Opinions from the
Fair Elections, Now!
Surprise, surprise, even though Big Pharm and the health insurance
industry and big commercial hospital systems poured MILLIONS into
convincing congressmen (and -women) to muddle the health-care reform
bills with nonsense riders and abortion/antiabortion babble somehow the
Democrats were able to pass a watered-down version. I noticed that not
a single Republican voted for the measure. Says something about how
much they really care for the welfare of "the American people" they so
vocally champion! They only people they truly champion are those who
line their pockets!
But there are ways to attack the problem of big money running
government. They did it in Maine and Arizona and have an extremely
limited pilot program in California to change the way elections are
funded. It is pretty technical, so you ought to see it for yourself -
look up the Fair Elections Act, Proposition 15 on the June 2010
primary. Also, at the Federal level consider the Fair Elections Now Act
in both the House and Senate. The federal acts are not likely to pass
(you've NO IDEA the amount of money spent on federal elections. Neither
do I. That is the big idea - if we don't know who is paying whom, what
part do voters play except rubberstamping the games of moneyed
The Supreme Court recently decided that the US could not
Constitutionally limit the spending of big corporations on elections.
This means, of course, that corporations, which seem to be legally
persons under the law, have far more influence on who gets elected than
you or I, or, in fact, a whole bunch of yous and Is, despite the fact
that corporations can't vote! (Should we therefore give corporations a
vote? What a can of worms!) This is clearly a case of the "golden
rule": he who has the gold, rules!
The principle is simple enough. Money is power. Power tends to
corrupt. Democracy is about all the people keeping power. It is not
about some people making more money than others and using that money to
deny power to others. The recent financial meltdown caused by
unregulated over-lending in the housing market is a prime example. The
people who sold those crazy below-prime mortgages resold them to big
banks and made off with fortunes. The banks couldn't get their money
from oversold homeowners and instead cried to the Feds for bailout
(which they got - then used it to pay their genius executives fat
bonuses!) How did they get away with running an unregulated housing
market? Guess... Did someone say lobbyists? BINGO! Because of
corporations' rights of free speech (money talks)(no, it SHOUTS) our
nation has a million homeless people, and a million people who lost
billions on their homes, now sitting empty, the property of banks no
longer willing to lend. Insanity? Not if you consider the people who
made huge profits from this entire mess!
This is just one example of how money undermines democracy.
Click the links above to see some good ideas about small first steps to
turn this around and maybe give some elections back to the electorate.
Obama's Speech to School Children
I could not have said it better than Phil Plait: The mainstreaming of crazy (10/09)
are a scream. Many of them haven't a clue how the real world works and
it is hilarious when they pontificate on our uncertain economic times
as though the old homilies of the past are good for all times. Nuts.
1: "Tax and Spend"
Democrats. Yes, indeed, Democrats spend money! And then they
have the effrontery to tax the citizens to pay for it. Now Republicans,
instead... spend money! And then they wreck the economy with wars and
deregulation and then give us tax cuts and astronomical deficits! Big
difference! Democrats make everyone pay for feeding at the trough,
Republicans make future generations pay for it. In triplicate. Cool,
Yeah, politicians are to blame for
spending us into bankruptcy, and they (of any party) should be ashamed.
I agree. But
you can't show me ANY data which says Republicans spend more carefully
and frugally than Democrats. Big spending is part of the game! I would
much prefer that whoever spends that much money turn around and charge
the beneficiaries with the taxes to pay for it. Instead, Republicans
seem to think that if you make tax cuts instead (and sorta ignore the
deficit elephant sitting in the living-room) everything is now OK.
Sure it is, for those who most
benefit from the tax cuts. Aint me,
Whatever happened to "fiscal
responsibility", so much touted by Republicans?
2: Here is the ugly word (cover your eyes if it hurts them): SOCIALISM. Ever since Pres.
Obama's election, the GOP leadership has been screaming this term at
the top of
its collected lungs.
GOP, you don't know socialism from
your rear end.
I will absolutely agree that this
administration strongly supports many "welfare" programs where the
federal government takes over many of the activities (banking,
insurance for two) formerly left to the free market. Regrettable, true.
But these two institutions (among others) are currently moribund. The
long-term regulatory climate (most prominantly promoted by our dear,
departed ex-president Reagan (the acting president)) is mostly to
blame. So what are we supposed to do? The Republicans would have you
believe that all we have to do is bail out the banks and insurance
conglomerates (over and over) and everything will be hunky dory.
Markets remain free, and all sins are forgiven.
In 1932 a Democratic President came
into office amid the same economic chaos as what is happening now. He
moved quickly to regulate banks (and insurance companies and many other
"free market" institutions) to make them work again and, most
importantly, to restore public confidence in them. Immediately,
Republicans branded him "Communist" (the cold war version of
"Socialist"). But he saved the country. He gave people jobs and
restored confidence, and lead us to a new era of prosperity (and
organized us to win a World War on the side).
