A most simplistic explanation of how the economic problems of the middle-class has become an actual threat to their well-being.
There is a whole lot not to like about either of the 2 major political parties.
Whatever happened to the Saturday morning cartoons we grew up with? A brief look into how they have become a thing of the past.
A look into the questionable way we as a nation over-diagnose behavioral "afflictions."
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
( link: http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/view/107619)
It’s one of those ironies of life that no matter how much education, experience, or power a person has, they will always seem to make wrong choices…especially when their perceived self-interests or emotions impact these wrong choices. That’s exactly the dynamic we are witnessing as events are playing themselves out in Iran following the residential elections of 2 weeks ago.
Many political leaders from both major ideological branches in America (but most vocally led by conservative Republican Party-affiliated lawmakers) have criticized President Obama for not speaking out more vocally in support of the opposition-led mass protests that have been occurring almost daily in the streets of the Iranian capital, Tehran since the disputed election results over two weeks ago…and the deadly violent government attempts to halt the protests. His rationale rightly so, was that publicly coming out essentially on the side of the Iranian government’s opponents would hand incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad a propaganda tool for use to justify both government’s violent response to the protests, and to play to his supporters’ fears that the protests are “proof” of “American intervention” in Iran’s domestic affairs. Indeed, foreign reporters have had their visas revoked, have been threatened with arrest if observed openly reporting on the protests, and government officials such as Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hasan Qashqavi has asserted that the “bias” by which foreign media (e.g., the various Western news outlets such as the American networks and the British BBC) has “exaggerated” the scope of police/protestor clashes and numbers of opposition supporters represents the political stance of those Western governments.
A few days ago on June 20th —maybe as a result or in spite of these criticisms—the president called for the Iranian government to “stop all violent and unjust actions” against the protesters. The full-court pressing by conservative lawmakers seemingly put the president on the defensive; both Arizona Senators John McCain and South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham made the rounds on the Sunday morning talk show circuit to state what amounted to their party’s viewpoint on the president’s hesitant approach on the issue of the unrest in Iran. For his part, Graham, a de facto opponent of all things Obama, stated that “The president of the United States is supposed to lead the free world, not follow it. He's been timid and passive more than I would like."
Yesterday, June 23rd, the president gave an address in the Rose Garden of the White House which, despite protestations to the contrary, seemed to be a capitulation to the pressures of the growing chorus of criticism that his response thus far to the situation in Iran has been too passive. This apparent caving-in to pressure is even more problematic for the president considering that during the 2008 election, he made his intentions clear to at least open the door to a conditional dialogue with the Iranian government, partially in the hopes of assuaging the Iranian government’s quest to acquire nuclear capability—a complete 180 degree turn from the previous Bush Administration’s approach of confrontation and military action innuendo. While President Ahmadinejad would have probably won re-election by a slim lead—as he has a substantial level of public support—its obvious that officials went too far in trying to portray his re-election as consensual mandate by the people of Iran; chief opposition candidate, former Prime Minister Hossein Mousavi seemingly “lost” the election overwhelmingly even in his hometown district, an unlikelyhood that is at odds with the numbers of supporters who have gathered in the streets of the capital since the election “results.”
The fraudulent elections, the violent suppression of the mass protests, the propaganda offensive against the opposition and their “Western ‘supporters’” have caged President Obama up his own policy tree in his intentions to deal with the Iranian government. He is now faced with the options of either continuing ahead with his intent to start a dialogue with the Iranian government toward a resolution of the nuclear (weapons) crisis, or abandoning this intent in lieu of the behavior of the Iranian government over the past couple of weeks. On June 15th, 3 days after the disputed elections, the president noted that America would “continue to pursue a tough, direct dialogue between our two countries, and we’ll see where it takes us.” But that was before the growing chorus of criticism against his stance on not commenting openly about the election results and the popular response. Undoubtedly, his continual intent to open talks with the Iranian government will create an open sea for his policy opponents within the Republican Party to attack…and the criticisms already unleashed toward his initial response (or lack thereof) have the sharks circling.
These recent events surrounding the question of Iran are somewhat perplexing to me, in a negative sense. I honestly don’t know what’s more annoying…the obvious politicization of protests in a country that has been out of favor with America since the late 1970s, or our woeful ignoring of America’s foreign policy history as it relates to Iran.
