Maine’s Don Quixote

Written by thomasczyz
AlvaroDonQ2

Don Quixote Tilting at Windmills (Original) art by Alvaro

When the governor called a mandatory meeting with Unemployment Insurance appeals hearing officers at the Blaine House (his home turf) behind closed doors, it added to a growing list of controversial actions.

Good judgment would have said a closed door meeting with no audio or video recording on a sensitive subject as labor relations is a bad idea. Easily a few documented examples of his concerns could have been distributed, a recorded discussion of the governor using the document to explain why they are concerns, followed by a question and answer period. No news story, no controversy, no wasting time defending against accusations that could have been easily averted.

However, some defend the governor as a man of action, a man who gets to the heart of the matter, strips away the BS and gets his message across of what must be done. Many admire his approach, consider it leadership.

Leadership requires both intelligence and intellect. Intelligence is the ability to grasp and complete those tasks that are within a limited, predictable framework, and clearly stated goals. Intelligence is practical in its efforts; it re-orders, re-adjusts, and filters away information that does not seem important in completing the task.

With intelligence as a foundation a leader with intellect examines, theorizes, contemplates the meanings of situations as a whole. A strong leader sees the big picture, understands the impact downstream, and connects the dots. We admire those who through their intelligence get things done, and through their intellect insure the results have a more far-reaching affect than the specific task at hand; they are effective.

A leader’s effectiveness begins with involving others, by building a strong team, having the confidence and a sense of appreciative attachment to depend on them. Many have tried; none have succeeded in knowing everything about their area of responsibility, it is impossible. Those who claim to be fully conversant, talking endlessly without assistance and involvement from others are using their bravado and actions as a wall to hide personal insecurity and a lack of confidence.

Strong leaders look for what others have done well, and seek to build on that success. Rather than focusing on what has gone wrong, strong leaders expect competence creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of team success which becomes the norm. Celebrating success is required; recognizing and firmly correcting failure and incompetence is critical.

If the recent meeting with Unemployment Insurance appeals hearing officers were an isolated incident, it could easily be cast aside. However, there is a two year pattern of controversial situations which would have been mitigated by a more effective use of time in preparation rather than the greater time spent in damage control. As described above effective leaders surround themselves with a good team, whose job is to research and advise, both strategically and tactically. Did the governor’s team do their “homework” or not in advising the governor, did the governor listen or not – we’ll never know.

Less time spent on damage control results in more time spent on job creation, education concerns and other areas which will benefit the citizens of Maine. Why the governor and his advisors have yet to grasp basic time-management and communication skills are two very troubling questions.

This is not Mardens, this is the state of Maine where 1.4 million people look towards their governor for leadership; leadership that has yet to occur from Paul LePage.

Washington: Pathetic and Heartless

Written by thomasczyz

McConnell“Dear Dzhokhar, You couldn’t have known, but my brother ran in the marathon and trained for months. My sister in law was an amazing and supportive wife as she always is and was ready to run the last 5 miles with him. Your bomb was at the finish line that they were trying to cross. …

Dear Dzhokhar, I don’t and can’t hate you. I am glad you are in custody, but you are just a kid, and you lost. I will love and pray for you, because somehow your sin was turned for good, and my community and the people I love will only be stronger in the end.”[1]

“I wonder how many Boston liberals spent the night cowering in their homes wishing they had an AR-15 with a high-capacity magazine?”[2]

Two Facebook posts making the rounds, one from Mike Rogers a Jesuit priest, the other as a result of a tweet from Arkansas State Representative Nate Bell. One man whose family and friends were directly affected by the events in Boston, seeing the good come from tragedy; a second man, a thousand miles away with no connection to the Boston tragedy sneering at those Boston Liberals “cowering in their homes”.

Nate Bell is a pathetic man.

However, his tasteless and insensitive comment will soon be forgotten.

Thanks to the efforts of law enforcement at all levels, and the cooperation of all Bostonians, the tragedy in Boston “was turned for good, and (the) community and the people …will only be stronger in the end.”

And then in Washington.

“Our hearts are broken; our spirit is not…We are not defeated, and we will not be defeated,” said Mark Barden when he introduced President Obama following the defeat. Mr. Barden lost a son, Daniel Barden, in the Sandy Hook massacre.[3]

“I am glad that the Senate did not pass this legislation that would have undermined the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms for law abiding citizens,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said. “I am hopeful that when the passions of the day subside, we will come together and pass serious, aggressive legislation targeting felons and violent criminals providing resources so states provide mental health records to the background check system.”[4]

Ted Cruz is a pathetic man.

When will the passions of the day subside for Mark Barden? When legislation targeting felons and violent criminals provides resources so states can provide mental health records to the background check system?  Is that when Mark Barden will get over his heartache?

Ted Cruz is a pathetic man and he is a heartless man.

And then there is Mitch McConnell, who on his Facebook page we see a meme that states “You can have this much (zero) gun control”. It does not matter that this is a meme. The watered down version of the original bill was voted down; zero, nada, no background checks and no ban on assault weapons.

When will the passions of the day subside for Mark Barden? When he sees a meme, that fifty-four men and women in the United States Senate think zero of his child?

Fifty-four United States Senators, men and women, pathetic and heartless!!

The United States Senate had the opportunity to take the Newtown tragedy and turn it into something good, making more than a community, but the United States stronger in the end.

Fifty-four United States Senators, men and women, whose pathetic and heartless actions can never be forgotten and will never be forgiven.

Washington if you want to learn how to get things done, to understand how people in all walks of life, all ideologies, all economic standings come together to do what’s right, take a field trip to Boston.

