By Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT:  Let me join the #hashtag chorus for a just a few minutes and let’s look back at one of the weirdest weeks in #foreignpolicy in recent memory (and that’s saying something.)

I’m #baffled, really, by this #hashtag #diplomacy.  What in the heck is going on here?!

Fausta posted earlier in the week on #hashtagdiplomacy in response to Michelle Obama’s now infamous tweet in which she held up a sign saying #bringbackourgirls.  It is beyond bizarre to me that the First Lady would do this.  Not that she’s done anything wrong, mind you, just that it’s weird.  When I first saw the photo my first response was “Is this what we’ve come to?”  Really?

I wasn’t alone in that thought.  Cut to Mark Steyn:

It is hard not to have total contempt for a political culture that thinks the picture at right is a useful contribution to rescuing 276 schoolgirls kidnapped by jihadist savages in Nigeria. Yet some pajama boy at the White House evidently felt getting the First Lady to pose with this week’s Hashtag of Western Impotence would reflect well upon the Administration. The horrible thing is they may be right: Michelle showed she cared – on social media! – and that’s all that matters, isn’t it?

The key word in that, at least to me, is “Western Impotence.”

What in the world is a #hashtag going to do?  Doesn’t the world already feel terrible about the kidnapping of 276 Nigerian school girls who will be (have been already?) sold in to slavery?  A #hashtag is going to make us more aware?  #seriously?

Steyn again:

There’s something slightly weird about taking a hashtag – which on the Internet at least has a functional purpose – and getting a big black felt marker and writing it on a piece of cardboard and holding it up, as if somehow the comforting props of social media can be extended beyond the computer and out into the real world. 

Absolutely weird.

It’s #pandering is what it is.  MO is taking a terrible event and pandering to her social media fan base; look at the gloomy, sad face she has adopted for the photo shoot.  Was she just sitting around in the White House with this poster board in her lap when the White House photographer stumbled upon her?  I think not.  It’s #pandering.

That being said, I now can’t help but wonder why Reagan didn’t deal with Gorbachev by just pulling out a poster and marker:  #teardownthiswall.

For that matter, Patrick Henry could have used the old hashtag trick:  #givemelibertyorgivemedeath.  It would have saved us a lot of trouble.

The #hashtag theory of foreign policy would have served Roosevelt well:  #daythatwillliveininfamy.

The point, of course, is that Michelle’s staged photo simply illustrates the feckless foreign policy of this administration.

Rush Limbaugh, Friday:

I was aghast.  I mean, it’s embarrassing that a Twitter hashtag is all we’ve got.  And, in fact, I was further embarrassed that a Twitter hashtag is assumed to be enough because all we have to do is show that we’re concerned.  All we have to do is exhibit our proper intentions, and that covers it  We don’t have to actually do anything.  It’s perfect liberalism.  You don’t solve anything.  You don’t do anything.  You just show that you care and you have good intentions.

We are impotent.  We arm Mexican drug cartels, we bow to foreign leaders, we alienate our allies, we appease dictators, we leave our people behind in foreign countries after a massacre and never seek justice.  #embarrassing.

What country is this?

Which leads us to Hillary Clinton who refused to use her power as Secretary of State to designate Boko Haram a terrorist organization:

What Clinton didn’t mention was that her own State Department refused to place Boko Haram on the list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2011, after the group bombed the U.N. headquarters in Abuja. The refusal came despite the urging of the Justice Department, the FBI, the CIA, and over a dozen senators and congressmen.

“The one thing she could have done, the one tool she had at her disposal, she didn’t use. And nobody can say she wasn’t urged to do it. It’s gross hypocrisy,” said a former senior U.S. official who was involved in the debate. “The FBI, the CIA, and the Justice Department really wanted Boko Haram designated, they wanted the authorities that would provide to go after them, and they voiced that repeatedly to elected officials.”

And she’s going to be our next president?  #sayitaintso.

As I said, it’s been a most bizarre week in politics, the least of which is our now most powerful weapon in foreign policy:  the hashtag.

#wearesoscrewed.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

 

By:  Pat Austin

ishmaelSHREVEPORT — The summer reading season is almost upon us and it’s time to assemble your vacation reading stack.  If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to make a suggestion.  If you haven’t read Michael Henry’s books you need to add them to your list.

Author Michael Henry has his own wonderful style and a gift of the ability to create memorable ad quirky characters, but if you asked me to compare his writing to anyone on the market today I’d have to say he’s a cross between John Grisham and Michael Connelly.  Maybe some James Lee Burke, too.  His latest novel is reminiscent of John Ludlum or Dan Brown.  Well, with all that, let’s just say Mr. Henry has his own style which is reminiscent of some other really great authors!

Mr. Henry’s latest novel, Finding Ishmael, might be his best one yet.  I first started reading his books in 2010 with Three Bad Years (which remains my personal favorite) and I eagerly anticipated his next novel as soon as I finish reading one.  So far there have been seven!  (If you haven’t been reading him this means you have missed seven great novels!  There’s your summer reading right there!)

