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Friday, September 28, 2012

Washington food stamp challenge

If you didn't know, September is hunger awareness month. Where the effects of poverty on children, the elderly and the unemployed are once again largely ignored by the news cycle, and therefore largely ignored by a majority of the population. While it's not widely discussed, odds are that you may know someone who is suffering from hunger.

Studies have shown that 1 in 6, nearly 50 million Americans struggle to afford food. Even with help there are still families that have a very high food insecurity rate. 

(Data as of August 30, 2012)
Year Persons Households COSTS Per Person Per Household
FY 2011 44,708,726 21,072,113 71,810,991,227 133.85 283.99
FY 2010 40,301,878 18,618,436 64,702,164,628 133.79 289.60
FY 2009 33,489,975 15,232,115 50,359,918,853 125.31 275.51
"*" Includes disaster assistance which is notated for current fiscal year only.  Prior fiscal years may also include disaster assistance
Link to:  SNAP Disaster Response 
FY 2012 data are preliminary; all data are subject to revision.
This graph from the USDA website shows just how many people have enrolled in SNAP.Since 2009, 11 million Americans have been added to the roles. According to the census bureau in 2011 the poverty rate held on at around 15%, which is roughly 46 Million Americans who were living in poverty last year.

It's no coincidence that these two numbers are nearly identical. 

Since the recession formally ended, we've still had meager job growth, posting just over 100,000 jobs a month, as opposed to the last six months of the Bush administration when we lost 3.5 Million jobs. The job losses continued under President Obama until October 2010, when the economy began to add jobs again. 

The link between  unemployment, poverty, and hunger is absolutely unmistakable. One thing leads to another.

So with all of this evidence, why don't we see more being done to stamp out poverty and hunger? Surely the wealthiest country in the world has the means to solve the basic problem of food insecurity, right?

Sadly no; but it's not for lack of resources as we hear, but it's a lack of will.

It's also because it's easier to blame the victim instead of admit that our system is flawed and not doing enough to help people not only feed themselves, but to create jobs that pay a living wage.

We can do better.

It seems however that we are on a path to do worse. The latest spat in congress is over the Farm bill, which aims to cut food stamps by $16 Billion over the next ten years. Kicking 280,000 low income children off the free lunch program, reducing benefits to families by $90/month and throwing an estimated 3 Million people off the program entirely.

All of this is because of the conservative belief that people on food stamps are there because they want to be. As someone who is personally benefiting from the SNAP program, I can tell you it is not glorious, and not something I personally want to be on. 

My wife and I receive a total of $93 a month in SNAP benefits, though we are both unemployed full time students who are trying to get our associates degrees. 

Many conservatives will probably tell me to "get a job, bum." It's not easy, as I mentioned above there is a stigma about someone who is unemployed, even through no fault of their own. So getting a job is not an easy thing, believe me, not even the local Wal-Mart has ever given me a call back. 

There's also a stigma about being poor in general. Reagan's welfare queen attacks have turned falling on hard times as a sign of personal weakness, a flaw in character, a failure as a human being. There's an even bigger stigma to relying on assistance to survive. 

There is also a belief among many that people like me are living high on the hog. I just had a birthday yesterday. No presents, no cards, no cake. Just mac and cheese with a side of ramen, another normal day. And it's like that and worse for so many others. 

We need to do something more to get our elected leaders to do something, either by increasing benefits, or better yet creating good paying jobs and ending unemployment discrimination for the long term unemployed. A good job, with a living wage is something that should be in reach for everyone who wants one. 

We also need to stop with demonization of the poor. We need to stop the blame, and the hate, what good will it do to kick someone when they're down. 

Here's my idea. 

Everyone in Washington needs to do a food stamp challenge. I have created a petition at SignOn.Org to encourage the people in Washington to take part in the Food Stamp challenge to raise awareness and get the politicians to actually do something about this issue. 

Because there's no excuse for the richest country on Earth to have those who are going hungry.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Cost of Higher Learning

As a student I am painfully aware of the personal costs of paying for college. As someone who is low income, and hasn't had the benefit of being able to borrow money from my parents for college, I know what it's like to be staring at a mountain of future debt. unlike some people. I know many who are in my position, and have even graduated to end up not using the degree they worked so hard for, and paid so much for.

The Atlantic had an excellent article that spelled out the situation that many prospective college grads fear. It boils down to one question.

Will I be able to find a job when I graduate?

Now there a couple of points in that article I don't agree with, in that I don't think the degrees are worthless. Higher learning should never be considered worthless. Educational pursuits are what help create the thinkers, artists, and academics that are necessary for cultural advancement. But in this corporate consumer society those educational pursuits have been swept to the wayside in favor of careers in high finance.

 Credit:Mark Kantrowitz
There's obviously a great financial incentive to work for places like Goldman Sachs. This graph from the Huffington post shows the number of students that graduated with six figure debt.

But for those who are not good with numbers, or are not thrilled with the idea of working for high finance, or those whose careers have been impacted by the recession, these numbers are scary.

