Bank of America attributes the new monthly charge to genuine cost issues. Maybe. But it’s always worth remembering that banks detest debit cards on principle, and for exactly the reason that consumers like them. Debit cards prevent consumers from accumulating excess debt. They compete with credit cards, which encourage debt. And despite today’s ultra-low-interest rate environment, credit card interest rates have reached an all-time peak of an average almost 15% APR.I suppose my full throated support of the last paragraph means I'm some sort of anti-capitalist conspiracy theorist. If my bank starts charging for the debit card, I too will begin looking for a bank that doesn't.
So yes it’s theoretically possible that banks are on-forwarding genuine cost increases. But it’s also possible that banks do their accounting in such a way as to make the strongest possible case against the debit cards they hate, so as to drive consumers back toward the dangerous device that makes them so much money: credit.
Happily, there are other banks in the world than Bank of America. (I’m a customer, but I’ll be rethinking.)
Whatever your personal financial decisions, one lesson should be taken by all from the financial crisis of 2008-2009: more skepticism is due about everything the big US banks say about what they do and why they do it.
Friday, September 30, 2011
Again, it’s weird that any story about the White House forgetting to send out a Christian holiday proclamation gets hundreds of hits while any story indicating Obama’s familiarity with a Bible story gets downplayed to the point of almost a blackout. And the thing is that I’ve covered Obama enough to know that he drops stuff like this somewhat regularly.
If the sermon at whatever church Michele Bachmann happened to visit in Iowa one day gets coverage, if every reference a GOP candidate makes to — gasp — prayer gets covered, surely a presidential speech built completely around the faith of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego might be worthy of something, right?For those who need a quick a reminder, here's the Statler Brothers with a refresher. After all, nothing says Friday morning like a gospel quartet.
The post makes a large point. Is religion solely a Republican affair unless it's the meme that Obama is Muslim?
Failing to cover this speech only reinforces negative perceptions. First, the press is in Obama's pocket so they won't write anything that will cause him trouble with his secular liberal base. Second, the press doesn't understand and doesn't want to understand religious people. Third, Democrats can't do religion.
I understand that matters of faith are tricky to write about, but Republicans aren't the only people who read the Bible. Some of us displaced people read it and need it too.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
I read Andrew Sullivan and follow his links so I know that people should vote for the most utilitarian candidate.
When the Washington Monthly's Steve Benen highlighted this Wayne LaPierre speech, I knew I had missed an important Internet meme.
Benen reports that LaPierre says,
“[The Obama campaign] will say gun owners — they’ll say they left them alone,” LaPierre told an audience at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Friday. “In public, he’ll remind us that he’s put off calls from his party to renew the Clinton [assault weapons] ban, he hasn’t pushed for new gun control laws… The president will offer the 2nd Amendment lip service and hit the campaign trail saying he’s actually been good for the 2nd Amendment.”
“But it’s a big fat stinking lie!” the NRA leader exclaimed. “It’s all part of a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and destroy the 2nd Amendment in our country.”
"Obama himself is no fool. So when he got elected, they concocted a scheme to stay away from the gun issue, lull gun owners to sleep and play us for fools in 2012. Well, gun owners are not fools and we are not fooled,” La Pierre declared.
“… President Obama and his cohorts, yeah, they’re going to deny their conspiracy to fool gun owners. Some in the liberal media, they are already probably blogging about it. But we don’t care because the lying, conniving Obama crowd can kiss our Constitution!”One would have to be smoking Machiavelli's steroid laced ashes to believe that such a theory would be believed,so LaPierre must be taking part in an internet meme that involves creating the most outlandish conspiracy theory possible.
Here's my contribution: Chris Christie, New Jersey's governor, keeps denying that he's running for president. I'll let Jon Stewart show the media frenzy.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|Indecision 2012 - Indecision Edition - Chris Christie's Answer|
My theory is that Obama is threatening Christie with Muslim ninja snipers trained by the New Jersey mafia to keep Christie out of the race because he knows Christie is the only one who can defeat him in 2012. Update: The sniper rifles were all confiscated from LaPierre's secret NRA headquarter stash.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
5. Henry Waxman--I don't like national blowhards like Limbaugh, and I don't believe America needs national scolds like the California Representative.
6. Perhaps I should number this one 5A, but whatever happened to the Hubert Humphrey happy warrior brand of Democrat? Is it now Democratic doctrine that every party spokesperson is either a boring technician like Harry Reid, glum like John Kerry, or a scold like Waxman?
7. Perhaps this one should have just be a subset of point 4, but your party has been falsely accused of being socialists and Marxists for my entire 54 years on this planet and you haven't found an effective way to confront or embrace the charge? Seriously? You're getting screwed by your PR firms.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
One or Woster's commenters, John2, suggests the following:
If you want SD and the US to have 1st world secondary scholastic achievement results then take a modern model from nations that do: Denmark, the nations of northern Europe, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Shanghai, etc. Focus on scholarship. Put all extracurriculars where they belong – in clubs outside of school jurisdiction. These leaders in secondary education excellence took the US model and improved it with up to 230 , or more full contact days per year. The US, on the other hand, is frozen in the 1950’s Happy Days-era of high school games and year books.Both Cory and John2 have an important point; schools should focus on academic content. It's irresponsible for a high school principal to suggest that a gym is as important as a science lab or library. That's not to say that a gym is unimportant, but it doesn't rank as high as a library or computer lab.
