Wednesday, July 28, 2010


We are flushing away trillions of dollars on an endless war. It is time to STOP the war and reinvest the money in our children and our future as a nation. What will it matter if we win this war (highly unlikely) if the payment is the education of the next generation, who will be unable to lead our country forward, because we let them down? This country is great at sounding off about how much we care about our children's education, but people always put their money where their priorities lie. So where are our priorities as a nation? Right now they appear to be fighting useless wars, and compensating rich corporations.

We have laws in place (NCLB) which claim that every child can reach a certain level of education: the same level of education. People forget that humans are not products on an assembly line, and even if they were, factories can't manage to make all their products perfect, every time (Toyota, etc...) We have turned education into a breeding ground of mediocrity. Everything is about passing some multiple choice test. We have a nation that is losing ground in science and technology. Soon we will be dependent upon other nations for our satellite communications, for medical research, for space exploration and all other basic scientific research. You cannot focus on making students great at passing a once a year test, and at the same time create good critical thinkers, and problem solvers. The time it takes to do the latter is great, but it produces people who can think, reason and invent. The former just creates people who are good at taking multiply choice tests. Personally, I think we need a lot more of the latter than the former.

It's time we put our money where our mouth is! Let's spend our money on education, research and development. If we are not careful we will become another USSR or Roman Empire. Let's get back to making this country great and stop trying to fix all the other countries.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Black and White

No this is not a discussion of race, although it could fit here, as could most topics. Black and white is how most people want to view the world. It is easy. A thing is either right or wrong, good or bad, proper or improper, and there is no middle ground. People like this kind of thought because it requires no effort of thinking on their part. Usually it's a religion that makes these determinations, but political parties do it for us as well. It is the reason for flawed policies such as "zero tolerance" in schools, where a very young child gets expelled for bringing in a toy soldier or plastic weapon. The thinking is that if everyone is punished the same, then no one will dare to cross the line ever again. Of course we are talking about children in this case and children don't always think things through very well.

Does anyone remember the philosophical story that was often posed to students in English and sociology classes in the 60's through 70's?
"A man is very hungry and without food. His children at home are dying of starvation. (The welfare system does not exist in this story). He walks into a store and steals a loaf of bread. He is caught and sent to jail and his children starve to death."
The question: was it OK in this instance for the man to steal, or is stealing always wrong?
Classes of high school and college students would argue this case, with most siding with the man, and realizing that although we should not steal, sometimes very dire circumstances make doing wrong things necessary for the lives of those we love.

This demonstrates a point that is often lost in all our arguments over what is right and what is wrong, laws and ethics are not the same things. A law is a law and is set in stone and is supposed to be obeyed without question. Ethics have to do with moral obligations and duty to one's self, family or group. Laws are imposed to create some order and consistency to a culture. Traffic laws help to maintain a consistent pattern of traffic flow, thereby reducing accidents and deaths. Morals and ethics have to do with what we feel is right as a human being to do. Most people would not want to put someone to death for speeding, or stealing bread when you are starving, but in some cultures that would not be a problem. The law may be black and white, but ethics rarely are. I've always thought of ethics as the Golden Rule, which has been stated by every great religious leader. The gist of it is that we are suppose to treat everyone they way we would wish to be treated. So if we don't want to be thrown in jail for stealing bread to keep our children alive, then we shouldn't do the same to anyone else. The rub comes in when we have large groups of people who feel that they are so perfect that they would never, ever do such a thing and therefore people who do should be condemned to suffer the consequences of their actions.

Plus these do's and don'ts change over time and between cultures. Fashion is a prime example, as is marriage, drugs, food, health.... As cultures and technology change so the world changes, but in some ways we have not. We will send the bread stealer to jail, but the executive that has swindled millions often still slips away with his cash in hand. We often reward the sly and crafty for their indiscretions, but punish the weak and ignorant.

Then there are the paradoxes that make no sense. We glorify alcohol and its use, but throw the pot smoker in jail despite the fact that each of these drugs is very similar in its potency's. Millions of people smoke pot at the end of a long day to relax and unwind, which should be seen as no different to the people who have a drink to find the same relaxation. Perhaps neither is good, but perhaps neither is really that bad either. The average pot smoker is much like the social drinker, yet they are treated as a hardened criminal, the same as someone using heroin, morphine, or meth amphetamine. It makes no sense, but it's a law and since pot is placed in the same category as these heavier much more dangerous drugs, offenders are treated the same way. Whether it makes sense or not.

It's time to stop looking at the world as black and white and start seeing things as they are and not as others (religions, governments, social groups) would have us see them. Yes, the gray zone is more complicated and difficult to manuver through. And Yes, we need some laws that are fairly black and white in order to protect our citizens, but seeing everything in terms of black and white makes us less human. Looking for the truth in order to make decisions is hard. It is much easier to take what others have said and live according to their ideals, rather than make up our own minds, but that is just what we need to do if we are to evolve and improve as a species.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Quick question.

