Tag Archives: Education

Just the Bare Minimum?


I am not picking on Nicholas Ruiz.  He is a good man, and I hope that he does succeed in his efforts to unseat John Mica in 2014.  However, it was Nick’s recent post, and the ensuing conversation we had, which has actually formed the spark and starting point for today’s epistle.  In particular, these words:

My politics are progressive. I aim to raise the minimum wage.

First, I am not opposed to raising the minimum wage.  I agree that it needs to be raised.  Let me be clear about that.  No one can live on the minimum wage at its current level and as it currently exists.  I have a conservative friend who argues that the minimum wage was never intended as a livable wage.  It is his contention that the minimum wage was intended only for kids that were getting their first jobs, interns learning a craft, and the like.  That is, quite simply horse puckey and shows either that he is completely ignorant of history, which would be very typical of most people, or that he has been brainwashed by the right, which would also be very typical.

A very brief history lesson on the minimum wage, and if you are interested in more, then I will trust that you know how to use either the library or the internet.  The minimum wage was first enacted in Australia.  It traveled from there to the UK, and did not finally make its way to the US nationally until 1938.  In 1907, a legal decision was rendered in Australia that clarified the intent of the minimum wage.  This was known as the Harvester case, and it made it clear that the minimum wage “means that the wages shall be sufficient to provide these things, and clothing and a condition of frugal comfort estimated by current human standards.”  In America, it was specifically summarized as being intended to achieve the “elimination of labor conditions detrimental to the maintenance of the minimum standards of living necessary for health, efficiency and well being of workers.

A wholly different concept has been at various times discussed and even implemented, and that is a training wage.  Perhaps it is this which my friend has confused for the minimum wage.  That’s possible.  (Conservatives are often easily confused.)  A training wage is still often used at a new position.  An employer will pay a new employee a lower amount during training, and at the completion of that training period, a raise will go into effect.  Again, though, that is an entirely different animal and should not be confused with a minimum wage, which is intended to provide at least sufficient wage to live upon.  According to research done recently, one can not live on the minimum wages we are paying.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in West Virginia, a worker earning minimum wage has to work 63 hours a week to afford a two-bedroom unit at fair market rent.  That is the fewest hours in the country, and the highest is in Hawaii at 175 hours per week.  Ponder that for a moment.  At minimum wage in Hawaii, you have to work more hours in a week than there are just to afford rent on a standard two bedroom unit.

From their 2013 report, another way to look at it, in order to afford a two-bedroom rental unit at fair market value without paying more than 30% of one’s income, one would have to earn $19.14 an hour.  The lowest in the 2013 report, is in West Virginia at $12.35.  (Not counting Puerto Rico at $10.41)  The highest is still Hawaii at $32.14 an hour.  These are not wages to live extravagant lifestyles.  These are just to be able to afford a two-bedroom home.  Family friendly.

We are a long way from providing a minimum wage that would allow for even living in “frugal comfort.”

So then, what do we do?  Certainly, the minimum wage should rise.  The cost of living has gone up.  Inflation affects everything, and the minimum wage is no exception.  However, all wages, except at the top have been stagnant.  And, there is a question that has been bugging me about this.  One that I will tell you right up front that I do not have an answer to.  If we raise the minimum wage to where it really should be, say somewhere in the neighborhood of $14 to $18, then what happens to the rest of our wages?  Those would necessarily need to be raised as well, yes?  If not, then is the effect not to have brought everyone’s wages down?  Rather than the “rising tide that lifts all boats”, have we not, instead, sunk all but the biggest ships?  And, that is what the right has been doing to us for years.

CONTINUED on PAGE 2

Advertisements

Liberal Media? Riiiighttt


“A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”

– Ronald Reagan1

“And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed—if all records told the same tale—then the lie passed into history and became truth. ‘Who controls the past’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’”

– George Orwell, 1984

How many times have you heard about the “liberal media”?  Probably so many times that most of you even believe it.  It would be amusing, if it wasn’t so sad.  These types of falsehoods that become “facts” are precisely part of the war of definitions that the right has used to drag the political center, and the country, further and further to the right over the years.

