Posts Tagged ‘Higher Education’

Gov. Haley of South Carolina vetoed funds for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, along with funding for teachers salaries, sickle cell organizations, indigent defense, etc.  Notice how all those target minority populations–African Americans, women, the poor.  All South Carolina needs to do, like the country on general, is force the rich to pay their fair share of taxes.  But no, low effective tax rates for the wealthy are more important than rape victims or little uninsured black kids dying from sickle cell anemia.  Rape is distracting, says Gov. Haley.

I went to grad school in South Carolina and it was miserable for the poor and disadvantaged even during boom times.  These cuts will affect those with the weakest voice in the state government.  The state ranks 42nd in regards to per capita income.  African Americans are 28% of the population and 22% Of the legislature.  However, they have never had an African American as Governor, Lieutenant Governor and I would go so far as to say that they have never held the position of Senate Majority Leader either. It has the lowest percentage of female legislators in the nation at 9.4% (this figure is disturbingly low).    The state ranks 7th highest in the nation regarding the number of women killed by men.   It has a higher than national average rate of sexual assault and has had that dubious distinction since 1982.

Gov. Haley is the state GOP’s token.  She does their dirty work for them with a smile on her pretty face and in exchange she is given title and influence.  Palin was the harbinger of this type of conservative gender traitor and Haley is the current epitome of it.  This is your future America.  A place where no one pays taxes and people are dying in the streets.  The Tea Party will suffer less intrusion by the government.  Unfortunately, they and we will be enjoying it in a third world country.
Sources:

http://thinkprogress.org/politics/2012/07/10/513736/south-carolina-gov-vetoes-abuse-and-rape-prevention-funding-calls-it-a-distract

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h/t to Dan_in_DE fellow commenter over at Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog for the oil example

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. – Ernest Hemingway

Let’s face it, there is a certain percentage of Americans in 2008 who did not trust then candidate Obama. After he was elected, nothing changed for them. They still didn’t trust President Obama. And nearing the end of his first term, they continue not to trust him.

The question that plagues many liberals is why and why to such an extreme degree? We’ve spent, collectively, tons of time and millions of words on this topic alone. Every time there is a new conspiracy theory on the right, it’s ugly head crops up again. Here’s an example of one of those “conspiracy of lies” adding one more brick to the wall of distrust that many conservatives have been carefully erecting for the last four years.

Item A: from the Pres The U.S. is at peak oil production and so much so that we are actually exporting more oil than we are importing. This is in part due to less driving (due to recession and more fuel efficient cars), to more drilling (and fracking, etc) permits being granted by the Federal Government within the U.S., and the increasing diversification of our energy sources (natural gas, ethanol, solar, wind, etc.). I.e., President Obama has helped the country reduce it’s dependence on foreign oil from 60% in 2005 to 45% in 2011.

Item B: from the Internet While overall use of oil has gone down, it has only gone down because of the Recession. As a percentage of the oil we use, foreign oil has actually gone up under Pres. Obama about 3%.

Okay, so a rational person would say, let me check out the data to see who is telling the truth. To verify the President’s data you should look at many federal agencies, such as the EPA, the Department of Commerce, the Port Authorities, etc, etc. To verify that the second item’s data you would look at one site (and then see it repeated and spread to other sites)–a blog by a guy by the name of Misha, who says he is an “investment advisor” for a capital management company who got his data from a reader, who’s name is Tim Wallace. We are not given any other information on this Tim–no claim to expertise, no location, no research study to read, no source for the data, at all.

So would a rational person believe Item A or Item B? Item A because 1) the data sources have a lot of expertise, that’s what they do. 2) There’s a lot of different agencies involved in determining what resources we are using and from where and then the calculation is done by yet another agency, etc. If it were a lie, it would be lie being perpetrated by thousands of people employed by the Federal Government across several states over a long period of time. That makes the odds that this is some conspiracy infinitesimally small.

But what do conservative voters believe? Item B because they just do. Let me give you another example. Take a look at the chart I made below. According to my sources of information the U.S. did not experience a Recession recently. See that line, clearly GDP has been rising so the Recession must have been a lie.

My Example:  The GDP from 1960 to Present

My Example: The GDP from 1960 to Present

Except you KNOW that the Recession wasn’t a lie. You know or have experienced yourself the economic downturn. You can see its effects everywhere. Furthermore, see that dip there in GDP? That’s the recession and it may not look like alot but remember we’re talking trillions of dollars here. Also, note that GDP only took a temporary downturn so now it is up. So I’m not lying when I say we’re not in a Recession now but that is only part of the story. So what did I do? I made the chart lie and I used some partial truths. Here is what the GDP chart REALLY looks like and the source is the World Bank, an authority on such things.

