Monday, March 31, 2008

Notes from day one, The Lost Boys Sudan

Save Darfur!

The bloody civil war in the region of Darfur, Sudan, is of passionate interest to your generation. TV, radio and sites such as myspace and facebook invite the young to contribute energy and money to stopping the mass muder in Darfur.

The Lost Boys of Sudan were made orphans by a similar conflict in the 1980's. Darfur is a more recent problem. The Lost Boys lived in the south opf Sudan, close by the Nile. Darfur is in the Northwest.

The issue? The Arabic-African government believes that a genocidal action against the tribesmen will improve the nation.
Solution? There is no easy solution.

- genocide
- ethnocentrism
- refugees
- acculturation
- subsidy
- POV (point of view)
- pseudonym

In today's footage . . .
- respect for the US.
- Christianity among the Dinka tribe.
- ironing and clean clothes important to these refugees.
- soccer, basketball, dance and singing.
- mud huts, no conveniences (ironing with coals in a metal antique).
- fuf-fu, flat bread.
- acculturation in Houston.
- factory work.

Santino gets a car and begins to drive. Will he pass the test to get a driver's license?

- Make a graphic of the journey of Peter and Santino.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Lost boys of Sudan is a movie that will reference Africa, the US, ethnocentrism and humanitarianism

Lost Boys of Sudan is the name given by aid organizations to refer to the more than 27,000 boys, says wikipedia, who were displaced and/or orphaned during the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2003, about 2 million killed).[1] This name was also used by the International Rescue Committee program which resettled some of these refugees from Sudan to the United States

In 2001, about 3800 Lost Boys arrived in the United States, where they are now scattered in about 38 cities, averaging about 100 per city.[1] Halted after 9/11 for security reasons, the program restarted in 2004, but peace talks were underway in Sudan, and so other refugee crises in other countries took priority.[1] As of 2006, the largest population of Sudanese refugees in the United States is in Omaha, Nebraska which hosts about 7,000 people[2].

Most of the boys were orphaned or separated from their families when government troops systematically attacked villages in southern Sudan killing many of the inhabitants, most of whom were civilians.[1] The younger boys survived in large numbers because they were away tending herds or were able to escape into the nearby jungles.[1] Orphaned and with no support, they would make epic journeys lasting years across the borders to international relief camps in Ethiopia and Kenya evading thirst, starvation, wild animals, insects, disease, and one of the most bloody wars of the 20th century.[1] Examiners say they are the most badly war-traumatized children ever examined.[1]

When villages were attacked, girls were raped, killed, taken as slaves to the north, or became servants or adopted children for other Sudanese families. As a result, relatively few girls made it to the refugee camps.[1]

Please see the background to the Lost Boys of Sudan documentary. Students will be tested on the notes to be taken from the award-winning 87-minute movie.

Lost Boys of Sudan will be rebroadcast nationally on PBSWorld Sunday, April 6th, at 10pm and Monday, April 7th, at 9am, 3pm and 2am. The film was originally broadcast on PBS/POV series in September of 2004.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Learning to learn

I Had a Guinea Golden
Originally uploaded by Renée Wirick
Mult-choice, open notes and hand-sketched map tests on Thurs:

Are you learning to learn? How to make the system work for you?
Learning ...
- to read and print out the web site notes on a rgular basis rather than the last minute?
- how to analyze a mult-choice question? How to seek the answer in the text or atlas?
- how to write an effective comparison essay as indie work? How to turn your score into an A by bonus work?

This week's project of writing test questions based on Africa Unit notes was part of teaching you how to learn.

Current indie work:

- 2-minute documentary of basic life in this town.
Ex: watching the sushi chef make a fresh batch of sushi.
Ex: watching a competent musician rehearse.
Students who made a walk-around-the-neighborhood goofy video for laughs is a good idea. Get it out of your system by doing one that you can show to your friends. But please don't bring it to me. If you're wondering what kind of video to make, email me your idea and I'll give you options and guidelines.

