Sunday, December 30, 2012

What we want for our children

I want my children to be happy.  I want them to have wonderful life full of adventure and creative pursuits.  I hope they make a difference in the world.  I think similar things are what most parents want for their children and all children.  And the question for society is - How do we make this a high probability for most children?

One-hundred years ago they wanted the same thing, they thought about it differently, but ultimately they thought if they could get their children a steady job, get them out of the country and into the city, get them an education that employers demanded, then their kids would have more options and a higher probability of "succeeding" and having a happy and prosperous life.  100-years ago this meant that they should learn the "basics" in school and become good at factory work.  Learn to listen, learn to mind your manners, learn to respect authority, learn to speak when spoken too, learn walk in a straight line, raise your hand and ask to be excused to the rest room, learn to compete against your friends/foes/classmates/cross town rivals in the classroom, playground, and sports field, all meant to give children their best chance at a healthy, productive, and happy life.

Today, almost all of that advice is wrong.  Absolutely, completely, wrong. 

We're in the middle of a fundamental economic and cultural transition that is completely changing the way we live, work, and learn.  Simply (although it is more complex) technology (mainly the internet), globalization, and demographics have completely changed the way we live, work, and learn, this is true whether you're 79, 39, 19, or 9.  But, if you're 9 or 19 you had better be prepared for it, or you will get left behind and there's a damn good chance that you will struggle for most of you life.

And those of us who can make a difference, who are old enough to demand different, are screwing these kids by putting them in schools that are still designed to train kids with the skills the world demanded in 1900 and we've got to change it.

This is a common theme for my blog, I've written and linked to articles about it many, many times:

Education Reform....continued
In times of dramtic change,why can't we change?
Education, Godin, cont.
The Goal of Education...cont.
Closing Education Gaps, to what end?
Why the United States is Destorying it's Education System
The Purpose of Education
Corporate Education
Brooks: On Education
Making the Strings Easy to Pull
Stop Stealing Dreams
Collaborative Education
Seth Godin

Look at better models, talk to your neighbors, write letters, lobby the school board, talk to the PTA, talk to your child's teachers, demand they stop standardizing in a world that demands individuals.  Demand they stop this silly testing, have the Superintendents and politicians back when they want to innovate, have their back when they get chastised for not giving a damn about the latest test scores or when they recognize that there are more important things than STEM.  And if that doesn't work?  I don't know.  I've got two kids, and I want the best for them, but right now I'm making them go to an institution that is hurting their chances at a great life. 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Fading the public and political correctness

This blog is entitled "The Essence of Normality" which comes from a book called The Denial of Death ... by Ernest Becker, the rest of the quote is this - "The essence of normality is the refusal of reality."  And my argument is essentially that, for lots of various reasons, we don't have a clue of what's really going on in our world.  We "refuse reality" and very often it's because those in power don't want us to know what's going on and are "pulling our strings" to see the world in ways that is most advantageous for them and their interest.  I would argue it's generational, our parents and grandparents beliefs were established this same way and then passed on to us as "family values" or family beliefs.  It's easier to believe what our parents told us, and look only for confirmation from other people and ideas who share or reinforce our world view, then to suggest to ourselves that our parents were idiots, or that we've been duped.

I make this general argument on a number of fronts, some silly, most political, but others not.  I've written a couple of times about another book I thought was fascinating from the world of self-help, The Four-Hour Work Week by author Tim Ferriss.  This is one example of my overall theme in that early on in that book Ferriss challenges one of our most basic assumptions - if we work hard, pay our taxes, invest in our retirement, and play by the rules, at some point in the future we'll be able to retire and live the life we want to live.  Bullshit, Ferriss points out, it almost never works out that way for lots of reasons.  Then he challenges us to live the life you want to live now, take mini retirements, and basically follow your bliss (in the words of Joseph Campbell). 

However, most of my examples and blog post are from a politically liberal look at the issues of the day where I get the sense that one group or the other is trying to maniupulate public opinion.  I am a liberal/progressive/leftist call me what you will, but having been born and raised in the South in rural areas well below the Mason-Dixon line,  I like Joe Bageant's idea of a "LeftNeck", which he describes as a "gun toting liberal who can change his own oil"...probably describes me pretty well.  But, I'm also bit of a contrarian by nature and am arguing against "conventional wisdom",  arguing to in essence "fade the public" on a variety of issues.

The political pendulum in the United States has moved way to the right in the last 30+ years.  For all of the bloviation of demagogues like Limbaugh, Beck, Fox News, etc. arguing about some mythical socialist/progressive movement, I think it's clear that political correctness is now firmly in the hands of the conservatives.  The range of debate is now remarkably narrow on a host of issues, from taxes, to deficits, to government programs, guns, etc., modest gains recently regarding marriage and marijuana notwithstanding.

Paul Krugman's piece today in the NYT is interesting, accurate, and in large part, in line with this general theme.  Entitled "When Prophecy Fails", he first lays out the research that suggest when prophecies do fail, those who are most invested in them, the champions of the coming prophetic moment don't lose faith, they double down on their faith.
"Back in the 1950s three social psychologists joined a cult that was predicting the imminent end of the world. Their purpose was to observe the cultists’ response when the world did not, in fact, end on schedule. What they discovered, and described in their classic book, “When Prophecy Fails,” is that the irrefutable failure of a prophecy does not cause true believers — people who have committed themselves to a belief both emotionally and by their life choices — to reconsider. On the contrary, they become even more fervent, and proselytize even harder."
Krugman's piece is primarily about economic myths and prophecies and the true believers.  But, it's relevant in a number of areas of politics and our daily lives, he ends his piece saying:

The key thing we need to understand, however, is that the prophets of fiscal disaster, no matter how respectable they may seem, are at this point effectively members of a doomsday cult. They are emotionally and professionally committed to the belief that fiscal crisis lurks just around the corner, and they will hold to their belief no matter how many corners we turn without encountering that crisis.
So we cannot and will not persuade these people to reconsider their views in the light of the evidence. All we can do is stop paying attention. It’s going to be difficult, because many members of the deficit cult seem highly respectable. But they’ve been hugely, absurdly wrong for years on end, and it’s time to stop taking them seriously.
Twice recently (HERE and HERE) I tried to make this point, Krugman does it much more concisely.  If whomever you follow, whatever you "truly" believe, has been dead wrong for years now... do you, or I, have the courage to step back and wonder who's been pulling your strings?  And, perhaps, consider stop taking them seriously?  