The REAL chart:  GDP from 1960 to Present

The REAL chart: GDP from 1960 to Present

Who am I? I could be anybody. What expertise do I have in regards to economics? None, but I could give myself all kinds of advanced degrees and experience and you would have to accept what I say (otherwise you would have to go to great lengths to see if my bio was real or not, which no one seems to do for many posters who claim expertise on the Internet). Plus, even the mainstream media thinks it’s okay. How often do you hear, “Some people say….”. That’s not a friggin journalistic source. My eight year old daughter often says that “time is passing so slowly” but that doesn’t mean I can say on Fox News that, “Some people say that time is slowing down.”

So we’re back to WHY do conservative voters not trust Pres. Obama–why are they more likely to believe the word of an anonymous person on the Internet but not the thousands of federal employees and their agencies, the White House staff and the President himself? In pondering this question this morning, I realized something important.

I remembered that I never trusted Pres. G.W. Bush. Back in the run up to the war in Iraq in early 2003, I asked people around me, “Do you trust him? What if he’s lying about the WMD? What if he’s lying about ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq?” A year later I read the 9/11 Commission report and knew he had lied about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda. And the country found out about that the WMD’s didn’t exist. Whether Pres. Bush lied about it is still being debated today. I, obviously, felt vindicated, but it was not all that pleasant since far too many people had lost their lives. I would have rather been wrong.

So what did I base my distrust of Pres. Bush back then? It was a predisposition on my part to distrust someone like him. That predisposition included 1) a deep disdain for silver spooners who have had everything in their life handed to them, 2) a resentment of people that fail over and over again in spectacular ways that hurt other people but still they are given a million chances to do it again, 3) he wasn’t a true southener. My experience in life has been exactly the opposite. My family has been in the South for over 200 years, before we were even a nation. Furthermore, I had to fight for every little thing in my life (but some good luck played into it too, that I don’t deny). But at some very crucial points in my life I have lost out on some incredible opportunities because a “silver spooner” got the opportunity instead. Merit had nothing to do with it, but who you know, how much money you have, and the presence of a penis did have something to do with it. And Pres. Bush was bad at everything he did in life. His time in the National Guard was a joke–they’re not even sure if he was in the state (FL I think) at the time he was supposed to be serving. He ran the Texas Rangers into the ground and then foisted the losing baseball franchise on the taxpayers of Texas. He did crappy in one of the best schools in the nation (which he never would have qualified for if not for his family). Let’s face it, if he had been from an average family, he’d be lucky to rise to the level of middle manager at some company. And if he’d been born to a poor family, he’d be lucky to manage a Fast Food Restaurant (I’m not disparaging those jobs, BTW, having worked in middle management and fast food restaurants myself on my way up the ladder).

Could conservative voters feel the same way about Pres. Obama? Do they distrust him because he seems so different from them and their experience? And if so, how so? There were three narratives about the President’s bio that were pushed into the media very effectively by the right without any legitimate proof whatsoever. There’s the Birther/Islamo-Fascist narrative, the elitist academic snob narrative, and the typical African American thug from Chicago narrative. All of these were thrown at the wall to see what stuck and surprisingly, to me and other liberals at least, all three stuck. So much so that you will often see conservatives ranging from one narrative to the other in a single conversation. Why were they so ready to believe he was a Manchurian candidate with ONLY a blurry and clearly photoshopped birth certificate online? Why were they so ready to condemn him as elitist for using bigger words than the previous President? Because they were predisposed to not trust him, and again we come back to why?

The reality is that Pres. Obama’s story is an excellent example of the American Dream, and he and I have many similarities in our life story (raised by single parent, put self through school and grad school by working and student loans, had to travel to meet father, struggled as a teen, etc). Moreover, he and I agree on many ideas about government, domestic and foreign relations, economic theories, etc. His values matched my own pretty closely. So I was predisposed to trust him. I am sure many conservative voters would say that he did not match their values and that’s why they didn’t trust him. But what are those values? They tend to be Christian–he’s a Christian. They tend to be middle class either from middle class families or from lower class families–he was, socieconomically, lower class that climbed the ladder to the middle class, until he wrote his best selling books and then he became upper class. They believe in higher education as a vehicle to move up the social ladder- so does he and he’s living proof of it. They have had to work their ass off to get where they are–so has he. They believe in the traditional family–so does he, his family is the perfect example of a healthy, traditional family. They love their Medicare and he has promised to keep it safe. They hate the deficit and so does he. What is so different about him?