YES, DAMN RIGHT this is socialist!
You Betchum! When the government fails the majority of the people who
elect it, it is not doing its job! Government has one primary mission:
to protect the vast majority of its people from the ravages of those
with abnormally exaggerated power and influence - like corporations and
financiers. Sure, we NEED corporations and financiers in the modern
world, but we also NEED to keep them in check. The "anti-socialists"
tell us we don't. In light of the economic woes of the last year, you
tell me. Do we need regulation, or not? It's socialist,
remember! Do we
need universal health care, or not? Another socialist program. ANYTHING
for the common good at the expense of free (unbridled) enterprise is
socialist. Maybe it is about time we gave up this knee-jerk reaction to
this word and went ahead and did the things we need to do to "promote
the general welfare".
And until the Republicans get off
this old catch-word hobby-horse, I strongly suspect they will become
more and more marginalized in the eyes of all the Americans who work so
hard for a living and currently fear for their lives from this
recession, depression, or whatever it is.
(Disclaimer: I have worked with many Republicans, and most are nice,
intelligent people. But the Party Mouthpieces seem to be of the type
described here. I hope all you Republicans will look at what the
Mouthpieces are trying to claim you believe. If you don't believe this
nonsense, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! ) 03/09
I saw this article in T.H.E. Journal. Jeanne Hayes begins:
I just got off the phone with a
colleague who had returned from a business trip. After visiting with
various school districts, she presented remedial reading products to a
school board in an affluent suburban school district. When she finished
presenting the need for her product, the school board member asked,
"Why are you bothering to build remedial reading products when there
are so many kids who are performing in the middle of the pack?"
This school board member is a real
estate broker. Does he know the statistics about kids who can't read
properly? Does he know whether a kid is in the inner city or in the
affluent suburbs? Does the school board member know that the student's
life may well be determined by whether someone brings him into the
world of literacy? Is this school board member qualified to serve?
Sometimes I think that all the
media coverage about NCLB has made the public weary of the notion that
reading is fundamental. And, for good or bad, school board members
reflect the public's sentiments. So what is the process for a member of
the community to become a school board member?.
So it occurred to me that there IS
a way! And it may just help combat the pervasive deadening effect of
the NCLB Act. NCLB is often rephrased by teachers as "No Child Left
Untested" because it relies heavily on continuous, expensive, somewhat
misleading TESTING. So here is my idea: Test all candidates for
schoolboards! They should each take the current High School Exit Exam
(whatever that is) AND any teacher-qualifying exam, such as the CBEST
in California. The CBEST is a simple test showing basic competence in
reading, writing and math (the 3 Rs!) and not much harder than the exit
exam. Professional teachers have almost always taken it, but it is the
ONLY qualifying exam for substitute teachers that I know of. If the
candidate FAILS the exit exam, I don't think he/she is qualified to run
at all. In any case, the test results should be published IN THE
ELECTION MATERIAL so that voters can see who is most qualified to be on
the board. In addition, those elected should be tested again each year,
and expelled from office if their scores go down!
The most likely result would be, not only more qualified (hopefully
but the school boards would have a real appreciation for the exit exams
and the pernicious effects of NCLB. As long as the public is complacent
about NCLB, nothing will happen. This may change that complacency. 01/07
No, I'm not talking about a defunct(?) federal do-good organization from
the 60s or 70s. I'm talking about a realization I had today, talking to
my daughter. She asked "Why don't college professors know how to
Got me to think. College professors are very good at their subjects
namely whatever earned them their PhDs, but only those in the Education
departments spent any great time studying educational methodology.
Additionally, few professors have had teaching experience (except as
college TAs) before getting their PhDs and later their professorial
So, I thought to myself, they should be school teachers first to get
that experience - right? And immediately I thought of another pet peeve
of mine - the fact that a majority of military officers have had no
enlisted experience. See the parallel? Hence "Teacher Corps". Both the
military and college education could benefit from better
teaching experience. In the military there is a name for this -
something like the mustang career route. For instance, at one time, in
the Marine Corps at least, officers who had not worked themselves up
through at least several enlisted ranks and seen combat action as
enlisted got a lot less real respect that officers who had. I believe
much of the troubles in the current US military may stem from this -
but that is another topic for another day.
I just think maybe colleges should look closely at professor
and see how much real experience they have had, teaching public school,
especially. The public school teachers are the REAL shock troups of
education in the modern would. Professors may be smart and educated,
but do they know how to TEACH? Even well intentioned professors would
have to spend 10 years actively trying to learn how to teach before
they get good at it. Most of them don't try - they put their efforts
into research or writing - because that is what pays. But public school
teachers spend MOST of their time trying to learn how better to teach -
their job, and employers, demand it! And in California, failure to take
skill improvement classes can lose you your credential!! Do they
require this in college? Or is it tertiary to publishing and research?
