Thursday, August 28, 2014

Shreveport Has a Rubbish Pick-up Problem

Time for a little local trash ordinance complaint.

This summer, the trash pick-up policy changed in Shreveport in July.  It was pretty well publicized and even I, who never read the local "newspaper" or turns on the local news more than once a week, knew about the ordinance.

This is the ordinance from the city's website:

Bulky Item CollectionBeginning Monday, July 14, 2014 residents can begin to schedule appointments for our new program which will assist us in keeping our beautiful city clean.   If you have furniture, tree limbs, applicances, [sic] and / or tires that you need to dispose of you can do so by setting up an appointment.  Items for our Bulk Collection Program will be picked up by appointment only and each resident will be responsible for setting that appintment[sic] up by calling our Public Worrks [sic] Department @ 318-673-6300 and press 2 for a Customer Service Agent. These items will be collected separately from the regular garbage / recycling services but will be scheduled on one of your future trash days.  All items will need to follow the guidelines below
 1 pile per appointment and the pile must not be larger than (L) 15ft x (W) 6ft x (H) 6ft
Bulky items must be 5ft away from garbage carts, mailboxes, fences, telephone poles, parked cars or away from low hanging tree limbs or power lines.
Furniture, appliances, and tires may be placed curbside 24 hours before your scheduled appointment.
Tires - only 4 tires per appointment
Limbs / Brush may be placed curbside 7 days before your scheduled appointment.
Limbs / Brush must not be larger than 8 inches diameter or 6ft in length.
Items not collected are as follows:
No Building materials, i.e., flooring, tile, countertops, cabinets, concrete, rocks, stones, etc.
No Gasoline powered tools, auto parts
No Pianos, organs, swing or gym sets, trampolines, swimming pools and covers.
No Stumps / roots


Yet somehow, people seem to have missed the word.

The picture above left was taken this afternoon right across the street from me.  Not that it should matter, but I don't live in the ghetto nor do I live in the most upscale neighborhood.  Wherever you live this should not be a problem.  And that little pile is nothing compared to this one right next door to it:



Both piles of junk have been sitting there for at least three weeks.

On Youree Drive extension, headed north, a green couch has been sitting on the curb in front of the car museum place for two weeks.

We are starting to look like a third world country.

Obviously people should follow the guidelines and these two piles clearly do not.  Although at least in this one, there are some bagged items which have been ignored for the entire three weeks.

My neighbors and I have called to notify the city about this eyesore and we've filed complaints on the city website to no avail.

I understand the city's need to restrict bulky item pickup and reorganize how that is done.  And without a doubt our sanitation workers have had a rough haul -- no AC in many trucks and no pay raise in nine years.  I don't blame them for this.

But there has got to be a better plan.

I am assuming what happens here is that the property owner will "get a notice" and maybe "a fine" but in the meantime, this is a rat trap and brings down property values.

I'd hate for us to have to go to the kind of system Europe has...



...but right now it's starting to make a lot of sense.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Irony Alert: Braveheart's Abuser Goes to Court on National Dog Day

Today was National Dog Day.

National Dog Day was founded in 2004...
...to show our deep appreciation for the historical connection of companionship with one another - for their endearing patience, unquestioning loyalty, for their work protecting our streets, homes and families as Police K-9’s, Military Working Dogs, Guide Dogs and Therapy Dogs. 
In addition, the day is meant to call attention to ...
...the number of dogs that need to be rescued each year, and acknowledges family dogs and dogs that work selflessly each day to save lives, keep us safe and bring comfort. Dogs put their lives on the line every day - for their law enforcement partner, for their blind companion, for a child who is disabled, for our freedom and safety by detecting bombs and drugs and pulling victims of tragedy from wreckage.
And ironically, today was an important court date for Braveheart, our local now-ambassador dog who was found almost one year ago chained to a Cadillac Escalade in a storage building in over 100-degree heat.

Today, Braveheart's supporters were praying for justice as yet another court date rolled around.
Team Braveheart at the Caddo Courthouse today.

Over 20,000 people have signed the online petition so far demanding the maximum penalty for Braveheart's abuser; every state in the country is represented in that petition as well as 76 countries worldwide.  There is little doubt that this petition will carry some influence with the judge when sentencing finally comes around. Please sign it if you feel so inclined.

You can go here and here to read the backstory on Braveheart.  The short version is that he was found on September 11 last year, in a storage locker, in Louisiana where the heat was over 100-degrees for several days, chained to a car with no food and water, left to die.  He was found literally hours away from death, completely unable to even lift his head, and was taken to the 24-hour emergency vet clinic.

At that point, euthanasia would have been an option totally on the table.  He was that close to death.

But, the veterinarian who first saw him said "human hands caused this and human hands will fix it."

Today Braveheart is an ambassador for animal rights, animal rescue, and will be the Grand Marshall in the 2015 Barkus and Meoux parade!

Regardless of how the justice system ultimately deals with Brave's abuser, it's a happy ending for him.  He's healthy, happy, and in a loving home.

Just look at him then and now!

Braveheart when he was found 9/11/13 and now.
I know it's hard to believe, but it really is the same dog.

