Whatever the cause, everything is now on the table for cuts: hospitals, law enforcement, higher education, college scholarships, you name it.
Republicans have a majority in both the House and the Senate, but votes are needed from both sides to pass any kind of legislation at this point that will break the gridlock that has crippled this session.
So far, little has been agreed upon but by the end of last week momentum began to pick up and the following bills were agreed upon by the House and moved to the Senate:
HB 3 by Rep. Frank Hoffmann, which would require able-bodied Medicaid recipients work or volunteer to keep their eligibility, although there is some wiggle room in terms of how strongly it would be enforced.
HB 2 by Rep. Tony Bacala, which aims to combat Medicaid fraud by allowing the legislative auditor access to recipient tax returns.
HB 27 by Rep. Pat Smith, which would implement a 60-cent-per-year tax for accessibility programs for the deaf.
HB 10 by Rep. Ted James, which would increase federal income tax liability by the amount someone’s federal income tax was lowered during 2016 or 2017 after claiming the federal standard or itemized deduction for certain net disaster losses. It’s supposed to help flood victims from the 2016 March and August floods.
It seems certain that the shortfall can not be resolved without higher taxes which has been the cause of much grumbling and discontent at the water cooler and there has been discussion on who would be paying those taxes.
SHREVEPORT — As Zilla noted, the Boss is at CPAC and is covering all things politics, so I’m going to veer away from politics today. Living in Louisiana with a special legislative session underway, there is no shortage of political topics here, but while our legislators wreck our budget and cut funding to higher education and the other likely targets, I’m going to digress and talk about one of the positive reasons to live in Louisiana.
We have a lot of festivals! We love to eat and to have fun! Louisiana is absolutely beautiful in the spring! Put all that together and we have the Books Along the Teche Literary Festival in April! Books and literary festivals are right up my alley: I love them! I love book bazaars, book festivals, book fairs, the whole thing.
How perfect is this event?! It will be in New Iberia in the spring which is in south Louisiana, below Lafayette. The festival is named for local son James Lee Burke who set his Dave Robicheaux series in New Iberia. I’ve been a fan of his Dave Robicheaux character for years. In fact, that’s one of the things that drew me to Michael Henry’s books; his Willie Mitchell character reminded me a lot of Dave Robicheaux.
Nearly every event at Books Along the Teche looks enticing. On Friday, April 6, the festival starts at 9 a.m. with a food tasting and everyone knows Louisiana food is fantastic and Louisiana cooks reign. In the afternoon there is lunch at Dave Robicheaux’s favorite cafeteria and then a tour of Iberia parish featuring Dave’s “haunts and jaunts.”
Louisiana author Ernest Gaines will be the featured guest this year and on Saturday afternoon he will lead a reading and then host a question and answer session. Gaines is the author of A Lesson Before Dying and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, among many other works. The film adaptation of Miss Jane Pittman will be featured in a free screening Friday afternoon. Now, how cool would it be to meet Ernest Gaines!
What is also at the top of my list is the Jazz it Up opening reception Friday night featuring a Cochon de Lait and a jazz band but best of all it will be held at Shadows on the Teche, the plantation home of Weeks Hall who was a friend of Lyle Saxon and a fascinating character! A visit to this plantation is on my bucket list.
Shadows-on-the-Teche was the home of the Weeks family. Construction began in 1831 and was completed 1834 for David Weeks and his wife, Mary Clara Conrad Weeks. According to Richard Lewis, curator of visual arts at the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans, the land was granted to Weeks’s father, William, in 1792 through a Spanish land grant. William continued to purchase property throughout the area and eventually accumulated over 2,000 acres.
David Weeks and his father grew some cotton but focused primarily on sugar cane in the early 1820s. William retained carpenter James Bedell and mason Jeremiah Clark to build the Shadows but he died before the house was completed. When his widow remarried, she kept her property separate from that of her second husband. When she died the plantation passed to her son, William F. Weeks who died in 1895; then it passed to his daughters, one of whom was Lily Weeks Hall. She died in 1918 and her son, William Weeks Hall returned to the plantation from Paris. He acquired all family shares and at the age of 25 became the sole owner of the plantation.