My wife's biggest fear, is graduating with her medical secretary degree, and not being able to find work, and not being able to afford the 20+ grand of student loans she alone has had to borrow. She's also afraid of being in default.
Credit: Yewon Kang/Medill

According to a study by the Department of Education, the national student loan default rate continues to rise. Along with the unemployment rate. In 2008 the default rate for students was up to 7.2%. That's up from 6.7% the year before, and 5.2% in 2006. This trend doesn't show any signs of changing.  As unemployment continues to stay more or less at the current rate for those with a Bachelors degree or higher, at least until the 2012 election is over, we will continue to see the default rate climb as more and more students, hoping to climb the income ladder, face tougher times.

One of the bigger drivers of debt, and default are the prevalence of for profit colleges. Places like Full Sail University that have given contributions to the Romney campaign, ITT Technical Institute, and University of Phoenix.These schools charge very high tuition amounts that force students, like myself to borrow from private banks who also lobby the government to keep Federal student loan money, flowing into their pockets. University of Phoenix, which is owned by the Apollo group, gave $75,000 to Mitt Romney's Super-PAC: Restore our future. While James Heavener, CEO of Full Sail, gave $85,000 to Restore our future. It's fair to note that Full Sails' co-chair Ed Haddock had also contributed $60,000 to Barack Obama's campaign in 2008, and John Sperling, founder of the Apollo group itself, has so far donated $47,800 to Democratic congressional races. Though the for profit schools are mainly backing Mitt Romney this time, it appears their influence will be felt no matter who is in charge.

Now onto my story:

It was 2004 when I decided to go to ITT Tech hoping to get my shiny new degree. I borrowed about $3,000 from a private bank to afford tuition, a *big* mistake on my part. Nearly a year into my education I lost my job, and couldn't find another. In the end I went into default. Working crappy job to crappy job for the next few years I paid when I could, but that wasn't often, so the interest rate nearly tripled my loan.
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of New York
Credit: Lam Thuy Vo/NPR

So here I am, $9,000 in private loan debt, that can't be refinanced, cannot be discharged, and due to my financial situation, cannot be settled. Because the banks own it.

But I'm not alone. NPR has some amazing statistics on just how much debt students have amassed nationally. It's huge. It even surpasses the much maligned auto bailouts, and even credit card debt.

So with all of this debt, and all of these defaults, one has to wonder if getting an education is really worth it? To that I say, Yes. Here's why: As the world gets more technologically advanced, the hard labor jobs will continue to disappear, in fact many have, either from technology or outsourcing. Even though manufacturing in America is making a comeback, many of those jobs are demanding skilled workers to fill them. Now I need to make an important distinction. Education doesn't mean going to a college specifically. Trade schools are also considered places of higher learning.

So even with all the problems, debts, and fears, I still believe education is the best path towards the middle class lifestyle. I am sure that with time and pressure, we can force our political establishment to look at the problems of rising tuition, debt, and default, as well as unemployment for grads, and unscrupulous debt collectors and challenge them to fix these glaring problems that face every prospective student, and graduate that has put in the time, money, and effort to try and better their lives.

And this isn't to say we can't find solutions. In many European countries education is cheap, In Norway it's even free. In 2010 Norway was named the top nation in the world for highest quality of life for an eighth year in a row. It's not surprising to see that countries that have publicly funded colleges are often ones with higher wages, and standards of living. These countries are great examples of the importance of education as well as how much more they value education. If America were to take a more European approach to education to reduce the debt and costs for students the return on investment would be an increase in economic activity. Students that graduate without a mountain of debt are able to start their lives sooner and do things such as buy house, start a family, and make more discretionary purchases of high value items.

Students who graduate with mountains of debt hold off on doing those things in an effort to pay those debts. Worse yet, are the students that graduate with triple digit debts and cannot obtain a career in their field, those people are left with few options other than being stuck in lower wage jobs, unable to participate in economic activities that spur job creation. They often become immobile, unable to start businesses and are ultimately only able to pay interest on those gigantic loan balances.

We have solutions available to us, and we have examples of what works and what does not work. All we need is the political will and pressure to be able to effect change on the establishment. It's a hard sell because  there are moneyed interests in Washington that are perfectly happy with the status quo, and they have the ability to buy our politicians.

But people power can win over corporate power. It just takes time.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Obamas new flag art: Is it wrong?

For the last few days I've been seeing Republicans pass around this image on Facebook. This is a flag print that the Barack Obama website is selling for $35. It's pretty simple as you can see, the rising sun logo and a 5 red stripes kind of shaped like the American flag.  Okay great, that's art. Except conservatives are throwing a fit about it. The "geniuses" over at wrote

"By now, we're pretty much used to this creepy, narcissistic cult of personality merchandise from Team Obama. But does this print violate the United States Flag Code, which clearly states in part:

The United States Flag Code establishes advisory rules for display and care of the flag of the United States. It is Chapter 1 of Title 4 of the United States Code (4 U.S.C. § 1 et seq). This is a U.S. federal law, but there is no penalty for failure to comply with it. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that punitive enforcement would conflict with the First Amendment right to freedom of speech.[1] 

This etiquette is as applied within U.S. jurisdiction. In other countries and places, local etiquette applies. 