- comparison essay on movies about Africa. You may use movies that are familiar, such as Lion King, but you will not get points for writing the first thing that comes to mind. Points are earned by using sources such,,
- comparing the fabric types and designs of textiles in Africa and in Asia.

- visual essay - powerpoint or photostory or video - on African musical instruments or on African fabrics.

Djembe Fola says hello to geography class from Conakry, Guniea

Originally uploaded by Djembefola
The Djembe is a drum of the Mande people from West Africa, says the site

Literally translated a djembefola is 'one who gives the djembe voice'. It is the traditional Malinke name for a djembe player.

We aim to connect the international djembefola community and be your Djembe and West African percussion resource on the internet.

Through this site we hope to help connect djembe players around the world, facilitating learning from each other and to help those eager to learn but have no access to teachers.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Blue Wildebeest in the veldt or savannah

Blue Wildebeest
Originally uploaded by Mark Turner
Wildebeest have been in East Africa for a million years, says National Geographic.

Since men were hunter-gatherers, which is quite primitive. Pre-farming.
Men did the tracking and hunting and tracking.
Women had the arduous task of digging roots every day and gathering berries and bark and boiling it all into a supper.

People ofter carry heavy loads by using a tumpline. Wikipedia says,
A tumpline is a strap attached at both ends to a backpack or other luggage and used to carry the object by placing the strap over the top of the head. This utilizes the spine rather than the shoulders as standard backpack straps do.

Tumplines should not be worn over the forehead, but rather the top of the head just back from the hairline, pulling straight down in alignment with the spine. The person then leans forward, allowing the back to help support the load.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Students in Georgetown against the use of coltan from the Congo

Originally uploaded by nobloodforcoltan
The continent of Africa contains a world of minerals and plant resources that may be of enormous value in the future. An example is the mineral called coltan, which is needed in the making of mini-batteries.

Sadly, the value of diamonds and some minerals can distort economies and lead to horrendous situations, as in conflict diamonds.

"No Blood for Coltan" is a campaign to raise awareness of the role of coltan in fueling one of the most devastating human catastrophes since World War II. The war over coltan is estimated to be responsible for the deaths of four million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1998.

Please check out our facebook page for more information about the campaign:

Africa review test on Thurs; sketch map quiz, too

Worldcup Fever
Originally uploaded by *Dario*
Mon, Mar 17

In class activity:
Africa Quiz for parents or peers . . .

1. Write 5 multiple choice questions solo.
2. Write 5 mult-choice questions w classmates.
3. Legibility!

- 5 pts, or 6 pts if someone takes the quiz and signs for having participated.

a) map of the continent of Africa. 12 items. spelling. borders.
b) Open notes, website-based test.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Simple documentary: watching Hu the sushi maker at Brookshire's

students inspired by Kente Cloth
Originally uploaded by trudeau
Please see the Finding Fresh Sushi in Shreveport documentary at It's a bit long at over 3 mins; my mistake.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sustainability vs consumerism: a video called The Story of Stuff

The Story of Stuff
Originally uploaded by drinksmachine
The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns, with a special focus on the United States, says one observer.

All the stuff in our lives, beginning from the extraction of the resources to make it, through its production, sale, use and disposal, affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view.

The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues and calls for all of us to create a more sustainable and just world. It'll teach you something. It'll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever.

From your teacher: While The Story of Stuff uses most of the forms of propaganda that can be imagined and does not offer internal documentation, I think it nonetheless offers a valuable point of view. American students are expected to grow and to observe many points of view. This analysis of life on the planet today may provoke you to valuable considerations of how our system of business, government and lifestyle might morph.

See it here.

Notes on African music

Notes on African music
Originally uploaded by trudeau
Key words describing the African aesthetic in music:

1. djembe, goblet-shaped drum.
2. dun-dun or tama or talking drum.
3. mbira, sansa, kalimba: thumb piano.
4. shekere, the gourd shaker with net skirt.
5. gong-gong, the double bells.
6. kora, the gourd-bodied harp-like instrument of the griot, or bard.
7. nyere, one of the African flutes.
8. marimba, balofon: the wooden, gourd-resonated xylophone.