Today Bo and Ronda Spataro, along with a legion of friends and supporters, attended yet another court proceeding in the search for justice against the man who chained Brave to that car, closed the door and walked away, leaving the animal without food or water in that storage locker.  There was no bedding, no padding, no bowls, no nothing in that locker.  Just an empty building and an oily floor, heat, and silence.  All he could do was wait to starve to death or die of dehydration.

The court proceedings so far have consisted of the arraignment, various delays and proceedings, motions, and finally today a court date was set.  In November there will be a proceeding for more discovery and finally a trial by jury in January 2015.  A jury trial!

I talked to Bo Spataro today, who with his wife Ronda now own Braveheart;  he told me they are pleased and encouraged by the idea of a jury trial.  He has confidence that the evidence they have, and the horrible, horrible pictures, will convince any jury that Mr. Lee left Brave to die.  He has confidence that the community won't accept this kind of abuse.

It's hard to fathom what the defense will have to offer; the man who owned Braveheart (Bo and Ronda named him Braveheart) admitted the dog was his when he signed papers relinquishing his ownership so Bo and Ronda could legally adopt him.  So, "the dog wasn't mine" isn't an option.

He can't say he didn't know the dog was in the locker he rented because he's already admitted he knew.  In the police report he said he'd left the dog there for two days -- (it was obviously much longer than that).

His only defense might be that he was trying to find a home for the dog, but if that's the case, you've got to wonder why he chained the dog to a car with a very heavy chain, closed him up in a locker with no food or water, and went away; why the heavy chain?  Where was he going to go?

That man went to sleep in his bed every night knowing that dog was in that locker dying.  Godless.

By the time Brave was found, as I said, he could not lift his head off the oily concrete to drink water, much less eat; he was literally hours away from death.  His organs were shutting down.  He looked like a carcass. He was taken to the 24-hour emergency vet clinic where he was given 2 or 3 transfusions, IV fluids, and had his blood work checked every eight hours for the first few days and then every single day for a month after that.  The effort to stabilize and save him was heroic.

Then, of course, there was the awful battle with Caddo Animal Control who seized Braveheart from the Spataros who were fostering him; they said they had to keep Brave as "evidence" until the proceedings were over.  Seriously?  By the time this finally reaches the jury it will be one year and four months; there's no way that dog, as sick and unvaccinated as he was, would have survived that.  Naturally there was a great deal of protest and outrage and in the face of a protest outside the gates of the facility, Animal Control finally released Brave back to Bo and Ronda.  It was about that time that Gabriel Lee signed papers relinquishing his ownership of the dog.

Brave was adopted by Bo and Ronda: Ronda made a promise to Braveheart the day he was seized that she would get him back -- and she did.  Promise kept.

And now we still wait for justice.

If you ask Bo what would be a fitting punishment for Gabriel Lee, he has been a bit reticent to pass judgment.  Bo is a kind, forgiving soul and had Mr. Lee ever once admitted responsibility or apologized for what he did, Bo would have accepted that; instead, Mr. Lee has said Brave is "just a dog" and has denied responsibility.  He's plead "not guilty" in court, been late for appearances, pushed reporters, and shown no remorse.  At this point, the entire animal rescue community wants the maximum penalty for Mr. Lee who is now charged with felony cruelty to animals ...
In addition to any other penalty imposed for a violation of this Subsection, the offender shall
be ordered to undergo a psychological evaluation and subsequently recommended psychological treatment and shall be banned by court order from owning or keeping animals for a period of time deemed appropriate by the court. Any costs associated with any evaluation or treatment ordered by the court shall be borne by the defendant. 
Whoever commits the crime of aggravated cruelty to animals shall be fined not less than five
thousand dollars nor more than twenty-five thousand dollars or imprisoned, with or without hard labor, for not less than one year nor more than ten years, or both.
And that's not really enough for leaving a helpless creature to die.  The laws need to be tougher.

What else can be done to prevent this from happening again?  Bo Spataro thinks an Animal Abuse Registry might be an option, which would work sort of like a sex-offender registry.  Gabriel Lee should never be allowed to own another animal.  A registry would just add some fines, revocation of probation, or even jail time to anyone who was in violation.  It might make it just a little more difficult for an abuser to slip through the system.

I would suggest also that Mr. Lee should have to pay restitution for the veterinarian care Braveheart has had to receive.  The community has donated tenfold to Brave's care, but Mr. Lee should still be held financially accountable.

In the end, as I said, it's a happy ending for Braveheart; it's by the grace of God that the owners of that storage building found him before he died.  And it seems providential that he ended up with the Spataros:  Bo and Brave visit schools and teach children about animal welfare; Ronda is a vet tech who has been able to help care for Brave's medical needs.  Being in the spotlight makes them both somewhat uncomfortable but if, in the end, just one more dog is saved or if ultimately laws are strengthened against animal abusers, then it's worth it.

When you have the attention of over 20,000 people around the world, you're doing something right.  There is some good that will come out of this.

And just look at that happy family!



Keep up with Braveheart's journey here.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Poverty Pimp Paints Picture of Racial Tension and Division

I don't think there is a more divisive person on the planet fostering racial hate and tension than Rev. Jesse Jackson.

The Reverend was on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace today in full poverty-pimp mode, stirring up hate and fanning the flames of Ferguson even as things begin to settle down.  You see, if things settle down and a community is left to heal its own wounds then people like Jackson become irrelevant and he can't stand that idea.