The flag must not be marked with any insignia, letter, word, signature, picture or drawing."

Yeah Okay, sounds reasonable right? So Obama should obviously take it down. 

Except, that Barack Obama is not the first guy to do stuff with the flag. 

Image used from the Library of Congress:

How about another?

Image Found at

Well Shit!

Looks like two Republicans broke that rule. 

Using the flag as art, and as a campaign prop is nothing new, and is less of a "defacement" than Nixon's flag. This is just another way of Republicans trying to gin up anger towards the president while the Republicans in the Senate rejects jobs bills for vets.  Not only that but the article even shows that the Federal law isn't even enforceable!

"This is a U.S. federal law, but there is no penalty for failure to comply with it. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that punitive enforcement would conflict with the First Amendment right to freedom of speech."

So it's a law, but with no penalty, and would conflict with freedom of speech.

Just like flying the confederate flag is free speech, you don't hear an uproar over that!

My opinion, is that this is art, and it is free speech. If you don't like it, fine. That's your business, you're entitled to say it. But don't come and tell me how wrong it is, and how offensive it is to deface the flag this way when Barack Obama, a Democrat does it, but don't say anything when a Republican does the same exact thing. 

It's art, get the fuck over it.

All images subject to copyright: Links to the images are provided, if you have an issue with a copyright email me at and I'll take it down and provide a link instead.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Romney Tapes: The unraveling of a campaign.

It's been a couple of days since MotherJones released the secret Mitt Romney Tapes.

Holy shit.

These tapes provide a unique view into what Mitt Romney tells his donors and those close to him. The tapes,  a little over an hour in length (minus the 2 and a half missing minutes) is a Q & A session between Romney and his donors at a $50,000 a plate dinner in the mansion of private equity mogul, Marc Leder, (pictured right) located in Boca Raton Florida.

$50,000 a plate,man that's a middle class wage for an entire year, well not according to Romney.

During this little "elite" get together, Romney laid out his strategy for campaigning against Barack Obama. In the first clip that was released, Romney is seen and heard talking about what he thinks about nearly half the population:

"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a the responsibility to care for them, who believe that they're entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it. But that's, that's an entitlement, and that the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what. And I mean, the president starts off with 48,49-40-he starts off with a huge number. These are people who pay no income tax."

The contempt in this mans mind for nearly half the country is not surprising to me. Mitt Romney has been showing his true colors all throughout the campaign. Putting corporations above workers, hell even proclaiming that  corporations are people! His tax plans, give money to himself, and the rich at the expense of everybody else.  Usage of the phrases "You people", and "Those people" with such a dismissive tone. Not even having enough decency to put forward his plans for which loopholes he'd cut in the tax code to make his nearly impossible tax plan do what he promises it to do.

Even through all of this, I still can't quite say he hates the middle class, mostly because he has no idea who is even part of the middle class.

I can say this though, Mitt Romney, hates the poor.

Yeah, he hates us, as do some of his rich donor friends, not all of course. The person who took this video, and then released it (with the urging of James Carter the 4th, President Carters grandson, who did an interview on Current TV's, The Young Turks with Cenk Uygur) is one of those people who cared enough to let the American people know more about Mitts true self.

Kudos to you mystery person. America may just owe you one come November.

But back to Romney. His comments show a disdain for the poor and middle class, many of whom he needs to win this election.

Current TV has a great chart that breaks down the 47% of people Romney hates for paying no income taxes.

Seniors, those lazy bums. Workers who pay payroll taxes, get a job! err a better job! (maybe get into private equity like my friend Marc Leder) Students, people with disabilities, jobless people, pfft, stop dragging us down.

It's not like there isn't any jobs out there right...oh yeah...

Graph credited to The War Room w/Jennifer Granholm
With all kidding aside, this chart illustrates the types of people that shouldn't be paying income taxes anyway. Seniors have already paid their dues, workers who benefit from deductions like the Earned Income Tax Credit, which was bipartisan and championed by Ronald Reagan as; "the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress." And Students, like me who have very little money to begin with. As well as the disabled, who can't work and therefore do not earn income, and then the working poor, those with two or three part time jobs working to feed their families and still don't make enough.

Let's keep it real here, the reason Mitt Romney, and other conservatives want these people to pay more taxes, or receive less benefits is because they want to keep the money themselves. It is they who feel entitled. Entitled to more, more wealth, more power, more recognition, even the Presidency.

For Romney, a friend of mine shared a theory. He feels (and I agree) that Romney isn't interested in solving Americas problems or being a leader. He's doing it because that's the only thing left that he hasn't achieved. He's run a successful business (one built on bankrupting businesses through loading it up with debt and taking  that money through dividends.) he was Republican governor of a liberal state, (which was 47th out of 50 in job creation during his tenture) and a bishop of his church (not gonna touch that one) Oh yeah, and he's super fucking rich! He's done everything else he set out to achieve, except for this. The point my good friend was trying to make is that Mitt Romney doesn't believe in America, Mitt Romney believes in Mitt Romney.