In Finding Ishmael we meet oilman Liam Connors who receives a mysterious letter from long lost fried Ike Palmer.  Ike, now in Jerusalem, says he has found an ancient document that will turn the political and religious landscape of the world upside down.  Ike, who says he’s had the document authenticated, needs Liam’s help to keep the document safe as he is under surveillance and, well, a little paranoid.  The document concerns Islam’s historic claim to the Promised Land through Ishmael, thus the title.  Of course Liam and his girlfriend Mimi get on a plane to see Ike although Mimi has some very real concerns.  Things unfold rapidly from there and that’s as much of the plot I will give you, but suffice to say, it’s an incredibly topical book right now and very intriguing.  Don’t start the book if you have something pressing to do because you won’t be able to put it down.

With Finding Ishmael, Mr. Henry deviates a bit from his first novels which are legal thrillers.  As a former DA in Natchitoches, Louisiana, Mr. Henry has the background for writing excellent courtroom drama.  He is also highly skilled in constructing dialogue and characters; many times I have found myself with the feeling that I know these characters personally.

Finding Ishmael is the first of Mr. Henry’s novels not set in the south; most of this novel takes place in Jerusalem and the characters are all well drawn and memorable.  Ike Palmer is as bizarre as any character you will find anywhere.  In Jerusalem, Liam is aided by an aide of Ike’s, Menachem, and the dialogue between Menachem and Liam is always engaging and often funny.  As the novel approaches its climax, the book is just impossible to put down.

While Mr. Henry has written six other books before and there are recurring characters in each, this novel can stand completely alone as it is the first that introduces Liam and Mimi.  The Willie Mitchell Banks series should probably be read in order, but that may just be my own particular fetish.

The subject matter of Mr. Henry’s latest book could not be more relevant to today’s headlines as the Middle East is in turmoil and our Secretary of State John Kerry continues to blunder and mismanage relations there.

I recommend starting with Finding Ishmael (because it’s so topical right now), and then go back to Three Bad Years and read through the rest.  Take it from an avid reader – you will not be sorry.  All the books are available either in paperback through Amazon or on Kindle.

Perfect summer reading!

 Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – Remember when Nancy Pelosi said “we have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it…”?  She was talking about Obamacare, of course, but it seems now that this profound political approach could also have applied to Common Core.

In the beginning, it was touted as the great savior of public education; it was going to raise standards across the country and “it’s bi-partisan!” they said.  Governors from across the country came together and agreed to education reform and common nationwide standards.

And so it goes that not long after Common Core became policy, the backlash began.  I’d venture to say that the majority of parents who send their children to public schools never even heard of Common Core before it became the rule of the land; even worse, many of them still don’t know what it is.

That’s another story.

One of the proponents for Common Core, of course, was Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal; however, now that we are finding out “what is in it,” public opinion is beginning to turn against Common Core.  As with Obamacare, there are still die hard believers, but the tide is turning.

Does it have anything to do with the 2016 election cycle?  Maybe.

In Louisiana there has been a growing rift between Governor Jindal and Education Superintendent John White as Jindal has been turning away from Common Core.  Governor Jindal penned an Op-Ed in USA Today this week in which he advocated leaving education to the states:

I’m from the school that believes education is a matter best left for local control. The notion of Washington determining curricula is something most states are simply not interested in. It’s a non-starter.

A definite pivot.  Jindal was all for Common Core in 2008:

“Since 2008, Jindal has touted the need for Common Core and its ability to raise Louisiana’s education standards. But now as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, Jindal finds himself having to balance the political sway of the Tea Party against a program he has fought to put in place for nearly five years…”

So what changed his mind?

In his Op-Ed, Jindal says that “the federal government became increasingly involved,” and

Second, parents have spoken out. It has become fashionable in the news media to believe there is a right-wing conspiracy against Common Core. The folks who think that need to get out more. The rebellion against federal government mandated testing is widespread and is led by parents of all stripes and political persuasions.

Fair enough.  I can’t begrudge a man who sees the light and alters his position, even if it does seem a little opportunistic.

Jindal’s new position has put him at odds with John White; via the New Orleans Advocate:

Superintendent of Education John White got his job with the backing of Gov. Bobby Jindal, but two years later, the men are increasingly at odds and appear to be drifting further apart on education policy.

The rift centers on Louisiana’s shift to Common Core standards, and comes largely because Jindal did an about-face, moving from strident supporter to critic of the reading, writing and math benchmarks adopted by most states.

But the fissure, which has developed in the most recent legislative session, is a striking contrast to 2012 when White served as a sort of Jindal proxy before the Legislature, helping to muscle through the Republican governor’s sweeping education changes.

Governor Jindal has been working behind the scenes as the Louisiana legislature is in session throwing his weight and influence behind various anti-Common Core bills, but has not been successful in most cases.  Earlier this month he lent support to House Bill 381 which was to scrap Common Core; the bill was defeated.