In 1953, the CIA was instrumental is squashing the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people when bringing back to power the Shah of Iran. Under an autocracy every bit as suppressive as the current government (and backed by the American government), the Iranian people slowly began to sit aside their differences, and eventually managed to overthrow the regime of the Shah in 1979 by way of popular, non-violent, democratic mass uprisings among the Iranian people, culminating in the popularly renown Islamic Revolution. That resulted in the installation of a government run mostly by religious clerics, who were rabbit adherents of a conservative and strict interpretation of Islamic law that suppresses many civil liberties of the people, purportedly sponsors known terrorist groups, and is openly hostile toward both state America and Israel in particular, and the West in general. That history is what opponents of the current Iranian government hope to see occur now, either through natural internal combustion, or external intervention.
But external intervention—American intervention—is why we currently have an issue with Iran. The election crisis, the nuclear issue, and Iran’s hostility toward the West would probably never have even emerged had the religious government not come to power after 1979. Things could, and probably would be radically different today. Had America opted to promote the emerging democracy in 1953 instead of working selfishly behind the scenes to suppress it, Iran might instead have become a thriving Western-friendly democracy in the Muslim-dominated Middle East.
Any inclination to intervene in the internal affairs of Iran would ignore the lessons of our last intervention there. It’s not a stretch that, given the events that immediately followed the America’s questionable invasion of Iraq, destabilizing the government of Iran could make a bad situation worse. Without the few controls there are under the current regime, more radical elements could rise to power and create a crisis which could make the current ones pale by comparison. In a worse-case scenario, attacking Iran could marshal the support for the radical government in the Muslim world…a place where the US already has precious few friends as it is. Even support for opposing forces within another country limited to vocal support could be a disaster in the making. Who could forget the first President Bush’s urging for the Iraqi people to “rise up” against a militarily defeated Saddam Hussein after the end of the 1991 Gulf War, only to ignore pleas for tangible assistance as what was left of the late Iraqi president’s military machine brutally suppressed the resulting revolt in the country’s Southern region, and killing untold numbers?
It is a rather disconcerting notion that in America, politicians and political leaders can and do politicize such a potentially volatile situation for no other reason than to one-up their political rivals. And yet, those same individuals don’t hesitate to call “expose” someone publicly who they feel engage in the same practice, but under different circumstances, such as the Republican propensity to call traditional Civil Rights activists “race hustlers.” Not only is such a practice philosophically hypocritical, but ignores the possible perils of future repercussions as well as the cautions of ignoring history.
I know it’s a bit idealistic, but we send our representatives to Washington to work in our—the electorate’s—best interests, not their own. They should have the ability to think for us, not work against the interests of the people. And we the people should be smart enough to know what is in our interests, and what is not. Read people. Learn to understand the historical basis for what is occurring in the world! Learn, and think…stop spouting off some party line just because it runs contrary to the party line!
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Last evening, as per my normal daily routine to stay informed, I was flipping back and forth between the major networks’ evening news broadcasts. I stopped when I heard Katie Couric’s notification of an upcoming story I saw on CBS’s evening offering about paying students to learn (yeah…I did a double-take too when I heard that).
After anguishing through a plethora of commercials that revealed that there were in fact effective (if not profitable) treatments for sexual dysfunction, sleep deprivation, and migraines, I sat in absolute astonishment for the next 2 minutes and 11 seconds. I listened to the arguments—pro and con—of actually paying students to acquire basic skills necessary to function in a world where learning and knowing could literally make the difference between want and abundance, knowledge and ignorance, or life and death.
I had heard about the idea before, but still, I decided to watch the story with an open mind. After viewing this story, I decided to acquaint myself more background information about this notion of paying students to learn. What I learned was that it’s not just a “New York City” thing.
From Georgia, to Illinois, to Texas, many school districts are preparing or have started pilot programs that either pay students to get high test scores which (theoretically) reflect learning and retaining lessons taught, or to attend school and/or other academic-based programs.
The idea has more than it’s fair share of proponents, liberal, moderate, and conservative alike-- one of them being the former U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives, Republican Newt Gingrich (if you don’t believe me, please refer to Mr. Gingrich’s very own website, http://newt.org/tabid/102/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/3140/Two-Georgia-Schools-to-Pay-Students-to-Study.aspx).
Last year, two Georgia schools began studying the measurable outcomes (academically) of a 15-week pilot program that pays students $8 an hour to attend math and science tutoring for 4 hours a week. Also in 2008, the Chicago Public Schools paid more than 1,600 students to get good grades. As reported in the Chicago Tribune in October of last year,
…1,650 Chicago Public Schools students [cashed] in on a new district program offering money to freshmen at 20 schools for getting top—and even average—grades in five core subjects including math, English and science. District officials said students earned $265,986 this time, with the money coming from a Harvard University education research laboratory and private donations.
