I’ve just read a bunch of whiny, ranty posts on Facebook about Elizabeth Warren’s plan to forgive the loans of a bunch of people who are massively in debt, unable to declare bankruptcy (thanks to bullshit GOP policies that wiped out the rules for those who needed the assistance the most). These people were sold a bill of goods when they took out those loans from predatory lenders for fake colleges that peddled lies wrapped up in a promise of a better future. Continue reading “Somebody pulled a pin…”
I rarely talk about local politics (because all politics is local), but where I live, in Maryland, parents are waking up this morning to discover that their Spring Break is about to be shortened by a day.
Because Maryland’s Governor Larry Hogan is a Republican, which means he hates public education and the teachers’ union. In a fit of capriciousness and misplaced magnanimity toward parents who
It started here, with proposed budget cuts which disproportionately affect Prince George’s, Montgomery, and Baltimore Counties more than the rest of the state, but the damaging effects across the board will really hit when parents realize they’ll be required to shorten their plans for Spring Break due to weather.
According to Hogan, in a WTOP article posted on August 31, 2016:
The order “will help protect the traditional end of summer, not only for families on vacation this week, but also for the teachers and the students working here in Ocean City and all across the state for the summer.”
Maybe, but how many parents are going to lose the money that they’d otherwise have when they have to adjust their Spring Break plans because of winter weather?
And then there’s this claim, from the same article:
For their part, defenders of the shorter school year point out that Maryland’s Bureau of Revenue Estimates say the move could generate up to $74.3 million in direct economic activity for the state.
How do we test this? We wait until the end of the summer and see how things are doing in Maryland, of course. That means remembering the annoyance of calling to shorten or cancel travel plans, working around camp schedules (when parents can afford them), or dealing with an uptick in kids who stay at home while their parents work, because THOSE schedules haven’t changed.
Hogan has already declared his disinterest, if not open hostility, in working with Maryland teachers. I want to see how well our residents remember this when we go to the ballot box on November 6th.
Hogan should never have gotten a space in Government House and we need to show him the door come November. Our kids depend on it.
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I’m watching the Democratic Debate tonight on ABC. It’s not just me, I hope. Who’s wondering why the focus is so sharp on Daesh. No matter what the candidates have to say, they’re dragged back to talking about Assad and war.
Does this sound familiar to you? No??
Isn’t it interesting that as much as Bernie Sanders wants to talk about income inequality, about endemic racism, about gun control, about infrastructure, about the things we MUST concentrate on to survive, we have to spend HALF of the debate on foreign policy, most notably endless war in the middle east. They’re FINALLY addressing the domestic issues in the second hour.
Maybe it’s just me, but I find this format immensely frustrating.
I see too many parallels in the extreme focus on threats that we created by our own actions, without accepting any sort of responsibility or admitting our role, that’s just crazy.
I want to know what we’re going to do here. I want to know why we haven’t been talking about these things that matter to us every day, like the cost of groceries.
Domestic policy should have been the first thing out of the gate. We need to focus our attention here, balancing education, infrastructure, making things better for everyone, not just the rich. And we need to ditch endemic racism, enforce equality, make sure that freedom isn’t compromised out of a misguided sense of fear and paranoia.
I want to hear that they’re going to ditch the Patriot Act and Citizens United, and close the tax loopholes and pipeline that ships our money out of the country.
As long as we keep the spotlight on war, as long as we continue to fight the war without dealing with the home issues, as long as we keep producing wounded warriors instead of jobs, this isn’t going to change.
No matter how loudly the media focuses on the issues off-continent, we need to look within. We can’t break the cycle if we don’t stop these wolves from forcing the focus elsewhere.
If we can’t fix our own home, the terrorists win.
ol·i·gar·chy (noun ˈä-lə-ˌgär-kē, ˈō-; plural: ol·i·gar·chies)Full Definition of OLIGARCHY:1 : government by the few2 : a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes; also: a group exercising such control [emphasis mine]
On April 9, 2014, this report was released on Princeton University’s website, and it’s shaken up news reports all over the world. It might come as no surprise to you, dear reader, that I’m not shocked at all by the finding. In fact, I’ve been using the term for at least the last several years, to describe in various threads just exactly what our country has become. If you think we’ve somehow escaped notice, think again:
All of a sudden, this is news. Only it’s not news.
New York Times: Oligarchy, American Style (11/3/2011)
Mother Jones: How the Oligarchs Took America (12/2/2010)
Robert Reich’s film, Inequality For All, does a spectacular job of tying all the loose ends together to explain what happened to the U.S.A. over the last 30 years. I’ve written a lot about the symptoms in the last year and a half, but nothing connects them half as well as this simple, elegant movie.
