Saturday, June 30, 2007

Indiana Jones In CT

Yeah - well sometimes I need a break from activism and the like.. so yesterday we spent the afternoon watching them film some scenes in New Haven for the new Indiana Jones movie, Indiana Jones and the City of the Gods .

It was very cool to watch a part of the movie making process.
Since this movie is set in 1957 - there were extras walking around in bobby sox and saddle shoes - all in period dress, and there were 1940's and 50's cars parked along the streets and used in the chase scenes. Really cool.

Yup, there is Harrison Ford in a gray T-shirt on the right with Calista Flockhart on the left, getting a bite to eat from the grill. Gotta say, looks like they eat just like regular people.

We also caught a glimpse of Shia LaBeouf (he walked right in front of our car when we were stopped in the traffic) and even Steven Spielberg himself, atop the truck filming a chase scene.

The chase scene they were doing had Indiana Jones on a vintage motorcycle and jumping into a car .. but we also caught a picture of him and Shia taking some practice runs.

The scene was filmed near Yale.. and whole streets were shut down for filming. They even had to take down street lights and parking meters and get rid of the middle yellow line to make it "real".

Anyway .. the afternoon was fun and it wasn't so beastly hot.

Friday, June 29, 2007

A CT Homeschool Icon Defends CT Families

Deborah Stevenson of NHELD

Deborah Stevenson has been fighting for parental rights as long as I can remember being a homeschool parent. She is tenacious and passionate about it. She fervently believes in the intentions of our Founders and has a true appreciation and understanding of our freedoms. She knows the history of homeschooling since the inception of CT as a colony. She was there in the 1990's when attempts were made to place huge restrictions on a family's right to homeschool. She has always been there to defend our rights as parents to educate our children in accordance with laws that have been in our statutes since the 1600's. To top it all off she was born on July 4th.

Here is yet another wonderful piece written by Jennifer Abel, from the Hartford Advocate, which talks about Deborah Stevenson and further explains the struggles of CT families and the attempts of the State Department of Education to control parents - especially with the use of threats and reporting families to DCF.

The Price of Going it Alone
Here are some snippets:
Parents who pull their children out of school to homeschool are automatically referred to DCF for investigation.Homeschooling parents throughout the state claim they're learning this the hard way, as schools — following a possibly unofficial directive from the state Board of Education — report parents to the Department of Children and Families after the parents withdrew their kids from public school.

(State) Board (of Education) spokesman Tom Murphy says that schools are simply acting according to law. Deborah Stevenson, director of the National Home Education Legal Defense and an attorney defending many homeschooling families against DCF, counters that what the board treats as laws are actually unofficial recommendations.

A Notice of Intent, as the name implies, is an official document that parents can file with the school superintendent's office when they pull a child out for homeschooling. But Stevenson says that filing these notices is not mandatory.

"In 1990, the Board of Education drew up some recommendations for homeschoolers," she says. The notice of intent was one such suggestion, she said, but the guidelines were never made into law.
Nor should they be. I think it is just fine to have guidelines and make them available for people who wish to follow them. Mandating anything just opens the door to more regulation down the road because if they (the educrats) can mandate one thing, you know they will end up wanting more regulation in the end. But overall, a letter of withdrawal to the school should suffice as a means of notification that you are withdrawing your child from school and homeschooling them. And in fact when attempts were made to codify rules and parts of the guidelines.. it failed in the legislature, because thankfully our legislature has historically seen the wisdom in protecting parental rights in CT. They also are witness to the complete successes of homeschooling, especially in light of our 3rd place spelling bee winner, Joseph Henares, a homeschooler from Avon, CT.
In Connecticut's general statutes, section 10-184 deals with parents' responsibility to make sure their kids are educated, either by sending them to public school or showing "that the child is elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction." It doesn't specify how parents are to show this, though. Nor does it say anything about a notice of intent.
The thing is this though... even parents who have filed a Notice of Intent are being targeted by schools now.. because schools have been now even as bold as to ask for medical records and even wanting to examine curriculum. So here again, they ask you for one thing and then they rachet things up and they go after another, citing that they want to "make sure the parents are not being educationally neglectful"... This is the slippery slope that we want to avoid. Hey, I wonder if they have checked out their own schools to see how educationally neglected some of their own enrolled students are! And why is it any of their business what your child's medical records have to say?

You know this is one reason they are setting up medical clinics in school. They want their own team of doctors and nurses and mental health "professionals" to treat your kids.. forget how you want to direct your child's healthcare! I mean heaven forbid you choose alternative therapies for you child which do not include drugging and batteries of ineffective and inconclusive screening tests.

But anyway... I digress...

Suffice it to say:
All of the families mentioned here (In Jennifer Abel's article) are clients of Deborah Stevenson, who says that of all the DCF cases she's handled, "None of my clients actually lost custody. Most of the [claims against the] accused were found to be unsubstantiated. Of [those] who were substantiated - all but three were withdrawn from the prosecutor before trial. The three that weren't are currently ongoing."

Stevenson's success record stands at 100 percent. When an attorney scores so high it's easy to wonder: is she really that good, or does she have that many clients who maybe should never have been investigated in the first place?
All I can say is that I wish every state had a Deborah Stevenson to protect homeschooling and parental rights.. She has been my mentor, my inspiration, my colleague and my cherished best friend. She helped me to teach my children to know their rights as citizens of this country and I am so fortunate to know her.

Funny thing.. she never started out wanting to be an attorney.. she was a homeschool mom first.. and then when her rights were threatened, she learned more about the law, and life brought her to where she is now. She claims that you don't have to be an attorney to know your rights and understand the laws that govern your life. She is spot on with that as far as I am concerned.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Quick Update On The Protest

We made some impact.. the protest was a success.. I will update you further, but here is the AP news on the wire now.. DCF Commissioner, Susan Hamilton, is now on record to make some changes,

She said she was going to implement most of the policy changes in DCF that Debi Stevenson of NHELD recommended, to prevent the abuse of parents and homeschoolers by the State Department of Education, and to better handle the way current investigations of truancy and educational neglect are done.

Of course thanks to all who stood with us to bring the issue clearly out into the open. We appreciate greatly those who took the time to spend the day and make our voices heard. Speical kudos to the kids who were so incredibly well behaved during a 3 and a half hour hearing! Even the nominations committee made a mention of that.

The nominations committee chairwoman Rep. Janowski told me that after the committee vote they instructed Commissioner Hamilton to fix the homeschool problem on the DCF end immediately and that it should be a high priority.

We also delivered our letter to the Governor respectfully requesting her direct her commissioners to change their policies to end the abuse we've experienced.

I think we had a very productive day.

Thanks to all of you who attended and supported this effort.

CT Parents And Homeschoolers Protest At The Capitol In Hartford Today - June 28

PRESS RELEASE - For immediate release


Connecticut parents from across the state are outraged that children and families continue to be harassed and coerced by schools who knowingly file false claims against parents who have withdrawn, or attempt to withdraw their children from public schools in order to homeschool them.

More than 25 families have already been threatened this year alone. Schools, with the apparent blessing by the State Department of Education (SDOE), are using the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to threaten parents, causing fear and trauma to families, as well as costly financial consequences. Schools are filing false complaints knowingly, and DCF spends time and money to investigate, ending up with unsubstantiated claims. DCF refuses to prosecute schools filing false complaints, and they refuse to change intake policies that involve obtaining some proof of a claim before investigating a family. Parents are seeking justice, and want the law to be upheld.

In the past, Deborah Stevenson, Executive Director of NHELD, has been to the Governor's Office, spoken to DCF officials, spoken to the Lt. Governor's office, the Attorney General's Office, the Commissioner of Education, Legislative leaders, and others in government ... to no avail. They all say the same thing... this is terrible.. this should not happen... we want to help you... and then they do nothing, except for some legislators who have done what they can to help. NHELD has written letters, have been to hearings, and the governmental abuse of authority continues. NHELD has even been to the police to have school officials arrested for making false complaints, but the police refuse to arrest school officials.

