Monday, February 25, 2013

Public Preschool: The Oklahoma Story

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2013 at 3:50 PM

This IJ story chronicles a coalition in Marin advocating for universal preschool.
The article summarizes a survey reportedly showing a high level of support for the concept, stating:
"The initiative's informal survey last year showed 86 percent of Marin voters would support a county "children's fund," 74 percent would support more sales taxes to pay for it and 68 percent would support more property taxes. But before they propose anything specific, members said they must conduct a scientific poll to gauge support."

Oklahoma was the first state to offer public preschool.
  • Oklahoma was the first state to offer public preschool.

Of course, go to the comments section and you'll find a slew of peeved taxpayers exercising their First Amendment rights on a very different note than the survey. Nanny state, big government, entitlements, crime, welfare, overpopulation—all the fun stuff that usually comes with any kind of discussion about the notion of public preschool.
So instead of looking at the usual polarized players, why not go to a story that not only shows many of the varying layers of this complex issue, but is also downright awesome. Perhaps you know that Oklahoma, maybe the most conservative state in the country, has publicly funded preschool. And perhaps you know that it offers universal preschool not because it was voted upon, but because it was more or less snuck in. And perhaps you know that the people who snuck it in were not those Godless liberals who want to indoctrinate kids with their socialist agenda, but a group including business-folk and conservatives who did the research and thought it just made good fiscal sense.
You can listen to this fascinating story here, on This American Life.

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Friday, February 22, 2013

Flesh Eating Photos

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 1:05 PM

If you haven't seen the crazy before-and-after photoshop GIFs that have been circling Social Media today, you can take a glance here.

Brit is shown in one of the GIFs
  • Brit is shown in one of the GIFs

Katy Perry, Madonna, Kim Kardashian, George Clooney—of course we knew they were being photoshopped, and we've seen the before-and-after photos, but seeing them as GIFs, where the images literally jump back and forth between reality and airbrushing, is still pretty shocking. And it's not just the things you'd expect—slimming the ladies down, removing their pores, pushing up their boobs. It's also weird stuff, like shrinking ribcages and flattening eyebrow ridges.
In Bossypants, Tina Fey argues that the outcry over photoshopping is kind of silly while makeup and pushup bras and "slimming" outfits are completely normalized. But shrinking someone's ribcage?
Her answer in the book is simple: Have photoshop but have the feminists be in charge of it. Like this.

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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Extended Play: Mr. Reich

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 1:18 PM

This week, we wrote about Secretary of Labor during the Clinton administration Robert Reich, who will appear at the Glaser Center on Feb. 25.

Beyond Outrage by Robert Reich
  • Beyond Outrage by Robert Reich

Reading Reich's writings (say that three times quickly) is addictive. He's drops facts like Jay-Z drops luxury product names, recounts complex ideas in strikingly simple language and almost every other paragraph has that trade-mark journalist "Holy Crap" moment.

You can read more on his blog, here. He takes on fiscal cliff rhetoric here, writing:

"Here’s the truth: After the housing bubble burst, American consumers had to pull in their belts so tightly that consumption plummeted — which in turn fueled unemployment. Consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of economic activity in the U.S. No business can keep people employed without enough customers, and none will hire people back until consumers return."

This is an idea that he expounds on in his latest book, "Beyond Outrage," which you can read bits of here. This book views The Recession and its aftermath not simply as a by-product of government spending, but of what he calls "anemic recovery" because private spending power is so unequally distributed between increasingly polarized wealth stratas.

"Because so much income and wealth have gone to the top, America's vast middle class no longer has the purchasing power to keep the economy going—not, at least, without going deeper and deeper into debt," he writes.

Fun stuff.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Extended Play: Local Postal Service Union Reacts to Saturday Cuts

Posted By on Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 5:00 PM

mailbox.jpg
If the proposed plan to cut Saturday service by the United States Postal Service goes through, letter carriers will lose jobs, delivery will be delayed and the budget problem might not even be solved. The problems locally will mirror those being faced on the national level. “We're going to lose a lot of jobs,” says Jerry Anderson, president of the North Coast Branch of the National Association of Letter Carriers, which covers Sonoma and Lake counties. The union's official stance is against the proposed cut and instead to look at avenues of growth to fund the 75-year pension and health care requirement. “I think there are other ways to go about growing the business,” he says, suggesting shipping wine as an untapped potential resource.

Santa Rosa letter carrier Jeff Parr says there hasn't been enough study, in his opinion, on the potential loss of revenue from the Saturday stoppage plan. He says it sounds as if the Post Master General “has given up on the business.” Saturday service is the competitive advantage of the USPS, since others charge a premium or just don't offer it at all. “I see degrading of service.”