Weeks Hall spent the rest of his life restoring the plantation to its original grandeur. He used family papers and a complete set of construction records to achieve this, according to Richard Lewis in his book, Robert W. Tebbs: Photographer to Architects. Architects Richard Koch (1889-1971) and Charles R. Armstrong (d. 1947) were retained to restore the home “to its 1830s appearance.” When Weeks Hall died in 1959 he bequeathed the home to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Koch and Samuel Wilson, Jr. did restoration work for the National Trust in 1961 and since then the gardens have also been restored.
The festival will also feature an Academic Symposium in which Professor of English at University of Lafayette, Dr. Mary Ann Wilson will present Ode to a Lost World: James Lee Burke’s Tin Roof Blowdown. She says “the title works on many levels as will my presentation pointing out the deeply moral vision of Burke as he confronts the trauma and tragedy of environmental and human disasters like Katrina all the while telling a crackerjack detective story.”
If I’m feeling brave I might even join in on the Bouree lessons, but I know from experience that playing Bouree with a bunch of Cajuns can be a risky proposition!
But seriously, If I were dreaming up the perfect festival, this would be it.
New Iberia is beautiful all of the time but especially so in the spring. This could not be a more perfect trip and a perfect escape from winter.
SHREVEPORT — As a high school educator I have spent the last several years of my career lamenting the distraction that is social media in the classroom. When I started teaching twenty-two years ago I didn’t own a cell phone. Not many of my students did either and at that time I taught in a school with a fairly affluent student body.
Things have changed.
Schools have struggled with the rapid advancement of this technology, too. Initially, the devices were banned from school, then banned from the classroom, then banned from being visible (“we know you have a phone, just keep it in your purse or backpack so it’s not a distraction”), and eventually we’ve ended up where classrooms are embracing cell phone technology.
There are many ways the phones can be used in the classroom and thousands of educational apps that kids can use either independently or as a class activity.
There is always some district policy on phones, then it filters to the school level, then to the classroom and at that point there is a wide diversity of how teachers deal with them. Some have very strict “no phones!” rules, some have “cell phone jail” systems, and some just don’t care, defeated, and will turn a blind eye to it.
Due to the apps visual nature and high user engagement rate, Instagram is also a valuable social media marketing tool. As of March 2016, 98 percent of fashion brands had an Instagram profile. As of December 2016, average number of image brand posts on Instagram was 27.9 posts per month.
This is not your Snapchat teenager group. As of January 2017, there were 300 million Snapchat users. Forty-five percent of Snapchat users are between 18-24 years old.
As for Facebook, research shows that people use Facebook primarily for keeping up with family and friends. With two billion monthly active users, Facebook is still alive and well.
Twitter is still huge with over 300 million active monthly users, but Twitter’s growth has stalled. Twitter is still very popular for news sharing and for celebrity stalking. With American presidents using Twitter to broadcast policy these days, it’s impossible to deny Twitter’s viability, but there are some troubling signs:
Despite a steady revenue growth – the company’s 2016 revenue amounted to 2.5 billion U.S. dollars, up from 2.2 billion in the preceding fiscal year – Twitter has yet to report a positive net income. In 2016, it’s annual net loss amounted to almost 457 million U.S. dollars.
These are all very big numbers and it’s clear that social media is the new frontier for pushing your brand. I’ve spent some time researching Instagram over the past few days and experimenting with my own feed. I started an Instagram account several years ago only to keep up with photos of my new grandson who lives in another state. I never posted to it and had about thirty followers. I just enjoyed looking at everyone else’s photos. Now I’m engaging with the platform more and the followers are coming fast. (In the Instagram world I’m barely a blip on the radar when it comes to followers.)