He feels entitled to the presidency, just like everything else in his life, and that's why he hates the poor, because he feels entitled and projects what he feels onto them.

It's class warfare, and Romney's the one waging it.

There is so much more on the Romney tapes I'd like to get into. This weekend I will be speaking on a Google + panel called TYTCommunity about this very subject with some very smart, very well informed progressives. Check it out.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

How our Education system of today fails.

The discussion of education and poverty has heralded me back to a paper I wrote last year about how our 1960's style of education is robotic in nature. Poverty and Education are linked, those with better education arguably do better than those who have not. Lack of good education is a complex issue, and as such I could've written an entire book on all the different factors, but I instead focused on the way we teach. This is not a critique of teachers themselves, but the system in general, which I think needs major reform to adapt to the 21st century. This was my experience in my school growing up. Anyway, I'd like to share my paper with you all:

Of all the academic issues that plague adult learners today, the Robot Effect is one of the most troubling. What is the Robot Effect? It is simply put the turning of students into automatons whose only function is to absorb and then output data precisely as told to. It dehumanizes students, inhibits critical thinking and does not encourage problematizing. This begins during the formative years of K-12 and the effects can last a lifetime. The Robot Effect causes problems that are seen in the workforce today, as well as in higher education, because it enforces the didactic learning style which stifles creativity and innovation. A frame of reference is an idea that is discussed by Jack Mezirow, former university professor and author of the theory of “Transformative learning” states that; “Frames of reference are the structures of assumptions through which we understand our experiences” (8). The Robot Effect shapes our frame of reference negatively towards education and can be a block for those that could benefit from pursuing a college degree.
            When examining the Robot Effect, one must consider the cause, who it affects, when the effect is felt, and why it is a detriment to all who are exposed. The Robot Effect should be viewed negatively because it limits a person’s thinking by forcing students to learn the same way, which does not address the needs of the individual student, it also does not encourage real world type problem solving. It creates a generation of people who are easily replaceable in the workforce. The Robot Effect is caused from an outdated/overburdened and underfunded education based on a teacher student narrative of control. The Robot Effect hurts the workforce by creating an employee base that is unable to critically think and innovate. Innovation is at the heart of business. Every day new ideas are presented and old ideas are re-examined to see if we can improve on them. In these two areas people need to be able to “think out of the box” and innovate in order to come up with new interesting ideas. This is where the Robot Effect is a huge problem. Many who have learned this way lack the habits of mind required to think and innovate as well as be self-directed and independent. The result of this is people who are unable to cope with the business world of today.
            The ability to problematize is also essential today for new developments and innovations. The Robot Effect, however, is the antithesis of being able to problematize. Robots don’t innovate, robots don’t problematize, they only do what they are told exactly how they are told to do it. The system is flawed by not showing other/more different ways of thinking. This attitude is prevalent in K-12 education as you are told to answer questions a certain way and not deviate. There are some questions that have definitive, known answers: what color is the sky and what is the sum of two plus two? But not everything is so cut and dry, teachers don’t always tell you the fundamental ideas behind the color of the sky, or the concepts behind two plus two.  In the Robot Effect, it’s either right or wrong, 1 or 0, and yes or no.
This of course does not place the blame on the teacher; it is the system itself that is at fault. Paulo Freire, a Brazilian born (and later exiled) educator, references this by saying “Those who use the banking approach, knowingly or unknowingly (for there are innumerable well-intentioned bank-clerk teachers who do not realize they are only serving to dehumanize), fail to perceive that the deposits themselves contain contradictions about reality” (243). In fact there are many wonderful educators who are dedicated to opening up the minds and hearts of the student, but a student must also be self-directed to benefit from them. A good example of this is found in Mike Rose’s essay “Entering the Conversation” where Rose, a professor of social research methodology at UCLA, had a series of instructors who changed his frame of reference and taught him the skills to become a self-directed learner and broadened his abilities as a student. Teachers like the ones Mike Rose had are what free adult learners from the Robot Effect, using an idea known as “Transformative Learning” that was championed by Jack Mezirow. The “problem-posing” method offered by Freire is a similar approach to “Transformative Learning.”  “Problem –posing education bases itself on creativity and stimulates true reflection and action upon reality; thereby responding to the vocation of persons as beings who are authentic only when engaged in inquiry and creative transformation.” (249) In this quote from “Entering the Conversation” Rose shows that: “They liked books and ideas, and liked to talk about them in ways that fostered growth rather than established dominance” (108).Sadly, there are not a lot of students today who are able to find these types of liberal educators unless they enter higher education.   By that time, their frames of reference may be so jaded when it comes to education that they do not enter into the higher levels after K-12, or the didactic learning style is so comfortable to the student that he/she is unable or unwilling to branch out and become a cognitive self-directed learner.  Frames of reference are an important factor in education, and life in general, they shape our world and what we expect from it for example, if you have a negative experience with a math teacher you may end up with a bad attitude towards math in general, If you have a negative experience in K-12, you may not wish to continue education after.
A major issue within the Robot Effect is the idea of control. There are rules built into today’s education systems that encourage the use of dominance and control over a student. The teacher has the knowledge, the student has nothing, the teacher has the voice, the student must stay quiet, and the teacher can punish you, even take away your property, and give you detention, the equivalent of serving time in the jail system for minors. The teacher effectively uses these tools to dominate the class so that the students do what they are told. Paulo Freire can be tied into this idea of dominance when it comes to adult education and the workforce. In one of his pieces “The Banking Concept of Education.”, Freire uses the idea of the banking system as a form of control, where the instructor controls the classroom, establishes dominance over the student, and inputs knowledge he or she believes is most important for the student to have. Not only that, but the instructor also attempts to get all of the students to see only the frame of reference presented. This is a lot like a factory, a place where I’ve spent quite a number of years working at, where being a didactic learner is most useful. The idea that was drilled within our heads as a machine operator was that the machine does not make mistakes. It is the operator that is at fault, and so long as you (the operator) follow instructions to the letter, you will have a perfect part all the time. The issue here is that actual robots have become a commonplace staple within the factory, so why would we continue to educate in a way that creates human robots for manufacturing careers when actual robots can do it better, and more cheaply?
