Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

A People’s History of the United States

Tuesday, March 18th, 2008

This book by Howard Zinn is packed with fascinating information. If you want to know what really happened — blemishes and all — this book offers an unabridged no-holds-barred history of our country, starting in 1492.

The only reason I even know about the book is because of a column by neocon spewbag Dennis Prager. He was ranting and foaming at the mouth about it in this column which appeared in our local paper. Anyone who reads this evil book will be “manipulated into believing that America is a bad country, certainly no better than others.” He describes the book as “essentially a proctologist’s view of American history.”

I assume the website doesn’t contain the entire book, but there are some huge excerpts here. Columbus’ first encounter with Native Americans (it wasn’t pretty); a chilling description of the first slave ship unloading its cargo at Jamestown in 1619; the “other civil war” in the early 1800s; new insights into our Vietnam invasion. There are 24 chapters in all.

If you don’t purchase the book, bookmarking the website is the next best thing.

I already knew a lot of this information from reading Lies My Teacher Told Me by James Loewen. This is an excellent world history book. It’s probably less detailed about American history than the Howard Zinn book since it’s more of a world overview. Both books are excellent antidotes to the whitewashed sanitized “history” we’ve all been taught.

I’ve never understood why it’s supposed to be “negative” or “anti-American” to teach history the way it really happened, warts and all. Every country — including this one — has a history of violence, war and unimaginable cruelty. What’s the purpose of suppressing this information? It seems pointless to take a vibrant living multi-layered history and condense it into a squeaky-clean feelgood Leave It To Beaver episode.

These two books are a big 180 from the condensed simplified “America to the rescue!” tripe we all studied in school. And we have the same contrast with today’s current news coverage. Listen to a scripted sanitized story on the evening news. Then check out the same story on one of the “alternative” news websites, or a foreign news source. Even in Canada and Europe, their coverage of American issues is much more complete and objective than anything you’ll get from our own mainstream “media.”

Generations from now when historians are writing about this era, what will they write? The bland sterile news we’re getting today from the mainstream media is probably what future generations will read in their “official” history textbooks. Hopefully there will also be a few authors like Howard Zinn and James Loewen who will tell what really happened.

GWB: The Cash In The Cradle & The Silver Spoon - I’m Gonna Be Like Him

Friday, March 14th, 2008

I try to avoid making unequivocal assertions…but if my instincts are correct, I’m not taking much of a risk in predicting that the calamity that will define this Bush presidency will not be the Iraq war. As with his father’s presidency, it will be the economy. Yes, the Iraq war will be factored into the equation that facilitated one of the worst recessions in modern times, but numerous other missteps will receive far more attention.

With the Savings and Loan scandal of the late 80’s as my point of comparison, I expect the magnitude of this recession to be much deeper and far more complex. Frankly, the fact that we survived events like the S & L scandal and the tech bubble have only contributed to the lackadaisical policies that have fostered an air of invincibility. This false confidence has resulted in a deadly conflation of economic poisons that will place a strain on our financial fortitude that hasn’t been witnessed since the Great Depression.

For months, the Bush administration has sought to convince the American public that the economy is sound. Unfortunately, the hollowness of those assurances expands exponentially with each new report. Today’s news is awash with further warnings of economic uncertainty. The President’s remarks, in response to the growing storm clouds, simply highlight the mindset that has typified his inclination to ignore information that doesn’t comport with his rose colored rhetoric.

Unfortunately, I fear this president suffers the misconception that he can tackle this systemic economic malaise in the same manner he addressed the many miscalculations that have plagued the prosecution of the Iraq war. Sadly, brute force has little relevance when it comes to the economy. As with the troop surge, the attempts by the Federal Reserve to pump more money into the economy in order to prop up flailing financial institutions fails to address the dire dynamics that underly the debacle.

Let’s pause to review the observations of others.

From The Wall Street Journal:

It is a very logical progression. Peloton, Carlyle, Focus — hedge funds and other non-deposit-taking financial institutions (NDFIs) are now being hit by the credit crunch, which had so far been mainly confined to mortgage lenders and the banks.

The Federal Reserve has reacted. Its Term Securities Lending Facility aims to encourage investment banks and prime brokers to lend to NDFIs and so relieve those parts of the credit market it cannot reach with its rate cuts and loans to banks.

So far its liquidity injections have got no further than the banks. Now it hopes to reach higher. Unfortunately, it won’t work.