It’s easy to see why Instagram is such an engaging platform. Everyone has their own niche and the big brands and celebrities are there as well. Currently, National Geographic has over 86 million followers. Nike is right behind them. Celebrities with huge followings include Selena Gomez with 133 million followers and Beyonce with 111 million followers.
On a more real level, people are using Instagram more than ever to promote their brand. Consider Hilary Rushford, New York stylist and former Radio City Rockette, who decided a day job cubicle wasn’t for her and formed the Dean Street Society which is a motivational company helping people develop the best of themselves, whether it’s personal style, entrepreneurship, defining a business model, or marketing. She has 167 thousand followers and is growing fast.
So back to the classroom: how does this all tie in? The kids in my classroom have never known a life without digital technology. They are totally connected and invested in their phones. Teachers today must find a way to make that work for you instead of against you. It’s hard to engage a kid in the merits of Macbeth when they’re more interested in the latest cat video on YouTube or taking a selfie with a cute Snapchat filter. The reality is there. As educators we have to embrace it and work with it, otherwise you are doomed to one semester after another of frustration. There are many ideas out there to help figure out ways to engage students through social media.
Social media is here to stay, and it’s growing. Make it work for you, whether you’re in the classroom or promoting your brand, blog, or posting a cat video.
SHREVEPORT — We are deep in the throes of Mardi Gras season in Louisiana, that weeks-long bacchanalian festival with parades through the streets, brightly decorated and lit floats blaring deafening music, costumed float riders throwing beads, medallions, shoes, stuffed animals, coconuts, CDs, packages of Ramen noodles, even hot dogs. You name it, someone on a float will be throwing it.
One thing some float riders will not be throwing this year is the Forever Lee Circle beads. The medallion on the strand depicts Robert E. Lee standing atop his pedestal against a clear blue sky, and the words Forever Lee Circle.
You might recall my heavy “monument blogging” last year as New Orleans erupted into protests, marches, and stakeouts as the Mitch Landrieu administration swept through in the dark of night to remove Confederate monuments from the city. Apparently, emotions are still running high.
The Krewe of Muses has taken a stand against Confederate-themed parade throws, banning its members from throwing Robert E. Lee beads — or any other items with a political message — in its upcoming parade.
The Krewe of Orpheus has also told members not to toss the Lee beads and its captain said any riders who bring them will be asked to remove them from the floats. And the Krewe of Endymion is also suggesting riders not bring the controversial throws.
According to a memo sent to the Muses’ float lieutenants, besides the throws being deemed inappropriate, the Lee-themed beads — which have garnered attention on social media — are also dangerous. The memo says the krewe is concerned people who would throw those beads could have them hurled back at them or the person throwing them could be harmed by angry paradegoers.
The Hayride, a popular Louisiana blog, calls bull on the political message warning:
Now, some people are using the city ordinance cited above by the Advocate in support of the idea that “political” beads are already illegal and thus restricting the Lee beads is simply following the law. However, to my knowledge, the ordinance in question has never been enforced — and indeed political throws have been commonplace. This stands to reason, because the ordinance appears plainly unconstitutional, and is thus a mere fig leaf for krewes’ efforts to regulate throws.
Meanwhile, the beads are showing up on eBay for up to $50 a strand! And selling!
The making of this bead was and will be cathartic for so many in our community. Throwing this bead is nothing more than giving our iconic landmark a proper send off. Parade after parade it will serve as one big second line. A simple way to express our loss and remember all the good times we shared during Mardi Gras at Lee Circle. It’s about giving an outlet to those feeling a sense of loss. Having lost four of the cities most Iconic Historical Monuments, that had been part of the New Orleans landscape for over 100 years has been unimaginable for a lot of people. I have felt a lot of push back by people trying to attach their irrational fear, anxieties and hatred over the monuments to this bead and I’m not inclined to let others fears lay claim to my motives. I challenge anyone to find hate in my heart.
The major parades will be this coming weekend in New Orleans; we will be in suspense until then to see if the krewe members comply with the edicts of the krewe bosses or if they go rogue and throw their Robert E. Lees.
