Rear Window Ethics Rear Window Ethics

Friday, November 09, 2007

WaPo: Fixing D.C.'s Schools

I don't usually write about municipal issues in other cities, namely because I don't have as thorough an understanding of the problems facing cities other than the ones I have lived in. A recent series of stories in the Washington Post, however, grabbed me due both to their tragic nature, as well as their familiar-sounding themes.

Every American city has problems with accountability, and every American city has trouble with its education system. My hometown of New Haven has long had the stink of bureaucratic corruption. As the city's schools continue to suffer from budget cuts, worthless administrators, and a hapless superintendent, they are simultaneously being renovated and remodeled -- obscuring the problems within under nice, shiny new exteriors!

New Haven's problems, of course, pale when compared to those of Washington, D.C. The city has been long known for its suffering schools and neglected students. The school system itself has shrugged off countless reform attempts.

A series in the Washington Post illuminates some of the most eggregious and shameless corruption that I have heard of in a long time:
As Coolidge High slashed its budget for teachers and supplies in spring 2003, the struggling school received a welcome infusion of cash from one of its biggest benefactors. The AOL Time Warner Foundation sent a check for $50,000 to hire a technology expert who would ensure that students had working computers.

The money went into Coolidge's student activity account, which enabled school administrators to use it to stage a gospel fundraiser. Fewer than 50 people attended.

Coolidge has a history of losing charitable contributions.

Science teacher Terry Nostrand raised $20,610 from the Tony Hawk Foundation and Project Learning Tree in 2003 to build a skateboarding park at the high school. She deposited the money into the student activity fund. When she tried to retrieve the money the following year, she "kept getting one story after another," Nostrand recalled. "Runaround, runaround, runaround."
And if gambling $50k away on a fundraiser that raised no funds wasn't bad enough, the performers who were hired claim they didn't even get paid the $20k they were promised. So where did the money go? It seems the guy who had this ridiculous idea in the first place decided to run it by another of the system's gems.
Alston said he took his plan to Lorelle S. Dance, who at the time was a parent volunteer at Coolidge and the chairman of an advisory committee known as the Local School Restructuring Team. She worked as a business manager at six other District schools.

Dance was using her position at other schools to defraud the District. She falsified documents and directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in business to a contractor who sometimes performed no work and paid her kickbacks, according to court records. She eventually pleaded guilty to those crimes.

At Coolidge, Dance and Alston were the driving force behind the gospel concert.

That's pretty fucking awful. But it only gets worse. Here's another story of shameless greed coming out of the District's school system:
On May 21, 2004, Emerson Crawley ran up a $225 tab at one of the District's swankiest strip clubs.

Then he stuck schoolchildren with his bill. He turned in a reimbursement request to the school system describing his visit to Camelot Show Bar as a "school planning meeting."

Over two years, Crawley and his colleague William R. Jones billed more than $13,000 worth of expensive meals, drinks and entertainment to a student activity fund at Shaw Junior High School, audit records show.

Crawley and Jones work at DC Afterschool for All, a program that provides extra instruction and afternoon supervision for thousands of impoverished children at more than 80 schools. For years, program activities were funded by depositing federal grants and local money into student activity accounts at dozens of schools District-wide.
When auditors found the fraud, they recommended that the two men repay all the student activity money they spent. That seems fair, right?
But their new supervisor, Esther Monclova-Johnson, instead put Jones and Crawley on 90-day probation and initially required that they repay just the $518 spent on alcohol, records indicate. She devised a plan for them to work overtime to repay the money that was spent on food and entertainment.

"These guys are extremely talented, and the work that they give to the program is not worth them being dismissed over a practice that may have been approved . . . by past directors," Monclova-Johnson said. "They weren't doing anything that they felt was wrong at the time, but maybe it was."
Maybe. Maybe!? What the fuck is wrong with you!? It's one thing to let them keep their jobs, another to let them bullshit their debt in "overtime", but it's absolutely absurd that Ms. Monclova-Johnson can't even decide whether or not the practice of spending money for student activities on strippers and booze is fucking wrong!


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Friday, November 02, 2007

Commercial Pilots Fall Asleep Mid-Flight!

I can't figure out whether this makes me sympathetic to pilots unions -- given that the incident was due to a taxing schedule of four 8-hour red eye flights in a row, or whether it makes me pissed off at the pilots unions -- your job is to not fall asleep in a metal can going 600+ mph at 30,000+ feet, people!


DENVER - Two commercial pilots allegedly fell asleep on a flight between Baltimore and Denver, with one pilot waking up to "frantic" calls from air traffic controllers warning them they were approaching the airport at twice the speed allowed.

"Last 45 mins of flt (flight) I fell asleep and so did the FO (first officer)," according to the narrative in the report.

The captain noted they were approaching a point where they were to begin their descent into Denver International Airport about 60 miles southeast of there at 35,000 feet, much higher than required, and at Mach .82, or 608 mph, instead of a required slower speed.