Babatunde Olatunji, the Nigerian master drummer who came to NYC in the 60's to teach musicians the intricacies of African drumming.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Blood Diamonds finance murderous conflict

The term conflict diamond, or blood diamond as others call it, became quite well-known to the average person in 2002 when the James Bond movie "Die Another Day" was released. This contribution to the legendary James Bond saga revolved around the idea of smuggling conflict diamonds, says

So what is a conflict diamond? The UN formally defines a conflict diamond as a "diamond that originates from areas controlled by forces or factions opposed to legitimate and internationally recognized governments, and are used to fund military action in opposition to those governments, or in contravention of the decisions of the Security Council."

In short, a conflict diamond is any diamond that is mined from an area in which there is war, or armed conflict. The idea is that diamonds are very much in demand and that they fetch such a high price in almost any market. If you mine diamonds and sell them to other countries - of which there is definitely no shortage - you can get a large amount of money for them. Where does the profit from these sales go?

You guessed it - to finance wars and other forms of armed conflict in the affected areas.

Squeeze the drum while you beat it: the drum talks!

Habib Koité & Bamada
Originally uploaded by el*bandido
The talking drum is a West African drum whose pitch can be regulated to the extent that it is said the drum "talks". The player puts the drum under one shoulder and beats the instrument with a stick.

A talking drum player raises or lowers the pitch by squeezing or releasing the drum's strings with the upper arm. This can produce highly informative sounds to convey complicated messages. The ability to change the drum's pitch is analogous to the language tonality of some African languages.

Talking drums are one of the oldest instruments used by West African griots (storyteller / historians) and their history can be traced back to ancient Ghana Empire. The Hausa people, and by influence, the Yoruba people of south western Nigeria and Benin and the Dagomba of northern Ghana, have developed a highly sophisticated genre of griot music centering on the talking drum.

Among the Wolof people of Senegal, the talking drum (known as a tama) is an hour-glass shaped drum with two heads (goat, lizard (iguana), or fish skin) tuned by straps that connect the heads with each other.

A proverb associated with the drum: "Even if you dress up finely, love is the only thing."

The Djembe of West Africa energizes dancers and drum circles across the globe

Famoudou Konate and Seckou
Originally uploaded by Djembefola
A djembe, also known as djimbe, jenbe, jembe, yembe, or sanbanyi in Susu; is a skin covered hand drum, shaped like a large goblet, and meant to be played with bare hands. According to the Bamana people in Mali, the name of the djembe comes directly from the saying "Anke dje, anke be" which literally translates to "everyone gather together", says wikipedia.

The French were instrumental in studying and describing African drumming to the world. However, colonization by the French is a sore spot for many West African people, and spelling jembe with the "d" can be a painful reminder of that. Since independence (1958-1960) African governments have been working toward indigenous ways of spelling their local languages in accordance with international standards of phonetic transcription.

It is played in ensemble with the "dunun" drum (dununba, sangban, kenkeni), bells, with individuals playing different parts that lace together intricately to weave a delicate rhythmic tapestry. Dancers are accompanied by djembe and dunun drummers, including a lead djembe player, or soloist, who will play rhythms which align with the dancer's movements as they make them, and whose playing will signal changes in the dance steps, as well as the beginning and end of a piece.

The djembe is said to contain three spirits: the spirit of the tree, the spirit of the animal of which the drum head is made, and the spirit of the instrument maker. It is legend that the djembe and/or the tree from which it is created was a gift from a Djinn or malevolent demigod, male counterpart to the more familiar Genie. Properly crafted djembe drums are carved in one single piece from hollowed out trees called Dimba, or Devil Wood.

The Great Mosque of Djenne, one of the most famous structures on the continent of Africa

Djenné #2
Originally uploaded by foto_morgana
The Great Mosque of Djenné is the largest mud brick or adobe building in the world and is considered by many architects to be the greatest achievement of the Sudano-Sahelian architectural style, albeit with definite Islamic influences, says wikipedia.

