Archive | November, 2012

Should ‘Enron’ weasels be trusted with K-12 education?

30 Nov

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: Moi has been following the for-profit college sector for quite awhile:

Report: For-profit colleges more concerned with executive pay than student achievement                                            

Scary study about what happens to for-profit college graduates                                                        

For-profit colleges: Money buys government, not quality for students                                                                     

Huffington Post is reporting in the article, Online Charter Schools Spent Millions Of Taxpayer Dollars On Advertising To Recruit New Students:

An analysis by USA Today has revealed that 10 of the largest online charter schools spent an estimated $94.4 million in taxpayer dollars on advertising over the past five years. The largest, Virginia-based K12 Inc., spent approximately $21.5 million in just the first eight months of 2012.

The estimates are based on advertising rates and buys compiled by Kantar Media, a New York-based provider of “media and marketing intelligence,” according to the paper. K12 spokesman Jeff Kwitowski declined to comment to USA Today on whether the estimates are accurate, but defended the company’s marketing strategy.

“We try our best to ensure that all families know that these options exist,” Kwitowski told USA Today. “It’s really about the parents’ choice — they’re the ones that make the decision about what school or program is the best fit for their child.”

According to the Colorado consulting firm Evergreen Education Group, about 275,000 students nationwide attend school online full-time.

While charter schools claim they need to spend money on advertising to make parents and students aware of their institutions, critics contend the public dollars the schools receive could be better spent helping current students learn, rather than recruiting new ones.

In Ohio, critics of the online charter school system also argue that local taxpayer support would be better served funding public schools in districts that are facing budget crises. An NPR report that online schools can operate by spending just $3,600 per student, but Ohio pays online charter schools close to $6,300 per student, leaving companies with a substantial amount to devote to advertising.

That advertising money is spent on popular websites, as well as on ads directed at students. According to NPR, the Ohio Distance and Electronic Learning Academy is one of several online charter schools that advertise on Facebook, and the organization also has banner ads that show up on sites for students seeking help coping with depression. Similarly, Connections Academy, which is operated by Pearson, purchased Google ads that show up next to a search for “bullied at school.”

USA Today reports K12 strives to target children with its television and web ads; the for-profit online learning company spent an estimated $631,600 to advertise on Nickelodeon, $601,600 on The Cartoon Network and $671,400 on It also bought $3,000 worth of ads on, which claims to be “the Web’s largest community for dark alternative culture.”

Critics also point to the low success rates of online charter schools. K12’s Ohio Virtual Academy has a four-year graduation rate of just 30 percent, while its Virtual Academy in Colorado only graduates 12 percent of its students.

The debate currently going on in society is whether education is a “public good.”

The Business Dictionary defines a “public good.”

public good


An item whose consumption is not decided by the individual consumer but by the society as a whole, and which is financed by taxation.

A public good (or service) may be consumed without reducing the amount available for others, and cannot be withheld from those who do not pay for it. Public goods (and services) include economic statistics and other information, law enforcement, national defense, parks, and other things for the use and benefit of all. No market exists for such goods, and they are provided to everyone by governments. See also good and private good

Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize economist wrote KNOWLEDGE AS A GLOBAL PUBLIC GOOD:

This paper combines two concepts developed over the past quarter of century: the concept of global public goods and the notion of knowledge as a global public good.[3]

A public good has two critical properties, non-rivalrous consumption–the consumption of one individual does not detract from that of another–and non-excludability–it is difficult if not impossible to exclude an individual from enjoying the good. Knowledge of a mathematical theorem clearly satisfies both attributes: if I teach you the theorem, I continue to enjoy the knowledge of the theorem at the same time that you do. By the same token, once I publish the theorem, anyone can enjoy the theorem. No one can be excluded. They can use the theorem as the basis of their own further research. The “ideas” contained in the theorem may even stimulate others to have an idea with large commercial value.


The fact that knowledge is non-rivalrous–there is a zero marginal cost from an additional individual enjoying the benefits of the knowledge–has a strong implication. Even if one could exclude someone from enjoying the benefits of knowledge, it would be undesirable to do so because there are no marginal cost to sharing its benefits. If information is to be efficiently utilized, it cannot be privately provided as efficiency implies charging a price of zero—the marginal cost of another individual enjoying the knowledge. However, at zero price, only knowledge that could be produced at zero cost would be produced.

To be sure, to acquire and use knowledge, individuals may have to expend resources–just as they might have to expend resources to retrieve water from a public lake. That there may be significant costs associated with transmission of knowledge does not in any way affect the public good nature of knowledge itself: private providers can provide the “transmission” for a charge reflecting the marginal cost of transmission while at the same time, the good itself can remain free.