Further, I would not object to a longer school year as long as it had breaks dispersed throughout it. I've long advocated a school year that followed a 6 weeks on and 2 or 3 weeks off pattern.
That being said, a longer school year or eliminating non-academic extra curriculars won't change much of anything. The club sports that spring up will dominate students' priorities because they are "fun." Parents will probably put a higher priority on club athletic events than they do on current extra curriculars because they are paying for them. Further, if club sports become the norm, schools will probably lose funding because clubs will want money to build gyms and practice facilities. In the court of public opinion, bread and circuses beat math and literature every time.
I wish I lived in a world dominated by Cory's and John2's thinking. I don't. Given the thinking that dominates American culture, the educational and activity framework South Dakota has now is probably the best we can hope for.
Monday, September 26, 2011
I understand the money crunch. I’ve been writing about it for years. It stings me, too, when I pay my property taxes. And what reasonable person could argue that every school year should include an astute search for efficiencies and savings?
But it should also include a search for new ways to expand students’ horizons, enlarge their minds, multiply their options and inspire them to achieve more and believe more fully in their own education, as well as in their own future and in the future of their society.
4. Torture: I know I'm supposed to call it "enhanced interrogation." That Orwellian phrasing makes it worse. Torture is evil. I won't side with those who support it.
5. The creation of a de facto parliamentary system in Congress. I know both parties do some knee jerk party line votes, but the Gingrich Contract with/for/on America and the recent political games played by Representatives Boehner and Cantor have destroyed much of the genius behind the system the founders created and left us with a parliament not a congress
6. The alliance with talk radio that has entrenched a public discourse that favors wrath, volume, and talking points over wisdom and reasoned discourse.
7. The effort to turn patriotism into an act of exclusivity rather than exclusivity. The flag lapel pin is a gimmick to illustrate "we're more patriotic than you who don't wear the pin" and then there's Michele Bachmann who wants Congress to be investigated for anti-American views.
Sunday, September 25, 2011
MC at the Dakota War College posted the following paragraphs about proposed federal regulations banning all cell phone use for truck drivers.
A professional knows their limits. A doctor, knows when a problem is beyond them and asks for help. A quarterback knows when to pass, hand-off, or sit out the game. A professional driver knows when stop and take a break, when they can turn on the radio listen to some noise, and when to turn it off and pay attention to the traffic around them. . . .
As a former professional truck driver I can speak with some authority on this. I have seen some people do some things while driving, that are totaly insane; and make using a cell phone seem minor. There are some drivers, of trucks, cars, motorcycles, and even bicycles, that should not be on the road. The operators can be too distracted to operate that equipment safely.I don't have any knowledge about long haul trucking, and I agree with most of the above quotation. My question is a little off topic. Why I'm supposed trust professional drivers, accountants, business people, lawyers, or doctors when they announce they have expertise in their area, but no one wants consults or trusts a teacher when he or she claims to know something about education? I would guess that there are no more bad teachers per capita than there are bad lawyers or doctors or truck drivers.
Denise Ross posts about possible career trajectories of John Thune and Brendan Johnson, son of Senator Tim Johnson. Bob Mercer muses about the possibility that Thune will suffer the same fate as Senators McGovern, Pressler, and Daschle who lost re-election bids after they moved into Senate leadership roles. Both posts ignore a question I've had for a long time: what has Thune ever done to earn to a leadership spot?
The Madville Times discusses a potential South Dakota impact to the discovery that neutrinos move faster than the speed of light. Meanwhile, A Progressive on the Prairie links to this Diatribe Media post with the following quotations:
I hope we really do feed the world and go into space, but don't I have enough policy debate counterplans to worry about this season without adding ban the military to the list? (Yes, high school debate does dominate debate coaches' every waking moment.)Because we can. As Bucky Fuller pointed out, we have the technology and capability to feed, clothe, house and provide for every human being on the planet our most basic needs. But instead of doing so, we buy into a belief of scarcity, of hoarding, of fear of losing what little we have. . . .
To quote the words of one of the 20th century’s greatest philosophers, Bill Hicks:“…it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one.
Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.” (italics in original)
Although this question doesn't fit the "South Dakota" part of this post's title, I am left wondering the following: Is there any good news coming? Congress is deadlocked over billions when the problem is trillions, and Greece, Italy, and the whole of Europe seem to be pushing the world into another financial crisis.
Saturday, September 24, 2011
1. Poverty is at 50 year high.
2. The income gap between rich and poor is double what it was in 1968 and growing.
3. The top one percent control nearly 40% of the wealth. Twenty-five years ago they controlled 33% of the wealth,
4. Income and wealth are tools to gain and keep power.
5. Wealthy people dominate Congress.
6. Income and wealth ought to be valued for their instrumental nature, but it seems as if many people value money and wealth as ends unto themselves. I suppose one could logically assume that people value power over everything else and seek money to achieve it.
7. Will Wilkinson is probably correct about the following two observations: First, we argue about freedom in rather backward and convoluted way.
