Brief Update and Two Recommended Posts

Shortly (I hope) I’ll be announcing a new education blog related to my nonprofit.  In the meantime I’d like to recommend two exceptionally insightful posts…

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Why We Don’t Trust Our Political System

Unqualified dynasty relics can snag an office by doing political favors.

Corrupt politicians who maybe possibly might be impeached someday for trying to sell a senate seat, can easily find someone sad and greedy enough to nominate.  And the Senate can’t do a thing about it.

Even the most exciting and inspirational politician to come along in a generation slinks back into the status quo before he even takes his oath of office.

Criticizing politicians for blatant racism can damage your political career even as it boosts the prospects of the racist.

Our tax dollars are sent to rabidly anti-gay-rights theocrats convinced Halloween and Harry Potter lead to Satanism.

The government is willing to spend billions to send us deeper into debt to fund war and large corporations, supposedly to safeguard our future.  Politicians are equally eager to gut public schools and trash our future intellectual capital.

Patents stifle rather than protect and encourage innovation, to the point that insanity seems plausible.

A white militia murdered black people in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  The details are only now coming out, and the liklihood of a criminal investigation seems unlikely.

A Bush aide scheduled to give evidence about election fraud in 2004, among aother Bush misdeeds, dies in a plane crash.  Media coverage and criminal follow-up is minimal.

A lot of people are optimistic about 2009.  I can’t share in that optimism, but I am fired up.  How can I not be?

Fox, The Simpons, Family Guy and Rape: WTF?

Being a fan of Family Guy, I read this piece from Jessica @ feministing back in October:

The most recent episode, I Dream of Jesus, featured this conversation with Peter and a waiter (Peter is trying to get the waiter to give him a jukebox record he likes):

Peter: Can I have that record? I love that song. I’ll let you have sex with my daughter…

Waiter: I don’t know…let’s see what your daughter looks like.

P: She’s…uhh…(pans past Meg to “hot” girl)…right there!

W: Ok, I’ll do her. But can you tell her to cry and beg me to stop?

P: I think that can be arranged.

And this isn’t the first time the show has made light of violence against women. Usually, I’d consider Family Guy one of my (Un)Feminist guilty pleasures, but I think I have to cut the show off completely. Sigh.

More below the fold (warning, possibly triggering):

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Unemployed for A Year

The NYPost has an upbeat article about the laid off banker who found a new job after walking the streets with a sandwich board proclaiming “MIT Grad for hire” (emphasis mine):

An out-of-work banker who became a symbol of the looming financial crisis by trudging Manhattan streets wearing a sign advertising “MIT grad for hire” has landed on his feet – scoring a well-paying job at an accounting firm.

In a more hopeful sign of the times, Joshua Persky got rid of his sandwich board and demonstrated that creative people can bail themselves out without any help from the government.

With a little over half a million unemployed in NY State (Figure for October 2008), a single white collar job for a banker is far from the positive proof the NY Post’s tone suggests (emphasis mine):

Persky was hired as a senior manager for Weiser as of last week, just about a year after he was laid off by the investment bank Houlihan Lokey and some six months after he started handing out his résumé to passers-by on Park Avenue.

This guy was out of work for a whole year.  After 6 months of presumably conventional attempts to secure a new job, Joshua Persky switched to an approach hailed by his new boss as “very innovative”.  This innovative new tact took 6 more months to land him his next gig.

Fire up a spreadsheet program and take a look at your own finances.  How many of you could live for a whole year without income?

His wife and youngest kids, 4 and 5, had moved to her parents’ home in Nebraska to save cash. But they’ll be returning to New York after the end of the school year.

Imagine adding a family to that equation minus relatives to house them.

Don’t get me wrong, we could all use some good news, whether its about an individual’s triumph or a strengthening economy.  But making this guy’s story out to be some sort of fiscal conservative fairy tale about merit paying off despite tough times is disingenuous.

Indentured Students

Everything old is new again at the Boston Globe.   Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow writes:

The next thing in student loans: Investors pay your bills. You give them a share of your future:

The result is an innovative way to think about paying for higher education. The idea, sometimes called human capital contracts, is that investors agree to cover the costs of college or graduate school in return for a percentage of the students’ future earnings over a fixed period of time. Since payments are scaled to wages, the odds of default – and of financial hardship for the graduate – are greatly reduced. This scheme transfers much of the risk from students to investors. But if the students earn handsomely, the investors stand to gain more than they would under a traditional loan.

This forms a relationship of debt between the student and the investor, allowing investors to profit off the labor of several students in exchange for giving them access to higher education.  Rather than an innovative stroke of economic genius, it is an odious jerry-rigging of a broken education system to further cement the idea that education, a public service, is in fact a private commodity.

The contracts could offer a new way for students and their families to handle the burden of postsecondary education bills. In recent years, rising tuition costs, combined with limits on federal loans, have increasingly forced students to resort to private loans, which have markedly higher interest rates. The challenges of paying for college promise to intensify during the economic downturn. Disruptions in the credit market have caused turmoil for student borrowers, while diminished endowments may force many colleges to jack up tuition rates even higher. Constraints on the federal budget will limit the options of President-elect Obama and the next Congress, regardless of their plans to aid students.

What we should question is why higher education isn’t provided to the public like k-12.  Now that would be an innovative investment.

Virginia November 4th

Today Virginia Feels Blue:

As I write this I can hear beeps from cars passing Obama volunteers with signs.  The response has been enormously positive, with only a stray middle finger or scowl from an old McCain/Palin supporter to suggest they even exist.  When I went to vote, I saw about 8 Obama volunteers next to one McCain/Palin volunteer.  Since I went at lunch, there was no line (although we did have a bit of confusion about where in the library to vote, at one point I joked perhaps either the nonfiction or the large print aisles were the spot to be).

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Buyer’s Remorse on McCain

As the race tightens, Alexander Mooney over at CNN Political Ticker speculates voters who have not yet voted may be experiencing a kind of buyers remorse:

“It’s possible that McCain will continue to close the gap over the final few days of the campaign,” said CNN Senior Political Researcher Alan Silverleib. “Presidential elections often tighten up at the end, especially if there’s not an incumbent on the ballot. Voters sometimes experience a degree of ‘buyer’s remorse’ before settling on a new president.”

That doesn’t sound like buyer’s remorse to me.  It sounds like undecided voters still swinging.

Now this on the other hand (via Jesse Taylor at Pandagon), sounds like real buyer’s remorse (Iowa State Daily):

Elborno said even McCain supporters were among those being asked to leave.

“I saw a couple that had been escorted out and they were confused as well, and the girl was crying, so I said ‘Why are you crying? and she said ‘I already voted for McCain, I’m a Republican, and they said we had to leave because we didn’t look right,’” Elborno said. “They were handpicking these people and they had nothing to go off of, besides the way the people looked.”

Do Republicans who support the attacks on our constitutional rights cry when those same policies come back to bite them in the ass?  Do they experience shock, or buyer’s remorse?  I wonder if it is the latter.

Who do you know who buys a crappy used car from a shady dealership, and after going into debt trying to fix it (and getting hurt when the airbags failed to deploy) goes back to the same damn dealer for an older model?