The arguments in favor of the idea are many. They range from idea that the increased grades spurred by payments serve as self-esteem boosters for students in low-performing districts, to preventing students from dropping out of school to work minimum-wage jobs in lieu of studying by giving them an immediate payoff to hard work.
From what I’ve read in and around the blogsphere and Internet news sites, most have come down on the side of sanity on this issue; it’s a philosophically and pragmatically insane idea. First, it undermines the ability to tell good teachers and administrators—those capable of actually motivating their students to learn—from those who are just trying to survive their post-honeymoon periods as teachers, and are merely holding on until retirement.
Second, it commandeers the responsibility of a child’s first and primary (at least supposedly) educators, their parents. Public schools should be a supplement for an education that a student is supposed to receive at home. Concepts such as manners, the instilment and understanding of rules, structure, respect for authority, and (insert gasp here) the value of performing to the best of one’s abilities for the sake of expanding one boundaries and to promote personal growth (and on this point, if a parent can teach the child that for most things, there is not always an immediate payoff, so much more the better for society as a whole).
Third, the money to fund such programs overwhelmingly comes from private donations and other like contributors. What happens when the money runs out? Do already cash-strapped school districts decide to use already limited funds to continue the programs, or do we watch as our kids must suddenly go cold turkey to their addiction to getting paid to for learning (come to think of it, such a prospect could conceivably teach our kids about the dangers of addiction)? There is a great deal of research that indicates that tangible evidence undermines intrinsic motivation.
Lastly, it does nothing to help dispel the globally-held belief that Americans are a people motivated simply by love of money. And to use money as a tool to motivate our youngest citizens to learn can’t possibly do anything to weaken that notion. It seems that if money were the answer, we wouldn’t have a problem with poor academic performance in the first place. How else can one explain the fact that American public school students have for years continually poorly when compared to students from countries that spend a lot less on their public school students, and who have stronger curriculums?
Now, ready for some common sense solutions? How about parents stop using the lack of time, scheduling conflicts, misplaced priorities and other such nonsense as excuses for failing to promote their children’s academic well-beings. If parents have the time to procreate them, then they have the time to raise their children. Working to pay bills is not an acceptable excuse for a parent’s failure to be actively involved with their children, which means it’s not up to television, the Internet, or computer programs to either baby-sit or help them with their homework (at least not solely). And on that note, it’s in our children’s interests for parents to be educated themselves. For adults to bring children into the world without the benefit of knowing enough about the world themselves so that they can prepare their children adequately is the height of irresponsibility! A parent should have, at the very least, a high school education—every bit of research supports the conventional wisdom that education and parental involvement are two of the biggest contributing factors to a child’s overall life chances (while I freely admit my belief that America will never totally be a society of “equal opportunity,” I am of the mindset that there are things we can so to limit inequalities).
How about we abandon this absurd notion of paying children to learn? Paying students for academic performance undermines the idea of a meritocracy—an already questionable concept even under the traditional course upward mobility—predicated on finding and shaping the best and the brightest. Consider our leaders and potential leaders; President Barack Obama and Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor both have compelling life narratives which would be less inspiring to those who would emulate their success if money were their chief motivations for succeeding.
And if are going to make it a policy of paying students for attending school and exceeding their own expectations by way of bribery, why stop there? Why don’t we pay them to not do drugs? Just as we pay them to obtain a certain number of A or B’s, we could pay them by the number of times they say “no” whenever they are asked if they want to “take a hit.” And why not pay them to play sports, abstain from sex, and even for not texting while driving. The point is that most of us belonging to certain age groups, namely Baby Boomers and their children, Generation Xers, did what we were supposed to do because it was simply the right thing to do…not because we were bribed to do so. We were not motivated to excel or be better individuals simply because someone offered us money…we did so because we wanted a better standard of living than our parents, and realized that the only way to obtain more was to do better and be better than they were. If we have to bribe our children to simply learn to push themselves past all social, economic, and personal expectations, then we cannot blame them…the fault lies with the adults. We have only ourselves to blame if our children have lost their motivation to learn and excel for the sake of learning and exceling. Maybe someone should pay us to be more responsible adults…maybe then we will raise students.
Sunday, June 7, 2009
In 1986, Tiller’s clinic was firebombed. In 1993, he was shot in both arms by an anti-abortion protester. And earlier this year, he requested the FBI to investigate instances of vandalism at the clinic, including sabotage of the facility’s video surveillance system. One can only suspect as to the motivations behind someone willing to provide such a service that evokes such militant hostility towards its providers, and so politically and socially polarizing to nation at large.