Jesse Jackson isn't alone in this race-baiting game; he is always joined by Al Sharpton and the media usually joins in as well.  Nobody wants to be irrelevant.

Consider this headline from The New York Times...

Timeline for a Body:  4 Hours in the Middle of a Ferguson Street

...as if nobody cared enough about Michael Brown to pick his body up out of the road.  It would seem obvious to most of us that this was a crime scene and anyone with an iota of sense knows that crime scenes must be documented, photographed, and investigated.  Yet there is the New York Times, fanning the flames against the police:
For about four hours, in the unrelenting summer sun, his body remained where he fell. 
The lengthy article ends with:
Mr. Brown’s body was checked into the morgue at 4:37 p.m., more than four and a half hours after he was shot.
You can just hear the writer tsk-tsking as he shakes his head in wonder.

I turned my television off a few weeks ago and seldom have it on anymore, yet one evening this week I tuned in to Fox to see what was going on while I ate supper.  Greta van Susteren was on and she was talking to some young reporter in hipster glasses and a plaid shirt.  The reporter, I forget his name, went on to air on-the-street interviews he had conducted with protesters in Ferguson.

One guy said that officer Wilson "should be arrested and convicted of first-degree murder!"

Ignorant.  Does he even know what the criteria for first-degree murder entails?  And the guy that said that made more sense than anybody else in the hip reporter's montage.  Sickening.

Why would a network air such garbage if not to fan the flames?  I was outraged, but even more so when the reporter cuts back to Greta who shakes her head and proclaims how we don't know the facts of this case yet but....let me just air this bullshit anyway because I don't want to be irrelevant and sensational television has always been my ticket to fame (see:  Natalie Holloway).

But back to the good Reverend Jesse Jackson today who was the guest of Chris Wallace along with Dr. Ben Carson on Fox News Sunday.  Dr. Carson, a man who is always calm and reasonable, offered solutions and sound advice on the situation while Jackson just did his usual smug shtick.

Consider this exchange between Wallace and Jackson:
WALLACE: Well, there has been a contention, the only point that I'd make, that he hit the officer in the face. And there are various unconfirmed reports about how severe that was. There is another report that he was charging at the officer. I mean I guess the question is, if we don't know, why are we declaring a verdict? 
JACKSON: Well, it seems to me that the police acted as judge, jury, and executioner. And even on the worst scenario, if he had hit him in the face, does that require at a distance, I was there where he'd been shot, about 20 feet, does that mean you shoot him six times, four times at point blank range? I don't think so.
One has to wonder how it is that Jackson has lived all these years without realizing that  it is at least possible that a person with adrenaline coursing through his system, as Brown must have been, can be almost superhuman.  It's at least possible that Wilson actually needed six shots to stop Michael Brown as medical experts have suggested based on the autopsy results and order of the shots.

The fact is that still nobody knows.

Yet Jackson has to incite hate against police in general by saying that they "acted as judge, jury, and executioner."

In response, Dr. Ben Carson:
You know, anger issues get in the way. And if you take race out of the issue altogether, and you take a group of young men and you raise them with no respect for authority, not learning to take on personal responsibility, having easy access to drugs and alcohol, they're very likely to end up as victims of violence or incarceration. It has nothing to do with race. So, yes, is there racism? Are there problems? Yes. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow. But we need to start looking at bigger issues here. We only have 320 million people in this country. We're on a global stage where we are competing with countries with over 1 billion people. We have to save all of our people. They are all precious. And we have to develop our resources appropriately.
Sounds like pretty good advice to me.

Jackson:
...it seems to me that when blacks kill whites, which is rare, it's swift justice. When whites kill blacks, it's rebellion (ph), when it's black on black, there's a shrug of the shoulders as a kind of (inaudible). Guns in, drugs in, jobs out. Racial disparity and alienation and mistrust are very combustible formulas, factors.
What?  I can't really decipher that in whole, but I do wonder why Jackson isn't in Chicago trying to stop all the killing there?

In the end, I think Victor Davis Hanson said it best this week:
What will save us are not more elite and self-serving “conversations” about racial difference, but a new classically liberal effort to consider race irrelevant in our shared American culture. Perhaps if we started treating people as unique individuals and not as hyphenated and anonymous groups, we could deal with these tragic shootings as individual tragedies rather than collective conspiracies.
It's time for people like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson to quit race-baiting and pitting us against each other and start working to solve problems.  If the two poverty-pimps need a tutorial on how to do that, I would recommend they watch this video which is full of people of all races who have chosen not to be a victim.

(H/T:  Memeorandum)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Maness Needs to Pull Out of Senate Race

I've been working on a post for DaTechGuy on Mary Landrieu and "Flight-Gate"; be sure to click over there Monday afternoon and check it out.  She's having a pretty bad week.

In the course of doing some research for that post, I've been looking at the poll numbers for the November U.S. Senate race.  No offense to Col. Maness or his supporters, but he needs to follow the lead of Rep. Paul Hollis and get out of this race.  I know that Sarah Palin has endorsed Maness, and I know that the Tea Party loves him, and he's probably the best man for the job in all honesty.  I like his credentials a lot.

But.

He's not getting the numbers.  

