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The Morning Grumpy – 5/22/13

22 May

All the news, views, and filtered excellence fit to consume during your morning grumpy.

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1. Proving that massive failure as a public servant is not a deterrent to future employment or success in Buffalo, former Buffalo Mayor Anthony Masiello was appointed by Governor Cuomo to serve as a board member of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority (colloquially known as the “Peace Bridge Authority”). In the war to dissolve the PBA and turn over control of the bridge to the NFTA (represented in Albany by Masiello’s lobbying firm), the nomination of Masiello to the board is a power move by Cuomo to advance construction progress on the American side of the bridge and exercise more control over the project.

I can only hope the PBA will entrust Masiello with the job of public spokesman for the authority and ask him to record a video discussing the one-two punch of economic progress and vitality that will come from construction of a new bridge plaza.

2. Last week, it was announced that Holy Angels Academy of North Buffalo is closing its doors. Declining enrollment in mid-tier private schools is not a problem unique to Buffalo, it’s happening all across the country. Why?

Private K-12 enrollments are shrinking — by almost 13 percent from 2000 to 2010. Catholic schools are closing right and left.

Meanwhile, charter school enrollments are booming across the land. The charter share of the primary-secondary population is five percent nationally and north of twenty percent in 25 major cities.

What’s really happening here are big structural changes across the industry as the traditional model of private education — at both levels — becomes unaffordable, unnecessary, or both, and as more viable options for students and families present themselves. While unemployment remains high, the marginal advantage of investing thirty or fifty thousand dollars a year in private schooling is diminishing, particularly when those dollars are invested in low-selectivity, lower-status private institutions.

Local institutions like Nichols, Buffalo Seminary, Park, and other schools for the wealthy and/or elite will continue to do well, while less selective private schools will suffer, especially those in urban areas. Charters are eating at the fringes of enrollment numbers and when coupled with continued white flight to the suburbs and fewer people interested in religious education, you have a bad environment for schools like Holy Angels Academy.

3. Apple is a terrible company.

Even as Apple became the nation’s most profitable technology company, it avoided billions in taxes in the United States and around the world through a web of subsidiaries so complex it spanned continents and went beyond anything most experts had ever seen, Congressional investigators disclosed on Monday.

Congressional investigators found that some of Apple’s subsidiaries had no employees and were largely run by top officials from the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. But by officially locating them in places like Ireland, Apple was able to, in effect, make them stateless — exempt from taxes, record-keeping laws and the need for the subsidiaries to even file tax returns anywhere in the world.

According to an analysis by Citizens for Tax Justice, Apple has paid almost no income taxes to any country on its $102 billion in offshore holdings. Between 2009 and 2012, Apple avoided paying US taxes on some $74 billion in income, an amount equal to the entire budget of Florida.

Don’t forget how well they treat their workers in China. Enjoy your iPhone.

4. Ta-Nehisi Coates takes President Obama to task for how he speaks to African-Americans. It’s something I’ve never really picked up on, but Coates lays it all bare. It’s made me take another look not just at how the President speaks, but also what informs his policies.

Taking the full measure of the Obama presidency thus far, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that this White House has one way of addressing the social ills that afflict black people—and particularly black youth—and another way of addressing everyone else. I would have a hard time imagining the president telling the women of Barnard that “there’s no longer room for any excuses”—as though they were in the business of making them. Barack Obama is, indeed, the president of “all America,” but he also is singularly the scold of “black America.”…No president has ever been better read on the intersection of racism and American history than our current one. I strongly suspect that he would point to policy. As the president of “all America,” Barack Obama inherited that policy. I would not suggest that it is in his power to singlehandedly repair history. But I would say that, in his role as American president, it is wrong for him to handwave at history, to speak as though the government he represents is somehow only partly to blame. Moreover, I would say that to tout your ties to your community when it is convenient, and downplay them when it isn’t, runs counter to any notion of individual responsibility.

These are the cracks in the Obama foundation that might subvert his second term agenda, not ginned-up right-wing nontroversies.

5. Why does the IRS regulate political groups? The Sunlight Foundation explains the hows and whys of political campaign regulation with a simple and clean infographic and story.

The controversy over the Internal Revenue Service’s handling of applications for non-profit status from Tea Party groups has put a spotlight on a subject with which we at the Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group are all too painfully familiar: The migraine-producing complexity of the nation’s campaign finance system. To shed some light on the ongoing debate, we’ve decided to share what we know.

It’s a tangled web, but to understand the IRS nontroversy (which is simply a way for Republicans to further weaken the IRS), you need to understand this first.

6. Why French children don’t have ADHD. Is the disease a construct of American medicine?

In the United States, at least 9% of school-aged children have been diagnosed with ADHD, and are taking pharmaceutical medications. In France, the percentage of kids diagnosed and medicated for ADHD is less than .5%.

French child psychiatrists view ADHD as a medical condition that has psycho-social and situational causes. Instead of treating children’s focusing and behavioral problems with drugs, French doctors prefer to look for the underlying issue that is causing the child distress—not in the child’s brain but in the child’s social context. They then choose to treat the underlying social context problem with psychotherapy or family counseling. This is a very different way of seeing things from the American tendency to attribute all symptoms to a biological dysfunction such as a chemical imbalance in the child’s brain.

I’m not dismissing how American psychiatrists have chosen to treat ADHD, I don’t yet know enough about the subject (nor do I think I will anytime soon). However, I’m interested in learning more about the issue and would appreciate any of you sending along links on the matter.

Fact Of The Day: An estimated 211 new pornographic films are made every week in the United States

Quote Of The Day: “Your past is just a story. And once you realize this, it has no power over you.” – Chuck Palahniuk

Video Of The Day: If movies were written and voiced by kids, but acted by parents, you’d have “Kid Snippets”

Song Of The Day: “Loving Cup” – The Rolling Stones

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