The Fed is like King Canute with a difference — it is trying to halt an ebbing tide rather than a rising one. Its liquidity injection seems huge at $200 billion (with perhaps more to follow), but it is still only equivalent to one-third of the expected losses in the NDFI sector.

Moreover, the Fed’s readiness to accept almost any asset at just below face value as collateral will prevent price discovery. That means the U.S. financial system will remain burdened with uncleansed balance sheets that penalize future lending and economic growth.

Creating a lot of liquidity does not resolve an issue of solvency, which is now the driver of credit contraction. All the Fed will achieve is a dollar that will be further debased and inflation that will be higher. It cannot stop the process of deleveraging and asset price decline.

The credit crisis is unfolding as we expected, but more slowly than anticipated, because of the actions taken by central banks (mainly the Fed) and the U.S. government to allay its effects. The wholesale socialization of credit has meant that government and central bank measures account for 70% of new credit since last summer.

But these policy measures will not prevent asset-price deflation or credit contraction, which are functions of risk appetite and general readiness to maintain current levels of gearing throughout the economy. The non-bank sector has the potential to inflict more damage on the system than banks, because it has a much smaller capital cushion for a much more volatile and risky balance sheet.

Credit contraction translates through the financial system into a reduction in available credit for the non-financial corporate sector, and thus into reduced investment and growth in the real economy. The size of that contraction can be estimated from the leverage ratios of the financial sector and their impact on real GDP growth.

We estimate that nonfinancial corporate debt ultimately will have to shrink by 11%-12%. This will generate a decline of five percentage points of real U.S. GDP growth and push the U.S. into recession. Europe’s real GDP growth will contract by two percentage points.

Essentially, the point being made by the author is that the Federal Reserve’s efforts to lower interest rates is inadequate to address the fundamental problem - the value of the assets that underly much of the existing debt is in a period of contraction…largely as a result of the collapsing housing industry.

As such, the ability of lenders to lend is limited. They lack the capital needed to make loans; let alone the capital required to support declining equity positions and the increasing default risks that are associated with these loans. Hence, the Fed’s efforts to infuse the economy with the capital needed to spur growth isn’t going to be sufficient. Even worse, should this contraction lead to lender insolvency, the likelihood of the need for a huge government bail out advances. If this happens, I believe it will be far larger than the one witnessed during the S & L scandal.

From The New York Times:

The Fed’s economic power rests on the fact that it’s the only institution with the right to add to the “monetary base”: pieces of green paper bearing portraits of dead presidents, plus deposits that private banks hold at the Fed and can convert into green paper at will.

When the Fed is worried about the state of the economy, it basically responds by printing more of that green paper, and using it to buy bonds from banks. The banks then use the green paper to make more loans, which causes businesses and households to spend more, and the economy expands.

This process can be almost magical in its effects: a committee in Washington gives some technical instructions to a trading desk in New York, and just like that, the economy creates millions of jobs.

But sometimes the magic doesn’t work. And this is one of those times.

Instead of following its usual practice of buying only safe U.S. government debt, the Fed announced this week that it would put $400 billion — almost half its available funds — into other stuff, including bonds backed by, yes, home mortgages. The hope is that this will stabilize markets and end the panic.

Officially, the Fed won’t be buying mortgage-backed securities outright: it’s only accepting them as collateral in return for loans. But it’s definitely taking on some mortgage risk. Is this, to some extent, a bailout for banks? Yes.

Still, that’s not what has me worried. I’m more concerned that despite the extraordinary scale of Mr. Bernanke’s action — to my knowledge, no advanced-country’s central bank has ever exposed itself to this much market risk — the Fed still won’t manage to get a grip on the economy. You see, $400 billion sounds like a lot, but it’s still small compared with the problem.

Krugman offers a look into the risks being taken by the Federal Reserve to avert the looming collapse of financial institutions. The fact that the government is taking unprecedented risk signals the seriousness of the situation. The fact that the government has committed half of its available funds to this risk intensive effort suggests that the ultimate solution will require the government to appropriate additional funds…hence the bailout begins. The price tag of the S & L scandal would likely pale in comparison.

The impact to the overall economy could be mind-boggling since it would be apt to affect consumer spending. Falling home values would strip millions of Americans of the bulk of their accumulated wealth which would no doubt restrict their ability and willingness to spend money. The direct correlation of this intertwined cause and effect spiral could have disastrous consequences.

We haven’t even factored in the disproportionate numbers of baby boomers moving towards retirement. A worst case scenario could place the financial stability of many of these individuals in jeopardy at a time when the safety net of Social Security is also approaching insolvency.