The plan refers only to stopping letter delivery and pick up; the post office will still deliver parcels on Saturdays. This is no surprise, as the parcel business went up 14 percent last year compared to the year before for the USPS. Rural service will suffer adversely, as will those who require medication delivery. The average letter carrier handles about 15 to 20 medications daily, and those don't count as parcels, says Anderson. In fact, anything under two pounds, or is smaller, roughly, than a shoebox, does not count as a parcel under current guidelines.

Senate Bill 316 and House Resolution 630 have been introduced to stop the 75-year prefunding requirement, which was introduced in 2006 and expires in 2016. But it might be too little, too late. “Congress put us in this mess and they can fix it,” says Anderson. “But [so far] we haven't been successful with that.”

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Monday, February 18, 2013

Coffee's Come a Long Way Since 1963

Posted By on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 11:05 AM

coffee_cup.jpg
Although the hyperbolic headline of this article from 1963 was completely unwarranted, it wouldn't feel too out of place these days in the Bay Area, where coffee is considered sacred in a time when the idea of a $5 16-ounce coffee is far from preposterous.

Whether it began the coffee renaissance in this country is yet to be determined, but it certainly raised eyebrows. Yeah, that cuppa' jo was just a nickel. Sure, couch fishing spoils could put a pep in your step. But was it worth it? Was the gut rot, the headache, the wonton destruction of taste buds and the horrible breath really worth that nickel? Would caffeine lovers in 1963 have been willing to shell out, say $.25 for a coffee? Still one coin, but substantially more expensive.

To some, coffee is like gas: an irreplaceable necessity of modern life. No matter the cost, it will be consumed. But unlike gas, its quality varies greatly. Directly oppositional to gas, cheaper the brew, the bigger the frown. But that doesn't mean a more expensive cup equals greatness. Once the basic need for caffeine is met, coffee becomes an artisan food. Just think of all the work that goes into making it: harvesting the cherries, discarding the fruit, drying the beans, roasting and then grinding into a powder to be steeped in hot water. And each of these steps influences the flavor.

Gas is not like that. Gas is a "yes or no" process, meaning "will this make my motor run, yes or no?" Companies like to pretend theirs is better, with special additives. But that's like toting what kind of milk or sweetener is in one's coffee. That doesn't matter if it's all the same stuff. But coffee is not gas, thankfully.

There is a definite difference between Intelligensia coffee and McDonald's. There's a difference between Flying Goat and Starbuck's, mainly that Goat's French press coffee has depth with notes of fruit, flowers and chocolate while the Bucks' has the flavor profile of an dirty oven left on all day.

Maybe it's the feeling of coolness from typing on a Bluetooth keyboard connected to my phone, maybe it's the cheerful folk music in this cafe or maybe it's the second-cup optimism kicking in, but I'm really glad we will never again have to see a headline containing the words "forced" and "swill." At least not with regard to coffee.

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Friday, February 15, 2013

Russian Meteorite Impact a Wake-Up Call

Posted By on Fri, Feb 15, 2013 at 4:42 PM

Artists rendition of a giant asteroid about to smash into Earth.
  • Wikipedia
  • Artist's rendition of a giant asteroid about to smash into Earth.

A meteorite struck the Earth this week, injuring over 1,100 people near the Russian city of Chalyabinsk, which has a population over 1 million. It weighed 10 tons and lit up the sky, streaking through the atmosphere on its way to impact. It’s the worst recorded impact in history. And it went completely undetected. To quote San Francisco Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper, this is not good, folks.

The idea that the planet can be struck at any time by a space rock that could potentially wipe out a massive amount of the population is scary. Not to seem like Chicken Little, but the sky is always falling, it’s just usually burned up into bits before it hits us. When a large enough rock gets through, it means big trouble. This infographic from the Guardian UK sums it up quite nicely.

The lack of detection could have been due to lack of tracking resources, or it could have been due to the gigantic 2012 DA14 asteroid that narrowly missed the planet. It came so close, in fact, that it passed inside our communications satellites. Had it hit Earth, the impact would have had the power of more than 250 Hiroshima bombs exploding at once in the same place.

A recent discovery showed that within 33,000 years of a massive asteroid hitting the Earth, dinosaurs went extinct. The theory of what killed the dinosaurs can probably be pegged on a massive meteorite impact, at least for the most part. Humans, now the dominant species on the planet, could be next.