This myth, in its current form, originated from a single survey that was done many years ago.  1972, S. Robert Lichter et al in “The Media Elite: America’s New Powerbrokers” did a small survey of 238 journalists, and found that the majority of them did vote Democrat.  While this shouldn’t be surprising, particularly given that that study after study shows that there is an inverse relationship between education and conservatism, and as a rule, journalists tend to be fairly well educated.  (This is the truth behind why Republicans and conservatives are so opposed to education.  It is why people like Rick Santorum say, “We will never have the elite, smart people on our side”)

Did this survey find that the media was liberal?  No, not really.  Not even its authors claim so.  What it found was that the media was, in fact, not liberally biased, though many of the mid-level and below reporters did tend to vote Democrat.  (At that point, voting Democrat actually put one a bit left of center.)  The right wing though, and in particular (oh, the irony here), the right wing columnists in the media, took this survey, twisted it, as they are wont to do, and on the other end of their propaganda machine came out the turd that “The media is liberal”.  They have been decrying the media as such ever since.

The facts in front of us would convince any sane reasonable person to the contrary, but that is not what we are dealing with.  We are dealing with people who have largely been victims of a Milligramesque Experiment echo chamber.  “You will accept authority.”  You will accept that the media is liberal.”  “You will believe that everything that comes from the government is evil.”  “You will ignore the contradictions.”  “You will ignore the man behind the curtain.”  You will give me your dollars.”

Oh, and buy my book!  It’s called, “How to get rich by selling people a book called, How to get rich by selling a book called, How to get rich by …”  It’s only $19.99.  Order here.

One of the other interesting things to consider in this is that these low- and mid-level reporters really have very little control or influence over what they actually put in the papers or on the screens.  The people who are in control are the editors and the managers.  These people are the ones who are shown, in the same material referenced above, and multiple repeated surveys, to be most typically conservative.  Oh, wait.  Let’s pause here.  What we have here is pretty typical, isn’t it?  Those at the top are going to escape taking responsibility, while the right blames those at the bottom for their perceived issues?  It is the typical way that the right wing operates.

Let us look briefly at the consolidation of media.  I’m sure we’ve all seen the numbers, yes?  And, they are constantly changing.  Growing ever more consolidated.  When Ben Bagdikian introduced The Media Monopoly in 1983, he concluded that “50 men and women, chiefs of their corporations, control more than half the information and ideas that reach 220 million Americans, it is time for Americans to examine the institutions from which they receive their daily picture of the world.”  Today, 30 years later, the consolidation has grown to such a degree that we now have “more than 1500 newspapers, 1100 magazines, 9000 radio stations, 1500 TV stations, 2400 publishers, owned by only 3 corporations,” as the meme goes.  Using Bagdikian’s methodology, in 2009, this number had fallen from 50 to 15 controlling over 50% of the information and ideas dominating the American market, and:

Expanding the analysis to include emergent technologies like cable television, satellite radio and the Internet, the number of corporations dominating the American media remained at 20.

CONTINUED on PAGE 2


Land of the free and home of the brave?


Land of the free and home of the brave?  No.  Actually, we have turned mostly into the land of the whiners and the home of the cowards.

Oh, my.  Not a good way to start off if I want people to read, is it?  No, probably not, but I am angry.  Very, very angry.  I am angry that I watch people complain and whine about how bad off our country has become, and yet, how little anyone from any political stripe is willing to actually do about it.  I understand that we all have our lives that we have to deal with, our mundane issues that must be addressed on a daily basis, but we must each realize that if we do not face up to the challenges that we face and take responsibility for making the changes that we want and need, then we will only have ourselves to blame when things not only do not improve, but continue to get worse.

I am not talking about the type of courage exhibited by children and adults in desperate situations.  That type of bravery, which is one and the same, is in plentiful supply.  This is the type of courage that leads people to want, or need, to solve arguments with violence, because they know no other solution.  That’s the 4 year-old who hits his or her playmate because he or she wants the toy the other child has.  We have that aplenty.  We have that in so many adults that it’s pathetic.