True, Maness has picked up some important endorsements lately:

The remaining Republican opponent for Cassidy is Colonel Rob Maness, a 32-year Air Force veteran. Maness has been endorsed by leading Tea Party and conservative organizations. He received a major boost when he was endorsed by former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, who frequently tangles with the establishment wing of the Republican Party. He has also picked up support from the Senate Conservative Fund and the Tea Party Express. Today, he was endorsed by the Family Research Council and their PAC Chairman Tony Perkins, former Louisiana State Representative. Perkins is a leader in the social conservative movement in Louisiana and is closely associated with pro-life and pro-family organizations in the state. 
This endorsement should end the discussion of Maness dropping out of the Senate race. Many Cassidy supporters have been pushing for Maness to end his campaign, so Republicans can “unite” behind the Congressman. This endorsement is the latest sign that the Colonel is not going anywhere as Perkins surely would not have endorsed a candidate who is not fully committed to the race until the end.

And maybe this will spike Maness's numbers but I'm not seeing it.  Rep. Cassidy might be a RINO, as evidenced by his support for Obamacare, but it seems to me that he's the only person that's going to beat Landrieu and if we don't do ANYTHING else, we have to defeat Landrieu.  

To nobly stand behind a candidate that can't win won't help us in the long run.

This goes against everything I know:  I usually vote for the conservative candidate no matter what the establishment GOP says. The establishment GOP usually picks RINOS (see Crist v. Rubio).   But drastic times call for drastic measures.  There are still about 2.5 months in the campaign, and with Flight-Gate now in the news cycle Landrieu's numbers can be expected to dip slightly.  I don't think it will cause a major drop in her numbers because the general public doesn't follow this sort of thing much.  

While one would have hoped that the conservative Maness could have pulled this one off, the numbers don't show any possibility, the race is too close, and the stakes for the future and continued existence of our country are too high.  

It makes me sad, but reality bites.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

We Are Learning!

We are working hard in my classes!

The English IV kids are working on research papers already, the Creative Writing kids have joined our online private writing group through Figment and are learning all about writing dialogue, and the English II kids have spent the past three days learning to analyze characterization through diction and syntax.

I'm so grateful for the donations you've sent!  Sarah sent an Amazon card today that will just about give me the balance of a class set of the Rick Bragg books for Creative Writing.  I could still use a couple of extras in case I get another student added to the class.

The Creative Writing kids all got SmashBooks thanks to leftovers from a great donation last year and some new funds received this year.  I had four left over from last year.

We still have a few needs and my Donors Choose project is not yet fully funded.  If it doesn't reach its "goal" and doesn't get fully funded, my class doesn't get any of the donated funds - they are returned to the donors.  So I really need that one to reach its goal!

This is my Adopt my Classroom site and as always, my Amazon links are below which can be shipped directly to my classroom:  Mrs. Becker, Bossier High School, 777 Bearkat Drive, Bossier City, LA , 71111.

My students are working so hard and are so excited by all the new things we are doing this year.  Thanks again and again to you who have given.  I just can't tell you how much it means to my kids when they get Smashbooks, notebooks, flashdrives, or even hi-lighters to facilitate their learning and progress.

Means a lot to me, too.  So thank you!




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

I Got a Book!

It was sitting in my box at school today! I've got no idea who sent it, but thank you so much!

This book is on my wish list (see below) for my Creative Writing class. I only need 7 more to reach my goal!

Thanks again to my angel who sent this one!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Take a Trip to Miss Cammie's Dinner Table

Steve and I went to Natchitoches yesterday to see the Cammie Henry exhibit at Lemee House:  Miss Cammie's Dinner table.  It was a nicely done presentation and I got to see one of the famous tablecloths that Cammie did.  On special occasions she would break out the tablecloth and everyone would sign it.  She would go back later and embroider the names in colored thread.

I'm sure there were several of these tablecloths and the one we saw yesterday had dates after her death which was puzzling.  Another mystery to solve.  Someone else must have picked up the tradition.  Some of the names are family members, some friends, some writers and artists that visited her.


There was a descendant of Cammie's at the exhibit with (I presume) his son.  I wanted to try to talk with him, but so did everyone else, so I didn't get a chance before he made his exit.  Wish I knew who it was.  I'd like to ask him a few questions!

It was too hot to walk around much.  Front Street still had plenty of shoppers but it was light traffic.



We parked down by the river and walked up to Lasyone's for meat pies, then walked down to Lemee House for the exhibit.  Even though it was hot, I love walking around the Historic District.  It's just beautiful.


Even when it's hot.

We passed Bayou Amulet and we thought the marker was interesting.



After the exhibit we went back up Front Street and dipped into an antique shop (thank goodness for air conditioning).  I bought a vintage glass doorknob strictly for practical purposes -- that's what I have in my house and I needed one.  At Kaffie-Frederick I bought two reproduction/modern glass doorknobs (I have a doorknob problem) that are not nearly as cool, or as heavy, but are functional.  Doors without knobs are difficult.

We wanted to eat alligator at The Pioneer Pub for dinner but they don't open until four (although as it turned out later, they were closed up for vacation and we missed out altogether) so we got into the Jeep and headed down the river road to Melrose.  I needed the inspiration.

Steve sat on the back porch of the Bindery and I walked around the grounds.  He likes to sit there and listen to the cows, but even the cows were quiet and still in that heat.



I headed over to Lyle Saxon's cabin - the Yucca House.



It's so peaceful there...


...who couldn't write a book there?