Why is it that when a company is questioned about why their CEO needs a salary of four million dollars, or a sports star requires 10 million we are told that it is necessary to spend a lot of money to get good people; yet when a teacher, fireman, or police officer asks for more money we are told that they make too much money? I guess we don't need good teachers, firemen, or police officers.

Yes, these jobs are paid for by tax payers. Guess what teachers, firemen, police officers and other civil servants also pay taxes. They in effect pay part of their own salaries. If I use the bank you work at, I in essence pay part of the salaries of the tellers, clerks and bank officers with the money I store in your bank. If I purchase goods at a retail store, part of the money I spend goes to paying the people who work for that store. Pay people low wages and you will not bring in the best people. Yes, there are some saints out there, but most people will go where they can get the best paycheck. Good civil servants will get the best paying jobs they can. That leaves the worst civil servants working in the places with the poorest pay or working conditions.

You want really good help, or just cheap taxes?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Taxes and wars

Normally, in the past, when there have been wars, there have been war taxes. Why is it that we spend trillions on a war, but everyone gets up in arms when the mention of additional taxes hits the airwaves. The republicans, who seem to be the most pro-war, are the first to scream, "no new taxes".

No one likes taxes, but you can't expect to wage an extremely expensive war, plus take care of all the problems this country has on the home front, by continuing to reduce taxes especially on the rich. I'm really sorry rich people, but guess what, taxing the poor doesn't bring in much money, because they don't have any. If you really believe this war is beneficial to your country you should be proud to pay the taxes necessary to its continuation.

Here's a thought; stop the war and use the money saved to improve our economy, increase job training, increase our focus on education, improve our scientific research base, our focus on alternative fuels, our infrastructure and bring our country back up to the forefront of industrial and scientific knowledge. In all the afformentioned topics, we are falling further and further behind the rest of the world.

So how do we stop the war? Simple. Reinstate the draft and impose a war tax! As soon as that happens, people will be out in the streets begging and demanding that the war be stopped. As long as the poor and lower middle class have to bear the brunt for most of the sacrifices made for this war, most people just don't care how long this stupidity goes on.

So raise taxes (especially on the rich), and reinstate the draft and we'll be out of this war in six months or less. We can then use that money to bring the U.S. back up to it's former educational and technological levels. The question is which is more important, the war or the condition of our country. Some will insist that the war is keeping us safe (of course I never see these particular people running out to inlist), but as we spend trillions over there, we allow our country to slowly disintegrate, and how does that keep us safe?

Does anyone remember the United Soviet Socialist Republic? Does anyone remember one of the reasons that government finally fell? It had to do with their obsession with military might and the fact that they put so much money into "protecting themselves" from the world that there really wasn't much left in the USSR to bother protecting. In other words the country fell from within first. A strong military is important, but not to the detriment of everything else.

It's time to reinvest in our country. Start up the draft. Let's face it rich people will do anything to avoid sending their children to war, add a war tax and the rich will be picketing in the streets against this war. Enough is enough, lets get out before it's too late.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I don't care what anyone else says, California is beautiful, the weather is wonderful, most of the people are friendly and except for the pizza the food is great.

By the way it won't fall off into the ocean, but the southwestern coast will continue moving north until we become part of Alaska. As long as Sarah Palin is gone by then it'll all be good.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I just spent an hour writing and decided to spare the world most of what I wrote. If anyone is interested in the long version and has lots of time let me know. That said, we have to decide in this country what we need from our teachers.

If we want them to; teach 35 kids (or more) at a time, be each child's surrogate parent, insist they have master's degrees or more, and take classes and workshops each year they teach (paying most of that out of their own pocket), expect them to pay for student supplies and materials with their own money, expect them to work through their lunches, tutor for free before after school, take home work in the evenings, weekends and summers, compete for their students attentions with IPODs, cell phones, etc, deal with attention spans of 15-30 seconds, poor behavior, idiot parents, unsporting administrators, and a society that places virtually no value on education, then you should be willing to pay them accordingly.

The US Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that the average teacher's salary is between 47,000 and 52,500 per year. If we want to pay our teachers less then we need to expect less from them. Most teachers got into the profession because they love children and want our communities to thrive. They believe that education and life long learning is the answer to the problems of our world, and that in order to have a prosperous, strong nation, we need intelligent, thoughtful citizens. Lately we put all the blame for poor test scores and unprepared students on the teacher's shoulders, with no accountability for the students, parents or communities. Yes, teachers are vital, but for learning to take place there must be a triangle of accountability. A teacher only has a child for a short period of time, and they can only do so much, especially when no one else is there to carry some of the weight.

