflection of the students, yes the other way around. They have the mean girls, the alpha males, more often females or Queen Bee's, the nerd herd, the "highly capable"and the good, kind and all the other stereotypes and archetypes that define an average school population.

The first thing I never do is walk into a teachers prep room or lounge if other teachers are there. But the nice thing is even if I do I am utterly invisible. Substitute Teachers fall into a vortex of oblivion unless there is a need to throw one under the bus or actually be nice to as there is an "apparent" substitute crisis of some kind where many jobs go unfilled. There are a myriad of reasons for this of course as kids do the deflection and excuse making better than most and those are the two predominant reasons when shit hits the proverbial fan,  and teachers are no different in not actually taking responsibility for why a sub "failed."  As for  auditing, investigating and finding out why that is happening it will not be happening.   I have yet to meet a Teacher who actually investigates anything when it relates to the ugly and dirty in a situation, and the districts don't either so again, apple meet the tree.  They say from the school yard to the prison yard and there are some odd parallels there as well.

 So when a child "accuses" and in turn excuses or is done to deflect blame or responsibility the Teacher and especially a Substitute is immediately blamed and at fault.  You can get blacklisted and in turn terminated on the word of one child.  My favorite this year was "you said shut up to a student."  Really in what context that led to that phrase being used?   How was it used? Why?  Well the Teacher did not remember know or ask why, just that 2 of her better students confirmed that it was said. Again the how the where the why (the stuff teachers are supposed to teach in science, literature, history, math, you know the curriculum)  not a problem.  And yet when confronted by these questions she did not have any solution to how to resolve a conflict now two weeks old.  In fact when asked responded with "I was not expecting this."  I have seen both teachers and subs find themselves in similar situations and some quite serious and some as silly as above.  And nothing changes.   The costs both financially and professionally are surreal to fight this.  And no the unions do not protect teachers regardless.... they have a minimum role and they too excuse themselves. I've met our union people and they are not people highly capable of defending you from a jaywalking ticket.

 A Teacher in an alt school here was removed and his curriculum taken from him as it offended a child.  It led to a School Board meeting, national news and he was placed in another school for a year while the Teacher paid for his own Attorney and demanded mediation to resolve this issue.  The thing the union contract demands but is rarely done.   At one point it was repeated that he was not a collegial team player and that led to this.  Read the first paragraph and remind oneself when you are a teacher you are busy trying to keep your head above water.  So when this happens you will find yourself alone in deep waters.  I admire that he was willing to keep coming and not back down and he is back at his old gig.  I bet the first day was interesting to say the least.  And this is rare as most are found somewhat guilty of something and then it is dropped and by that time the teacher is transferred, moved or found some other work.  And again that is where the idea of rubber rooms came from and the urban myths relegated to that.  I have only heard of it in New York City and nowhere else.  Here in our district we have our current head of legal counsel on "investigation"  and he is probably at home and yes getting paid, and we have had Superintendents, other Directors and Managers and even Principals on investigation.  They are usually found not guilty but somewhat responsible for something and either are put back to work or they leave with full financial and professional security in place.  Again none of it a matter of public record despite being a public servant.  So are we white collar or blue?

Again much like the criminal system,  investigation usually is relegated to he said, she said and my good students agreed.  It other words it is exactly like the criminal justice system.  The difference is that Education usually ends with a false positive regardless.  You must be guilty of something or why would we be here.

In some states you only need a degree and fingerprint clearance to substitute. In other words you are day labor. This alleviates the paying wages and in turn giving a shit who is babysitting the kids when the regular teacher is ill, at the numerous training sessions, planning meetings and other extraneous factors that districts schedule en mass so that hundreds of teachers are missing in a school on a single day. Add a plural and it becomes a massive onslaught of absences that would require a stadium of available substitutes to fill. In my State you do need a license and have been credentialed in the State mandated way required of teachers who are certificated. So you have many Substitutes with Master's degree, tons of college credits, clock hours of additional training and actual teaching experience. Many to most are either retired or newly credentialed teachers looking for a permanent position. Most are in other words "older" career changers and a few are career subs which is what I have become.

I finally started speaking to Substitutes this year and found a multitude of personalities and people who either are desperate for full time work, bitter and jaded former teachers who were "riffed" and because of age and credentials are now out priced from being staffed as they fall into the upper tier of shitty pay which schools would rather save on and have all the other bells and whistles to attract students and in turn make the schools a little more that a draw for those who qualify for free lunch.