Too many people spend their time repeating the talking points without understand the source of the platform. They trust the office without paying attention to the officer. They don’t know how to read between the lines because their education fails to explain that the subtext is just as important as the message. We got where we are today because the Republicans beat the Libertarians in 1980, and the Libertarians took a different path.
You can (and should) go back in this blog and read the articles I’ve posted on the Koch brothers, you can listen to the things Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have to say (because comedy is the best source of truth these days), or you can analyze the political rhetoric that’s starting to hit for each of the Senate and House races this year, but the bottom line is, we have maybe two years to get our act together and do something about the GO(T)P.
They’ve got a lock on two of the four (yes, four) branches of government: The Supreme Court and the House. Without cooperation across the aisles, the Senate is barely holding on. Today, the Senate leans Democratic, but that’s not a given based on the 2014 election analysis.
If the Senate flips back to the GO(T)P, and we put another Republican in the office of President, we can write off our country. The poor will become modern-day serfs and the middle class will join them because that class is a modern myth. The combined branches will finally get to do what they always wanted – rewrite the Constitution with impunity.
The Presidency depends on having enough votes in key states – most of which are undergoing the same sort of voter crap that Florida’s done. We tip one or the other (senate or presidency) in the direction of the GOP, and what little remains of our safety nets will disappear completely. Want some practice at reading between the lines? Try these articles out for size:
Purge the rolls of Democrats, lean a little in the direction most conservatives think they need to go, or split the vote a little more with the splinter parties (Green or Socialist) and the GOP will have what they want: Total control of the US government. Once that happens, they can rewrite our constitution, revise the rules for who gets to vote. Can’t happen? We have three Supreme Court Justices who are on the edge of retirement, and the guessing game for who will retire first, and who will replace them, is heating up. Have a good look at the Tea Party line and platform and you’ll see the fundamentals of the Neo-Fascists who are presently armed to the teeth, thanks to the NRA.
We can still stop the madness, but it’s getting harder, not easier. I’d hoped the GOP was the party of the Old White Male, but that ignores the younger population who are moving in through the Tea Party. I recognize that the Democrats have issues, but the things they want to support – the Social Safety Net, universal health care, public education – will ALL go away if they lose. So like I said: We’ve got maybe two years to turn this around. We can’t wait until 2020. This election is important. The next one is critical.
On my way to class on Wednesday last week, I tuned in to the Diane Rehm show and got an earful about what’s wrong-headed about college education.
The show, broadcast on NPR, is here:
As is often the case, I found myself talking to the radio, which has cathartic benefits but fails to solve any real problems other than to raise my blood pressure.
I’ve stewed on the discussion since then, having completed finals in the first two college courses I’ve taken since 1987, when I failed to grasp the reality behind attaining a Master’s degree in Costume Design. (Western Civilization and the Modern World and 2-Dimensional Basic Design, thanks for asking. I have As in both classes. Apparently I’ve learned a thing or two about college since 1985. But I digress.)
So why, I ask, did it take almost 45 minutes before anyone mentioned the Human Resources requirements for college degrees? In fact, why hasn’t anyone focused attention on the database method of hiring? If we have to spend hours customizing every job application to fit each job listed, perhaps we should spend more time looking at the specialization movement instead of asking why college is so important.
Lord knows, college isn’t for everyone. The bureaucracy alone is enough to turn many people’s minds to mush. Endless paperwork, boring lectures that are best handled with judicious combinations of textbook reading combined with constant searches on Wikipedia (yes, my professor insisted this was a way to manage in his class) and the ultimate test – the written essay question – are unrealistic as real-world examples of what we’re expected to do…unless, of course, we’re working in an office environment, where we are constantly expected to write, research on the Internet, and listen quietly to boring speeches about whatever topic(s) our boss(es) think are vitally important to our jobs.
So, yes, if you’re destined to be an auto mechanic, a trade school might be more appropriate for you, and no, college isn’t necessary, but if that’s what the entire population of the US is destined to become – a nation of auto mechanics, waitresses, retail workers and hairdressers, then by all means, eliminate college as an option except for the very wealthiest of us.
But if we do, we shouldn’t expect these people to be able to purchase automobiles, eat out at restaurants, or buy a lot of clothing, because there won’t be much of that when the working class spends most of their money on food and shelter.