The first mosque on the site was built in the 13th century, but the current structure dates from 1907. As well as being the centre of the community of Djenné, it is one of the most famous landmarks in Africa.

The walls of the Great Mosque are made of sun-baked mud bricks called ferey, a mud based mortar, and are coated with a mud plaster which gives the building its smooth, sculpted look. The walls are between 16 in and 24 in. thick.

Bundles of palm wood were included in the building to reduce cracking caused by frequent drastic changes in humidity and temperature and to serve as readymade scaffolding for annual repairs. The walls insulate the building from heat during the day and by nightfall have absorbed enough heat to keep the mosque warm through the night.

The prayer wall of the mosque is dominated by three large, box-like minarets jutting out from the main wall and has eighteen buttresses. Each minaret contains a spiral staircase leading to the roof, and on top of each minaret is a cone shaped spire topped with an ostrich egg.

The entire community of Djenné takes an active role in the mosque's maintenance via a unique annual festival. This includes music and food, but has the primary objective of repairing the damage inflicted on the mosque in the past year - mostly erosion caused by the annual rains and cracks caused by changes in temperature and humidity.

Men climb onto the mosque's built-in scaffolding and ladders made of palm wood and smear the plaster over the face of the mosque.

The original mosque presided over one of the most important Islamic learning centers in Africa during the Middle Ages. Thousands of students came to study the Qur'an in Djenné's madrassas.

Djenne, home of the Great Mosque, is parallell to Timbuktu in the history of West Africa

The great Djenne mosque
Originally uploaded by El Rabbit
Djenne is a small city near the River Niger in the nation of Mali. t is famous for its mud brick (adobe) architecture, most notably the Great Mosque of Djenné, originally built in 1220 and rebuilt in 1907. In the past, Djenné was a centre of trade and learning, says

Your teacher is reminded of the French city of Orleans. At only 100,000 people, it is half the size of Shreveport. But it has an enormous Gothic cathedral, the Cathédrale Sainte-Croix. Therefore it is a classic stop for people visiting France.

Djenne was once a base for the trans-Saharan trade. It rivalled Timbuktu, also a city built of mud structures.

Timbuktu is populated by Songhay, Tuareg, Fulani, and Mandé people, and is about 15 km north of the Niger River. It is also at the intersection of an east–west and a north–south Trans-Saharan trade route that crosses the Sahara. It was important historically (and still is today) as an entrepot for rock-salt.

Its geographical setting made it a natural meeting point for nearby African populations and nomadic Berber and Arab peoples from the north. Its long history as a trading outpost that linked west Africa with Berber, Arab, and Jewish traders throughout north Africa, and thereby indirectly with traders from Europe, has given it a fabled status. In the West it is a metaphor for exotic, distant lands: "from here to Timbuktu."

Timbuktu's long-lasting contribution to Islamic and world civilization is scholarship.[2] By the fourteenth century, important books were written and copied in Timbuktu, establishing the city as the centre of a significant written tradition in Africa

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Key words from videos on the continent of Africa, continent of Africa

students inspired by kente cloth
Originally uploaded by trudeau
These key words just happen to fit the video review questions that follow below.

1. dhow 2. Christianity 3. Islam 4. Swahili 5. henna
6. rafiki 7. okra 8. eggplant 9. cloves 10. cinammon
11. black pepper 12. mortar & pestle 13. pilau 14. cassava
15. eating by hand; eating segregated by gender
16. minaret 17. Islam 18. Arabic 19. Zanzibari 20. night market
21. monsoon 22. India 23. patriarchy (grandfather) 24. TV "presenter" 25. tribal languages, such as Masai
26. Caddo language 27. Accra, Ghana 28. Britain
29. Gold - Gold Coast 30. Ashantih 31. charcoal


Originally uploaded by Paul-W
Fufu, also spelled foofoo, foufou, or fu fu, is a staple food of West and Central Africa. It is a thick paste or porridge usually made by boiling starchy root vegetables in water and pounding with a large mortar and pestle until the desired consistency is reached, says

In Western Africa, foofoo is usually made from yams, sometimes combined with cocoyam, plantains, or maize. In Central Africa, fufu is often made from cassava, as is the Liberian dumboy. Fufu can also be made from semolina, rice, or even instant potato flakes. Often, the dish is still made by traditional methods: pounding and beating the base substance in a mortar with a wooden spoon.