Friday, December 21, 2012

Daniel Inouye - Father's Admonition, War, Final Salute






Fathers Admonition:
"My father just looked straight ahead, and I looked straight ahead, and then he cleared his throat and said, 'America has been good to us. It has given me two jobs. It has given you and your sisters and brothers education. We all love this country. Whatever you do, do not dishonor your country. Remember – never dishonor your family. And if you must give your life, do so with honor.' I knew exactly what he ment. I said, 'Yes, sir. Good-bye." http://www.badassoftheweek.com/inouye.html

WAR:
"Inouye was promoted to the rank of sergeant within his first year, and he was given the role of platoon leader. He served in Italy in 1944 during the Rome-Arno Campaign before his regiment was transferred to the Vosges Mountains region of France, where he spent two weeks in the battle to relieve the Lost Battalion, a battalion of the 141st Infantry Regiment that was surrounded by German forces. He was promoted to the rank of second lieutenant for his actions there. At one point while he was leading an attack, a shot struck him in the chest directly above his heart, but the bullet was stopped by the two silver dollars he happened to have stacked in his shirt pocket.[9] He continued to carry the coins throughout the war in his shirt pocket as good luck charms until he lost them shortly before the battle in which he lost his arm.[10]

Inouye as a Lieutenant in the U.S. ArmyOn April 21, 1945, Inouye was grievously wounded while leading an assault on a heavily-defended ridge near San Terenzo in Tuscany, Italy called Colle Musatello. The ridge served as a strongpoint along the strip of German fortifications known as the Gothic Line, which represented the last and most unyielding line of German defensive works in Italy. As he led his platoon in a flanking maneuver, three German machine guns opened fire from covered positions just 40 yards away, pinning his men to the ground. Inouye stood up to attack and was shot in the stomach; ignoring his wound, he proceeded to attack and destroy the first machine gun nest with hand grenades and fire from his Thompson submachine gun. After being informed of the severity of his wound by his platoon sergeant, he refused treatment and rallied his men for an attack on the second machine gun position, which he also successfully destroyed before collapsing from blood loss.

As his squad distracted the third machine gunner, Inouye crawled toward the final bunker, eventually drawing within 10 yards. As he raised himself up and cocked his arm to throw his last grenade into the fighting position, a German inside the bunker fired a rifle grenade that struck him on the right elbow, severing most of his arm and leaving his own primed grenade reflexively "clenched in a fist that suddenly didn't belong to me anymore".[11] Inouye's horrified soldiers moved to his aid, but he shouted for them to keep back out of fear his severed fist would involuntarily relax and drop the grenade. As the German inside the bunker reloaded his rifle, Inouye pried the live grenade from his useless right hand and transferred it to his left. As the German aimed his rifle to finish him off, Inouye tossed the grenade off-hand into the bunker and destroyed it. He stumbled to his feet and continued forward, silencing the last German resistance with a one-handed burst from his Thompson before being wounded in the leg and tumbling unconscious to the bottom of the ridge. When he awoke to see the concerned men of his platoon hovering over him, his only comment before being carried away was to gruffly order them to return to their positions, since, as he pointed out, "nobody called off the war!"[12]

The remainder of Inouye's mutilated right arm was later amputated at a field hospital without proper anesthesia, as he had been given too much morphine at an aid station and it was feared any more would lower his blood pressure enough to kill him.[13]

Although Inouye had lost his right arm, he remained in the military until 1947 and was honorably discharged with the rank of captain. At the time of his leaving the Army, he was a recipient of the Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. Inouye was initially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery in this action, with the award later being upgraded to the Medal of Honor by President Bill Clinton (alongside 19 other Nisei servicemen who served in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team and were believed to have been denied proper recognition of their bravery due to their race).[14]

While recovering from war wounds and the amputation of his right forearm from the grenade wound (mentioned above) at Percy Jones Army Hospital, Inouye met future Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole, then a fellow patient." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Inouye#Military_service_.281941.E2.80.931947.29
Final Salute:

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 20: Former Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., salutes the casket of the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, as his body lies in state in the Capitol rotunda, as Dole's wife, former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., looks on. Bob Dole and Inouye knew each other since they were recovering from World War II battle wounds. Dole was assisted to the casket saying "I wouldn't want Danny to see me in a wheelchair." (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
http://cqrollcall.photoshelter.com/image/I0000vjRanFWvjIg

Senator Inouye's story is featured in Ken Burns great PBS series - WAR.  Click below to order:





Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Fundamentalist, surprising no one, work their angles

And to the surprise of no one (as Michael Keegan also points out here), the fundamentalist are laying blame for the shootings in CT.  Just as the NRA has pushed out the Pearl River story to suggest the cause was too few guns, Dobson, Huckabee, Westboro Baptist, et. al. are blaming gays, liberals, and all their usual suspects.

Some selected quotes:
"Focus on the Family founder James Dobson said Monday that the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary resulted from America turning its back on God, joining other conservative Christian leaders in assigning blame for Friday's Connecticut shootings. Speaking to listeners of his "Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk" program, Dobson said God "has allowed judgment to fall upon us."
"Mike Huckabee appeared on Fox News to complain about school prayer. "We ask why there is violence in our schools but we have systematically removed God from our schools," he said."
"Members of the Westboro Baptist Church say that America is being punished for its acceptance of gays and lesbians. In recent days, Phelps family members have sent tweets about the Connecticut shooting that have said "God sent the shooter.""
"Sunday, Rev. Sam Morris of Old Paths Baptist in Tennessee suggested that America should be more concerned with 4,000 abortions rather than with "20 children being shot in a day care." He goes on to accuse the public school system of teaching children on "how to be a homo.""
It's easy for many of us to ignore these folks, we may cringe when they say these things.  Some may even laugh them off and ask where these guys are when great things happen?  Is their god hedging his bets and rewarding us for our efforts?  But, I think they deserve some consideration because they, as I tried to point out in the previous post on the NRA, are simply doing basic propaganda.  Scare the hell out of their followers, convince them they alone know why this tragedy happened, tell them they can only get the truth from "their media", blame the "others" ... and their flock increases, their influence increases, their power increases.  They're not interested in a rational conversation or a reasonable, logical look at the issues... they're interested in themselves.  They are self-righteous narcissist and their sole mission is exploiting this tragedy for their own gain.  And for them it's all about timing, when many are asking why or how something this sad, this terrible could happen the fundamentalist have easy answers.

The great challenge is that fundamentalism makes governance and progress for our nation, and our world, harder...



NRA and the Pearl School Shooting example

Throughout the years, this post has gotten more visitors than any other on this blog... it's also gotten more comments, usually negative, from advocates on either side of the gun control issue calling me out for my position...(I've deleted the real nasty ones).  The point of this blog isn't necessarily about any given political issue, like guns, the blogs primary argument is that the "essence of normality, is the refusal of reality"... that no matter which side of the issue you're on somebody is trying to pull your strings...thus, your "reality" has been paid for and manipulated.  At the top of the page is a link to a video, about one of the prime string pullers, Bernay's, watch the video then order this book for more details...




The NRA may have gone publicly silent after the CT school shooting, but they are behind the scene's pulling the chains of their members.  Posted on Facebook and in "enlightened" forums such as this one NRA members are bringing up the 1997 shooting at Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi.  They see it as an example of where a well armed citizenry, in this case the school's Assistant Principal, valiantly pulled his Colt and subdued a deranged gunman, preventing more deaths.