Everyone who professes to care about liberty does the same sort of thing. It seems to me that most of our high-level political concepts like "freedom" or "equality" are tailored and tweaked to justify the kind of political regime we already tend to favor. If you are offended by taxation, you'll settle on a conception of liberty according to which taxation is a violation. If you think a relatively high level of taxation is necessary to give people what you think they ought to get, you'll settle on a conception of liberty according to which taxation is not a violation, but not giving people what you think they ought to get is.Next, Americans probably not as free as we think we are.
Of course, we're all constantly subject to the wills of others. People are constantly enjoining and entreating and wheedling and shaming and peer-pressuring and so forth. One doesn't want to say that self-rule or autonomy requires total immunity from the influence of others. And it's plainly circular to say the problem is being subject to an external will in a way that limits our freedom. But I think noting that helps us to see that the question is not really one of being subject to an external will or not, but of the way in which one is made subject to an external will.
It seems pretty plausible that subtle psychological manipulation, "brainwashing," and even just internalizing the norms of a culture that discourages the development of a sense of independent self-efficacy can make one the subject of a will not really one's own. If the capacity for self-rule has developmental and ongoing material and psychological preconditions, freedom as self-rule can require a whole lot more than immunity from physically coercive interference.8. Wilkinson's points lead me to believe that political and business leaders have raised the art of bread and circuses to a new level. The current bread and circuses are usually recent technological innovations. These items fulfill the function well because everyone over the age of 18 may remember a time when people didn't have laptops or cell phones, but most of us are able to ignore the fact that we have reached a point where these items have become necessary. I really can't imagine any professional firm hiring someone who didn't have a cell phone or the ability to check email away from work.
9. Americans seemingly equate wealth and power with wisdom and intellect.
10. The tax code has become a tool to modify human behavior not a means of collecting revenue.
Were I Martin Luther, I might be able to develop some secular theses to nail on some door. Were I Marx, Hayek, Keynes, or Friedman, I might be able to develop some economic and political theories that would apply. I'm not, so I'll state the obvious.
First, the current economic woes will continue and worsen. The U.S. will experience its version of Japan's lost decade.
Second, the wealth and income gaps between the rich and poor will continue to widen.
Third, if the monied elites begin to believe that Americans will not be soothed with new HD televisions, faster laptops, or new versions of Angry Birds, America will be at war again within the next 5 years.
Fourth, there will be no meaningful tax reform.
Fifth, any reforms that do occur will come at the expense of the middle class in the form raised retirement age and lower Social Security benefits.
Sixth, Americans will continue to mouth an increasingly empty phrase: they live in a land governed "of, by, and for the people."
Friday, September 23, 2011
Even if consumers wanted to borrow, credit is just not very available to the typical person right now. Some credit, for example on credit cards, is not cheap. In fact, the average APR on credit cards is scraping a record peak: 14.96%.
As anxious as investors are about US personal debt however, they are blithe to nonchalance about the US public debt. Interest on that debt has sunk to record lows: under 2%.
The markets see deflation and depression, not inflation. Yet ironically this non-existent and much dreaded inflation is exactly the remedy we need to lighten the load of consumer debt.
As is, we’re looking at a continued economic slump, more unemployment, and more deleveraging via continuing catastrophic consumer default on mortgages, car loans, credit cards, and student aid. And now the GOP leadership is urging that the Federal Reserve make the catastrophe worse? To what end?
I know what the detractors will say: to the end of defeating President Obama and replacing him with a Republican president. And if you’ve convinced yourself that Obama is the Second Coming of Malcolm X, Trotsky, and the all-conquering Caliph Omar all in one, then perhaps capsizing the US economy and plunging your fellow-citizens deeper into misery will seem a price worth paying to rid the country of him.
But on any realistic assessment of the problems faced by Americans – and not just would-be Republican office-holders – it’s the recession, not the presidency, that is National Problem #1 and demands the most urgent action. It won’t be enough to save Obama if he does not deserve saving – but it may be enough to save your neighbor’s house, job, and family. Or even … your own. Republicans after all have been victims of this crisis too. It’s an hour of national emergency even more urgent and overwhelming than the aftermath of 9/11. And things may soon get worse, if the Eurozone begins to crack up, as it seems it may. This is the hour for united action against the economic crisis, not partisan maneuvering.
Thursday, September 22, 2011
The point, I would submit, is to enforce and reinforce not only the good rules of liberal order, but also the humane ethos of liberal civilization. We punish to deter. We punish to acknowledge the harm brought to the victim, to their loved ones, to their community. We punish to shame and to publicly dishonor the criminal. But the way we do it should embody ideals of humanity, magnanimity, and improvement. Punishment thus should be as light as is consistent with the requirements of security and harmonious society. We must learn, against the grain of our vengeful retributive instincts, to find satisfaction in justice that leaves the thief with his hands, the murderer with his life.
