Sunday, May 31, 2015

MAY 2015 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH



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1. Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler). The Texas Republican proposed an amendment so outrageous that even some of his own GOP colleagues were repulsed—and this says a lot. Schaefer’s amendment would make it illegal to terminate a pregnancy after 20 weeks, even if a fetus “has a severe and irreversible abnormality,” effectively forcing families with wanted, but unsustainable pregnancies to carry to term at the behest of the state and against the advice of their doctors or their own wishes.

What would cause a lawmaker to want the government to inflict more emotional pain onto an already grieving family, not to mention adding a major health risk to the mother? Does he not realize a woman can easily die of sepsis by carrying a deceased or nonviable fetus?

Schaefer’s answer is that suffering is “part of the human condition, since sin entered the world.”

Good God! Where do these people come from? More importantly, how do they hide their vile and odious ignorance long enough to get elected?

2. Presidential Wannabe Jeb Bush. In a Christian Broadcasting Network interview, Bush said he believes business owners should be able to refuse to provide services for same-sex couples “if it’s based on a religious belief.”

“A big country, a tolerant country, ought to be able to figure out the difference between discriminating someone because of their sexual orientation and not forcing someone to participate in a wedding that they find goes against their moral beliefs,” he said. “This should not be that complicated. Gosh, it is right now.”

Business owners have long used the moral belief rationale as an excuse to discriminate against various groups of people, for example to refuse service to blacks at lunch counters and elsewhere. Framing discrimination as somehow righteous has a long, shameful history in America. It’s sickening that Bush and other right-wingers are determined to keep the subterfuge alive.

Let’s get one thing straight. The issue here isn’t about the government telling people how to conduct themselves in their private lives; it’s about how businesses operate. America would be a far less hospitable, not to mention just and free place, if government didn’t tell businesses they can’t discriminate against a given group of people. It isn't that complicated, no matter how much Jeb Bush and other Republicans try to confuse the issue.


Saturday, May 23, 2015

THE BIG BANKS JUST DON’T GET NO RESPECT

By Ronald T. Fox


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Here we go again. Four big banks—Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Barclays and Royal Bank of Scotland—pleaded guilty this week to multiple crimes related to manipulating foreign currencies and interest rates. Bank traders created online chat rooms they referred to as “the cartel” and “the mafia” where they colluded to manipulate exchange rates. Little did they know how appropriate these terms were, for the big banks have rap sheets that would put a mob boss to shame.

The big four were fined $5.6 billion (on top of $4.25 billion some of them agreed to pay regulators in November), and, for the first time, the banks’ parent companies rather than a subsidiary were required to enter the guilty pleas. Lest you think that pleading guilty to a felony represents a ramping up of big bank punishment, it must be noted that the banks were able to negotiate exemptions to stiff future regulations as part of the deal. These exemptions, like so many others in plea-bargain deals with banks, will allow them to conduct business as usual.

The criminal culture that pervades the Wall Street community has shown itself to be immune to the government efforts to reign in fraudulent bank activity. Substantial fines, deferred prosecution agreements mandating reforms, and threats of restructuring and criminal prosecution of executives have proven inadequate deterrents to criminal behavior. As the recent currency trading fraud demonstrates, despite years of regulatory black marks, big banks continue to arrogantly defy laws as well as business ethics (is this an oxymoron?). The prevailing Wall Street freewheeling culture is perhaps best summed up by a comment made in one of the online chat rooms by a Barclay’s trader: “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.”

Bank Regulation


Monday, May 11, 2015

AUTHENTIC EDUCATION VERSUS WINNING AT THE GAME OF SCHOOL


NOTE:  I received the following commentary from Bruce Dillon, a retired teacher with 30-years of experience in California public secondary schools. The commentary is in response to two of my previous posts on education: Assessing Student Learning: the Curse of Standardized Tests; and,
Getting Serious About Educating Our Kids.


AUTHENTIC EDUCATION VERSUS WINNING AT THE GAME OF SCHOOL

By Bruce Dillon

I’ve been out of the field since June, 2006, but I’d like to respond to your pieces entitled “Getting Serious About Educating Our Kids” and “Assessing Student Learning: The Curse of Standardized Tests.”

For some context, I taught in California public secondary schools from 1976 through 2006. I was named “Teacher of the Year” of my school in a district that covers the communities of La Costa, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar, Fairbanks Ranch, and Rancho Santa Fe on three occasions. I was recognized by the U. S. House of Representatives twice, the California Department of Education twice, the Office of the Governor, the California State Senate, the California State Assembly, and the local Rotary Club three times. I served as Department Chair for 18 years and District Department Chair-Standards Development and Curriculum Team Leader for 17 years. I chaired our School Site Council seven times. I taught as many AP and honors students over my tenure as I did regular and at-risk students. In a district blessed (or cursed) with affluence, we were among the lowest funded secondary school districts in the state for three decades, based on some formula tied to property taxes developed during the 1970's. I’ll grant that you have more study of the subject than me, but I’ll speak from the perspective of one guy in the trenches. And I’ll probably sound like a cynic…


Sunday, May 3, 2015

APRIL 2015 BONEHEAD ABSURDITY OF THE MONTH

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1. Texas State Senator Donna Campbell. The Tea Party Republican from Pluto startled even her far-right colleagues by introducing a bill to ban any foreign ownership of the Alamo. Campbell is not worried about a possible take-over by the Mexican government, but from the ferocious invading forces of the United Nations.

Campbell’s rush to the barricades was spurred by a news item that UNESCO is considering including the Alamo as a World Heritage Site, where it would share company with the Statue of Liberty, The Grand Canyon, and other historic sites. When a colleague gently asked her what kind of a problem she was trying to solve, Campbell responded:

“Anything that starts with the UN gives me cause for concern.”

I’m sure all you history buffs, preservationists, and aficionados of the absurd are pleased to know Senator Campbell has the Alamo’s back.