My question is; do we really value education in this country? We give it a lot of lip service, but when it comes to putting our money and our efforts where our mouth is, we fall far short. We've made the teachers convenient scapegoats. Gee, when did teachers become so all powerful that they can correct the entire educational system themselves? Parents, students and communities, please get off your butts and focus on your kid's educations, because if you don't care about it why should an overworked, underpaid, under appreciated stranger?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Women and those that still hate them

I am still trying to contain my anger after seeing the news report about the woman in Iran who is to be stoned because of adultery.

How much longer can we as a species continue to treat women as animals, who we may kill or destroy simply because they do not behave in a manner to which we approve? Hell, animals receive better treatment in many cases. How much longer can woman be treated as property? It is not just a few places on Earth, even here in this country where we think we have equality we don't. Yes, it's not as pronounced or severe, but it's still there.

And yes I understand why an individual woman with few options or powers would stay in a relationship that is opressive and dangerous, because often they have no knowledge of anything better. My question is why do so many of us (women) still look upon our own gender as naturally corrupt, worthless or stupid. My daughter recently sent me a female classmate's views on motivation. In it this young lady mentions how woman are weaker because they can't control their emotions and men are stronger. I hate to break it to everyone, but many men and women both have trouble controlling their emotions. It's just that women usually show their emotions by getting frustrated or crying or acting silly or giddy. Men tend to show more violent emotions (even the positive ones), They scream or yell, stomp about or hit.Picture a winning teams fans as they spread out throughout the town knocking over cars and breaking windows. This is emotion out of control. I've never in my adult life felt the need to be violent to a person or object because I was happy. But because men rule most of the planet they can put value on their emotions, behaviors and habits and devalue ours, and create religions that keep women in their place, with the myth that we are weaker and must be submissive for our own good.

Not that it should matter, but this woman in Iran was beaten until she confessed and their is little proof to convict her. Also where is the man she supposedly committed adultery with? What is his punishment? How can a country believe that they should be allowed to have nuclear weapons when they still have a mindset from the middle ages?

I'm not sure how to change this, so if anyone has a great idea let me know. But what I do know is that we as women have to start protecting and standing up for each other, whenever we can. We need to teach our daughters that they and their feelings are just as important, as their brother's. We need to stop teaching our daughters that without a man or children in their lives they have no real value. We have to insist that men treat us as equals, and refuse to spend time with the ones that won't. Yes, things are better in this country than they were, but they are not yet equal, and they are far from better in many other places. We are still all slaves if even one of us is a slave.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Rise and fall

Anyone out there a student of history? I will admit that I should read more about history. Of course one must always remember that the history recorded is almost always that of the victor, or those currently in power. One of the reasons I have a hard time with people who take the bible, or for that matter any ancient text, literally is that humans tend to rewrite information as they see it during their own life and times. They seldom try to understand it from the viewpoint of the ones who lived it. So much of history, religious or political, has been rewritten, revised and fabricated so often that it becomes very hard to tell what is truth and what is fiction. Yet many will take this information and repeat it as if it were irrefutable fact. It will then be used to rationalize why we are allowed to treat certain people as less than human, or force people to live certain ways because according to our "history" that's the way it should be.

Does anyone ever stop to realize that other's views may just as viable as our own. Think about it, do the 'bad guys' (whoever they might be), think of themselves as bad people. Do Muslims sit around thinking that they are somehow evil because they don't believe in Christianity? Certainly Christians don't think that they are evil because they are not Muslims. What makes one viewpoint correct and all others wrong? Simply your perspective, or the perspective of the group you identify with. Growing up my father always proposed having an open mind, but when we got into arguments I discovered that I was allowed to open my mind as long as my views were the same as his.

Many people walk around thinking their minds are open, but as soon as a concept comes along that goes against their core beliefs their minds close rapidly. Opening your mind doesn't mean you have to agree with everything anyone else says. It means that you put your fears aside and listen, truly listen to other's ideas, without automatically shutting down. Keep in mind that today we live in a world that 50, 100, 1000 years ago would seem terribly wrong. Once keeping slaves (in some parts of the world still today) was acceptable. Once divorce was totally unacceptable. Today there are still wrongs that need to be righted, but there are still people who hold to conventions, because their parents did, or a book tells them it should be so.

If we really want to evolve into truly conscious, intelligent, forward thinking beings, we need to put aside our fears, our dogma and our preconceived notions and start looking at the world differently. There is a quote, "insanity is doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results". We keep trying to do the same things and they are not working anymore. It's time to realize that new is not always bad. That doesn't mean that every idea out there has merit, but I have found that sometimes there is a small kernel of truth in even the most harebrained idea. Perhaps if we can mine out the kernels we can build something amazing.