Friday, December 27, 2013

An Open Letter to Federal Judge William Pauley III

There are hardly words to express how appalling I find your ruling that NSA bulk spying is legal and constitutional.

I'm tempted to ask if you've been living in a cave.  If you've read anything about the NSA spying revelations from documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, you should have plainly seen that these programs are not about anti-terrorism, but about control and economics.  A private citizen doing what they've been doing would probably be accused of stalking, at the very least.

When you took office, did you not swear to defend our Constitution?  It seems that now you're intent on shredding it.  You seem to be disdainful of privacy.  Privacy is what makes our society and our democracy work.  It is vital for humans, for citizens! I think you've forgotten that you're supposed to serve us - "We, the People" - remember?

I, for one, am furious that the NSA is doing this.  I think of all of those tax dollars spent on spying when there are so many better uses for them.  I am furious that we are all considered targets - with no probable cause.  And I am furious that we're not all marching in the streets; don't people see through that "anti-terrorism" propaganda?

I hope that groups and individuals will stay strong and on the case.  We must let everyone know we are not in the least happy with what has been done in secret in our names. Shame on you for not standing up for the privacy rights of ordinary citizens; something even the U. N. is beginning to recognize.  Shame on you for buying NSA propaganda.  And shame on you for not standing up for our Constitution and laws.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Great Ruling

I'm somewhat buoyed by the ruling today by Federal Judge Richard Leon.  In it he says the bulk collection of phone record metadata by the NSA is more than likely unconstitutional - a violation of the 4th Amendment!

Here is a link to The Guardian article on this important story.  Judge Leon describes the technology involved as "almost-Orwellian."  He also expressed doubts about the efficacy of such a program.

Edward Snowden hailed the decision (see here), as have some in Congress and spokespeople for civil liberties groups. Add me to the list!  This is an important first step in regaining some sanity in to privacy practices.

But that's what it is, of course, a first step.  This case and others must work their way through the courts.  We, in the meantime, must continue to be vigilant, let them know we are still watching, and let them know we are looking for meaningful action on this.

Still today, hats off to a courageous Federal Judge.  God bless you and protect you. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

In Solidarity With Fast Food Workers

Today there were walkouts by fast food workers in many cities.  We need to stand in solidarity with them.  In the current economy, the wages most are now paid are just not enough to support families, let alone lift anyone out of poverty even if working full-time hours.  A single person would even barely get by.

Some unsympathetic people say these jobs were not designed to support families.  Well, maybe not. But with the economy the way it is, especially the lack of well-paying jobs, make such jobs the only option for some to support themselves and their families.  The minimum wage has not kept pace with inflation.  I'd really like to see some of those who reject paying these folks a living wage do these jobs for the minimum wage now being paid. I went through the comments at The Guardian's story on this.  I was pretty appalled at the way some commenters cast all kind of aspersions on the one lady interviewed and on other workers.  Oh, they're just not worth $15.00 an hour (and that was mild!).  Well, I stand with those who feel if you work full time, you should be able to support your family.  I also feel that raising the minimum wage would be beneficial to the economy, not detrimental.  If these workers have more disposable income, they can purchase more and not have to be subsidized by having to use food stamps and other aid programs.

To read about these latest protests you can visit either or both of these links:

1) the NPR story - including the news that McDonald's is buying a new corporate jet, and other links to some interesting data.  But beware of that free-market apologist I guess they felt they had to include

2) The Guardian story

Let's stand with these hard-working employees and protesters and start lifting each other up.  That should help us all in the long run.

UPDATE 12/10:

Oh my, it must be good to be a CEO - at McDonald's especially.  This story highlights 10 corporations whose CEO hourly pay tops average workers' pay by the highest ratios.  No wonder there's such a growing gap between the top 1% and the rest of us!

Rest In Peace, Mr. Mandela

We simply must take a moment to note the passing of Nelson Mandela, former Pres. of South Africa, fighter against apartheid, and architect of reconciliation.

He certainly led an extraordinary life.   He met his challenges with both courage and grace.  He led a full life, yet still his passing is not one anyone could really have been prepared for.  All over the world his passing has been met with not only grief and mourning, but also celebrations of his life and legacy.

ABC World News Tonight on their special broadcast said he truly changed the world.  Indeed.  He showed how individuals and groups can harness power and make positive changes.

Rest in Peace, Mr. Mandela. Take your rest knowing you will be missed and not forgotten.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ed Report

I suppose many of you readers have seen the media reports of the lackluster performance of U. S. teens in the latest International tests of Math, Science, and Reading (PISA Test).  The Guardian has a good overview here .

As a retired college math educator, I'm not surprised, unfortunately.  The lack of motivation on the part of some of my students reflected the problems we face in educating our students.  A teacher can run the most engaging classroom in the world, but if the student is not motivated to do homework and internalize the material, will learning take place?  Have we been focusing too much on "entertaining" the students that we're not giving them a thorough dose of material? 

And that's just the start of my questions!  I read somewhere that the results of poverty were similar to those of brain damage and that intense remediation is needed for those students.  With reports that so many students do live in poverty, I have to wonder if they're truly getting the type of remediation they need.  Parental involvement has also been shown to affect achievement.  Are we doing what we can to encourage that and provide students with educational role models when necessary?

Many educational critics have said that we're no longer emphasizing critical thinking.  I would have to agree.  Certainly we need training, but wouldn't the ability to think critically give us better employees, leaders, citizens in the long run? 

America must also truly support education.  We must show that we value learning and the intellect.  Dr. Henry Giroux was recently on the Bill Moyers Journal program.  He says we need to reclaim the value of the intellect (or something like that).  This page on his site has links to his online articles which you can read. I encourage you to do so.

More good reading on the subject can be found in Malcolm Gladwell's fine book, Outliers. He makes at least two good points:  1) Persistence was often related to excelling in math (now, if we can just get THAT through to the students!) and 2) schooling does work - but those at-risk students need more of it (good luck getting that accomplished on a large scale, though).

Some discussion can be made about the diversity/ inclusiveness of some participating nations' schools.  There might be a case that the U.S. has a more diverse/democratic educational system.  That doesn't mean we should be content or satisfied with where we're testing. I think we must view this as a challenge that requires a concerted effort to answer. My overall conclusion is that the schools cannot do this job alone.  We must as a nation seek to elevate our achievement and lift each other - especially our students - up.