In any case, Louisiana is still a Common Core state even though the governor has changed his position.  Both Governor Jindal and Superintendent White play down any rift between their now altered positions on the best educational plan for the state.  Is Jindal just being opportunist, looking at 2016, or has the leopard changed his spots?

Only time will tell.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

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By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT –I was at the ballpark this weekend watching a local college baseball game.  As I took my seat I noticed a lady a couple of rows behind me reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, and I wondered – does she know that’s below her Lexile level?  She shouldn’t be reading that!  The Book Thief, you see, has a 730 Lexile level score which places it at about grade 5 reading level.

Lexile levels are the basis of what Common Core uses to determine the complexity and acceptability for books in each grade level.

Lexile measures work similar to the old Accelerated Reader system, if you’re familiar with that.  (Everything in education comes back around with a new name, eventually.)  A Lexile score determines a book’s complexity and difficulty based on a measuring system of sentence complexity, vocabulary, and syntax.  Theme and content don’t come into play which is why Lexile levels are billed as “a starting point” or a tool for determining a book’s acceptability for your reader.

The result is often bizarre.

For example, as noted by The New Republic back in October, Awesome Atheletes! by Sports Illustrated has a Lexile score of 1070 which puts it in the grade 9-10 range.  On the other hand, Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain receives a score of 720 which places it around the grade 4-5 area.  Now, to be fair, the Lexile analyzer site designates books like Huck Finn with a “HL” notation along with the score which means that teachers and librarians should use this designation when assigning books “written at an elementary level” to struggling older or struggling readers.  Huck Finn is then placed in the 12-16 age range; that’s probably fair.

To Kill a Mockingbird is scored 870 with no HL designation which places it at grades 4-5 level; there is no age recommendation assigned.

Based on this, Awesome Athletes! is more complex than To Kill a Mockingbird.

Back to The Book Thief:  this book, if you haven’t read it or seen the film, is set during World War II in Germany; it’s about a young girl who steals books when she can find them; during bombing raids she reads to her neighbors to calm them until the bombing is over.  Meanwhile, her foster family has a Jew hidden in their basement; the Jew is eventually captured and marched off to a concentration camp, which of course is traumatic to the girl as she has grown quite fond of him.   The narrator of the story is Death.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I think fifth grade might be a little young for both the subject matter and possibly the abstract narrative perspective of Death.  But maybe that’s just me.

Common Sense Media assigns a recommended reading age of 13 for this book.  (Common Sense Media lists Chelsea Clinton on its Board of Directors as well as Geoffrey Cowan from the Annenberg Foundation).

John Steinbeck’s 455 page story of human perseverance in a cross-country trek during the Great Depression, The Grapes of Wrath, receives a Lexile score of 680 (with no HL designation);  “challenging words” in the text include “rusts,” “harmonicas,” and “boxcars”.  Again, that’s grade 4-5 territory.  Common Sense Media says age 15 for this one:

Parents need to know that this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about sharecroppers struggling to survive the Great Depression, fleeing the Dust Bowl in Oklahoma for California, is as harsh and gritty as its time. There’s drinking, smoking, swearing, and extramarital sex, and violence stalks the Joad family and their fellow migrants. But its realism and passion have made it a must-read for generations.

And again, to be fair, the Lexile system is meant to be used only as a tool.  One of the demands of Common Core is the incorporation of more non-fiction reading which means that the teacher could bring in outside non-fiction articles or excerpts of documents to read alongside these texts which could increase the rigor and complexity of the entire novel unit.  However, as I stated last week, the teacher no longer has this discretion.  If The Book Thief is assigned to a ninth grade reading list, the tenth grade teacher can’t teach it even if the ninth grade teacher doesn’t teach the book.

The problem with the Lexile system, it seems to me, is that it ignores theme and content.  If Common Core is meant to increase rigor, what is rigorous about Awesome Athletes?  Why are we basing our reading choices on such a system?  The answer is almost always “follow the money.”  At least one of the developers of the Lexile system is associated with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation who has poured millions of dollars into Common Core and PARCC.  And there you have it.  The selling out of our education system.  It’s a tangled web once you start pulling away the layers.

Follow the money, but for crying out loud, let’s put some common sense back in the classroom.

 

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

******************************************************************

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This blog exists as a full time endeavor thanks to your support.

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For a full month of all of what we provide ,we ask a fixed amount $1465, under $50 a day.

This month we are behind, but we can make our goal if we can get $100 a day for the rest of the month. That’s 4 $25 Tip jar hits.

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If that’s not worth $20 a month I’d like to know what is?

 

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – The state of education in the United States today is troublesome.  One report after another comes across the wires:  stressed out teachers are disengaged with their work, teachers are overworked and burned out, and apparently we have ineffective teachers in our low-performing schools.  Go figure.

Is any of this news to anyone?

Sometimes we can read all this data and all these reports and draw false conclusions.  Let’s consider some alternative conclusions to the ones most commonly drawn.