Troy Davis didn't need to be killed in order to achieve any of the goals of a civilized system of criminal justice. Nobody needs to be killed to do that. That's why the people of decent societies oppose the death penalty. The folks at the GOP debate in Tampa who cheered for Texas' record of execution under Rick Perry showed just how indecently uncivilized America remains. But sooner or later enlightenment will dawn and we'll stop perversely killing in the name of justice. Let's hope the killing of Troy Davis helps make it sooner.I wish I could be as optimistic as Wilkinson, but reading the comments on this Madville Times post makes me believe that states will kill more innocent people.
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
|America's UFO Activity Decline|
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
1. Pictures and YouTube clips produce lots of one time traffic but few returns visitors.
2. I'm a poor judge of which posts will be get views and comments. I think that fact illustrates that I knew what I was doing when I picked the adjective "displaced" for the blog's title.
3. My proofreading and keyboarding skills still suck.
4. Blogging well requires a bigger time commitment than I had thought. One thing I can tell my students after the past few months is that ideas don't develop quickly or in a vacuum. Nearly everything I have written has taken more time than I thought it would and came from a reaction to or an effort to supplement something I read somewhere else.
5. Cats like to grab humans' hands when humans type on the computer keyboard. This "game" makes proofreading much more important.
6. Blogs probably work better if one sticks to a single subject or locale. Writing about a few political issues, pop culture, educational issues, and issues related to teaching English probably segments an audience. I don't do much local stuff that promotes comments or regular daily traffic.
7. It's much easier to speak snark than it is to write snark.
8. I have to apologize to my students at some point. I tell them to be concise, but when rushed I tend to get wordy. I should practice what I preach.
9. Blogging daily requires discipline and routine. Angry Birds destroys discipline; the start of school changed routine.
10. This medium makes it far easier for me to accentuate the negative. I will need to look at writing about more things I support rather than things I oppose or statements I wish to critique.
Monday, September 19, 2011
Does anyone really assess their tax burden and decide that they would prefer to earn less in order to avoid paying a higher marginal rate? Yes, in a country of more than 300 million people, the statistical likelihood is that there are a few who would indeed say, “I would rather earn $378,000 a year and stay under the threshold of 35 percent taxes than earn $500,000 and pay a few thousand dollars more in taxes.” But there is also a statistical likelihood that about the same number of people believe that there is a secret NASA base on Mars. We live with outliers; we don’t construct national policy on the foundation of their delusions.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
[T]he Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the agency that approves and disapproves degree programs, implemented a more stringent annual review system for eliminating those with low enrollment. Programs that fail to graduate an average of five students per year over five years face being cut (current students would be allowed to graduate, but new enrollment would be halted).As a result of an arbitrary number,
Nearly 60 percent of the state’s undergraduate physics programs failed to meet the initial bar. According to the American Physical Society, a professional society of physicists, if the same 25-students-in-5- years standard were applied nationally, 526 of about 760 programs would be shuttered.I may not be a STEM person, but I'm fairly certain that physics is a needed for most science and engineering careers. Cutting physics at the university level sends a strong message about one's views of the role of the university. Texas physics professor Carlos Handy sums up the situation quite well:
“Physics is a true canary in the mine, so to speak, of judging America’s capabilities in terms of science, . . . If you let physics go, it’s symptomatic of the fact that something has eroded in the intellectual capacity of academic institutions.”It's a safe bet that the South Dakota legislature will once again cut K-12 and university education funding. As they consider these cuts, I hope, probably foolishly, legislators stop to consider the harm that further cuts will do to the core capacities of educational institutions.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
I'm sure dozens of reasons exist to dislike G.I. Joe Renegades, but I certainly appreciate name-dropping a philosopher and an allusion to a principle that if one hates too much, one becomes what one hates. I hope some of the young'uns will check out the Wikipedia entry. For this morning anyway, Go Joe!
1. I live in South Dakota. If I were to join a party here, it would make more sense to join the Republican party and to elect conservatives to protect myself from the reactionaries. I disagree with the former but am frightened by the latter. I have lost hope that reasonable moderates have any future in this state.
2. NCLB was terrible. Race To The Top is worse. Teachers came out in droves for Obama; he rewarded them with Arne Duncan's contempt.
3. It may be a cliche, but it's also usually true: the proof is in the pudding. For all of their talk about being for the little guy, Democrats recent accomplishments to help the average American are few and far between. The stimulus and TARP protected Wall Street. Democratic leaders paid lip service to the evils of "too big to fail, but entrenched the corporate structures that nearly destroyed the economy. If I live my allotted threescore and ten, I'll get to see 2008 repeated.
4. Democrats are politically inept. At a personal level turning the other cheek may be moral, decent, and desirable. In politics, meeting in the middle demands moving away from extremes of of the political opposition not toward them. To use a really bad example, if the Republicans were to suggest cutting off the hands of every thief, Democrats should suggest releasing every bank robber who donates the money to poverty reduction. If this example were to be proposed, I believe the Democrats would suggest that a compromise of cutting off three fingers but leaving the rest of the hand attached to the wrist.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
I'll start with the Republicans. These are the big three. There will be more to follow. I'll get to the Democrats soon
1. The death penalty as practiced in the United States is questionable at best and completely immoral at worst, I'm leaning much closer to the latter. The Republicans full-throated support of this policy frightens me.