 That latter fact is what defines a school as "ghetto". The fact is that many many public school students are poor and that comes with a whole set of baggage that lends to many of the problems I see on a daily basis across a school system that truly defines Plessy v Ferguson, the landmark Supreme Court case that said - separate is equal. And you actually see that often within a singular school. The APP, the HCC (there is for "highly capable") or the whatever acronym or label that segregates the kids whose families are sure that their kid is good enough, smart enough, and goddamn special enough to go to Harvard, Yale or whatever highly fraudulently and bullshit rated college as determined by US World and News Report. But tell parents that the rating system is rigged and well documented as not actually a qualified measure of success, you will get the glaze, the blaze of anger and the denial that you would be wrong. Well I may be a substitute but I still can read, do research and ask questions. It's called inquisitive learning and self directed, your child the test monkey has had that drained from them and add your helicopter parenting and excessive management of their education as if they are a child star would recognize and appreciate that if you actually did care about building cognitive functioning and independence.

Again the child is largely a reflection of the adults or lack thereof in their lives. And like many people I could point out and discuss these kids. My favorite is the future one percenter who explained to his fellow classmates how his parents were greedy and spent a ton of money on their new home, 800K, the two new cars they just purchased, the new technology and vacations they had taken, and their executive jobs, one at Starbucks the other I was unclear or had not heard correctly but they were "hard" working and clearly quite verbose around Junior as he was repeating all of this to his classmates. One who was not as privileged nor as white who had some interesting responses to this dialog/monologue.   I finally figured out white privilege at that moment!

I like kids and when I spoke with one Teacher who was at the peak of his burnout I told him that it was utter bullshit to think you could care and reach over 100 people a day, and in this case children, so why not just care about the ones that matter. I cannot tell you that as that is considered biased or unprofessional, no it's the truth that only some can matter.  And even though I don't remember their names as I see over 300 kids a week (that is an average as if I work 5 different schools in one week with full class loads it hits over that) I can see their faces, remember the conversations and that they are the reason I believe that we will come out of this with some light at the end of the tunnel.  That is actually focusing on the positive but as an educator I am supposed to see all children as beacons of light.   If I did care I would write them up, kick them out or utterly ignore them.  I just choose not to do that either and kids don't die because I choose to move on and away.  I can't do anything with a child who simply does not like/care/interested but it also is not a discipline issue or one worth blacklisting, taking names and going on about. How about putting it down to personality conflict and moving on.  That is a life lesson right there.

And I suspect the same formula explains the reform movement as they focus on the opposite, they were the contrarians  who hated school and had negative relationships with Teachers that carried on to adulthood and this is the revenge of the nerds.  I bet I would know them as students, I meet them every day, the argumentative smug punk, usually white males, who need to put down any adult they feel inferior to their destiny, knowledge or just their need to wave their tiny dicks about.  The other are white females who are their future wives.   Why children of color are disciplined more harshly for expressing the same, it is their manner in which they do so, they have less vocabulary and more language issues (as in expletives) and are actually less manipulative than their white counterparts.  But they also are kids who truly struggle academically as they have no support systems in their lives so their behavior is one I actually excuse all the time and think "how sad" not "how bad."

 Is that racism? I suspect a strangely veiled one when I presume that  black kids are poor versus the way I think of the white kids - which is they are spoiled entitled brats.   And again, I don't think that about all of them. I do know that the narrow broom can sweep a wide picture so I actually try to converse with kids and it is that moment I can know them as they are and not how I define them based on presumptions.  You know that high level shit we are supposed to teach kids.  But it is that moment when I first walk in a room and scan the faces of the kids and then the first words out of the mouth of a student is usually combative I fall back on my experience and in turn presumptions.  That I don't make excuses for and in turn is a form of bias as well.  But I have never been called a "richest" or anti elitist but racist yes as that it what kids of color have to excuse, to finger point or blame seek.  Rich kids just bully and intimidate.  It was a rich white male kid who wished I was dead in a class and it was the kids of color who came immediately after class to apologize and inquire if I was okay. They get it they do and so I get them even at their worst. But frankly it is just poor kids who do get it they do.

