Protecting the Public?

!!@@#dddddd444193mProtecting the Public?

Government exists to protect people industry.

James Pilant

Republicans in North Carolina want to make it a felony to disclose fracking chemicals –

Just when we thought we were making the first steps toward transparency in fracking — in the form of EPA indicating it might require frackers, at long last, to reveal the names of the chemicals they blast into the ground in order to extract oil and gas — three GOP state senators in North Carolina stepped in to put a stop to all that.

The senators, who seemed to have taken a page out of the ag-gag book, last week introduced a bill that would slap any individual who disclosed information about confidential chemicals with a felony charge. Such individuals could include fire chiefs and health care providers, who might require access to the information in order to respond to emergencies. Environmental groups see the provision allowing for easy access to that information as a good thing, but worry about the bill’s harsh terms for making sure those in-the-know keep it to themselves.

via Republicans in North Carolina want to make it a felony to disclose fracking chemicals –

From Around the Web.

From the web site, Lenin2u.

Shale needs to be fracked using a mixture of hot water, sand, and poisonous chemicals, the composition of which fracking companies claim to be proprietary secrets, and disclosing them would make them less competitive. However, scientists who have analyzed fracking fluid discovered the following substances common to diesel fuel: Benzene, Ethylbenzene, Toluene, Xylene, Naphthalene, Methanol, Formaldehyde, Ethylene glycol, Glycol ethers, Hydrochloric acid, Sodium hydroxide. Most fracking companies surveyed by a 2010 Congressional Committee admitted that diesel fuel is part of their fracking mixture. Where diesel fuel was not used, chemical mixtures includes high levels of benzene, a tiny amount of which can poison millions of gallons of water.

Theo Colburn, PhD, director of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Colorado, identified 65 chemicals that are probably used in fracking fluids. These included benzene, glycol-ethers, toluene, and ethanol, all of which have been linked to health problems when human exposure is too high. In 2012, ShaleTest visited many fracking sites in North Texas, monitoring ambient air using stainless steel summa canisters. Results showed the presence of the known carcinogen benzene. “It is unacceptable that the natural gas industries are ignoring the devastating impacts they have on citizens and the environment”, commented Susan Sullivan, board member of ShaleTest.

Another study in 2012, led by Lisa McKenzie, Ph.D., MPH, of the Colorado School of Public Health, concluded that air pollution caused by fracking may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling sites. The study, based on three years of monitoring, found benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene and xylene in the air around the frack sites. Other chemicals included heptane, octane and diethylbenzene ‘The greatest health impact corresponds to the relatively short-term, but high emission, well completion period’. The study said that this was due to exposure to trimethylbenzenes, aliaphatic hydrocarbons, and xylenes, all of which have neurological and/or respiratory effects, including eye irritation, headaches, sore throat, and difficulty in breathing. … ‘We also calculated higher cancer risks for residents living nearer to the wells as compared to those residing further’, the report said. ‘Benzene is the major contributor to lifetime excess cancer risk from both scenarios’.

Public School Teaching Crisis


Teaching ate me alive –

Wrong profession? Lost perspective? Just another whiny, self-absorbed wool-gatherer? Guilty as charged. Hey, I’m a card-carrying, fellow-traveling union member! But I do have one suggestion for civilians. As a public school teacher, I considered myself a public servant, like cops, firemen, food service workers and other “heroes” who are willing to do difficult, thankless, vital jobs for very little pay and not much more than the scorn of their fellow citizens. Thus, the door of my classroom was always open to parents, administrators, politicians, journalists and passers-by. But I waited in vain for company, for visitors were scarce. All the jibber jabber about public education these days seems to be based solely on idle speculation, memories of a Golden Age and the bilge that the LA Times publishes in lieu of objective journalism. So please stop by a classroom sometime. You might be surprised. And you’re paying for it.

There’s a good reason that American slaves were forbidden to learn to read: Literacy is freedom. Free, high quality, accessible, equitable education is the bedrock of a free society. That’s not just Tea Party flag-waving; it’s the Incontestable Eternal Truth. Sadly, in the final analysis, historical and political forces are at work that leave us, the teachers and students, rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. People, people, people! Can’t you see that The Man wants us ignorant? Unite, my friends! We have nothing to lose but our …  ohferchrissakenevermind!