See, Education is a public good, not a consumer good

Moi wrote in Accountability in virtual schools:

Technology can be a useful tool and education aid, BUT it is not a cheap way to move the masses through the education system without the guidance and mentoring that a quality human and humane teacher can provide. Education and children have suffered because cash sluts and credit crunch weasels have destroyed this society and there is no one taking them on. They will continue to bleed this society dry while playing their masters of the universe games until they are stopped.

Where information leads to Hope. © Dr.

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Trying not to raise a bumper crop of morons: Hong Kong’s ‘tutor kings and queens’

27 Nov

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: Moi tackled the issue of “model minorities” in Is there a ‘model minority’ ??

Let’s get this out of the way, moi has always thought the term “minority” as applied to certain ethnic groups or cultures is and has been condescending and demeaning. Edward Schumacher-Matos, the NPR ombudsman writes in On Race: The Relevance of Saying ‘Minority’ This article deals with American society, but the term reflects the thought of many whether dealing with American ethnic groups or international ethnic groups.

Schumacher-Matos cites Mallary Jean Tenore’s article, Journalists value precise language, except when it comes to describing ‘minorities’:

Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark said the word “minorities” may be going through a “semantic shift” — a change in the associations and meanings of words over time. “Sometimes the changes in a word take centuries,” Clark told me. “Other times it can happen very quickly.”

The word “girl,” for example, used to refer to a young person of either gender. The definition of “colored” has also shifted.

The term ‘colored’ was used for a long time to designate African Americans until it was deemed offensive. And it only really referred to ‘black’ people,” Clark said. “Now we have ‘persons of color,’ which seems to be a synonym for non-white. As the population changes, a term like ‘person of color’ rather than ‘minority’ might be more appropriate.”

Some people, however, argue that “person of color” is as bad as “minorities” or worse. We also may be limited by the AP Stylebook or our newsrooms’ style. When that’s the case, it helps to be open with readers about why we use certain terms.

On its “About” page, the Asian American Journalists Association explains: “AAJA uses the term ‘Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders’ to embrace all Americans — both citizens and residents — who self-identify with one or more of the three dozen nationalities and ethnic groups in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific Islands. We use this term to refer to our communities at large, as well as to our membership, which includes representatives from all these regions.”

Recently, the Los Angeles Times published a memo from Assistant Managing Editor Henry Fuhrmann explaining why the Times uses “Latino” over “Hispanic.” Some readers applauded the Times for its decision, while others suggested the term is misleading and raises more questions than it answers.

That’s the problem with using one word or phrase to describe an entire group of people — it never fully captures the nuances of that group. Inevitably, some people  are going to feel slighted or mischaracterized.

It is difficult to theorize or surmise what is going on in a particular culture if one is not imbued with understanding the context of that culture. Still, Yojana Sharma’s BBC report about Hong Kong’s star tutor makes moi theorize that the families paying the hefty bill are not satisfied with being “minority” anythings.

Sharma reports in BBC article, Meet the ‘tutor kings and queens’ about the educators who are accorded as much adulation and status as rock stars in Hong Kong:

They strike glamorous poses in posters in shopping malls and on the sides of buses.

But they are not movie stars or supermodels: they are Hong Kong’s A-list “tutor kings” and “tutor queens”, offering pupils a chance to improve mediocre grades.

In Hong Kong’s consumer culture, looks sell. Celebrity tutors in their sophisticated hair-dos and designer trappings are treated like idols by their young fans who flock to their classes.

And they have earnings to match – some have become millionaires and appear regularly on television shows.

“If you want to be a top tutor, it definitely helps if you are young and attractive. Students look at your appearance,” said Kelly Mok, 26, a “tutor queen” at King’s Glory, one of Hong Kong’s largest tutorial establishments.

Her designer clothes and accessories are not just for the billboards; it’s how she likes to dress outside classes. But she is also careful to add that she wouldn’t be in such high demand if she could not deliver top grades in her subject,

Richard Eng from Beacon College is often credited with being the first of Hong Kong’s “star tutors”. A former secondary school teacher, he says he got the idea after he featured in photographs advertising his sister, a performance artist.

“In school all the teachers look the same, there’s no excitement,” he said.

Richard Eng has brought a show business approach to the world of improving exam grades

His own image appears on special ring-binders and folders containing study tips, or pens which harbour a pull-out scroll with his picture and other gifts. Such items became so sought after that they propelled him to near-rock star status among young people.

The celebrity tutor phenomenon is a result of the huge growth in out-of-school tutoring in Asia.

It is fuelled by highly pressured examination systems and ambitious parents wanting their children to secure places at top universities and high-status secondary schools.

In societies where success is equated with good exam results, parental anxiety converts into a “steady stream of revenue” for tutoring establishments, according to a study by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The tutoring industry, or “shadow education” as the ADB calls it, has become very widespread in Asia, fed by the growth in universities and the rising proportion of school leavers aiming for university.

Hong Kong University’s professor Mark Bray, one of the authors of the ADB study, said a staggering 72% of final-year school students in Hong Kong now go to private tutors.

Richer families have always paid for individual tutoring, but the star tutors offer exam tips and revision notes to the less well-off, studying in groups of over 100.

‘Getting an edge’

It’s not just Hong Kong. Tutoring has “spread and intensified in Asia and become more commercialised,” said professor Bray. In South Korea, 90% of primary school children attend such classes.

Forget the elbow patches, tutor Kelly Mok teaches English with style

In South Korea, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India, tutorial schools use star tutors to attract even more students. “They have found a way to appeal to young people and pull them in. They create a buzz,” he said.

“We had this phenomenon of star tutors in Kota as well,” said Pramod Maheshwari, chief executive of Career Point Coaching School in Kota, Rajasthan, India, a city of residential tutorial colleges which attract students from all over the country.

“It can give you an edge.” But ultimately, he says, expansion of tutoring is driven not by personalities but by “the inefficiency of the school system”.

“Across India, students’ education level is not up to the mark, and millions are preparing for competitive college examinations. It is a huge market,” said Mr Maheshwari.

In China, where private tutorial schools were unknown until the economy opened up in the 1990s, New Oriental Education and Technology has grown to become one of the largest tutoring schools in Asia with around 2.4 million students this year.

It boasts 17,600 teachers in 49 cities and an online network of over 7.8 million users.

Listed on the New York stock exchange since 2006, its founder Michael Yu (also known as Yu Minhong), became a multi-millionaire on the back of his blend of rote learning exercises, stand-up comedy and motivational speeches.

A man from a humble background, who had become an English teacher at Peking University, Mr Yu used the Hong Kong model of employing star tutors to prepare students for tests for universities abroad.

Extensive tutoring is sometimes seen as contributing to East Asian countries’ high performance in international school comparisons, particularly in mathematics.

One person rarely speaks for a group, but members of a group can often provide useful insight about that group.


One of the most central features of a culture are its values. Values are the standards by which one may judge the difference between good and bad, and the right and wrong things to do. Though some values are universally shared among all cultures, it is the contrast and differences in values of different cultures that can account for the interactions and perceptions that occur between different cultures.

Traditional values are a common thread among individuals in a culture. Stereotyping comes about because of common behavior patterns that are based on common values, and distortion and misperception can come about as a result of misunderstandings of those values. Stereotyping can also be dangerous because people are individuals with their own values which may vary a great deal from the traditional ideal. Values can vary quite a bit depending upon one’s generation, class, education, origin, among other factors. For example, there is considerable difference in what might be called “traditional” and “modern” American values.

Although each distinct Asian culture actually has its own set of values, they all share a common core, which is probably best documented in the Japanese and Chinese traditions, and by philosophers such as Confucius, whose writings had considerable influence throughout Asia. In the Asian American experience, these values interact with what might be called simply “western” or “Caucasian” values, but if one contrasts the values of America with those of Europe, it can be seen that these are really “Modern American” values that provide the best contrasts.

Asian values are very much inter-related. They all support the view of the individual as being a part of a much larger group or family, and place great importance on the well-being of the group, even at the expense of the individual. American values, on the other hand emphasize the importance of the well-being of the individual, and stresses independence and individual initiative. Although it may seem that values such as education, family, and hard work are shared between cultures, these values manifest themselves quite differently in the two cultures.

Some Asian values are so important that some of the cultures, especially the Japanese have given them names of their own, and are used commonly. Here is a list of some of the most outstanding values:

Ie (japanese) – The family as a basic unit of social organization, and as a pattern for the structure of society as a whole.

Education – The whole process of child rearing and education as a means of perpetuating society, and of attaining position within society.

Enyo (japanese) – The conscious use of silence, reserve in manner.

Han (chinese) Conformity, and the suppression of individual attriputes such as talen, anger, or wealth which might disrupt group harmony. (Chinese)

Amae (japanese) – To depend and presume upon the benevolence of others. A deep bonding in human relationships between one who is responsible for another, and one who must depend on another.

Giri (japanese) – Indebtedness, obligation and duty to others, reciprocity.

Gaman (japanese) – Endurance, sticking it out at all costs. Self-sacrifice for the sake of others.

Tui Lien (chinese) – Loss face, shame. The final standard as to how well one lives up to these values.

Family and Education

Probaly the most notable aspect of the modern “Asian Model Minority”­stereotype is that of the academic overachiever. A number of asian students have done conspicuously well in  terms of test scores, gifted student programs, admissions to prestigious schools, academic awards, and in classical music. Though obviously not all Asians fit this pattern, this trend can be attributed primarily to the basic notion of the family, and the central role that education plays in the family.

Great importance is placed on child rearing, and education is a funda­mental aspect of this. Asian parents are more likely to spend much more time with their children, and drive them harder, sometimes even at the expense of their personal time and ambitions of the parents themselves. Though Americans might consider Asian parents to be dominating, parents in turn are expected to give children all the support they can.

While it would no be unusual for an American parent to hire a babysitter to watch the kids while they go out, or expect their children to put them­selves through college lest the parents sacrifice their own stand of living, this is much less likely in an Asian family. Living in an extended family is not unusual, and filial piety, respect for parents is a very important principle.

Unlike the youth orientation in American culture, age and position are most highly respected. The Asian family has within it a heirarchy which is a mirror of the structure of society as whole. For example, the parent child relationship is carried further on to ruler and ruled, employer and employee. Education is the most valued way of achieving position, an success in education is viewed as an act of filial piety. In imperial times, examinations were the only way to achieve position in China. Even in America, education is seen as a key to social mobility, and economic opportunity. Education for their children was a major reason why many immigrants came to America from Asia.

There is no such thing as a “model minority” and getting rid of this myth will allow educators to focus on the needs of the individual student. Calling ethnic groups “minorities” is really a misnomer. According to Frank Bass’ Bloomberg article, Nonwhite U.S. Births Become the Majority for First Time:

Minority babies outnumbered white newborns in 2011 for the first time in U.S. history, the latest milestone in a demographic shift that’s transforming the nation.

The percentage of nonwhite newborns rose to 50.4 percent of children younger than a year old from April 2010 to July 2011, while non-Hispanic whites fell to 49.6 percent, the U.S. Census Bureau said today.

If a racial identifier must be used, it is better to describe the cultural group or ethnic group with an appropriate term for that group.

The is no magic bullet or “Holy Grail” in education, there is what works to produce academic achievement in each population of students.

What moi observes from the Hong Kong case study is that success does not occur in a vacuum and that students from all walks of life can benefit from the individual intervention to prevent failure.


The Creation—and Consequences—of the Model Minority Myth

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The Jackson chronicles: It’s not ‘Gangnam Style,’ it’s just a gang

24 Nov

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: Successive waves of immigrants have come to America. As these new immigrants try to find a place at the American table, they start an evolution of overcoming inequality and the stigmatization of being outsiders based upon metrics of race, religion, class, and culture. Daron Acemoglu writes in the Economist article, Economic power begets political power:

Economic power tends to beget political power even in democratic and pluralistic societies. In the United States, this tends to work through campaign contributions and access to politicians that wealth and money tend to buy. This political channel implies another, potentially more powerful and distortionary link between inequality and a non-level playing field. It may also create pathways from inequality to instability, because both the economic and political implications of inequality can create various backlashes.

The structure of inequality is not only a deeply political issue because of inequality’s impact on politics but also because the extent of inequality is shaped in part by politics. The recent changes in wage and income inequality in the United States illustrate this. The substantial increase in inequality in the US labour market since the late 1970s undoubtedly has many economic causes, including the slowdown in the supply of skills and the increase in the demand for skills driven by new technologies and globalisation…

A case can be made that top inequality has been soaring in part because of politics. Piketty and Saez document that the very rich today are different than those several decades ago, most importantly because they are not rentiers enjoying returns on their or their parents’ capital, but W-2 earners, enjoying very, very high salaries…. The deregulation of finance, despite the presence of implicit and explicit government guarantees to financial institutions which would have ordinarily necessitated significant regulation, appears to have been partly won by the financial industry as a result of lobbying, campaign contributions and the access to politicians that the industry enjoys (though this is not to argue that some of this deregulation did not have a compelling economic logic nor that free-market ideology played no role).

Ethnic groups realizing that they are not part of the economic paradigm, take a different route to political power. They hope that political power will lead to economic power for the group. In reality, the political power benefits specific individuals from the ethnic group who reap the economic rewards. The resulting corruption hamstrings the development of the ethnic group and results in geographic areas like Detroit and Gary.

Abhijit V. Banerjee and Rohini Pande wrote the fascinating MIT Paper about Indian politics, Parochial Politics: Ethnic Preferences and Politician Corruption:

Our empirical results strongly support the hypothesis that voter ethnicization creates sub-stantial opportunities for corrupt politicians: The average change in corruption between 1980 and 1996 is dwarfed by the increases in the corruption of winners from the favored parties in high bias jurisdictions. Moreover, these eff ects are absent in jurisdictions with no to very low levels of bias. In other words, it is jurisdictions with a more biased caste distribution which show substantial increases in corruption. The results also demonstrate that voters recognize corruption as something undesirable: Non-low caste candidates had to show themselves as remarkably uncorrupt in order to have a chance of winning in jurisdictions dominated by low castes, and vice versa. Equally, the data provide no support for the view that corrupt politicians are good at pork-barrel politics.

The sharp trade-o between ethnic loyalties and quality reects the absence of enough good candidates who are credible representatives of their ethnic group. This could change over time as more good candidates invest in also being seen as a representative of a specfi c ethnic group and as competition among them drives out the corrupt candidates.

While our theory does not directly rely on the reason why voters favor ethnic parties, it does a ect the interpretation, especially in welfare terms. At one extreme, if the support for ethnic parties comes from their ability to redistribute e ffectively, then their presence provides real value to some voters, and our valuation of ethnic politics depends on how we weigh the preferences of the bene ficiary groups relative to the losers. On the other hand, if all voters get from an ethnic party is the assurance that they would be protected from its rapacity, which would be directed towards other ethnic groups (Myerson, 1993; Miquel, 2007), then we would expect the electoral victory of a more honest politician, who does

not extract resources for his personal bene t, to improve welfare. Yet another possibility is that politicians do very little for their supporters, either because they are too busy doing things for themselves or because they cannot really target very eff ectively. A voter might still favor his own ethnic party for historical, social, or symbolic reasons, but we would not expect changes in the politician’s identity to substantially alter redistribution among groups.

Finally, while our empirical evidence is for a large Indian state, the phenomenon of voter ethnicization has been noted in many democracies. Our results serve as a warning against investing excessive hope in the power of democracy to discipline politicians, especially in ethnically divided societies, and in extreme cases, might argue in favor of restricting government ability to target specifi c ethnic groups.

See, Political Corruption in America by Amanda E. Maxwell and Richard F. Winters of Dartmouth College

This is the final installment of the Jackson chronicles. The other installments are:

Jesse Jackson, Jr.: Why one-party anything leads to corruption                                       

Rev. Jesse and Rev. Al, parachute preachers, What is the real spiritual duty of a leader?                   

Given the continued growth of ethnic based politics, there is little reason to believe that there will be less corruption. The Jackson baton will just be passed to the next pol willing to whisper “sweet nothings” in the ears of a populace starved for attention and hopeful that this just might be “the one.”

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Rev. Jesse and Rev. Al, parachute preachers, What is the real spiritual duty of a leader?

24 Nov

Here is today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: This opinion is written in the form of a question because moi definitely NOT being free from sin, just wants answers. In some quarters of the Black community even asking questions about Rev. Al and Rev. Jesse is enough to get stones thrown at your house, if not you. Since both claim to be preachers of the WORD, let’s begin the discussion with a Bible quote from Mathew 6:24:

English Standard Version (©2001)
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Monica Davey writes in the New York Times article, A Family Business in Disarray:

IF there’s a crisis unfolding somewhere, it’s a good bet that the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. is on his way.

Over the years, Mr. Jackson, 71, who has a fondness for staring into the lens of a television camera, has jetted to tense locales around the world to negotiate the release of hostages. When President Clinton’s White House was engulfed in the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Mr. Jackson showed up to offer spiritual guidance, including some advice he described to a reporter at the time: “Keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. And don’t panic.”

Recently, Mr. Jackson marched in the rain, and was arrested, with workers losing their jobs in Freeport, Ill. He popped up in Baltimore to oppose plans for a youth detention facility. And he appeared in Cincinnati just before Election Day, denouncing long lines as proof of repress-the-vote tactics.

For all his mastery at inserting himself into and shaping a story line, though, he appears less sure how to cope with a crisis much closer to home: Mr. Jackson’s oldest and namesake son, Jesse L. Jackson Jr., has vanished from public view, grappling for months with bipolar disorder. He is also the subject of a federal criminal investigation, and he announced on Wednesday that he would be resigning his seat in Congress less than three weeks after he won re-election.

On the topic of his son, the elder Mr. Jackson seems for once to be without a clever phrase to crystallize a situation, and at one point this summer slipped away from reporters through the back kitchen of a hotel. When he has spoken of his son, his words lack their usual staccato sharpness.

The question is this: Can those you claim to spiritually led lead their flocks and also be secular leaders if it means participating in a public square that is not receptive to the values of faith, but often hostile?

Both the Rev. Al and the Rev. Jesse have maintained by their actions that they believed that one could be both a secular and a religious leader. Here is one quote from Scripture:

1 Timothy 3:1-13

New International Version (NIV)

Qualifications for Overseers and Deacons

3 Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. 2 Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. 7 He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

8 In the same way, deacons[b] are to be worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain. 9 They must keep hold of the deep truths of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 They must first be tested; and then if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons.

There is a very high threshold to claim the mantel of preacher of the Gospel. Whether Rev. Al and Rev. Jesse meet this standard, only God knows. What moi knows comes from Mathew 7:16:

New Living Translation (©2007)
You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?

It is time for Rev. Jesse to truly minister to his flock of those closest to him.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 ESV

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

2 Peter 2:1-3 ESV / 34

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

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Jesse Jackson, Jr.: Why one-party anything leads to corruption

22 Nov

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: First, moi wishes former Rep. Jackson the best. He is the poster child along with Detroit, Gary and other one-party towns about how true the maxim “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The entitled class extends to Congress. James Warren writes in the Daily Beast article, Why Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Leave of Absence Was Allowed:

Pressured by federal investigators, Jesse Jackson Jr.’s final congressional act exhibited some decency toward his constituents. They’ll finally have actual representation again next spring, after a special election and months of a no-show Jackson.

President Obama’s home state has not merely lost another congressional seat due to population decline. It also has Jackson’s South Side district that will go unrepresented for another five months and a senator who hasn’t been to work in nearly a year.

The public seems ill served by the absences of Jackson, who resigned Wednesday amid an investigation around illegal use of campaign funds, and Illinois Sen. Mark Kirk, who suffered a stroke in January—especially with major budget and fiscal issues looming. But congressional rules largely leave it up to the individual politician to announce if and when they’re ready to return, or to assess if they’re even capable of handling the job.

In some cases, you’ve had senators who didn’t show for years,” said Donald Ritchie, the historian of the U.S. Senate.

While Democrat Jackson quit, Republican Kirk remains a member of the Senate while enduring a typically slow recovery.

Jackson had been reelected on Nov. 6 despite taking an initially unpublicized leave of absence in June, his legal travails, not campaigning at all, and the bipolar disorder that necessitated a long stay at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. He’s been mostly living in his Washington home with his wife, who herself is a generally absentee Chicago alderman, and their children. Kirk, who is single, has not been back to the Senate since his stroke and is living in his suburban Chicago home with caregivers.

Neither the House or Senate are inclined to remove somebody against their will, even if they are clearly incapacitated.Procedures in the House and Senate for such situations are slightly different, but the bottom line is the same: neither body is inclined to remove somebody against their will, even if they are clearly incapacitated. If Jackson had remained, and been indicted, the past practice is that he could have stayed in office until the case was resolved.

The next Congress, the 113th, takes the oath of office at noon on Jan. 3, though there is precedent for someone taking the oath elsewhere. A famous example is that of Vice President Joe Biden, elected to the Senate from Delaware in 1972 only weeks before his wife and a daughter were killed, and two sons injured, in an auto accident. He was sworn in at the hospital where his sons were being treated.

One-party domination leads to corruption which means that in order to be a part of the ruling order one has to participate. That participation and acquiescence is at all levels of the community. How else does one explain the continued election of those generally acknowledged to be corrupt.

Monica Davey writes in the New York Times article, One-Party Control Opens States to Partisan Rush:

CHICAGO — Come January, more than two-thirds of the states will be under single-party control, raising the prospect that bold partisan agendas — on both ends of the political spectrum — will flourish over the next couple of years.



State Government Control Since 1938

Nov. 6 election maintained divided government in Washington, the picture is starkly different in capitals from California to Florida: one party will hold the governor’s office and majorities in both legislative chambers in at least 37 states, the largest number in 60 years and a significant jump from even two years ago.

24/7 Wall posted the article, America’s Most Corrupt States which reported about corruption:

According to Barrett, states with stagnant political environments often encourage corruption. Governments with high levels of corruption tend to have a political party — either the Democrats or Republicans — in power for a long time. The states that have had a “machine” in place for a long time often tend to be the most corrupt. Machines tend to want to protect themselves.

There are ways to prevent and lessen government corruption.

The Urban Governance Toolkit has formulated The Municipal Checklist:

Box 7:The Municipal Checklist

Municipal Ethical Framework

  1. Is there a code of conduct for senior local government leadership?
  2. Is it used and thought to be effective?
  3. Are the assets and incomes of senior local government leadership disclosed annually to the public through effective means? Public Complaints
  4. Is there an independent complaints office within the local government?
  5. Is it known to the public and to staff?
  6. Is it effective and respected?
  7. Is there retaliation against whistle-blowers or are they protected?
  8. Can anonymous complaints be made?
  9. Is there a programme for testing the integrity of the various local government departments?
  10. Is the programme publicised and is it effective? Municipal Leadership
  11. Is the local government leadership committed to the fight against corruption and how has this been demonstrated in both words and deeds?
  12. Does the public respect the work of the local government? Municipal Human Resources
  13. Is there respect for work rules by all staff, including supervisors?
  14. Is the local government system for recruiting, disciplining, and promoting staff fair?
  15. Are local government pay scales and benefits fair?
  16. Is the internal administrative system for appeals of staff decisions considered fair? Municipal Budgeting
  17. Is the local government budgeting process well publicised and open to the public?
  18. Does the public actively and directly participate in shaping local government budget priorities? Municipal Procurement
  19. Is the local government procurement system reputed to be fair?
  20. Is it based on competitive principles?
  21. Are procurements advertised in advance and made known to the public?
  22. Is the process for selecting a bidder thorough and fair?
  23. Are conflict of interest rules enforced?
  24. Are certain types of procurements excluded from competition?
  25. Does the local government make its investments through a competitive process?
  26. Have there been corruption issues with the procurement system?
  27. Is there a regular audit of procurement actions? Audit Procedures
  28. Are the local government accounts regularly audited by independent auditors?
  29. Is there an internal auditor?
  30. Are the results made public in a timely and effective manner?
  31. Is there a separate local government public accounts committee?
  32. As a result of these audits, are actions taken to rectify systems and practices?

Source: Transparency International

See, The Costs of Political Corruption in America Full Text

Just don’t hold your breath waiting for good government to happen in a one-party system.

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People can’t be forced to believe: No Inquisitions, please

22 Nov

Here’s today’s COMMENT FROM AN OLD FART: Moi believes in God, that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and that there is a Heaven as well as a Hell. Having said that, moi does not support an Inquisition Moi believes in the protections of the First Amendment which guarantee, not the abolition of ALL religion from the public square, but the freedom to believe or not believe. Additionally, moi believes that people must come to faith voluntarily and of their own free will. That brings us to report about a teen sentenced to church.

Linda Williams reports in the KSL.Com News report, Teen sentenced to 10 years of church attendance:

A district judge in Oklahoma has generated new controversy by sentencing a teenager to 10 years of church attendance, even though the judge admits it’s not constitutional.

Religion News Services reports Judge Mike Norman gave Tyler Alred, 17, a 10-year deferred sentence for DUI manslaughter. Alred was driving a pickup truck that crashed and killed a passenger in December 2011.

In deferring the sentence, the judge not only ordered Alred to a decade of church attendance, but also required him to finish high school and welding school.

Alred’s attorney and the victim’s family agreed to the terms of the sentence.

The ACLU in Oklahoma calls the church requirement a “clear violation of the First Amendment.”

Judge Norman, who has recommended church as part of sentencing in some past cases, admits the church attendance part of the sentence won’t hold up legally but doubts either side in the case will appeal.

He says the sentence was the right thing to do.

The ACLU is considering its options, but according to RNS an individual or organization must have legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of the church attendance requirement.

Many people all over the world aspire to the guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.

This is what the 1966 UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, says:

expanding its prior statement to address the manifestation of religion or belief. Article 18 of this Covenant includes four paragraphs related to this issue:

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his [her] choice, and freedom either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his [her] religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his [her] freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his [her] choice.
3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or belief may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians, to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

This is what the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

People must come to faith of their own free will. The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to freely practice one’s religion. Despite what many intolerant atheists believe that does not mean that religion must be excised from the public square. Neither does it mean that any particular faith should be forced on another.

Religion is like a pair of shoes…..Find one that fits for you, but don’t make me wear your shoes.”
George Carlin

Religious liberty might be supposed to mean that everybody is free to discuss religion. In practice it means that hardly anybody is allowed to mention it.”
G.K. Chesterton

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Should Christmas gifts be banned? What is the meaning of a gift?

21 Nov


Martin Lewis writes in the Telegraph article, It’s time to ban Christmas presents:

Is it time to ban Christmas presents? Across the country people are growling at the enforced obligation to waste money on tat they can’t afford, for people who won’t use it. Festive gift-giving has lost its point, risks doing more harm than good, mis-teaches our children about values and kills the joy of anticipation of what should be a joyous time.