Two weeks ago, on 06/11/07, NHELD met with the Governor’s office and DCF commissioner-appointee, Susan Hamilton, to discuss the harassment and abuse of parents across CT. NHELD submitted a list of recommended policy changes to DCF, The Governor and the State Department of Education, which NHELD felt would put an end to the problems that have produced school referrals of over 25 families which were, or currently are being, investigated by DCF. One of those proposed changes was to eliminate the terms “must” and references to “truancy” in the C-14 guidelines (the suggested procedures for home instruction) that have been the cause of unjust referrals to DCF. Other changes were suggested for the DCF policy manual with regard to their intake of referrals regarding truancy and educational neglect. The DCF commissioner-appointee as well as the Governor’s office promised to get back to NHELD leaders by June 25th. They have not honored their promise and they have been silent. NHELD had hoped that some meaningful changes would be instituted to prevent further false claims to be filed by schools against homeschoolers, or accepted by DCF. The silence of DCF and the Governor’s office represents to NHELD, and CT parents, further stonewalling and unwillingness to fix this problem.

Among other things, parents want to know why the Governor has taken absolutely no action to end this abuse by her agencies since she was first informed about the problem in 2004. Other then calling a meeting on 6/11/07, she has been silent on the issue. She has not even written anything directing her agencies to fix the problem. We are asking her to take that action now.

Parents also want to know why the state Education Department legal staff continues to tell public school districts that “only the public school districts have the authority to determine when a child is no longer enrolled in a public school.” Parents have always been able to withdraw their children unconditionally from public school, but now the SDOE is saying something quite different. This is an assault on parental rights.

Parents are demanding that the State Department of Education tell their school districts to stop filing false complaints to DCF and to stop using DCF as a means to coerce and threaten parents who have decided to withdraw their children to homeschool them. Parents want school administrators who knowingly make those false complaints, to DCF, to be prosecuted as is prescribed by law.

Parents want to know why the Governor has taken no action to direct the state Education Department to have the language in the “Suggested Procedure for Home Instruction”, otherwise known as the C-14 Guidelines, accurately reflect existing state law. (Even though they are only a suggested procedure, the Guidelines state that parents “must” file a Notice of Intent and attend a portfolio review, even though no state statute requires any such thing,) or the children “may be considered truant”, (even though truancy does not apply to children who are no longer enrolled in a public or private school). All we are asking is for the Governor to direct her Education Commissioner to make the C-14 Guidelines accurately reflect existing law, since the SDOE has refused to that on their own.

NHELD hopes that this protest will send a strong message that we no longer will tolerate parents being falsely reported to DCF for whatever fabricated charges school administrators wish to make. NHELD is only asking that our current CT laws be upheld by the Governor and her state agencies.

NHELD has spoken to these agencies several times over the past years, to no avail. Parents will not wait any longer for state agencies to change their policies that currently condone and allow parents to be threatened and coerced by school administrators who knowingly file false complaints to DCF for truancy and educational neglect and who ignore parental written notification of withdrawal from public school.

The message from this protest is very simple and very clear. Parents want the current laws to be upheld, and they want state agency policies to reflect what the law says. They want an action plan by these agencies to fix this problem NOW.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

CT - Governor Rell Finally Vetoes In-State Tuition Breaks For Illegal Aliens

Lawmakers brought a bill forth, HB5656, to reward illegal aliens with in-state tuition breaks in post-secondary schools in CT. Governor Rell vetoed it yesterday afternoon.

She said this:
“The Students and Their Parents Are Here Illegally and Neither Sympathy nor Good Intentions Can Ameliorate that Fact”
In her press release it said further:
The Governor noted in her veto message that she also does not want “to encourage individuals to circumvent federal immigration laws. The bill, by providing benefits to undocumented aliens, may serve to encourage others to come to Connecticut in violation of federal immigration law. National security in the post-9/11 world has become increasingly important and we cannot dismiss the effects of state action that may undermine federal security measures.”
As a citizen of CT and the United States, I am happy to see that our Governor made the right choice in this matter and my comments about why it should have been vetoed can be found in my previous blogpost about this bill.

Bravo Governor Rell!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Ethanol In Your Tank - It's Not The Answer

Putting Ethanol into gasoline to stretch gasoline usage might be Congress's simplistic short term fix on the road to energy independence, but doesn't anyone remember this study from Cornell University?

Cornell researchers said: Turning plants such as corn, soybeans and sunflowers into fuel uses much more energy than the resulting ethanol or biodiesel generates and that "Ethanol production in the United States does not benefit the nation's energy security, its agriculture, economy or the environment," says David Pimentel, professor of ecology and agriculture at Cornell. "Ethanol production requires large fossil energy input, and therefore, it is contributing to oil and natural gas imports and U.S. deficits." He says the country should instead focus its efforts on producing electrical energy from photovoltaic cells, wind power and burning biomass and producing fuel from hydrogen conversion..
In terms of energy output compared with energy input for ethanol production, the study found that:

* corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced;
* switch grass requires 45 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced; and
* wood biomass requires 57 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.

In terms of energy output compared with the energy input for biodiesel production, the study found that:

* soybean plants requires 27 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced, and
* sunflower plants requires 118 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.
According to some mechanics, ethanol eats up the plastic-like lining of the fuel tank and injectors. So it may not be too great for the inside workings of your car either.

Maybe if our legislators at least took some time to read some of these research papers, they would not be so hasty in passing legislation like requiring more ethanol to be put in gas tanks. It might work as a transitional technology to stretch gas mileage - but it's not the wave of the future - and it is not a panacea. It kind of reminds me of mom putting more bread crumbs in the meatloaf to feed a few extra mouths. The extra fillers are not always a good thing when you have a steady diet of it. Maybe it's time to look for another main course.

Quite frankly I am quite annoyed at the Republicans in Congress who refused to allow a vote on a measure that would have required electric utilities to produce at least 15 percent of their power from wind, biomass or other renewable energy sources. Although I don't like the government meddling and requiring businesses to do anything, we need to start making some changes... and soon. We have a lot of technology at hand, and we should start taking advantage of it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

COTG Receives Thinking Blogger Award For The Fourth Time!

Blogdial, a wonderful British blogger, received the Thinking Blogger Award and has passed it on to Consent of the Governed (as well as four others) and had this to say:
Consent of the Governed is a blog written by someone who embodies the true spirit of that once great country The United States of America. Writing common sense in fine English, with self restraint, backed by the facts, this blog really is a joy to read, because it gives us hope that in the USA, there are still people who cherish that country’s true values.
I'd like to thank the folks over at Blogdial for their kind words and their nomination..This makes the fourth time Consent of the Governed has been passed this award. I will have to pass on choosing my 5 nominees to pass this along to because I already have done so once before.

The comments that Blogdial posted seems to affirm that I am doing what I originally set out to do. The principles and values by which this country was established really do mean much to me. I am glad that I can convey that through my postings. What is really wonderful is that I have found so many other blogsites that offer so much great inspiration and information as well. Blogdial is one of those sites.

Past Nominations:
April 05, 2007 from The Thinking Mother
April 08, 2007 from the Tutor at Apollos Academy
April 24, 2007 from The Capitalist League (who has been on hiatus)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Oh Yeah - Well Mom Always Liked Me Best

Hah! - As if we don't have enough other reasons for sibling rivalry... now researchers find that the first born has a higher IQ ! I'm the youngest in my family and I got better grades in school then my older brothers (yeah I did), so I'm not sure that this research is entirely credible.. but maybe it is "on average".

The other thing I know is that each kid really does have his own talents. While my oldest may be extremely well read and "book/academic/logic smart", my middle son is "mechanical smart" and can take apart any mechanical item or computer and re-assemble it. He's our resident "geek", although he doesn't sport the stereotypical "black rimmed glasses and slide rule in the pocket while wearing black slacks and white socks". In fact he is much like my brother who was also a "middle child". His brains are "in his hands". My youngest is quite "people smart". She is very good at reasoning and can really size up a situation and can read people very well. She is the social one who has incredible plans and is quite the entrepreneur. All of my kids have wonderful gifts and each carry a good dose of "smarts" in their own ways and in different areas.

I think there are different measures of IQ actually. An IQ measurement in and of iteself doesn't mean a whole lot to me. I think that overall what you do with the smarts that you have is more important. But the story about this research makes good reading:
Research Finds Firstborns Gain the Higher I.Q.

The eldest children in families tend to develop higher I.Q.’s than their siblings, researchers are reporting today, in a large study that could settle more than a half-century of scientific debate about the relationship between I.Q. and birth order.