2. The Patriot Act is the biggest assault on freedom that I've seen in my 50+ years. The Republicans support extending this act. I find it impossible to support a party that believes that a mandate to buy insurance is a bigger threat to liberty than a law that says an executive can without probably cause declare people to be terrorists and then hold them secretly and indefinitely.
3. The anti-intellectual bent that even David Brooks notices. I don't have time to list all of the examples from the South Dakota Legislature.
I'll add to this list rather frequently over the next month.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Given all that, it is remarkable that so many conservatives regard Obamacare as the biggest threat to liberty, that they fret about deficits while staunchly opposing any cuts to defense spending, and that their paranoia about big government and the endemic corruption, inefficiency, and power hungriness that characterizes it somehow never extends to the military or national security state. Equally remarkable are the liberals who are outraged when gays are denied the right to marry (a position I also share), but who are silent as the standard-bearer for the Democratic Party imprisons people indefinitely without due process, spies on an unknowable number of innocent Americans, and normalizes the worst excesses of the Bush years, sometimes by amassing a record that's even worse. . . .I don't agree with the conclusions of this David Frum post, but the analysis is interesting, especially given its source.
Excepting slavery and Jim Crow, all the most oppressive laws and extra-legal measures in American history have been passed in the name of war or national security: the Alien and Sedition Acts, Abraham Lincoln's suspension of habeus corpus, the Espionage Act and Woodrow Wilson's other radical World War I era excesses. You'd think that the advent of another war would cause left and right alike to be on guard against excesses. Throughout American history, during just, necessary wars and wars of choice alike, civil liberties have suffered in the most extreme ways. . . .
Ten years after the September 11 terrorist attacks, this blindness is the most notable feature of American life, and the one that represents the gravest danger to our future. After past periods of overzealous attacks on civil liberties, there has always been a backlash. Alas, the tea party is insufficiently enamored with liberty to do the job.
One political party has decided that the only thing that matters – or anyway, that can be achieved – is to enhance America’s long-term growth path by reducing regulations, rationalizing taxes, and restraining government spending in future years. As for today’s economic crisis? We’ll just have to tough it out. And when it says “we,” it means: the unemployed, those without health insurance, etc.
The other political party, by contrast has lots of ideas for remedying the crisis: monetary ease, fiscal stimulus, middle-income tax relief, tax credits to hire the unemployed, etc. And their ideas for the longer term future of the country? More of the same, forever, leading to a permanently enlarged state, financed by permanently higher taxes – and taxes of the most peculiarly destructive kind.Finally, this David Sirota summary of the corporate educational reformers is worth reading. The key introductory paragraphs:
As Brill and most other education correspondents tell it, those most aggressively trying to privatize public schools and focus education around standardized tests just "happen to be" Wall Streeters -- as if that's merely a random, inconsequential coincidence. Somehow, we are to assume that these same Wall Streeters who make millions off of "parasitic" investment schemes to leech public institutions for private profit couldn't have ulterior motives when it comes to public schools.
No, in the standard fairy tale sold as education journalism, these "reformers" are presented as having had an honest, entirely altruistic "epiphany" that led them to discover that "the reforms that are necessary" (ie., only the policies Wall Street deems acceptable) comprise "the civil rights issue of this era."
In this framing, millionaires and billionaires trying to eviscerate traditional public education from their Manhattan office suites are the new Martin Luther Kings -- even though the empirical data tell us that their schemes to charter-ize and privatize schools have been a systemic failure, often further disadvantaging the most economically challenged students of all (one example: see Stanford's landmark study showing more than a third of kids whom reformers ushered into charter schools were educationally harmed by the move).
The truth, of course, is that for all the denialist agitprop to the contrary, corporate education "reformers" are motivated by self-interest, too. In a sense, these "reformers" are akin to the Bush administration neoconservatives when it came to Iraq. Some of them wanted to invade for oil, some wanted to invade to create a new sphere of influence, some wanted to invade to further isolate Iran, and still others wanted to invade to "spread democracy." But as Paul Wolfowitz famously said, they "settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on which was weapons of mass destruction" as the public rationale for war.
Same thing for those who fund corporate education "reform": they have a lot of different self-interests, but they've settled on schools as a political target that unifies them all.
Monday, September 12, 2011
To sum up, active engagement in the history of philosophy keeps a rich variety of frameworks alive and under development, often seeking out imaginative ways of combining the old with the new. It can also provide a more balanced perspective on current orthodoxies, for those who might otherwise be carried along by the hubris of the crowd to dismiss alternative approaches, conveniently forgetting the long history of discarded enthusiasms. Secure building for the future requires learning from the past, and the history of philosophical fashion demonstrates very clearly the folly of putting all one’s eggs into the currently popular baskets. Indeed, in the long-term, it is very much in the interest of those now at the vanguard, that future generations of philosophers should take their history seriously!If ever a historical period demanded "a more balanced perspective on current orthodoxies, for those who might otherwise be carried along by the hubris of the crowd to dismiss alternative approaches, conveniently forgetting the long history of discarded enthusiasms," it's now.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a “party line.” Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases — bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder — one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker’s spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.In short, political cliches and hacks have existed for a long time. It's odd that they haven't updated their catch phrases much since 1946, but changing eliminating buzz words would demand original thought.