The Robot Effect causes harm to the people within it by making them think in an obsolete kind of way and tailoring them for careers that are being automated, therefore the worker himself is becoming obsolete. This leads to a disparate workforce who are unable to work in the field they were best at, and unable to learn new skills and new ways of thinking to be able to work in other fields that require the worker to be a critical thinker. In his essay “Transformative Learning” “Jack Mezirow references the “Key Competencies for workforce preparation identified by the Australian government, employers, and academics include analyzing information, communicating ideas, planning and organizing activities, using mathematical ideas and technology, working in teams, solving problems and using cultural understandings” (8).” None of these competencies are really taught by the Robotic style of learning, therefore students going into these types of workplaces after K-12 are not prepared for them, instead they require a college education that many cannot, or will not be able to enter into. 
There is another, more personal issue involved in the Robot Effect, it is the fear of becoming self-directed, of throwing off the shackles of didactic learning, and no longer being a receptacle of knowledge as Freire would put it. It is fear that can stop many adults from entering higher education. They look back into the experiences of K-12 and think of being told that they were wrong when they had a different idea, or that they were not smart because they learned differently than was expected, and therefore developed the frame of reference that they could never make it college. Mike Rose referenced this fear of education, “And my fears of science and mathematics prevailed: Pereira hall, the math and engineering building, seemed and unfriendly mirage, a malevolent castle floating in the haze of a mescaline dream “(99). To many adults this is how a college appears. It is not just those who choose not to go to college, but even those who are in college are affected by the fears from didactic learning.
To succeed one must become a self-directed learner, but fear of looking stupid in front of your peers and your instructor comes from the experience of being told that you’re wrong in K-12 can stop an adult learner from participating much like the story of Mike Rose and how his frustrations often discouraged him. Also the lack of communication between student and teacher during K-12 can also hurt the adult learner because they cannot create a dialogue where the students’ ideas are heard. Consequently in higher education many students do not attempt to communicate their ideas as they draw upon their frames of reference of what a classroom is supposed to be, as shown to them in the K-12 environment. The K-12 environment according to Freire is one of narration. “This relationship involves a narrating subject (the teacher) and patient listening objects (the students)” (240). The fear created from this relationship is an inhibiting factor when it comes to getting the most out of higher education. Mezirow states that in a successful classroom “The educator functions as a facilitator and provocateur rather than an authority on subject matter.”(11) That currently is not the case in K-12 and we have the Robot Effect to blame. Robots do not engage in dialogue with their programmers, nor do robots even have ideas to communicate. Another fear that adult learners contend with due to the Robot Effect is the fear of questioning the teacher, the teacher known for his dominance over the classroom in K-12 is portrayed as someone who cannot be questioned, and someone who can punish you for questioning them. It is this fear that rules the classroom. Just like a robot, a student cannot question its master.
An important aspect of the Robot Effect is the dehumanization of the student. When a student is dehumanized the very core of who they are is taken away, objectifying them.  Mezirow states that “A defining condition of being human is that we have to understand the meaning of our experience. For some, any uncritically assimilated explanation by an authority figure will suffice. But in contemporary societies we must learn to make our own interpretations rather than act on the purposes, beliefs, judgments, and feelings of others” (5). Freire agrees with this approach in that humanization states that; “people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality , but as a reality in process, in transformation.” (248) The Robot Effect opposes that defining condition and serves to dehumanize by empowering a single authority figure to explain everything you’ll ever need to know about education. A student who is dehumanized will still have ideas, thoughts, feelings but they will not be acknowledged and because of that, their frame of reference changes into one where they know their thoughts and ideas are not heard and therefore not valued. When in a classroom those who are dehumanized become disillusioned and angry at the education system and can act out or choose to no longer pursue an education as an adult. Dehumanization in K-12 leads to the assumption of being dehumanized in higher education, and in workforce too.
In education there are those who forge ahead with learning, who are not content with being simple receptacles. These people are not overachievers; they are people who are taking an active role in their education. They are the self-directed learners. Being a self-directed learner means that you as a student are the one who is most involved with your success, the burden falls to you when it comes to being successful. People tend to go the way of least resistance, and they tend to blame all but themselves when something goes wrong. Being a self-directed learner puts the work in the students’ hands, as well as the blame. The fear of doing the work and taking all the blame makes the didactic style of learning an attractive alternative for many; it’s also familiar and therefore comfortable since we all grew up with the didactic learning style. Taking your education into your own hands is risky, it’s much easier to become a receptacle as Freire puts it, and it’s easier for the teachers of K-12 who have overloaded classrooms and unruly students. For the adult learner it’s easy to get set in their ways and be afraid of change and doing what is ultimately best for them.
The Robot Effect affects the workplace by creating a workforce that is unable to innovate, critically think, and problematize. It has the effect of displacing workers who only know how to take information and follow it exactly with robots that are more efficient, cost less and usually perform perfectly. The Robot Effect also creates the problems in adult education by giving students a negative connotation of education, which is based on a teacher to student narrative resulting in a classroom where few students participate because of the fear of being told they are wrong just for seeing things from a different perspective than the instructor. Finally the Robot Effect creates the fear of taking education into your own hands due to spending 12 years of school being told to think a certain way, listen to the teacher, never question anyone in charge, and that your ideas do not matter. Then there is the fear that taking your education into your own hands is too big of a risk to take. Compounded by the fear of failure, as referenced by Rose, is why the Robot Effect is so dangerous. This is why something must be done to K-12 education so that our future workers, and adult learners, do not have to struggle to learn to think for themselves.