And while you’re at it, you might want to adopt their new slogan:

“The United States is our f**king country, not Big Oil’s, Not Big Banks, and not the NRA’s!!”

P.S. – for all those cheering about how the Republicans have “protected” your second amendment rights, especially those concerned about a national gun registry look at what passed this week in the House of Representatives, supported largely by that same Republican party. How well is your “right to privacy” being protected?. The foundation is already in place and gathering strength, largely supported by the Republican party, to collect information for any number of “registry’s”.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-31921_3-57422693-281/how-cispa-would-affect-you-faq/

Corporate Fascism

Written by thomasczyz

Corporate-Fascism-47078080130Follow any combination of social networks, political blogs, and news reporting and one becomes exposed to many creative forms of name calling, Libtard, Repug; exposed to many insinuations of those groups at the heart of our country’s problems, “it’s those on welfare, it’s the unions, it’s the Republicans, it’s the Democrats”; and to the fear of political ideologies, most notably socialism and communism.

Let me add one more ideology, one that here in the United States is seldom written, seldom spoken, one most believe ended with the Second World War, yet stares at us daily through the actions of our national legislature. Fascism, more specifically Corporate Fascism.

Fascism: A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism, and often racism.

In 2003 Sheldon Wolin opens his article “Inverted Totalitarianism”[1] with,

The war on Iraq has so monopolized public attention as to obscure the regime change taking place in the Homeland. We may have invaded Iraq to bring in democracy and bring down a totalitarian regime, but in the process our own system may be moving closer to the latter and further weakening the former.

Totalitarianism is the centralized control of an autocratic authority, the political concept that the citizen should be totally subject to an absolute state authority.

Sheldon Wolin further makes the following observations in his article:

Representative institutions no longer represent voters. Instead, they have been short-circuited, steadily corrupted by an institutionalized system of bribery that renders them responsive to powerful interest groups whose constituencies are the major corporations and wealthiest Americans.

The courts, in turn, when they are not increasingly handmaidens of corporate power, are consistently deferential to the claims of national security.

Elections have become heavily subsidized non-events that typically attract at best merely half of an electorate whose information about foreign and domestic politics is filtered through corporate-dominated media.

Citizens are manipulated into a nervous state by the media’s reports of rampant crime and terrorist networks, by thinly veiled threats of the Attorney General and by their own fears about unemployment.

What is crucially important here is not only the expansion of governmental power but the inevitable discrediting of constitutional limitations and institutional processes that discourages the citizenry and leaves them politically apathetic.

These observations, Mr. Wolin notes are of a political system he calls “inverted totalitarianism”. Under Nazi rule “big business” was subordinated to the political regime. In the United States, however, corporate power has become so predominant in the political establishment, particularly in the Republican Party, and so dominant in its influence over policy, as to suggest a role inversion the exact opposite of the Nazis’. Quite a bold statement and no doubt discounted in many corners ten years ago, but today?

Returning to the definition of Fascism and filling in the blanks we have

Corporate Fascism:

A governmental system led by a dictator (Big Banks, Big Oil); having complete power (purchased through Citizens United, lobbyists); forcibly suppressing opposition (anti-union); and criticism (controlled media, Rupert Murdoch); regimenting all industry (right to work); commerce (Wal-Mart, Koch Bothers); and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism (anti-immigration, NRA, military spending); and often racism.

It is time we stop the name calling, the finger-pointing, and fear mongering; and began addressing the real problem that exists. GREED

Greed unchecked in the private sector results in the removal of all services, greed unchecked in the public sector results in excessive waste, and greed unchecked in the individual results in an over use of services; entitlement becomes the norm.

The pendulum has swung. Remove the obscene and over indulgent military spending and what you have left is a private sector that has over reached and outdistanced exponentially any past degrees of waste in the public sector.

Greed will always be with us and with that a requirement for an economic model that provides checks and balances without impacting creative entrepreneurs from enhancing the quality of our lives.

Capitalism in its present form, does not work.

Milton Friedman and the Role of Government

Written by thomasczyz

During an exchange of comments involving an opinion piece on Governor LePage’s war on the state’s public schools a friend stated that Milton Friedman was a great man. My response was that the more I read on Milton Friedman, the more I felt Milton Friedman was very persuasive, at times idealistic regarding human behavior and that some aspects of his policies are cherry picked by others to their benefit. In that regard following are some thoughts on Milton Friedman’s view regarding the role of government.

In Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, he opens with the following.

“First, the scope of government must be limited. Its major function must be to protect our freedom both from enemies outside our gates and from our fellow citizens: to preserve law and order, to enforce private contracts, to foster competitive markets…by relying primarily on voluntary co-operation and private enterprise, in both economic and other activities, we can insure that the private sector is a check on the powers of the government sector….”[1]

Thomas Paine also discusses the role of government in his essay Common Sense[2] written in 1776.

“Society is produced by our wants and, government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices.”

Thomas Paine provides as example that a society begins when a small number of persons settle in an area separated from congenial surroundings. In this state of natural liberty, necessity due to differences in age, skills, intellect, and health would soon form the persons into a society. The reciprocal benefits would

“supersede, and render the obligations of law and government unnecessary while they remained perfectly just to each otherbut as nothing but Heaven is impregnable to vice,the necessity arises of establishing some form of government to supply the defect of moral virtue.”

Milton Friedman specifically describes the government’s role in terms of military, legal, and economic responsibilities; he speaks specifically that voluntary cooperation with the private sector insures a check on the government sector; and with that the forces in play were stronger than and would overcome any self-interest considered detrimental to the market.

Thomas Paine is also specific, that government is a necessary evil; the size of government “evil”, the bureaucracy, must be of such strength and flexibility as to continually defend society from its own individual and collective vices.