Of course, some may wish to become walking cliches. David Frum posts this slide of Rick Perry.
Given the nature of political cliches, I'm certain the base is now solidified.
Saturday, September 10, 2011
First, Americans spend money poorly; no one needs a falcon but everyone wants one.
Second, it's easier to recognize others' errors. The wife understands that buying a falcon is nonsense; the husband seems pleased.
Third, it's easier to blame someone distant from us than it is someone close to use. The wife blames the agent for buying the falcon.
Fourth, Americans are great at justifying their own stupidity: I saved money and bought a falcon, ergo you bought me the falcon
Fifth, no one even blinks twice at the idea that freedom to choose involves bad choices. More importantly, no one blinks twice at the idea that this commercial celebrates dumb chocices.
Sixth, there's no shortage of people who make dumb choices and kick themselves for not making a worse one. No one in the commercial seems to want to spend $400 on a new laptop.
Seventh, celebrating stupid purchases while claiming the product one is advertising is wise choice is ironic, but no one seems to notice it.
Friday, September 9, 2011
I left home at 5:35 this morning to attend the Speech Communication of South Dakota convention. Here are a few highlights.
1. Seeing dawn in a rear view mirror.
2. Getting to hear AM stations from three or four states away.
3. Eating sour candy slices from Casey's.
4. Seeing fog burn off before I drove into it.
5. Listening to smart people talk about debate.
6. Not thinking about or talking about politics.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
For the next several months, the Republican contest may shape up as a fundamental question for Republican voters as they seek a candidate to challenge Mr. Obama for the right to occupy the Oval Office:
Do they want a Texas Republican or a Massachusetts one?At least this question will get answered. Mine never do.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
She was wrong about the source. In I Kings 19:11 the prophet Elijah faced an earthquake and wind, but saw a different source.
And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:When it comes to God's utterances, I'll put my money on Elijah over Bachmann. God wasn't talking through the earthquake or hurricane, but that doesn't mean he's not talking.
The Republican presidential candidates are all supposed to sound like this: corporations are people.
Mitt didn't add that they're individuals under a court decision that allows them to give him nearly unlimited sums of money. Still Republicans are supposed to sound like this. Corporations are good. Mitt even added to the line later. According to a Wall Street Journal report,
“I said ‘corporations are people,’ and the Democrats said, ‘Oh, he’s in big trouble now saying something like that,’” Mr. Romney said. “Well don’t they understand that we work for corporations?” Mr. Romney made his fortune as co-founder of the private equity firm Bain Capital.Suddenly miracles have started to happen. Sarah Palin started making sense. That same Wall Street Journal article reports,
[Romney's speech] was a marked contrast from the approach Ms. Palin took during her speech in Indianola, Iowa, Saturday. After repeatedly accusing President Barack Obama of steering government to benefit corporate campaign donors, she turned to her party’s presidential candidates: “To be fair, some GOP candidates, they also raise mammoth amounts of cash,” Ms. Palin said. “What, if anything, do their donors expect for their investments?”
News reports have shown that some donors to Texas Gov. Rick Perry received state appointments. And this year, he has been slammed anew by many conservatives for a 2007 executive order requiring sixth-grade girls in Texas to get a vaccine made by Merck & Co. to help prevent cervical cancer; Mr. Perry’s former chief of staff is a lobbyist for Merck. Mr. Perry later said that was a mistake. When Ms. Palin was asked afterward her speech if she had Mr. Perry in mind, she replied, “I want all of our GOP candidates to take the opportunity to kill corporate capitalism that is leading to this cronyism, which is ruining our economy.”Hearing Sarah attack corporations is as big of a miracle as hearing Balaam's donkey talk. The full account is here.
Then last night on The Daily Show, Republican presidential candidate Buddy Roemer, decried money in politics and corporations' influence: "Corporations. . . don't give a damn about the rest of the America." Of course, he wasn't invited to the Republican debate tonight, but still a Republican candidate is strongly attacking money in politics and corporations. (Roemer's attack on corporations starts about 3:50 in.)
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c|
If the Cubs win the 2012 World Series, I will know God is shouting at us.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
11. Why is Dick Cheney being given a pass on his book? No matter what one believes about
12. What does it take to gain political power in Washington D.C.? Quite frankly, if Pelosi, Reid, Boehner, and McConnell are the best people the parties have there, it can't be that hard. I'd be more impressed if it looked as if they had read Machiavelli because it appears that they try to be Machiavellian but really suck at it.
13. I realize this might be a naive question, but which leaders, in or out of office, serve as the conscience of your respective parties?
14. Will you seriously try to do things to shrink the wealth gap or is being barely ahead of Rwanda good enough for you?
15. All of you claim to listen to American people. How many of your personal friends in your states or districts are of the other party? How many make under $75,000 a year?
Monday, September 5, 2011
At South Dakota Politics, Dr. Blanchard has written a provocative post about science having the authority that religion formerly along with the schisms that still plague the faithful.