Consider the report that stressed out teachers are disengaged with their work.  This is a conclusion drawn from a new Gallup report, The State of America’s Schools which contends that  7 in 10 teachers are “do not feel engaged” in their work which is having a negative effect on students.  Certainly if a teacher is stressed out and under pressure this will have a negative impact on the teacher over time.  We all want our kids to have teachers who are exciting and make them feel the hunger for learning, so this report is obviously troublesome.

But why are teachers disengaged?  Gallup:

On two points, teachers were the least likely of any profession surveyed on workforce engagement to respond positively: whether they feel their opinions at work count, and whether their supervisor creates an “open and trusting environment.”

“That’s a really big eye-opener,” says Brandon Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education. “So there’s something about the open, trusting environment that isn’t working in schools and that they don’t believe their opinions count. That is definitely weighing down the potential of making them more engaged in their workplace.”

Well, that’s an interesting conclusion but I don’t think it’s fair to put so much blame on the supervisor or administrator.  True, that’s an important role:  you need a supportive administrator who will back your decisions in the classroom, but the administrator is also just a gateway in a sense.  Walk it all the way back.  Principal, supervisor, local superintendent, state level superintendents, and now (thank you Common Core…) the federal government.  So, to put all the blame on the immediate supervisor is misguided.

A simplified example:  A teacher wants to teach a novel that has relevance to her students; it meets and challenges their reading level. (The teacher knows this reading level because she has done a diagnostic test and has determined the reading level of each student).  The teacher knows this novel will engage her students and has a passion for bringing that novel and level of engagement to her students.

But wait!  She can’t teach that novel.  Common Core says all her students must read an obscure work with a Lexile level much higher than her students are functioning on, a novel for which the teacher has no engagement or passion.

How well is that going to work?  The teacher isn’t going to be excited about the lesson, the students are going to be struggling to relate to the work, and the students are going to struggle to even make sense of the words because said novel is so far above their reading level.

Now granted, that’s a simplified example; a really good teacher will figure out a way to bring passion to whatever novel the idgits that made the reading list make her teach.  But it wears you down.  The teacher has been stripped of her professional ability and decision making.  The teacher no longer can decide what’s best for her individual students.

Thus, burnout.  Frustration.

Is this all Common Core’s fault?  Of course not.  Teachers have been fighting bureaucracy and burnout for years.  The suits sit around conference tables and figure out what new save-the-state-of-education fad will be imposed this year and then they do endless professional development sessions to implement the plan.  Veteran teachers have seen them all before; they come in cycles.

With regard to burnout and frustration, consider that one of the requirements of Common Core is that states must also implement a rigorous teacher evaluation system.  Professional evaluation is important and I don’t know of a single profession that doesn’t have an evaluation system, but common sense must prevail.  Some of these evaluation tools are profoundly subjective and unfair.  When a teacher is marked off on an evaluation because a student put a dab of lotion on her knees during the observation, which obviously means classroom expectations haven’t been taught and the teacher has poor classroom management, frustration will result.

When those observations and evaluations are tied to teacher pay and that annual incentive check comes out, the teacher that has Honors and AP kids will get the big incentive check while the teacher with the low-performing, struggling kids who have not been taught social skills at home gets the very small check.  Frustration results.

In reality, teachers aren’t frustrated with their work or with their job.  They are frustrated with the system that prevents them from doing their job and that persecutes them for things beyond their control.  I don’t know one single teacher who went into the profession to get rich.  Every teacher I know does it because of a love for kids and for the opportunity to make a difference in just one kid’s life.  When that passion is squelched by a system that ties their hands, strips their decision making, persecutes them, and makes them feel like failures, then there is something wrong with the system, not the teachers.

Consider these words from a frustrated first-year teacher:

The truth is that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything that is required of me. There is always something, whether it’s a training requirement or writing tests or preparing my lessons or grading papers or counseling struggling students. Some things get finished. Most things do not.

My working life is an uneasy calculation between the most pressing need and the requirements that I hope can remain unfinished. Sometimes I feel like I am always on the verge of failure, one tiny slip or miscalculation away from either being fired or failing my students.

She resigned shortly after her letter was published.

The sad thing is, her situation is all too common.

We need to support our young teachers, trust our veteran teachers, and restore local autonomy to our school systems and classrooms.  If we fail to do this, public education will be an antiquated idea from a society that has failed its most vulnerable members: the children.

 

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

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Olimometer 2.52

The time has come to ditch the weekly goal to focus on the monthly figure, that’s where the real action is at.

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Naturally once our monthly goal is made these solicitations will disappear till the next month but once we get 61 more subscribers  at $20 a month the goal will be covered for a full year and this pitch will disappear until 2015.

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By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – When Pete invited me to join his writing team he said, “You can write about whatever you want to…” within reason, of course, and most of the time I write about politics because that’s just what I do.  But something else has been on my mind this week so I hope you’ll indulge me this brief deviation from politics.