In Western and Central Africa, the more common method is to serve a mound of fufu along with a sauce made from okra, fish, tomato, etc. The diner pinches off a small ball of fufu and makes an indentation with the thumb. This reservoir is then filled with sauce, and the ball is eaten. In Ghana and Nigeria, the ball is often not chewed but swallowed whole. In fact, among the older generation, chewing fufu is a faux-pas.

Cassava, or manioc, is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates. Indeed, cassava is the third largest source of carbohydrates for human food in the world, with Africa its largest center of production, says

Pilau: a rice porridge or stew that connects the MidEast, Africa, Europe and the US

Ham pilau and chutney
Originally uploaded by WordRidden
From on Rice Pilau:

Is it pilau, perloo. perlau, plaw, pilaw, pilaf, or pilaff? The word comes from the Turkish pilaw, from the Persian pilaw, and from the Osmanli pilav, "rice porridge." Pronunciation is just as varied, as in PER-lo, PEELaf, or per-LO. According to Bill Neal, Charlestonians, no matter how they spell it, all pronounce it PER-low.

English writers spoke of the dish in the seventeenth century, and by the eighteenth century it had taken hold in Britain, especially after the empire spread through the Middle East and into India. In America, the Southern rice crops and the influence of the spice trade made the dish popular. Pilau has been a popular dish in many Southern states for 300 years, particularly South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Africa review: Zanzibar & Ghana

Originally uploaded by Nesos
Africa review
1. Name the famous type of ship sailed on the Arab-African coast. Unlike the sail on a European sailboat, the mast and boom rotate as needed.
2. Since colonial times, this religion has been the dominant religion of Tanzania and Kenya in East Africa: __.
3. Religion dominant on the Swahili coast?
4. The language of the Indian Ocean coast of Africa?
5. Dye used in decorative hand painting in India, Arabia and Africa?
6. East African word for “friend”?
7. This vegetable has green, bullet-shaped pods. It is used in both Louisiana and Africa for thickening the soup or stew. Its name in Africa is “gumbo.”
8. Name the purple vegetable that in French is called aubergine (the vegetable and the color).
9. Sharply-flavored spice harvested by the Tanzanian girl froma tree on her family land.
10. Spice gotten by cutting tree bark into strips.
11. Piper nigrum is the Latin name for this spice; in the ancient world is was a very expensive commodity.
12. Ancient bowl and pounder used in grinding spices.
13. A rice dish with spices and vegetable as prepared by the family of Zanzibar.
14. Tasteless, potato-like root vegetable of Africa.
15. Two ways in which the East African eating habits were different from those of the US.
16. The tower aside a mosque which is used to call the faithful to prayer.
17. A madrassah is a school that most students attend after they go to their regular school. It is associated with which religion?
18. In a madrassah, what is the language of the lessons ?
19. What do you call a resident of Zanzibar?
20. Sizzling food is available along the waterfront in the evening at a place called simply the __ __.
21. East Africans use the winds that accomapny the rainy season, the __, to send ships on long regional trading voyages.
22. The most distant region region of the world for trade by East African sailors: __.
23. In Zanzibar we saw a family of several generations under one roof. Was it a patriarchy or matriarchy?
24. The girl of Zanzibar has a goal in media work. What does she hope to do as an occupation?
25. What do we call the indigenous languages of Kenya?
26. What is the indigenous language of NW Louisiana?
27. The girl of Ghana lives in the capital. The name of that city?
28. For centuries the people of Ghana were ruled by Europeans from the nation of __.
29. Europeans gave this part of the coast of West Africa a name indicating a valuable commodity: the __ Coast.
30. The dominant tribe of Ghana?
31. Cooking on an outdoor stove in Ghana is done sometimes by propane and sometimes a more ancient fuel: __.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Snow Day in Shreveport - in March

Hmm. Here's our wee snow video.

