Private Education, and Why Our System Is Failing

May 12, 2015

A recent discussion with two online friends caused me to reflect on education.
I’m a product of a small public high school (in Leesville, Louisiana) and a small university (University of Texas-El Paso). Most Americans share a similar background. The system worked for us, back then, but it doesn’t work nearly so well now.
And none of the proposed fixes have made a bit of difference.
Students are stressed; teachers are stressed; some, lacking any other solution, cheat. Even school boards cheat (EPISD, for one, the district I once worked for; the cheating happened several years after I retired, and it was done at the district-administration level; teachers had no input into what happened).
My friends, who have a libertarian philosophy, feel that the solution to our education mess is the free-market approach. I don’t agree. Such a system has several major flaws.
The first one is simple: there’s no law against opening your own school. Go ahead, invest the money, hire the teachers, apply for certification, and invite people to bring their children. Collect a fee for services and just like that, you’re off and running.
Until you go broke. And you are very likely to do so during your first year.
There are such schools, and many have been around for a century. Excellent schools; the nation’s wealthiest citizens send their children to such.
And that’s the problem; such schools are only for the wealthy. They cost roughly what a university education costs. Ordinary Americans can’t afford them.
The private/charter schools, instead of offering their product in a free-market system where competition would result in excellence, neatly bypass competition by collecting not from customers but from government. In so doing, they siphon off needed money from public schools.
So why can’t public schools compete?
Actually, they do. Note that I graduated from a public school, as did my sons and grandsons.
But public schools must do things private schools don’t.
They provide transportation to those that need it. Simple solution to busing, instead of huge schools that draw students from wide areas, keep schools small and locate them where students can walk to school or be brought by parents. The larger schools are thought to be more efficient, but when you add in costs of transportation, plus the reduced education outcomes, I question whether large schools really are more efficient.
The other thing that differentiates public schools from private schools is government control. Schools are no longer about education; they’re about social engineering, about inclusion, about lawsuits. Some of these are positive, and it may be that all of these trends are positive in the long run; but they’re expensive. And that’s the failure of the American school system in a nutshell.
Testing only proves what many already knew: we’re not producing the level of education among graduates that we once did.
Schools are about funding; the rule is, live within the budget. It’s the ‘business’ approach.
But kids don’t fit into the column of figures. Some require more services, whether adaptive services such as ramps for physically handicapped, to smaller classes (more teachers; expensive) or resource-intensive classes for the educationally handicapped.
If there’s an advantage to the private-industry school, that is where it’s to be found. As a private company, such schools can avoid much of the governmental/judicial mandates that, however well intentioned, don’t come with funding.
In a rational system, trained professionals would assess the funding needs and come up with a budget. This would be presented to the school board or other authority, much as departments of the government do . Instead, it’s much more the top-down approach: here’s the money and this is what you must do, and you’re forbidden to make changes by dropping programs or dropping expensive students because you don’t have enough money.
There’s another hidden corollary to this: unproductive and misbehaving students.
The budget is based on a cost-per-student basis, and if student enrollment increases the budget is increased. But if students are habitually truant, schools lose money. This means that if students violate rules, they aren’t expelled; they’re sent to an alternative school, set up to deal with such. If students cannot or will not benefit from attendance at a public school, they’re still kept there, because doing so brings in money.
Private schools don’t operate that way. Those schools I mentioned in the beginning, the ones that wealthy people send their kids to? They had a different solution. If you misbehave, for example bring a weapon to school, you’re expelled. If you refuse to do the work, you’re dismissed. If you are so disruptive that other students can’t learn, you’re expelled. Parents quickly become involved, because having paid considerable amounts of money to those private schools, they don’t want their children expelled.
One final comment about those private, for-profit charter schools: if they don’t produce, they go bankrupt. Good economics, bad sociology. What happens to the students who were enrolled? If you’re a factory making widgets, you can send the ones that don’t pass inspection back and have them fixed. Kids aren’t widgets; they have a narrow time-frame where education either takes place or it doesn’t. Subsequent efforts at adult remedial education  can help, but it can’t fix what went wrong during those formative years.
I don’t know that there’s a solution. We elect officials, and as soon as they take office they become magically expert in everything. The urge to stick a finger in and stir things up is overwhelming. So they do.
And the system gets stirred up, but somehow it’s not better. Short of a total redesign, I don’t see improvement taking place.