Greed is easily argued to be society’s greatest vice; and where there is money, there is greed.

Collective greed is demonstrated when in the interest of profit through financial gain we throw destitute families out of homes, allow the uninsured to die, wage useless wars, poison and pollute the ecosystem, slash social assistance programs, gut public education, trash the global economy, plunder the U.S. Treasury and crush all popular movements that seek justice for working men and women.

Individual greed is demonstrated when in the interest of satisfying physical and emotional desires, financial gain is sought without providing an equitable contribution of service in return; assuming the individual is physically capable and effectively educated.

Bringing Thomas Paine’s thoughts to present day, Nico Vorster in his 2010 essay, An Ethical Critique of Milton Friedman’s Doctrine on Economics and Freedom[3] states that many analysts “attribute the 2008 financial crisis directly to Milton Friedman’s Neo-liberalism economic policies adopted since the 1980′s by Western Countries… free trade and open markets, privatization, deregulation, and decreasing the size of the public sector while increasing the role of the private sector in modern society … that these deregulatory measures lead to irresponsible lending by banks, unethical practices in stock markets and a perpetual gross misconduct in the market place.”

Bernie Sanders (I-VT) provides an excellent example of irresponsible behavior, unethical practices, mixed in with generous amounts of collective and individual greed. In October 2010, a group of 80 CEOs went before Congress stating the need to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, while lowering tax rates for millionaires, billionaires, and the largest corporations in America.[4] These are some of the same CEOs who head corporations that:

Received a total taxpayer bailout of more than $2.5 trillion from the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department and nearly caused the economy to collapse just four years ago.

Avoided at least $34.5 billion in taxes by setting up more than 600 subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and other offshore tax havens since 2008; in 2010, Bank of America operated 371 subsidiaries incorporated in offshore tax havens, more than any other financial institution in the United States. 204 of these subsidiaries are incorporated in the Cayman Islands, which has a corporate tax rate of 0%.

A dozen of these companies paid no corporate income taxes in at least one year since 2008, while receiving more than $6.4 billion in tax refunds from the IRS, after making billions in profits.

During the financial crisis, JP Morgan Chase received a total of more than $391 billion in virtually zero interest loans from the Federal Reserve and a $25 billion bailout from the Treasury Department, while Jamie Dimon served as a director of the New York Federal Reserve.

During the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve provided GE with $16 billion in financial assistance, at a time when Jeffrey Immelt was a director of the New York Federal Reserve.

Here we have some of the same people who “contributed” significantly to the deficit exploding over the last four years.

Consider the following questions with respect to Milton Friedman’s statement “… the private sector is a check on the powers of the government sector.”

  • Has the concentration of power shifted from the government to the private sector such that government can no longer perform the duties as outlined by Milton Friedman “to protect our freedom both outside our gates … and from our fellow citizens: to preserve law and order”.
  • Has the concentration of power shifted from the government to the private sector such that “voluntary co-operation and private enterprise … insure that the private sector is a check on the powers of the government sector” no longer is viable because the most financially powerful aspects of the private sector cannot be trusted and have an insatiable appetite for more of everything?
  • Has the concentration of power shifted from the government to the private sector such that certain elements such as Big Banks and Oil have hijacked Milton Friedman’s theories to their benefit?

Conclusion

Milton Friedman’s long life was spent promoting his economic theories, successfully and persuasively. The results will be debated for many years, by individuals at all levels of academic, economic, and political experience; as well as the everyday citizen.

This everyday citizen believes that Milton Friedman’s theories may have been with good intention, but when applied to the real world did more harm than good.

The harm resulted from Milton Friedman’s idealistic view that human behavior, their self-interests, would be molded and controlled by forces of the market. The harm resulted from those industries and companies of the private sector who hijacked and manipulated Milton Friedman’s political theories to their own advantage.

Milton Friedman decried Socialism, but through the hijacking of his political theories, provided the base for Corporate Fascism. A governmental system led by a dictator (Big Banks, Oil, Koch Brothers) having complete power (purchased through Citizens United), forcibly suppressing opposition (unions) and criticism (media, Rupert Murdoch), regimenting all industry (right to work), commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism (anti-immigration) and often racism.

With all due respect to Milton Friedman, I wonder if Thomas Paine were to meet Milton Friedman in the next world he might say

“Mr. Friedman you are a bit naïve regarding human nature”


[1] Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom, The University of Chicago Press, 1962, 1982, 2002; P. 2-3
[3] Vorster, Nico; An Ethical Critique of Milton Friedman’s Doctrine on Economics and Freedom; Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies; July 1, 2010

The Shock Doctrine – What are we Teaching our Children?

Written by thomasczyz

childIn my previous essay, “The Shock Doctrine – LePage Style”,[1] I shared how the Governor is now positioned for the first step in selling off the state’s educational system. The intended recipients of the Governor’s generosity being for-profit charter schools and online education software vendors.

One might argue my position to this point is cynical of the Governor’s intentions; that I should recognize the conversation on education is much more complex and not resolved through an opinion piece, a story in the media, an academic paper, or a panel of experts.

Further that I should recognize as our children observe this conversation, observe the dialogue of the adults involved, observe the questions asked and the responses provided, that an opportunity exists to teach our children how to think, to inquire, to understand other perspectives, so they may make informed decisions.

Agreed

In that regard, what questions and concerns should be included in the dialogue and debated?

The following are some of my thoughts.

“In fact, our school systems are failing”[2]                                                                 “We must fund schools that best fit the student’s needs”[3]                      Governor LePage

What criteria will be used to determine the level of a school’s success?