But, a closer look at that case - from wikipedia and other sources - doesn't tell the story they want it to tell.

First, the weapon - Woodham had a Marlin 30-30 hunting rifle.  Would the damage had been greater with an AR-15 and multiple Glocks?

Was it a gallant Assistant Principal, thanks only to his concealed weapon, who subdued Woodham?  No.  As the newspaper accounts in the second link makes clear, but Wikipedia leaves out, Woodham wrecked his car trying to flea, then the Assistant Principal grabbed the gun from his car and held him until authorities arrived.

And what this case clearly shows is that Woodham was a bullied, cross-dressing teen, growing up in a politically and socially conservative, Christian dominated part of the United States.  What if the community had welcomed diversity?  What if mental health treatment was as easy to get as a gun? 

Update:  Let me make another point, when I googled the Pearl shooting this morning and went to the wiki page it made clear that Woodham had hit a tree before being subdued by the Assistant Principal, that reference is no longer there.  So, looking at the edits on that Wikipedia page we see nearly 50 of them just this morning ...  Obviously, someone wants to make sure the strings get pulled and the Pearl River story gets told in the way they want it told.

A couple of books I'd recommend on the subject of gun control that take a reasonable look at the subject... the authors reach different conclusions but, they are well researched and may help you may your own decisions -
Targeting Guns - Kleck
The Gun Control Debate
The Politics of Gun Control

And a polemic that will piss many people off, but it it very well done and looks at a the various issues around these incidents - fear, bullying, culture, etc. - Bowling for Columbine

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Yves Smith on Bill Moyers with Bruce Bartlett

A number of salient points in this piece from Bill Moyers show... clearly they're spot on the fear-mongering of the fiscal cliff but also, as I've pointed out previously (here and here), Mr. Bartlett points out that far from a socialist, our President is in fact a moderate conservative.  




Click below for Yves great book - "ECONned; How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism"



Saturday, December 15, 2012

Some Reading Recommendations for Progressive, Liberal, and Free Thinkers

Most of these are links to books on Amazon, a couple links to videos and websites - this time of year we see book lists and recommendations, so I thought I would offer some of my own, many of which I've mentioned before... some of these are polemics, others are not... but all, in my opinion, are good reads for contemplation, thought, and action.

On thinking:
C. Wright Mills - HERE and HERE
Christopher Hitchens - HERE

On Education:
John Taylor Gatto -  HERE and HERE
Sir Ken Robinson - HERE and HERE
Deborah Meir - HERE

On Religion:
Huston Smith - HERE
Hitchens, et. al. - HERE

On Politics:
Joe Bageant - HERE and HERE

On the Media:
Noam Chomsky - HERE

On the economy and alternatives to Corporate Dominated "Capitalism"
Charles Eisenstein - HERE
Gar Alperovitz - HERE
Yves Smith - HERE






Friday, November 23, 2012

Krugman: GOP - Grand Ole Planet

Excellent piece by Professor Krugman- dovetails nicely with the "conversative entertainment complex" mentioned by Frum in an earlier blog post.  As many of us sit around with family over Thanksgiving we see the results of this stuff live and in person... yesterday I heard that our President wants the U.S. to fail, that he laid out his Socialist plant in his book "Dreams of my Father",  and that there will be "blood in the streets" because of his socialist policies...

Today’s Republicans cocoon themselves in an alternate reality defined by Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, and only on rare occasions — like on election night — encounter any hint that what they believe might not be true.

More HERE 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

On Self Reflection and our daily hubris

I thought this was a funny little piece at Slate - Narcissism: How to be vain without being a jerk -it raised this question for me... Why are we so bad at self reflection?

There is a tightrope to walk between seeing our actions and behaviors as others may view them and not tailoring one's behavior to the desires of others.  And while we see lots of navel gazing and self importance on everything from Oprah, to never read blogs such as this one, I would suggest much of the navel gazing is superficial, not serious looks at our own behaviors, or reflections on the justifications and stories we tell ourselves.

Some of this is easy to see and some pretty superficial, I'm thinking here of the skinny person who complains of needing to lose a few pounds or the average American lamenting our lives when 50% of the worlds population has never placed or received a phone call.

We also see it pretty clearly from the millionaire politicians, billionaire celebrities, and business moguls, who are unable to take a step back and say, "boy I'm lucky I was born into,or married into money... Or got wildly lucky when I met someone who changed my life or gave me a break....". How quickly it appears these folks bought into their own stories.   Easier to tell themselves lies about the road they've traveled than step back and give credit to fate, the sacrifice of others, etc.  I would argue the same is true for most of us... We're so caught up in our own stories, we either have no time for, or no stomach for, the truth.

Just a few hundred years ago the hubris was born into families... You were someone because of your superior bloodlines.  There is obviously still some of this,  but today I think I would argue that it's more likely that if you are conservative politically, nothing is more important to your political faith than to believe the social contract was of no importance to your success.  And related for another group, regardless of politics, it's important to believe we are "self made".  Frankly, it's this confidence I would argue that helped many of the successful, become so... it nothing is ever your fault you never lose your confidence.  But, here's the point where it begins to piss me off... 

If you've made your lot on the backs of others, and view it as either their aloofness, or their loyalty, or their "choices" that gave you an advantage then you're delusional.  Further, for both examples it is often their own self righteousness in the way they think, worship, eat, work, and live their lives that cause these delusions.

Joe Bageant tells a story about a fellow in Winchester VA who for somewhere around 50 years had an African-American women come to their house every Christmas morning and cook their Christmas breakfast... when he asked the fellow if he ever thought the woman would like to spend Christmas morning with her own family he replied, "Nah, she's been doing it so long she loves it, we're her Christmas family"... he was dead serious.  I have an acquaintance who is absolutely convinced that his mother in law just would not think it right if she didn't get to pay for their families vacation every summer, no mention of the fact that this man makes literally 50X what the mother-in-law makes, lives in 20X the house she does, or drives 30X the car... it's just something she likes to do... and he takes the 2 or 3K he saves on the vacation and invests it in the freaking stock market or on new golf clubs or a new seadoo and I suppose he would argue everybody is happy.  And when mother-in-law is dead, he'll sit on the porch at the lake house and think about how hard he worked, and how well he treated his mother in law by giving her the privilege of enjoying his view of the horizon when he invited her to come to his house for her birthday.  Never seriously wondering if it would have been more appropriate to go to her house on her birthday or paying for something she wanted.

Have we completely lost the ability to "walk a mile in someone else's shoes?" I think we have.  No strings, I suppose, are as hard to break as the one's we have tied to the stories we've told ourselves.

Obama - The Moderate Republican

This is the first of a couple of post on lying... in part, like the theme of this blog, it's about people who pull the public's strings, but primarily these will be a couple of post on self-reflection and lying to ourselves.

William Saletan has a good piece in Slate (HERE) entitled, "CHEER UP REPUBLICANS - You're going to have a moderate Republican in the White House for the next four years: Barack Obama".