Works Cited
Rose, Mike. Lives on the Boundary: The Struggles and Achievements of America's Underprepared. N.p.: n.p., 1989. 93-108. Print.
Freire, Paulo. Education for Critical Consciousness. N.p.: n.p., 1973. 240-51. Print.
Mezirow, Jack. Transformative Learning: Theory to Practice. N.p.: n.p., 1991. 5-11. Print.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Romney Takes Advantage of The Libyan tragedy

I want to start by expressing my condolences to the Ambassadors family, and the staffers who were killed during the Libyan embassy attack. It was a cowardly and shameful attack against innocents by ultraconservative Muslims.

This attack was the result of anger due to an anti-Islamic film directed and produced by a man named Sam Bacile. A 52 year old real estate developer, according to Wall Street journal Bacile told them that "he made the film to portray Islam as a hateful religion" Also saying that "Islam is a cancer."

Isn't trashing someone else's Religion also hateful?

How much do you want to bet that this guy watches Fox news?

I'm not defending the extremists here, violence is violence, no matter who perpetrates it. I'm just saying Mr. Bacile shouldn't have been surprised that there was violence, we've seen this before.

As an Atheist myself I think it's really sad that people fight and kill over religion at all.

Anyway, after the attack the president issued this statement:

"I strongly condemn the outrageous attack on our diplomatic facility in Benghazi, which took the lives of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. Right now, the American people have the families of those we lost in our thoughts and prayers. They exemplified America's commitment to freedom, justice, and partnership with nations and people around the globe, and stand in stark contrast to those who callously took their lives.
I have directed my Administration to provide all necessary resources to support the security of our personnel in Libya, and to increase security at our diplomatic posts around the globe. While the United States rejects efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others, we must all unequivocally oppose the kind of senseless violence that took the lives of these public servants.
On a personal note, Chris was a courageous and exemplary representative of the United States. Throughout the Libyan revolution, he selflessly served our country and the Libyan people at our mission in Benghazi. As Ambassador in Tripoli, he has supported Libya's transition to democracy. His legacy will endure wherever human beings reach for liberty and justice. I am profoundly grateful for his service to my Administration, and deeply saddened by this loss.
The brave Americans we lost represent the extraordinary service and sacrifices that our civilians make every day around the globe. As we stand united with their families, let us now redouble our own efforts to carry their work forward."
Fairly standard, quite respectful, and immediately attacked by Mitt Romney.
Has he no shame?
Even other Republicans are distancing themselves from Mitt Romney's attacks. How do you even blame a sitting president for something like this? Romney called the presidents handling of the situation "Disgraceful" but what's really disgraceful is using a tragedy like this to score political points.
Romney's campaign is desperate, flailing, and like a cornered animal it attacks indiscriminately. 
Since the convention Obamas numbers have been slowly rising, while Mitts post convention bump has fallen flat. 
I think it's only going to get nastier as November draws near and as Romney falls behind in the polls. With all the money behind him I see a waterfall of even more negative ads and attacks coming in the next two months. 
It's going to be a very cold campaign season.