  • The type and frequency of standardized tests?
  • Number of students who graduate, who go on to four colleges / university, vocational training in the trades, or directly into the workforce?
  • Alumni earnings; the type of work they perform, professional, trades, assembly-line, other?
  • Alumni testimonials that they were properly prepared for their current line of work; for the challenges of everyday life; their involvement in the community?
  • Other?

Some argue schools with selective enrollment accept only top tier students which in all likelihood results in higher standardized test scores. However, if schools with selective enrollment accept a broad range of abilities in the interest of social and economic diversity, it is more than likely overall standardized test scores will be lower.

  • How does one compare schools to determine which best fits the needs of their child?
  • How are student’s needs addressed that come from a broken down family situation, are not ready to learn, have special needs, or simply do not make the cut into a charter school?
  • How are student’s needs addressed that live in remote areas; must they move closer to a more populated area before the school, the town eventually wither away due to lack of funding?

In “Freedom to Choose”, Milton Friedman states at the conclusion of the chapter What’s Wrong with Our Schools[4]:

“In line with common practice, we have used “education” and “schooling” as synonymous. But the identification of the two terms is another case of using persuasive terminology. In a more careful use of the terms, not all “schooling” is “education,” and not all “education” is “schooling.” Many highly schooled people are uneducated, and many highly “educated” people are unschooled.

  • How will a parent know if their child’s “schooling” is providing an “education”?
  • How will a child gain an “education” outside of “schooling”, and how will their “schooling” provide the necessary foundation?

“Our kids are being prepared for passive obedience, not creative, independent lives.”[5] – Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky further states in his essay “The Corporate Assault on Public Education”.

“One image is of education as being a kind of vessel into which you pour water…. You memorize something for an exam, and a week later, you can’t remember what the subject was. The other image is that teaching ought to be like laying out a string along which the student can progress in his or her own way. Education fosters discovery, not memorizing. The structure is designed so that the process of gaining understanding and gathering information is a creative, individual activity, often in cooperation with others. … It kills interest, deadens the mind, but makes students more passive and obedient and less trouble.”

Another view of Mr. Chomsky’s observation is the argument that emphasis on standardized tests will turn teachers into robots who are constantly teaching the standards that are only covered on standardized tests; and turn students into robots, who become great test takers, but poor problem solvers.

  • What in a proposed curriculum is designed to stimulate greater creativity in the student and nurture independent thinking?
  • What types of jobs require the skills of a great test taker; a great problem solver; a person who is obedient and passive; a person who is creative, independent?
  • How will the skills of a great test taker; a great problem solver; a person who is obedient and passive; a person who is creative, independent prepare one for life’s challenges?

On July 31, 2012 the Governor proclaimed “Milton Friedman Day” in the state of Maine. From the Governor’s press release: “Friedman’s ideas have also helped lead to positive education reform in countries such as Chile and Sweden.”

One month earlier on June 28, 2012, in Santiago Chile an estimated 150,000 high school and university students marched in protest. The march was held to demand an end to profiteering in education and to call for free and quality education to all Chilean students. [6]

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People march during a protest by students demanding access to free quality public education in Santiago, Chile, on August 7, 2011. (AP Photo/Aliosha Marquez) [7]

A year earlier The Christian Science Monitor reported on June 16, 2011 the following demonstrator demands; increased public funding of universities, scholarships for lower- and middle-class students, and an increased role for the state in technical education, which is now handled by private institutes.

Academically, they want to end the use of a standardized test as the sole method of admission to the best universities. They also want technical institutes to offer liberal arts classes and are demanding guaranteed academic freedom. In addition, they are demanding more accessibility for people with disabilities.[8]

  • 90% of the private school students come from the top 60 % in family income; of which 67% enter a college or university.
  • 75% of the public school enrollments in Chile come from the lower 40 % in family income; of which 20% enter a college or university.
  • 10% of disadvantaged students use vouchers to attend private schools. For private schools in Chile the emphasis is on serving students that are cheapest to educate, not tailoring different programs to the unique needs of students.
  • While Chile has long been held up as an economic model in Latin America, it has the highest income inequality among OECD countries and the rate has barely fallen since 1990

Protests have been continuous since 2006 (see “Further Reading on Education Protests in Chile” below) when an estimated 700,000 high-school students in Chile forced educational change by marching in the streets and occupying schools for three weeks in what they called the Penguin Revolution, so named for the students’ white-on-black school uniforms. [9]

  • Has the voucher system worked in Chile?
  • Are the protests in Chile a deeper rooted class issue recognized by the students and steadily growing in understanding by adults? A result of the high income inequality in Chile?

s_c13_RTR2O87M

Students shout during a protest against the government entitled “Mass suicide by education” in Valparaiso, Chile, on June 28, 2011. Students lay down in protest in the streets of the city, demanding changes be made to the state education system. (Reuters/Eliseo Fernandez)[10]

Next: Who Protects the Consumer, the Worker? Conclusion

Further Reading on Education Protests in Chile

2006: How Chile’s Growth Skipped its Schools; The Christian Science Monitor http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0614/p06s01-woam.html                                            2006: Sympathetic Bureaucrats Left their Offices; The Christian Science Monitor http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0607/p07s01-nbgn.html                                                      2009: Education: Three Years after Chile’s Penguin Revolution; America’s Quarterly http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/982/                                                                         2011: The Fraught Politics of the Classroom; The Economist  http://www.economist.com/node/21534785                                                                             2011: Chile’s Student Protests could Undermine President’s Approval; The Christian Science Monitor                                http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2011/0616/Chile-s-student-protests-could-undermine-president-s-approval                                                                                                   2011: Student Protests in Chile; The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/08/student-protests-in-chile/100125/           2011 / 2012: Chile Education Protests; Huffington Post (12 stories) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/chile-education-protests/                                     2012: In Chile, Thousands of Students Protest Anew  http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/in-chile-thousands-of-students-protest-anew/story-e6frgcjx-1226358560088                                                                          2012: Chile’s Pinera Presents Education-Heavy 2013 Budget Bill http://townhall.com/news/world/2012/09/30/chiles_pinera_presents_educationheavy_2013_budget_bill  2012: Chilean Government to Focus on Public Schooling in 2013 http://www.santiagotimes.cl/chile/education/25824-chilean-government-to-focus-on-public-schooling-in-2013