But remember, if you’re there when the last dog reaches the last hill: Lost causes are the only ones worth fighting for

Teaching ate me alive –

The teaching profession is an endangered species. A learned and difficult profession is under attack with the apparent intent of reducing its pay to something akin to a hamburger flipper. The ideas of the “reformers” seem to consist not of putting money into public schools but removing teacher  protections. Teachers are now portrayed in popular movies and “reformer” financed documentaries as evil or incompetent obstacles to educational success. Teaching is an institution laboring under the ridiculous burden of No Child Left Behind, a barrage of often bizarre state mandated rules and governed by administrators who at times seem to be focused on driving out every vestige of independence and enthusiasm. We destroy the teaching profession at our peril. It is an institution that has served this country well.

Make no mistake. The public school teaching crisis will have real casualties not just among the faculty. Without teacher opposition, school boards will have much more power to create rules and policies without interference.* They are the main line of defense against the threat of privatization, a pet project of a good number of billionaires and largely a failure at improving test scores.** But the simplest and clearest danger is that many teachers will leave the profession. After all, in a nation that believes “you get what you pay for,” many have decided teaching is worth but little.

James Pilant

*Don’t take my word that school boards do strange things. Run  a simple search, school board controversy, and then have fun wading through the entries.



Policy Brief: The Evidence on Charter Schools and Test Scores

December 2011

(This is a brief excerpt from the much larger report which I recommend you download and read yourself.)

This discussion on charter school evidence will focus almost entirely on test-based outcomes. Testing
data provide an incomplete picture of student and school performance, while other outcomes, such as
graduation rates, parental satisfaction and future earnings, are no less important. This review focuses on
testing results because they are the outcome used in most charter studies, whereas analyses positing
alternative measures are more scarce.
That said, there is a considerable body of evidence that corroborates CREDO’s findings. For instance, a
2009 RAND Corporation analysis of charter schools in five major cities and three states found that, in
every location, charter effects were either negative or not discernibly different from regular public
1 Effect sizes can be interpreted in different ways. For instance, some researchers argue that even very small testing gains are
associated with substantial increases in economic growth (e.g., Hanushek and Woessman, 2007). In addition, achievement is
cumulative, which means that single-year effects can understate the total impact of schools.
| 3
schools’ (Zimmer et al., 2009). As one might expect, charters tended to get better results the more years
they had been in operation.
Similarly, a 2010 report by researchers from Mathematica Policy Research presented the findings from a
randomized controlled trial of 36 charter middle schools in 15 states (Gleason et al., 2010). They found
that the vast majority of students in these charters did no better and no worse than their counterparts in
regular public schools in terms of both math and reading scores, as well as virtually all the 35 other
outcomes studied. There was, however, important underlying variation – e.g., results were more positive
for students who stayed in the charters for multiple years, and those who started out with lower scores (as
mentioned above, CREDO reached the same conclusions).
A number of state-specific studies buttress the conclusion of wide variation in charter effects.
A paper published in 2006 found slightly negative effects of charters in North Carolina (Bifulco and
Ladd, 2006); CREDO’s results for North Carolina were mixed, but essentially uncovered no difference
large enough to be educationally meaningful (CREDO, 2009).
Booker et al. (2004) found a positive charter impact in Texas after 2-3 years of attendance, but the effect
sizes were very small. Gronberg and Jansen (2005) reached the same conclusion for elementary and
middle but not high schools, while CREDO (2009) found small negative effects overall.
A published analysis of charters in Florida showed negative effects during these schools’ first five years
of attendance, followed by comparable (with regular public schools) performance thereafter. The reading
impact was discernibly higher, but the difference was modest (Sass, 2006). It’s also worth noting that
CREDO’s (2009) Florida analysis found a small positive effect on charter students after three years of
attendance, while a 2005 RAND report on California charters revealed no substantial difference in overall
performance (Zimmer and Buddin, 2005; also see Zimmer, et al., 2003).
Lastly, a 2006 study using Idaho data showed moderate positive charter effects (Ballou, et al., 2006),
while students attending Arizona charters for 2-3 years had small relative gains, according to a 2001
Goldwater Institute analysis (Solmon, et al., 2001; note that, once again, CREDO found the opposite).
Finally, most recently, Mathematica and CRPE released a report presenting a large, thorough analysis of
charter management organizations, or CMOs (Furgeson, et al., 2011). In order to be included in the study,
CMOs had to be well-established and run multiple schools, which meant that the schools that were
included are probably better than the average charter in terms of management and resources. The overall
results (middle schools only) were disappointing – even after three years of attendance, there was no
significant difference between CMO and comparable regular public school students’ performance in
math, reading, science, or social studies. Some CMOs’ schools did quite well, but most were no different
or worse in terms of their impact.
In an attempt to “summarize” the findings of these and a few other single-city studies not discussed
above, the latest meta-analysis from the Center for Reinventing Public Education (CRPE) concluded that
charter and regular public school effects were no different in middle school reading and high school
reading and math (Betts and Tang, 2011). There were statistically discernible positive impacts in middle
school math and elementary school math and reading, but the effect sizes were very modest. The primary
conclusion, once again, was that “charters under-perform traditional public schools in some locations,
grades, and subjects, and out-perform traditional public schools in other locations, grades, and subjects.”
This lines up with prior reviews of the literature (e.g., Hill, et al., 2006).