It is the type of “bravery” that leads to our elected officials invading countries that we previously supported, and then cries of “My president, right or wrong” from segments of the populace.  (Of course, for that same segment, it only applies when it is their guy in office, because they are hypocrites.)  It is the type of courage that leads young men and women to join the military less because that is the path that they believe in, and more because they see no other way to escape the desperate economic poverty that they are in.  Or, from the large segment of the populace that is too busy with bread and circuses to notice the strings just off stage.

There are times in this world when violence is the appropriate answer and solution to a situation.  Yes, I do, in fact, acknowledge that.  I am not saying that it isn’t.  I do not like it.  As I have said for years, I wish I lived in a world where a military was not necessary.  Sadly, I do not live in that world.  However, I also do not live in a world where it is necessary for the military that we do have needs to be running the School of the Americas now Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (the best training ground for Latin American and Caribbean dictators, thank you right wing America!)  I do not live in a world where it is necessary or appropriate for that military to take action in a country on the pretext that it is committing human rights violations (such as Iraq, Serbia, even Germany in World War II was largely justified on the basis of the final solution though our immediate entry was obviously prompted by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), while simultaneously ignoring other countries committing human rights abuses of equal or larger degree (Saudi Arabia, Israel, Syria, China, Mali, and others listed by Freedom House as the Worst of the Worst in 2012).  This simply shows that our military is being used as a tool of policy and business, not as a tool of either necessity or of principle.

However, the cowardice that I am talking about that has taken over is the fear of taking actual responsibility for our actions in our country.  If we actually acknowledge that our government is us then we have to acknowledge that we are responsible, as a group, for all those horrible things that we have done.  We also get to take credit for the wonderful, positive things that we have done, and everyone wants to do that part!  Most people are in favor of taking their rights, but most people are also deft at avoiding their responsibilities.  There are reasons why we have the stereotypes of the “deadbeat dad” and the “welfare mom”, for example.
CONTINUED on PAGE 2


Chicken Little Say


The SCIAMAGE space has extended an offer to a number of people from a variety of backgrounds and political view points to submit pieces for inclusion in this space.  They have each been told essentially the same thing, though the specific words may have varied ever so slightly.  Basically though, regardless of the words chosen, what they have been told is their piece will undergo only slight editing, and that will only be for spelling and formatting.  It will never be for grammar (unless requested) as that comes too close to style and that would come to close to voice.  Though I might wish to comment on it, I do not wish to interject my voice into theirs.  It will never be edited for content, as that would impede on free exchange of ideas, and that would defeat the purpose.  It may not, however, include patently false information.  Oh, and only once, have I actually suggested a topic.  Other than that one time, I have left the topics wide open for the guest writer to select.

The group invited has included people of widely different political views, and very different socioeconomic and technological backgrounds.  There are, of course, a few things they each have in common. One thing is that they can all get very passionate about what they believe and hold to be true, while not making it personal.  They can also hold a reasonable conversation.  They are capable of distinguishing, typically, between fact, fiction, and belief.  They will typically be able to provide evidence to support or at least attempt to provide evidence to support their position.  Etc.  In other words, they are reasonable and intelligent people who are capable of having reasonable and intelligent conversations.

If you think that you would like to submit a piece for inclusion in this space, please contact the SCIAMAGE through the links below.

Today, the SCIAMAGE space is pleased to bring you the first response to this offer.  Jeffrey Jones, is a man of varied background.  A father, a former instructor, currently working with a defense contractor (we can’t tell you more, or we’d have to kill you under the current NDAA and justification for drone use, and we wouldn’t want to have to do that!!), a gamer (board, role, and online), educated, diverse interests, Buddhist, traveler, and much more.  And, on a personal note, a hell of a Mensch.   That’s really more than you need by way of an introduction, because the piece that Jeff has provided stands on its own without any introduction.  It could well have been written by any man, woman, or child in America today, who pauses to look around.  Any man, woman, or child who stops to think, and doesn’t forget to start again.