From CNBC:

The United States has entered a recession that could be “substantially more severe” than recent ones, former National Bureau of Economic Research President Martin Feldstein said Friday.

“The situation is very bad, the situation is getting worse, and the risks are that it could get very bad,” Feldstein said in a speech at the Futures Industry Association meeting in Boca Raton, Florida.

“There isn’t much traction in monetary policy these days, I’m afraid, because of a lack of liquidity in the credit markets,” he said.

The Fed’s new credit facility, announced on Tuesday, “can help in a rather small way … but the underlying risks will remain with the institutions that borrow from the Fed, and this does nothing to change their capital,” Feldstein noted.

I simply don’t see the mechanism by which this strained liquidity can be alleviated in the near term. Pumping more cash into the system could have short term benefits but the risk to the already tenuous value of the dollar would likely outweigh them. Relying upon the standard bearers…the consumer…to spend us out of this mess seems unlikely. Rarely have prior recessionary periods been accompanied by such significant declines in home values.

Were we to see the emergence of sustained inflation, the picture becomes even more disconcerting. Many of the measures designed to address the liquidity crunch have the potential to do just that. Toss in our trade imbalance, the amount of debt held by the Chinese, and an international shift away from the dollar as the preferred reserve currency and one begins to see the growing alignment of negatives.

The fact that the American image has been tarnished during the current administration makes it difficult to imagine the kind of international cooperation we might have otherwise received during such a slowdown. In fact, don’t be surprised if a number of nations stand idly by as the perceived bully endures its comeuppance.

Returning to the Bush legacy, I recall the deteriorating situation faced by his father prior to the 1992 election. When the senior Bush expressed his amazement with the scanning technology found in grocery stores, his appeal and his connection to the average American is thought to have suffered. When the Clinton campaign added, “It’s the economy, stupid”, the stain became permanent.

The fact that the current president expressed surprise when a member of the press mentioned the prospects of $4.00 per gallon gas seems eerily similar to the last days of his father’s presidency…and it may also assist in cementing the economy as his legacy’s leading albatross.

George W. Bush’s seeming shortage of empathy for the plight of the average American shone through in his mishandling of Katrina, his passage of tax cuts for the wealthiest, his inept energy policy, and his willingness to sink trillions of dollars into the execution of a virtual vendetta in Iraq. These events will forever be tethered to his tenure and his successors are apt to spend years trying to repair the damage done.

They say the writing of one’s legacy is rarely finished since the past undoubtedly shapes the future. In the case of George Bush, I suspect he’d be best to hope that his influence on the future be less indelible than his unabashed attempts to color the present.

Gertrude Stein stated that a “rose is a rose is a rose”. Ernest Hemmingway responded with “a rose is a rose is an onion”. In thinking of the Bush legacy, I’m inclined to argue that a silver spoon may beget rose colored rhetoric…but a silver spoon full of rose petals rarely helps us swallow the thorns. When the bow breaks, the Bush legacy will fall.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Irrational fear of foreign culture or accurate social commentary?

Thursday, March 6th, 2008

I report, you decide.

Mark Steyn recently authored the book America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It, a book which may appear to European multiculturalists and American liberals as the rantings of a hateful, zenophobic rube and to Muslim groups as the textual equivalent of a hate-crime, the mere publication of which constitutes a human rights violation (e. g., Steyn and Maclean’s magazine may have to face investigations by Canadian Human Rights commissions at the instigation of a group of Canadian Muslim law studens at Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto and the Canadian Islamic Congress; Steyn for having published the book and Maclean’s for having published an extract from the book) for suggesting, as I understand his thesis, that unassimilated Muslims, invited by European nation states to alleviate the problems presented by the demographic declines of their own native populations — populations that are growing older and are demanding to be kept by their bloated welfare states in the fashion in which they’ve become accustomed to demand — are posing a threat to the very democratic institutions and free culture that the Muslims were invited into and this precisely because many of those Muslims refuse to assimilate to their host culture and because their hosts refuse to demand that they do; that the diminishing fertility rate of Western Europeans in these states will eventually see the native Western Europeans be overtaken by the higher fertility rates of those Muslims in their midst; that violent overthrow of these cultures (though violence is already apparent in these countries) will ultimately be unnecessary since, once in the majority, Muslims in Europe will be able to exercise their vote to turn Europe into Eurostan. Indeed, some of these countries have been making said accomodations while Muslims are still minorities, perhaps to stave off violence.