"I woke up, why I don't know, and heard frantic calls from ATC ... I answered ATC and abided by all instructions to get down. Woke FO (first officer) up."

He spiraled the jet down to a lower altitude as ordered, then landed "with no further incidents."

The pilot had been switched to three nights in a row of flying the overnight, eight-hour round trip.


Thursday, November 01, 2007

TDS: Cupcakes are Killing our Kids!

Rob Riggle explains why exploding rates of child obesity and diabetes can all be traced back to... cupcakes.

"Anti-freeze and cupcakes have a lot in common. They both taste great, they both have fun colors. One will kill you today, and the other will kill you years from now, but the end result is the same."

"4 out of 5 children chose to poison themselves with cupcakes instead of antifreeze..."


Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Westboro Baptist Church -- Pay UP, Bastards!

All I can say is thank God someone stood up against these people. The only things more disgusting than their politics are their methods.

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The father of a fallen Marine was awarded nearly $11 million Wednesday in damages by a jury that found leaders of a fundamentalist church had invaded the family's privacy and inflicted emotional distress when they picketed the Marine's funeral.
For those of you not familiar with their philosophy and tactics, they're pretty easy to describe and pretty hard to understand.

Basically, they believe that "God Hates Fags". Okay.

Here's where it gets a little trickier. So "God Hates Fags", but because the US is so tolerant of homosexuality (you know, the US is SOOO tolerant, right?), God hates America, and shows His anger by allowing US soldiers to die in the Middle East.

Hmm, seems like a stretch. So if God were happy with our treatment of homosexuals, there would be no US casualties in a protracted, destructive, region-wide engagement?

But get this: Because "God Hates Fags" so much that He kills US soldiers to teach America a lesson, the Westboro Baptist Church picket the funerals of fallen soldiers -- right in front of their loved ones. Yep, they wave signs saying "Thank God for Fallen Soldiers".

So let's recap: The families of dead American soldiers need to be taught a lesson -- one beyond the tragic death of their loved one -- because America is too tolerant of homosexuals.

Seems logical enough, doesn't it?

So here's a big fuck you, Westboro Baptist Church. I hope you get served with as many of these lawsuits as funerals you disrupted with your awful, insane, and Godless ways.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

World Series Champs 2007!

In case you missed it, the Red Sox swept the Rockies on their way to their second world championship in four years.

Strange sounding, isn't it?

It was a great season, an amazing post-season, and a gratifying, all-hands-involved series. Guys who had been disappointing all season stepped up and played like October was a different universe. Lugo, Drew, even Kielty all played with renewed purpose, and supported the youngest members of the team who were the stars of the post-season.

I don't think there's anyone in this town who would say that this year could match the energy that exploded onto the streets after they won in 2004. The excitement was real as Papelbon threw that last pitch, but let's just say I didn't spend the next hour hugging, high-fiving and crying while on the phone.

That's not to say it was a let down in any way. This was a completely new feeling. It was an enjoyable feeling. It was all the excitement and gratification of a World Series victory without the years of pressure and anguish simultaneously rupturing out of your body. There's no comparison between 2004 and 2007, but I'm happy about this new era because the weight off of each moment has been lifted.

If that means that the Red Sox are now just another winning baseball team, then so be it. Sure, it changes a Red Sox fan's identity completely, but you know what? I'll gladly make the trade.

Oh... and of course, Wins Needed for Free Couch: 0, Baby!


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Just 1 More Win, Sox!

What a great night for the young guys! Pedroia and Ellsbury: 7/10 with 4 RBI. Round it out with another good night for Lowell, and the Sox are one game away from winning it all.

Boston's hitting in this series is so timely. Very different from the first half of the ALCS. There was a scary moment when Colorado came within one, but just in time we tacked on some insurance in the next frame.

Interesting pitching match up tomorrow between two players who have had to overcome serious health issues -- Lester's cancer and Cook's blood clot problems. A great (paraphrased) quote from Wakefield about not being on the WS roster and Lester's start tomorrow:

Things happen for a reason. Maybe it's John Lester's turn to shine.


Wins needed for free couch: 1 (!!!)


Thursday, October 25, 2007

World Series Game 1

That was just total domination. I know it was probably our best scenario -- what with Beckett as nasty as that and the hitters still locked in from last series -- but if we could get something like that even once more we'd be in great shape.

Granted, Colorado may have had some rust on their bats, but the way Beckett was throwing he could have silenced almost any offense in baseball.

That is not to say that I think this series will be a blow out. I'm quite wary of how the Sox will fare in Denver, with that huge outfield, NL rules, and the altitude. Winning tonight is very important, because I could see them dropping a few out West.

Could be Schilling's last game at Fenway tonight. Here's hoping he'll dig down and give a classic "Schilling in the spotlight" performance for posterity.

Wins needed for free couch: 3