April is Prevention Against Cruelty to Animals Month so I want to take a moment to acquaint you with a local case that has captured the hearts of my local community.  Meet Braveheart (there is a happy ending, so keep reading):

September 11, 2013 a dog was found in an abandoned storage locker in Shreveport, chained to a car and likely moments away from death.  The hottest day of the year in September in Shreveport was on September 3 with 103 degrees; typically we have many days over 100 degrees around that time of year.  Can you braveimagine what the temperature must have been in that storage locker?  There was no ventilation, no food, and no water for the dog;  he was just waiting to die.

The owner of the storage property went into the unit because the renter had lapsed on his payments.  When he went in he saw what he thought was a dead dog.  It was only when he went to remove the body that he realized this dog was alive.

The following narrative of what happened next is from A Voice for Braveheart:

“He was only hours if not minutes from death as he could only move his eyes. He was rushed to the vet and somehow survived. Someone that played a critical role in his recovery stated ‘human hands did this, human hands should fix it’. He was given life saving medical care immediately and a miracle happened, he began healing. He was named…….Braveheart.

After a 2 week stay at the ER clinic he came to stay with our family. He only weighed 8 pounds when he was found.”

A number of local organizations and people worked hard to save Braveheart’s life, among them Bo and Ronda Spataro who agreed to foster Brave during his recovery.  Ronda works as a vet tech at the clinic where Brave was ultimately treated and she fell in love with him, as did her husband.  Ronda was able to take Brave to work with her and he was given aggressive, around the clock care.  But the story did not end there.

Braveheart’s condition when he was found was thoroughly documented through medical records and photographs.  The photographs are very difficult to look at.  Even with all that evidence, however, the city decided they needed to take Braveheart from his foster family and place him in the animal shelter as evidence.  The Spataros were devastated.  Braveheart had already become a part of their family.  Local news station KTAL was there when Braveheart was seized and captured incredibly emotional video as the puppy is taken from the Spataros and placed in the back of an animal control truck.  Through her sobs, Ronda gave Braveheart a kiss and told him, “I promise I’ll get you back…I promise.”   It was a promise she was later able to keep.

ronda

It was all one step too much for the community who reacted in outrage and planned a protest at the shelter.  Bo Spataro writes:

“There was an unnecessary custody battle with animal control when they were asked to start an investigation into the abuse/neglect of Braveheart by public outcry. It was quickly won, again by public outcry. [Brave’s abuser was identified and] charged with felony cruelty to an animal. We formally adopted Braveheart from Caddo Parish Animal Shelter after his abuser surrendered ownership. He has been assigned legal counsel and we have been attending his court dates. He has plead not guilty and the ADA has informed both the judge and defense there will be NO plea deals. The judge has also agreed to a sentencing hearing if he pleads guilty. This type of abuse to any animal with no meaningful penalty needs to be stopped.”

The picture taken at that joyful reunion between Braveheart and his new family still brings a tear to my eye when I look at it.

brave1

Bo tells me that the original ADA has been transferred and there will be someone else prosecuting the case; we can only hope the new prosecutor is also tough against animal abuse.  We may find out this week.

For Braveheart, there is a happy ending; Bo again:

“Braveheart is now doing great and has made nearly a full recovery. He still has some emotional scars that may never go away, but overall, he knows he is safe now. He knows he is loved now. You can see his whole story at A Voice For Braveheart. He is still supported by TSR La Baby Mommas rescue in Shreveport, La and attends events to promote “Adopt, don’t shop”, spay/neuter programs, pet education and animal abuse awareness. Although Brave was originally intended to be a foster, we knew differently after he was suddenly taken from us during the custody battle. We knew immediately when we got him back, we would never let him leave our home. He is a part of our family and he has found his forever home.”

As I said, there is a happy ending.

Look at Brave now:

brave4

The next court date for Brave’s abuser comes up this week and the community will be supporting Braveheart and the Spataro family in a quiet, respectful presence in the courtroom.   A while back someone asked Bo if it wouldn’t be an important statement if he took Brave into the courtroom with him and Bo had a wonderful answer that could not have been more perfect.  He said he would never consider doing such a thing because he does not ever want Brave to have to look into the eyes or ever see his abuser again.  All he should know from now on is love and security.

Again, as April is Prevention Against Cruelty to Animals Month, I ask you to take a moment and read Brave’s story.  This isn’t just a local news story; there are stories like Brave’s all over the country.  Please donate to your local animal rescue organizations and always adopt, don’t shop, when you’re ready for a pet.  Work in your communities to strengthen laws against animal abuse.

To me, the story of Braveheart shows the best and the worst of human nature.  I can’t imagine leaving a puppy chained to a car in a hot storage building in over 100 degree heat with no water just to die.  That is an abominable act.  But I also think that there are more of us on the other side – on the side of love and compassion.  Thank goodness for people like the Spataros who will not only fight to save a dog from a situation like that and then go on to share their story and work as ambassadors for good.  Braveheart now attends many adoption events in the community and goes to local schools to help educate kids about caring for pets.

Thanks for indulging me on this non-political post, but I really wanted to share this story with you.  If we don’t give a voice to abused and mistreated animals, who will?