The average difference in I.Q. was slight — three points higher in the eldest child than in the closest sibling — but significant, the researchers said. And they said the results made it clear that it was due to family dynamics, not to biological factors like prenatal environment.

Researchers have long had evidence that firstborns tended to be more dutiful and cautious than their siblings, and some previous studies found significant I.Q. differences. But critics said those reports were not conclusive, because they did not take into account the vast differences in upbringing among families.

Three points on an I.Q. test may not sound like much. But experts say it can be a tipping point for some people — the difference between a high B average and a low A, for instance. That, in turn, can have a cumulative effect that could mean the difference between admission to an elite private liberal-arts college and a less exclusive public one.

Moreover, researchers said yesterday that the results — being published today in separate papers in two journals, Science and Intelligence — would lead to more intensive study into the family dynamics behind such differences. Though the study was done in men, the scientists said the results would almost certainly apply to women as well.

“I consider these two papers the most important publications to come out in this field in 70 years; it’s a dream come true,” said Frank J. Sulloway, a psychologist at the Institute of Personality and Social Research at the University of California, Berkeley.

Dr. Sulloway, who was not involved in the study but wrote an editorial accompanying it, added that “there was some room for doubt about this effect before, but that room has now been eliminated.”

Effects of birth order are notoriously difficult to study, and some critics are still dubious. Joseph Lee Rodgers, a psychologist at the University of Oklahoma and a longtime skeptic of such effects, said the new analysis was not conclusive.

“Past research included hundreds of reported birth order effects” that were not legitimate, Dr. Rodgers wrote in an e-mail message. “I’m not sure whether the patterns in the Science article are real or not; more description of methodology is required.”

In the study, Norwegian epidemiologists analyzed data on birth order, health status and I.Q. scores of 241,310 18- and 19-year-old men born from 1967 to 1976, using military records. After correcting for factors that may affect scores, including parents’ education level, maternal age at birth and family size, the researchers found that eldest children scored an average of 103.2, about 3 percent higher than second children (100.3) and 4 percent higher than thirdborns (99.0).

The difference was an average, meaning that it varied by family and showed up in most families but not all.

The scientists then looked at I.Q. scores in 63,951 pairs of brothers, and found the same results. Differences in household environments did not explain elder siblings’ higher scores.

Because sex has little effect on I.Q. scores, the results almost certainly apply to females as well, said Dr. Petter Kristensen, an epidemiologist at the University of Oslo and the lead author of the Science study. His co-author was Dr. Tor Bjerkedal, an epidemiologist at the Norwegian Armed Forces Medical Services.

To test whether the difference could be due to biological factors, the researchers examined the scores of young men who became the eldest in the household after an older sibling had died. Their scores came out the same, on average, as those of biological firstborns.

“This is quite firm evidence that the biological explanation is not true,” Dr. Kristensen said in a telephone interview.

Social scientists have proposed several theories to explain how birth order might affect intelligence scores. Firstborns have their parents’ undivided attention as infants, and even if that attention is later divided evenly with a sibling or more, it means that over time they will have more cumulative adult attention, in theory enriching their vocabulary and reasoning abilities.

But this argument does not explain a consistent finding in children under 12: among these youngsters, later-born siblings actually tend to outscore the eldest on I.Q. tests. Researchers theorize that this precociousness may reflect how new children alter the family’s overall intellectual resource pool.

Adding a young child may, in a sense, diminish the family’s overall intellectual environment, as far as an older sibling is concerned; yet the younger sibling benefits from the maturity of both the parents and the older brother or sister. This dynamic may quickly cancel and reverse the head start the older child received from his parents.

Still, the question remains: How do the elders sneak back to the head of the class?

One possibility, proposed by the psychologist Robert Zajonc, is that older siblings consolidate and organize their knowledge in their natural roles as tutors to junior. These lessons, in short, benefit the teacher more than the student.

Another potential explanation concerns how siblings find a niche in the family. Some studies find that both the older and younger siblings tend to describe the firstborn as more disciplined, responsible, high-achieving. Studies suggest — and parents know from experience — that to distinguish themselves, younger siblings often develop other skills, like social charm, a good curveball, mastery of the electric bass, acting skills.

“Like Darwin’s finches, they are eking out alternative ways of deriving the maximum benefit out of the environment, and not directly competing for the same resources as the eldest,” Dr. Sulloway said. “They are developing diverse interests and expertise that the I.Q. tests do not measure.”

This kind of experimentation might explain evidence that younger siblings often live more adventurous lives than their older brother or sister. They are more likely to participate in dangerous sports than eldest children, and more likely to travel to exotic places, studies find. They tend to be less conventional than firstborns, and some of the most provocative and influential figures in science spent their childhoods in the shadow of an older brother or sister (or two or three or four).

Charles Darwin, author of the revolutionary “Origin of Species,” was the fifth of six children. Nicolaus Copernicus, the Polish-born astronomer who determined that the sun, not the earth, was the center of the planetary system, grew up the youngest of four. The mathematician and philosopher RenĂ© Descartes, the youngest of three, was a key figure in the scientific revolution that began in the 16th century.

Firstborns have won more Nobel Prizes in science than younger siblings, but often by advancing current understanding, rather than overturning it.

“It’s the difference between every-year or every-decade creativity and every-century creativity,” Dr. Sulloway said, “between innovation and radical innovation.”

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mother's Day Garden Update



Hey, remember when I posted about the garden my family planted for me on Mother's Day?
Well. here are the then and now pictures.
I now have growing bush beans, leeks, collard greens, tomatoes (cherry, big boy and heirloom varieties) also planted but not seen yet are sprouts of beets and eggplant.
I also have a pot of parsley and a pot of basil. (not shown)

Lots of great stuff.. plus we already had a big bowl of cherries from the cherry tree this year. Apparently there weren't any shortage of bees around these parts to pollinate!

Yeah.. I know.. I have to go out and weed it now.. so enjoy the day.. I'll be out weeding my garden. I'll probably harvest some of those collard greens for dinner. They are so healthy for you!

I always love growing my own Victory Garden. For me, the victory is growing healthy, organic, and pesticide free food for our table. Fresh produce is the best!

Friday, June 22, 2007

An Environmental Scam - Carbon Offsets

Suffice it to say there has already been a proliferation of information in cyberspace from articles and bloggers who comment on those articles, which demonstrate the scam of buying and selling "carbon offsets". There have also been investigations by financial publications on the issue. Even publications such as The Economist have weighed in on the subject.

But as I live and breathe, and produce CO2.. I just have to add my own two cents. (even though I briefly blogged about global warming junk science before)

I have spoken to meteorologists and scientists about the notion of "Global Warming" and the theory that it is caused by industrialized nations producing too much CO2. They all say it's a bunch of "hooey". (Well actually they have more scientific terms than that). Basically the climate is changing.. but it is more likely due to solar cycles than whether we are driving an old Chevy, or use incandescent light bulbs, or tote designer re-usable grocery bags when we go shopping. I have seen some of those carbon footprint calculators.. Seems those folks want me to swap living the way I do, for living in a mud hut with no running water... or pay someone some money ... thanks but no thanks. (what a racket!)

What this global warming hysteria seems to really boil down to is an attack on industrialization and especially the stifling of developing industrialized nations. Carbon offset credits will be the initial phase-in of such things as global taxation and energy rationing. It will be a means to further control people and their behaviors, especially as it relates to their energy usage. Talk about taxation and regulation without representation!

Now, don't get me wrong here.. I am as ecologically concerned as the next person. I recycle when I can, and try to conserve resources, and I prefer organically grown or produced food, and I have even installed energy efficient appliances and windows in my house. What gets me is this carbon offset nonsense, because my goodness, it really is such a crock.

The whole premise behind buying carbon offsets is to determine how much CO2 we are producing - as a family or individual - and to pump some money into some activity which would negate that CO2 production, and apparently some people have been duped into thinking that they can buy carbon offsets to pay for their energy excesses. To me, it's turned into nothing more than a "guilt payment".

The Financial Times
concluded the following:
■ Widespread instances of people and organisations buying worthless credits that do not yield any reductions in carbon emissions.

■ Industrial companies profiting from doing very little – or from gaining carbon credits on the basis of efficiency gains from which they have already benefited substantially.

■ Brokers providing services of questionable or no value.