Further Reading:

http://www.pressherald.com/news/virtual-schools-in-maine_2012-09-02.html  http://www.thenation.com/article/164651/how-online-learning-companies-bought-americas-schools#                                                                                  http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine


[1] http://somethoughtsfrommaine.wordpress.com/2013/03/16/the-shock-doctrine-lepage-style/                                                                               http://www.dirigoblue.com/2013/03/the-shock-doctrine-lepage-style/                                [2] http://www.kjonline.com/politics/186187521.html                                                                  [3] http://www.sunjournal.com/news/maine/2013/02/06/lepage-pledges-improve-education-and-not-cut-taxes/1317144                                                                                            [4] http://www.amazon.com/Free-Choose-Statement-Milton-Friedman/dp/0156334607/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1363730609&sr=1-1&keywords=free+to+choose+milton+friedman[5] http://www.alternet.org/education/chomsky-corporate-assault-public-education?page=0%2C2                                                                                                                                           [6] http://www.thenation.com/blog/168676/chilean-students-demand-education-reform?rel=emailNation#                                                                                                                      [7] http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2011/08/student-protests-in-chile/100125/       [8] http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Americas/2011/0616/Chile-s-student-protests-could-undermine-president-s-approval                                                                                           [9] http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/1244610/Education-Year-In-Review-2006#ref897674                                                                                                                                       [10] http://www.thenation.com/blog/168676/chilean-students-demand-education-reform?rel=emailNation#

The Shock Doctrine – LePage Style

Written by thomasczyz

Scorched-Earth“Most New Orleans schools are in ruins, as are the homes of the children who have attended them. The children are now scattered all over the country. This is a tragedy. It is also an opportunity to radically reform the educational system.” Milton Friedman, Wall Street Journal, December 5, 2005

So quotes Naomi Klein in the introduction to her book, The Shock Doctrine. Her argument states that historically, while people were reeling from natural disasters, wars, and financial downturn; unscrupulous politicians and industry leaders quickly implemented policies to their economic advantage.

“At the most chaotic juncture in Iraq’s civil war, a new law is unveiled that will allow Shell and BP to claim the country’s vast oil reserves… Immediately following September 11, the Bush Administration quietly outsources the running of the ‘War on Terror’ to Halliburton and Blackwater… After a tsunami wipes out the coasts of Southeast Asia, the pristine beaches are auctioned off to tourist resorts… New Orleans residents, scattered from Hurricane Katrina, discover that their public housing, hospitals and schools will never be re-opened.”

Ms. Klein pulls no punches indicting Milton Friedman and his followers for perfecting a strategy that waits for a major crisis, sells off pieces of the state to private players while citizens remain in shock, and quickly implemented “reforms” become permanent. This thinking which began with Milton Friedman in the 1950’s at the University of Chicago continues alive and well today in Washington and contemporary society.

Some may recall on July 31, 2012 the Governor proclaimed “Milton Friedman Day” in the state of Maine. From the Governor’s press release:

“Maine’s educational goals align with Friedman’s vision: all children should have the right to the highest-quality schools possible. Research suggests that providing children with multiple schooling options improves academic performance. [...] We are striving to put students first and help them gain access to the best educational opportunities possible. […] Today’s commemoration is a reminder of one more strong voice in support of solutions that support families and students when it comes to education.”

Fortunately Maine has not been hit by a natural disaster the magnitude of Katrina, but it has been hit by a man-made disaster, Governor LePage.

The storm began when “the governor received an anonymous fax saying it (mural) was reminiscent of communist North Korea where they use these murals to brainwash the masses”. The storm steadily increased in strength; union busting of day-care workers; stating “middle management of the state is about as corrupt as can be”; misogynistic remarks about “little beards”; stating IRS officials are comparable to Nazis, in part because both are responsible for “killing a lot of people”; and continuing its relentless bellowing until the present with the holding up of bonds until hospitals are paid using funds from Mainer’s future alcoholic consumption. A brief bit o’ relief did come with the signing of the St Patrick’s Day drinking bill.

As Mainers reeled from the continuous, relentless onslaught of the storm’s fury, the Governor threatened to impoverish our school districts so that school boards are compelled to cut programs and lay off teachers; and throughout we heard the methodical chants (rants?) of educational reform.
• “In fact, our school systems are failing,”
• “I don’t care where you go in this country, if you come from Maine, you’re looked down upon.”
• “If you want a good education in Maine … go to an academy. If you want a good education go to private schools. If you can’t afford it, tough luck. You can go to the public school.”
• “We must fund schools that best fit the student’s needs’.”
• “By the time I’m done, education in Maine is going to be great.”

The stage is now set; the Governor’s “Shock Doctrine” is now positioned for the first step in selling off the state’s educational system.

