Archive for the ‘Common sense’ Category

Public Schools Are A Lot Like Prison   Leave a comment

Image result for image of school as a prisonThe other day, Kiernan and some friends of his were talking about being bullied in school. For Kiernan, this was a while ago. He made it stop by breaking the law. The kid was actually bullying Kiernan’s friend because he is an Eskimo. Kiernan and Tim walked off campus, let the bully follow them and then Kiernan socked the kid in the nose. He knew we’d have his back, union legal insurance all greased up, if necessary. The parents of the kid he socked didn’t call the cops, so I guess the kid learned his lesson … as did the bully I hit in the head with my metal lunchbox back in the third grade … only in that case the cop took one look at how little I was compared to how big the boy (who was picking on the littler kids I’d been asked to walk home) was and told Colin Cooper’s parents they needed to discipline their son or he’d do it for them. A different era when common sense was still common enough not to be a unicorn.

So while Kiernan and his friends were talking, our friend Lee remarked to Brad “Sounds like prison.” Lee would know. He spent four years in Alaska’s prison system 20-odd years ago. He’s willingly shared his stories with me and they’re becoming part of What If … Wasn’t, my literary fiction that still needs a lot of work. He and his wife home school their four children. Their son just won a full-ride academic scholarship to college having never attended public school, so this may have been the first time Lee became aware of school bullying.

In prison, some prisoners bully other prisoners. Why? Because they can and because in a setting where you have no control of your life, it feels good to put your foot on someone else’s neck, if only for a few minutes, knowing that you won’t get into any real trouble because your victim is as powerless as you are.

Welcome to public school. Like prisons, nobody is there voluntarily. They have no control over their lives in a top-down authoritarian structure. So why not have the pleasure of feeling a little power over someone else who can’t fight back because it’s against the rules? If they even report it, they’ll make themselves look like a wimp and, truth be told, the administration won’t do anything to you that might be worse than being forced to stay inside on a lovely fall day.

Children who are bullied in school have very few choices and very little recourse. Required by law to attend an assigned public school, many children and their parents have few options to withdraw from a bullying scenario. Some parents will look for alternative schooling options for their bullied children, like private schools, charter schools, online schools, or homeschooling, but for many families, these choices are not available or accessible.

In those cases, bullied children must endure daily battering that would be criminal if inflicted on adults. Is it any wonder that we have a rising suicide rate among children? In fact, according to the CDC, the suicide rate among 10- to 14-year-olds has doubledsince 2007.

Wounded By School author Kirsten Olson refers to bullying as “an expression of the shadow side of schooling.” She writes:

If we create school systems in which compulsion, coercion, hierarchy, and fear of failure are central features of the academic experience, and essential to motivating and controlling students, then the energy from those negative experiences will seek expression.”

Placing people in environments where they have little freedom and control can trigger bullying behaviors; and if those who are being bullied can’t freely leave, then hostility may continue indefinitely.

Yeah, we talk a lot about how to “bully-proof” children and how to help students who are victims of bullying. We trot out policies, plans and professional development programs for dealing with bullying.

Most of these are well-intentioned, but they ignore the central issue. Bullying exists due to a compulsory schooling environment that mandates attendance, eliminates freedom, and limits the ability to opt-out. Until that issue is addressed, no amount of reading, policy-making, teacher training, and “bully-proofing” is going to stop bullying from occurring.

The best way to avoid bullying in schools is to question compulsory attendance laws, expand education choice, and create learning environments that nurture childhood freedom and autonomy. We wouldn’t tolerate bullies in our adult lives. Why do we expect our children to?

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Posted August 25, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense

Thought for the Day   Leave a comment

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, text

America’s Color Revolution   Leave a comment

I’m starting to really wonder what’s going on.