■ A shortage of verification, making it difficult for buyers to assess the true value of carbon credits.

■ Companies and individuals being charged over the odds for the private purchase of European Union carbon permits that have plummeted in value because they do not result in emissions cuts.
Even if global warming was caused by CO2 emmissions, we cannot just buy our way out of the problem and the truth is that buying carbon offsets do absolutely nothing.
The idea that we might cancel our own greenhouse gases by paying for projects that reduce the gases elsewhere was born in the early years of climate politics. It was adopted by the corporate lobby at the Kyoto summit in 1997 and has grown into a large but deeply troubled adolescent - confused, unpredictable, and difficult to trust....A Guardian investigation suggests that many of the schemes on offer here are well-meaning but thoroughly unreliable.

The problem with offsetting is twofold. First, these schemes are unregulated and wide open to fraud. There is nothing but the customer's canniness to stop a company claiming to be running a scheme which does not exist; claiming wildly exaggerated carbon cuts; selling offsets that have already been sold; charging hugely inflated prices. Second, as all the examples above show, even the most well-intentioned schemes suffer from basic weaknesses in the idea of carbon offsetting - an idea which flows not from environmentalists and climate scientists trying to design a way to reverse global warming but from politicians and business executives trying to meet the demands for action while preserving the commercial status quo.

This fails on three points:

1. First, it requires an accurate measure of the emissions to be offset. That turns out to be riddled with uncertainty.

2. Second, it requires an accurate measure of the carbon saved elsewhere. Most of the earliest offset projects involved planting trees, which naturally ingest carbon, a complex and unpredictable process which forbids accurate measurement.

3. Finally, the very idea of offsetting relies on what is known as additionality - evidence that a carbon reduction would not have occurred in the natural order of commercial life.
Yes, Virginia, most carbon offset payment plans are just a means of transferring money from your pocket to someone else's. And if you really want a good laugh you can buy some Carbon DEBITS! yes.. that's right you can offset your environmentalist neighbors' carbon credits! Ah.. seems there is always someone around to figure out a way to make a buck.. capitalism at its best.

Note: If you ever get the opportunity - you ought to watch the BBC produced documentary " The Great Global Warming Swindle" (also available here with French subtitles)
Global Warming Hoax Blog site

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Bribing The Poor - In NYC Bloomberg Will Pay You For Good Behavior

In New York , poor residents will be rewarded for good behavior.

Imagine getting paid $300 if your child does well on school tests, or getting $150 for holding a job or $200 for visiting the doctor. Estimates are that the poor can rack up about $6,000 a year just for "doing all the right things".

It's all part of an experimental anti-poverty program that was unveiled by NY City officials. They say these types of rewards to change the behaviors of the poor, have been used successfully in other countries, including Brazil and Mexico. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg even traveled to Mexico to study these healthy lifestyle payments, also known as "conditional cash transfers".

In New York, this two-year pilot program encompassing about 14,000 participants, will use private funds that Bloomberg raised. Apparently he did not want to spend government money on something that is highly experimental.
(Whew .. that's a relief!)
More than $43 million has been raised toward the $53 million goal.
Just think, if the plan works .. they will undoubtedly expand it and actually use real tax money to fund it!

The theory behind these cash rewards is that poor people are trapped in a cycle of repeated setbacks that keep them from climbing out of poverty. So a person who doesn't keep up with his vaccinations and doctor's visits, for example, may get sick more often and struggle to stay employed. You know, like regular people... (eye roll)

Some examples of the bribes... uh... "conditional cash transfers" are:
$25 for attending parent-teacher conferences
$25 per month for a child who maintains a 95 percent school attendance record
$400 for graduating high school
$100 for each family member who sees the dentist every six months
$150 a month for adults who work full time.

Of course the government wants to make sure you handle that money properly so they are also providing that the money is deposited directly into their bank accounts. If they don't have accounts, they can get cards that are like debit cards but cannot be overdrawn.

Additionally, the city is asking the federal government to excuse the bribes... uh I mean ...payments from being taxed.

Thank goodness they are providing a "control group' with this grand experiment...
To measure the effectiveness of these "rewards", control groups of similar size will not be paid but will be studied based on their responses to surveys. The control participants will receive small incentives, such as weekly MetroCards for paying bus and subway fares, for their time and trouble.

Seems to me this is sort of discriminatory.. I'd like to get paid for going to the dentist too. I could use an extra $6,000 (tax free!) a year for doing all the things I normally do anyway, and I can easily stop doing them so that the government can bribe me into doing them.

Isn't it a shame that in our society people have to be bribed into responsible behavior? What does that say about us? What does that say about what we allow the government to do to us?

Bribery and coercion... yup... that seems like a typical government program.

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money. - Alexis de Tocqueville

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Solution To Childhood Obesity - Keep 'Em In School More Hours

Now if this isn't the dumbest thing I have read this week - I don't know what is..

Just this statement alone makes me cringe
"Ultimately, though, getting children more active in school will require not just a law, but a longer school day."
The gist of this is that the schools want more money for more programs to keep kids in the brick building for a longer school day (instead of just giving them recess time back) that is supposed to help them be more healthy, because goodness knows parents just cannot care for their own kids properly! Those darn parents are enablers who feed their kids crap and shove an X-Box or a Wii in front of their kids when the kids are not in school. So we need government to stop all that from happening and to of course raise taxes to fund these initiatives .. and we all know the really healthy food and environment that schools serve up these days (wink wink, nod nod).

So tell me, if kids are being cared for so well by our government schools, why do these kids need parents at all? One anonymous commenter on a website featuring a similar article even said this:
Will the government also come and do my laundry for me? I am currently single and unmarried and there is a pile growing in the corner of my room. Also, my bathroom is dirty and sometimes I come to work in clothes that are un-ironed.

I hope once the nanny state is done solving this childhood obesity problem, they will send someone over to my house, because it's getting pretty bad in here.
I am still chuckling over that one.

Yes, our kids need more exercise..but seriously - With all the talk lately of the fanaticism of ridding the schools of junk food I ran across this blogpost which I just had to share: It offers wisdom like:
"Not only are these dietary lessons (in school) inappropriate for growing children and more akin to medical prescriptions for adult heart disease patients and the obsessive behaviors found among weight loss dieters, they have nothing to do with childhood obesity, health or sound nutrition. They dichotomize foods into good and bad, and promote ungrounded fears about perfectly safe and wholesome foods, concerns about their body sizes, and worries about diseases and death that should be the last thing children need worry about.

Because isn't it a great idea to take a bunch of impressionable 6th-graders and brainwash them into thinking that the only healthy food out there is a carrot stick or salad"
I couldn't agree more.

On another note: I have yet to see our legislators ban junk foods from their own State Capitol Building, or require themselves to have exercise time, and oh my! heaven forbid they stay in the legislative chambers for a longer day!

(H/T Eric H.)

Monday, June 18, 2007

End Compulsory Education - And What Exactly Is Educational Neglect Anyway?

Before your read Mr. Maymin's article below, you must know that there is a vast difference between Compulsory Education and Compulsory Attendance.

In CT, both can be found in CGS 10-184
Here is CT's compulsory education law and it is the first line of CGS 10-184:
All parents and those who have the care of children shall bring them up in some lawful and honest employment and instruct them or cause them to be instructed in reading, writing, spelling, English grammar, geography, arithmetic and United States history and in citizenship, including a study of the town, state and federal governments.
So parents have the duty and obligation to teach their children or cause them to be instructed (i.e. have someone else teach them or send them to school). In CT homeschoolers do not "opt out of the system" - rather, parents who send their children to school are "opting out of their obligation". It's been that way ever since the inception of this colony. It was like that pretty much for all the original colonies.

So if you choose not to undertake your obligation to educate your children then you must cause them to be instructed, and the next sentence of 10-184 spells out the rules of government school compulsory attendance:

Here is CT' compulsory attendance law:
Subject to the provisions of this section and section 10-15c, each parent or other person having control of a child five years of age and over and under eighteen years of age shall cause such child to attend a public school regularly during the hours and terms the public school in the district in which such child resides is in session, unless such child is a high school graduate or the parent or person having control of such child is able to show that the child is elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction in the studies taught in the public schools.
Important to note is that the phrase "elsewhere receiving equivalent instruction" is what allows private schools to exist in CT! as no where else in the statutes mention the reason why or how private schools can exist in CT.