Conservatives will counter with “buts…” and I can counter again with my own “howevers”. 1) “he also believes in non-traditional families”–true, however he was against a national law declaring marriage as being allowed for everyone, and proposed that states figure it out individually. 2) “he didn’t go to a traditional Christian church…he went to one preaching hate against America”–partially true, partially false, he went to a traditional African American Church that did some preaching of Liberation Theology–a very common thing in the U.S. that most white people aren’t aware of because they don’t go to black churches. 3) “he didn’t produce his actual birth certificate”–true, however no President has ever been able to get their ACTUAL birth certificate. The original is ALWAYS kept on file by the state-ALWAYS. The only way to SEE it is to get a certified copy from the appropriate state agency…which he did and which he posted on the Internet PLUS had the original certified by Hawain authorities like all the Presidents before him. Do you see what I mean?  It’s all a matter of trust.  The facts in the end don’t matter to most people.

I know what’s in my own brain and what my biases are. The problem is, the average voter probably doesn’t. That introspection is completely lacking with many conservative voters and perhaps it’s because what they might find is probably disturbing or at least should be disturbing. Their willingness to always find “buts” and look for the disimilarities, even the far out and completely untrue dissimilarities, confirms a bias. Many have said it’s racism and I think they’re right for some conservatives, who really knows how many. Could it just be a party loyalty thing? Sure. Could it be a generational thing? Sure, he is pretty young. Could it be a jealousy thing? Sure, he’s smart, he makes everything look easy and he’s made it to the big leagues whereas most people haven’t. But are any of those things enough to justify the level of distrust and in many cases hatred of him? No, I don’t think so. So after having gone through the elimination of all the things above (and many more I won’t continue to bore you with), I can’t think of anything else that’s left but racism? Can you?  This is another one of those instances where I hope I am wrong and that the American people are better than this.

According to a recent report on poverty in the U.S. the National Center on Family Homelessness there are an estimated 53,000 kids living below the poverty line in Arizona and families are the fastest growing homeless population in the country. In fact, families becoming homeless increased by 10% in AZ. If this bothers you wait until you learn how poverty is defined.

The poverty threshold for 2011 was $22,350 per year for a family of four. Let’s put this in perspective. I made about slightly more than that right out of grad school as a probation officer back in 1992. At the time I was single and I had to live very frugally. There was no way I could have supported another three individuals on that salary. Although many will debate whether this standard under or over estimates the real level of poverty in the U.S., I don’t think it’s debatable. Seriously?! $22,350 per year for four people?! So anyone making over that with a family of four isn’t poor? I gotta call BS on that.

Far too often this topic is used as a political football because there are two competing philosophies behind our attitudes toward the poor in this country that directly affect public policy. The first philosophy holds that since wealth can be obtained though hard work, then poverty must result from a lack of hard work. Such an approach implies a moral judgement on the poor because they have to act and sloth is one of the 7 Deadly sins, right? This theory is bolstered by three important historical aspects of the American story1. First, there is the Calvinistic legacy of pre-destination. What was once a concept applied only to those early Protestant settlers has been adopted by various religious groups and inevitably to subcultures in the U.S. You can see it’s influence in beliefs such as “Manifest Destiny”, “City on a Hill”, and Prosperity Gospel. Unfortunately, this belief is more often misused to explain why others have not achieved success. After all, it’s very hard to offer an argument to “God wanted me to have this buttload of money” unless you routinely talk to God. Of course, to the non-religious and even to many religious people of all faiths think this is poppycock, believing instead in Free Will. Either way there is still an aspect of morality and judgement involved in this theory about who deserves to be wealthy.

The second concept is individualism. The idea that Americans were rugged individualists was mostly formed through the exploration and migration into the frontier by individuals and families. One of the most well known symbols of this rugged individualism was Daniel Boon. Taken to the extreme this concept creates an expectation that an individual should always be self-reliant and should be able to attain wealth and success. This concept while demonstrably true in many instances, is not the entire story. Indeed while rugged individualism was a crucial part of our heritage, equally crucial and equally demonstrable are numerous instances of collective effort to explore, settle and conquer the frontier. However, to hear politicians and demagogues speak you would think that everything worthy of praise was done by individuals but never groups. This is, of course, patently absurd2.

The third and last concept is equality. When the country first began, the concept of equality mainly meant equal rights before the law so as to avoid the development of a nobility and royalty. Equal rights such as this meant that everyone should receive the same measure of punishment for criminal misdeeds and protection against criminal misdeeds. Most likely the Founding Fathers3 did not, however believe it should be applied to commerce between individuals. Over time as people moved up the social ladder and the American Dream became more attainable by more people than ever before, the concept of Equal Opportunity (which had actually been around in Europe before America ever existed became more and more accepted. Spurred on my the Suffragettes and later the Civil Rights Movement, minorities were now supposed to be competing on a level playing field. However whatever is true in law is not always true in fact. Thus was born Affirmative Action, which I won’t address here. But this concept of equality is crucial to the functioning of our democracy and to our economy. What Americans, particularly wealthy and upper class citizens, fail to recognize that Equal Opportunity doesn’t exist in fact. Certainly every child born in America can go to college…there are no legal barriers in their way. Yet there are a host of circumstances, wholly of someone else’s doing or created by chance that can and will prevent them from taking advantage of the opportunity of higher education. Essentially they fail to take into account sheer luck.