I'd hang a swing at the end of this gallery...



...and watch the horse in the pasture just beyond the fence.


You see him?

I sat there for a few minutes pondering Lyle, Cammie, Ada, Carrie, and all the others that had come to Melrose in the 1920s and 30s for inspiration and camaraderie.  They had a wonderful time!  And part of the lure, or charm, was the isolation.  Even though Melrose looks a little different now, the grounds I mean, the aura or mystique is still there.  When Cammie lived there the place was a riot of color and blooms with something planted or growing just about everywhere.  The grounds are meticulously kept now and are certainly beautiful, but I suspect Cammie would want to sink her spade into the dirt and plant something.  I can just hear her calling Carrie Dormon:  "Bring me some of that yaupon!"

I wandered up to the Big House and went up on the front gallery where Mother Garrett, Cammie's mother, would often sit and visit with callers.


You can't see the river from up there anymore because of all the growth, but back then you could.  The river is on the other side of that road, although it's not really a river anymore.  Now it's Cane River Lake.

I sat up on the gallery for a bit listening to voices gathering below for the next tour through the grounds and house.  There are still remnants of bygone days here, too.


I looked over at "the pit" where Leudivine used to put her geraniums in the winter and where Cammie would store plants to protect them from the cold.  I wondered what was growing in all that open area when Cammie was alive.  There are pictures but the ones I've seen so far are all black and white, so it's hard to tell what was where.


There were a few dirt daubers up there with me catching the breeze, and I don't know if they sting or not, so I went on back downstairs.

I walked around a little more, I walked up to the road and the fence and looked at the house.  I wandered around the cabin Cammie moved to Melrose in 1934 for the purpose of storing her looms.  Cammie would escape the bustle of the guests and tourists and come over to her cabin and practice the lost arts of spinning and weaving.  She made beautiful fabrics, blankets, and upholstery.

Steve and I walked over to the barn and looked for the cat, but we didn't see her.  She was probably asleep in the cool shadows underneath.

We drove back to town, found the Pub still closed, so we headed back to Shreveport.

When I was falling asleep last night I was thinking about Lyle and the cabin.  How hot was it trying to sleep out there in the summer, cicadas singing, mosquitoes, gnats and who knows what other critters trying to get at you.  We saw a fox crossing the road out there and Cammie often wrote about skunks getting under the cabin until she rectified that by modifying the floor.  Malaria was a common malady for the Melrose folks.  But it was apparently worth it for the inspiration and peace that could be found there.

There's still a mystique in the air when you go to Melrose; I'm not sure I can explain what it is, but it's something.  Not ghosts.  Atmosphere, maybe.  I can see exactly why writers and artists longed to be there.

 Like Lyle Saxon said the first time he saw Yucca House, "I could write a book here."

The SIGIS Take a Trip Series:
Take a Trip to the 2012 Defenders of Liberty Air Show at BAFB
Take a Springtime Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden, LA
Take a Trip to Logansport, Louisiana
Take a Trip to the Lock and Dam on Red River
Take a Trip to the 2012 Barkus and Meoux Parade
Take a Christmas Shopping Trip to Second Hand Rose in Minden
Take a Trip to the Fourth Annual Barksdale AFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Grand Cane's Fifth Annual Pioneer Trade Day
Take a Trip to the 2011 Highland Jazz & Blues Festival
Take an Autumn Trip to Jefferson, Texas
Take a Fall Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to the 8th Air Force Museum at Barksdale Air Force Base
Take a Summertime Trip to Grand Cane
Take a Trip to Desoto Parish
Take a Summer Trip to Second Hand Rose Antiques in Minden
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Melrose Plantation 
Take a Trip to Ed Lester Farms and a Random Antique Stop
Take a Trip to the Norton Art Gallery and the Masters of Cuban Art Exhibit
Take a Trip to Natchitoches to See the Christmas Lights
Take a Trip to the Third Annual BAFB Oktoberfest 
Take a Trip to Natchitoches and Oakland Plantation

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Help My Classroom Update

I want to thank everyone who has donated to my back-to-school campaign this year so far and give an update.  I've received several very nice donations through Donors Choose and Adopt-my-Classroom and some anonymous angel has pledged a dozen thumb drives via Amazon.

You just can't know how much it means to both me and my students to get this help.  Over the years I've spent thousands of dollars out of my own pocket to buy materials and supplies for my students (what teacher hasn't?).  What I finally learned is that there are kind, generous people out there who are willing to help and who believe in funding education.

So, I'm very grateful!

As we begin school this week, my most pressing needs are below.  I still need about 15 of the Rick Bragg books; and you can still use the Donors Choose link and the Adopt-my Classroom link.  Nothing is too small!  Five dollars, one book, a dozen pencils - we can use it all!  And if you can't donate financially you can absolutely help by sharing this post on your social media - the more people that know we need help, the more likely these kids will get some help!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Asking for a Little Help

Can you believe it's time to go back to school?

One week from today we'll kick off a brand new year.  It's hard to believe the summer is already over!   I've spent most of this summer working on research for a book (I don't want to go too much into detail on that just yet) and then Mr. SIGIS and I took a trip to Iowa to see his family.    It was a very busy and productive summer.

This week, I'm in a very intensive training workshop through NMSI -- that is, the National Math and Science Initiative.  This is a national initiative to raise scores in math and science but, thankfully, we all realize you can't do that without English which is my content area.  Our school was fortunate enough to be selected for the NMSI program and thus my training this week.  