You can follow Braveheart’s continuing journey here.

 

(Note:  I redacted the name of Braveheart’s alleged abuser in the post above because although he is formally charged he is not yet convicted.)

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and has three rescue dogs.

By Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT — A couple of weeks ago I posted that it had been “a tough week to be Mary Landrieu.”  I probably should have waited until this week to use that title.  There seems to be very little good news for the embattled Senator in the news this week.

Early in the week Clare Foran at The National Journal wrote about the abandonment of Senator Landrieu by the environmentalists.  “They just can’t stand her stance on global warming,” Foran says.

In the past year, only one environmental organization has donated to her campaign. The Baton Rouge-based Center for Coastal Conservation gave Landrieu a $2,500 nod, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Environmental Defense Fund have handed over a combined contribution of exactly nothing. All three groups declined to comment on the record when asked whether they would endorse Landrieu.

Louisiana is peppered with oil and gas wells; we have just under two dozen petroleum refineries.  And Landrieu is savvy enough to know that these are important jobs votes in her pocket.  She has to walk a fine line.

Which brings us to what is really going on with Mary Landrieu’s campaign.

Louisiana attorney, and occasional fill-in host for local conservative talk show host Moon Griffon, Paul Hurd has a post at The Dead Pelican which makes very clear the challenges Senator Landrieu faces and what her campaign staff is attempting to do about it:

The Landrieu machine’s new snake oil is the assertion that Senator Landrieu is too valuable to Louisiana and the Oil and Gas Industry as the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee to let her get beat and have the Energy Committee controlled by pro-energy independent Republicans. This is the new political Hadicol being sold to the masses in Louisiana.

As we all know, Landrieu has a new plum position as head of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  The Washington Post sang the same tune about the angry environmentalists back in February:

Landrieu favors building the Keystone XL pipeline, protecting tax breaks or incentives for oil drilling, and placing limits on the power of federal agencies to set mercury or carbon dioxide guidelines for coal-fired power plants. Wyden takes the opposite position on all those issues.

Landrieu supports giving oil companies the right to export crude oil as well as natural gas, while Wyden supports giving natural gas export permits on a case by case basis and does not have a public position on crude oil exports.

The Louisiana Democrat helps maintain the Democrats’ majority in the Senate, but she is closer to the oil and gas industry than most other members of her party.

Au contraire, says Paul Hurd (emphasis mine):

Let’s look at voting record of Senator Landrieu and the members of the Senate Energy Committee, grouped by Democrats in control now, compared to the Republican members who would gain control of energy policy with the defeat of Senator Landrieu. One way to compare voting records is to use scorecards of business and the radical conservationists to see who supports energy growth and who does not. The League of Conservation Voters is a typical, extreme environmental advocacy group that takes every stand possible to prevent America from producing clean, abundant and American energy. Its Action Plans includes “Speaking out against the XL Keystone Pipeline,” “Protecting Us from Toxic Coal Ash” and “Support for Climate Change Action.” Their position is unrepentant destruction of the hydro-carbon based energy industry in America, and that means the destruction of Louisiana’s economy.

In contract, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is a middle of the road, pro-business lobbying group that recognizes the need for clean and affordable production of energy in America to support our own economic growth and avoid shipping energy dollars to China and the Middle East to fund our global adversaries. And for Louisiana, royalty checks spend just fine in Louisiana.

Each of these groups provide a scorecard for the votes taken by our federal Congressmen and Senators. What these scorecards show is clear and remarkable. The average rating by the League of Conservation for 2013 for the twelve Democratic members of the Energy Committee is an astounding 91%, while the ten Republican members average a Conservation Voter rating of only 16%. In contrast, the Chamber of Commerce provides an average rating of the Democratic members of the Committee of 50%, while the Republican members of the Committee score an average of 91%. In short, these ratings by business and environmental groups show that continued Democratic control of the Senate Energy Committee promises Louisiana and America continuing government suppression of independent energy production in Louisiana and in America.

What all this means is that Mary Landrieu knows that she is in trouble.  She is scrambling to do whatever it takes to deflect discussion of her Obamacare vote even to the point of now trying to act like she wants to amend it.  She’s spent the better part of 18 months trying to distance herself from the Obama circus.  It’s not working for me.

Remember in April 2010?  She was “a vociferous defender” of Obamacare and even told one Morgan City businessman who was worried about having to lay off employees to “live with it.”  But now we’re supposed to believe she isn’t happy with it.

Quite honestly, I wish she’d read the Obamacare bill before she took that $300 million kickback for it.  Vote for it now and fix it later?  Nah.  I don’t think so.  That’s just transparent politicking and I’ve no respect for that.

And now we’re supposed to believe she is a vociferous defender of Louisiana’s oil and gas industry.

Riiiight.

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By  Pat Austin

Hillary Clinton is still being coy about a 2016 presidential run.  When asked at a student conference in Tempe, AZ this week, Clinton said she is “obviously thinking about all kinds of decisions.”