Combine all three of these together and what do you get? You get the attitude that anyone in the U.S. can become wealthy on their own AND if they suffer misfortune they can pull themselves up by their bootstraps. If I had a nickle every time I’ve heard this theory, I’d be wealthy! The reality is that sometimes no amount of bootstrap pulling will result in an individual achieving success. Sometimes people just need help and that’s what society is for. Too many people have forgotten the phrase, “there but for the grace of God, go I”. Grace is not given for merit and it’s not given to those who ask…it is handed out, as religious would say, by God in mercy. The non-religious call it good luck. Either way, we’re all subject to it-all either recipients or not of grace/good luck and we have no more idea of how/when/why it happens than a plant knows why it rains. It only knows that it happens and they need it.

The poor aren’t poor because they deserve it, particularly poor children. And speaking of need, back to children in need. A VERY worthy charity that helps homeless and at risk children here in AZ is getting ready to have a fund raiser to gather enough to build a facility to expand their school up to the 12th grade–Children First Academy. They do wonderful things. You should check them out, especially if you believe that poverty is not the result of laziness or immorality, but often just bad luck.

Updated: For accuracy on the source of the estimate of 53,000-a link to their website is added below. The 10% growth came from the NPR article linked below but they don’t cite a source.

Sources

http://www.familyhomelessness.org/
http://ktar.com/?nid=249#/?sid=1505955&nid=867
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_the_United_States
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=121925591
http://cfaphoenix.org/

Notes:

1. You should recognize these concepts from Social Studies courses in junior high…they form the American psyche and personality, insofar as it can be generalized–which is increasingly no longer the case as the country becomes more and more diverse. To my mind, this is a good thing but I am sure there are many who would argue with this opinion.
2. If self-reliance was such a critical part of human beings existence, why did we ever form families, villages, towns, cities, countries, etc? Because we are social animals and rely on each other for many things–mutual protection, mutual entertainment, necessary social interaction and species propagation, and yes, the sharing of resources.
3. Let’s not kid ourselves about the Founding Fathers. The majority of them were land owners of the upper classes (but not all, like Adams). They did, after all limit the right of voting to white adult males who owned land, the presumption being these kind of men would have more discernment, education and involvement in governing and being governed. And there is an implied judgement in that, isn’t there? You must concede that it is a snobby view to take in relation to what we know today about the equally capable women, non-whites, non-land owning people, etc.

I have two important things to say about the Penn State scandal involving Asst Coach Sandusky and charges of molestation and sexual assault.

While I am irritated to no end that the student population got drunk and went on a rampage when they found out Head Coach Paterno had been fired, I was not surprised.  I went to high school in central PA and many of my high school friends attended Penn State.  As a teenager, I was surrounded every Fall by fanatic fans, many alumni, that spent their entire weekends on the games, leaving  even their children behind for me to babysit while they went off to cheer, drink and generally party hardy at all the home games (and occasional away games that were within driving distance).  Their support of Paterno was nuts and far too much of Penn State’s identity was wrapped up in the coach and their football team.  So, no I wasn’t surprised by the students’ reactions.  I was, however, incredibly disappointed in them.  To think that they value Paterno and their winning football tradition over the well being and innocence of children is disgusting to me.

The second point I wanted to make was that while reading the Grand Jury presentment I have to say that something very important occurred to me, as I am sure it occurred to the prosecutor and jurors.  I used to be a Dean (yes, I held a respected management title, go figure) at a for-profit college.  Since I was responsible for the well-being of my students, for the proper management of my professors and for upholding all applicable federal and state laws, I was extremely careful to document everything I did.  In particular, because of the litigious nature of employment relations, I documented employee interaction with zeal.  If someone had reported that one of my staff (administrator, professor, lab tech, etc, etc) had inappropriate sexual interaction of any kind with a minor either on campus or off, I would have documented the hell out of the situation in preparation for firing that staff member, much less have taken it to the police.  Setting aside the responsibility of informing legal authorities, my point is that administrative documentation within an academic institution is assumed for even the most minor of incidents much less something with such horrible moral, legal and and financial implications.

So where was the documentation of all the meetings?  The Grand Jury Presentment indicates that there were quite a few meetings between an eye witness and administrators (the President, Paterno, the head of the Board, etc) but there is nothing said about documentation of those meetings?  Why not?  The absence of documentation says loud and clear that there was an effort on the part of administrators to keep Sandusky’s behavior hidden.  Their main goal wasn’t to stop it or protect the victims as should have been the case, but to protect the University and the football team by hiding it.   That’s why there was no documentation and what makes it so damning.