And OH what training!  In some ways, I feel like I've been "doing it wrong" all these years.  I feel more enthusiastic than I have in years about starting a new year.  This training has shown me new techniques and strategies for my kids than I could ever imagined.  I'm so mentally exhausted when I come home, last night I went to bed before dark and my neighbor was still outside mowing his grass.  It's fab!

Let's just say that it hasn't been one of those droning, repetitive in-service workshops where you want to grind your eyes out with a paper clip.  

At any rate, I'm ready to put this training into practice.  You may recall that last year I appealed for help in getting basic supplies for my classroom.  Part of the problem last year was the new curriculum and the need for books.  Our school is low income, inner city, low parental support -- and many of our students don't have the money to go purchase paperback novels. 

Last year, you, my readers, came through in an astounding way.  I was moved to tears almost daily by the
flood of supplies and donations that I received.  Almost daily the front office would call and tell me I had "another box" downstairs.  I put four sets of novels in our library that my students will be able to use again this year!  I got a flood of basic supplies like pens, paper, and notebooks, too. 

Best of all, my kids were so grateful and thrilled when they had crisp new books to read and never had to worry about paper and pens to get their work done.  It was a blessing beyond measure.

This year, my needs are not as great, but I still have needs.  Things like pens, pencils and paper have been consumed and need to be restocked.  

My Creative Writing class needs a text - I'd like to use Rick Bragg's Somebody Told Me as a reader for them for several reasons:  first, he's a Pulitzer prize winning author; second, he is a southern writer, and we live in the south!  And finally, the book is a collection of his articles and series of articles and will enable us to branch out into fabulous discussions and bridge over to readings by other authors that I will bring in.

I need printer ink.  We are limited to 500 copies a month at my school.  Think about that -- I have English II, English IV, and Creative Writing.  Three preps -- so running "a class set" isn't much help.  By the time I've run off my syllabus and a couple of quizzes, I've used all my copies for the first month!  I need to be able to print text passages that my kids can use in close-reading exercises, that they can annotate and mark up; I need to be able to print graphic organizers and current event reading selections; printing is just a must.

My seniors need flash drives:  most of them don't have computers at home or laptops to carry around, so when they work on their Senior Project research papers, they are working from computers at school, at the public library, maybe at home -- they're working from multiple stations.  A flash drive is critical so a student doesn't lose his work.

It may not seem like much to ask a kid to go to Walmart or a dollar store and pick up a spiral notebook, but some of these kids are working two and three jobs just to help keep the electricity on at home.  To them, an eight dollar thumb drive is extravagant; you could feed the family supper on that.

Anyway, I'm again pleading for your help this year.  I've set up a project at Adopt-a-Classroom again where you can donate; I'm also posting my wish items via Amazon below, which you can order and have shipped straight to me at school.  The shipping address for that would be Bossier High School, Attn:  Pat Becker, 777 Bearkat Drive, Bossier City, LA, 71111.  

You can also use my PayPal widget on the top right sidebar.

I'm really excited about the new school year and to use the new strategies and skills I've learned!  I know my kids are going to do great!  We have great kids at our school who are ready to learn and to achieve.  Please consider helping us, if you can.  Nothing is too small -- and my kids are grateful for all the help and support they can get.

Both I and my students are grateful for your help!




 Update:  Thank you Adrienne!  I promise I'll buy thumb drives!  You rock!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Turn off the Television

We haven't had our television on for an entire week.

Well, I take that back -- I turned it on briefly to listen to the news this morning while getting dressed, but other than that - nada.

The impetus for this little experiment came about accidentally as Mr. SIGIS and I were sitting outside with friends one evening recently; we were talking about how listening to baseball on the radio is not the same as watching it on television.  I much prefer the radio because then you have to engage your brain to visualize what is happening.  We talked about how people don't remember things anymore because everything you need to know is in your smartphone -- why make the effort to remember?

Our digital age has changed the way our brains work, I think.  And not necessarily in a good way.  We have access to more knowledge, but we are not necessarily smarter.

As a veteran teacher, I have seen a change in the way we must teach kids, too.  Kids that have never not known life without a cell phone, computer, or XBOX now must be entertained in order to learn.  Learning has to be "engaging."

At any rate, we turned the TV off a week ago and as a result, Mr. SIGIS has read two and a half books so far, and I have read the nearly eight-hundred page Pultizer Prize winning The Goldfinch which I fished out of our Little Free Library on the corner.

It's been a worthwhile experiment and we will likely just leave the blasted thing off for a while.  We really haven't missed it.  And there is so much to be read!  To that end, make note that The New Yorker has opened its archives through the end of summer and there is a whole boatload of stuff to read there - both fiction and non-fiction.  Business Insider has a pretty good list to get you started.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Border Crisis is By Design

On October 8, 2005, Barack Obama  vowed to "fundamentally transform America" and he has certainly lived up to his promise.  With one crisis and scandal after another (IRS, NSA, VA, Benghazi, Fast and Furious, an out of control EPA, Obamacare, and negotiating with terrorists, to name a few) we are a much weaker and less esteemed country than ever before.  We are more racially divided, we are angrier, and we have little trust in our government or optimism for the future.