What? 75% of the population would protest, picking their jaws up off the floor.  Saletan is insane, we know Obama's a socialist and a Muslim, or  a liberal, and a "good" Democrat.  But, as Saletan points out, the policies enacted and promoted by this president on a historical scale, put him slightly right of center along the lines of Eisenhower, Nixon, Gerald Ford... and I would argue Bill Clinton.

"A third of the stimulus was tax cuts. Once the economy began to revive, Obama offered a $4-trillion debt reduction framework that would have cut $3 to $6 of spending for every $1 in tax hikes. That’s a higher ratio of cuts to hikes than Republican voters, in a Gallup poll, said they preferred. It’s way more conservative than the ratio George H. W. Bush accepted in 1990. In last year’s debt-ceiling talks, Obama offered cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid in exchange for revenue that didn’t even come from higher tax rates. Now he’s proposing to lower corporate tax rates, and Republicans are whining that he hacked $716 billion out of Medicare. Some socialist."
As conservative David Frum pointed out on Morning Joe this week, it's the conservative entertainment complex that lied to their constituents -



These are facts that the Limbaugh's of the world didn't want people to know... taxes have gone down, welfare ain't that much money (compared to what we do for the military and corporations)... Then, there's the more obvious lack of intellectual honesty that has been talked about quite a bit since this election - Republicans drank their own kool-aid.  Convinced that everyone believed as they did they made outlandish predictions about the outcome of the election.  And this wasn't just those we know are nuts (Dick Morris, Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh), some of these were mainstream Republican thinkers (George Will, Peggy Noonan).

The final point I would make is about self-reflection... I wonder if Rush would consider reading, and try to understand, the dead-on points that Matt Taibbi makes in (HERE) Rolling Stone?  Has Rush become so invested in his own myth making that he can't look in the mirror and have even a moment of self reflection?  Even a moment of realization that he's dead wrong about what he believes?  I think he's too far gone, too far invested in the mythological figure he's created that is El Rushbo (my next post will point out that I think many of us are also in this position).

From Matt Taibbi's piece (emphasis mine):

"Similarly, the fact that so many Republicans this week think that all Hispanics care about is amnesty, all women want is abortions (and lots of them) and all teenagers want is to sit on their couches and smoke tons of weed legally, that tells you everything you need to know about the hopeless, anachronistic cluelessness of the modern Republican Party. A lot of these people, believe it or not, would respond positively, or at least with genuine curiosity, to the traditional conservative message of self-reliance and fiscal responsibility.
But modern Republicans will never be able to spread that message effectively, because they have so much of their own collective identity wrapped up in the belief that they're surrounded by free-loading, job-averse parasites who not only want to smoke weed and have recreational abortions all day long, but want hardworking white Christians like them to pay the tab. Their whole belief system, which is really an endless effort at congratulating themselves for how hard they work compared to everyone else (by the way, the average "illegal," as Rush calls them, does more real work in 24 hours than people like Rush and me do in a year), is inherently insulting to everyone outside the tent – and you can't win votes when you're calling people lazy, stoned moochers.
It's hard to say whether it's good or bad that the Rushes of the world are too clueless to realize that it's their attitude, not their policies, that is screwing them most with minority voters. If they were self-aware at all, Mitt Romney would probably be president right now. So I guess we should be grateful that the light doesn't look like it will ever go on. But wow, is their angst tough to listen to."
Will the Frum conservative wing of the party lead or will the conservative entertainment complex?  I'd suggest it's the latter, people have too much invested in their Tea Party Rally's and long conversations at their Sunday School classrooms about our "socialist" President to step back and ask, "have I been an idiot for these four years?"...


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Skills and Learning Versus A Piece of Paper

I have a few pieces of paper worth some coin...

A BS Degree, a Master's Degree, and two certifications from relatively prestigious universities...

I would argue they're not worth what the market suggests they are...

CEOforCities has been running a big campaign for a number of years that argues that cities can increase their per capita income by increasing the number of BA/BS degree's in their region. And they use the stats to suggest that your average HS grad make $33K a year, your average College Degree holder makes $58K a year... soooo, obviously for your city to prosper all ya gotta do is get ya some more college graduates.

And apparently college graduation makes a big difference in other areas as well... if you want to know how well a kid will do on standardized test, as this chart from prominent economist James Heckman from the University of Chicago shows, just look at his/her mothers education - 

Get a college degree you will make more money, your kids will do better... simple formula.

And finally, someone I admire is currently in a debate with someone I admire much less arguing essentially what these statistic argue - the great Vivek Wadwha and paypal Founder Peter Thiel have been doing a back and forth on this for years and while I generally agree with Professor Wadwah 99.9% of the time... in this case he's arguing for the necessity of getting that college degree and on this issue I can't buy the argument.  Briefly, here's why.

If 5000 college graduates moved to my poor, mostly rural town right now where would they work?  Give them all the same level of education I have... A Master's Degree in Sociology... would businesses flock to town to hire them?  Compare my education to a wiz kid website designer with no college... who's got more options in the market place right now?  Not the old guy with the Sociology degree.  Now, granted I'm good at what I do and I do have a number of options... but how many of my skills were learned because they sprinkled fairy dust on me in college and I magically got smart?  I'd argue none.  My pieces of paper have value in the market, only because they are pieces of paper with the right words on them, the skills I've developed to think, to negotiate, to lead... they were learned from mentors, and by reading, by listening, by doing... did I personally need the early discipline to show up at 8 o'clock classes, to take notes, etc., yes I did... was it imperative, was it the only way, was it the best way?  I don't think so.

In today's world it's about skills, it's about learning, it's about creating new competitive advantages... taking 4 years off to do so, and pay $100K for it... may not be the most effective and efficient way to do it.  Is it necessary if you want to be a doctor, a lawyer, a nurse... yes, it is... is it sufficient, even in those particular trades, to be excellent?  No.  No it's not.

I suggest we're entering a world where skills matter more than certifications... we've got to do a better job of teaching skills and creating a passion to learn new skills... we can't do either by forcing kids to take courses they don't won't to take, to get sheets of paper that have no meaning, even if, for now, they still have some value.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

We Built It?!

The Republican convention last night was a farce, an entire night meant to lie to the American public... and the crazy, ingenious thing about  their strategy is that it will work.  But, I do imagine the planning meetings, the sweat dripping off Karl Rove as he says, "nobody will believe we could organize this many people to lie ... thus, it becomes our word against the black guys word."

So, what was the lie?  "We Built it"... Obama pointed out in a speech in Roanoke Virginia that we have a social contract in this country - we pool our funds to build roads, bridges, schools, fire stations, police departments, do research, go to the moon, inspect food, etc., etc. and this social contract has led us to where we are today.  The Republicans said BULLSHIT.  Every rich person made it rich on their own merits, the poor are poor because they're stupid bastards and the rich are rich, and the United States powerful, because that's the way God wants it.  And they did an entire night of their convention spreading a lie about what Obama said AND even more remarkably brought small business owners to the stage, who in fact have received more than their share of government help, and pulled their strings like puppets to say, "we did it all without government help!"...