But that’s not what I’m particularly interested in at the moment. What I’d like to focus on is this post by Steyn on The Corner, the group blog at National Review Online because, whatever the merits or demerits of the thesis of his book, I think he makes an interesting point. Quoting from and commenting on a column in the Boston Herald, Steyn writes:

‘A while back I mentioned Harvard’s decision to ban men from its pool and fitness center six times a week in the interests of “accommodating” Muslim women. Our pal Michael Graham picks up the theme:

In the old days, Harvard would have laughed if some Catholic or evangelical mother urged “girls-only” campus workouts in the name of modesty. Today, Harvard happily implements Sharia swim times in the name of Mohammed.

At Harvard, that’s called progress.

‘Well put. And thus “progress” comes full circle. In Minneapolis last year, the airport licensing authority, faced with a mainly Muslim crew of cab drivers refusing to carry the blind, persons with six-packs of Bud, slatternly women, etc, proposed instituting two types of taxis with differently colored lights, one of which would indicate the driver was prepared to carry members of identity groups that offend Islam. Forty years ago, advocating separate drinking fountains made you a racist. Today, advocating separate taxi cabs or separate swimming sessions makes you a multiculturalist.

‘Every society has culturally self-segregating groups - the Amish and whatnot. But they’re usually in small numbers somewhere out on the edge of the map. In Europe and Canada, the self-segregating group happens to be the principal source of population growth, which presents a profound challenge to societal cohesion. America does not face the same scale of problem, but nevertheless “sharia creep” ought to be resisted before it becomes remorseless. The rest of Michael’s column goes on to explain why that doesn’t happen: at Harvard and elsewhere, bigshot Saudi princes waving gazillion-dollar checks are in effect buying silence about one of the central questions of the day - Islam’s relationship with the west.’

Thus endeth Steyn. This is a good point. Suppose the Phelpses demanded that American universities institute separate exercise and swiming times for gays and straights because they can’t bear the thought of straight Americans sweating or appearing in revealing swimwear in the presence of gays? Oh how the howls would be heard from liberals around the country but how does that substantially differ from Muslims demanding separate exercise and swimming periods for Muslim women over religious and cultural concerns for modesty? Isn’t there a tinge of “separate but equal” here? Sure, granted that we’re not talking about seperate facilities here but merely times when the majority is excluded for the sake of the minority but how is separate for the sake of a minority discriminatory interest any more equal than separate for the sake of a majority discriminatory interest. Doesn’t the evil of discriminatory practices consist in the fact that they are discriminatory? And this is doubly discriminatory in that it tends to (a) perpetuate the Muslim discrimination against women — they’re weak, must be protected by men, cannot be trusted to participate fully in society with men without either drawing to themselves unwanted sexual advances from men or, worse, lasciviously inviting said sexual advances — and (b) it deliberately excludes men during those periods? Or is discrimination that perpetuates discriminatory stereotypes of Muslim women for the sake of a minority (Muslims in America) somehow ethically pure while discrimination that perpetuates discriminatory stereotypes of gays for the sake a majority (straights in America) or discriminatory stereotypes of women is evil? Or, more succinctly:

Forty years ago, advocating separate drinking fountains made you a racist. Today, advocating separate taxi cabs or separate swimming sessions makes you a multiculturalist.

I don’t call this progress. I call it capitulation to demands for special treatment based upon religious scruple. If the Phelpses can’t bear the thought of exercising or swiming in the presence of gays, they can damn well stay home or move somewhere where gays are hanged. If Muslims can’t bear the thought of their women showing skin in the presence of men, they can keep them covered head to toe, locked away at home or move somewhere where women are gang-raped for the crime of appearing in public insufficiently covered or imprisoned and beaten for the crime of appearing in public unaccompanied by a family member.

Or am I committing a hate crime for even suggesting this?

Institutions that would not dream of making exclusionary and discriminatory accomodations for the religious scruples of Christians should not be making such accomodations for Muslims.

Stimulus Checks: Building A Bridge To Nowhere?

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

If you want to understand the degree to which politicians make shortsighted decisions intended to win favor with the voters at home, look no further than the passage of the $168 billion dollar economic stimulus package.

If you want to see how ill-advised such decisions may be, take a moment to look at a new report by Pew Research. The report grades each of the states on the management and maintenance of their infrastructure…and the results aren’t encouraging.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Almost half of the states in the United States are falling behind in their infrastructure maintenance and fiscal systems, according to a report released Monday by the Pew Center on the States and Governing Magazine.