It's all by design.

He told you he was going to do it, and he did.

Obama's plan to transform America is no more evident than in the border crisis.  Andrew McCarthy has an excellent post on this topic at National Review Online:
The president has spent nearly six years giving effective legal immunity to millions of illegal aliens already here. His administration, meanwhile, hooks them on the government gravy train and fights state efforts to detain them, deny social services to them, and prevent them from fraudulently voting. Under those circumstances, the rolling out of a federal red carpet for teeming masses of illegal aliens must be understood as intentional.
It is absolutely intentional.

And, of course, Obama blames Bush for this.  No, really.  Andrew McCarthy explains that this is a clever ploy by Obama because much of this controversy involves a Clinton-era anti-human trafficking law which during the Bush years, in re-authorization, picked up an amendment added by Feinstein and Biden; in short, the anti-human trafficking law concerns those children who are "coercively trafficked into the country for purposes of sex-slavery or other indentured servitude."   

That is not the case here; so the blame-Bush's-law defense of the left does not play.  The Bush-era law attempts to protect those kids brought here unwillingly; the current crisis involved illegals coming quite willingly.

McCarthy again:
The January 2014 solicitation published by DHS’s bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement foretells (a) the arrival of 65,000 “unaccompanied alien children,” and, tellingly, (b) the administration’s intention to transfer them to “Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) shelters located throughout the continental United States.” 
Refugee Resettlement.  That does not sound like deportation.

It is team Obama's plan to relocate these illegals throughout the United States and into your neighborhoods.



The end result is thousands of new, unskilled workers on the public dole, a further erosion of our American values, an increased drain on our already troubled education system, and utter havoc in an already ruined health care system.  Of these illegals that are, in fact, children (and not all of them are - get that image of sweet, doe-eyed, hungry toddlers out of your head), how many are vaccinated and know English?  How many will want to assimilate into our American culture and become productive members of society?

Lest I be perceived as a heartless bigot, let me assure you, I'm all for legal immigration.  I know people who have done it the right way and as Americans, we welcome them with open arms.  That is our way.  This, however, is not the Ellis Island of your ancestors.

These new immigrants are not refugees from war torn countries; they are political pawns.

One of the more troubling aspect of all this is the secrecy; the administration touts "privacy rights."  Some of these illegals are being housed at Fort Sill, OK, yet an Oklahoma congressional representative was barred from visiting the immigration center.

The administration won't say where all these kids are going.  Two hundred of these illegals were sent to Nebraska yet the governor was not notified and the administration won't identify them or their locations.
"Governors and mayors have the right to know when the federal government is transporting a large group of individuals, in this case illegal immigrants, into your state," Mr. Heineman told The Wall Street Journal in an interview on Saturday. "We need to know who they are, and so far, they are saying they're not going to give us that information."
Here in Louisiana, Senator David Vitter sent a letter on July 10 to find out how many and where these illegals might be coming to this state.  He got no response.  According to the Louisiana Hayride:
And now, four members of the state’s congressional delegation – Bill Cassidy, John Fleming, Charles Boustany and Vance McAllister – have sent a similar letter.
Camp Minden is a possibility and local news station KSLA reported that Hirsch Coliseum has been contacted about holding some of them.  (Shades of Katrina refugees ... ).

Senator Vitter and Rep. Cassidy have introduced bills in both the House and Senate that would:

• Requires mandatory detention of all unaccompanied minors upon apprehension by border agents.
• Gives unaccompanied minors the option to voluntarily return to their country of origin.
• Places unaccompanied aliens children affiliated with gangs in an “expedited” removal proceeding.
• Raises the standards for “credible fear of persecution” to “substantiated fear of persecution” for unaccompanied minors seeking asylum under the law.
• Places unaccompanied minors without claims for asylum on the next available flight to their home countries within 72 hours of an initial screening, barring cost, feasibility, repatriation agreements with the minors’ countries and the health and safety of the minor.
• Extends the bar to reentry for all illegal aliens to 10 years.
• Requires Secretary of Homeland Security to submit an annual report to Congress detailing voluntary departures, deportations, and grants of refugee or asylum status.

In the end, it comes down to how much the states are willing to take of this nonsense.  As McCarthy pointed out:
And if a renegade United States government is not going to secure the borders of the United States, the states must secure their borders or surrender. As the Supreme Court recognized in 1837, each state has a sovereign right and duty of self-defense ...
Obama voters got what they wished for:  a fundamentally transformed America.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bergdahl Returnes to Duty: NOT The Onion

Is this a joke?  

When I saw this story this morning, I thought I was reading The Onion.

Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was a Taliban prisoner in Afghanistan for five years, will reportedly return to duty as early as Monday. 
Bergdahl, 28, who was freed in May in exchange for five hardened Taliban prisoners, will resume his military career at the Army North headquarters at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, The New York Times reported. 
Since returning to the U.S. on June 13, Bergdahl has received therapy at the base.
Bergdahl is expected to live in a barracks and have two soldiers help him readjust to military life, Defense officials told The Times.

There must be a whole lot about military procedure that I don't understand.  

In an older, more normal time, I would just assume that this guy is in protective custody and ongoing therapy on the heels of an intense debriefing; it never occurred to me that he would ever "return to duty."  