Image result for image of United States color revolutionJason Kessler, the organizer of the August 12th alt-Right march in Charlottsville, VA, used to be an Occupy Wall Street organizer. He claims he’s changed his mind, but it’s well-known by those who study fringe groups, that the neo-Nazi groups have been thoroughly infiltrated by Department of Justice agents. Does that mean the march was planned by undercover agents for a reason that hasn’t been stated? You could wonder … which I do.

On the other side, who organized the masked, club-wielding Antifa counter-protesters? It’s not a spontaneous movement. Among the organizers is the Revolutionary Communist Party.  Check out their website because it’s important to know what these folks believe and what they want.

RevCom is planning a series of marches starting in November (the 100th year anniversary of the Russian Revolution, btw) with the goal of forcing the removal of the Trump administration … and not just President Trump, but Vice President Pence and the Cabinet. That is, of course, unconstitutional, but yes, THIS is a constitutional crisis because it would set aside the established electoral process that we as a country have followed for 250 years.

In reading through RevCom’s website, I was struck by their goals. They want people to go out and throw bricks, beat people up and set things on fire because they want to replace the democratic republic of the United States with a communist junta. Among their ideas is to segregate the Southeast part of the country as a black-only state. Any remaining white people in that zone would have no rights. Which is one reason they want to tear down the statues and monuments now, because communism always seeks to control history.

So other weird things that I am just wondering about.

Rumor has it that the guy who drove the car was a schizophrenic and a big-time Hillary Clinton supporter. I used to work with schizophrenics. With the right words, you can manipulate them to do things that they wouldn’t do ordinarily. Who was pulling his strings? We’ll never know, but it sounds eerily like this other incident.

Today, there was a free speech rally in Boston. I couldn’t find out much about the organizers because their Facebook pages were overrun by angry vitriol from those not interested in a conversation about free speech. Today, if the news is to be believed, the bandstand was surrounded by opposition forces, so that the speakers couldn’t speak. How is that free speech? Will we ever know what the organizers hoped to accomplish? Probably not because of groups like Black Lives Matter, Antifa and Communist Revolution won’t let anyone they disagree with speak where they can be heard.

So, where are we headed? It sure looks like a color revolution. That’s where an uprising forces the removal of the (often) lawfully elected government to be replaced by someone (or a group of someones) who aren’t chosen by the people. Do we want the violent, club-wielding organizers of these groups to be in charge?

At best, if the entire Presidential administration is removed from power, it logically forces us to martial law — you know, like in Egypt. Because this country’s ordinary folks are armed, martial law is likely to ignite a civil war. And it probably should. Why shouldn’t we fight against a government that has been imposed on us?

I’m not calling for armed war. I’m saying that’s where it’s headed because the government RevCom is calling for would be wholly illegitimate and we the people reserve the right to impose our own sovereignty. Or should. I can’t imagine that people like me, who believe in free speech, would be allowed to exist very long under their hegemony.

I’m not afraid of this scenario. I think it’ll be a great time to be in the backwater of Alaska. But ask yourselves … would you be okay if a Communist revolution forcibly replaced the American government with a military junta bent on segregating us into warring factions within certain regional zones? You don’t have to believe me … follow the link and decide for yourself if you want Bob Avakian in charge of your country?

Think About It #charlottesville   Leave a comment

Rescue workers assist people who were injured when a car drove through a group people at the rally.

I don’t support white supremacy (no, actually, I should say I don’t support RACIAL supremacy), but I support freedom of speech REGARDLESS of who is speaking. I don’t like it … I don’t want to hear it, but I defend your right to say it.

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/12/virginia-unite-the-right-rally-protest-violence

So, in reading this, I keep thinking —

What would have happened if the anti-white supremacist protesters had been standing peacefully on the sidewalk with signs that simply said “We don’t agree with white supremacy”? Would there have been violence?

You have a right to disagree with someone else’s speech, but if your counter-protest is based on physical aggression, you’ve crossed a line that civil society should not cross. Unfortunately, this society has decided that it’s okay for some people to state their opinions loudly and aggressively, burn cars and beat up people, while others are supposed to run a gauntlet of counter protesters and put up with bottles and other objects of aggression being thrown at them.

http://www.theroot.com/why-haven-t-the-charlotte-va-police-responded-to-whi-1797778989

You can disagree with the message, but you don’t have any right to physically attack the messengers and when you take the authority unto yourself, you are the cause of the violence that follows.