The groups gave 23 states grades for infrastructure that were below the national average in their study called “Grading the States.” Using a scale similar to those found in U.S. schools, where an A is excellent and an F failure, they decided 23 states had grades below C+.

In the money category, which encompassed budget balancing, contracting, and other fiscal categories, 20 states received C+ and below, while 19 states garnered grades of B and above. The average among 50 states was B-.

It’s clear that our infrastructure has been in need of a capital infusion for a number of years. It’s also clear that our economy has been kept afloat by a housing bubble driven by artificially low interest rates rather than by sustainable economic growth that creates a stable increase in jobs and the kind of expansion that is cumulative in nature.

Politicians and voters have become accustomed to stop gap measures designed to dispel consumer doubt and forestall recessionary pressures. Unfortunately, while such measures may provide a temporary economic boost, they also promote a boom and bust mindset and the hills and valleys that accompany it.

In truth, it’s a form of bait and switch. Politicians choose to offer voters a few hundred dollars, and thus the ability to buy a new television set, rather than making the difficult decisions to enact measures that would provide long term stability. In our consumption is king construct, we’ve adopted the pathology that comes with the need for instant gratification.

The political calculations that flow from our short election cycles simply promote more of the same. We’re not only raiding the cookie jar; our elected officials are handing out cookies without considering the need to manage and maintain the bakery.

Prior to the millennium, numerous politicians mouthed the metaphor of building a bridge to the 21st century. As it turns out, we not only refuse to fund the bridges needed to take us there, we’ve taken a shine to building bridges to nowhere.

I struggle to find the silver lining in rolling out billions of dollars in refund checks while the wheels are falling off the wagon. Then again, perhaps our politicians want to be sure we can watch the news coverage of the next bridge collapse…on our shiny new high definition televisions.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Cal State Quaking Over Quaker

Sunday, March 2nd, 2008

Modified Loyalty Oath

I’ve recited the Pledge of Allegiance more times than I can count. When I joined the military, I took an oath not unlike those taken by the President. The oaths don’t prevent anyone from dishonoring them, but they do remind those swearing them that more is at stake than simply winning an election or enlisting for military job training.

Our current President is a case in point. He swore oaths as a member of the Texas National Guard and as President and one could argue that he hasn’t exactly vigorously protected the Constitution or battled against all enemies foreign and domestic. However, every job doesn’t require a loyalty oath. We don’t require them of trash collectors or computer programmers, but some states require them of state employees.

(more…)

The Price Of Economic Inequality?

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

A report on the rising number of incarcerated Americans provides a disturbing look at the unspoken impact of economic inequality and the high cost we pay for perpetuating it. At the same time, during each election cycle, politicians from both parties accuse each other of practicing suspect fiscal discipline.

For this discussion, I want to look at the costs of incarceration in relation to providing universal health care as well as the Bush tax cuts. Time and again, the GOP points out the exorbitant costs that might be associated with providing universal health care. From what I’ve read, the plans being pushed by Senators Clinton and Obama are reported to cost 10 to 15 billion dollars annually. That’s a big expense…but before one concludes we can’t afford it, one must consider the burgeoning costs of incarceration and the distribution and impact of the Bush tax cuts.

From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

NEW YORK — For the first time in U.S. history, more than one of every 100 adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report documenting America’s rank as the world’s No. 1 incarcerator. It urges states to curtail corrections spending by placing fewer low-risk offenders behind bars.

Using state-by-state data, the report says 2,319,258 Americans were in jail or prison at the start of 2008 - one out of every 99.1 adults. Whether per capita or in raw numbers, it’s more than any other nation.

The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.

So in the course of 20 years, we have increased our annual corrections spending by a whopping $38 billion dollars. That is roughly three times the projected annual cost to provide universal health care…health care that would help elevate the very people who are disproportionately represented in the prison population. Factor in the following data on the Bush tax cuts and one will begin to see the larger picture.

From MSNBC.com:

WASHINGTON - Since 2001, President Bush’s tax cuts have shifted federal tax payments from the richest Americans to a wide swath of middle-class families, the Congressional Budget Office has found, a conclusion likely to roil the presidential election campaign.

The conclusions are stark. The effective federal tax rate of the top 1 percent of taxpayers has fallen from 33.4 percent to 26.7 percent, a 20 percent drop. In contrast, the middle 20 percent of taxpayers — whose incomes averaged $51,500 in 2001 — saw their tax rates drop 9.3 percent. The poorest taxpayers saw their taxes fall 16 percent.