But you can not say any truth about anything out loud about anything. You can not admit that you don't care about those who don't care about you. And these kids don't either but somehow you are supposed to be God, the Pope, an Angel or superhero that rises above the slings and arrows that in today's schools are becoming less figurative and more real. Another HCC, super achieving kid was arrested in one our well to do suburbs for planning a Columbine/Sandy Hook on his school due to pressure to achieve. The story again is appalling as once again the adults in the picture seem to be the problem including taking Junior to the shooting range to "blow off tension" Alright then.

We have such shattered systems - The Medical Industrial Complex, The Justice system which needs some serious checks and balances, and the Education system which either feeds the latter directly or via the sports pursuits that will get them there later versus sooner. (See that connection from earlier?)

The system is rigged like the US World and News Report that rates shit on metrics that are utterly not transparent and often paid.   And the adults that read those rankings and believe them are also not doing the investigation and making inquiries that they should have learned where? In school!  And those who are entitled, like the young man who finally enabled me to truly see first hand white privilege.  I do want to say I liked the kid, he was direct and blunt and honest and frankly that could be my "chip off the old block" if I had a kid.  The few that actually do prove that meritocracy is a concept that in America is  possible and not just illusory then I say America is not just a dream but a reality. But whatever is going on now in our schools is not sustainable.  It cannot create anything but wage slaves and the few who man the whip.    It is imploding as our country implodes and the divisions and disruptions will not just be between three classes but two and each within searing divisions of both desperation and preservation at both ends.

There are days when I leave a school that I say I will never go back to but I can't say never as day labor I jump into the van to go where I need to be for my own self preservation and that is all. The odd chance of having a kid who matters is the sole reason that I do. But if I could find meaningful work that enabled me to use my brain, tolerated my blunt edges and enabled me a chance to collaborate, grow and contribute then I would run, not walk, to the nearest safe exit.

I can't say Teaching sucks but the profession does. It is not a profession it is just a job and that is what  it has become, test proctors or just babysitters, observers  who watch them learn on a PC and in reality a type of beat cop when all else fails.   Nothing more so why all the hysteria and the bullshit about unions and other excuses for why kids are failing.  They fail at tests  even when taught them,  Why they don't care.  Except the ones that are told to care by their families who have vested money and interest in little Juniors overall achievement.   But given that it how they are "rated" and "merited" and in turn "mattered" lets not call it anything but what it truly is - a farce.  It is about families and finances and society outside the walls, the walls are crumbling and you can't use the schools to fix what is broken as they already are.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Just a Trim Please

The editorial below explains why tax cutting is not generating income both on the macro or micro level. For year we have somehow thought that by cutting taxes, aka, trickle down economics, would translate into more jobs and in turn better wages and in turn more growth. But what has occurred is wage stagnation, declining benefits and large work disruptions with fewer safety nets for the working to middle class and yet immense wage inflation for the upper 1% with diametrically opposed perks and benefits available.

This is the equivalent of less government while doing nothing to actually stop government but in fact adding more prisons, having more wars, adding more mid management and departments to handle the redundancy and ineffectiveness of having more mid management. Ever looked at your local school system? The very amusing rhetoric rarely matches the reality. I look forward to seeing if shutting down Homeland Security will actually affect American security.

By simply adding wages you increase the purchasing power and in turn reduce debt, build an economy with strong wages that enables the members of a community to pay for the services via taxes that are not as big as a burden as the regressive taxes that are used instead. You know those booze, cigarette taxes, the incessant bonds and levies assessed on property, the ugly ones via traffic and criminal fees and fines and regulatory costs for licenses and other assorted costs that also discriminate predominately against the poor.

We cannot not tax people. How are we going to actually operate? I have no idea where this idea that if we just keep it to the minimum the maximum will result? It is not mathematically possible it is not even logical. But it sounds like a Lawyer... I hear that a lot from that crowd.

Even Better Than a Tax Cut
The New York Times
Feb 23, 2015

By LAWRENCE MISHEL
Lawrence Mishel is the president of the Economic Policy Institute and co-chairman of Americans for Tax Fairness.

WASHINGTON — WITH the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign underway and millions of Americans still hurting financially, both parties are looking for ways to address wage stagnation. That’s the good news. The bad news is that both parties are offering tax cuts as a solution. What has hurt workers’ paychecks is not what the government takes out, but what their employers no longer put in — a dynamic that tax cuts cannot eliminate.