SHREVEPORT — My grown son and I have a tradition where each year we go see all the Oscar nominated movies: at least those in the main categories. We don’t always master this completely. Last year I don’t think there were any we wanted to see, but Usually we see most of them before Oscar night.
Hollywood has become so politicized and everyone has an agenda so I don’t usually even watch the awards ceremony itself. I can’t stomach watching the Hollywood elite lecturing to me. But I do enjoy watching movies, so there’s that.
Anyway, we haven’t seen too many yet this year. So far we’ve seen Darkest Hour, Phantom Thread, Star Wars: the Last Jedi (is that even nominated for anything? I have no idea…), and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Regardless of how the movie is, the point of this, and the fun of it, is that my grown kid and I get to spend the afternoon together doing something we both enjoy.
The first movie we saw in our quest this year was Darkest Hour. I thought Gary Oldman was fabulous as Churchill and as soon as we walked out of the theater I looked at John and asked, “How is that not an Oscar winning performance?!”
He look at me as if I had two heads, blinked, and said, “Because Daniel Day Lewis.”
So the next movie we saw was Phantom Thread and I understood what he meant. But my heart is still with Oldman.
Phantom Thread was lush; the costumes were beautiful, the settings elegant, and the story engaging. And no question that Daniel Day Lewis was totally immersed in his character.
Our most recent film was Three Billboards and here I found my favorite. Frances McDormand is simply an amazing actress and while I wanted her on screen every single frame, Woody Harrelson and Sam Parkman were terrific. Parkman absolutely must win his category as supporting actor. The movie is very dark but there are comic moments; the main reason to see this one is McDormand. It’s definitely her best role since Fargo.
Next on our list is I, Tonya. We are watching these in no order whatsoever; our decisions are based primarily on what is showing where and when.
After each movie we linger over a long lunch and share our thoughts and revise our predictions.
In the end, it doesn’t matter who wins what; I’ve already won by getting to spend a few hours each week with my grown kid and I’ve seen some great movies as well.
Not only that, but those with flu are at high risk for pneumonia which can be even more deadly. My brother is in the hospital with pneumonia right now and has been in the ER for over 24-hours because there are not enough beds in the hospital itself to put him into a room.
Over the counter drugs like Theraflu are flying off the shelves.
The 1918-1919 influenza pandemic killed more people than combat did in the First World War. Maybe a lot more: fatality estimates range from 20-40 million to twice that around the globe. In the United States, a quarter of the population came down with the flu; some 675,000 died. Only the American Civil War has been more lethal.
This CBS News report on the 1918 pandemic describes just how devastating it was. We hope that this flu season is not a repeat of that but we are not yet near the end of this season yet.
The experts are giving all the usual advice to protect yourself: wash your hands, get a flu shot, stay away from loved ones who are ill, get lots of rest. Parents are advised not to send their children to school if they are sick and business are encouraging employees to stay home if they are sick. Many doctors offices are telling patients not to come in if they have the flu: to simply call and get a prescription for Tamiflu. Emergency rooms and urgent care clinics are overflowing with flu patients as well.
Because I teach school, I am absolutely paranoid about catching the flu; I’m around kids all day long. I’ve loaded up on hand sanitizer (even though there are claims that it does not work) and sanitizing wipes which I use on my desks and door knobs daily. I’m keeping a healthy distance between me and anyone who is coughing.
I have a friend who has worked in public health for over 60 years as a physician. He firmly believes the key to preventing germs spreading is Dr. Tichenor’s antiseptic mouthwash. He carries a small spray bottle with him during cold and flu season filled with undiluted Dr. Tichenor’s. He puts a dab in each nostril throughout the day and sprays his throat. Between that and the flu shot, he has managed to avoid the flu every year.
I have another friend who says that her secret to staying well is to eat local honey.
I’m taking every possible precaution, but it turns out that as widespread and virulent as this year’s virus seems to be, we all may be afflicted at some point.
I hope that you all stay healthy and avoid getting sick this year. If you have a great home remedy or advice, please share!