Science enjoys the kind of unique authority in modern civilization that religion once enjoyed. It is the one source of wisdom that is all but immune to challenge. To be openly "anti-science" is to be discredited in modern eyes.Blanchard goes on to quote Steven Hayward who writes,
But rather than stopping with the simple observation that ideology or politics drives acceptance or rejection of certain domains of science, it is worth pressing on to ask why liberals dislike some kind of science, and conservatives other kinds. Liberals in the case of childhood vaccinations and GM organisms dislike certain forms of authorityIf I can carry the religious analogy a step further, modern personal technology like mp3 players, tablets, laptops, and smart phones function as the paten and chalice.
Public schools are legally mandated to worship at the alter of science. NCLB demands no less:
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, calls for the use of "scientifically based research" as the foundation for many education programs and for classroom instruction.A lengthy New York Times article "In Classroom of Future, Stagnant Scores" shows that schools, like the larger culture, struggles with the limits of science and technology. The article profiles the Kyrene School District's efforts to "offer what some see as a utopian vision of education’s future." The schools "[c]lassrooms are decked out with laptops, big interactive screens and software that drills students on every basic subject."
The school seeks to change the nature of education.
The digital push here aims to go far beyond gadgets to transform the very nature of the classroom, turning the teacher into a guide instead of a lecturer, wandering among students who learn at their own pace on Internet-connected devices.The problem here is that some of the results have more to do with "the substance of things unseen, the evidence of things hoped for" rather than scientific fact.
But to many education experts, something is not adding up — here and across the country. In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology, even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.
This conundrum calls into question one of the most significant contemporary educational movements. Advocates for giving schools a major technological upgrade — which include powerful educators, Silicon Valley titans and White House appointees — say digital devices let students learn at their own pace, teach skills needed in a modern economy and hold the attention of a generation weaned on gadgets.
Some backers of this idea say standardized tests, the most widely used measure of student performance, don’t capture the breadth of skills that computers can help develop. But they also concede that for now there is no better way to gauge the educational value of expensive technology investments.
“The data is pretty weak. It’s very difficult when we’re pressed to come up with convincing data,” said Tom Vander Ark, the former executive director for education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and an investor in educational technology companies. When it comes to showing results, he said, “We better put up or shut up.”Despite that admission, Vander Ark illustrates both the faith of a believer and the depth of the schism. The Times continues,
And yet, in virtually the same breath, he said change of a historic magnitude is inevitably coming to classrooms this decade: “It’s one of the three or four biggest things happening in the world today.”
Critics counter that, absent clear proof, schools are being motivated by a blind faith in technology and an overemphasis on digital skills — like using PowerPoint and multimedia tools — at the expense of math, reading and writing fundamentals. They say the technology advocates have it backward when they press to upgrade first and ask questions later.I will offer a few observations that may or may not serve as theses to nail to the school house door.
1. American society has become so tech centric that schools need to have tech in place and teachers need to use it in order for their classes to be taken seriously.
2. John Naisbitt was correct in the 1980s and 1990s when he asserted that society was becoming high tech and high touch. Literature teachers in particular must help students learn to "balance material wonders of technology with the spiritual demands of our human nature."
3. Schools will always be behind the curve when it comes to the latest technology; therefore, they must do more to teach about the principles of using technology than the specifics of currently fashionable programs and platforms.
4. There is nothing new under the sun. Some of us of a certain age remember filmstrips and mimeograph machines. A power point and a film strip do not differ that greatly. When done well, both help students learn; when done poorly, both put students to sleep. Likewise, worksheets are worksheets. It doesn't matter if they were mimeographed or photocopied. Photocopies do lack that ink odor that may or may not have destroyed many fourth graders' brain cells from the 1950s through the mid-1980s.
5. All of this is a long way of saying that schools are rightfully prevented from teaching a specific religion. Likewise, they should not be mandated to use a specific scientific method or technological tool. All require a bit of faith and a skilled practitioner.
Sunday, September 4, 2011
But politics and money are never going to fill what is essentially a public vacuum that is moral, philosophical and spiritual. (The latter was instantly recognized by fundamentalist Christians, disfigured by cultural ignorance, as they may be.) Not many ordinary Americans talk about this vacuum. The required spiritual and philosophical language has been successfully purged by newspeak, popular culture, a human regimentation process masquerading as a national educational system, and the ruthlessness of everyday competition, which leaves no time to contemplate anything.
Still, the void, the meaninglessness of ordinary work and the emptiness of daily life scares thinking citizens shitless, with its many unspeakables, spy cams, security state pronouncements, citizens being economically disappeared, and general back-of-the-mind unease. Capitalism's faceless machinery has colonized our very souls. If the political was not personal to begin with, it's personal now.
Some Americans believe we can collectively triumph over the monolith we presently fear and worship. Others believe the best we can do is to find the personal strength to endure and go forward on lonely inner plains of the self.
Doing either will take inner moral, spiritual and intellectual liberation. It all depends on where you choose to fight your battle. Or if you even choose to fight it. But one thing is certain. The only way out is in.
