RSSCategory: American Culture

John Oliver points out the scandal of for-profit colleges

September 8, 2014 | By | Reply More

The amount of accruing student debt is incredibly distressing.   John Oliver has produced this excellent expose on the debt, the politics and the long trail of victims.

Thousands of students are running up enormous debt, especially at for-profit colleges.    Thanks to the lobbying efforts of educational institutions, student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy regardless of how bad the track record of the institution for actually placing students into jobs in their fields of education.

The marketing strategies of for-profits are especially reprehensible.

Excellent job of exposing this dysfunction and fraud.  Once again, we rely on comedians to do the best journalism.

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Myths of Authority in Practice

August 22, 2014 | By | 2 Replies More
Myths of Authority in Practice

I’ve been trying to come to terms with Ferguson since it began. The shooting of Michael Browne sparked a response that surprised many people and the counter responses have been equally surprising among certain people, not so much among certain others. Every time I start to write something I find what I intended to say had already been said better elsewhere. [More . . . ]

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Beware Free Dimes from the March of Dimes

August 17, 2014 | By | Reply More

Would you like to piss away some money? How about sending money to the March of Dimes, which recently sent me this letter that included a dime glued to the letter.

March of Dimes

The first thought in my mind is Robert Cialdini’s Rule of Reciprocity, which appeared in his best selling book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion:

Reciprocity – People tend to return a favor, thus the pervasiveness of free samples in marketing. In his conferences, he often uses the example of Ethiopia providing thousands of dollars in humanitarian aid to Mexico just after the 1985 earthquake, despite Ethiopia suffering from a crippling famine and civil war at the time. Ethiopia had been reciprocating for the diplomatic support Mexico provided when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935. The good cop/bad cop strategy is also based on this principle.

In his book, Cialdini points out that when someone hands us something, the feeling of indebtedness makes many of us feel compelled to reciprocate, and the reciprocation is often out of proportion to the initial gift. In the case of the March of Dimes, people get only dimes but they will often respond by writing checks for $25 or $50.

But should you contribute to the March of Dimes? Consider this, also from Wikipedia:

In his book Essentials of Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach, sociologist Professor James M. Henslin describes March of Dimes as a bureaucracy that has taken on a life of its own through a classic example of a process called goal displacement. Faced with redundancy after Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine, it adopted a new mission, “fighting birth defects”, which was recently changed to a vaguer goal of “breakthrough for babies”, rather than disbanding.

Charity Navigator, an organization that attempts to quantify the effectiveness of charities, has given the organization a rating of two stars (out of four). This is a merged score that attributes both a Financial as well as Accountability & Transparency rating to a non-profit. As of Fiscal Year 2012, Charity Navigator gives a 34.68 out of 70 score for Financial and a 67 out of 70 for Accountability & Transparency. This gives the March of Dimes a merged score of 44.93, leading to their two star status.

Another criticism has been that President Jennifer Howse’s compensation is high. In 2011 the March of Dimes 990 reported it was $545,982.[citation needed] In 2012 her compensation was reduced to $526,679.

 

Related topic: Charities that play the game of giving you something so that you give THEM something. Example: Girl Scout Cookies.

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John Oliver takes on Payday Lenders

August 12, 2014 | By | Reply More

John Oliver takes on Payday Lenders with a vengeance.   Check out Sarah Silverman’s payday loan alternative commercial at the end.

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I have often been highly critical of Payday Loans at this website. They are dangerous financial products that drive the working poor into bankruptcy, foreclosure and worse.

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Jim Carrey takes on guns

August 11, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

This video, a parody of a show called “Hee-Haw,” takes on the glorification of guns with a feisty song. Jim Carrey plays the role of Charleston Heston.

The 2013 video caused quite a stir, even bringing Ted Nugent and other “patriots” out into the limelight.

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The tortured history of the Senate’s report on U.S. torture

August 5, 2014 | By | Reply More

Propublica has published this astonishing history of the Senate’s attempt to not get to the truth.

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America’s Dead Malls

April 5, 2014 | By | Reply More

Check out this collection of many of America’s dead malls.  

I’m not making the assumption that “healthy” malls automatically equate to a high quality of American life.  That would be a mistake.     Yet there is a surreal sadness to these photos.

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Ken Ham’s Lack of Wonder

February 7, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More
Ken Ham’s Lack of Wonder

By now, I’m sure, many people know about the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham.  Only 9% of respondents apparently saw Ham as the winner.  Of course that won’t be the end of it. 

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The humble yet effective seat belt

February 4, 2014 | By | 1 Reply More

From Public Citizen:

Seat belts are the single most effective traffic safety device for preventing death and injury, according to NHTSA. Wearing a seat belt can reduce the risk of crash injuries by 50 percent. Seat belts saved more than 75,000 lives from 2004 to 2008. Forty-two percent of passenger vehicle occupants killed in 2007 were unbelted. A 2009 NHTSA study estimates that more than 1,600 lives could be saved and 22,000 injuries prevented if seat belt use was 90 percent in every state.

It amazes me that there have been a few people I ridden with who don’t use a seat belt. I tell them I won’t move my car until they put on their belt, and they always have, sometimes unhappy about it. I should just tell those people that it is an anti-terrorist device that will save 1,600 lives every year from Middle Eastern terrorists. Then they’d have federal checkpoints to make sure everyone is belted in.

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