Charlie Pierce in Esquire on the subject:
"It was an entire evening based on a demonstrable lie. It was an entire evening based on demonstrable lies told in service to the overriding demonstrable lie. And there was only one real story for actual journalists to tell at the end of it.
         The Republicans simply don't care.
They don't care that they lie. They don't care that their lies are obvious. They don't care that their lies wouldn't fool an underpaid substitute Social Studies teacher in a public middle school, who would then probably go out one night and get yelled at by Chris Christie. ("They believe in teacher's unions. We believe in teachers," he said in his speech. Yeah, you just don't believe in paying them.) They don't care that their history is a lie and that, by spreading it, they devalue the actual history of the country, which is something that belongs to us."
And Nicholas Kristof in the NYTimes:
"In short, the Republicans are inadvertently underscoring the point that President Obama was expressing in his “you didn’t build that” comment in July. Obama noted then that “if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.” He pointed to public investments in roads and bridges that enable businesses to flourish, and then he inelegantly added, “If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that.”
Fox News erupted in outrage, selectively editing the clip to confirm Republican prejudices that Obama doesn’t understand the private sector. This fits into the Republican narrative that business executives are heroic job creators when they aren’t held back by regulations and taxes imposed by quasi-socialist Muslims born in Kenya. "
Kristof goes on to make a really important point... one of the speakers last night was Sher Valenzuela. She and her husband have built a business in Delaware and she’s running for Lt. Gov. Well, he links to a powerpoint that Ms. Valenzuela gave to a women’s group in Delaware that’s all about how she got government loans, contracts, and training to build her business into the success it is today… here’s a quote from one of the powerpoint slides:

“Many of you would be surprised to know that when we couldn’t find enough quality trained machine operators the State actually financed and implemented a full-service employee training program designed for our facility – and it didn’t cost us a dime!”
Uh, Republicans... your speaker talking about doing it on their own merit got $2M in GOVERNMENT LOANS and a workforce trained with 100% GOVERNMENT MONEY!  Which leads me to the conclusion that these bastards are delusional... absolutely convinced they hit a home run, when they all started out on 3rd base.  Self-righteous, delusional, crazy people.  And half the population watched the program, waved their flag, and went to bed last night dreaming of an America that never existed.










Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Who Let the Angry Black Man in the White House?

Romney in Ohio yesterday,
"“This is what an angry and desperate presidency looks like. President Obama knows better, promised better, and America deserves better,”
I think you can say a number of things about President Obama, but angry?  What the hell does that mean?  Many of us have wished he would be angry, wished he would call out his critics who've called him a socialist, a Muslim, and rhetorically take them to the woodshed... but, he didn't.  In fact, I would argue he's failed every damn time he's trusted the Republican's to do what was right, he's bent over backwards to be bipartisan and everytime he's got his ass handed to him politically.

Charles Pierce has a really good piece in Esquire this month... that gets to this issue...

Black Like Him: Obama's Narrow Path to Reelection


Because those white people voted him into office, his primary job as president is to make sure his entire presidency is a demonstration of how far we've come as a nation on race, and that means he is not allowed to do anything or say anything that the white people who elected him can perceive to be divisive, because his primary function is to make them feel good about themselves. In theory, at least, all presidents are servants of the people who elected them. In the case of Barack Obama, it has seemed from the start that the idea as applied to him was more than mere metaphor. He is the first president in my lifetime whom the country felt obligated to remind that he know his place.







Saturday, July 7, 2012

Brooks: On Education -

David Brooks, as I've written about before (HERE ), is tremendously frustrating to me... He's written some pieces that are among my favorites, (see the link to one of them on the right of this blog) but often he gets the diagnosis of a particular issue exactly right, yet when he gets to solutions he is completely wrong...

This week he approached the subject of education, specifically the education of  young men and boys, and it's yet another piece that I thought was a great analysis of a problem, and solutions that make absolutely no sense. He started with this very nice analysis::

"Henry V is one of Shakespeare’s most appealing characters. He was rambunctious when young and courageous when older. But suppose Henry went to an American school. By about the third week of nursery school, Henry’s teacher would be sending notes home saying that Henry “had another hard day today.” He was disruptive during circle time. By midyear, there’d be sly little hints dropped that maybe Henry’s parents should think about medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Many of the other boys are on it, and they find school much easier.
By elementary school, Henry would be lucky to get 20-minute snatches of recess. During one, he’d jump off the top of the jungle gym, and, by the time he hit the ground, the supervising teachers would be all over him for breaking the safety rules. He’d get in a serious wrestling match with his buddy Falstaff, and, by the time he got him in a headlock, there’d be suspensions all around. 
First, Henry would withdraw. He’d decide that the official school culture is for wimps and softies and he’d just disengage. In kindergarten, he’d wonder why he just couldn’t be good. By junior high, he’d lose interest in trying and his grades would plummet.
Then he’d rebel. If the official high school culture was über-nurturing, he’d be über-crude. If it valued cooperation and sensitivity, he’d devote his mental energies to violent video games and aggressive music. If college wanted him to be focused and tightly ambitious, he’d exile himself into a lewd and unsupervised laddie subculture. He’d have vague high ambitions but no realistic way to realize them. Day to day, he’d look completely adrift.
This is roughly what’s happening in schools across the Western world..."
Now, at this point I was expecting Brooks to knock it out of the park, it would have made for a shorter piece, but to hit it out of the park all he had to do at this point was reference a 21 minute video and say, "Watch this, this is exactly what I'm talking about!" and that video would have been Sir Ken Robinson's wildly popular TED speech - Do Schools Kill Creativity?"

But, where does Brooks go with it instead?  He blames some mythical, effiminate school cultural that we can assume is caused by liberals and perhaps our countries lack of Tiger Mom's... Brooks writes:

"The education system has become culturally cohesive, rewarding and encouraging a certain sort of person: one who is nurturing, collaborative, disciplined, neat, studious, industrious and ambitious. People who don’t fit this cultural ideal respond by disengaging and rebelling." ...
"Schools have to engage people as they are. That requires leaders who insist on more cultural diversity in school: not just teachers who celebrate cooperation, but other teachers who celebrate competition; not just teachers who honor environmental virtues, but teachers who honor military virtues; not just curriculums that teach how to share, but curriculums that teach how to win and how to lose; not just programs that work like friendship circles, but programs that work like boot camp. "
I just don't know where to start with this... first, I'll start by saying I have two boys - one 9 year old and in 3rd grade in public school, the other a 3 year old that goes to a church preschool. 