On March 22 at Cony High School in Augusta the Governor’s Conference on Education will take place. Conference attendees will hear opening remarks by Governor LePage, with keynote speaker Dr. Tony Bennett, the commissioner of education in Florida and formerly in Indiana; followed by three panel discussions on various school reform issues. One of the panel members is Patricia Levesque, a top adviser to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

Lee Fang reports in his essay “How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools” that at a October 2010 retreat, “Levesque advised, reformers should “spread” the unions thin “by playing offense” with decoy legislation. Levesque said she planned to sponsor a series of statewide reforms, like allowing taxpayer dollars to go to religious schools by overturning the so-called Blaine Amendment, “even if it doesn’t pass…to keep them busy on that front.” She also advised paycheck protection, a union busting scheme, as well as a state-provided insurance program to encourage teachers to leave the union and a transparency law to force teachers unions to show additional information to the public. Needling the labor unions with all these bills, Levesque said, allows certain charter bills to fly “under the radar.”

Sound familiar?

Closer to home, Colin Woodward’s “Special Report: The profit motive behind virtual schools in Maine” exposed how Maine’s digital education agenda is being guided behind the scenes by out-of-state companies that stand to profit on the changes; interestingly those identified included were Patricia Levesque, Jeb Bush and the organization ALEC.

The Governor’s gathering of “experts” lacks a diversity of recognized leaders in education and is profit-minded; a “dog and pony show”, which will not benefit students, parents, teachers, or Maine taxpayers. Once again the Governor insults the intellect of all Mainers through this barely veiled charade called a conference.

Next: What are We Teaching Maine’s Children?

[1] http://www.naomiklein.org/shock-doctrine

[1] http://www.thenation.com/article/164651/how-online-learning-companies-bought-americas-schools#

[1] http://www.pressherald.com/news/virtual-schools-in-maine_2012-09-02.html

The Governor’s Character

Written by thomasczyz

“At the end of the day, all we have is our character,” LePage said. “And a good character is you live by what you say you are going to do and you pay your bills. And I sure believe the state of Maine should not have the reputation of not paying its bills.”[1]

To some the governor is demonstrating leadership, by defining the core values of Mainers; “live by what you say you are going to do and you pay your bills”. This will no doubt create some chest thumping.

To others the governor is simply manipulative; embarrass the citizens into thinking payment of an economic debt is a matter of morality.

Economic debt is the obligation to pay a certain sum of money; a simple, cold, and impersonal transaction and transferable. Human effects are not calculated, only principle and interest.

Morality refers to a code of conduct that applies to all who can understand it and can govern their behavior by it; morality should never be overridden, that is, no one should ever violate a moral prohibition or requirement for non-moral considerations.

How is our sense of morality and justice reduced to the language of a business deal; a moral obligation becomes an economic debt? Money. It is money’s capacity to turn morality into a matter of impersonal arithmetic, justifying what would otherwise seem outrageous or obscene.

Consider in 2010 voters approved the Oxford Casino under the promise that 46 percent of the profits would help fund public education in Maine. However, unless something has changed, the governor intends to use those funds ($14 million) to address a gap in the state’s budget.

In doing so the governor broke a promise between the state and its citizens on where the $14 million was to be spent. A debt obligation involving a budget gap took precedence over a moral obligation in the education of children; “good character is you live by what you say you are going to do.”

With respect to the hospital debt, an article in the Bangor Daily News provided a historical analysis of how the debt came to its current amount of $484 million[2]. However, the data was provided by DHHS whose inconsistent financial reporting over the last two years raises the following questions.

If the state struggles with understanding the area of their own financial house related to healthcare, why should I believe the state is correct in stating what is owed to the hospitals?

Has there been an audit of the $484 million hospital bill by a third-party?

When the bill comes at a restaurant, or to our home, it is normal to validate its accuracy before we pay it. We’ve all experienced inaccurate bills and had them corrected. What if an audit discovered $14 million (3% of $484 million) in erroneous hospital billing?

Further, has Maine been billed fairly by the hospitals? An extensive essay in Time[3] brings to light the significant markup in healthcare. Who benefits from these markups, the hospital, hospital executives, and/or middle-men? Paying 95 cents on the dollar would result in a payment of $460 million, a reduction of $24 million. That’s $14 million to cover the debt gap mentioned previously and $10 million for education, using the governor’s sense of priorities.

The governor’s manipulative approach to embarrass the citizens of Maine is an insult; pushing his agenda through a grass roots effort while holding bonds and bills hostage is condescending to the intellect of all Mainers. That is the “character” of Maine’s governor.

[1] http://bangordailynews.com/2013/03/08/politics/state-house/lepage-paying-debts-a-matter-of-character-for-maine/?ref=relatedSidebar

http://www.sunjournal.com/news/lewiston-auburn-maine/2013/03/08/lepage-paying-debts-matter-character-maine/1331068#comment-117562

[2] http://bangordailynews.com/2013/03/08/news/state/maines-debt-to-hospitals-30-year-roots-decade-old-political-saga/?ref=mostReadBoxOpinion

[3] http://healthland.time.com/2013/02/20/bitter-pill-why-medical-bills-are-killing-us/

Marketing the Second Amendment

Written by thomasczyz

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Maine State Representative Paul Davis, R-Sangerville, has introduced a proposal that high schools offer a firearm safety and handling course as an elective. Stating the bill is not a reaction to the elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut; rather “I only want children and students to know about guns, how they work and how to be safe with them.”[1]

Representative Davis is incredibly naïve or impressively cunning. The debate on gun control from the NRA perspective has nothing to do with the second amendment. It is about keeping gun industry marketing channels open, and minimal opposition to new channels.

Offering gun instruction in the schools creates another marketing channel for gun retailers. Schools will buy the guns, the student learns on a range of guns and, from this pre-arranged shopping list tells mom and dad what is hoped for under the Christmas tree.