So the statute says parents are responsible to educate their kids, and if they choose not to undertake their obligation they can send them to public schools during certain ages and hours, or send them to private school.

(As a Side Note: I posted an article about "equivalent instruction" and how no such thing can ever really exist unless we all use the same curriculum for every single person.. equivalent instruction does not even currently exist in government schools! Also an excellent discussion about the history of compulsory education and compulsory attendance can be found in John Taylor Gatto's book..The Underground History of American Education - which is free to read online and should be required reading for every parent).

That all being said this article by Phil Maymin really caught my eye..

This article appeared in the Fairfield Weekly and was written by Phil Maymin - you have to read this guy's biography - he is a Harvard grad and incredibly accomplished. But first read what he has to say about compulsory education!
Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) can seek custody of your children for “educational neglect,” a charge typically levied against homeschooling parents. But can educational neglect even be defined in a way that applies only to homeschooled students, excluding both publicly and privately schooled children?

Suppose a child hasn’t been adequately taught how to read and write. Is that educational neglect? Sixteen percent of all adults in Connecticut—more than half a million people—are functional illiterates, according to a 2001 municipal report for the town of Hartford. Meanwhile, Joseph Henares, a homeschooled 14-year-old from Avon, just tied for third place in the national spelling bee. How many public school students can spell punaise, furfuraceous, or triticale? How many private school students?

Suppose a child hasn’t been taught astronomy or chemistry or biology or creative writing. Any of those assumptions apply equally well to a large fraction of public and private school students. Should they be taken away from their parents for educational neglect as well?

Clearly the definition of educational neglect cannot include the failure to learn or be adequately taught any subject matter that is also taught in public or private schools, because there would be plenty of failing school-attending students who would be subject to such a definition, too. And definitions that touch on religious subjects, such as creationism vs. evolution, are properly prohibited by the separation of church and state.

Could an explicit exception be made for publicly or privately schooled children? Define educational neglect as, for example, illiteracy, but make parents who send their children to public or approved private schools exempt from the charge because it is the fault of the teachers, not the parents.

Such an exception would be patently absurd. It’s like exempting the people who hire mercenaries from murder, or the board of directors from fraud committed by their chosen CEO, on the theory that if you hire someone, you’re no longer responsible.

Parents, not the government, are responsible for their children.
If they choose to outsource certain aspects in order to benefit from the free market, whether it’s traditional education, karate, or music classes, the responsibility is still theirs. Finally, if an exemption for public and approved private schools is built into the very definition of educational neglect, then homeschooling becomes essentially illegal. And Connecticut has no right to pass such a law. Even the threat of persecution by the DCF sends a chill down the spine of anyone who sees parents hiding their homeschooled children during daylight hours so truancy officers or DCF agents don’t demand entry into their home.

Indeed, the whole concept of mandatory schooling is, if you take a broad perspective, quite shocking. The Connecticut Constitution ensures “free public elementary and secondary schools in the state,” but nowhere does it state that education is compulsory. That law is Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-184. And what should be done with truants? Conn. Gen. Stat. 10-200 elucidates: “The police... shall arrest all such children.” Are these laws even constitutional?

Mandatory education is even worse than a sentence of forced community service. It’s more like school arrest. All children between the ages of 5 and 18 must spend six hours every weekday, nine months out of the year, in a brick building with other inmates, where they must sit when told to sit, eat when allowed, and walk in slow circles catching only brief glimpses of the sun and the earth during periods called recess. They are allowed home for dinner and bed but they must do additional work even at home or face disciplinary action. The few who escape are caught by truancy officers and forced back in. Repeat offenders go to juvenile detention. The forced attendance has the same effects in schools as in jails: boredom, recidivism, sex, and drugs. Probably the only places in America that have more illegal drugs than prisons are schools.

What have all these children done to be punished this way? Their only common factor is age. Since when do we punish people for being a particular age? Even a sentence of forced community service requires a trial. When was the trial held that hammered down more than a decade of school arrest on each of these innocents? Both the American and the Connecticut constitutions guarantee that “no person shall be... deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Where was the due process that this September will put another estimated 50,000 Connecticut 5-year-old kids under school arrest for the next 13 years of their lives?

Saying it’s for their own good only adds insult to injury. Their parents should decide what is good for their own children. If the parents choose to send them to school, that’s their decision.

The DCF claims that they never seek custody unless a child is in “imminent danger.” If a child is being starved or beaten to death, they should be protected from the assailant, as should any such victim. Nutritional neglect, for example, could pose an imminent danger.

But educational neglect? Imminent danger? The next doctor who shouts, “Quick! Get this kid some Chaucer! And a line of algebra problems, stat!” will be the first.

I can’t think of any possible definition of educational neglect that excludes publicly and privately schooled students, or one that could pose any imminent danger to anybody, let alone the student. Can you?

Then why do we let our government take our children away from us, the very children we have freed from their jail-like schools?

It’s time to get government out of the forced education business. It’s time to separate school and state.

The author was a Congressional candidate in the 5th district (against Chris Shays) in the 2006 election. You can find out more about him here.

Important Note: Homeschoolers in CT cannot be considered truant... CGS 10-200 states " For purposes of this section, "habitual truant" means a child age five to eighteen, inclusive, who is enrolled in a public or private school and has twenty unexcused absences within a school year." and CGS 10-198a which says pretty much the same in sections a and e.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Happy Father's Day!

For all of those fathers out there ..
Have a wonderful day.. you deserve it!

Wikipedia has this to say about the first father's Day observance:
In the United States, the first modern Father's Day celebration was held on July 5, 1908, in Fairmont, West Virginia. [1][2] It was first celebrated as a church service at Williams Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South, now known as Central United Methodist Church. Grace Golden Clayton, who is believed to have suggested the service to the pastor, is believed to have been inspired to celebrate fathers after the deadly mine explosion in nearby Monongah the prior December. This explosion killed 361 men, many of them fathers and recent immigrants to the United States from Italy. Another possible inspiration for the service was Mother's Day, which had recently been celebrated for the first time in Grafton, West Virginia, a town about 15 miles away.
And here is this from a Father's Day website
The history of Father's Day goes like, in 1909 , Spokane, Washington, Sonora Smart Dodd was listening to a Mother's Day sermon. The lecture inspired her to have a special day dedicated to her father, William Jackson Smart, who had brought her up and her siblings single-handedly after their mother died. She could realize the greatness of her father and wanted to let him know how deeply she was touched by his sacrifices, courage, selflessness and love. She held the first Father's Day celebration on 19th of June 1910, on the birthday of her father. The idea soon caught on and in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge supported the idea of a national Father's Day on the petition sent to him by Dodd on the acceptance of fatherhood. In 1926, a National Father's Day Committee was formed in New York City.

However, it was thirty years later that a Joint Resolution of Congress gave recognition to Father's Day. Another 16 years passed before President Richard Nixon established the third Sunday of June as a permanent national observance day of Father's Day in 1972 in the honor of all good fathers that contribute as much to the family as a mother, in their own ways. Even before Dodd came into the picture, Dr. Robert Webb of West Virginia is believed to have conducted the first Father's Day service in 1908 at the Central Church of Fairmont. However, it was the colossal efforts of Dodd, the devoted daughter of the Civil War veteran who refused to remarry for the sake of his six children and took upon himself all the duties, love and care of a mother, that eventually led it to a national observance.
Whatever the origin, today is a day to celebrate fathers, and they truly deserve some recognition.. Enjoy the day!

NOTE: The picture above is a David Chu Silk Tie - Ties are somewhat symbolic of Father's Day in my house.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

A Victory For A CT Homeschooler And Uncertainty For Another

Chris Canfield - one of the moms who spoke in the Homeschoolers Press Conference about Department of Education and DCF abuses shared this information with us:
"The state withdrew it's case, with prejudice, against us on Tuesday. They (DCF) can never come after us again with the same accusations."
That is VERY good news!

Now if we can only get them to back off of Isabelle Hall-Gustafsen and her family. Like this poor woman doesn't have enough to deal with while her husband is serving our country in Iraq! Nice that we have a state agency harassing her, and threatening removal of her child, while her husband is deployed. DCF "substantiated" her case. Now she is waiting to see what happens next, and she still does not know the charges against her or what evidence the State has in their file. The State's actions are utterly shameful.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Trapped Kids ?? CT Schools Can't Stop The Bullying - And They Probably Won't Let These Parents Leave To Homeschool Either

In this story by the Hartford Courant we see how kids are bullied in school and how unresponsive or ineffective the schools have been to help protect kids.

