RSSCategory: Education

Your bi-partisan politicians at work: floodgates to open to Wall Street misinformation

September 1, 2012 | By | Reply More

The hucksters are about to fill the airwaves with misinformation. From the New York Times:

Soon retirees and other investors will be barraged with advertisements for private stock offerings — via mail, cold calling, television, radio, billboards, the Internet and so on.Such advertising, which used to be banned under federal securities law, will make it easier for hedge funds, venture capitalists, start-ups and other nonpublic companies to find investors. It will also make it easier for hucksters and rip-off artists to lure people into unsuitable investments and outright frauds because private offerings are not subject to disclosure requirements and other investor protections that apply to publicly held companies.

Bipartisan majorities in Congress and President Obama are to thank for this development. Bowing to the financial industry, they joined forces last April to pass a law that requires the Securities and Exchange Commission to lift the ban on mass advertising of private offerings.

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Military Voting Philosophy

August 16, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More

I remember the presidential election of 2004, during which the armed services were flooded with the message that it was seditious to speak out against your Commander in Chief, and certainly bad to consider voting against your own commander. Luminaries of the time like Ann Coulter published the principle that anyone who casts doubt on ones president is a traitor. This was a solidly accepted conservative plank.

But the message fed to members of the armed forces has changed for the 2012 election:

Not My President

This image has been going around on Facebook, among other sources. I suspect that the message they receive about their Commander in Chief is different than before. There also is a busy meme insinuating that Democrats are busily working to deny military members their right to absentee vote.

Does this mean that the military is a Republican organization? Or does it cleave to one of the Three Tea Party branches?

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Australia makes cigarette companies paste graphic warnings on packs of cigarettes.

August 16, 2012 | By | Reply More

In 2009, Congress gave the FDA the authority to regulate tobacco. The FDA responded with gusto:

The Food and Drug Administration wants large, graphic warning labels to scare smokers, but tobacco companies say that violates their right to free speech.

Diseased lungs, gnarly rotting teeth, even what appears to be the corpse of a smoker are some of the images that accompany the bold new cigarette labels the FDA requires to cover half a pack of cigarettes, front and back. The written warnings include: “Smoking Can Kill You” and “Cigarettes Cause Cancer.”

As you might expect, the cigarette companies fiercely oppose this approach, and the federal courts are grappling with this issue.

In Australia, the High Court just ruled that the cigarette companies must place gruesome labels on their packs of cigarettes.

The High Court rejected a challenge by tobacco companies who argued the value of their trademarks will be destroyed if they are no longer able to display their distinctive colors, brand designs and logos on packs of cigarettes.

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How Rights Become Privileges: MO Amendment 2

August 8, 2012 | By | 15 Replies More

The 2012 Missouri primary had several important lessons to impart. The first, which I may have discussed in previous election years, is that the way to bring the “correct” voters to the polls is to have an apparently innocuous but important candidate or issue and a loud, contentious issue or candidate that only seems to matter to one side.

In this primary cycle, there was a preponderance of hotly contested Republican seats, and a very dangerous, never advertised Tea Party constitutional amendment. Republicans came out to vote overwhelmingly, and the Amendment passed resoundingly.

The full body of the amendment is at the bottom of this article.

Basically on the ballot it read as if it was just reinforcing the first clause of the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

  • In reality, it says that people have the right to worship the (singular, Christian) Almighty God (but not all those others) including to pray whenever their conscience dictates (such as during science classes).
  • Public meetings can now be started with exclusionary prayers as long as the officiant is invited by someone.
  • I have not yet figured out how the mandatory publishing of the Bill of Rights in schools will be twisted, but I expect as a precedent to posting the Ten Commandments adjacent (as an alleged inspirational source)
  • Students cannot be punished for refusing to do assignments that might conflict with their faith (evolution, geology, astronomy, etc).

So I expect Missouri to soon be incurring legal fees on the order of replacing several major bridges, or (more likely) in lieu of funding science education for a decade.

[More (Including the language of the Amendment)]

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Elementary Election Protest Too Muchedness

July 31, 2012 | By | Reply More
Elementary Election Protest Too Muchedness

For the last few weeks I’d been receiving approximately daily post cards protesting the electric company considering a rate hike of more than a few percent in order to finance and build future power plants to replace some of the nearing dangerously obsolete ones. Some mailing came from a very liberal local politician with whom I generally agree. Someone is spending bales of money to encourage people to not-want to spend more for what they are already getting. Seems like sweeping the water downstream, to me.

But I’m a Tanstaafl skeptic: Rebuilding infrastructure without incurring crippling debt does not seem like such a bad idea, my knee jerks. Also, local electric rates are lower than when I was in college, when adjusted for inflation, so it seems about time for a rate hike, anyway.

Yesterday I finally got a rebuttal mailing that describes the finances behind this odd campaign: PAC affiliated with aluminum corporation at play in state Senate primaries. Yep, an aluminum company fears that it will have to raise prices, because a major part of the process of making it requires megawatts of electricity.