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North Carolina Sold to Wealthy Conservative Activist? Could your state be next?

“State for Sale” reads the lead story on the Huffington Post this morning. It’s a very sad story –  how one man freed by the Citizen’s United Supreme Court to spend as much as he wants can essentially buy a state legislature.

That state legislature has now redistricted to favor conservative candidates and passed voter id laws to restrict the poor, college students and minorities from voting.

Is your state next? Of course, it is. All you need is one of the country’s wealthy “elite” and a little political ambition. Most state campaigns are only a few thousand dollars. Spend two or three times that much and the legislature will fall into your lap like a ripe apple.

What will the new legislature do? Cut university funding and repeal taxes? You bet!

This is the brave new world of Citizens United. Aren’t you glad you’ve lived to see the day when corporate personhood become the law of the land? It arms every wealthy conservative activist with the tool for victory – the power to use as much money as he wants.

James Pilant

A conservative multimillionaire has taken control in North Carolina, one of 2012’s top battleground

Even some North Carolinians associated with Jesse Helms think that Pope has gone too far. Jim Goodmon, the president and C.E.O. of Capitol Broadcasting Company, which owns the CBS and Fox television affiliates in Raleigh, says, “I was a Republican, but I’m embarrassed to be one in North Carolina because of Art Pope.” Goodmon’s grandfather A. J. Fletcher was among Helms’s biggest backers, having launched him as a radio and television commentator. Goodmon describes Pope’s forces as “anti-community,” adding, “The way they’ve come to power is to say that government is bad. Their only answer is to cut taxes.” Goodmon believes that Pope’s agenda is not even good for business, because the education cuts he’s helped bring about will undermine the workforce. “If you want to create good jobs, you need good schools,” he says. “We’re close to the bottom out of the fifty states in education spending, and if they could take it down further they would.” He says of Pope, “It’s never about making things better. It’s all about tearing the other side down.”

The article is written by Jane Mayer.

Read more

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Pastor Calls 911 To Remove People From Church

From the Salisbury Post –  (These events appear to have occurred in or around Salisbury, North Carolina.)

The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office responded to a 911 call from the Rev. Corey Barr at Mount Zion Baptist Church, Boyden Quarters, 1765 White Road, Sunday around 1 p.m.

Barr told dispatchers several people needed to be removed from a meeting/service in the sanctuary, and that “non-members (were) there disrupting a religious service,” the dispatcher’s report stated.

When two deputies arrived, they found about 100 people in the sanctuary divided into groups, shouting at each other, but no physical fighting.

Barr requested officers to remove about 20 people from the service who he said were not members of the church, the report said. The report said deputies were told the church was in a battle over by-laws and other issues.

The report said the associate pastor and two church elders told the officers not to remove anyone, and that Barr was wrong.

Barr has not returned calls from the Post.

According to the report, the meeting appeared to be out of hand, with no order or control by church administrators. Several people were videotaping the incident, it appeared.

A third deputy arrived, and the deputies “kindly advised” leaders of both parties it would be a good idea to dismiss the meeting before it became “more violent than it was,” the report said.

The meeting was dismissed and the last deputy left the scene at 2:12 p.m.

This was the second time the sheriff’s office has had to respond to the church following a 911 call from Barr.  (Read More)

I want you to go read the article in full. If you read the rest you will find out what happened after the last 911 call, the story of who has been hiring deputies. And there are some other interesting details.

What are the business ethics here?

We could debate whether or not a church is a business. We could also argue over whether or not the Sheriff’s department could be considered a business. This is a grey area between the public and the private.

However, when you read the article you will discover that Pastor Barr has been hiring deputies at $20 an hour and deploying them in church. This moves at least part of the Sheriff’s department into the “for profit” zone.

Generally speaking, it is not common for churches to hire armed deputies but certainly there are circumstances that would merit such an action. However, church meetings have never to my knowledge required armed supervision.

Were you aware that the fictional town of Mayberry, the setting for the Andy Griffith Show, is south of this area. This would have made a good episode.

I hope everything works out for the church and parishoners.

James Pilant