Dr. George Tiller was shot to death during a church service last Sunday
This is not an easy subject for me to explore. Back in the 2002, married for only 6 months, I was going through a rather sour divorce; we were just too different. I was brought up (at least during the first 13 or so years) under a household of limited resources, but structure, rules, corporal punishment, and parents who were authority figures first, and “friends” second. That was the proper way of raising children as far as I was concerned. Her childhood was one educated parents, a stern disciplined father, and liberal understanding mother, material excesses, no spankings, and of children spoiled with things. As far as she believed, that was the way of raising children to be productive citizens. At the same time we were going through divorce, she became pregnant, already a mother of 2 boys from a previous marriage (something neither of us expected since she had already undergone a tubal ligation). She has wanted a girl, but that was not the design of fate. I told her that it was my wish that she would carry the child to term, and that I would take custody of it and go my separate way. She pleaded with me not to do so (in the even that it was a girl), but I was adamant about my wishes; I had no intention of allowing a child of mine to grow up around her unrelenting hedonistic ways which included marijuana smoking. But because of my intent and her questioning my ability to raise a child, she aborted it; as a man who couldn’t use the phrase, “It’s my body and I can do with it as I wish,” I had no say-so in the matter.
As you can imagine, it would be a little hard for anyone who’s gone through such an experience to be objective. But my personal view of life gives me a certain level of objectivity on the issue of abortion…all life is sacred, and should be protected. As far as I am concerned, Providence alone brought us here, and it alone should be allowed to remove us…not some structured system of jurisprudence that seeks to play God, and certainly not someone who gets paid to terminate life under the color of “medicine.” Even more than a philosophical basis, abortion is wrong is the sense that it is patently unfair to the silent participant in reproductive issues, namely men.
In my case, if my ex-wife had made the decision to keep the child—whether I wanted her to or not—I would have been stuck with the consequences. Based on what she alone would choose to do with a gestating child, I could have been forced to pay child support for a child I did not want, or standing by idly, with no legal or other recourse, watch her remove something which I helped create from existence. Throughout America, most men are faced with similar consequences borne of similar situations. The last time I checked, women could not unilaterally decide to bring a child into the world sans the man’s participation, no matter how much will or prayer they exert toward the endeavor. Being the case, why should they unilaterally decide to what they want to do with the child? Although men help create children, they have come to have absolutely no say-so in their birthing, except evidently when it comes to killing abortion professionals.
And oddly enough fervent anti-abortion crusaders, those who purport to champion the cause the “rights of the innocent” and all things “Christian,” are willing to resort to murder to prevent the “murder” of the unborn. I have seen and read the blogs and websites within the conservative sphere of ideological thought where comments frame the murder of Tiller as some form of divine retribution, Karma, or some such. The lack of philosophical consistency notwithstanding, I find it odd that these same would-be “Christian” crusaders are not forming a line to adopt any children that would be spared the fate of all unwanted unborn (and while in a better world it would be nice to see all undesired children carried to term and raised in proper nourishing environments by way of adoption or foster care, the reality is given the overabundance of children available for adoption, adoption’s prohibitively costly expense, and the already overburdened and under-funded foster care system, advocates of abortion do not entirely have a meritless position).
Abortion is not an easy subject for anyone who harbors intense passions to discuss, but discussion is exactly what is lacking. The airwaves are brimming with rants, soliloquies, and worthless opinions about how either un-Biblical or immoral abortion is, or how much it is necessary to protect a “woman’s right” to be able to decide to terminate and unwanted pregnancy. There is no talk about how hypocritical it is one whose faith is predicated on the notion of human compassion and mercy to murder in order to express how dedicated they are to those same notions (which seems to indicate a level of self-centeredness, not selflessness). There are no policy proposals about how to deal with unwanted children who are allowed to come to term, such as the anticipated need for institutions to house the parentless or increased funding for foster care (and I’m sure there would be blabber about how government shouldn’t be in the business of raising children or questions of where do we get the funds to the increase in foster care need?). There is no talk about how to foster better parenting among parents who do decide to carry and bear their children (no talk of establishing a stable network or support group not subject to dissolution due to lack of funding). And—as previously hinted—there are not nearly enough people willing (or able) to adopt any children allowed to live, especially in a troubled economy where families are stretched financially thing as it is (come now Christians, where is the faith to feed the Multitudes?), so where are the propositions from the self-righteous?
It’s obvious that the lack of dialogue indicates a lack of ideas on the issue. And given the insanity of many aspects of the child support system (jailing biological fathers who can’t/do not pay child support…hard to pay when you’re in jail/prison; creating felons for the offense…which doesn’t make them any more employable; and suspending any licenses they may have…again, which doesn’t help them any toward paying their obligations) any ideas in regards to creating a remedy would probably be just as "logical" or “effective” (yes defenders of the child-support system, that is sarcasm).