Before you think this is just curmudgeonly bah-humbug, this rant isn’t about presents under the spruce from parents or grandparents to children or spouses. It’s about the ever-growing creep of gifts to extended family, colleagues, children’s teachers and more.

I first braved this subject on my website back in 2009, expecting a snowstorm of protest. Instead, many people joined my call to arms, relieved they were not alone in their distaste for the gifting ritual.

The next year, I polled 10,000 people on whether we should ban presents. Seven per cent said ditch all of them, 30 per cent said to all but children, and a further 46 per cent said limit it to the immediate family. Fewer than one in five supported giving beyond that.

Yet even with years of economic stagnation, each successive Christmas, Eid or Hanukkah, too few brave the peer pressure and shut up the giving shop. With Christmas just five weeks away, there’s still time to pull back and agree on NO PRESENTS THIS YEAR.

Here is the definition of a gift:


1. somethinggiven  voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion, or make a gesture of assistance; present.

Here is the definition of generosity:

1. readiness or liberality in giving.

2. freedom from meanness or smallness of mind or character.

The question is whether Lewis is focusing on the right issue. Banning gifts of any kind is not the answer. Looking at a culture that has given us the worldwide financial meltdown triggered by the unbridled avarice of the financial manipulators who know neither the definition of gift or generosity.  That is the question. Modern culture often fosters a belief that those who are generous are weak.

Judy Keen wrote in the 2010 USA Today article, Unraveling the mystery of why we give, or don’t:

There are some well-established theories about generosity. More than two decades ago, economist James Andreoni theorized that people who give experience internal satisfaction that he calls the “warm glow.” Other researchers call it “helper’s high” — a physical sensation that increases feelings of self-worth and makes people want to give again.

Smith says some facts about generosity are known:

There are different kinds of giving. People give for strategic, altruistic, sentimental, impulsive, habitual or ideological reasons.

People who are religious tend to give more.

People who have more money don’t necessarily donate more. The opposite is often true.

Generosity is good for you: Senior citizens who volunteer live longer.

Holiday giving often is strategic and motivated more by year-end tax deductions than the sentiments of the season.

People who plan donations give more than those who don’t.

Guilt isn’t a great motivator.

Those conclusions, based on studies that ask people why they do or don’t give, are the easy part. Understanding what’s going on in people’s brains or their environment that prompts them to act the way they do is more complex….

People who are generous are “happier, healthier and doing better in life. There’s something about learning how to get beyond one’s self and helping other people that is good for the giver,” Smith says. “And there is so much need in the world.”

Altruistic people are often happier.

According to PBS’ This Emotional Life and the discussion of altruism:

Acts of kindness

Altruism—including kindness, generosity, and compassion—are keys to the social connections that are so important to our happiness. Research finds that acts of kindness—especially spontaneous, out-of-the ordinary ones—can boost happiness in the person doing the good deed.

Reasons why acts of kindness make people happier:

  • Being generous leads us to perceive others more compassionately; we typically find good qualities in people to whom we are kind
  • Being kind promotes a sense of connection and community with others, which is one of the strongest factors in increasing happiness
  • Being generous helps us appreciate and feel grateful for our own good fortune
  • Being generous boosts our self-image; it helps us feel useful and gives us a way to use our strengths and talents in a meaningful way
  • Being kind can start a chain reaction of positivity; being kind to others may lead them to be grateful and generous to others, who in turn are grateful and kind to others

Volunteers see greater benefits than those they are serving

One study followed women with multiple sclerosis (MS) who volunteered as peer supporters to other patients. They received training in compassionate listening techniques and called the patients to talk and listen for 15 minutes at a time. The study followed the volunteers for three years and found that they had increased self-esteem, self-acceptance, satisfaction, self-efficacy, social activity, and feelings of mastery. The positive outcomes for the volunteers were even greater than for the patients they were helping. 

Compassion fosters happiness, but being sacrificial reduces well-being

Being kind and compassionate is linked to greater happiness, greater levels of physical activity well into old age, and longevity. One important caveat: if people get overextended and overwhelmed by helping tasks, as can happen with people who are caregivers to family members, their health and quality of life can rapidly decline. It seems being generous from an abundance of time, money, and energy can promote well-being; but being sacrificial quickly lowers well-being. This seems to be a good argument for communities sharing the burden for everyone’s benefit.

Lewis is right about one thing, the heart behind the gift act is important. A gift should be an act of altruism, otherwise it is a form of extortion. We need to get back to the true meaning of Christmas.


Christmas should be like Vegas beginning on December 1

It’s Merry Christmas, Dammit!          

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