Wage stagnation is a decades-long phenomenon. Between 1979 and 2014, while the gross domestic product grew 150 percent and productivity grew 75 percent, the inflation-adjusted hourly wage of the median worker rose just 5.6 percent — less than 0.2 percent a year. And since 2002, the bottom 80 percent of wage earners, including both male and female college graduates, have actually seen their wages stagnate or fall.

At the same time, taxation does not explain why middle-income families are having a harder time making ends meet, even as they increase their education and become ever more productive. According to the latest Congressional Budget Office data, the middle 60 percent of families paid just 3.2 percent of their income in federal income taxes in 2011, less than half what they paid in 1979.

Yes, a one-time reduction in taxes through, say, expanded child care credits or a secondary earner tax break, as Democrats propose, could help families. But as wages continue to stagnate, it is impossible to continuously cut taxes and still pay for things like education and social programs for the growing population of older Americans.

Republican tax proposals, like the reforms put forward by Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, focus on lowering individual and corporate tax rates alongside revenue-saving efforts to simplify the tax code. But this same approach has been tried for decades — the same decades in which wages have continued to stagnate. Instead, these cuts have helped corporations, shareholders and the top 1 percent capture a larger share of economic growth.

Similarly, President George W. Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, which likewise promised to increase middle-class income, were followed by slower productivity and wage stagnation. The latest proposed Republican cuts won’t even provide much short-term relief, as they tend to be targeted at the highest-income households. For example, under a much-touted proposal by Representative Dave Camp of Michigan, the middle fifth would gain just $279 in tax relief a year, according to the Tax Policy Center, while the top 0.1 percent would garner the largest rate cut, valued at $248,000.

Obtaining better economic growth, another goal of these cuts, is certainly worthwhile, but it establishes only the potential for broad-based wage growth — it’s no guarantee. Again, we have seen plenty of growth since 1979, but this expansion has not “trickled down” to middle-wage workers.

The challenge is to ensure that a typical worker’s wages grow along with profits and productivity. There is no silver bullet, but the key is to make raising wages the central focus of economic policy making and to reverse decades of decisions that have undercut wage growth.

We need to start with monetary policy. In the next few years, the most important decisions being made about wages are those of the Federal Reserve Board as it determines the scale and pace at which it raises interest rates — and thereby slows job growth. Before raising rates, it is essential we achieve a robust recovery, with roughly 3.5 to 4 percent annual wage growth. This will ensure that wage growth matches productivity growth and that everyone can benefit from the rebounding economy.

Another short- to medium-term policy decision affecting wage growth is to avoid trade deals, such as the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, that would further erode Americans’ wages and send jobs overseas.
And there are several things we can do to bolster the labor standards and institutions that support wage growth. Raising the minimum wage to $12.50 an hour by 2020 would ensure that the minimum wage equals more than half the average wage, as it did in the late 1960s. And it has been too long since we have raised the salary threshold for overtime pay; raising it to $50,000, so that anyone making below that would get overtime, would move us closer to what prevailed in the 1970s, when about two-thirds of salaried workers received overtime pay.

Protecting and expanding workers’ right to unionize and bargain collectively is also essential; the erosion of collective bargaining is the single largest factor suppressing wage growth for middle-wage workers over the last few decades. And we need to modernize our New Deal-era labor standards to include earned sick leave and paid family leave so workers can balance work and family.

Finally, stronger laws and enforcement to deter and remedy wage theft and the illegal treatment of employees as independent contractors could put tens of billions of dollars into workers’ pockets.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, wage stagnation is not a result of forces beyond our control. It is a result of a policy regime that has undercut the individual and collective bargaining power of most workers. Because


If I Had a Hammer and You a Diploma

We are sure that the hallowed halls of ivory are the solution to reducing income inequity. If you saddle someone up with enough debt that eventually they will have to take a job doing something that will pay for it.

We have every year or so another declaration of which will be the hot field to enter when you get your degree. This you are to determine at age 17, pick the appropriate major, complete the requirements in the needed time frame and then walk in ready to hit it to win it in 4 to 6 years (the added two is for the advanced degrees required now in pretty much every profession) and immediately earn enough to pay off the loans and live an up and coming middle class lifestyle.

Lord I can see why we are moving towards legalizing marijuana as you really need to put that American myth in your pipe and smoke it.