Here’s how aluminum is made, if you are at all curious:

So now we know who has the profitability to outspend a huge power company on a campaign to make people do what they want to do anyway, and things are making sense, again.

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Corporate corruption of college

July 30, 2012 | By | Reply More

Chris Hedges at Truthdig:

Corporate culture, which now dominates higher education, shares the predatory culture of the military. These cultures are about subsuming the self into the herd. They are about the acquiring of technical, vocational skills to serve the system. And with the increasing budget cuts, and more craven obsequiousness to corporate donors, it will only get worse. These forces of conformity are hostile to the humanities that teach students to question assumptions and structures, that prod them to seek a life of meaning and an ethical code that challenges the blind, utilitarian obedience to power and profit that corporations and the military instill. We will, I fear, continue to turn out the intellectually stunted and maimed, those who know school football records but no philosophy, drama, art, music, theology, literature or history. The goal of an education is not, in the end, to tell students what to think but to teach them how to think.

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Self-dimming of awareness to protect oneself against anxiety

July 25, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More
Self-dimming of awareness to protect oneself against anxiety

I’m mostly finished reading Daniel Goleman’s 1985 book, Vital Lies, Simple Truths: the Psychology of Self Deception (I found a copy of the book online here). He’s preaching to my choir, based on a paper I wrote in 1996 (“Decision Making, the Failure of Principles, and the Seduction of Attention), where I pointed out the critical and often unconscious role of attention in embellishing and distorting our moral decision-making. My targets were the many people who believe that morality is mostly founded on the conscious application of rules. I concluded that humans define and frame moral situations as a result of the way they attend (or don’t attend) to the situations. I warned that it is important that we become aware that we have great (often subconscious) power to define the situation as moral (or not). My thesis was as follows:

Attention is constantly steering us in directions which dramatically affect the application of principles [including moral principles]. For starters, if we completely fail to attend to a subject, we will likely be ill-informed about that subject, and likely less competent to make decisions regarding such matters. At the other extreme, excessive attention can bloom into an obsession, causing one to see the entire world through glasses colored by that obsession. Attention also works in subtler ways, however, rigging the machinations of legal and moral reasoning. Attention rigs decision-making in two ways:

1) by the manner in which we attend to our perceptions of the world, and
2) in the way by which we perceive and attend to the principles themselves.

I concluded that high-level decision making is based far more on attentional strategies than on traditional problem solving skills.

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American Higher Education as bait and switch?

July 19, 2012 | By | Reply More
American Higher Education as bait and switch?

Thomas Frank at Harper’s has decided to spend an entire article kicking what has become of higher education in America. Here’s an excerpt from the article, which is available only to subscribers online:

[T]he purpose of college isn’t education per se. According to a report issued last year by the National Survey of Student Engagement, American undergrads spend less time at their studies nowadays than ever. They are taught by grad students or grotesquely underpaid adjuncts. Many major in ersatz vocational subjects, and at the most reputable schools they get great grades no matter how they perform.

But we aren’t concerned about any of that. Americans have figured out that universities exist in order to man the gates of social class, and we pay our princely tuition rates in order order to obtain just one thing: the degree, the golden ticket, the capital-C Credential. Doubters might scoff that a college diploma is by the year turning into an emptier signifier. Nonetheless, that hollow Credential is what draws many of the young to campus, where they will contend for one of the coveted spots in that gilded, gated suburb in the sky. Choosing the winners and losers is a task we have delegated to largely unregulated institutions housed in fake Gothic buildings, which have long since suppressed any qualms they once felt about tying a one-hundred thousand- dollar anvil around the neck of a trusting teenager.

[More . . . ]

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What Being An American Means To Me

July 3, 2012 | By | 3 Replies More
What Being An American Means To Me

I am not given to setting out pronouncements like this very often, but in light of the last several years I thought it might be worthwhile to do so on the occasion of the 236th anniversary of our declared independence.

I don’t think in terms of demonstrating my love of country. My affection for my home is simply a given, a background hum, a constant, foundational reality that is reflexively true. This is the house in which I grew up. I know its walls, its ceiling, its floors, the steps to the attic, the verge, and every shadow that moves with the sun through all the windows. I live here; its existence contours my thinking, is the starting place of my feelings.

The house itself is an old friend, a reliable companion, a welcoming space, both mental and physical, that I can no more dislike or reject than I can stop breathing.

But some of the furniture…that’s different.

I am an American.

I don’t have to prove that to anyone. I carry it with me, inside, my cells are suffused with it. I do not have to wear a flag on my lapel, hang one in front of my house, or publicly pledge an oath to it for the convenience of those who question my political sentiments. Anyone who says I should or ought or have to does not understand the nature of what they request or the substance of my refusal to accommodate them. They do not understand that public affirmations like that become a fetish and serve only to divide, to make people pass a test they should—because we are free—never have to take.

[More . . . ]

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