Bottlenose dolphins - part of the Indian Ocean, too

Originally uploaded by GudrunOrca
Says wikipedia of the Bottlenose Dolphin, in part:

The species is commonly known for its friendly character and curiosity towards humans immersed in or near water. It is not uncommon for a diver to be investigated by a group of them.

Occasionally, dolphins have rescued injured divers by raising them to the surface, a behaviour they also show towards injured members of their own species. Such accounts have earned them the nickname of "Man's best friend of the sea".

In November 2004, a more dramatic report of dolphin intervention came from New Zealand. Four lifeguards, swimming 100 m (328 ft) off the coast near Whangarei, were reportedly approached by a 3 m (10 ft) Great White Shark. A group of Bottlenose Dolphins, apparently sensing danger to the swimmers, herded them together and tightly surrounded them for forty minutes, preventing an attack from the shark, as they returned to shore.

Storyboarding: how to save time and money in your video projects

Storyboard Samples
Originally uploaded by ArtistType
To make a storyboard is to make an outline of your video via a series of sketches. The sketches don't have to be elaborate.

If you like being organized, the storyboard will appeal to you. It helps by giving you a plan for your shooting and editing. You can always deviate from your storyboard, of course. But it helps you not skip over something important to the stelling of your story.

The African aesthetic has touched artists all over the world

African Mask
Originally uploaded by disneymike
Pablo Picasso, the Spanish artist who is considered the most successful of the 20th century, was influenced in his modernistic artforms by African masks and motifs.

African dance has been pervasive in its influence, too.

African music can be linked to the blues and many other musicis.

Kanga: basic East African fashion from colorful rectangles of cotton

shamba harusi 1
Originally uploaded by murkas
The Kanga is made into a dress or skirt or turban by the women of East Africa. The fabric may be imprinted with a pattern, a medallion and a proverb or riddle.

Kente cloth: a symbol of the continent of Africa

Students sketched kente (kinte) cloth patterns, symbolic of Africa as well as symbolic of the influence of Africa art upon the rest of the world.

Once kente was the fabric made for West African kings. It originates with the Ashanti tribe.

One makes kente in strips upon a loom and sews the strips together to make any size needed.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Indie work . . .

Write a comparison essay according to guidelines.
It does Not have to be lengthy.

Oprah Winfrey and Bill & Melinda Gates roles in the continent of Africa, continent of Africa

Textiles of Africa compared to the textiles of Asia. This would make a good visual report.

Asante sana!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Notes on Zanzibar and Tanzania


Swahili culture: mixture of Arab, Persian, Indian, African, European.
- architecture, cuisine, art, etc.

- dhow - Arab-based design of sailboat with mast and sail that rotates to catch the wind.

Dar es Salaam: "abode of peace," Arabic.
- 2.5 million people
- av income about $5 per week.
- influence from Portuguese, first Euro explorers of the African coast.
- influence from German colonial occupation.

See Tanzania's flag.
See Mt Kilimanjaro.


Monday, March 03, 2008

Denmark: the basics

The Kingdom of Denmark is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, says

The country consists of a large peninsula, Jutland (Jylland) and a large number of islands, most notably Zealand (Sjælland), Funen (Fyn), Vendsyssel-Thy, Lolland, Falster and Bornholm as well as hundreds of minor islands often referred to as the Danish Archipelago.

The Faroe Islands and Greenland are autonomous provinces of Denmark with home rule.

Denmark is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government.
- It is a member of NATO and the European Union.
- Originally a seafaring nation relying on fishing, farming and trade, Denmark experienced steady industrialization in the 19th and 20th centuries and developed the Scandinavian model welfare state. I
- It has been ranked as "the happiest place in the world," based on standards of health, welfare, and education.