My personal opinion is that college students learn mainly in spite
professors, not because of them. The college system selects for
students who can largely educate themselves.
I'm not a scientist by profession; I'm a
Mathematics, you can fashion rigorous proofs from generally accepted
axioms and postulates. In science you cannot prove anything in
the mathematical sense. This is not how science works. The purpose of
science is to collect information to help understand what we hope are
solid principles and theories of how nature really works. Part of
this understanding process is the formation of ideas about things
difficult to observe directly.
Darwin's theory of evolution is a good
example. Darwin imagined a
system of simple principles which together explain most of the
wondrous variety and forms of life as we know it. It also helps guide
research to understand more of the natural biological world. On a
planet with almost a billion species of plants and animals and other
kinds of life, his theory was a tremendous gift to science.
Did Darwin "prove" his theory? NO. That
was not his intent.
Indeed, most scientist generate theories and then spend the rest of
their lives trying to disprove them! Sounds crazy, but real
scientists know that if they fail to try to shoot down their
theories, someone else will. So every theory is continuously tested
against any new scientific results. And evolution has done very well
as a theory! The few inconsistencies found have either been explained
by new research, or they have lead to discoveries in new and
different disciplines, such as chemisty, geology, climate and
astronomy. No other theory comes close in its predictive power.
"Intelligent Design" is a challenger to
Darwin's theory, we are
told. I'm not sure it is a theory, however. It says, I think, that
cellular architecture and mechanism is so fantastically, beautifully
designed that it could not have happened by chance - there must have
been an intelligent designer (or Designer). A flat-out religious
claim. Hardly scientific. What does it predict? What new observations
might support or challenge it?
I can't comment on the existence of a
Designer. You can go to
church and decide that for yourself. I do know something about
cellular architecture, however. 1) the architecture is fantastic
because we do not yet know all the details and don't yet have the
tools to design such things ourselves. 2) The mechanisms are by no
means perfect. Every cell is klugey - a Rube Goldberg
compromise of various things seemingly thrown together by chance.
Some of those mechanisms have ancillary mechanisms in placed to keep
the first from running amock. They contain redundancies and
self-correction mechanisms. Sometimes cells make mistakes. Eventually
The big mistake anti-evolutionists make is
Evolution is slow. But it happens in a "test-tube" filled with a
BILLION cubic miles of air, water, minerals, and chemicals, supplied
with TERAWATTS of energy, and the experiment has been running
thousands of millions of LIFETIMES! The scale is so enormous even the
scientists need big numbers. Critics are thinking way, way, WAY too
small. I don't see a problem with evolution.
Keep your "intelligent design" in your
church where it belongs.
Now that I have been a regular school teacher for a while
(admittedly short) maybe I am entitled to an opinion about Gubernator
Schwartzenegger's campaign to reform California Public Education.
California schools are some of the most budget-constricted in
nation. I heard today that we spend, per student, less than what 48
other states spend. Either that is an incredible bargain, or
self-destructive penny pinching. If you are rich (and can afford
private school or tutors for YOUR brat, the former is the case. If
you are poor and your kid gets warehoused in the local crumbling
structure, it's the latter.
I just finished teaching at a school where 70% of the students
Latino, and 40% read English with great difficulty, and teachers
there are working MIRACLES! I've never seen such caring, hardworking,
brilliant people trying to grow hope in the lives of people everyone
else gave up for failures. So Ahnold wants to pass an initiative to
penalize teachers based on state standardized test scores. In other
words, the teachers working with the neediest kids will have the
least chance of pursuing a teaching career.
THAT'S ME YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT, AHNOLD!
Yes, teachers have a special interest. The governor warns us
listening to special interests (he should know). Our special interest
is kids. You wouldn't want kids to have any voice in our state's
future, now would you? 6/05
Freedom of religion
The 1st Amendment prevents the US government from meddling in
church affairs. It also implies that this prohibition must be
balanced by religions keeping hands off government. It is quid pro
quo. Many, many saavy scholars and justices have pointed out the
danger to the free exercise of religion of allowing
religious ideologies to affect public government. Inevitably, such
meddling backfires, severely tarnishing the reputation of the people
and groups who do it and endangering the freedom of others. You don't
have to look far to see examples of this - much of the bloodshed in
Iraq is religiously inspired. Not due to the teachings of Muhammed,
mind you, but to the idea that religious leaders deserve to be
political leaders by virtue of their religious authority. As though
having bulgy muscles qualifies one as a political strongman (sorry,