Government Investigates Itself Again After Tragic Death of Justine Damond | Eric Schuler   Leave a comment

On July 15, a police officer in Minneapolis shot and killed Justine Damond, a 40-year-old Australian-born woman who had actually called the police in the first place.

Source: Government Investigates Itself Again After Tragic Death of Justine Damond | Eric Schuler

 

Image result for image justine damondReportedly, Damond called police because she thought a sexual assault was occurring in an alley near her residence. When the police car arrived, she approached the vehicle and was shot and killed by the officer in the passenger seat. Damond was unarmed at the time. As far as we know, neither police officer had their body cameras switched on and the dash cam was not recording. The officer who killed Damond was subsequently identified as Mohammed Noor, 31. Both Officer Noor and his partner have been placed on administrative leave.

Some of the characteristics in this case differ from other high-profile police shootings. But in the main, it fits a familiar profile. A police officer shot and killed a person under suspicious circumstances, and the victim’s loved ones are searching for answers.

And as with other police shootings, the officer involved in this case will be investigated by his colleagues in law enforcement. In particular, the investigation will be managed by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).

To be fair, the BCA is not Officer Noor’s own police department, so the conflict of interest could have been worse. But it’s also not really an independent entity. The BCA falls under the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, which is the same department in government that oversees police in the state. Additionally, according to its own website, the BCA routinely assists law enforcement on other investigations. Indeed, that’s why it was established in the first place:

The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) provides investigative and specialized law enforcement services to prevent and solve crimes in partnership with law enforcement, public safety and criminal justice agencies.

So the BCA investigators collaborate with police officers in their day-to-day work, draw their paychecks from the same place, and are ultimately accountable to the same officials in government. In spite of this, they are also charged with performing an independent and credible investigation of a police officer who killed someone.

If this does not sound immediately scandalous, it’s only because we’re accustomed to it. This is what accountability usually looks like in police shootings and in government generally. One nominally independent arm of the government investigates another for wrongdoing, usually finding nothing and prosecuting less. Speeches are given, press releases are issued, and hands are wrung–yet “never again” will likely happen again.

In government, this cycle of events feels normal. But what if we observed the same approach outside of government?

Suppose Wells Fargo came out tomorrow and announced that they had conducted an extensive internal investigation into their aggressive sales practices and found that, in fact, the company didn’t open any fraudulent accounts after all. Would you believe them?

What if Marlboro released the results of a new internal study and shared the good news that smoking cigarettes doesn’t actually cause lung cancer? Would you believe them?

I’m guessing probably not.

The conflicts of interest are obvious. Both firms stand to benefit if their conclusions are widely accepted by the public. So even if one of them assured us that the investigations were carried out by an “independent” department within their organization, we would still be skeptical–and rightly so.

But when it comes to government, many are willing to apply a less critical lens. Claims of independence are accepted when they should be questioned. Perfect professionalism is assumed, even when recent history offers little basis for confidence. Does this make sense?

Government employees are still people, just as surely as Wells Fargo employees are. And as people, they are fallible. They have biases, interests, and flaws like everyone else. Individuals do not become uniquely virtuous or incorruptible when they work for the government.

If this is true, then we should judge all of these institutions, whether public or private, by the same standard.

We would not trust Wells Fargo to investigate allegations of fraud committed by Wells Fargo. Neither should we trust the government to investigate itself when it comes to matters of life and death.

Yes, Stephen Curry Really Is Worth $201 Million | Matthew Doarnberger   Leave a comment

Image result for image of steph curryThe aftermath of an entertainer, especially an athlete, receiving an enormous contract worth more than average Americans will see in their entire lifetimes often causes some pretty opinionated responses. Thus, it was no surprise that this was the case when Golden State Warrior’s point guard Stephen Curry received a new contract for five years totaling $201 million.