Here is an excerpt:
In the last two years, Melanie Mantilla says, bullies at Hartford's Kennelly School have choked her son with a slinky, slammed a bathroom stall door on his head and thrown a rock at his head, cutting him.
Mantilla, whose son is in fourth grade, and other parents say they've had enough. About 20 Kennelly parents plan to give the school board a list of demands that includes an end to what they said is pervasive violence.

But what if nothing happens? What if these parents do not see results.. what if they decide that homeschooling might be in the best interest of their child?

In the article is says: The group said some parents will not return their children to the school in the fall unless problems are corrected.

Well I have news for those parents.. if you choose to homeschool your child.. be on the lookout for the school to report you to DCF for educational neglect, especially Mantilla, whose younger son entered first grade this year reading below the kindergarten level. She was told that, despite being diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder and borderline obsessive-compulsive disorder by a pediatrician, "he's not severe enough" to get special attention at school.

She's a prime target for the school administrators and DCF if she decides to pull her child out of school to homeschool.. It's like it's deja vu all over again...

Isn't it incredibly ironic that schools say they want to stop the bullying and yet they practice it themselves by bullying parents by calling DCF to force parents into handing over medical records, or signing papers they don't want to sign, or otherwise coercing and harassing them to do other things?

Amazing .... eh?

UPDATE: Read the related post at Corn and Oil .. it features an incredible piece of correspondence from a CT legislator to a constituent that should not be missed.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Hartford Advocate DCF Story: Constitutional Protections Don't Apply To Department Of Children And Families Investigations

I apologize if you are tired of hearing about this .. but the truth is that these giant government agencies trample all over citizen's rights. This is something we must all fight because it is not how things should be. This kind of tyranny exists and needs to be exposed, and more importantly it needs to be stopped.

Jennifer Abel at the Hartford Advocate has done a great job in this investigative report about how Constitutional Protections Don't Apply To Department Of Children And Families Investigations.

I just have to reprint the article in its entirety as it is worth a read.
When accused of a crime you’re guaranteed certain constitutional rights, like the right to face and confront your accusers, have a jury trial, know the charges are against you and see what evidence the state has to support them. But none of these apply if you’re investigated by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

“The [DCF] is not a law enforcement agency and does not charge citizens with crimes,” department spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said in an e-mail. “Therefore, the agency has no involvement in the enforcement of constitutional rights that relate solely to criminal activity (jury trial, confront accuser).”

“It’s a gimmick,” charges Michael Agranoff, an Ellington-based attorney who specializes in defending parents in DCF cases. “Making [these cases] civil instead of criminal is a gimmick to get around the fourth, fifth and sixth amendments to the Constitution.”

While DCF does not have the authority to impose prison sentences, Agranoff says: “The ultimate penalty you can face [with DCF] is TPR, Termination of Parental Rights. … Most people I know would rather spend a year in jail than lose custody of their kids.”

David and Sherry Preusch of Trumbull faced that threat when they started homeschooling their son William (now 12) in March 2006. William has “functional abdominal pain,” a not-uncommon childhood ailment that can almost be described as overactive stomach butterflies: When the boy suffered extreme anxiety, this manifested itself as severe gastro-intestinal pains. And since much of William’s anxiety stemmed from social problems (like bullies) at school, it made sense to his parents to pull him out and educate him at home.

“We tried to work with the school, have him assigned to a class where he had a lot of friends [rather than] a class where he didn’t know anybody,” said Sherry.

“The school refused to work with us,” David added.

There’s no point in asking for the school’s side of the story; due to the confidentiality laws surrounding children, neither school nor DCF personnel are allowed to comment on specific cases. What might the school say if it could speak on its own behalf? Perhaps that its overworked employees, already facing demands from dozens of parents, had little patience for requests they might have interpreted as “give my little one special treatment lest he get a tummyache.”

But if that were the case, the school would have viewed it as a mercy when the Preusches pulled William out. That’s not what happened.

“On Wednesday, I think March 1, we had a meeting with the school,” Sherry Preusch recalled. “That Tuesday or Wednesday, my husband sent them a letter, certified mail, return receipt requested, saying we’d be homeschooling our son in accordance with the state statutes … [the school] reported us to DCF on the seventh.”

This in itself is not remarkable. “Parents who withdraw their children from public schools to start homeschooling are being reported to DCF for educational neglect,” says Deborah Stevenson, the Preusches’ attorney (and the director of National Home Education Legal Defense).

Attorney Agranoff agrees, and explains why. “This isn’t [written] DCF policy, but … DCF considers the schools the first line of defense [against child abuse].”

Kleeblatt insists the department has no bias against homeschoolers. “Homeschooling is not a form of neglect.” But DCF still must investigate if a school reports a family.

Back to the Preushes: after the school reported them to DCF, a social worker arrived at their home. “She told me we were being investigated for educational neglect,” Sherry Preusch said. “She said the school said William had 34 unexcused absences.”

Here’s where things started getting strange. The Preusches showed the Advocate the school’s attendance records for their son: there were indeed 34 absences, but all listed as excused. Why did the school report otherwise? The Preusches had no idea, but figured once they showed the attendance record to the social worker, the investigation would end.

They were wrong. The social worker wanted the Preusches to sign releases granting access to William’s medical records.

“We couldn’t figure out why they needed the medical records,” David said. “We gave authorization … our attorney said if we didn’t, they’d kick the investigation up to a higher level because it looks like we’re hiding something.”

On dragged the investigation. The Preusches didn’t know why suspicions of educational neglect led to so many questions about doctor visits, and demanded to see the file DCF had against them. “We were told we had no right to see the files,” David recalled.

“Parents always have the right to see evidence against them,” Kleeblatt counters.

On April 13, 2006, the Preusches finally received word that DCF had unsubstantiated the claims. But not until May 3 did the Preusches see their files and learn the truth: though the investigation started as one of educational neglect, DCF actually suspected Sherry Preusch had Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, a mental disorder wherein parents deliberately make their children sick in order to get attention and sympathy from medical personnel.

Why should DCF claim to be investigating one charge, while actually investigating another? “Without reading the actual report, we can’t comment on this case,” Kleeblatt said. “However, it is very common for additional claims to surface after an investigation has been opened.”

No doubt, but the Preusches knew nothing of the additional claim until they saw their file, three weeks after the case was over. Why wasn’t it given to them sooner?

“DCF receives 30 – 50 requests a week for copies of case records,” Kleeblatt wrote. “We make every effort to provide them to the client within 30 days. However, state and federal confidentiality laws are quite strict. … Information about persons other than the requestor or the requestor’s children must be redacted. This is a time-consuming process and a large case record may take weeks to properly redact.”

In other words: to ensure families don’t know who’s accusing them, sometimes the files must be withheld for several weeks. Meanwhile, Kleeblatt says DCF investigations must be completed within 45 days. He didn’t conclude, “therefore, parents with large case records aren’t likely to get their files while their cases are still active,” but that’s the only way the numbers add up.

Connie Kain of Ridgefield had a DCF experience similar to the Preusches’. When Kain adopted her two daughters from Russia, she didn’t know the girls had emotional problems stemming from their early years in hellish Russian orphanages.

“They were never played with, never picked up, never held, never made eye contact.” Kain said. Denied these vital emotional connections as babies, Kain’s daughters find it hard to make them now: “They hate adults, hate people trying to love them, and think all adults are out to get them.” Since her daughters’ school couldn’t or wouldn’t meet the girls’ special needs, Kain pulled them out for homeschooling, and the school reported the family to DCF.

As with the Preusches, Kain was originally told the investigation dealt with charges of educational neglect; only later did she discover she was being investigated for emotional neglect as well. And she never saw her file or the evidence against her until well after the case was closed.

“DCF never gave me anything in writing … [one day] I asked them if I could record the meeting … and the social worker got incredibly upset, and walked out to get her supervisor. The supervisor was hostile: ‘No, no, you don’t tape my social worker.’”

“There is no law that requires DCF to permit conversations to be recorded,” Kleeblatt said. “There is no official DCF policy … decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.”