Romneys tax plan "He wont say."

The Obama campaign has come out with a great new ad hitting Romney about his tax returns, as well as his lack of transparency regarding his tax plan.

This Obama ad, called "He wont say" is actually the kind of ammunition the Obama campaign should be using to defeat Romney's presidential bid. Obama has been running the kind of campaign that has pulling no punches, which is great.

Liberals have had a long history of trying to be the better man, but no where does it say that being the better man doesn't involve swinging the sledgehammer of truth. I don't think anyone can deny that Romney has been waging a really dirty campaign. With ads that blatantly lie, such as the famous Welfare ad which is a huge distortion of a law president Obama had signed granting waivers that allow states to come up with new ways to increase employment, but only if they have a 20% increase in employment.

But facts never get in the way of a good lie.

Even more brazen is the way in which the Romney campaign doubles down on lies. Even so far as to say that "We will not be dictated by fact-checkers"

So let's contrast a bit here. Obama releases ads that are honest, if not a little unfair sometimes.

But Romney, not only releases completely false attacks, but when fact checkers point out his hypocrisy, he yells Liberal media bias and then doubles down.

And then there's the issue of Romney's tax returns, which he still refuses to release. Just the fact that we know more about the Higgs Boson particle then Mitts taxes is a little bit disturbing. There's a reason that he is hiding his returns, or more than one.

I think that if you're running to be President, we should have transparency, we should know what he does with his money. If he really believes a businessman should be a president, then why not follow the same standards as a business does when hiring someone new. Releasing tax returns is like the presidential version of a credit check, or even a criminal background check. It's also a measure of patriotism, someone who doesn't even believe in America enough to store his money here is not a patriot in my opinion.

Which leads me to say that Mitt doesn't care about helping Americans, he only cares about himself. His tax plan, which doesn't even add up unless you completely decimate the poor and middle classes, is all about using his position to enrich himself further.

We can only speculate on his plans because just like his Tax returns he is simply not giving any details about which deductions he'll eliminate to give those massive tax cuts for himself.

Just like a vulture he plans to let the Paul Ryan budget kill the middle class and then feast on the corpse with tax cuts that shift the burden to everyone but the super rich.

The man makes me sick.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

9/11 and the wars that followed: Lessons of the past

Today is the anniversary of a very heinous attack on American soil. One that killed three thousand innocent Americans and set us on a path to war. This path has cost America dearly, in blood and treasure. This singular event not only launched us into a brutal ten year long war that still rages, but for a time it also brought us together as a nation, for awhile we were not red or blue, Democrat or Republican, we were America, and we were all in pain. From that pain came many things, things we don't all agree on, things that were necessary and those that were not. So what lessons have we learned from 9/11? Whether right or wrong these lessons need to be explored, some still need to be learned, and others, unlearned.

Before I do that I want to share my story of 9/11.

I was 17, in a small town High School in the middle of nowhere, my drive home included corn fields on either side of a main road, as well as occasionally sharing it with a tractor or an Amish buggy. New York City was a far away dream for many of us in this little conservative town. Like all of you around my age I am sure the day started as normal, talking with your friends before class, figuring out your day plans, making sure you have enough change for a candy bar to go with your lunch. It was just going to be a normal day.

But then it stopped being normal.

The first thing I noticed was an aide turning on one of the news channels before the start of class, which was unusual to say the least. The picture showed a large building with smoke pouring forth. We all started talking amongst ourselves, wondering what in the world was going on. For the first 10 minutes of class we watched as the news reporters began to piece together what happened.

And then our teacher shut off the TV.

He then attempted to continue with the lesson despite our protests with no success. It was another aide who then whispered something to him, which caused him to stop the lesson for the day and turn on CNN. I immediately saw why, A second plane crashed into the other tower. We also learned that the Pentagon had  been hit as well, it was then that it really sank it, we had just been attacked.

There was a collective outrage, as well as a sadness, and a time where we all stood together to honor the fallen of a then seemingly random, senseless terror attack. It wasn't till a few months later, when Al-Qaeda, and more prominently Osama Bin Laden took full credit for it.

Then came the calls for war.

War with Afghanistan. I remember hearing many of friends, join the chorus of calling for war with the Taliban for harboring Bin Laden.We all wanted to get the ones responsible,we all wanted to see the dead avenged. A couple of my friends even joined the military, though none that I know of ended up in Afghanistan. My uncle however, did serve there, he regularly sent us pictures, one of which was him disarming old Soviet mines.

Unlike many, I have not personally served, nor have I had any personal losses from the war.

Because of that, I count myself extremely lucky.

Many were not so lucky.

Not even one year after the invasion of Afghanistan, and the overthrow of the Taliban, we hadn't yet found Bin Laden, and President Bush seemingly no longer cared. In a famous 2002 interview Bush told reporters regarding Osama Bin Laden “I truly am not that concerned about him. I am deeply concerned about Iraq.” “I really just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you,”

Instead of focusing on Bin Laden, we headed into another war, this time with Iraq. A war that had nothing to do with 9/11, or terror, or Bin Laden. In fact he seemed to forget about Bin Laden, and Al-Qaeda while going after Iraq. Our forces even had him at Tora Bora, and we let him go.