Source: Yes, Stephen Curry Really Is Worth $201 Million | Matthew Doarnberger

This is currently the richest deal in NBA history. To earn this type of payday, Curry has won two MVP’s and two NBA Championships over his past three seasons.

Beyond the Bare Necessities

As it turns out, the Charlotte Observer’s Scott Fowler is not so thrilled about Curry’s new deal. A recent article of his is entitled “Is Steph Curry really worth $201 million? Is anybody?” Fowler makes a number of statements in the piece disapproving of the contract. Let’s take a look at these claims in order to debunk the totality of his argument.

Let’s start with this: No human being on the planet needs to be making a guaranteed $201 million over five years, including Steph Curry.

Of course, “needs” is a relative term. If the true necessities of life can be reduced to food, water, clothing, and shelter, then anything outside of basic subsistence is something that an individual does not “need.”

Someone living an impoverished life would view Fowler’s comfortable, middle-class life the same way that he views the life lived by Curry.

Although I don’t profess to know how much Scott Fowler is paid by the Charlotte Observer for his services, I’m quite certain that he makes enough to afford things that he doesn’t necessarily “need” for his survival. Therefore, someone living an impoverished life in a third world nation would view his comfortable, middle-class life in America the same way that he views the life lived by Curry.

So if Fowler can legitimately criticize Curry’s contract on the grounds that it enables him to make much more than he “needs,” then it would also be legitimate for a third world resident to criticize the amount that Fowler is paid given that he is comparatively compensated as a sports journalist to a degree that also enables him to live far above an individual living at the subsistence level in an underdeveloped country.

Fortunately for Fowler, those who make so much less than he does do not have the means to go online and criticize him for his comparatively lavish salary.

Athletes Are the Ones Filling Stadiums

When some public school teachers are fortunate to make $40,000 a year, no athlete needs to average $40 million (which, at that rate, would fund 1,000 school teachers a year).

What Fowler has done here amounts to choosing a popular, presumably underpaid profession that garners sympathy from the public and highlights the massive gap between their salaries and the salary he is demonizing. A closer look at both teachers and star athletes in popular, American sports shows why this gap appropriately exists.If Curry receives a gargantuan contract for his abilities, that doesn’t mean that teachers have less as a result.

After all, the number of people willing to spend money on tickets to watch a teacher perform his/her job would not be enough to fill a sports stadium. In addition, there isn’t a market for televised teaching to the point that advertisers are willing to spend money to put commercials on during a televised teaching session.

Since the athletes are the ones that people are paying to see and advertisers are willing to spend money in order to advertise to those who watch via television, it makes sense that those athletes should be compensated for the revenue that they bring in. In fact, due to the NBA “max salary” format and the league’s salary cap, one could argue that the game’s best players are actually underpaid.

This criticism gets even more absurd when considering that the owner of NBA teams (in Curry’s case it’s Joe Lacob) is worth more than any of the team’s players. If NBA stars like Curry weren’t able to make this much money, then their wealthier owners would get to keep more of it.

In addition, money isn’t zero-sum. Simply because Curry receives a gargantuan contract for his abilities, that doesn’t mean that teachers or other professions have less as a result. In fact, given the amount of taxes that Curry will pay on his new salary, he will be sending more money to the local educational system (not that there is any connection whatsoever between spending on education and student performance).

Just Compensation

Lastly, let’s not succumb to the myth that the state can simply “take” from someone who makes an “unfair” salary and just give it to someone that society feels deserves it. We’ve seen this through anti-poverty programs where it takes the government many times more dollars to actually spend on those programs than what actually reaches the intended target.

NBA players are compensated for the audiences they attract and the value that they create.

So it then looks highly unlikely that this same government could seize a huge portion of Curry’s income and seamlessly distribute it among teachers (despite The Ringer’s Michael Baumann claiming that we would be better off if we did this). Sorry, but the track record of the state strongly suggests otherwise.