The Roman provinces maintained trade routes and relations with native tribes in Denmark and Roman coins have been found in Denmark. Evidence of strong Celtic cultural influence dates from this period in Denmark.

During the 8th-11th centuries, the Danes were known as Vikings, together with Norwegians and Swedish Geats. Viking explorers first discovered and settled Iceland in the 9th century, on their way toward the Faroe Islands. From there, Greenland and Vinland (Newfoundland) were also settled.

Utilizing their skills in shipbuilding they raided and conquered parts of France and the British Isles. But they also excelled in trading along the coasts and rivers of Europe, running trade routes from Greenland in the north to Constantinople in the south via Russian rivers.

The Danish Vikings were most active in the British Isles and Western Europe, and they raided, conquered and settled parts of England (their earliest settlements included Danelaw, Ireland, France, Normandy).

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Vocab notes based on the NY Times story on Gov Jindal and the ethics package

Use the context in the NY Times article on La. ethics reform that follows to build your social studies vocab. Check out these terms:

opaque / transparent
perks / perquisites
conflict of interest
de facto

Problems facing the state today, says the gov:
"the scope of Louisiana’s challenge: a poorly educated work force, bad roads and infrastructure, a persistent stream of residents leaving the state, and little business investment."

NY Times admits Jindal's success with ethics package initiates a new day for Louisiana

From the NY Times:

Downstairs, legislators gnashed their teeth, while upstairs at the Capitol here this week, the new governor claimed victory against the old customs down below.

Six weeks into the term of Gov. Bobby Jindal, an extensive package of ethics bills was approved here this week, signaling a shift in the political culture of a state proud of its brazen style. Mr. Jindal, the earnest son of Indian immigrants, quickly declared open season on the cozy fusion of interests and social habits that have prevailed among lobbyists, state legislators and state agencies here for decades. Mostly, he got what he wanted.

Mr. Jindal, an outsider to that rollicking if sometimes unsavory banquet, a Republican with a missionary’s zeal to smite Louisiana’s wickedness at one of its presumed sources, called on the Legislature to reform itself and its high-living ways.

Grudgingly, pushed by public opinion and business pressure, it went along. When the legislative session ended Tuesday, lawmakers had passed bills aimed at making their finances less opaque, barring their lucrative contracts with the state — some have been known to do good business with them — and cutting down on perks like free tickets to sporting events. The bills, which advocates say will put Louisiana in the top tier of states with tough ethics rules, now await Mr. Jindal’s signature, which should come early next week.

Mr. Jindal overcame resistance by convincing lawmakers that no job growth would occur in the state until it cleaned up its act and brought its ethics laws into the national mainstream.

“I’ve talked to C.E.O.’s in New York, even the president of the United States,” Mr. Jindal said in an interview, and when “you ask them for more investment, more help on the coast and other areas, their first reaction always is: ‘Well, who do you need to know? Who do I have to hire? Is this money going to end up in somebody’s pocket?’ ”

That had to change, the governor said, and he was using his “narrow window” — his honeymoon at the Capitol — to do it.

The volume of grumbling suggested real change was afoot.

“This is huge,” said D. W. Hunt, a veteran lobbyist at the Capitol. “This is a sea change. This will seriously, dramatically change things. The meta-theme is the transparency.”

Barry Erwin, president of the Council for a Better Louisiana, a good-government watchdog group, described the new bills as “a major change in the culture.”

“It’s a world of difference, particularly on the disclosure side, and the same thing with conflict-of-interest,” he said.

The new requirements will force all state legislators, as well as most other elected and appointed officials around the state, to disclose all sources of income, real estate holdings and debts over $10,000. (Judges are exempted.) Lawmakers and executive branch officials will no longer be able to get contracts for state-financed or disaster-related work. Lobbyists will also have to disclose their sources of income and will be limited to spending no more than $50 per elected official, per meal; splitting the tab, say among other lobbyists or legislators, will also be prohibited.