Gun manufacturers realized many years ago that their business model lacked strong repeat customer opportunities. Guns are very durable and if well-maintained will last a life-time; they do not become obsolete; in many families a hunting rifle may be passed down from generation to generation; some guns become a collectable and increase in value over time. Further, there has been a steady decline of gun ownership in America as shown below.[2]

Gun Ownership

Enter the National Rifle Association.

The NRA’s mission statement (NRA Bylaws Article II)[5] includes “provide training in marksmanship and in the safe handling and efficient use of small arms; to promote the shooting sports, including the advancement of amateur competitions in marksmanship at the local, state, regional, national, and international levels; to promote hunter safety, and to promote and defend hunting as a shooting sport and as a viable and necessary method of fostering the propagation, growth and conservation, and wise use of our renewable wildlife resources.” With training, safe handling, amateur competition, hunter safety, and wildlife conservation; many positive aspects of the NRA exist for consideration.

With Wayne LaPierre at the helm, the NRA has also become the gun industry’s chief marketing agent.

The NRA’s strategy on behalf of the gun industry is unlike none other, as the NRA has a unique resource available to no other industry, the NRA has the Second Amendment.

The NRA has brilliantly and successfully marketed the Second Amendment through basic principles of fear mongering and conspiracy theories.  As former National Rifle Association (NRA) chief Ray Arnet once said, “You keep any special interest group alive by nurturing the crisis atmosphere.”[6]

From a September 2012 article in The Nation, “There is no divorcing the politics of guns from their profits. America’s gun lobby and gun industry both benefit from creating a fearful vision of life in the United States—a picture of criminals constantly menacing our families and a government hell bent on taking our guns—that is very effective at selling weapons. In fact, in large part because of the way anxieties about his gun policies have been manipulated, the Obama era has been a golden age for firearms manufacturers… ”[7]

However, the country may be tiring of LaPierre’s manic and insensitive rants.

Public Policy’s Polling stated on January 9, 2013 “newest national poll finds that the NRA’s image has declined over the last three weeks following Wayne LaPierre’s controversial press conference the week before Christmas.

The NRA now has a negative favorability rating, with 42% of voters seeing it positively while 45% have an unfavorable view. That represents a 10 point net decline in the NRA’s favorability from the week before the press conference when a national poll we did found it at 48/41. Its image has taken a hit with both Democrats (from 29/59 to 22/67) and Republicans (71/19 to 66/18).

The NRA’s focus on putting more guns in schools is likely what’s driving the decline in the organization’s image. Only 41% of voters support the organization’s proposal to put armed police officers in schools across the country, with 50% opposed. Democrats (35/57) and independents (38/51) both oppose the push and even among Republicans only a narrow majority (52/39) supports it.

On the broader issue of giving teachers guns, only 27% of voters are supportive with 64% opposed. There’s bipartisan opposition to that concept with Republicans (35/50), independents (31/59), and Democrats (19/77) all standing against it. Gun owners (37/52) oppose it as well.

The holidays and the fiscal cliff took a lot of the spotlight off gun control measures, but in general 53% of Americans say they support stricter gun laws with 40% opposed.”[8]

The NRA has joined the ranks of the Banking and Big Oil Lobby’s. In the interest of profit Banking has thrown families out of homes and plundered the U.S. Treasury; Big Oil has poisoned and polluted the ecosystem; and the NRA has hijacked the Second Amendment. Three examples of capitalism overlaying democracy in the interest of increased wealth regardless of the consequences.

With respect to State Representative Paul Davis, he should let families decide whether they want their children to have gun training; and not support an organization such as the NRA that has put profit before people.

See more at http://www.scoop.it/t/marketing-the-second-amendment


Intelligence or Intellect

Written by thomasczyz

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way
through our political and cultural life,
nurtured by the false notion that democracy means
that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
Isaac Asimov

A friend recently posted on Facebook, “Is there anyone that can explain to me how on god’s green earth some of these people get elected?” While to some a legislature’s behavior may range from odd to reprehensible, for others the same legislature’s behavior is appropriate, admired, courageous. The answer may have its roots in understanding the difference between intelligence and intellect.

Richard Hofstadter in his book “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” provides the following definitions to intelligence and intellect.

“Intelligence seeks to grasp, manipulate, re-order, adjust … within a fairly narrow, immediate, and predictable range … is unfailingly practical… works within the framework of limited but clearly stated goals and may be quick to shear away questions of thought that do not seem to help in reaching them…”

“Intellect is the critical, creative, and contemplative side of the mind…it examines, ponders, wonders, theorizes, criticizes, imagines… and looks for the meanings of situations as a whole.”

We admire those who through their intelligence get things done, happily when we approve the results and begrudgingly when the results are not to our liking. Seeing the big picture; understanding the impact downstream; connecting the dots are terms we use to describe one with intellect. As with intelligence there is admiration for intellect though not as broadly, and at times with frustration for those who seek a rapid answer or decision that brings closure.

Hofstadter describes how America’s practical culture has never embraced intellectuals. Intellectuals’ education and expertise are viewed as a form of power or privilege; they are seen as arrogant elite who are pretentious, conceited, and snobbish; their cultured view is seen as impractical; emphasis on knowledge and education is viewed as subversive, and it threatens to produce social decadence.

Anti-intellectuals believe the common sense of the common man is more than adequate and superior to formal knowledge and expertise from schools; experience, old-fashioned principles of religion, character, instinct, and morality are more reliable guides to life than education. What is more admired in America than the self-made man?

The roots of anti-intellectualism have been ingrained in our culture since the beginning of our country; have grown and spread influenced by religion, envy, and materialistic motivations. In 1991 sociologist Daniel Rigney reread Hofstadter’s book and in an essay entitled “Anti-intellectualism in the 21st Century” , identified three distinct categories of anti-intellectualism; anti-rationalism, anti-elitism, and unreflective instrumentalism.