And, without further ado, please, enjoy today’s SCIAMAGE guest column from Jeffrey Jones.

CHICKEN LITTLE SAY…

It’s time that this rampant hyperbole about being under attack ended. It’s sole purpose is to rouse the ignorant and muddy the waters about the evolution of life for humans.

The theory goes that various groups are under attack because the way they have led their lives, or gone about their business, or the manner in which they have acted for no good reason, apart perhaps from jealousy, or fear or propaganda. It certainly could not be that these things are no longer acceptable to the rest of us.

White people are under attack because they are no longer in the vast majority here in America. But is that true? As of the 2010 census results:

Race / Ethnicity Number Percentage of U.S. population
Americans 308,745,538 100.0 %
White or European American 223,553,265 72.4 %
Black or African American 38,929,319 12.6 %
Asian American 14,674,252 4.8 %
Amer. Ind. or Alaska Native 2,932,248 0.9 %
Hawaiian/Pac. Islander 540,013 0.2 %
Some other race 19,107,368 6.2 %
Two or more races 9,009,073 2.9 %

72.4% of Americans identify themselves as Caucasian. And, they are under attack because it used to be more.  You’ll note that Hispanic or Latino is not included in this chart, as, according to the Census Bureau, “Persons whose ethnicity is identified as Hispanic or Latino may be of any race.”  But 16.4% of all races identified themselves as Hispanic or Latino.  In 1960, non-Hispanic white persons made up 85% of the American population, by 2042 they are projected to have lost the strong majority, only accounting for 46.3% of the population, still the largest group, but not a solid, over-powering majority.

Why is this a scary set of statistics? Why is the natural progress of life a “threat” to the comfortable majority?
CONTINUED on PAGE 2


Once upon a time, in a land where reasonable people could reasonably disagree…


It’s all the rage, right?  Everyone is talking about it, and I should, too?  Yeah, I suppose.  Thing is, I really don’t want to.  I’m really bored with it.  {{Insert shocked face here}}  It’s been talked to death.  It looks pretty certain to happen at this point, and no one in a position to change that really seems to have any interest in doing so.

{{Insert dark, scary music here}} The Sequestration

In theory it is an across the board equal cut in spending.  The reality is very different though, and this space is dedicated to real and accurate information.  So, let’s start with that, shall we?

First, it is not, across the board.  “OMG!  Good golly, Miss Molly!  It’s not?!”  No, it’s really not.  There are a whole list of programs that are exempted from the cuts entirely.  There are another list that are under special rules about how they will be impacted by the sequester.  “But, the local news/CNN/NBC/FOX/Obama/Boehner said …”  Look, I really couldn’t care less, what they told you, or what you heard about this being “thoughtless” or “across the board”.  They are usually FoS, right?  Haven’t we demonstrated that often enough?  Let’s go to the source, shall we?

According to the Congressional Research Service, in its Budget “Sequestration” and Selected Program Exemptions and Special Rules report prepared for congress and dated January 10, 2013

The following are selected programs and types of spending identified in Section 255 as exempt from sequestration:

  • Social Security benefits (old-age, survivors, and disability) and Tier 1 Railroad Retirement benefits.
  • All programs administered by the VA, and special benefits for certain World War II veterans.17
  • Net interest (budget function 900).
  • Payments to individuals in the form of refundable tax credits.18
  • Unobligated balances, carried over from prior years, for nondefense programs.
  • At the President’s discretion (subject to notification to Congress), military personnel accounts may be exempt entirely, or a lower sequestration percentage may apply.19
  • A list of “other” budget accounts and activities; readers should consult the statute for a complete list. A few selected examples include
    • activities resulting from private donations, bequests or voluntary contributions, or financed by voluntary payments for good or services;
    • advances to the Unemployment Trust Fund;20
    • payments to various retirement, health care, and disability trust funds;
    • certain Tribal and Indian trust accounts; and
    • Medical Facilities Guaranty and Loan Fund.
  • Specified federal retirement and disability accounts and activities (consult the statute for the complete list).
  • Prior legal obligations of the federal government in specified budget accounts (consult the statute for the complete list).21
  • Low-income programs, including
    • Academic Competitiveness/Smart Grant Program;22
    • mandatory funding under the Child Care and Development Fund;
    • Child Nutrition Programs (including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Food, and others, but excluding Special Milk);
    • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
    • Commodity Supplemental Food Program;
    • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and the TANF Contingency Fund;
    • Family Support Programs;23
    • Federal Pell Grants;
    • Medicaid;
    • Foster Care and Permanency Programs;
    • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps);