I would have thought the brig and a court-martial would have been in order unless, perhaps, the testimony of his fellow soldiers, his own emails of promised desertion, and his odd behavior while in Afghanistan raise no red flags whatsoever.

But, these are certainly not normal times.

Nothing in the headlines is normal anymore.

What is normal?

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Talking to Liberals About the Hobby Lobby Decision

This is why you can’t talk to liberals:

In the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision this week, The Daily Kos posted this article which showed up in my Facebook feed the next day with the comment, “Okay Bible-thumpers, answer me this:”; the title of the Kos article is “What if a Muslim Company Used the ‘Hobby Lobby’ Decision to Impose Its Values on White Christians?”

Always up for a challenge, I clicked on the article thinking I would read it and then respond to the Facebook query. 

The first line of the article says:

The slide towards American theocracy was nudged one more step forward by today's Supreme Court decision in support of the "freedom" of corporations with "religious" beliefs to restrict the rights of their employees. In essence, religious "beliefs" trump the obligations, rights, and responsibilities that come with being members of the polity and a broader political community.

That sentence alone was as far as I had to read. 

Absolutely no one’s rights were restricted by the Hobby Lobby decision.  Period.  Anyone that wants them can still go out and purchase abortifacients if they want to.  The Hobby Lobby decision did not ban the drugs. 

So, I responded to the person who posted the article in my feed, I'll call her Miss Liberal, and simply said:

“The first line of the article says the decision ‘restricts the rights’ of the employees, which is erroneous.  No employee rights are restricted.  They can all go buy whatever abortifacients they want.  The decision just means that the employer is not forced to buy them.  Because the first line is a lie, the rest of the article means nothing.”

Am I wrong?

The response I got from Miss Liberal was:

“It does restrict the rights of employees that you do not comprehend does not make it erroneous” [sic]

(We’ll leave the issue of her grammar aside; I'll quit putting [sic] out there; you get the idea)

I don’t usually take the liberal bait, but I was a passenger in a car zooming down the interstate and had nothing else to do besides look at cows, so I thought, “Why not?”

I wrote:

“What rights are restricted?”

Response:

“Insurance was created as a way for employers to pay you less this allows employers to pay you less and give you less access to healthcare because they don’t BELIEVE in certain medications and what things they might be used for What and Why my doctor prescribes me medication Is no one’s fucking business except mine and my doctor’s.” 

Uhhhmmmm, okay.  I’m shaking my head on that one. 

Unwilling to get drawn into the weeds on the origins and purpose of insurance, I’m sticking to my original question; I wrote:

“But can women still buy abortifacients?”

Simple enough, right?

Miss Liberal’s response:

“It’s none of your business what my doctor prescribes me”

(Apparently Miss Liberal doesn’t believe in end punctuation.)

Again, trying to keep her on the path, I wrote:

“Not talking about you – I mean women in general.  My point is that benefits and rights are not the same thing.  Nobody’s rights have been taken away.”

Clear enough?  I’m trying to be non-hostile here, and to keep her on the original question. 

Miss Liberal’s response?

“you cannot see the forest for the trees.”

It’s killing me not to critique the grammar, but I persevere.

It’s at this point that she begins to copy/paste her comment about “Insurance was created…”.  Twice.
So I said,

“Is a person forced to work for Hobby Lobby?  Does one still have the choice to choose a job with the benefit package they want?”

Miss Liberal:

“you’re an idiot”

She copy/pastes the insurance comment again.  It’s getting funny now, really. 

So I try one last time: 

“So you can’t tell me what rights were taken away from me yesterday?

Miss Liberal:

“no.  I just did.  Twice.  but you don’t have high enough order thinking skills to understand it.  I’m sorry, honey.  I’ll keep thinking on how to break it down for you.”

I can’t stand it anymore so I’m ready to get out of this dialogue.  I said:

“LMAO, okay.  But you don’t have the higher order thinking skills to explain what single right the Supreme Court stripped from women yesterday.  You’re assuming insurance is a ‘right’ rather than a benefit.  A woman still has the ability to purchase the same drugs as before the decision.”

Miss Liberal:

“again I am sorry you cannot see what I’m trying to say it’s not thinking skills, kiddo it’s communication skills  talking to idiots takes a lot of work”

My final comment:

“Amen to that.”

I left the conversation on that one. 

The next comment that showed up in the feed was from one of Miss Liberal’s liberal friends who posted a vulgar picture of a woman’s spread legs and a one-fingered salute at her vagina with the caption:  "A message to Republicans from women voters.”

And the next comment (because I continued to lurk a bit after I quit commenting) was from another of Miss Liberal’s friends:

“This guy screaming about ‘abortifacients is cracking me up!  What a loon!   Lol!”

And yet another shows up and begins to complain about “the All-Male Supreme Court” who “has implanted their demon seed into the minds of conservatives everywhere…”

Oh, my.

I can’t even begin to go there.  By the end of the dialogue they had everything but UFO's in there.

I know better than to try and talk to a liberal; I really do.  But, like I said, I was killing time on the interstate and this one just looked so easy.  Low hanging fruit.  Obviously I never did get Miss Liberal to answer the question as to what constitutional right was taken away, or even restricted, by the Hobby Lobby decision.  The usual liberal M.O. is to resort to profanity and insults, in my experience, but I guess I still keep hoping I can get through to one or two of them every now and then. 

Not this time, I’m afraid.