Teachers that celebrate competition?   dear lord David... cooperation is seen as CHEATING at the schools, there's is absolutely not one second of the day that my son is encouraged to collaborate or cooperate on ANY activity... this may well be why we're the most polarized at any point since the Civil War in this country - we don't give children, or their parents, any opportunities to cooperate on anything for the public good. Nothing is more important to the teachers, and sadly my son, than that he compete and win on the  test scores...My wife and I have figured my son took 300 test or quizzes this year. 300! And none of those 300 test had a damn thing to do with cooperation or collaboration.

Teachers that honor military virtues?  Help me Rhonda! What could be more military than making kids walk in straight lines? Raise their hand to go potty? Speak when spoken too?  Conform! Respect Authority! And if you don't?  Throw you in detention or kick you out!  Sounds just like boot camp doesn't it? Except they don't run them in the ground physically, no we've had to eliminate physical education to allow more butt time in the classroom so they can do better on these god forsaken test. 

Curriculums that teach how to win and lose?  Well this may well be the most absurd. Our archaic industrial model schools have been segregating winners and losers since their inception.  Winners get A's! This year in my son's 3rd grade classroom he got to stare everyday at the "All A's Wall"... Winners get A's David!  Losers don't!  In 3rd grade!  Their ability to memorize crap they won't remember, and will utimately google  it if the topic comes up, determines the winners and loser.  Not to mentioned that at 3rd grade we know well that the kids that get A's have opportunities that the poor performing kids don't - like two parents with a college education and jobs, like 3 good meals every day - but, what our schools do is label kids a loser early and if nothing else we tell them how to be "good losers"... we do this, as Brooks suggest, by medicating them and punishing them until they learn what our schools are really teaching... there are winners/losers, owners/workers, leaders and followers and it's completely determined by your ability to make A's or D's on some f'in test.. (John Taylor Gatto has written beautifully about what our schools are really teaching... here for example).  And one of the great ironies of Brooks piece is that what do we do with the "losers" schools have identified?  Well, we send them to the military of course.

Brooks' analysis that schools are not engaging every child is spot on, but it's not because the schools aren't ready for the rough and rowdy Henry's, it because they are still training factory workers for jobs that no longer exist. 

Our communities must demand schools that help every child find that intersection between their passion/skills/opportunity... that has nothing to do with conforming, standardization, or winning and losing... Hell, just watch this video, it's exactly what I'm talking about - Do Schools Kill Creativity? ...

... and read these books








Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Making the strings easy to pull...

The myth is that education is the big equalizer.  But, the call for more STEM, more Standardization, more Testing from the rich and corporate education "reformers" is the new language for "Let them eat cake"... as Matt Farmer illustrates in this video.  The Chicago University Laboratory School he mentions, and schools like them across the country, are where the rich go and send their kids, and they look nothing like our public schools... they're teaching leadership, critical thinking, collaboration... all skills the elite don't want from the masses whose strings they pull...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

For whom the economy works...

Just did a google news search... record price paid for and most ever paid for
$52M for a NYC Co-op
$86.9M for a Rothko
$850K for Batman Comic Book
$90M for NYC Penthouse
$120M for a Munch (the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction)
$388.5M for highest contemporary art auction ever, (including record prices for Richter, Pollock, Newman, Klein, and the aforementioned Rothko)
$155K for comic panel pages
$2.1M for post-war Canadian Artwork

And the Republican mantra for the last 12 years is give these new owners of apartments, art, and comics a tax break and it will benefit everyone else...

A Venture Capitalist begs to differ:
Transcript HERE
Charts HERE

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"In Nothing We Trust"

In someways I am as guilty of this as the people I'm about to chastise and blame for this... which must beg the question, where did my own mistrust come from?... Nevertheless, I'll deal with my own issues later.

This is an important piece from the National Journal - In Nothing We Trust - and for most of this I blame the demagogues in conservative media. 

"Muncie is a microcosm of a nation whose motto could be, “In Nothing We Trust.” Seven in 10 Americans believe that the country is on the wrong track; eight in 10 are dissatisfied with the way the nation is being governed. Only 23 percent have confidence in banks, and just 19 percent have confidence in big business. Less than half the population expresses “a great deal” of confidence in the public-school system or organized religion. “We have lost our gods,” says Laura Hansen, an assistant professor of sociology at Western New England University in Springfield, Mass. “We lost [faith] in the media: Remember Walter Cronkite? We lost it in our culture: You can’t point to a movie star who might inspire us, because we know too much about them. We lost it in politics, because we know too much about politicians’ lives. We’ve lost it—that basic sense of trust and confidence—in everything.”"
When you are drilled by the conservative pundits on a daily basis that our President is an evil socialist/ communist, Muslim intent on destroying everything you were raised to believe was good... how the hell can we possibly be shocked when the people don't trust the President?  And, as Reagan famously preached, you've been drilled since childhood that "Government is the problem, not the solution!"  how can you possibly believe in it?  But, on a more substantive level, I would suggest the following is  the real key to our malaise, and may address my own schizophrenia on the issue:

 Whitmire is a story of Muncie, and Muncie is the story of America. In this place—dubbed “Middletown” by early 20th-century sociologists—people have lost faith in their institutions. Government, politics, corporations, the media, organized religion, organized labor, banks, businesses, and other mainstays of a healthy society are failing. It’s not just that the institutions are corrupt or broken; those clichés oversimplify an existential problem: With few notable exceptions, the nation’s onetime social pillars are ill-equipped for the 21st century. Most critically, they are failing to adapt quickly enough for a population buffeted by wrenching economic, technological, and demographic change.
 As I've argued before we're in the middle of a fundamental change in our economy - globalization, demographics, and technology are completely changing the way we live, work, and learn.  And, as the piece suggest, neither we nor our institutions are keeping up with the pace of change.  The fundamental contract that suggested if you worked hard, kept your nose clean, went to school and studied hard then you could be assured of at least some minimum standard of living is broken.  Companies no longer have to hire people to make record profits, this last recession has proven that... Rapidly accelerating technology and lean manufacturing mean they can produce stuff without having to deal with employee's issues.  The great question going forward is how the hell will those displaced prove in the future they are worthy of at least a minimum standard of living?

This election will be won or lost by candidates and parties that will suggest they can fix this moving forward... but, I hope they both realize they can't.  It's going to take bolder initiatives than they're throwing out on the table, or could possibly get momentum at this point (just look at the pitiful education "reform" agenda's as an example)... and sadly, it appears the situation is going to have to get much worse before it get's better... the question we'll end up betting on is whether it will be too late.

Liberal Founding Fathers

I've always thought of quotes from the founding fathers, when used in political arguments, just as quotes from a particular religious text used in religious arguments, simply a game of one up man-ship that accomplishes very little in the way of argument or study of an issue.