SHREVEPORT – Louisiana is expecting snow this week. Say what?
I know people in the north must laugh at us. The inevitable “bread and milk” memes showing empty grocery store shelves come to mind. I went to the grocery store yesterday out of necessity rather than any snow-minded panic, and the cashier lamented how busy they had been all day.
“I don’t know what’s going on,” she said.
“Snow in the forecast for Monday night,” I explained.
She had no idea. “That explains it,” she said.
All the jokes are true. The meteorologists on the local stations broke the news Friday afternoon that models were setting up for a “wintry mix” which would “quickly turn over to snow” and that “accumulations of one to three inches are possible.”
My husband is from Iowa and he just laughs. He is one of those who walked twenty miles up hill both ways in five feet of snow to get to school; he milked cows after walking through veritable blizzards to get to the barn and chipped ice out of frozen water troughs. You know the type.
But around here if you say ice, we close the schools. We can’t drive in that stuff. The rural kids that ride school buses will freeze, not to mention that rural roads and bridges ice over.
This is a true story: one day about three years ago we were in school when it started to snow; it was about 10:30 in the morning, right before lunch. Not big, heavy wet snowflakes but just flurries. They closed the schools parish wide. By the time I got to the interstate five minutes away it was all over.
Overabundance of precaution, they called it.
As soon as the local news said the “S” word Friday, everyone is on pins and needles checking Facebook and the news sites for notice of school closure. Parents are stressing out about whether or not to find babysitters or take of work. The school superintendent says he will make the call sometime Monday afternoon (Monday we are closed for MLK day). This delay in making the call is angering parents as meteorologists speak with increasing confidence of “a winter event” and measurable precipitation.
Snow days are a rare treat for us down here. While the Midwest and northern climes accept shoveling snow and not parking on the street because of snow plows as a part of winter life, we don’t have those issues down here. So when we can get enough snow to scoop up in our hands, or look outside and see a blanket of wet, white snow on the lawn, it is in fact an event. The high humidity here means we have heavy, wet snow, not powdery light stuff.
I can predict with near certainty that by Monday afternoon all of the news stations will have their intrepid reporters out standing by the perfectly dry interstate to report on road conditions. Once the event occurs there will be tiny snowmen on the hoods of cars or the messy, muddy ones that required every bit of snow in the yard to create.
It could be a magical day.
Or it could just be rain. Then we will feel robbed and cheated.
All of that bread and milk stowed away for nothing.
SHREVEPORT – As a secondary ELA teacher of twenty-two years I have had a growing concern over the changes I’ve seen in education over the past few years, primarily with the advent of Common Core and its many forms.
I was against the principles of Common Core when it started and now that it is in nearly every classroom I am even more against it. Do not be deceived: your district very likely has some form of this insidious curriculum in place.
Two articles of note to look at right now: the first is Bruce Dixon’s piece on standardized testing. In my Louisiana district, we are on block schedule which means we complete a semester from August to January. When I return to classes this week I will have all new classes. In the semester just completed, we had four standardized tests in 10th grade English: one diagnostic test (two days), three interim exams (also two days each), and an End of Course test (three days). We were also asked to give a practice test before the EOC (two days) and a final exam after the EOC (one day) because the EOC scores would not be back before the semester ended. Count it up: that is fourteen days of high stakes testing.
That does not even include the time in class talking about testing or teaching kids how to take the test (required if you want your students to succeed.)
Given all that, I’m really interested in the subject of standardized testing right now. Bruce Dixon addresses this subject perfectly. He refers to this test mania as “tyranny” and “an insidious virus.”
It might come as a shock to some politicians, but learning is not a competitive sport, so how about we stop treating it that way. Why do we persist with ranking everything, naming and shaming schools by publishing test results like they’re sporting scores in league tables?
Neither is learning a zero-sum game- as in I learn, you don’t, or you learn, I don’t. Contrary to the core statistical assumption that standardized tests are built on, we can both learn, and both benefit. So why do we continue to treat learning as if there is only a fixed amount of knowledge that any one person can access at any one time?
