Archive for May 10th, 2006

What’s going on over at the Missoulian? Has anyone read their editorials recently? I’ve watched and held my breath as inane declaration followed ridiculous proposal followed meaningless banter.

The editorial page is beginning to resemble nothing so much as a middling blog of a cranky old guy.

Shouldn’t we expect more from a community paper? Like, say, some discussion about real issues that affect the state?

Today’s editorial is on the school soft drink ban. They basically come out against it.

It's just that if everyone were as concerned about what kids learn as what they eat and weigh, perhaps we'd see real progress in education. Having effectively countered the dreaded menace of soda pop, parents, educators and social activists should have little stopping them from attending to other educational priorities – such as education.

You can see where this one is going, can’t you? After a rambling dissertation on how kids aren’t really influenced by soda machines at school and probably don’t drink much there anyway, the editorial concludes:

In any event, we have trouble worrying as much about what goes into kids' bellies as we do about what goes into their heads. Schools exist for one reason, and it isn't for eating. If healthier beverages were a factor in academic achievement, we'd be cheering about the new agreement with the pop industry. The ruckus over soda pop, nutritional standards of school lunches and obesity can be lumped in with a vast array of school-based social work – from AIDS awareness to anti-drug campaigns to matters of procreation – that has only the most tangential connection with education yet increasingly fills the short school day and short school year.

Of course the author of the editorial doesn’t offer any evidence to support the claims that soft drinks at schools aren’t harmful to kids – ignoring completely the concerns of parents who don’t have soda in their home fridges only to be thwarted by the tacit encouragement for soda-swilling by the existence of pop machines at schools.

The editorial also fails to mention that many school districts, starving for funds, readily exchanged soda machines for cash. Some schools even used “educational materials” – thinly disguised advertisements – sent by soda manufacturers in the classroom in exchange for money. And why would a for-profit corporation pay to have soda machines in schools if they weren't making money at it?

The paper apparently isn’t aware that the nation’s poorest children are almost exclusively dependent on school food for their meals. So forget that these kids, who are already handicapped by the innumerable dangers and deadweights of poverty, must often eat the high carb, high starch, high sugar fare served in school cafeterias for their sole nutrition. Screw these kids! They’re “tangential,” right?

I’m certain schools would love to educate – and often do – but don’t have the money to reduce class size or attract better teachers with higher salaries or keep books up to date, etc & co. (Ask your local teacher how much of her personal funds are spent on classroom materials. You may be surprised.) And the “No Child Left Behind” Act will soon begin to take its toll by shedding “underperforming” schools from federal assistance. Inevitably most schools will fail to meet the criteria of the act, which calls for perpetual improvement on standardized tests. One sub-par class and see ya! No more funds for you! So things will only get worse.

So thanks for the dodge, Missoulian. Thanks for pretending that sex ed and nutrition are at the core of what’s wrong with education, not lack of interest and funds and the constant ideological tinkering by politicians and newspaper editors.

Update: D*mn it! Pogie already wrote about this! Plus he's a teacher and has more interesting things to say about the issue. Go give him a read if you're interested in the topic.

It looks like the feds are going to be investigating the University of Montana’s space research center, the infamous Inland Northwest Space Alliance. You may remember that Conrad Burns’ former chief of staff, Lee Giacometto, is INSA’s paid lobbyist and acquired the funds for the non-profit. Additionally, Burns pushed the earmark for INSA through the Senate.

The funds have…well…vanished into thin air.

Burns on the missing funds:

“That's a real breach of the public trust, and anyone who misuses federal appropriations should be held accountable.”

He may be singing a different tune soon. Some of the folks on INSA’s fat payroll include the wife of Denny Rehberg’s chief of staff and a number of other former Rehberg and Burns staffers. Burns’ daughter, Keely Burns, served as a member of its advisory board. Incidentally, employees at INSA contributed $15K to Burns’ campaign, effectively out of the pockets of taxpayers. (Montana Democratic Party executive director Jim Farrell called INSA a "jobs program for unemployed Republican staffers and their spouses.")

(The TPMCafe has a partial timeline of this and other Montana scandals.)

One of the odd details surrounding the university-associated program is why the school’s board of regents never voted on it. According to the Missoulian report,

Regents never approved of the center, which was on their September 2003 board agenda, but was pulled by UM President George Dennison and never discussed.

How did this happen? Is George Dennison in tight with the Burns/Rehberg crew? I know he was cozy with former Governor, Marc Racicot, but these guys seem…well…a little “beneath” the UM president.

But the big news is that we should start getting answers and soon. Not only are the feds looking over the mess, the state Legislative Audit Division should have a report by the end of June. Expect to see prosecutors and grand juries after that.


The Billings Gazette profiles Daniel Lloyd Neste Hoffman. Some quotes: “I'm just sick and tired of being stomped on…” "It makes me sick." "I'm tired about being gouged…” “I'm hoping everybody is as fed up with it as I am…”

Matt Singer does a little digging into the Morrison affair and concludes that Tacke was handled with kid gloves.

Missoula-area Rock Creek development was shut down by the state under a mining law. This is an interesting real estate battle I should post more at length on…

Ivins on the whorehouse, the CIA, and the Bush administration.

I’m with digby: Democrats should maintain they’ll investigate the administration’s actions if they gain power. People want answers.

Former NSA chairman, Bobby Ray Inman, calls on Bush to either change the law or end unauthorized domestic wiretapping. What’s that sound? Crickets.

I hadn’t seen this when it came out, but check it out! A blogger, using the Freedom of Information Act, acquired a DoD staffer’s notes from a meeting with Rumsfield on September 11. What did it say? “The released notes document Donald Rumsfeld's 2:40 PM instructions to General Myers to find the ‘[b]est info fast . . . judge whether good enough [to] hit S.H. [Saddam Hussein] at same time – not only UBL [Usama Bin Laden]’” Got that? Rummy was thinking Iraq as soon as the planes hit.

Katherine Harris, the ugly stepchild of the GOP, encounters Bush in an awkward meeting. They want her out of the Florida Senate race, she wants in, and they owe her. What will she do if she doesn’t get her Senate seat? Stay tuned!

Bush diplomacy making the world a more dangerous place. Reagan “won” the Cold War, Bush to re-start it. I guess the right misses the good ol’ days when the Russians were the bad guys.

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