Unfortunately, these percentages are deceptive. Let’s look at a practical explanation of what these tax cuts meant to the working poor.

From BusinessWeek.com:

Imagine you are a waitress, married, with two children and a family income of $26,000 per year. Should you be enthusiastic about the tax cuts proposed by President Bush? He certainly wants you to think so. He uses an example of a family like yours to illustrate the benefits of his plan for working Americans. He boasts that struggling low-income families will enjoy the largest percentage reduction in their taxes. The income taxes paid by a family like yours will fall by 100% or more in some cases. This is true–but highly misleading.

President Bush fails to mention that your family pays only about $20 a year in income taxes, so even a 100% reduction does not amount to much. Like three-quarters of working Americans, you pay much more in payroll taxes–about $3,000 a year–than in income taxes. Yet not a penny of the $1.6 trillion package of Bush tax cuts (in reality, closer to $2 trillion over 10 years) is used to reduce payroll taxes. Moreover, should your income from waitressing fall below $26,000 as the economy slows, your family could be among the 75% of families in the lowest 20% of the income distribution that stand to get absolutely zero from the Bush plan.

The President claims that the “typical American family of four” will be able to keep $1,600 more of their money each year under his plan. Since you won’t be getting anything like that, you might be tempted to conclude that your family must be an exception. Not really. The reality is that the President’s claim is disingenuous. Eighty-nine percent of all tax filers, including 95% of those in the bottom 80% of the income distribution, will receive far less than $1,600.

In other words, when a 100% tax cut is the equivalent of $20.00, a family of four might be able to translate that twenty dollars into a meal at McDonalds…one time in 365 days. On the other hand, if one is lucky enough to be in the top one percent (those with $915,000 in pretax income…and first class health care) of earners and receive a 20% tax reduction, I suspect the savings would buy more than one fast food dinner over the course of a year. The skewed advantages…and disadvantages…suddenly become obvious.

If that isn’t bad enough, let’s return to the costs of incarceration and look at future cost projections.

From The New York Times:

By 2011, the report said, states are on track to spend an additional $25 billion.

The cost of medical care is growing by 10 percent annually, the report said, and will accelerate as the prison population ages.

In less than four years, we will spend another $25 billion annually (more than enough to pay for universal health care) to incarcerate more and more Americans…the bulk of which come from the economically underprivileged.

More From The New York Times:

Incarceration rates are even higher for some groups. One in 36 Hispanic adults is behind bars, based on Justice Department figures for 2006. One in 15 black adults is, too, as is one in nine black men between the ages of 20 and 34.

The report, from the Pew Center on the States, also found that only one in 355 white women between the ages of 35 and 39 are behind bars but that one in 100 black women are.

Let me be clear…crime is wrong…and it should be punished. However, we cannot ignore the factors that facilitate crime. Failing to provide opportunities to those most lacking in resources is also wrong…and it often leads to a lack of education and therefore a susceptibility to participating in crimes that are driven by poverty.

We have likely exceeded the point at which it will cost us more to punish and incarcerate those who commit these crimes of poverty than it would have cost us to insure their education, to raise the minimum wage above the poverty level, and to grant them the dignity and peace of mind that comes with knowing one’s family members can receive health care when it is warranted; not just when it is necessary to prevent death.

Instead, under the guidance of the GOP, we have elected to ignore the fact that 47 million Americans lack health care and to focus upon further enriching the wealthiest…all the while being forced to endure asinine arguments that doing so will create jobs and thus facilitate a rising tide to float the boats of all Americans. It simply isn’t true.

At a savings of $20 a year, millions of Americans can’t even buy a seat in the boat…let alone stay afloat by treading water in the midst of the steady deluge of ever more ominous waves. If the number and availability of life preservers continues to dwindle, we are fast approaching the point at which our society will collapse under the weight of the inequity we chose to ignore.

If that happens, it will be as my grandfather argued many years ago, “They can eat you, but they can’t shit you”. The cannibalism has begun. What follows will not be pleasant.

Cross-posted at Thought Theater

Incurious Clarence Thomas

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

Why do some conservatives consider it a badge of honor to be as uninformed as your average tree stump? Preznit Poster Boy once bragged that he never reads newspapers - Crazy Clarence Thomasprobably because there was no second grader to help him read The Pet Goat as a warm up. The Big Dick consistently thinks it’s important to get only one side of any story - the one he’s already decided he’s on. You name the branch of the administration and chances are you’ll find someone who wouldn’t recognize a book if you slammed their fingers in one. Now, SCOTUS justice Clarence “Who Has Put Pubic Hair on My Coke” Thomas has come out foursquare in favor of vacuousness.

