Paging Doug Ross

Because we, except for about four times a year, pretty much only watch movies from Netflix, therefore putting us behind the curve of what's current in contemporary cinema, we just got around to watching Syriana last night. Y'all should get on it. I knew that it was about the oil industry, but I didn't really know what to expect. It's basically a critique of the oil industry, energy trade, and America's unquenchable thirst for oil, how that plays out politically, and how it affects people's lives. You should rent it, and watch the special features, too. There was (when this movie was current) debate that it's pretty ethnocentric to believe that America's energy demands have this much impact on the world, but I would have to disagree. Americans, as a whole, are very ethnocentric, so it's not a stretch to believe that our actions do have this must impact. In any event, watch the movie, if you get confused, check out the Wikipedia entry on the film so you can get a clear view of the plot and the connections between stories.

We're taking off for DMI tomorrow--family fun with Ed, Kim, et al, and cocktails with my BFF Pogge tomorrow night. ROAD TRIP. More to come tomorrow on the holiday season.


SLPS vers. 2.0

If you live in St Louis, you are probably aware of the turmoil that is happening with the St Louis Public Schools. I blogged about it earlier this year, but things have been happening at a breakneck speed. Crazy-lady Veronica O'Brien, who just months ago pushed for Diana Bourisaw's hiring as superintendent, is now saying that Bourisaw should be fired and the state should take over. Mayor Slay is also pushing for a partial state takeover. What happens when the state takes over? The school board will be replaced by a three-person panel, and the current board will remain intact but have no power and make no decisions.

I am torn about what to believe is going on. Here's what I know to be true: There is obviously a huge, huge problem. At this point, I wouldn't send my non-existent children to SLPS. There ARE good teachers in SLPS. Not all of them, but certainly a large number of committed, skilled educators. The problem, though, is not teachers. The problems are coming from inconsistent adminstration and leadership, from the superintendent and board on down. Not Bourisaw herself, she hasn't been here long enough to be inconsistent. That's part of the problem: not allowing any one superintendent enough time to make a change.

However, I don't know that state takeover is the best answer. The problem with state takeover is that the board that will take over is appointed (one each) by Slay, James Shrewsbury (Board of Aldermen President) and the School Board, and there is a large amount of speculation that said appointments will be just as bad as the school board that the public elected. Those opposed to state takeover believe that those who have the power to appoint the new board will not choose people based on qualifications, but on how they can serve those people who appoint (Slay, Shrewsbury, and the SB). I read one letter than believed that Slay would appoint O'Brien. DANG. Please don't. I think it is crucial that the three appointed board members are committed to working together, with a shared vision, towards making our schools outstanding for all students

A lot of people are pointing the finger at Mayor Slay. Chris has ties to Slay and his administration, and I know that he is not this evil powermonger some make him out to be. He is the mayor of the city. Obviously, he has a vested interest in the quality of the schools. I think he lost his credibility with the schools when he backed Clinkscale, Schoemehl, Archibald, and Jackson in 2003, because that ended in disaster and marked the slide from close-to-accreditation to nowhere-near-accreditation, but ultimately, he has to want what is best for the schools.

The Post-Dispatch has given ink to this highly pertinent subject, but many think the coverage is biased. There is numerous coverage from multiple perspectives available in the blogosphere. Pub Def has good coverage, although it is connected to board member Peter Downs. Downs wrote a letter to the Special Board that recommended partial state takeover, which is pretty insightful and worth reading.

All city/county people should have a vested interest in a radical change in the St Louis Schools. For so long, people who have the means (and some who don't) have sent their kids to parochial or private schools instead of city schools. It's practically a given for people I know. For people my age who are committed to living in the city, it feels like their only option. Most people wouldn't even send their kids to the outstanding public magnet schools. It doesn't have to be like that. Imagine sending your kids to a diverse neighborhood school that was clean, safe, stable, and had amazing curriculum and instruction. For free. It would draw people back to city living and would completely revitalize the area.

I think it's bullshit that people turn their backs to the problem because their children don't attend the public schools. We as a community benefit from having a population that is educated. Comprehensive education prepares people for higher education and the workplace. If a person has the ability to get a good job, with good benefits, because they have a certain level of education, they are more likely to positively contribute to their community. As it stands, public education, as a whole, is structured so that white, middle-to-upper class student can succeed. Everyone else can assimilate or fail. I am interested in how we change education so that all students, regardless of ethnicity, race, gender, or socioeconomic status, truly has the ability to succeed. If we can do that (and we can, as a community) we will take one huge step towards attaining social justice for all people.


Kirksville Goss, Y'all

I love a good crime scandal. From a press release to Fox 2 News, forwarded to me by my inside gal:

December 11, 2006
For Immediate Release
St. Louis, Missouri: Deborah Masten was indicted on federal charges in connection with the fire of Too Talls Two Eatery and Spirits, in January 2005, United States Attorney Catherine L. Hanaway, Adair County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Williams and Kirksville Police Chief Jim Hughes, and Michael Boxler, ATF Special Agent in Charge announced today. The charges were announced at a press conference earlier today in Kirksville, Missouri.
“The indictment alleges that Ms. Masten intentionally damaged her restaurant located at 220 North Elson Street, Kirksville, by setting fire to it,” said Hanaway. “This is another example of what cooperation between state, local and federal authorities can accomplish. The suspicious nature of the fire was originally investigated by the Missouri State Highway Patrol and the Missouri Fire Marshal. [Prosecuting Attorney Mark Willimas realized that resources and investigation of the BATF would be necessary] to develop the investigation to its fullest.”
“Despite the sadness of having to announce an indictment against a former public official, ATF is pleased to have been able to lend its investigative expertise with arson to this case,” added Boxler.
Masten, 52, formerly of the 1300 block of Country Club Drive, Kirksville, was indicted by a federal grand jury on one felony count of maliciously damaging real and personal property by fire. If convicted, she faces a penalty range of five to 20 years in prison and/or fines up to $250,000.
The charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations, and each defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.



It Wasn't Me

I just finished watching Who Killed The Electric Car? Excellent documentary. If you are already fairly well-versed in climate change, and understand the importance of reducing our dependence on fossil fuels, this film shows just how difficult that reduction will be if our government continues to allow big business to dominate legislature. Long story short: the state of California made a law saying that all car manufacturers who sold cars in California must produce a certain percentage of zero-emissions cars (i.e. electric cars). Through pressure from the automakers and oil companies, combined with blatant conflict of interest from lawmakers, that law was repealed and GM phased out their EV-1, which was immensely popular, eventually repossessing all vehicles made, despite grassroots efforts from car leasers and environmentalists. Put it on your Netflix queue.