If we want to enjoy an economy that works for everyone, we need everyone to work at a living wage that pays more than just for the basics. The sheer waste of food, manufactured clothing and goods outweighs our ability to enjoy these things. And Congress has found ways to make the decisions even harder for us.
In just the last month, the House has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (for the 37th time) and to take away overtime pay. They have done more damage to the working class than anyone can possibly imagine, and threaten to do more if they get their way. It’s not just about voting against anything President Obama wants. It’s about hurting the people who put them in office.
We all need to wise up and throw them out. All of them.
Then, maybe, we can go back to concentrating on earning a living so that we can actually enjoy our lives.
On October 11, 2012, I wrote the following post: Do you know ALEC? If not, you should. And you should be afraid. Continue reading “Connecting the Dots, Part 2”
CNN and the rest of our media are taking a lot of well-deserved flack for their report on the Stubenville, OH, rape verdict handed down Sunday.
There is also this report from CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2013/03/17/justice/ohio-steubenville-case/index.html
I recognize that reporters are far less objective than they once were, but CNN (and the rest of our media sources) should take the public backlash as a clue to re-evaluate their reporters’ investigative standards. They need to understand that they promote this reprehensible custom: Sympathizing with criminals while leaving victims out to hang. Jezebel says Here’s What CNN Should’ve Said About the Steubenville Rape Case
CNN isn’t alone in letting this unadulterated crap slip through. Too many members of our society encourage this sort of thinking.
NBC News and Fox fared just about as well, though neither source came out and said it was a shame what happened to those boys. Yahoo (of all places) gets much closer to the truth of the situation Yahoo’s Dan Wetzel for calling it what it is.
Throughout this trial, the two defendants and a parade of friends who wound up mostly testifying against the defendants, expressed little understanding of rape – let alone common decency or respect for women. Despite the conviction, the defendants likely don’t view themselves as rapists, at least not the classic sense of a man hiding in the shadows.
We live in a culture of rape, patronizing subordination and violence. We glorify gun ownership and alcohol and we look for ways to excuse bad behavior because they’re young and don’t know better. But who taught them about behaving this way in the first place?
We encourage our kids to dress in ways that enhance their attractiveness to each other, but too often we fail to teach them anything about what should happen when they are together, about taking responsibility for one another, or what abuse means. The emphasis on the victim’s level of intoxication should lead us to wonder how she had access to so much alcohol, how she came to be in that condition when they abused her.
This “they’re OUR kids, hands OFF” approach to sex education leaves kids with a basic understanding of biology and no understanding of ethics. Add alcohol into the mix, reduce remaining inhibitions, and you have a mess on your hands. Assuming the family or church will handle it absolves our society of dealing with the real problem: Education our kids with empathy, understanding consequences and recognizing right from wrong.
But that’s not what CNN reported.
Is it social media that’s to blame? No. In fact, without access to the electronic connection, the victim’s abuse would have gone unreported and she would have had no recourse. Nobody would have believed her because “she lied” and must have “asked for it” by being at the party and drinking. At least, that’s the gist of the reports coming out of this trial.
So when her rapists are found guilty and punished, we hear sympathy for them and what they’ll go through now that they’ve been found guilty.
The only way we’re going to change our society is to acknowledge that these crimes deserve punishment and that victims are NOT to blame for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or for provoking the actions of their abusers.
In fact, there should be NO WRONG PLACE.
The real story here is how hard it was for victim to seek and receive justice, not how the verdict destroyed the lives of two boys because the victim sought justice.
How we address these issues speaks volumes about who we are as a society. For all the good we can do, there’s this, also from CNN:
Contrast? You bet. Sadly, it happens here, like this, all the time.
Nobody told those boys they were doing anything wrong until they got caught and punished.
Seems to me they regret getting caught as much or more than the acts they committed, as horrific as those acts were.
That is the biggest crime of all.
Last weekend I attended a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Dinner. It’s an annual event held by congregations across the country, as a chance to get to know people from the congregation and to share entertainment, conversation and good food.
During the conversation at dinner, the subject of race came up. The conversation drifted to discussing how we can get past the foundations of race without sounding racist which put me in mind of the documentary Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey. The DVD is available through PBS, but some enterprising YouTuber put the show up in a series of episodes with Spanish subtitles.
If you haven’t watched this documentary, stop reading right now and go watch it. Seriously. I’ll wait.
For me, the theories and research became a game-changer for my views not just on race but on cultural differences. So I surprised myself by saying that while we can say there’s no differences genetically between us white folks, and our African, Asian, Arab and European brethren, there’s a danger in carrying the conversation too far, because it’s easy to conflate racial stereotyping and cultural choice and with the myth of gender choice.