and

    • Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
  • Medicare Part D low-income premium and cost-sharing subsidies; Medicare Part D catastrophic subsidy payments; and Qualified Individual (QI) premiums.24
  • Specified economic recovery programs, including GSE Preferred Stock Purchase Agreements, the Office of Financial Stability, and the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
  • The following “split-treatment” programs, to the extent that the programs’ budgetary resources are subject to obligations limitations in appropriations bills:
  • Federal Aid-Highways;
  • Highway Traffic Safety Grants;
  • Operations and Research NHTSA and National Driver Register;
  • Motor Carrier Safety Operations and Programs;
  • Motor Carrier Safety Grants;
  • Formula and Bus Grants; and
  • Grants-in-Aid for Airports.

Sorry that’s so long, but it’s taken directly from the report (page 9) and I think it is important to see it in its entirety, because as you can see, you have been being fed lies no matter which news outlet you’re listening to or which political talking head you are wanting to believe.  Also, note that it is not the entire list of programs that are exempt.  It is only a partial list of “selected programs”.  The people who are in the position of supplying live, reliable data to those who go out and spin the tales are telling them that these programs are exempt from the cuts.  Please re-read that sentence.  Let me summarize it for you.
CONTINUED on PAGE 2


Fallacious Arguments on a Slippery Slope Lead to Foolish Appearances


There are many foolish arguments made every day and in so many contexts. Arguments in the supposedly “reasoned” sense.  Not arguments in the childish, “No, you didn’t. Yes, I did” sense, though we do see plenty of that, as well.

So, for example, we see the “Criminals don’t obey laws” argument against any sort of gun control, and this is supposed to stop the discussion, because there are supposedly enough laws already.  Of course, this is stupid.  The basic fallacy is in the construct itself.  They are criminals because they didn’t obey the laws.  Not vice versa.  This is not a stereotypical chicken verses egg argument.  No, what little validity in it is that once one has started to break some laws it does psychologically become easier to break some others, but this is neither a straight line progression, nor is it a complete break such that all lines are broken.

The old saw that, “There is no honor amongst thieves” is a bunch of hooey that really only serves to make sanctimonious do-gooders feel superior because they are following the laws that they have laid down upon everyone else.  There is actually a great deal of honor among those who would break the laws of the “upper world”.  To live in the “under world” that we have created, requires that one be very honorable, because to be without honor, is often to be dead very quickly.  Particularly if one is floating around anywhere other than the basic get along stream of junkies.  Outside of that, one’s word is more important than in almost any other realm you can imagine in this western world, and the consequence is not just being shunned.  The consequences can be dire.  But, I am straying into the psychology of criminology and the anthropology of the underworld far more than I intended to, and more than is required to make the point.  The point is that, in that world, the ability to count on someone’s word is more frequently literally a matter of life and death, whereas in the “upper world” it is, the vast majority of the time, all talk.

I saw a piece this week that made me think about this again.  It was beautifully written and, yet, all too many people will dismiss it.  A short little piece posted by Andy Borowitz in the New Yorker.  A Letter from Kim Jong-Un pretty wonderfully highlighted another couple stupid arguments being made in this same context.

In the immortal words of my dad, the glorious Kim Jong-il: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.”

and

If you join today, we will waive the initiation fee and send you this bumper sticker: “Nuclear weapons don’t kill people. People kill people who don’t have nuclear weapons.”

My grandfather used to say, “Locks only keep honest people out.”  To some extent that’s true.  However, the other side of that is that it makes it more difficult, and to parody the right-wing’s arguments, “We keep our money locked up, don’t we?”  Gah!