Having said that, I ran across this list recently and thought I would post them.  Perhaps if you happen to be in some a meaningless on-line pissing contest, or at the in-laws for the holidays, you can throw these out... then feel bad about it later, but at least for the moment you'll confuse the fool on the receiving end of your tirade...
(Some book recommendations for liberals - HERE)

  •   "There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by … corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses." -- James Madison
  • "I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations which dare already to challenge our government in a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country." -- Thomas Jefferson
  • "With respect to the new Government, nine or ten States will probably have accepted by the end of this month. The others may oppose it. Virginia, I think, will be of this number. Besides other objections of less moment, she [Virginia] will insist on annexing a bill of rights to the new Constitution, i.e. a bill wherein the Government shall declare that, 1. Religion shall be free; 2. Printing presses free; 3. Trials by jury preserved in all cases; 4. No monopolies in commerce; 5. No standing army. Upon receiving this bill of rights, she will probably depart from her other objections; and this bill is so much to the interest of all the States, that I presume they will offer it, and thus our Constitution be amended, and our Union closed by the end of the present year."-- Thomas Jefferson
  • "In this point of the case the question is distinctly presented whether the people of the United States are to govern through representatives chosen by their unbiased suffrages or whether the money and power of a great corporation are to be secretly exerted to influence their judgment and control their decisions."-- Andrew Jackson
  • "I am more than ever convinced of the dangers to which the free and unbiased exercise of political opinion - the only sure foundation and safeguard of republican government - would be exposed by any further increase of the already overgrown influence of corporate authorities."-- Martin Van Buren
  • "We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. The best blood of the flower of American youth has been freely offered upon our country's altar that the nation might live. It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. "As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavour to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless."-- Abraham Lincoln
  • "As we view the achievements of aggregated capital, we discover the existence of trusts, combinations, and monopolies, while the citizen is struggling far in the rear or is trampled to death beneath an iron heel. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people's masters."-- Grover Cleveland
  • "The first thing to understand is the difference between the natural person and the fictitious person called a corporation. They differ in the purpose for which they are created, in the strength which they possess, and in the restraints under which they act. "Man is the handiwork of God and was placed upon earth to carry out a Divine purpose; the corporation is the handiwork of man and created to carry out a money-making policy. "There is comparatively little difference in the strength of men; a corporation may be one hundred, one thousand, or even one million times stronger than the average man. Man acts under the restraints of conscience, and is influenced also by a belief in a future life. A corporation has no soul and cares nothing about the hereafter. …"A corporation has no rights except those given it by law. It can exercise no power except that conferred upon it by the people through legislation, and the people should be as free to withhold as to give, public interest and not private advantage being the end in view."-- Secretary of State and 3-time Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan
  • "I again recommend a law prohibiting all corporations from contributing to the campaign expenses of any party.… Let individuals contribute as they desire; but let us prohibit in effective fashion all corporations from making contributions for any political purpose, directly or indirectly."-- Theodore Roosevelt
  • "The fortunes amassed through corporate organization are now so large, and vest such power in those that wield them, as to make it a matter of necessity to give to the sovereign - that is, to the Government, which represents the people as a whole - some effective power of supervision over their corporate use. In order to insure a healthy social and industrial life, every big corporation should be held responsible by, and be accountable to, some sovereign strong enough to control its conduct."
    -- Theodore Roosevelt 
(A Few New Additions from HERE)
  • “The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning.  And ever since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate a free inquiry?  …brutality is patiently endured, countenanced, propagated, and applauded.  But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will find you have disturbed a nest of hornets…”~John Adams
  • “The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…” (From the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797. Signed by President Adams and ratified unanimously by the United States Senate. That’s right, unanimously!)~John Adams
  • “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man (Deism) into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purposes.”~Thomas Jefferson
  • “The priests of the different religious sects… dread the advance of science as witches do the approach of daylight.”~Thomas Jefferson
  • “Religious bondage shackles and debilitates the mind and unfits it for every noble enterprise.”~James Madison
  • “What influence have ecclesiastical establishments had on society?  In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been the guardians of the liberties of the people.”~James Madison
For more thoughtful analysis, I recommend:



Friday, April 27, 2012

Obama on the Liberal-Conservative Scale

Historian Eric Alterman on Bill Moyers recently was asked to place Obama on a 100 point scale - 100 being the most liberal President, 0 being the most conservative... keep in mind his answer during this campaign when he's called a socialist/communist, etc.  What it indicates is how far out of touch the Republicans are and how they've pulled the strings of their base who repeat this crap...

Click HERE for the Moyers video

TEST Scores - US VS The World

What's the point of higher test scores on standardized test?  We assume that it shows that kids are learning, and if kids are learning that will then increase their value and productivity in the market place... right?

Along those lines, we hear that the US ranks 20 whatever place in International test scores, corporations like Exxon are running ads, lamenting these scores and talking about their efforts to increase STEM programs and thus increase test scores (and thus increase students value in the market) but what we don’t hear is that on these same test, our kids who are not in poverty, actually rank the highest in the world on these test.  They beat everybody.  The kicker is that when you add the test scores of kids who are in poverty to  that’s our results we fall back… 

But we can’t have a conversation that suggest we should raise more people out of poverty…to increase test scores.   No, we blame teachers, and schools, and those kids today, etc.  Conversations about poverty imply class warfare.

Good piece by Linda Darling-Hammond on the subject @ the Washington Post - HERE

Saturday, March 31, 2012

More on the Postal Service

A thorough analysis from Jim Hightower on the move to destroy the Postal Service... which I've written about a couple times previously (HERE)


Hightower Lowdown - The Post Office is not broke--and it hasn't taken any of our tax money since 1971

"The anti-government ideologues have had to concede that profit's not the point, but still they groan that USPS is losing billions of dollars a year. Why should hard-pressed taxpayers be expected to keep shoveling money from the public treasury into this loser of a government agency?
They're not. IMPORTANT FACTOID NUMBER 1: Since 1971, the postal service has not taken a dime from taxpayers. All of its operations--including the remarkable convenience of 32,000 local post offices (more service outlets than Walmart, Starbucks, and McDonald's combined)--are paid for by peddling stamps and other products.
But wait, what about those annual losses? Good grief, squawk the Chicken Littles, USPS has gone some $13 billion in the hole during the past four years--a private corporation would go broke with that record! (Actually, private corporations tend to go to Washington rather than go broke, getting taxpayer bailouts to cover their losses.) IMPORTANT FACTOID NUMBER 2: The Postal Service is NOT broke. Indeed, in those four years of loudly deplored "losses," the Service actually produced a $700 million operational profit (despite the worst economy since the Great Depression).
What's going on here? Right-wing sabotage of USPS financing, that's what. In 2006, the Bush White House and Congress whacked the post office with the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act--an incredible piece of ugliness requiring the agency to PRE-PAY the health care benefits not only of current employees, but also of all employees who'll retire during the next 75 years. Yes, that includes employees who're not yet born! No other agency and no corporation has to do this. Worse, this ridiculous law demands that USPS fully fund this seven-decade burden by 2016. Imagine the shrieks of outrage if Congress tried to slap FedEx or other private firms with such an onerous requirement. This politically motivated mandate is costing the Postal Service $5.5 billion a year--money taken right out of postage revenue that could be going to services. That's the real source of the "financial crisis" squeez-ing America's post offices."