That was ideally the case but today the economic realities are not quite as clear cut or simplistic as that implies.

Paul Krugman has a great column today discussing this supposed skills gap and Builder has another great article about this issue when it comes to construction and labor shortages of 2015.They found this:
It’s interesting in terms of disciplines we’ve been having trouble with,” comments Morrison on the analysis’ early findings. “Most people would think it’s those that would require a multi-year apprenticeship, but what we’re hearing is that it’s framers, finish carpenters, plumbers, electricians, so it’s really the guts of the house.”

Noteworthy among the pain-point areas, Morrison says, “every single respondent who builds more than 250 homes said that they are having labor problems.” More big builders work to counter the exodus of trade contractors from their jobs with “builder-of-choice” programs that, as Morrison points out, offer “better pay, better, benefits, they’re offering more training, they’re trying to get involved with vocational and tech schools to offer alternatives to career paths that don’t necessarily involve a college degree.”

As we re-examine the needs of work with who is working the changing demands and fields that often were designed by gender still remain as such but the actual critical needs skills, the flexibility and in turn the willingness to do work outside the expected also plays into this. We have few women actually entering the supposed nirvana of fields, STEM and in turn entering the health care marketplace, an always open door when it came to women past and it appears present.

Women still dominate the education field and if you note the amazing speech by Patricia Arquetteat last nights Oscars, it also may be why they are the least paid when it comes to income parity. Why wield a book or a needle when a hammer can pay more. And the fact is that many of the jobs available are physically demanding and you see few women on those sites but you do see - immigrants who do so as day labor without the skill set either but they are cheaper, uncomplaining and undemanding. Back to that whole how dare these workers want compensation, protection, longevity, training. And you say there is a skill set lacking. For what - arrogance? We gots plenty of that!

That has to be what Mike Rowe, the true speaker of the house for the trades, calls profoundly disconnected. It is that all right.

I am watching first hand the hysteria of many returning to college to get numerous degrees and certificates only to find doors firmly shut in their face. The MOOC's or online education programs that were touted to ensure access and affordability are not exactly throwing down the pigskin or well any skin in the game. The Public schools are bursting at the seams and there are many many qualified and willing educators currently substitituing while districts claim a substitute shortage and in turn cutting the education budgets to the edge while still touting sports at all the levels of education, especially the higher ones. We are seeing repeatedly across the country education budgets slashed as touted to save the bottom line yet while the same time touting the education is the key to prosperity.

Perhaps we could all be as lucky as Scott Walker to be elected Governor without completing an education. I look forward to seeing across America community college grads with associate degrees running the country in the next few years, they'll be free right? They couldn't be worse than the kids I see now in high schools who are total assholes and think they can do so right now. Well they are public school students and we know the rich want that style of education changed as well. What is good for their gander is not what they want the geese to have or do. Plessy v. Ferguson the 21st century.


Knowledge Isn’t Power
Paul Krugman
The New York Times
FEB. 23, 2015

Regular readers know that I sometimes mock “very serious people” — politicians and pundits who solemnly repeat conventional wisdom that sounds tough-minded and realistic. The trouble is that sounding serious and being serious are by no means the same thing, and some of those seemingly tough-minded positions are actually ways to dodge the truly hard issues.

The prime example of recent years was, of course, Bowles-Simpsonism — the diversion of elite discourse away from the ongoing tragedy of high unemployment and into the supposedly crucial issue of how, exactly, we will pay for social insurance programs a couple of decades from now. That particular obsession, I’m happy to say, seems to be on the wane. But my sense is that there’s a new form of issue-dodging packaged as seriousness on the rise. This time, the evasion involves trying to divert our national discourse about inequality into a discussion of alleged problems with education.

And the reason this is an evasion is that whatever serious people may want to believe, soaring inequality isn’t about education; it’s about power.

Just to be clear: I’m in favor of better education. Education is a friend of mine. And it should be available and affordable for all. But what I keep seeing is people insisting that educational failings are at the root of still-weak job creation, stagnating wages and rising inequality. This sounds serious and thoughtful. But it’s actually a view very much at odds with the evidence, not to mention a way to hide from the real, unavoidably partisan debate.

The education-centric story of our problems runs like this: We live in a period of unprecedented technological change, and too many American workers lack the skills to cope with that change. This “skills gap” is holding back growth, because businesses can’t find the workers they need. It also feeds inequality, as wages soar for workers with the right skills but stagnate or decline for the less educated. So what we need is more and better education.

My guess is that this sounds familiar — it’s what you hear from the talking heads on Sunday morning TV, in opinion articles from business leaders like Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, in “framing papers” from the Brookings Institution’s centrist Hamilton Project. It’s repeated so widely that many people probably assume it’s unquestionably true. But it isn’t.

For one thing, is the pace of technological change really that fast? “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters,” the venture capitalist Peter Thiel has snarked. Productivity growth, which surged briefly after 1995, seems to have slowed sharply.

Furthermore, there’s no evidence that a skills gap is holding back employment. After all, if businesses were desperate for workers with certain skills, they would presumably be offering premium wages to attract such workers. So where are these fortunate professions? You can find some examples here and there. Interestingly, some of the biggest recent wage gains are for skilled manual labor — sewing machine operators, boilermakers — as some manufacturing production moves back to America. But the notion that highly skilled workers are generally in demand is just false.

Finally, while the education/inequality story may once have seemed plausible, it hasn’t tracked reality for a long time. “The wages of the highest-skilled and highest-paid individuals have continued to increase steadily,” the Hamilton Project says. Actually, the inflation-adjusted earnings of highly educated Americans have gone nowhere since the late 1990s.

So what is really going on? Corporate profits have soared as a share of national income, but there is no sign of a rise in the rate of return on investment. How is that possible? Well, it’s what you would expect if rising profits reflect monopoly power rather than returns to capital.

As for wages and salaries, never mind college degrees — all the big gains are going to a tiny group of individuals holding strategic positions in corporate suites or astride the crossroads of finance. Rising inequality isn’t about who has the knowledge; it’s about who has the power.

Now, there’s a lot we could do to redress this inequality of power. We could levy higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, and invest the proceeds in programs that help working families. We could raise the minimum wage and make it easier for workers to organize. It’s not hard to imagine a truly serious effort to make America less unequal.

But given the determination of one major party to move policy in exactly the opposite direction, advocating such an effort makes you sound partisan. Hence the desire to see the whole thing as an education problem instead. But we should recognize that popular evasion for what it is: a deeply unserious fantasy.





Worker Bee

There is a great deal of news about the working class. First was the announcement that Walmart is raising the wages of their employees. The irony that this large employer with the founding family espousing the virtues of hard work and the failure of government social programs, also provide upon employment to their workers, food stamp application and access info. Irony or oxymoron?

The wage increase I am sure will be offset with an hours cut or scheduling snafus that will of course prevent the employees from actually benefiting from the wage rise. Scheduling, commuting and splitting shifts can offset any gain while adding pain to ensure that the working class remains just that.

The article below discusses the problems facing most service workers, the largest growing industry in our economy today. We no longer build, design or create things, we now believe that is the tech sector and their insatiable needs to data mine, gather and troll for everything that we buy, sell, do, eat, walk, breathe, sleep and fuck.

Then we have the "sharing" economy where the things we own or have such as cars or time, are now offered to provide a service to another while the business, not a boss, nor individual nor any actual manager or responsible individual takes a cut. They never meet these people, never establish an actual working contract or agreement that will enable long term growth, commitment or security. Drop in or out is the sharing economy philosophy. Avoid regulation, taxes, pensions, benefits, and any of the ugly things the libertarian sect find intrusive. But data mining and selling your personal business not so intrusive. Irony or oxymoron or just hypocrisy?

And all of this abuts the decline in union membership and in turn the decline in the middle class. The parallels are not lost. This article in the Washington Post discusses how the idea of being a union member is hazardous to your health as it builds resentment and anger from those in one's community who feels having protections, security and the ability to organize a threat to the existence of those who do not have that privilege. Unions are seen as negative to growth and yet that is what enabled millions to rise above their class and have security. But this is history that is no longer taught in the schools, along with respect, dignity and critical thinking. (Trust me on this one)

And further the irony is that it was Unions who did bring about the few regulations and laws that do enable all, not just those with the label or membership, to benefit. And it led to employers offering competitive benefits and wages to attract qualified persons regardless of union affiliation. Today that is becoming less so and it is why public service sector jobs are now the last bastion and of course barrier to having a free for all market. Ah you say "there outta be a law" when someone acts a certain way or does something you don't like and yet you like worker exploitation. Then I say move to Indonesia and let me know how you like it.

Perhaps unions need to organize on buses, trains and outside entrances to the box employees as they don't have time to meet in a scheduled time and place, they are too busy going from job to job, shift to shift.



In Service Sector, No Rest for the Working
The New York Times
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
FEB. 21, 2015

On the nights when she has just seven hours between shifts at a Taco Bell in Tampa, Fla., Shetara Brown drops off her three young children with her mother. After work, she catches a bus to her apartment, takes a shower to wash off the grease and sleeps three and a half hours before getting back on the bus to return to her job.

At Hudson County Community College in Jersey City, Ramsey Montanez struggles to stay alert on the mornings that he returns to his security guard station at 7 a.m., after wrapping up a 16-hour double shift at 11 p.m. the night before.

And on many Friday nights, Jeremy Little waits tables at a Perkins Restaurant & Bakery near Minneapolis and doesn’t climb into bed until 3 a.m. He returns by 10 a.m. for the breakfast rush, and sometimes feels so weary that he forgets to take rolls to some tables or to tell the chef whether customers wanted their steak medium rare.

“It makes me feel really tired,” Mr. Little said. “My body just aches.”

Employees are literally losing sleep as restaurants, retailers and many other businesses shrink the intervals between shifts and rely on smaller, leaner staffs to shave costs. These scheduling practices can take a toll on employees who have to squeeze commuting, family duties and sleep into fewer hours between shifts. The growing practice of the same workers closing the doors at night and returning to open them in the morning even has its own name: “clopening.”

“It’s very difficult for people to work these schedules, especially if they have other responsibilities,” said Susan J. Lambert, an expert on work-life issues and a professor of organizational theory at the University of Chicago. “This particular form of scheduling — not enough rest time between shifts — is particularly harmful.”

The United States decades ago moved away from the standard 9-to-5 job as the manufacturing economy gave way to one dominated by the service sector. And as businesses strive to serve consumers better by staying open late or round the clock, they are demanding more flexibility from employees in scheduling their hours, often assigning them to ever-changing shifts.

Workers and labor advocates are increasingly protesting these scheduling practices, which often include giving workers as little as two days’ advance notice for their weekly work schedule. These concerns have gained traction and translated into legislative proposals in several states, with proponents enviously pointing to the standard adopted for workers in the 28-nation European Union. It establishes “a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours per 24-hour period.”

Britain, Germany and several other countries interpret that to require that workers be given at least 11 hours between shifts, although waivers are permitted. “If a retail shop closes at midnight, the night-shift employees are not allowed to start before 11 o’clock the next morning,” said Gerhard Bosch, a sociology professor and expert on labor practices at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

In the United States, no such national or state labor law or regulation governs the intervals between shifts, except for some particular jobs like airline pilots, although some unions have negotiated a minimum time for workers to be off, sometimes eight, 10 or 12 hours.

But at the state level this year, bills have been introduced in Maryland and Massachusetts and will be introduced in Minnesota on Monday, each of them calling on employers to give workers at least 11 hours between shifts and three weeks’ advance notice for schedules. Those proposals would require businesses to pay some time and a half whenever employees are called in before 11 hours have passed between shifts.

Paul Thissen, the Democratic leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives, supports the legislation. “When it comes to scheduling, the playing field is tilted very dramatically in favor of the employer,” Mr. Thissen said. “What we’re proposing is just trying to rebalance the playing field.”
Anthony Newby, executive director at Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, a Minneapolis-based group that advocates for worker rights, among other issues, said that clopenings have become a big issue in his region. “Clopenings are hurting many of our members; many are in the restaurant field and some in construction and nursing,” he said. “We worry it has an effect on safety — workers feel they’re on autopilot. It also has a big impact on families, on mothers trying to manage a family and arrange child care.”

Ms. Brown, who works as a cashier at Taco Bell, said her children — ages 5, 4 and 2 — don’t like it when she has just seven hours between shifts. That usually means they hardly see her for two nights in a row; they sleep at their grandmother’s both nights. On the second night, after just three and a half hours’ sleep the previous day, Ms. Brown says she stops by her mother’s for an hour or two to see her children, and then heads home to sleep.