Stumping for his new autobiography, My Grandfather’s Son, Clancy brags that he hasn’t asked a question in two years and 142 cases. The last one came on Feb. 26, 2006 in a unanimous death penalty case.

“One thing I’ve demonstrated often in 16 years is you can do this job without asking a single question,” he told the Federalist Society. Instead of an intelligent interrogatory, he prefers to lean back in his comfy leather chair, stare at the ceiling, and occasionally share a laugh or two with Justice Stephen Breyer or Anthony Kennedy, his neighbors on the bench. Paraphrasing an old “know it all” Rumsfeld adage, Clancy seems to know all the knowns, unknowns, and potential knowns or unknowns without asking a single question. He’s a regular frickin’ Nostradumbass, he is.

Incurious Clarence says it’s not that he’s against questions, he just doesn’t ask them. “If I think a question will help me decide a case, then I’ll ask that question. Otherwise, it’s not worth asking because it detracts from my job,” he told CSPAN last year. Clarence, here’s a tip dude. If you went two years and 142 cases and didn’t think of a single question, you’re either dead, full of the milk of Bushonian hubris, or clueless.

I don’t expect much from Clarence, I really don’t. At the risk of being accused of conducting another high-tech lynching, I thought Clarence was dumb as a box of rocks when he wiggled onto the court and he’s only confirmed my suspicions since then. The fact that he happens to be African American has zero to do with it. I’d think a white person with as little intellectual curiosity as him would be just as useful a doorstop. Look at the whitest guys around, Daddy and Baby Doc Bush, for stunningly detailed proof.

Along with all the other actions that have eroded our democracy, attitudes like Clarence’s and Shrub’s are a big part of what put us there. To me, it’s one thing to be smart but ideologically opposed - like John Roberts. It’s another to be smart and dangerously evil - like the Big Dick. It’s quite another if you’re simply too stupid to know just how stupid you are - a category topped by Shrub and Clancy. This is one of those times I just want to scream in rage.

“HEY, YOU! STARING AT THE CEILING! Wake up, participate, and STOP CRIBBING FROM ANTONIN SCALIA’S NOTES!”

 


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What does Jonah Goldberg mean by “Liberal Fascism”?

Friday, February 8th, 2008

This:

‘I promise …’

In the full knowledge of the commitment that I am freely willing to undertake as a student, I promise to respect each and every member of the college community without regard to race, creed, political ideology, lifestyle orientation, gender or social status sparing no effort to preserve the dignity of those I will come in contact with as a member of the college community. I promise to Bergen Community College that I will follow this code of responsibility.

1. Honesty, integrity and respect for all will guide my personal conduct.

2. I will embrace and celebrate differing perspectives intellectually.

3. I will build an inclusive community enriched by diversity.

4. I am willing to respect and assist those individuals who are less fortunate.

5. I promise my commitment to civic engagement and to serve the needs of the community to the best of my ability.

At least as originally proposed,

“The pledge would not be optional,” Susan Baechtel, a college spokeswoman, said Wednesday. “If you don’t agree, it is President Ryan’s vision that you cannot attend the school.”

She said students who violated the code would be subject to judiciary hearings now reserved for offenses such as assault.

Eugene Volokh, professor of and expert in constitutional law, explains the problems, from a constitutional standpoint, with this here.

Bill Helff, president of the college’s faculty union, explains the problem with it from a slightly different standpoint:

“I’ve been there 38 years and I’ve never sworn to embrace anybody,” said Helff. “Next I’ll have to be nice to administrators?”

Thing is, see, this is America. We dig our freedom…the freedom to not be nice if we don’t fucking feel like it and to think others are bone-headed assholes for trying to take away our freedom in the name of enforced niceness, and to say so without being sent away to the re-education camp or expelled from the community altogether.

Pell Grants For Kids = Vouchers In Disquise

Monday, January 28th, 2008

This is the first I’ve heard of this, and so I’ve not had a chance to review the President’s proposal. However, it seems like he’s got another plan to divert public funds to parochial and private education. Watch as the separation of church and state shrinks again.

The fact is, parents who can afford to send their children to private schools don’t need the assistance. Moreover, there are a tremendous number of things broken with our public educational system. Can’t Bush find something in the system that needs a remedy and fix that instead of creating a new welfare system for the rich?