“DCF does an important job,” Michael Agranoff says. “Children do need protection ... But DCF can do its job without resorting to extra-legal, unconstitutional tactics.”

Celebrate Flag Day - June 14th !

Two flags
Top: June 14, 1777 - 13 stars
Bottom: June 14, 1960 - 50 stars

Flag Day - the anniversary of the Flag Resolution of 1777 - was officially established by the Proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson on May 30th, 1916. While Flag Day was celebrated in various communities for years after Wilson's proclamation, it was not until August 3rd, 1949, that President Truman signed an Act of Congress designating June 14th of each year as National Flag Day.

Fly our flag proudly today.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

CT Schools And DCF - A Tale Of Truancy And Discrimination Against Homeschoolers

As you know - if you are a regular reader of Consent of the Governed - I have reported on how schools have been reporting homeschoolers to DCF for truancy and educational neglect. These are families who have either proven they had valid excused absences when they were enrolled in school prior to pulling their kids out, or have withdrawn from school and are homeschooling and cannot be deemed truant under CT law.

But anyway.....

If this isn't a case of blatant discrimination, then I don't know what is.

This article comes out the other day on how
2,000 children Could Repeat Grade In Waterbury Schools .
Apparently 2,000 students in Waterbury schools might have to repeat their current grade under the city's tougher absenteeism policy because they have students on the books with 19 or more unexcused absences! Under a new policy in place this year, notes from doctors and parents delivered at the end of the school year are not considered excuses.

So wait just a minute!!!!
How come the school is not reporting THESE families to DCF??
These kids have unexcused absences and they aren't being reported to DCF when homeschooling families are?
All the punishment these government school enrolled families get is the threat of not getting promoted a grade? While homeschool families are threatened with having their children removed from the home?

Get this! The news report says:
Some 2,025 students have missed 18 or more school days - 10 percent of the total school year. Most of those absences in the 18,200-student district were among high school students.

An average of 1,500 students missed school each day last year and officials were concerned too many absences were being waived by principals.

The new policy accepts doctor's notes only if they document a severe or chronic illness and are delivered as soon as the student returns to school.
If this doesn't constitute a discrimination lawsuit I don't know what does. You can bet NHELD will be seriously considering this one.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Governor's Office Calls A Meeting Regarding DCF Abuses Of Homeschool Families In CT

This was after last week when the governor's office said, "We don't get involved in DCF issues".

Apparently now they do.
Here is the report by NHELD and my comments follow:

Governor Rell’s office held a meeting on Monday, June 11, 2007 to discuss the issue of public school districts reporting parents to DCF for educational neglect after the parents withdrew their children from enrollment in the public schools. This is to inform you about how the meeting came about and what happened at it.

On Wednesday, June 6, 2007, NHELD participated in a press conference at the Legislative Office Building. The press conference was sponsored by Republican State Representative Arthur O’Neill of Southbury and Democrat State Representative Patricia Widlitz of Guilford. Rep. O’Neill and Rep. Widlitz co-sponsored an amendment in this past legislative session that would have codified the right that parents traditionally have had to withdraw their children from the public school system. The amendment said that when a parent sends a letter of withdrawal to the superintendent of the public school system, certified, return receipt requested, the school district must accept that letter of withdrawal and immediately consider the child withdrawn. Unfortunately, that amendment was deemed “not germaine” to the bill to which it was attached, and, therefore, the amendment failed. Rep. O’Neill and Rep. Widlitz will introduce the measure as either a bill or an amendment at the next opportunity.

Also at the press conference were three families who told their stories to the press about having been improperly reported to DCF. The families told their stories in heart rendering simplicity, detailing the abuses of the public school system in falsely labeling their children as truant and in falsely alleging the parents as educationally neglectful. The parents were representative of the reasons why the legislation is necessary. The press conference can be viewed online on the CT-N web site at mms:// or - or on this blogpost

On Friday, June 8, 2007, NHELD received a telephone call from an aide to the Governor stating that the Governor would like Attorney Deborah Stevenson and Research Director Judy Aron to attend a meeting with the aide, the Governor’s legal counsel, MaryAnn O’Neill, the newly appointed, but not yet confirmed, DCF Commissioner, Susan Hamilton, and State Representative Arthur O’Neill. The aide also invited Theresa McGrath, the person who assisted NHELD in setting up the press conference to attend. The meeting was to be held on Monday, June 11, 2007. Naturally, we attended that meeting.

Unfortunately, DCF Commissioner Hamilton was not as helpful as one would hope. As Attorney Stevenson began by presenting a packet full of background information on the history of the C-14 Guidelines, otherwise known as the “Suggested Procedure for Home Instruction”, which contains the provision for filing a Notice of Intent, Hamilton appeared to be in a hurry to rush through the information being presented, routinely interrupting. Representative O’Neill and Judy Aron also interjected with explanations to more thoroughly enlighten both Hamilton, and the Governor’s legal counsel. The legal counsel appeared to listen more attentively than Hamilton. Hamilton expressed that she already had some knowledge of the issues, although when she spoke about them, it was apparent that she was mixing law with policy and otherwise showing her lack of understanding of the issues, or her patience that day in expressing her understanding of them.

Attorney Stevenson explained to her specific instances of abuses by DCF social workers in accepting false reports from school systems, and in berating parents upon the first meeting with parents, and in bullying parents into compliance with the social worker’s or the public school system’s demands. Upon hearing of those specific instances, Hamilton professed that this type of action by social workers is not appropriate, and that she would “look into” specific cases if we wished her to do so. Hamilton also expressed that she wanted to see if there was anything DCF could do in a general way to address the issue, perhaps by means of changing their policies.

NHELD has met with DCF Deputy Commissioners in years past, specifically in 2004 and 2006, also in conjunction with other homeschool groups, and has requested that DCF change its policies to accurately reflect existing law. NHELD, once again on June 11, 2007, presented Hamilton with the changes in the DCF policies that we presented to DCF in 2006. Hamilton promised to review the proposals.

NHELD also offered to stay with Hamilton after the meeting to go over specific ongoing cases in which DCF found the parents to be substantiated for truancy or neglect. Hamilton declined to stay saying NHELD could give her copies of whatever documents from those files we felt appropriate. NHELD did provide Hamilton with some documents from one of the cases that day.

Hamilton, at one point, indicated that she may not agree with us on every issue, but that she would “look things over” and “get back to us”. When questioned about what she did not agree with at the point, she indicated that “educational neglect” is a vague term and that it is difficult to know when a parent is providing an appropriate education. She gave no further details. When asked when she would get back to us, at first she gave no time frame. When we asked both Hamilton and the Governor’s legal counsel to “get back to us” in a week, Hamilton said it would take at least two weeks. When asked if we could get an exact date from either the Governor’s legal counsel or Hamilton, the Governor’s legal counsel said they would “get back to us” in two weeks, on June 25th.

NHELD will let parents know when, and if, either the Governor’s legal counsel or the DCF Commissioner “get back to us.”

Ok, so here was MY take on this meeting (since I attended):

All Susan Hamilton could say was she wanted to read the folder NHELD presented to her, as well as the list of DCF policy changes we recommended, and "get back to us".

As far as I am concerned that doesn't do anything to immediately help the families facing hearings and other threats. It was more of the "same old same old" from the bureaucratic agencies that CT families have had to deal with.

For once I'd like to see an agency head take complete control of a crisis situation and make some executive decisions. She has full power to immediately end this harassment of homeschooling families by school systems and the Department of Education once and for all. She has the full power to tell the Department of Education that she isn't going to tolerate false complaints and prosecute those school systems that have filed false complaints (so far 23 out of the 25 referrals by school systems filing complaints against homeschooling families to DCF have been unsubstantiated - that says something!). And she has full power to drop all pending homeschool cases and expunge the records of all families falsely accused of educational neglect and other spurious charges.

She has refused to prosecute school systems filing false complaints, even when filing a false complaint on purpose is a crime in CT!

- and this is the person the Governor chose to head up DCF? Someone who doesn't want to uphold the law?

The State Department of Education should not be allowed to use DCF to coerce and harass families. Maybe next, the CT Department of Education will be asking the businessman with suspected ties to the mob, Mr. Galante, "to pay a visit" to homeschool families???