So don’t be upset at Curry, Lacob, the NBA or anyone else for this situation. NBA players are justly compensated for the audiences they attract and the value that they create. Teachers are not undervalued or underpaid as a result of large athlete contracts. The quicker we realize all of this, the quicker we can stop this misguided blame for society’s ills.

Reprinted from Libertarian Sports Fan.

Posted August 10, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Common sense

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Everything You Need to Know about Government, in One Story | Daniel J. Mitchell   Leave a comment

Every so often, I run across a chart, cartoon, or story that captures the essence of an issue. And when that happens, I make it part of my “everything you need to know” series.

 

 

Source: Everything You Need to Know about Government, in One Story | Daniel J. Mitchell

I don’t actually think those columns tell us everything we need to know, of course, but they do show something very important. At least I hope.

And now, from our (normally) semi-rational northern neighbor, I have a new example.

This story from Toronto truly is a powerful example of the difference between government action and private action.

A Toronto man who spent $550 building a set of stairs in his community park says he has no regrets, despite the city’s insistence that he should have waited for a $65,000 city project to handle the problem. 
Retired mechanic Adi Astl says he took it upon himself to build the stairs after several neighbours fell down the steep path to a community garden in Tom Riley Park, in Etobicoke, Ont. Astl says his neighbours chipped in on the project, which only ended up costing $550 – a far cry from the $65,000-$150,000 price tag the city had estimated for the job. …Astl says he hired a homeless person to help him and built the eight steps in a matter of hours. …Astl says members of his gardening group have been thanking him for taking care of the project, especially after one of them broke her wrist falling down the slope last year.

There are actually two profound lessons to learn from this story.

Since I’m a fiscal wonk, the part that grabbed my attention was the $550 cost of private action compared to $65,000 for government. Or maybe $150,000. Heck, probably more considering government cost overruns.

Though we’re not actually talking about government action. God only knows how long it would have taken the bureaucracy to complete this task. So this is a story of inexpensive private action vs. costly government inaction.

But there’s another part of this story that also caught my eye. The bureaucracy is responding with spite.

The city is now threatening to tear down the stairs because they were not built to regulation standards…City bylaw officers have taped off the stairs while officials make a decision on what to do with it. …Mayor John Tory…says that still doesn’t justify allowing private citizens to bypass city bylaws to build public structures themselves. …“We just can’t have people decide to go out to Home Depot and build a staircase in a park because that’s what they would like to have.”

But there is a silver lining. With infinite mercy, the government isn’t going to throw Mr. Astl in jail or make him pay a fine. At least not yet.

Astl has not been charged with any sort of violation.

Gee, how nice and thoughtful.

One woman has drawn the appropriate conclusion from this episode.

Area resident Dana Beamon told CTV Toronto she’s happy to have the stairs there, whether or not they are up to city standards. “We have far too much bureaucracy,” she said. “We don’t have enough self-initiative in our city, so I’m impressed.”

Which is the lesson I think everybody should take away. Private initiative works much faster and much cheaper than government.

P.S. Let’s also call this an example of super-federalism, or super-decentralization. Imagine how expensive it would have been for the national government in Ottawa to build the stairs? Or how long it would have taken? Probably millions of dollars and a couple of years.

Now imagine how costly and time-consuming it would have been if the Ontario provincial government was in charge? Perhaps not as bad, but still very expensive and time-consuming.

And we already know the cost (and inaction) of the city government. Reminds me of the $1 million bus stop in Arlington, VA.

But when actual users of the park take responsibility (both in terms of action and money), the stairs were built quickly and efficiently.

In other words, let’s have decentralization. But the most radical federalism is when private action replaces government.

 Reprinted from International Liberty

Editors Note: Since this article was originally published, the local government tore down Astl’s $500 stairs, citing “safety standards,” and plans to replace it with a $10,000 set.

Sherry Parnell

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