White House counselor Ed Gillespie, describing Bush’s plans for a new school initiative, said Monday afternoon that Bush “has some concerns about the declining number of faith-based and parochial schools in inner cities around the country and low-income neighborhoods.” Because of this, Gillespie said, Bush is ready to “urge Congress to enact a program he calls `Pell Grants for Kids.’ ”

The money would “provide alternatives for children now trapped in struggling public schools,” Gillespie told reporters.

Right. Ask any educator currently working as a teacher in a public school if No Child Left Behind has been good for America’s school children and you will discover how good Bush is at fixing what’s wrong with our public schools.

Incidentally, does any one else wonder why didn’t the Education Secretary make this announcement? Does the president always trot out lawyers because he has something to hide?

If you want to take a look at some more detail about my views on how to fix education, have a gander at this post, that post,,this other post, and how about searching my whole blog for the term education and see what comes up.

Just as an aside,do you think Bush would be in favor having a serious chunk of his “pell grants for kids” money going to some Islamic Private Education Organizations that start up? They would be faith-based, wouldn’t they?

Educating our Illegal Immigrants

Sunday, January 13th, 2008

Higher education even at a state run college is one step up on the ladder of life for all individuals. All of the life long benefits of that college education will allow any person the ability to make a few more dollars per year because the person invested in themselves first. They become a valuable asset to any company that would hire them. Should this same thought process apply to illegal immigrants though?

Apparently, Governor Deval Patrick thinks it should and he is testing the waters of the corner office in Boston to see if he can authorize reduced tuition for state residents to illegal immigrants.

In-state tuition divisivePatrick favors illegals break
By Ken Maguire THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

BOSTON— Gov. Deval L. Patrick said yesterday he’s looking into whether he can skirt the state Legislature by unilaterally allowing illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition at state collegesPatrick’s revelation touched off strong reaction on Beacon Hill, where House lawmakers two years ago defied Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi, D-Boston, and defeated a bill that would let those immigrant students pay the same rate as their high school classmates.

“We have had some legal research done to see whether it’s possible to address that question without legislation,” the Democratic governor told an audience of education and business leaders. “The answer to that is by no means clear.”

Snip – jump the border here X

Opposition to the tuition break is rooted in the larger ideological issue of how to address illegal immigration. Opponents say the state shouldn’t be making it easier for undocumented students, who could take higher paying jobs from legal residents.“I’m amazed that he wants to be the sole person responsible for implementation of the wrong policy for Massachusetts,” said state House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones Jr., R-North Reading. “The public will be rightly incensed.”

Jones said he hasn’t researched whether the governor can grant the tuition breaks.

“We provide the free public education K-through-12 for these students,” he said. “We’ve already done quite a bit for these students. By doing this, we would add incentives for people to come here. Illegal immigrants do pretty well finding out where the best places for them to go are.” – Worcester Telegram

Hold the INS deportation bus! This kid is going to UMASS and has a get out of jail card. This kid is going to Fitchburg State, these two are going to Worcester State and those sixty three are all enrolled in Quinsigamond State College. Sorry Mr. Bus driver but that seems to be about everyone on the bus. Carry on sir!

I’m as liberal as they come but even I have my blood boiling over this buffoonery by Governor Patrick. As a parent of five daughters I worry about how the hell I am going to put all of them through college and yet the resources to keep tuition rates down are going to be spent on illegal immigrants? Besides that little scenario it concerns me that this will set a precedent for anyone that wants to come to Massachusetts illegally to have state citizenship recognized by the state which would then toss the legality of all illegal immigrants’ status into the courts.

Granting reduced resident status tuition to illegal immigrants is tantamount to slapping all of the residents of the state in the face. Especially, those that have come here legally from all around the world that has faced the gauntlet of legally immigrating and is in the process of earning their citizenship. Why should someone that broke into this state and this country get a reduced resident tuition rate? Our tax dollars from our jobs and the money we spend as legal residents help to pay the costs of some of the best state colleges in this nation and this proposal by the Governor is a giveaway to legitimate criminals.

I’m Liberal but I’m not stupid. Governor Deval Patrick should put this idea in the draw and never let it see the light of day again. He needs to be realistic and know that the education of all legal residents in the Bay State should always supersede the rights of anyone here illegally. Besides the fact that the reduced rate tuition education could find the benefactor on a bus back to the nation they came from if they are ever found by INS or the proper authorities. Then again are they not going after employers who hire illegal immigrants? Bad idea Deval, real bad!

Papamoka

Originally posted at Papamoka Straight Talk


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