The new income disclosure requirements for legislators are comparable to those of Washington State, ranked first in the country by the Center for Public Integrity.

Mr. Jindal was unable to persuade lawmakers to pass another bill that would have ended retirement benefits for public officials convicted of crimes related to their state work.

Similar indulgences, of course, have gone on in other state capitals, though Louisiana does rank low nationally on state ethics charts. Here, however, they are carried out with particular frankness: lawmakers are known to scour the chambers for willing lobbyists when a day’s session ends, hoping to cadge a dinner invitation. They need not look far.

Mr. Jindal took that penchant on as well, effectively aiming a blow at the Capitol’s de facto sister institution, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, where business is transacted nightly, courtesy of lobbyists (“sponsors,” in legislators’ parlance).

The governor, ignoring cries of pain and going against the unswerving devotion to Louisiana’s food culture, pushed for the $50-a-meal cap, at any restaurant. No more unlimited spending.

In a town where legislators have been known to proclaim paid-for meals a principal draw to public service, this was an especially unpopular move. Last week, State Representative Charmaine L. Marchand of the Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans said the limit would force her and her colleagues to dine at Taco Bell, and urged that it be pushed to $75 per person, to give them “wiggle room.”

No public groundswell took up her cause, and the $50 limit held.

Meanwhile, the mood is feverish but still merry at Ruth’s Chris. A recent night found it packed with lobbyists and legislators. With the Capitol five miles away, its popularity will be threatened when the new rules go into effect on March 30. But the lavish springtime banquets held by lobbyists, where tables groan with choice Louisiana seafood, do not appear to be immediately endangered.

In the legislative chambers, the votes for this ethics makeover were mostly unanimous, though the sarcastic commentary suggested that enthusiasm might not have been what was motivating legislators. Mr. Jindal has public opinion on his side, however.

“I want to know who’s doing the corrupting,” a state senator, Francis Thompson, said, mock-seriously, to Mr. Jindal’s principal ally in the State Senate, its president, Joel T. Chaisson. “Any time there’s some abuse, I wish you would let us know, as our leader,” he said to Mr. Chaisson, as other senators chuckled.

The point was not lawbreaking, though, but what has long been permitted under existing loose laws, say reform advocates like Mr. Jindal.

Four stories up, in the skyscraper Capitol built by Huey Long, Mr. Jindal is unconnected to the slow-moving rural Louisiana of Long and those who followed him. At 36, he appears to be a young man in a hurry, acutely conscious of Louisiana’s poor national image, aware of his own rising star among Republicans and analytical about the historic missteps that have led Louisiana to coast on its mineral wealth, straight to the bottom of national rankings in ethics and a host of economic and social indicators.

In an interview in his office, words and prescriptions come shooting out in a rapid-fire nonstop monologue. Inside of a half-hour, Mr. Jindal shoehorned a brief history of Louisiana’s political and economic problems, a historical excursion on the office he was sitting in, an agenda for his remaining four years, an analysis of why the state’s government had failed, a recapitulation of his recent campaign, a paean to his father, an explanation of why he pushed the ethics bills, and other topics.

Mr. Jindal said Hurricanes Katrina and Rita had presented him with a unique moment in his state’s history to enact reforms; as he put it, the storms “caused people to rethink how they wanted their social institutions to be designed, how they wanted services to be delivered, what kind of state they wanted to call home.”

What follows could be much tougher, given the scope of Mr. Jindal’s ambitions — detractors grumble that they are limitless — the bruised feelings among legislators and the scope of Louisiana’s challenge: a poorly educated work force, bad roads and infrastructure, a persistent stream of residents leaving the state, and little business investment. He has already talked of cutting taxes on business, prompting questions about whether he will move beyond such traditional Republican economic strategies.

“My biggest concern is, we’ll run out of time,” Mr. Jindal said. “There are so many things we need to do in our state. It’s like being in this endless buffet and having this incredible appetite, but knowing there’s no way you’re going to be able to eat everything you want to eat, or taste everything that’s out there.”