Next, we need to be more public and open about the harm that these tests are inflicting on our young people. There have been literally dozens of papers, articles and books written on the damage and deceit of standardized testing, so take your pick.
I’ve seen what this non-stop testing does to kids. The ones who care deeply about their GPA suffer one kind of crushing stress and the apathetic ones, the ones we have to work harder to reach, are affirmed in their feelings of failure and inadequacy.
The overemphasis on testing has led many teachers to eliminate projects and activities that provide students with an opportunity to be creative and imaginative, and scripted curriculum has become the norm in many classrooms. There is nothing creative or imaginative about filling in a bubble sheet for a multiple choice test. Students are so tired of prepping for and taking standardized test that some have protested by dressing up like zombies to protest — and thousands of families are opting their children out of taking high-stakes exams.
As a teacher who has tried to be innovative, creative, and work hard to engage my students, I can affirm that this is true.
The Common Core curriculum has given rise to the scripted curriculum which is supposed to serve as the magic bullet that has all teachers teach the same content in the same way in every classroom because some teacher somewhere said it worked in her classroom, or something. This will vary a little from district to district, but in some schools teachers are expected to stick to the script, show the pre-prepared slides, and pass out the pre-prepared worksheets and graphic organizers.
As a parent, is this the classroom you want for your child? As a teacher, I struggle with this. It is very, very hard for me to do this, but we do it because we want to keep our jobs and we want to help the kids who look to us to lead them to success.
Because there is so little outcry from parents we can only assume that this is what they want. Teacher-bots.
So many of us decried the principles of Common Core when they began to roll out years ago. If you teach long enough you see these fads come and go through the years – one after the other. They come and they go.
It’s time for this one to go. It’s time to let teachers be the professionals they are, use the judgment they have as the professional in the room with the child, and to return creativity and innovation to the classroom before this type of instruction becomes entrenched and we lose an entire generation of kids.
SHREVEPORT – I’m not usually one for omens and so I’m hopeful that the fact that my furnace went out today, on New Year’s Day, is not a sign of things to come. We knew it was getting tired and about to go out but we hoped to get through the season with it.
And now, in the beginning of what is predicted to be below-freezing temperatures all week, and frigid wind chill temperatures, I sit with no heat.
We made a dash to WalMart and bought some electric heaters and have a call into the furnace guy, but I don’t expect I will hear from him today.
I hope it’s not a sign of how my year will go. Surely not. Right? Life is what you make it. I shall be positive.
In the middle of this drama I have not properly prepared a good post for you today so I do want to at least point you to a couple of noteworthy posts this afternoon:
First, at The Other McCain, be sure to read the terrible report of a SWATting incident that happened in Kansas. Absolutely tragic.
Gateway Pundit has a post on the Iranian protests you should read. Remember Neda?
As I sit here watching A Christmas Story for the sixth time (this year), I’m wondering if it’s too early to ponder resolutions for 2018? I don’t normally make resolutions but I am setting a couple of small goals for the new year. I’m joining the paper planner craze after finally realizing I can’t keep up with things on a phone calendar the way I need to. I customized a planner, placed my order, and have spent the past few days writing down dates, events, and to-do lists; I feel so much more organized already.
My intentions are good. January and February will be filled up and then by March I probably won’t be able to tell you where the planner even is. But I’m going to try to keep it going.
One of my major goals for the new year will be to de-clutter. I have too much stuff. I’m feeling the need to simplify. We don’t need most of the stuff we accumulate through the years. We will see how this goes.
I love Christmas; I love the magic of it and the opportunity to rest, recharge, see family, and refocus on those things that are most important. So, no politics today. Get off your computer. Spend time with those who are still here with us. Remember those who are gone. Get outside. But whatever you do, have a lovely Christmas.
And remember the words of Linus as he recites the Christmas story:
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding
in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them,
and the glory of the Lord shone round about them:
and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy,
which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe
wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the