Of a certainty, the policies regarding reproductive issues are polarizing, and tend to spur much in the way of ideological rhetoric…but that’s all that comes of them. Women are made to be tokens of ideology, men are emasculated from a lack of say-so, and human life stripped of its humanity; it’s reduced to simple decision to be made rather than a sacred gift to be appreciated. Sides are chosen and only token gestures are made in regards solutions.
For individuals like myself, there should be a system of rules and laws in place which gives us some input into whether or not we choose to be parents. I’m sure to make enemies with this suggestion, but perhaps pregnant women should be made to obtain a waver from the father in order to get an abortion--just like in adoption--with the stipulation that the father WILL be an active participant in the child’s life (and not just in a financial obligatory sense), or even be willing to take full custody of the child.
Men who father children by women of limited means, and who have a legitimate level of concern about their child’s well-being should also be given the option of deciding to have the child placed in the custody of some (other) legal custodian, or into forcibly removed in lieu of adoption.
Those wishing to see all unborn children spared the machinations of the abortionists (most notably Christian Conservatives) had better be prepared to remove the phrase “fiscal restraint” from their ideological lexicon, as it will no doubt take a great deal of money to deal with the infusion of unwanted children into a welfare bureaucracy that many are already calling for a reduction of.
Most obvious, individuals need to learn and adopt the concept of foresight…learning to anticipate the consequences of their actions. We need to look beyond our hedonistic desires for momentary pleasure and measure the repercussions they have for ourselves and the lives that may result from them. The decision to eradicate a life should not be made with the same abandon as the decision to create one, not without consideration of whether or not we are willing to be adults and accept the consequences of our actions. And in accepting consequences, learning the lessons that restraint can teach us about how to deal with ourselves and each other.
Insofar as "punishing" those who would take a human life, that particular endeavor should be left up to whatever system of justice the universe was designed to mete out, in the way that it was designed to do so, not us.
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
In the report, the organization noted what amounts to a “Hidden Health Tax” on those families fortunate enough to have health insurance. This “tax” as it's called, are the charges that “doctors and hospitals charge insured patients to make up for the care that doesn’t get reimbursed.”
Oppponents of universal health care or (at least) a retooling of the current system that would allow for universal affordability often malign any policy which promotes such policy change propositions as "rationed health care." This seems to prove that the costs for health care insurance are already rationed via this tax. For those of the mindset that the Free Market can and does remedy the inequities of the health care industry, it would seem that they are correct. Unfortunately, the “remedy” is “an extra $1,000 a year that the average family pays to subsidize the uninsured.” Clearly, a new model of affordable health care coverage for all tax paying Americans is in order, one that doesn't (on one hand) unfairly penalize those who are fortunate enough to have and are able to afford coverage, and (on the other hand) doesn't provide a level of access and service that is inferior to those who can pay.
To read all the findings of the report in its entirety, click on the following link.
Issue Addendum - June 4, 2009
According to a survey performed by a joint team of researchers consisting of authorities from Harvard's Law and Medical Schools, and from Ohio State University, medical bills accounted for over 60% of personal bankruptcies filed in the U.S. over a period of 6 years.
In a report published in the the American Journal of Medicine, "62.1 percent of all bankruptcies (using a conservative estimate) in 2007 were medical; 92 percent of these medical debtors had medical debts over $5,000, or 10 percent of pretax family income," this despite being well-educated and fully-entrenched in the Middle Class.
According to one of the researchers, Dr. David Himmelstein of Harvard University,
"For middle-class Americans, health insurance offers little protection," and "Unless you're Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy."
Those who would defend the system we have in place, where American families and individuals must struggle to pay for medical care under an unforgiving Root-Hog-or-Die dynamic, and where employers—many of whom are laying off and cutting back on the number employees in the current economy—are required to provide health care (notice the lack of the word "affordable" is this requirement) need to seriously reevaluate their stance. The market economy cannot reasonably provide a remedy under a system of ballooning health care costs and hedonistic lifestyles which both contribute to the unaffordability of health care for every American. In order to create a system of either universal affordability or universal coverage, its going to take everyone involved. Government, organizations, establishments, as well as individuals have to pull up their sleeves and get busy; a no one absolved from being part of the solution.
If you have, or know of others who have a need for medicine, but have an issue with its affordability, please click on the following link for assistance.
Finally, to sign the online petition for those wishing to have a voice in the creation of a system of affordable health care in America, please click on the link below.