We don’t choose the color of our skin, the shape of our eyes, who we find attractive or how our bodies function. Moreover, our brains are designed to sort everything we encounter into select boxes. Our cultural training gives us the context for deciding what to do with those boxes once we’ve done the sorting.
But there’s a trap, and until I read these articles today, I didn’t have a way to articulate what that trap was because I am so fundamentally American in my belief structure that I can’t see the forest for the trees, or the rest of the world for my own borders. I suspect I’m not alone.
We Aren’t the World: Joe Henrich and his colleagues are shaking the foundations of psychology and economics—and hoping to change the way social scientists think about human behavior and culture.
I have had more than a passing interest in anthropology over the course of my life. In fact, before I became a theatre major, I was going to be an anthropology major. I’m drawn to the research and understanding of human behavior and how it affects societies.
Coming from an areligious background, I find it more than a little strange to be committed to attending services weekly, and more than a little strange when I visit services in other religions, because I have no tools to work with, no existing framework on which to hang my belief system. It is nearly impossible for me to attend any service, UU or otherwise, without observing the ritual from the outside. UU congregations are by far the most welcoming because there is an overriding desire to incorporate the principles by which we live, which transcend virtually all other religions.
From the Unitarian Universalist Association’s web page (http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/index.shtml), this is a summary of the UU Principles:
There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:
- Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
- Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
- Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
- Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
- Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
- Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
There is a social aspect to UU faith that attracts me, coupled with a completely different way of worshiping that includes and encourages laughter, discussion, meditation, two-way communication and sharing in ways I haven’t found with other religious groups except, perhaps, the Quakers.
But that’s not all.
Shortly after encountering the first article, I saw this one.
When I read these two admittedly scholarly research papers, it was easy for me to find them connected, because they both address our perceptions of reality based on empirical evidence we seldom collect outside our own safe spheres of reference.
In other words, they both tell us we can’t see the forest for the trees.
I have made a career of putting information out and correcting inaccurate information when I’ve found evidence that suggests the contrary, but in the end, we can never truly know reality if we don’t have the truth as it exists, not as we perceive it. It is impossible for us to view information without the filters we have built by being part of our society. Changing those filters takes work. There are too many times when people view that work as unnecessary, even bothersome.
Witness, for example, Richard Nixon’s fall.
Yeah, okay. I’m dating myself. If you’re not of a certain age, you won’t have the tools you need to understand where I’m headed with this, but bear with me for a moment.
Until David Frost caught Nixon on tape saying he, as President, was above the law, there was still a question about whether he had done anything illegal. Gerald Ford’s pardon was insufficient to take away the stain of the acts which forced Nixon to resign. To this day we will never truly know what happened and how it came to be because a good deal of the motive behind Nixon’s activities were buried with him.
Nixon’s legacy, that we can never truly trust the elected officials in charge of our country, persists to this day in the form of Birthers who would rather discuss President Obama’s birth certificate and legitimate claim to the Presidency than look at the country as a whole and try to find a way to fix the problems we have now, thanks to more lies from corporate entities that are more concerned with the bottom line and CEO salaries than with the lives of the people they serve.
We got here because we believe our way is the right way to live. We support those who have their own best interests in mind because they have told us to believe they are doing the things they do for us.
But what if we’re wrong? What if they’ve lied?
The French Revolution came about because the people got sick of starving to death and took it on themselves to reduce the long-standing ruling class to severed heads. The present-day American aristocracy has done its level best to deflect violence away from the true source of trouble, incarcerating anyone who seems interested in taking them down. Our government is no longer of, by and for the People, unless those people are the rich ruling class. The rest of us are here to make sure the American Aristocracy maintains their hold on the upper class.
We are almost 50 years away from landing our people, Americans, on the moon. We are fighting to keep North Korea and Iran from gaining the bomb because we have no control over their activities. We know our borders are insecure and we have done our best to lock them down, only to reduce our country to panic-stricken sheep who believe everything our politicians say, because they must be right.
Our children are starving automatons designed to follow the herd, not to innovate or be creative. And if they don’t tow the religious line, they are also incarcerated, if they don’t fall prey to random shooting violence, drugs or worse.
We spend our time watching fairy tales on TV, or modern-day gladiators in an electronic Colosseum. In the end, whatever we do will be too little too late.
And all because we think we know what’s best for the rest of the world. Because we are Americans.
When the revolution comes, it won’t be televised. I just wonder when it’s going to start.