“My kids say, ‘Mommy, I miss you,’ ” she said. “I get so tired it’s hard to function. I feel so exhausted. I don’t want my kids suffering not seeing me. I try to push to go see them.”
Although Ms. Brown dislikes clopenings, she doesn’t turn them down because she needs as many hours as she can get. She makes $8.10 an hour and works about 25 hours a week.

Brandon Wagner, who works for a Zara apparel store in Manhattan, often works from 1 p.m. until 10:30 p.m. or 11 p.m., getting back to his apartment in Brooklyn around midnight. He often must be back at work at 8 the next morning, and as a result he sleeps just five hours.

“When you question this, they give a shrug of the shoulder,” Mr. Wagner said. “They say, ‘Everybody does this. You have to put up with it or go somewhere else.’ ”

Last summer, Starbucks announced that it would curb clopenings on the same day that The New York Times published an article profiling a barista, Jannette Navarro, mother of a 4-year-old, who worked a scheduled shift that ended at 11 p.m. and began a new shift at 4 a.m.

At the time, Cliff Burrows, Starbucks’s group president for the United States, said: “Partners should never be required to work an opening and a closing shift back-to-back. District managers must help store managers problem-solve issues specific to individual stores to make this happen.” (“Partners” is the term Starbucks uses for its employees.)

Neil Trautwein, a vice president with the National Retail Federation, acknowledged that some instances of scheduling were egregious, but he pointed to Starbucks’s voluntary response to argue that states should not enact any laws to address the issue.

“Advocates have it wrong to think you can legislate and just outlaw the process,” Mr. Trautwein said. “The market adjusts to the needs of workers.” He added that what Starbucks did “demonstrates that businesses listen to their employees and adjust.” (In response to complaints about schedules changing week to week, Walmart said on Thursday that it would give workers more predictable schedules.)
But several people who identified themselves as Starbucks employees complained on a Facebook private group page that they still were scheduled for clopenings, despite the company’s pronouncement. One worker in Texas wrote on Jan. 30, “I work every other Sunday as a closer, which is at 10:30 or really 11-ish, then scheduled at 6 a.m. the next morning.” Another worker in Southern California wrote, “As a matter of fact I clopen this weekend.”

Laurel Harper, a Starbucks spokeswoman, questioned the authenticity of the Facebook posts. She said company officials had held conversations nationwide “to make sure we are giving our partners the hours they want” and to prevent clopenings.

Some managers say there are workers who don’t mind clopenings — like students who have classes Monday through Friday and want to cram in a lot of weekend work hours to maximize their pay.

Tightly scheduled shifts seem to have become more common for a number of reasons. Many fast-food restaurants and other service businesses have high employee turnover, and as a result they are often left with only a few trusted workers who have the authority and experience to close at night and open in the morning. Professor Lambert said no studies had been done on the prevalence of clopenings nationwide.

Carrie Gleason, director of the fair workweek initiative at the Center for Popular Democracy, a liberal advocacy group, said one reason for the increasing prevalence of clopenings was that many companies had shifted scheduling responsibilities away from managers and to sophisticated software that she said was not programmed to prevent such short windows between shifts.

But David Ossip, chief executive of Ceridian, a human resources and payroll company, said that when his company provided scheduling software to companies, it generally recommended programming a mandated rest period. The software would then warn managers when an added shift violated that rest period.
“You would make sure you have a minimum rest period between shifts,” he said. “We would set up fairness results that call for regular working hours — not one day work at night, the next day work in the morning.” He added, “You have to be home for eight, 10 or 12 hours.”

Andy Iversen, a stocker at Linden Hills Co-op in Minneapolis, said the grocery store’s managers used to schedule him two or three times a week to work until 9 p.m., and then be back at 5 a.m.

“I was beyond exhausted,” he said, noting that he was getting to bed at midnight and waking around 3:45 a.m. At the time, he was pursuing a master’s degree and taking a course in neuroscience. “I couldn’t concentrate because I was so tired,” he said. “I had to drop out of class.”

Mr. Iversen praised his store’s managers for no longer giving him clopenings. Marshall Wright, the store’s produce manager, said, “We think it’s the right thing to do. We don’t feel people should work shifts like that.”

Mr. Iversen couldn’t agree more: “It doesn’t take that much empathy or reasoning to see that clopenings stink, and people don’t want to do it.”