But instead all we got from Susan Hamilton was .. well let's wait and see.. we have to look at the information.. we'll get back to you in a few weeks ..

I am not buying the line "I am new to this job". Hamilton has been in this agency for quite a while now. She should be able to take immediate action, especially for these families who are facing uncertain actions by DCF which may include removing their children from their homes!

So finally after we pressed her for a date, she agreed on letting us know something by June 25th.. What it is she will "let us know" was quite vague.. will it be some decision as to what she is going to do? will it that she wants to set up a "follow-up" meeting? who knows..

And so in CT the beat goes on.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

June 10, 1752 Ben Franklin Flies A Kite

The History Channel website has this to say about the famous man and his experiment:
On this day in 1752, Benjamin Franklin flies a kite during a thunderstorm and collects a charge in a Leyden jar when the kite is struck by lightning, enabling him to demonstrate the electrical nature of lightning. Franklin became interested in electricity in the mid-1740s, a time when much was still unknown on the topic, and spent almost a decade conducting electrical experiments. He coined a number of terms used today, including battery, conductor and electrician. He also invented the lightning rod, used to protect buildings and ships.

Franklin was born on January 17, 1706, in Boston, to a candle and soap maker named Josiah Franklin, who fathered 17 children, and his wife Abiah Folger. Franklin’s formal education ended at age 10 and he went to work as an apprentice to his brother James, a printer. In 1723, following a dispute with his brother, Franklin left Boston and ended up in Philadelphia, where he found work as a printer. Following a brief stint as a printer in London, Franklin returned to Philadelphia and became a successful businessman, whose publishing ventures included the Pennsylvania Gazette and Poor Richard’s Almanack, a collection of homespun proverbs advocating hard work and honesty in order to get ahead. The almanac, which Franklin first published in 1733 under the pen name Richard Saunders, included such wisdom as: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." Whether or not Franklin followed this advice in his own life, he came to represent the classic American overachiever. In addition to his accomplishments in business and science, he is noted for his numerous civic contributions. Among other things, he developed a library, insurance company, city hospital and academy in Philadelphia that would later become the University of Pennsylvania.

Most significantly, Franklin was one of the founding fathers of the United States and had a career as a statesman that spanned four decades. He served as a legislator in Pennsylvania as well as a diplomat in England and France. He is the only politician to have signed all four documents fundamental to the creation of the U.S.: the Declaration of Independence (1776), the Treaty of Alliance with France (1778), the Treaty of Paris (1783), which established peace with Great Britain, and the U.S. Constitution (1787).

Franklin died at age 84 on April 17, 1790, in Philadelphia. He remains one of the leading figures in U.S. history.
If you want to take a virtual museum trip today you can visit the Franklin Institute Online. They say this:
When most people think of Ben Franklin, they think of electricity. He is best known for the infamous kite-and-key experiment in June of 1752.
While he did not "invent" electricity, he did make the important discovery that lightning and electricity are the same. He proved that lightning is an electrical current in nature.
Franklin developed the single-fluid theory of electricity, introducing many of the terms used to describe electricity today: battery, conductor, condenser, charge, discharge, uncharged, negative, minus, plus, electric shock and electrician.
And because he understood both the power and danger of lightning, he invented the lightning rod to protect ships, buildings, and even people against it.
Franklin became a scientist because he was insatiably curious about the world around him. He wanted to know how things worked and figure out ways to make them better.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Will Wilton CT Schools Cause More Suicides With Its TeenScreen Program?

I have blogged about TeenScreen before.

It a very questionable mental health screening tool which is being rejected by many school systems across the country.. except places like Wilton, CT, where the Executive Director of the program happens to live.

The Wilton Bulletin had a report about how the Wilton school system is using TeenScreen to screen high school students for suicidal tendencies. The report was very revealing in many ways. For one thing, they did mention that TeenScreen (Columbia University) also disguises its claim that the program is free, ignoring the administrative and follow-up interview costs. But let's examine the survey and why some people believe that suicide rates may actually go up in Wilton as a result. Perhaps they already have since 2003.

Apparently, the TeenScreen survey, being used as a pilot program since 2003, shows more than 25%, or 1 out of 4, of Wilton sophomores who voluntarily took the screening test have suicidal tendencies! That is a shocking number if you believe it. Now that either tells you about how stressed they are from the environment there, or that the screening program is flawed. I believe it to be a little of both, but mostly the latter.

One of the things TeenScreen fails to openly disclose is that the percent of false-positives for their pencil and paper screening "tool" - called the Columbia Suicide Screen (CSS) - is 84%, which means that the chances of your child walking away falsely labeled as "suicidal" or "mentally ill" is 84%! the computer screening version - has false-positives up to 94% (Lucas et al., 2001). Any screening program with that high a rate of false positives is for all intents and purposes useless.

In a study involving ten high schools, the staff reported losing confidence in the screen due to the large number of false positives (Hallfors et al., 2006). In fact, the author of the TeenScreen test, Dr. David Shaffer, acknowledges that his screening tool "would deliver many who were not at risk for suicide, and that could reduce the acceptability of a school-based prevention program."!

The Wilton newspaper report says this:
Kim Zemo, a social worker at WHS, said that The program is “not a diagnostic tool, but a screening tool,” The tool looks for “predictors ... anything that might be linked with suicide.” “It’s looking for risk of suicide, depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse,” said Colleen Fawcett, coordinator of Wilton Youth Services, in a phone interview on Monday.

Since the pilot program began, 270 sophomores have used the program. Of them, 75, or 27.8%, were determined to need follow-up treatment. According to the faculty who presented the report, 33 students, or 12.2% of these students, were in need of “immediate intervention.” Parents of students deemed in need of immediate intervention are notified within 24 hours by the school, according to the faculty.
The screening is administered in the “privacy of a computer lab.” The students hear questions through headphones and answer them on a computer. After the students answer the questions, they sit down to talk to a staff member. These staff members may recommend a follow-up interview with a mental health professional. The survey has questions like,
"Do you get nervous when you have to do things in front of people",
"Do you worry a lot before a big game or some other activity?",
"Has there been times when you just weren't interested in doing things?"
"Has there been a time when you felt you couldn't do things well or you weren't as good looking or smart as other people?"

Honestly - don't most teenagers feel those things? We all know there's lots of emotion and drama in a teenager's life. They are awkward and unsure. It is all part of "coming into their own". The stress of school doesn't help the situation either.

Aside from that, the direct questions about suicide may even give some of these kids ideas, and suicide ideation is a real possibility after taking these screening tools, especially after they link feeling sad with the question of whether you have tried to commit suicide in the past 3 months. Duke University's School of Business found that asking questions can influence behavior.

Karen Birck, school board chair, said she was concerned that “a child will be labeled because they’ve had a false positive screening.” She should be concerned, as should every parent whose child submits to this flawed screening program.

I would think this would be a tremendous problem to have such a high rate of false positives as the purpose of this screening is to funnel kids with these "identified problems" into the system of therapy and drugs. It has been well documented that with children and adolescents (aged 6-18 years), antidepressant drug treatment was significantly associated with suicide attempts and suicide deaths. Just imagine, with all of those false positives created by TeenScreen in the Wilton schools and the children who will ultimately be "funneled into the system" because of the referrals produced by those false positives, it is a matter of time before the suicide statistics in Wilton will rise because of this flawed screening process, and kids are put on medication that will actually cause them to become suicidal!

I wonder if the school officials will be held responsible and legally liable for condoning the use of this program and leading those children into unnecessary and costly treatment which can ultimately ruin their health and potentially cost them their lives? This may very well create a huge legal liability to the Wilton school district. Screening programs have already spawned many lawsuits from parents whose children were screened without their permission, as well as children who were mis-diagnosed with "mental illness".

The fact is that there is considerable discrepancy within the mental health professions as to the precise definition of "mental illness", appropriate diagnostic means to determine whether a person suffers from such "mental illness", and appropriate and effective means to treat such "mental illness".

The TeenScreen program has not been proven to prevent suicide, and there are strong indications that this program is funded by the pharmaceutical industry. It is basically being used as a marketing tool. Screening and education programs from these types of organizations have NO place in the public school system, because they are designed to create and deliver consumers to the pharmaceutical and psychiatric industry. With all of the false positives that this screening process creates, it won't be long until kids on medications become even more suicidal and some will sadly be successful.