It’s not like the Bohemian didn’t see this coming. Or that astronaut Rusty Schweickart, co-founder of the B6-12 foundation, which is dedicated to tracking asteroids and preventing collisions with Earth, hasn’t been trying to explain the importance of this for years. But as he explains, most of the time it takes a tragedy to cement the importance of prevention in people’s minds. Maybe this will be it.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Darius Anderson Wants to "Rape and Pillage Other Publications"

New Press Democrat owner also hints at run for office

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 9:21 PM

Sonoma West Times and News reports that (in)famous lobbyist Darius Anderson gave a keynote speech at a recent California Newspaper Publishers Association event in Sacramento.

Press Democrat front page
  • Press Democrat front page

"Anderson said he is not done buying newspapers yet," the articles reads. "'We’re coming to a town near you soon,' he told the room full of fellow newspaper owners. 'I plan to go to San Francisco and rape and pillage other publications and take their talent and bring it to Santa Rosa.'"

In November, Anderson was one of a team of local investors who bought the Press Democrat.

As we wrote then: "Darius Anderson has a long history as a high-powered lobbyist for companies like PG&E, Station Casinos, Pfizer, Microsoft and Catellus, and has worked for Clint Eastwood and been a fundraiser for Gray Davis. In 2010, Anderson was fined half a million dollars in a corruption probe. He currently wants to build a $30 million boutique hotel off the Sonoma plaza."

Anderson's words at the conference were, no doubt, offered in jest. But they have a sinister ring, considering the numerous conflicts-of-interest that could arise from his joint roles as lobbyist and newspaper owner. According to the Sonoma West article, Anderson both "called for a "bigger role" of the newspaper industry in statewide affairs" and "offered himself for a possible run at statewide office in the future." The piece does report that Anderson declared intentions to put the paper in a non-profit trust if he does run, to "avoid the appearance of any conflicts of interest."

See the full video of Anderson's speech here:

In other news, Anderson collects Cuban art.

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Cheesy Poetry Contest

Posted By on Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 12:35 PM

Cheese.jpg

Are you gaga for gouda? Passionate about parmesan? Mad about mozzarella? For all you cheese lovers out there, here’s your chance to embrace your inner Shakespeare and start slinging some stanzas. The lucky winner of the Bohemian’s Cheesiest Poetry Contest will receive two tickets to the tenth-annual Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference, running Feb. 23-27! (For more info, see details here.)

So don’t delay. Send us your best ode to gorgonzola or havarti haiku. Send us a sestina that rhymes its way into our curdled hearts, a sonnet that shows us the whey, a limerick that lingers long after the pizza is gone. Get creative. Have fun. And remember: The cheesier, the better.

Send all entries to letters@bohemian.com by midnight on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

(Cheese image via Shutterstock.)

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

One Billion Rising

Posted By on Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 1:35 PM

one_billion_rising.jpg

Ever seen a flash mob in person? Want to show support for the movement to end violence against women? Here’s your chance to experience both at once. On Valentine’s Day (that’s this Thursday, Feb. 14) hundreds of women will take part in a flash mob song and dance to “Break the Chains,” in English and Spanish, at 5pm in Santa Rosa’s Courthouse Square. Men will stand by in a semi-circle and sing in support.

The mob is a part of One Billion Rising, an international movement to end all violence. It was spurred by Vagina Monologues author Eve Ensler and will include over 200 countries. “More than one out of every three women on this planet will experience violence during her lifetime,” says Ensler in a press release. “Dance joins us and pushes us to go further, and that is why it's at the center of One Billion Rising."

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Monday, February 11, 2013

Pope Resigns Due to Poor Health

Posted By on Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 9:40 AM

Pope Benedict XVI
  • Pope Benedict XVI
Something that hasn’t happened in 600 years has finally happened: the Pope resigned.

Pope Benedict XVI will step down at the end of the month due to his inability to perform duties because of failing “body and mind.” He is 85 years old and was elected Pope in 2005. The last time a Pope resigned was in 1415.

The announcement was a shock, to say the least. With all the secrecy of the Vatican, nobody can be truly sure the reason. At such an advanced age and this being such an unprecedented move, it must be something truly serious. It’s not implausible to suspect something like signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia triggered the resignation. Whether it was his own volition or the urging of those around him has not been stated.

What’s certain is his papacy was marred by several sexual abuse scandals and a push toward orthodoxy, including a campaign against condom prevention and any kind of birth control. Even nuns on a mission to serve the poor were chastised because of their outspoken attitude toward women’s rights. This, too, could be a contributing factor to his resignation, if we delve into the realm of conspiracy theories.

Something else that’s certain, this will trigger a spike in Dan Brown’s books and movies, and maybe even inspire a new novel by the
Davinci Code
author. Working title: Forgotten Communion.

What, too soon?

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