It wasn't until President Obama had come into office that we really started to go back to finishing what we started in Afghanistan, going after Bin Laden. While Romney, in 2007 sounded a lot like Bush by declaring that “It’s not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person.”

President Obama disagreed

So with Bin Laden gone, the war in Iraq over, and the war in Afghanistan winding down, what have we learned?

We've learned that both sides have politicized 9/11.

Some of you may even accuse me of politicizing 9/11 by writing this.

We've also learned that war is costly, we've spent trillions of dollars on, two wars, one of which was in my opinion completely unnecessary, and the other, well maybe we could have found a better way to get Osama and Al-Qaeda. Another thing we've learned is that the War on Terror, will continue without a foreseeable end. We've learned that many of us will give up some of our freedom in return for safety.

We've also learned that this war has taken a huge toll on troops, that more of our soldiers die from suicide than in combat. And that our combat veterans have been hit hardest by the recession. We've learned that our VA system is behind as it pertains to taking care of our Veterans, but is slowly improving.

Not all the lessons we've learned are bad. We've learned that so many Americans gave up their plans and their lives to fight for the country they love. We've learned that for every soldier that comes home, there is a support network of good people and organizations waiting to help them.

We've also learned that support for the lives of our fighting men and women transcends politics. Many of us, including me want to end the wars to protect our soldiers, and we don't care whether or not they're Democrat or Republican, we just want them to come home.

We've learned a lot in 11 years, not all of it good, not all of it bad, but we still have to learn to deal with the new reality of a post 9/11 world, and do our best to not make the same mistakes of the past. We need to learn  how to work together in this world with other people, other countries, and not go to war so easily. We need to learn how stop getting into conflicts that we don't know how to get out of. We need to learn how to respect other cultures, and religions, and to stop being suspicious of others because of the color of their skin, or what they wear. We need to learn how to trust again, not just others but ourselves, other Americans. We need to learn to stop the us vs them mentality that has dominated not only our politics, but our lives for the past 11 years.

We need to learn how to be us again.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The House of No: Exploring GOP Obstructionism

With the election less than two months away the Republican party has been hitting President Obama on the jobs numbers repeatedly. Despite having 28 months of consecutive job growth the unemployment number is still over 8%. Though there has been growth it's not where it should be, and definitely not where it could be. Last week during his speech at the DNC, the president laid out his case for reelection as a choice, countering the Republican strategy of making this election a referendum on the Presidents economic record. While making his speech President Obama made the argument that we are not done yet, and that if we choose him again, he can finish his work of fixing the economy. What was strangely absent was the red elephant in the room. The Republican obstructionism that has sought to stymie every effort to ease the suffering of the everyday American. The plan to stop Obama at any cost.  Mitch McConnell said it best.
Since declaring this to be his, and the Republicans top priority, it's no surprise that we have seen no action, no attempts, no bills to help spur job creation since the passage of the much maligned stimulus. Which oddly as Rachel Maddow points out many whom have asked for and benefited from, even VP pick Paul Ryan. Every bill that would be used to help the American people, is shot in the Senate, not even proposed in the House. Instead of crafting bills to help people underwater on their mortgages, or investing in infrastructure that would create jobs, Republicans instead focused on...abortion.
So jobs bills no, anti-abortion bills yes. So how could the party of Lincoln go out of its way to stop the economic recovery just to make the president lose in November? It's partly political, the right wing is banking on the idea that they can trash the economy and then blame it not only the president, but on the Democrats too. Former President Bill Clinton said it best in his speech "In Tampa, the Republican argument against the president's re-election was pretty simple: we left him a total mess, he hasn't cleaned it up fast enough, so fire him and put us back in." 
It's also personal. From attacking his character, his values, his patriotism, and even his place of birth. The Republicans have painted him as an enemy of the state. It may be great politics, and it sure does a great job at ginning up the base, but it makes it impossible to govern. 

It's because of this radical demonization of an actually centrist governing president, who's core legislative accomplishment, health care reform, was a Republican think tank hatched idea that was implemented in Massachusetts under then Governor Romney! Since the right wing news, spearheaded by Fox news and radio pundit Rush Limbaugh have compared Obama to Hitler and Stalin, it makes it pretty hard for any Republicans in Congress to back any idea endorsed by the President, regardless of if it's a good idea, or one they came up with. 

Republicans have literally painted themselves into a corner, if they work with Obama, the base, who believes all the bile spewed by the right wing media will primary them so fast their heads will spin. The result is that moderate Republicans, true fiscal conservatives and those who actually want to govern, either can't, or they get chased out of the party.

The GOP is backed into a corner, where the only option is to say No to everything until they win, regardless of who it hurts. Though I think it's ultimately going to backfire onto them, the only questions are when, and how much damage will they do the country until then?

This is why I now dub the Republican controlled house, "The house of No."