So, what then are the answers?  We need to stop the bullshit arguments.  We need to have a real, adult conversation.  We need to have a multi-dimensional approach.  The real answers are going to start at home.  Start with teaching our children to be responsible, caring, compassionate, human beings that contribute to society rather than just looking at society, the world, and each other in terms of what they can take from it.

In a legal sense though, there are things we can and need to do:

    • Strengthen and enforce the laws which are on the books already.  The so-called gun show loop holes.
    • Require universal background check regardless of how or where the gun is sold.
    • Issue FEDERAL licenses to purchase a gun.  This should probably come in categories, much like a driver’s license.  I would have this run through the Health and Safety, and do whatever reorganization would be required to make that happen.

CONTINUED on PAGE 2


Educate and grow! Indoctrinate and stall!


 educate

Pronunciation: /ˈɛdjʊkeɪt/

verb

    give intellectual, moral, and social instruction to (someone), typically at a school or university: she was educated at a boarding school

Here is today’s shocking truth for you.  Some of you will know this consciously.  Others will know it subconsciously.  Some will deny it strenuously.  View it how you may, it is a sad, truth.

indoctrinate

Pronunciation: /ɪnˈdɒktrɪneɪt/

verb

    teach (a person or group) to accept a set of beliefs uncritically: broadcasting was a vehicle for indoctrinating the masses

Most parents, hell, most people in the world, and in particular in America do not really want to teach their children.  They damn sure do not want other people’s children taught!  They want them indoctrinated.  They want them to be indoctrinated in very specific ways.  In the same ways that they were.

I admit it.  There was a period when I had to overcome it myself.  My oldest son was around 3 when I realized it.  I even verbalized it to his mother.  I told her, “You know, it isn’t that we don’t want our kids to be indoctrinated.  It’s just that we want them to be indoctrinated in the same beliefs that we hold dear.”  It was the beginning of an internal dialogue that went on to break through that particular log jam in my own head.  Fortunately, he was young enough, that I don’t think he suffered too much for it.

Anyway, that is the point, isn’t it?  For most people, they never really look past the, I want my child to believe the same as I do.  I have consistently taught my kids, to think for themselves.  I have been writing this with the hopes of educating, and yes, convincing, you, but in each and every case, I have presented evidence and arguments, and asked that you think for yourselves.  At no time would I ask that you simply take my word for it.  Take what I say and verify it.  Go do your own research.  It’s out there.

When it comes to my children, beyond the basics of parental responsibility (chores, teaching modern hygiene, safety, etc), I expected them to think for themselves.  Absolutely listen to me, but question it.  Go out and research it.  If you can show me where I am wrong, go ahead.  Please do.  I will admit it.  I am okay with that.  I would rather admit that I am wrong, learn from it and move on.  In fact, I made it a point to let my kids see me admit I was wrong when I was.  I thought it was a valuable lesson for them to see.

And, that is what is missing from many people, but in particular what is missing from the right wing as a rule.  For example, despite the overwhelming mass of evidence over the last 40 years, not to mention all of the previous experiments with it, they continue to insist that supply side economics works.  Despite all the collapsed sectors of the economy where they had to violate their own expressed principles and step in to prop up those sectors in order to not have them drag down the rest of their carefully constructed system of wealth redistribution, they continue to insist that this focus on moving more and more wealth in to the hands of fewer and fewer people works.  In fact, they want to do so at a faster and faster pace.  They continue to insist that not only should we not raise taxes, but that we need to cut spending.  But, the only places that the far right wants to cut spending, of course, is on the backs of the poorest of our citizens, and on what’s left of the middle class.  They want to cut the very programs that are most needed.

They also, of course, say that they want to cut the programs that actually pay for themselves.  How ironic, no?  (Again, this is why I have previously said that Conservatism is no longer a philosophy.  It is a religion.  It is no longer based on thought and reason, but rather on belief, superstition, and indoctrination. “accept a set of beliefs uncritically”)
CONTINUED on PAGE 2


%d bloggers like this: