Category Archives: Reality

Live long, and prosper

While God, guns, coal, and fracking remain our salient political issues in the U.S. and we debate whether or not health care is a human right, I hope that young people are hearing about these new technologies and getting as excited about them as I am. I am revising my intent to not live much past 100, just so I can see a lot of this stuff happen:

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The critical link between education and the kind of world we have

I have been thinking for a couple of days about how many MBA and other narrowly “expert” people we elect now to government — engineers, medical doctors, etc., and how this might have produced or aggravated our divisive and gridlocked public conversation. The general idea is that a narrowing of the curriculum to produce experts produces at the same time a tunnel vision with regard to ideas. Then along comes this 18-minute video from Ted Talks:

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

I do not have to research this phenomenon further.

How and why not to get private student loans

Here is why you should not get a private student loan:

Here is how you can avoid private loans, even if you were not wise enough in the beginning to choose parents who could pay for college:

  • Do not go for one of the do it at your own pace, study at home, we will lend you the money if your Pell Grant doesn’t cover the cost on-line universities. These are money mills for their operators and money pits for students.
  • Go to your local community college and tell them you want a 4-year degree from the state university, and you want to do your first two years at the community college (CC).
  • If you know what major you want at the university, call the university and talk to a counselor who will tell you what course of study to take at the CC. Get something in writing, even if it is only an e-mail, and follow the advice of the counselor.
  • If you don’t know what you want to study, get a job stocking shelves, bagging groceries, making hamburgers and fries, typing, answering the phone, plumber’s helper, running a cash register, waiting tables, or something that earns you a little bit of money while you make up your mind. This work experience will be valuable to you if you want to work part-time or do student work-study while attending college.
  • If you don’t know what you want to study but you just HAVE TO GO direct to college, go to the CC and major in English, History, or Math. The one of these three that appeals most to you will probably be a strong foundation for your later choice of majors. This is true because they are foundational subjects in the three major divisions of the curriculum, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences.
  • Get the 2-year AA or AS (Associates) degree. Work hard and make “A’s.” If you aren’t making good grades, ask for help. Community Colleges can assess weak points and help you meet your goals.
  • Check with your CC counselor to be sure you apply to your state university at the right point in your AA/AS program.

Private schools are not universally bad, but they cost more than the university. To justify the higher cost, they say that at the university you will be a number. Actually, although the university is large, your classes and your major become your community within the university. Your professors will care about you with about the same frequency that students experience at a private college. Your resources will be greater, as labs and libraries will be better equipped. There will be more plays, concerts, lectures, and gatherings. And your alumni network will be larger when you are looking for a job.

Oh — and don’t forget to vote for Democrats. People who believe in education invest in it. If you can’t find the data on who believes in education, just take my word for it. Democrats. Vote for one every time you get a chance.

Origins and consequences

Virginia’s Delegate Israel O’Quinn responded to my letter:

Thanks for your message. I can tell you for certain that not a single piece of legislation I filed was influenced by ALEC or any other national legislative organization. The bills I filed, and will continue to file, come directly from constituents or are items of interest for our region and/or Commonwealth.

He responded also on the matter of the economic impact of abortion-related bills, stating that “normal operating practice” is that every bill receives an economic impact statement. He said, “I’m not sure how your suggestion would expand that particular practice, but it is certainly a question for Legislative Services as I am not quite sure of the answer.”

I appreciate Delegate O’Quinn’s thoughtful response, which demonstrates that he is listening to voters. I am seeking the economic impact statements for the abortion-related bills in the Virginia legislature, and will post a link when I have that information. Updated Wednesday, April 4, 2012.
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Open and responsive government that takes care of business efficiently is what we need, and a citizen’s understanding of origins and consequences of bills before they become law is critical to this goal. Legislators also need to know where ideas come from and what their predictable consequences might be.

I recently sent a few comments to Delegate O’Quinn regarding the State Corruption Risk Report Card for Virginia. He responded that he too was disappointed, pointed out the problems of perspective in the report, and stated that he was committed to more open and accessible government in Virginia. I have no reason to doubt his commitment, and I hope that he will honor that as this legislature goes forward. I offered two suggestions for improving openness and accessibility in my letter back to him, reproduced below:

Dear Delegate O’Quinn:

Thank you for your response. I too was disappointed with this report card in Virginia, and while I agree that electing judges is not good, I believe we should have non-partisan judges. Judges should be committed to the equal and non-partisan administration of the law.

In the past — I am 67, so I have a lot of past — elections were partisan, and after the election legislators worked on substantive questions of the Commonwealth like infrastructure and improving the lives of citizens. I have recently been disappointed to learn that over 50 of the bills introduced in Virginia — including virtually all of the pro-gun, anti-woman, and public education assault legislation — were written by ALEC, and not by any Virginian at all. What does this say about us, about the neglect of the responsibility to govern among our elected representatives? Can we no longer govern ourselves? Are we enslaved to people we do not even know are controlling us?

As to suggestions for how to make government more open and accessible, I would appreciate the tagging of each piece of legislation that has been influenced by ALEC and an attached description of the ALEC recommendation that influenced the law on your website.

In an associated matter, I cannot tell you how disappointed I am with the frivolous agenda of the Virginia legislature in the current session, so demeaning to women. In the light of modern science and medicine, our legislators brought the debates of the 1500’s to 1700’s back to the floor. These debates are based on religion and on a pre-scientific understanding that men constitute humanity and are the generative force in procreation while women are “instrumental,” contributing nothing. Surely we are not going to be asked to accept that we are men’s tools for reproducing themselves, and that we have no rights to our own bodies.

The ancient nation of Israel in the Old Testament had birth control, but they had a need to increase population. Maximizing procreation was a practical matter for them, and their rules for sexual behavior did exactly that. The rules that were practical in their time are contrary to good sense for us. Neither the economy or the biosphere can sustain maximum procreation here and now. And making women primarily a means of reproduction by shaming, by limiting choices, or by limiting access to birth control is reprehensible.

It is even more onerous to understand women’s lives in this way when the rules you have made will affect only low-income to moderate-income women — wealthy women have always had access to safe abortions, and they always will have, law notwithstanding. If your daughter can afford two weeks abroad, she can go where the law is more sane and more humane, and return without the problem and without any record of ever having had the problem. Only poor and middle-income women are affected, and none of our families can afford to rear and educate 15 children.

As to suggestions for how to make legislation about reproduction more open and accessible, I would appreciate each piece of legislation regarding women’s reproductive rights to be accompanied by a published economic and environmental impact statement, showing 1) how it will impact the ability of young women to become self-sufficient and on their own economically, and 2) how it will impact the ability of parents to provide adequate medical care, living space, education, and recreation for their children, and eventually how the Commonwealth will generate jobs for a constantly booming population, maintain a safety net for those who are disabled or who become disabled, and care for them as they reach retirement age.

Thank you again for your response, and for the opportunity to share my concerns and suggestions.

Sincerely,

– Sarah

Happy Birthday!

http://embed.crooksandliars.com/v/MjMwODQtNTM2Nzc?color=C93033

A world of difference?

This raises a question about whether or not we all actually live in the same world:

If you wonder where journalism has gone …