I think it is inevitable that she will run; I think the inevitability of it is too much for her to resist. Assuming that, it seems more important than ever that we remember Benghazi 2011 and continue the fight to determine what really happened there.  It is certainly an issue that will come up should a Clinton 2016 campaign actually happen.

There are still far too many questions about what really happened in Benghazi.  What we know for certain is that four Americans were killed in Benghazi, including Ambassador Chris Stevens.

We know that in the aftermath, then U. N. Ambassador Susan Rice made the Sunday talk show rounds for the purpose of reiterating the administrations talking points that the Benghazi attack was the result of an obscure YouTube video.

Recently, Donald Rumsfeld spoke to Breitbart TV and placed the blame for Benghazi right where it should have been all along:  on Hillary Clinton:

In this instance, there was widespread knowledge, as was pointed out by Congressman Issa, the British knew that there were al-Qaeda threats, and they pulled their people out because they knew they couldn’t protect them.”

“Our people knew there were al-Qaeda threats, and they not only did not protect them, but they didn’t pull them out. That, in my view, is a neglect of important responsibilities. The idea that it falls to someone down the line, I think, is a misunderstanding. Clearly, the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the person responsible.”

 It is unconscionable to think that she is somehow not responsible for the death of those four men in Benghazi.  How is it possible that she was unaware of the lack of security at the consulate?  At best, if in fact she had no idea, it is a dereliction of duty on her part and should certainly preclude her from consideration as our Commander in Chief.

The entire Benghazi fiasco was a shameful enterprise from beginning to end; why was that consulate in place at all?  Why not in Tripoli?  Why were we using unarmed Libyans to guard the consulate?  How were they supposed to ward off an attack with bats?  Why were requests for increased security ignored?

For her part, during Congressional testimony Secretary of State Clinton denied knowledge of any cables requesting assistance.  Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX) posed the question:

McCaul:  …Similar to September the 11th, 2001, there were warning signs prior to Benghazi September 11th. There was an April 6th, 2012 crude IED thrown over the wall of the U.S. facility in Benghazi. On May 22nd, 2012, Red Cross building in Benghazi hit by two RPGs. The brigades of the imprisoned Blind Sheikh took responsibility for that attack. On June 6th, 2012, the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was targeted by an IED (inaudible) a big hole in the perimeter wall. Again, the Blind Sheikh brigade taking credit.

And then on August 16th, we have this cable that’s been widely reported — a classified State Department cable warning that the Benghazi consulate could not withstand a coordinated attack. And the regional security officer believed our consulate could not be protected at an emergency meeting less than one month before the attack on 9/11.

A contingency plan was supposedly drafted to move the operations to the CIA annex about a mile away from the compound. This cable is presumed to have been shared by senior staff. It was sent to your office. It was sent to the NSC. And even on September 11th, the day Ambassador Stevens was killed, he personally warned about, quote, “a growing problem with security in Benghazi and growing frustration with security forces and the Libyan police.”

Were you aware of this cable — this August 16th cable?

CLINTON: Congressman, that cable did not come to my attention. I have made it very clear that the security cables did not come to my attention or above the assistant secretary level where the ARB placed responsibility. Where, as I think Ambassador Pickering said, “the rubber hit the road.”

How is that possible?

Taken in conjunction with Clinton’s infamous “What difference, at this point, does it make,” it’s easy to understand why she never saw a cable, never followed up on it, and to this day passes the buck to others.

In recently unclassified documents, it is clear that the Benghazi attack was not about a video at all. General Carter Ham, who at the time was head of AFRICOM, made it clear that his command considered it “a terrorist attack,” information he shared with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.

Yet Susan Rice went out and told the American people this was about a video.  Why was Susan Rice even out on the talk circuit at all?  Shouldn’t that have fallen to Secretary of State Clinton?  Could it be that Clinton just didn’t want those video clips used in Republican ads in 2016?  When asked, Rice said that Clinton had had a bad week, been under stress, and therefore she willingly picked up the slack.

Just the kind of woman we need for president, eh?  Lies to Congress, ignores cables from diplomatic outposts, passes the buck to underlings, and collapses under stress.

I doubt very seriously that Clinton was asked about Benghazi in Tempe this week.  While one young student asked, “If you don’t represent women in politics in America as a future president, who will?” I really wish she had asked “If you don’t tell us the truth about Benghazi, who will?”

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

It has not been a particularly good week to be Mary Landrieu.  Two statewide polls have found that the incumbent Senator is running behind challenger Rep. Bill Cassidy.

Hickman Analytics has Cassidy up 46-42 while earlier this year Rasmussen conducted a poll and found Landrieu trailing Cassidy 44-40.

Rabid Democrat and NOLA contributor Robert Mann suggests in a column this week that Landrieu may lose her election, but it won’t be because of her Obamacare vote.  Obamacare, he brightly contends, “is working”!  In fact, he says, Democratic candidates should campaign full throttle on Obamacare!

 

Wonderful advice, I think:

Perhaps one lesson for Landrieu and other Democrats is that they must effectively and aggressively champion the health care law to the party’s base, not just meekly defend it

Absolutely excellent advice. I hope all the Democrats across the nation campaign on Obamacare.  Really, I think that would work out very well.

Voters in Louisiana are tired of Katrina Mary and her Obamacare kickback.  Louisiana Purchase Mary had a backroom deal in the Obamacare vote in which she was bought for $300 million in Medicaid funding and also got national Democratic support for her brother’s mayoral campaign.  Mitch Landrieu won his mayoral race in February with 64% of the vote.

Mary Landrieu has won three Senate elections in Louisiana; she’s been there since 1997, which is quite long enough, I think.  While she does have serious name recognition in Louisiana I think that this time that won’t work in her favor.  Rep. Cassidy is the first real serious challenger for Landrieu.  As Brian Hughes at the Washington Examiner points out, Landrieu has always had weak opponents and has still managed to barely squeak out wins.

After her Obamacare vote her poll numbers plummeted.  Despite Bob Mann’s head-in-the-sand perspective (“The very idea that Obamacare is unpopular is wrong,” he says!)  Louisiana voters in the majority dislike the monstrous bill and many of us recognized early on that it was doomed to failure because of its overreach into our lives and because of the lies around which is was sold (“You can keep your doctor!).  Really, who ever believed that one?

All that being said, Landrieu will not go without a fight.  She has taken out lots of ad time and will have much nationwide Democratic support (translate: dollars) behind her.  Rep. Cassidy will need financial support and a good turnout to defeat her.

But, I think it can be done.  It’s time for Landrieu to consider retirement.  I’m sure Obama will have a nice ambassador job for her somewhere.

 

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

Among the many topics covered during CPAC this year has been a good, hard look at Common Core.  Here, on this blog, Lady Liberty does an excellent job covering Common Core topics.  From my point of view, I’m glad to see CPAC and other conservative groups taking a hard look at the monstrosity that is Common Core.

My perspective is that of a classroom teacher; I teach high school English.  While I recognize that the stated intentions behind Common Core are good, I’m not sure I trust the stated intentions.  The oft quoted rationalization behind Common Core is that schools should be teaching the same basic standards across the country:  a kid in Alaska needs to know long-division at the same time a kid in Florida does.  Theoretically this will help kids who move from one school or state to another..

That being said, there’s a whole lot more to Common Core as we all know.  Michelle Malkin has done an excellent job in bringing much of this to light, as has the Heritage Foundation, among others.

My gripe with Common Core at this point is personal.  I resent that it takes all of the decision making out of the hands of the classroom teacher and the local school districts.  Case in point:  for years in tenth grade English I have taught To Kill a Mockingbird.  With the advent of Common Core, TKAM has been bumped down to the ninth grade reading list.  I’m told that “really it’s an eighth grade level book.”  It seems that the Lexile level of To Kill a Mockingbird just isn’t high enough (rigor!) for tenth grade.  Last summer we were given a new reading list from which to choose new novels.  For tenth grade the list is a selection of “world literature” which includes titles such as My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult, A Thousand Splendid Suns by Hosseini, and The Life of Pi by Martell, among others.

Oh, there’s a few classics still there such as The Grapes of Wrath.and Twelve Angry Men.  But, if we’re going to talk about Lexile levels and complex, rigorous text, Twelve Angry Men is not exactly difficult reading.  When I brought up this point, it was suggested that it’s not just the text itself that must be rigorous, but “what you can bring in and do with it.”

Which brings me back to To Kill a Mockingbird.  Why can’t a teacher of any grade level for that matter bring in complex side readings to raise the rigor of any text?  Furthermore, what of the teacher who has a high school class with an average reading level of about fifth grade?  Not that we need to teach down to that, but how frustrated is a kid with a third grade reading level going to be trying to read The Grapes of Wrath or One Hundred Years of Solitude?

As another example, Julius Caesar is not on the reading lists anymore at all.  In tenth grade it’s been replaced with Macbeth (which previously had been grade 12) and the twelfth grade Shakespeare is now Hamlet (which kids will read again in college.)  I’m told this is non-negotiable.  I’m told that Macbeth is more rigorous than Caesar.  Did Shakespeare really sit down and decide to write Macbeth at a higher Lexile level than Caesar?  I’m dumbfounded.

There is an entire generation of kids that will now never know what the ides of March means.

The point of all this is simply that all of this decision making is no longer in the hands of the districts or the schools themselves, not to mention the teacher.  Among the many problems with Common Core, it treats kids as if they are all the same and function on the same level.  Many of the novels are new “touchy feeley” nonsense or are just downright inappropriate as we have seen.

Am I bitter because they’ve ripped my beloved To Kill a Mockingbird from my chalk covered fingers?  You bet I am.  I’ll continue to fight for the American classic until my dying breath.  And I will continue to fight for excellence and high standards in education as well.  But the bottom line in all of this is that the federal government should have no say in the matter.

 

Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.