Saturday, September 3, 2011
We are being made aware that the organisation of society on the principle of private profit, as well as public destruction, is leading both to the deformation of humanity by unregulated industrialism, and to the exhaustion of natural resources, and that a good deal of our material progress is a progress for which succeeding generations may have to pay dearly. I need only mention, as an instance now very much before the public eye, the results of ‘soil-erosion’—the exploitation of the earth, on a vast scale for two generations, for commercial profit: immediate benefits leading to dearth and desert. . . . [A] wrong attitude towards nature implies, somewhere, a wrong attitude towards God, and . . . the consequence is an inevitable doom. For a long enough time we have believed in nothing but the values arising in a mechanised, commercialised, urbanised way of life: it would be as well for us to face the permanent conditions upon which God allows us to live upon this planet
T.S. Eliot, “The Idea of a Christian Society”
So to win, do we need to shout more loudly, or do we need to find judges with different paradigms?If I may be permitted another debate analogy, we need both an extra-topical and an effectually topical plan that both wins on the facts and changes mindsets.
Let me offer two quick observations. First, I apologize for the debate jargon sprinkled throughout the post. I'll try to keep it to a minimum. Second, I'm not sure I know how to accomplish any of what follows, but every task needs a to do list of some sort.
I have three points at the value level. First, teachers need to stop with the "save the children" talk. There's an organization that has trademarked that terminology already. It has a website. The other people who "love" children are parents and babysitters. Neither gets paid very well for "saving" or "loving" children. Further, it's hard to claim that education is worth paying professionals to do if those professionals use the same phrases as a tweener who will be raving about Lady Gaga 5 seconds after she explains how much she "loves" taking care of someone else's child.
Second, educators have to embrace the fact that they are the machines and robots of the educational industry. Most people are willing to pay for farm machinery and factory robots. When those same people hear that 80% of a school's budget goes to salary and benefits, they assume their tax dollars are overpaying a bunch of babysitters.
Third, administrators need to learn some technological history to get better bang for the buck. They go for the new or flashy when they should be trying to determine which technology will win. Further, they need to do more to determine how people will use the tech or react to it.
For example, Betamax may have been a better product, but it lost to VHS. Most people use microwave ovens as overpriced popcorn poppers that produces rather awful popcorn that might be bad for one's health. In the past couple of years, schools initiated laptop projects at a time when tablets seem set to become the dominant technology. Right now, I'm willing to bet that the best bet would be to issue Kindles or Nooks.
More importantly, people a little older than I am may use technology, but they are uncomfortable with it, They are also the ones who have the biggest financial resources, and they vote. If they think money is being wasted on expensive toys, schools are in trouble.
Now for the extra-topical plan planks.
During every legislative session, someone should introduce a bill making four years of college free for South Dakota residents at South Dakota schools. The idea that education needs to be a lifelong event needs to get ingrained. I know it will never pass but having the argument every year will make.
Find or create a South Dakota equivalent to Politifact. The big lies are too easy to tell and too easy to believe. Right now, bloggers and reports who call out those who tell the "whoppers" are marginalized as "liberals" which in South Dakota is a dirty word.
The time may have come to eliminate local school boards and replace them with something like county school boards that hire a county superintendent. I would hope that some of the small school vs large school problem would go a way.
Finally, I'd offer this "kritik-like" plan plank. This South Dakota Supreme Court decision states,
We agree with the plaintiffs that the language of South Dakota’s Constitution means that all children are entitled to a free, adequate, and quality public education. The constitutional language and intent of the framers guarantee the children of South Dakota a constitutional right to an education that provides them with the opportunity to prepare for their future roles as citizens, participants in the political system, and competitors both economically and intellectually. The constitutional mandate does not contemplate a system that fails to educate all children or leaves pockets of inadequate conditions and achievement as a result of insufficient funding. As General Beadle so eloquently stated, “The genius of the poorest must have equal chance with the opportunity of the rich.” (italics in original)The ruling seems to lack a definition of "adequate." It also doesn't seem to define "prepare" or explain what's necessary to fulfill one's role as a citizen or economic competitor. Given the vague nature of the state's constitution and the opinion, it seems that every South Dakota legislature's budget should have an "educational impact statement" or the equivalent that explains how the funding is "adequate" to prepare students for "their future roles as citizens, participants in the political system, and competitors both economically and intellectually." I'm not sure if this requirement needs to be issued by a court or by the legislature, but the conversation must be moved from money first to preparation first.
I am now open for cross examination and points of clarification.
Friday, September 2, 2011
In high school debate terms, we could say the plaintiffs won the Lincoln-Douglas battle but lost the policy war on Harms and perhaps Inherency (which is still a voting issue).I have not read the decision as carefully as Cory has but it strikes me that a different debate analogy is in order. Also, public forum debate needs to be included in the analogy.
I don't see much "inherency." Instead the value debate looks like a critique of the system. It seems that the plaintiffs lost because they ran a critical case with potential harms in front of a stock issues panel that said "no link, no brink, no harm."
To begin the public forum debate analogy, South Dakota judges may not need to follow the elections. Living in a one-party state affords them that luxury. That being said, however, it's pretty clear that the "grand crossfire" sections of all debate being held in the greater public forum are being won by those who hold a very minimal view of the word "adequate."
The sad part of the comparison is that high school public forum grand crossfires frequently become incomprehensible shouting matches. In the broader general public, the grand crossfire is also being won by those who shout the loudest, not those with the better argument.
Thursday, September 1, 2011
Many politicians claim they came from here.