Economics: Crashes, Recoveries, and Recent History

May 8, 2015

I keep seeing the denials. Whenever good economic news comes out of Washington, some claim it’s propaganda, that it’s all lies by Obama.
As if a president has time to collect the data, to analyze economic trends.
Yesterday I got involved in a discussion with a man who doesn’t believe statistics such as what was reported today, that America enjoyed fairly-healthy job growth last quarter.
But I also see signs on doors, Help Wanted. Look around, you’ll see those too. Go on, look for yourself. Are those signs lies?
Stores close, Others open. It’s part of the cycle. Long term trends are different.
Unless you PERSONALLY have access to all the data, you’re believing someone else’s report. And all those reports, including mine, are based on second-hand information. They’re no more than opinion, in other words. My opinion? I base it on evidence, not solely on government reports.
Those reports some are so quick to doubt are read by a bunch of nervous traders. The stock market…looked at that lately? It reflects the nation’s economic health very closely, and there’s a lot of our economic history to be read there. Companies that are publicly traded must file quarterly reports. They must report changes in their work force, up or down, whether their earnings will meet expectations, things like that.
Don’t like the government reports? Just watch the stock market. Traders know. They have to, or they lose their ass.
Now go back and look at long term market trends. Look at what happened during the last years of the Bush II presidency and what has happened since.
The market almost crashed. Banks almost went bankrupt, the entire financial house of cards almost fell. Bush and his supporters bailed out those same big banks and insurance companies with gigantic gifts of public money.
This is history. It’s not opinion. It happened. The economy sank into the Great Bush Recession. OK, that’s my name for it; I want to remind people of what happened and who was in charge at the time.
You can find the reports, and some of you will even remember when these events took place, now that I’ve reminded you.
No bailouts under Obama. Instead, rising employment. More consumer confidence. The stock market rise has reflected that. The nervous traders settled down and paid more for stocks, because they expected the values of traded companies to go up. That has continued since Obama became president.
Evidence, not opinion.
I call it the Great Obama Recovery, because I want people to remember who was in charge of this part of our economy history too.
Loved Bush II, hate Obama? OK. Personally, I’ve got issues with both of them. But I try not to let that blind me to facts. I look at the evidence.
Government reports, and also what the stock market is doing. That market reflects our economic history, for those who are willing to look at long-term results.

On Campaigns and Society

May 7, 2015

As of this writing (May 7th, 2015), there are at least six ‘declared Republican candidates’ for president. Six more are hinting strongly that they’ll run while they accumulate the milllions it will take to campaign for the party’s nomination. To do that, they’re attempting to find something, anything, that will separate them from the rest in the clown car. Funny suits, big noses, huge shoes won’t do it; this time, it’s not how they look but what they say.
Believe it or not, those buffoons represent a slice of the modern TeaPublican Party. Because they appeal to the few, they believe they can parlay that into an appeal to the many.

But they will end up driving each other farther to the right, to the portion of the electorate where the lunatic fringe lives. Where people think that if only people prayed more, that would solve all the world’s problems. Apparently they haven’t noticed how often Muslims pray.
They end up where the NRA lives, never noticing that the NRA propaganda hasn’t done anything to rein in government; instead, the guns kill thousands of ordinary citizens, many of them children. Not one ‘dictator’ trying to take over the country has been held back. You’d think someone would notice, but the propaganda is never ending. The tree of liberty has not been watered by the blood of patriots and tyrants, it’s grown stunted by being overwatered by the blood of children and citizens.
The no-tax fools are realizing that as government shrinks, as there’s less money in the system, somehow the potholes don’t get fixed. Bridges are collapsing. Some wonder why. Eventually, others will too. Whether they’ll wonder in time for the election I don’t know.
But the party of low spending has no qualms about using public money for political purposes. After all, they’ve spent millions trying to deny affordable health care for ordinary citizens. Fifty plus votes, last I heard. They’ve spent more on repeated investigations into Hillary Clinton. So far, nothing has been found. How much have the manufactured ‘crises’ cost the government?
More money will be spent on defense, too. Not to pay soldiers, not even to care for the injured and shocked, but for hugely-expensive weapons systems. That will, somehow, be spent in districts that elect powerful politicians. Ahh, pork…more public money used to help elect a critter.
So what are the issues? Other than that virtually all of them have been told by God that he should run. God’s being indecisive, I suppose.
Wouldn’t you love to see Ted Cruz debate Mike Huckabee on the role of religion in government?
Freedom, or what Republicans call freedom, is an issue.
Railroads are ‘free’ to haul dangerous cargoes. Periodically they blow up, but at least they blow up free.
Factories too are free of regulations. Guess what? They blow up too. But hey, regulation cuts into profits. And corporations need to be free to make as much as possible.
That TeaPublican fringe curses the EPA because it limits ‘freedom’. Even so, corporation are still free to pollute, to strip the top off mountains, to dump coal ash in streams, to leak oil from pipelines into rivers and streams, to create a mess that the federal government can’t control and won’t have the money to clean up.
And after the clowns drive the car as far to the right as possible, the eventual winner will try to crab back to the center. Dragging all that campaign baggage with him.
I don’t see much chance that a Republican can be elected. Even if one is, haven’t we seen how ineffective they’ve proven themselves to be at governing? At least so far, there’s a slight amount of control.
But the corruption is getting worse. The preachers and priests are gathering, waiting to have more say in American society. The manufacturers of military goods are smiling, waiting for more money for ever-more expensive systems they can sell to the Defense Department.
Have you noticed how similar we’ve become to the Middle Eastern nations we’ve been fighting?
We’ve separated into ‘tribes’ based on religious fundamentalism. On color. On ethnicity. On gender and sexual orientation. Corruption, always present, has become endemic. Schools are failing, education is a way for banks to exploit the young, the social safety net is tattered, little by little we’ve been reduced to a third-world nation. Maybe that’s what people are looking for.
Personally, I don’t want to live in Americanistan.
How about you?

Of Riots, and Causes

April 29, 2015

The president has condemned the rioters, as have most politicians.
I’m not happy with them either. They did indeed burn businesses, loot them, put their neighbors out of work. All those and more beside.
I read a few statistics about that neighborhood in Baltimore. I hope you’ll take the time to look up things for yourself. I certainly don’t know everything about it. I don’t know anything at all about the police who arrested the young man or what they did to him. I’ll only say it’s suspicious, and that officials are looking into the matter. Six officers have been suspended. Some will probably be charged, although it hasn’t happened yet. An investigation is ongoing, although it seems to be moving far slower than a similar investigation would take that involved a civilian.
So what’s the neighborhood like, other than that it’s filled with minorities who are likely overwhelmingly black?
Less than half of the residents have jobs. Why?
One in four young men have been arrested by the police in the past. Why?
There are gangs in the neighborhood, criminal gangs. We know that because the police know it and implied that they’d received intelligence that major gangs were allied and were going to ‘take out cops’. The gangs quickly responded and said that no, there was no such alliance and they weren’t going after the cops. Duh.
I wonder how these folks live? You can be sure their income is less than the official poverty income. So how do they buy food, buy clothing, pay for electricity and gas service, things like that?
And of all those politicians, from President Obama all the way down to the mayor and city council, how many have had an opportunity to do something about the impoverished, black neighborhoods of Baltimore?
And decided that no, it wasn’t worth fighting the entrenched interests who insist on no taxes. No taxes to improve people’s lives. No taxes to build good schools, hire good teachers, hire enough policemen to suppress the gangs and the drug trade that supports them. No taxes for urban redevelopment.
It’s a vicious slope. The residents don’t have enough money to do anything, including pay the necessary taxes. State and federal politicians aren’t willing to spend the money on a blighted neighborhood filled with blacks.
And then, when a trigger point is reached, the riots erupt. Arson. Looting. Violence and vandalism. Police cars torched. Rocks thrown, sometimes shots fired.
Most major cities have neighborhoods just like the one in Baltimore. And, before Baltimore, Ferguson.
It will happen again. Los Angeles? New York? Kansas City? Atlanta? Birmingham, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston…
I expect a long, hot, summer of unrest.
And all the politicians, including the wannabe’s, will wring their hands and condemn the rioters.

Economics, and the Best Economic System

April 26, 2015

So many curse the idea of ‘socialism’, but have no idea of what that means.
Look at the history of the Great Depression; it was caused by unrestrained capitalism, and only socialism was beginning to reverse the economic disaster. Things like the CCC, the WPA, others, where the government became the employer of last resort.
Consider for a moment what would happen if we made the government the employer of last resort now and paid those employees a living wage, not a punitive wage? Say, for example, $15 an hour.
No more unemployment insurance, or the taxes to pay for it.
No more minimum wage. What the government paid becomes de-facto the ‘minimum wage’.
Food stamps and disability insurance only for the truly disabled. Yeah, they exist; and if we expect to be called a civilized nation, we have to take care of our own. My son drew disability from Social Security for about five years. Before dying of the disease that rendered him unable to work, at age 44.
No more ‘booms’ and ‘busts’ from gambling capitalists. No more bailouts. Let the banks go broke, no golden parachutes left, take over those failed businesses and make them part of the ‘socialist’ government employment of last resort.
Use it as a governor for the economic system, in other words. When labor is needed, employers will have to pay more, hence fewer people on direct government employment. When a downturn comes, automatically pump more money in and employ more people.
About the people employed: they have to spend the money, buying food, housing, clothing, appliances. No foreclosures. No default on education loans. All that spending generates economic activity in the private sector. That’s why I consider socialism the governor for a mature economic system.
Private enterprise? Absolutely. Capitalism, where invested money earns income? Absolutely. Regulated private enterprise/capitalism (gas service, phone service in some cases, insurance when ownership of insurance is made mandatory), absolutely.
The best economic system is a mix of private enterprise, regulated private enterprise, capitalism, and socialism.

Deadly Force and its Use

April 25, 2015

We’ve had a lot of questionable behavior recently involving police. It appears that people question their behavior, and in many cases that is deserved.
Part of the problem is that most of us don’t understand police work and the decisions that police officers make. For that matter, I’m not at all certain that POLICE understand when they’re permitted to employ deadly force.
I was trained to do that, and also given a ist of occasions when deadly force was authorized. That was a long time ago, more than fifty years, but I think I remember most of them.
I think those same rules are applicable today to police officers or others authorized to carry arms. Police or licencees with concealed carry permits, the rules must be exactly the same.
1. Deadly force is authorized in self defense or in defense of another person. ‘Self defense’ requires that the person employing deadly force feel that he/she is either personally threatened or that another human being is under threat. Taking a human life is justified only when it’s employed to prevent the taking of a different human life.
2. Deadly force is authorized to interrupt a felony in progress and apprehend an armed felon if he resists arrest. This means that traffic stops or other encounters with the public rarely require the use of deadly force. Only when circumstances change such that the first rule is in effect would deadly force be authorized.
3. Deadly force is authorized to apprehend an armed and dangerous person who resists arrest. Note that possession of a weapon does not automatically make a person dangerous, nor does ‘resisting arrest’. Many now have permits to carry weapons and certain states permit open carry of weapons upon their person. In such circumstances, should an arrest be necessary, an officer should call for backup (which is standard procedure in most cases). Only when there are several officers on scene should the effort be made.
An unarmed person fleeing is not ‘armed and dangerous’. An unarmed person committing a felony does not present sufficient danger to the police or general public to authorize use of deadly force. There are other, better, ways of taking such a person into custody, including calling for backup.
‘Deadly force’ means use of firearms. Batons and tasers, as well as beanbag rounds and similar, are not ‘deadly force, per se, but can become so. Methods of grappling used to subdue a felon who resists arrest can also be deadly if misused. Whatever the method, if a death occurs, the presumption exists that deadly force was used, and that use must be justified under one of the three rules I stated.
Police officers should not be exempt from scrutiny. The rules above apply to them as well as to civilians, except that civilians will rarely perform an arrest.
This is my take. What do you think?

Work, Time, and Climate Change

April 21, 2015

I’ve neglected this blog; that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped working. Instead, I’ve been very busy with a lot of concerns, some that have to do with completing my seventh novel (Veil of Time, about 50 000 words written of what I expect will be a 70 000 word book; it’s the fourth novel in the Wizards Series and as you might guess, it involves time travel). I’m also managing my writing as a business, performing music once or twice a week, and my Facebook interests take up considerable time too. Plus my wife and I are getting ready to celebrate our 50th Anniversary. Yes indeed, busy!
I began working on global climate change a few years ago. This led me to design and build an experiment, which I used to collect data. I’m continuing this effort. I won’t list all the things I did in this essay; there are three essays already on this blog about what I did, how I did it, and the results I measured. If you’re interested, the essays won’t be hard to find.
I’m finally to the point where I can take this public. I’ve also interested a scientist in looking at my idea, so we’ll see what happens now. He indicated that if he finds my ideas have merit, he knows people to contact to spread the information.
I hope the concept can at least be tried before it’s dismissed out of hand.
If anyone who’s reading this blog is interested, you can contact me for further information.

About Philosophy, Religion, and Faith

January 20, 2015

From a conversation on a Facebook group dealing with why religious belief persists:
I understand your comment, my friend, but I can’t agree. I understand that there are many things unseen, but attributing them to a deity doesn’t work for me. Too often, that explanation has been simply wrong.
The more we learn, the more concepts that have persisted because of ‘faith’ are debunked. Why, then, should we have faith that things in future will be different, not understandable?
Consider for a moment the concept of believing that some entity organized the universe.
When people knew nothing other than the ‘Earth’ and ‘the Heavens’, one could accept that perhaps magic was involved. Magic, defined in this context as not being bound by what we call natural laws, e.g. the laws of nature as we understand them. But we now know there’s much more to the picture than that. The sources of current religious belief, faith, come from a society that knew little to nothing of our true place in the universe. Whether Judaism, Christianity, or Islam, all of them are rooted in the writings, the codified beliefs, of thinkers whose background was herding, farming, fishing, and handicrafts. Of a people who simply ignored what didn’t fit, who claimed that such things were the will of the deity, hence not to be understood by humans even though, basic to that belief, is the concept that humans are the image of the deity.
If that’s your philosophy, that all this order has to be by design, I can’t argue with that. But…
If we disagree, why should we stoop to some level that’s not based on philosophy? Why should we enslave, murder, torture because someone believed differently?
Nothing in that basic belief requires that. Nothing in that system excuses murder, torture, rape, slavery.
But those things have been with us since first we climbed down out of the trees. Why?
THAT I attribute not to belief, but to systems of organized religion. Systems with a few ordering the many how to believe, how to think. And inevitably profiting thereby. For every starving philosopher of religious thought, there are a dozen priests of some ilk profiting. Living well, even as the ones who provide that good living are impoverished.
Little by little the evidence builds.
You’ve had dinner with us before, my friend. Enjoyed the turkey, did you?
That turkey, presumably, is different. We benefited from someone who slaughtered the beast so we could have Thanksgiving dinner. Cows, pigs, fish…
We’re supposed to be superior. We think, we feel.
Yet we now know how similar we are to those other organisms. We know that animals can even catch ‘human’ diseases, that humans can catch ‘animal’ diseases. We share genes.
We’re all part of a huge biosphere, a mix of genes that sometimes we share, sometimes we don’t share. Just a few genes more or less changes us from chimp to human or gorilla. Or pig.
If a pig is slaughtered, is he transported to heaven? If a dog dies, does it go to heaven? Dogs think, dogs feel, dogs communicate.
But we’re told that only humans have a soul. That the soul embodies those things, the ability to reason, to feel, to make choices.
That we can treat other animals as we do because they lack this soul.
Really?
Do we not see evidence, clear and indisputable evidence, that those lesser animals grieve when a close associate/family member dies? Do whales not grieve, do they not understand the concept of death and regret when it comes? Do they not sacrifice themselves to save their offspring?
They do.
Only faith insists those things aren’t so.
Its why faith is not enough for me.
I DO have faith of a sort, except it doesn’t depend on organized religion.
I’m a part of a greater whole, humankind. I share genes from the human gene pool. My genes are not unique, but the combination I currently possess is unique.
When I pass, those genes will still be there in the human genome. My particular combination will go on, at least in part. Children, grandchildren, descendants, they’ll possess a tiny bit of what made me what I am.
I hope that greater whole persists for a long time, but I understand that ALL species before humans have gone extinct or at least branches of those species/particular genomes have vanished. Yet their genes persist, even today. That turkey had genes that once, reshuffled, were part of dinosauria.
Of humans, H. sapiens sapiens.
Me.

Challenges

January 12, 2015

A discussion has been ongoing regarding whether Roundup (glyphosate) and GMO food plants designed to tolerate it are dangerous. I wrote this response:
Pesticides ARE bad for the environment. That general statement can go all the way back to DDT, neonicotinoids, others. What seemed benign at first had unanticipated side effects.
Not all had to do with pests or food resources. Remember PCB’s?
The ocean is a soup of microscopic bits of plastic. More plastic, in larger bits, circulates in the world’s oceans, waiting to fall apart and contribute to that soup. Problem solution, none in sight.
Plankton in that ocean is one of the sources of oxygen. So are forests. We’ve cut them down, turned some into farmland for mega-farms which can only produce through chemistry. Problem solution, several possibilities, none of them immediate.
We’ve pumped up paleowater faster than it can recharge. Solution, massive desalination. Short term, expensive. Food prices, water, sewage, all will cost more in absolute terms.
Long term result, increasing saltiness of the oceans; by irrigation, we leach salts and soluble chemicals (including pesticides) into the oceans. Gone fishing in the Thames lately? Or any of several other rivers around the world. How about the Baltic? Even the cod fishery on the north Atlantic banks, the one that once sustained a fleet of Portuguese fishing boats and ships. Gone, maybe never to return.
Solution? Massive use of greenhouses, possibly. Fish farms too. Raise shrimp in the desert, in places like New Mexico. Not imminent, and temporary anyway. How many greenhouses would it take to produce enough food to feed twice as many humans as there are now? How big would they have to be? Could they be made proof against natural disasters? Can we link fish farming to hydroponic farming? Unknown.
We’ve used nuclear plants to generate energy. They’re dangerous. See Chernobyl, the Japanese disaster. Smaller plants are less dangerous, but more expensive. And ALL of them generate waste material. That’s stockpiled in huge amounts here and there. Solution, none that’s feasible other than close them all down. Even then, that area won’t be usable for the foreseeable future. We’re stashing ever more spent fuel rods and hoping that technology will eventually figure out what to do with them. They’re poisonous and radioactive, and they’ll be dangerous for millions of years. Hope is not a solution, yet we continue producing more of the spent fuel rods.
Climate change: Here, now. Storms, weather pattern shifts, melting of ice to release stored freshwater, ocean rise. Solution, none that’s immediately practical. Whether my own solution is as good as I think it is, we’ll likely never know. Politically, we lemmings will keep going until we’re gone.
We as a species have grown to the point that a natural environment can no longer support our numbers.
So we change the environment.
In the short run, those changes are beneficial.
How many are beneficial in the long run?
Natural systems are, or were, self-regulating over time. The changes we’ve made are not.
Uncontrolled adding of glyphosate and other plant poisons is just another change. Plants will attempt to adapt to this stress as they have to all the others. How can you possibly believe that change will be beneficial in the long run?
We’re forcing change in the natural plant genetic supply. Some genes are being favored by the conditions we put in place, others suppressed. All, so that people can continue to breed uncontrollably. Solution? None that’s immediate. Just possibly that natural world has a solution. You won’t like it…if you’re one of the very few survivors left, trying to escape from a ruined, poisoned world. Given a million years or ten without humans, the planet might possibly recover.
But in the short term, we’ll eat our packaged food and discard the plastic. Eventually, it’s buried in a landfill or finds its way to the oceans. We’ll watch our big-screen TV’s and argue over inconsequentials, we’ll pave over more farmland for apartment buildings or parking lots.
We invented sustainable farming, a long time ago. No pesticides. No fertilizers, other than natural ones where what we consumed was recycled. We humans at that point were part of a mini-ecosystem that worked, indefinitely. Animals, plants, bacteria, natural weather cycles, all those things could go on for generations.
But we largely abandoned that. Killing a chicken or a cow for meat, icck. Let someone else do it, we’ll get our meat from the supermarket and complain that it’s not nearly as good as free-range or grass-fed is. All colored and antiseptically packaged in more plastic. It’s the 21st Century way.
Oh, and a lot of that stuff you consume, it’s made in Bangladeshi sweatshops or grown in Mexican fields where the people are no better than slaves. At least slaves were provided for instead of being turned out when they could no longer work those long hours in the fields. But hey, so not our problem; is that on sale this week? Gotta save those pennies for a new car, bigger, faster, whatever. Or a spare; what if this one breaks? Can’t do without my car, you know. And pave that road again, potholes are so uncomfortable. More roads too; it’s unconscionable to have people waiting for HOURS on the freeway, having to run the engine to keep warm or keep cool, depending, while the gridlock is cleared away.
Cities…the country is boring, all those farmers who work all day and only go to sleep at night. No parties. No concerts, no shows, why, even the movies aren’t first-run!
Those cities are sustained by rivers of things. Aqueducts to bring in water, power lines to bring in electricity, pipelines to bring oil and gas, trucks and trains bringing in food and taking away waste. So long as everything works, great. In the short term. Hmmm…all those bridges are getting older. Roads need reworking too. Railways are aging and not enough money is being spent on maintenance. Solution, none. More people will need more cities. Less farmland. Hopefully, technology will provide a solution.
If you see GMO’s and Roundup as the problem, seen in isolation, the argument above might make sense. But seen in the context of history, of past problems, of accidents even when things aren’t terribly dangerous by design such as oil well blowouts, a different image emerges.
But if you’re still not seeing the larger challenge, I’m wasting my time.

Revolution, by Constitutional Means

January 2, 2015

It’s time.
Consider the following: John Boehner was elected easily by one small district in Ohio. Yet during the last Congress he effectively disenfranchised a majority of voters in the entire nation. How could he do that?
As Speaker of the House, he represents the Republican Party. That party held control of the House of Representatives despite receiving fewer votes nationally than did the Democrats. How? Through gerrymandering of districts, redrawing lines so that a particular party would be able easily to hold a majority of votes. Result? By employing something called the ‘Hastert Rule’, Boehner brought to the floor for votes ONLY those bills that a majority of Republicans favored. I think he set this aside twice during that two-year period.
Democrats, despite having received more votes, never got to put forward bills they favored, never got to respond to voters who’d sent them to Congress. Disenfranchisement.
Not to claim that Mr. Boehner is particularly corrupt; he’s no more corrupt than others in a system which has itself become corrupt.
Leaders in both Houses of Congress permit ‘amending’ of bills after they’ve passed through committees. As a result, big banks can have their employees write major portions of a bill to regulate their own behavior, send them (along with a campaign contribution) to a Representative who’s holding his hand out, and see the rules they’ve written be added to a must-pass bill. Whereupon it will become law, even though the original bill had to do with funding of the government to avoid shutdown.
The framers of the Republic made a mistake; they never saw the rise of party dominance nor the day when politics became a profession instead of a duty one did part-time. As a result, a small fraction of people from a relatively-tiny district sends someone to Congress who will control the destiny of the nation.
The district/state that elects and reelects those professional politicians doesn’t pay their salaries, we the taxpayers do. Despite the relative few thousand who send them to Congress, they pass laws affecting all of us. We face taxation or exemption from taxation without representation.
It’s time for a national referendum for all members of Congress, Senator or Representative.
This is the change I propose:
At the bottom of the ballot would appear a list. “Shall Senator Foghorn be permitted to represent the nation in the Senate?” _______ (Yes)
Note that the default position is “No”. Unless a majority of voters check that yes box, Foghorn will be required to resign at the end of the calendar year. Even though he might want to run for office again, even though he might have an enormous war chest to finance his campaigns, if he can’t convince more than half of the nation’s voters, he’s a former Senator. Ditto Representatives.
I suggest that the same be applied to Supreme Court Justices as well. Let the bar be set at the same level, 50%. To maintain some vestige of continuity, perhaps only half the justices would face a referendum in any election year.
Rationale: The current system is not serving us well.
So how do we force Congress to listen? Take up our trusty muskets and march on Concord Bridge?
No. There’s a better way.
The oligarchs own our politics, they pay those Senators and Representatives. Let THEM force change. Start with a nationwide strike. No one goes to work, no one goes shopping. If no change, repeat the following month. Then perhaps repeat once a week if necessary.
Just say no. We won’t take it any more.
Use the initiative to send a Constitutional Amendment laying out the above to Congress and require, on pain of dismissal, that they press to make it part of the Constitution. Then publicize this widely, so that politicians will be forced to act.
A second part of the systemic revolution has to do with how Congress does business. It’s currently corrupt, systemically corrupt. Those who wield power in Congress, the major party leaders, allow the corruption, even wallow in it, because they profit from it. So change the system of unlimited ‘amendments’ that have nothing to do with the bill under consideration. Force all votes, especially votes having to do with taxes or exemption from taxes to be public by roll call, so that anonymous yeas and nays be eliminated.
This is the best way to reform our nation.
Radical? No. I’ve long admired Lincoln, and I think he would approve.
Let government of the people, for the people, by the people, be returned TO the people.