Anti-rationalism
Anti-rationalism is the suspicion and hostility toward the value of critical thought and reasoned discourse; with its beginnings during the early years of the Puritans. Today we see conservative religious hostility toward modern science and with it the fear that critical discourse will challenge traditional sources of authority and thus undermine the foundations of absolute belief. Hofstadter acknowledges that critical thinking really does threaten the unexamined traditions of the past.

Anti-rationalism is further demonstrated through slogans, sound bites, and other abbreviated methods of communication easily learned and repeated by uncritical thinkers despite the complexity behind the realities they describe. Anti-rationalism is a strong desire for simple answers in complex times.

Anti-elitism
Anti-elitism expresses mistrust and resentment toward the educated elite; their presumed claims to superior knowledge and wisdom. Thomas Jefferson and his colleagues were intellectuals; however, opposition came from a grass-roots upsurge led by Andrew Jackson, the rough and ready man of the people.

Anti-elitism from the left can be seen in the blue-collar labor movement, whose educations were often earned in the “school of hard knocks”; the perception that the educated elite “thinks they’re better than we are” survives to this day in working-class culture.

From the right, attacks on university faculties began in the McCarthy era of the 1950’s; and continues with the Tea Party movement effectively mobilizing many of the same resentments from the McCarthy era, fueling hostility toward “liberal elitists” who “think they know what’s good for us.”

Unreflective Instrumentalism
Unreflective instrumentalism is the dismissal of thought that does not promise relatively immediate “payoffs “or serves some “practical” end, which typically means money. While practicality is insisted, inquiries very deeply into the meanings of the word “practical” do not occur; is usually held without much reflection.

“Is there anyone that can explain to me how on god’s green earth some of these people get elected?”

Using the budget deficit as an example, budget reduction through social services elimination at the national level may demonstrate intelligence in addressing a deficit; and for some legislators and voters, this is what needs to get done, get tough, problem fixed, move on to the next task.

With intellect, understanding that the need for social services will continue, that funding requirements will be pushed down to the states, with some states better able to absorb the added financial burden than others, and therefore the likelihood of increased state expenses when aggregated will be greater than that in the original national budget. For some legislators and voters, this is the approach in determining a course of action, together with consideration of other revenue sources and other candidates for reduction. This is arduous work and the analysis at times appears never-ending.

Returning to Hofstadter’s book, he states “a great many intelligent people are not intellectuals, and being an intellectual, conversely, does not guarantee intelligence.”

Does this imply that in some cases a legislator who demonstrates intelligence is incapable of seeing “the big picture” and its broad long-term effects? That a legislator who demonstrates intellect is incapable of transforming thought into action and getting things done? Are voters with similar characteristics, the ones that help get these legislators elected?

“Surely One Has to Pay One’s Debts”

Written by thomasczyz

David Graeber begins his book “Debt, The First 5, 000 Years”[1] recalling a conversation with an attorney who provides legal support to London anti-poverty groups. Graeber shares a historical background of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) with the attorney beginning with the 1970’s oil crises.

At that time OPEC countries placed their new riches in Western banks; Citibank and Chase, and other institutions needing to find investment outlets, made loans to Third-World dictators and politicians at very low interest rates. Interest rates climbed upwards of 20% in the early 80’s leading to the Third-World debt crises of the 80’s and 90’s; the IMF stepped in requiring that to obtain refinancing, countries would have to take drastic measures which included abandoning price supports on basic foodstuffs, free healthcare and free education; this of the poorest and most vulnerable people on earth.

When asked by the attorney his position on the debt owed, Graeber indicates his intent was to abolish the debt; “thirty years of money flowing from the poorest countries to the richest was quite enough.” Further while dictators and politicians offloaded many of these funds to their Swiss bank accounts, it was the people saddled with the debt.

The attorney objects, with a self-evident tone, “they’d borrowed the money! Surely one has to pay one’s debts.” Graeber realizes that the attorney’s retort resonates not as an economic statement, but rather as a moral statement.

Economic debt is the obligation to pay a certain sum of money; a simple, cold, and impersonal transaction and transferable. Human effects are not calculated, only principle and interest.

“Morality refers to a code of conduct that applies to all who can understand it and can govern their behavior by it, …morality should never be overridden, that is, no one should ever violate a moral prohibition or requirement for non-moral considerations.”[2]

How is our sense of morality and justice reduced to the language of a business deal; a moral obligation becomes an economic debt? Money. It is money’s capacity to turn morality into a matter of impersonal arithmetic, justifying what would otherwise seem outrageous or obscene.

In 2010 voters approved the Oxford Casino under the promise that 46 percent of the profits would help fund public education in Maine. However, in a recent announcement Paul LePage intends to use those funds ($14 million) to address a gap in the state’s budget.[3] LePage already had cut $12.58 million from state education funding in December… and is saying schools will be flat funded for the next year.[4]

A moral obligation towards education and the children of Maine, has now become an economic debt; a simple, cold, and impersonal transaction. Or is it a simple, cold, and impersonal investment in the future towards for-profit charter schools in Maine?

The removal of state educational funding and state revenue sharing[5] places increasingly the cost of schools on the individual towns through increased property taxes. All will scramble to seek ways for less expensive options to education; fear of not educating one’s child a driving factor; for-profit charter schools easily enter, possibly welcomed.

LePage and his lieutenants are the poster children for teaching immoral behavior; they’ve clearly demonstrated a keen ability of how to use money to turn a matter of morality into a matter of heartless economics, justifying what would otherwise be reprehensible to a rational society.