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Big Miss...

Hank Haney, golf coach to Tiger Woods has a new book-The Big Miss (click below to order) -  that's caused a stir in many circles... Here's why I'll read the book - it fascinates me what makes the extraordinary tick - And I don't know Hank's motivations, but I hope it was the same. 

There are very few examples of the very best and brightest who strictly conform to societal norms and obviously Tiger violates a lot of what we call 'normal'...

I've been a fan of golfer Jack Nicklaus fan for 40 years... a couple months ago they were doing a Top 10 show on Golf Channel and one of the reporters said something like this, "Nicklaus has this trait, which is really annoying in real life, but imperative for a champion... nothing is ever his fault.  On the course it's always a spike mark, or the wind changed, or the crowd, or the equipment... but if it's always something elses fault, his confidence in himself stayed high"... then a couple nights ago I was watching replay of the LPGA stop and Judy Rankin made a similar observation about someone, and the European announcer at the event made the point that 'no one is easier to fool than yourself'... finally, in the latest GolfWorld Peter Thompson when asked about Nicklaus says, "I've never met a bigger ego, I'll leave it at that"

Read the history of the founding fathers and most were a bit nuts, it's a cliche I suppose, but the great artist, musicians, authors,  they too are not your average Joe's... therein lies the problems as fans, whether we are fans of politicians, sports celebrities, or artist, we all just want to relate to them and think they're "just like us"... I'd like to have a beer with them!  No, you probably wouldn't and they wouldn't like to have one with you...

Most of us were trained to be good factory workers in school, to mind our manners, respect authority, play by the rules, go to church on Sunday, say the pledge to the flag, and drink beer on Sunday and watch 'the game', to, in essence "tranquilize ourselves with the trivial", anybody who didn't follow that model was odd, different, an outcast, yet some of them started Microsoft/Apple, etc., some excelled at sports, some created great works of art, and others are doing 20-25 years in Maximum Security, or curled up in some facility in a fetal position throwing their feces at the interns who bring their applesauce... and that gap between throwing 100MPH strikes in the Big Leagues and feces at the interns is really small and really interesting to try and understand.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Philanthropy and Education "Reform"

Two very good pieces that talk about how corporations are shaping education policy in this country - it's amazing to me that so few give a damn and that the 'reformers' are championed throughout the main stream media and by every politician...

Stanley Katz - Beware Big Donors -

"Look at the most recent Forbes 400 (the magazine's annual list of the richest Americans), headed by Bill Gates (net worth $59-billion), Warren Buffett ($39-billion), Larry Ellison ($33-billion), the Koch brothers ($25-billion each), one of the Waltons (Christy, $24.5-billion), and so on. As of August 2011, more than 40 families had pledged themselves to the effort by Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates to galvanize other billionaires to give away, inter vivos, the majority of their wealth to philanthropy. Many of them have already set up family foundations (and more will do so), and many of those new foundations have bounded to the upper reaches of the Foundation Center's list of the top 100 private philanthropies.
They are new foundations, and they are behaving in novel ways, departing from the more reflective, more patient, and generally less aggressive behaviors of the classic 20th-century foundations."... "What has been particularly interesting to note has been the commitment of the newer foundations to overt policy advocacy, which they see as a logical outcome of their strategic stance."..."The new strategic foundations behave as though they are entitled to make public policy, and they are not shy about it. Perhaps the most obvious, and important, example of the new philanthropic aggressiveness is the financing of organizations and projects concerned with the reform of public elementary and secondary education."
"What is obvious to me, as a historian of the emergence of private philanthropic foundations almost exactly a century ago, is how far we have traveled from the fears of the first foundations that they would be perceived as antiegalitarian and threatening to the democratic process. For years Rockefeller and Carnegie pussyfooted around financing economic and social efforts that might be perceived as politically sensitive. Ford got into trouble with Congress when it immersed itself in school reform in New York City and had to back down. But while Gates is often seen as antiunion and pro-charter school—politically contestable positions—it shows no signs of hesitating to push its overtly political agenda. Gates and Lumina are clearly untroubled to be, and to be seen as, players in education policy.
Universities—and their associations—have been silent on this development, perhaps reluctant to bite the hands that feed them. But shouldn't we all be concerned when public officials defer to private institutions when reforming higher education? Are we outsourcing parts of our education policy to the private philanthropic sector? I think so."
And a nice summary from Diane Ravitch @ Education Week about how these reforms are actually taking place... 

The Pattern on the Rug -

"The pattern on the rug grows clear. Teaching will become a job, not a profession. Young people will typically spend a year or two as teachers, then move on to other, more rewarding careers. Federal and state policy will promote online learning, and computers will replace teaches. Online class sizes will reach 1:100, even 1:200; the job of monitoring the screens will be outsourced, creating large economies for state budgets. For-profit companies will make large profits. The Common Core standards will create a national marketplace for vendors, as Secretary Arne Duncan's chief of staff, Joanne Weiss, predicted. Entrepreneurs will reap the rewards of the new American style of education. As profits grow, the cost of education will be contained. Public education will increasingly be handed over to businesses designed to maximize economic efficiency and produce dependable profits for investors.
The report last week from the Klein-Rice commission of the Council on Foreign Relations reveals how this manner of thinking about education has become the conventional wisdom. Public schools as we know them, the commission suggests, are a threat to national security. What's needed to protect us from foreign enemies is more competition and choice, more privatization of our public schools, more No Child Left Behind, more Race to the Top. Big commissions tend to reflect the status quo. This one does, for sure.
See the pattern on the rug? It grows clearer every day. It is not about improving education. It is not about helping our society become more literate and better educated. Follow the money. We are indeed a nation at risk."

Warm and Fuzzy Corporate Power

Really well done piece @ In These Times - GE's Warm and Fuzzy Ad Campaign Ignores U.S. Job Slashing -

A couple of excerpts:
"... GE racked up $14.2 billion in profits in 2010 while paying no federal income taxes was not well-received by the American public. GE not only avoided paying any taxes, but even managed to collect $3.2 billion in federal tax credits. This occurred against a backdrop of GE continuing to slash its U.S. workforce by 32,000 jobs, from 165,000 to 133,000 over the 2004-2010 period."
And how does GE respond?
" Kicking off with the Super Bowl, GE has been filling the airwaves with ads aimed not at selling GE products to consumers, but at reassuring U.S. citizens that GE's driving mission is to meet human needs, provide deeply-satisfying work to its employees, and revitalize America's manufacturing base."
 
"“The twentieth century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.
—Alex Carey, author of Taking the Risk Out of Democracy."

How corporations keep the public tied to the corporate myth moving forward will be increasingly interesting to watch... used to be everyone at least knew someone that worked for GE,GM,Ford, etc. so when they ran an ad talking about how important they were, people had some frame of reference... but, as the corporations have figured out how to make record profits without large numbers of employee's, I suspect we will see more of the propaganda...