Ken's shared items

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

California Should Say "Bring It On, Feds"

In light of the report that DOJ will enforce marijuana laws regardless of the California Prop 19 vote, I think California should tell the Feds and the rest of the country, "Bring it on."

First, the Feds have only about 3000 agents in CA, as opposed to 60,000 local and state law enforcement officials.  They make only about 1% of all marijuana arrests.  So what are they going to do?  Find 60,000 DEA agents and send them to California?  Send in federal troops?  I hope they're that stupid. 

Second, the California economy is the 8th largest economy in the WORLD.  It comprises 13% of total US GDP.  It wouldn't take much for a bold California to tell the rest of the country to fuck off--we'll just go be the world's 8th largest economy without you.  Try to survive with 13% less GDP.  Want to talk about recession, then???  I'm sure it won't be easy to "disentangle," but a bold leader could make sure that California looks out for California alone.  I think they may have good a military infrastructure, too.

Third, it puts states' rights advocates, small government advocates, federalism advocates on the spot.  Defend California's right to control its own destiny as much as possible, with no harm to anyone else, or show yourself to be a complete fraud.

I hope the craven Democrats and the hypocritical Republicans push this standoff.  It may just be the philosophical standoff that will determine a direction for this country.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Modernizing Education

As a follow up to the above video on Changing Education Paradigms, I'd like to quote almost the entire comment left by Michael Reynolds on James Joyner's Outside the Beltway Blog :

The very last things we should be doing are more testing, applying more pressure, depriving kids of sleep, politicizing curricula, attempting to shut the computer out of the school. Virtually everything we’re doing is wrong. And every way we’re trying to “reform” actually makes the situation worse.
I’ve been on book tour which involves me going to two or three schools a day. And I have kids of my own — 13 and 10. The 13 year-old is home schooled because I couldn’t bear to watch his mind be hobbled by “education.” My 10 year-old is in a small private school only a bit larger than a one room school house, and only there at all because she’s a kid who needs to be surrounded by other kids.
When I talk at elementary schools I warn the kids that adults will attempt to destroy their capacity to imagine. In middle schools I tell the kids to ignore well-meaning efforts to turn them away from books they enjoy and push them onto books they despise but that are “good for them.” And I always point out that while my work day averages maybe 4 hours, theirs runs more like 10 hours.
Lately I have begun asking teachers not to “shush” the kids, to let them respond to what I’m showing them. It’s as if, in some schools, they fear the laughter of children.
I am more and more of the opinion that school is a form of child abuse. Let the kids sleep, let them play, offer them opportunities and enticements and amusements not tests and work sheets.
And I would suggest that if there is one group in the educational system that should be asked to plan reforms it is not administrators or teachers (and sure as hell not politicians or ambitious parents) but the school librarians.

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

And just when will that be???

Notice the emphasis on when "people can borrow again." Don't think that's right. It's when people have jobs. Then they can make investments in their future (borrow) that will pay further benefits. And people can't borrow on no income. People and businesses will only borrow when there is a reason to invest (increased demand, assets worth purchasing) and when they have sufficient income from which to pay a small amount of current income to invest in future growth (expansion, better homes).

in reference to:

"You put that question to Mr. Pollack, the forecaster. “We won’t recover until we absorb 80,000 empty houses and office buildings and people can borrow again,” he says."
- Recession Still Stinging as Recovery Gains - (view on Google Sidewiki)

Friday, October 08, 2010

Good Drivers Make Good Neighbors.

Some good news about Mississippi--you’re safe on our roads.  In a data crunch conducted by The Daily Beast to determine “the country’s worst drivers,” Mississippi came in near the bottom, which is a good thing.  According to The Daily Beast, we are near the bottom in a category where it’s good to be at the bottom.  We only have the 45th worst drivers in the country.  In other words, the 6th best.

            The Daily Beast used crash data--because accidents provide an objective way to define someone as a bad driver or not--and focused on fatal crashes, using the most recent data (2009) because these are reported uniformly state-to-state.  To ensure that tiny Rhode Island and giant California are measured evenly, The Daily Beast averaged these driver-caused fatal crashes by the total number of driver’s licenses issued in each state.  And to make sure that it was not penalizing states where the average motorist drives more--and thus gets into more accidents--they factored in how many miles each driver in the state logs and how long they spend in the car, adjusting the data accordingly.
            Mississippi had 631 fatal crashes out of 1,935,764 driver’s licenses.  The most dangerous age to drive in Mississippi is 18.  In the category of driving under the influence of alcohol, we were the 41st out of 50.  In failure to obey traffic signs or signals we were 48th out of 50, or third best.  For careless or inattentive driving we ranked 16 out of 50.

            Think about  what this could mean to bringing people and jobs to Mississippi.  With a low cost commitment, Mississippi could get people to come here.  First, make a commitment that in 3 years, Mississippi will have the best drivers in the nation.  Focus on the areas where we are weakest, distracted drivers, DUI, etc., and get all the drivers to become committed to helping Mississippi become the best driving state--a low-cost plan to get all citizens committed, from individuals to local officials to state officials.  Second, put out a PR campaign to advertise this fact.  Think of the numbers of tourists who might be compelled to come visit.  “Come visit us, the Hospitality State.  We even keep you safe on our roads.”  Think of the numbers of job seekers who might be considering a move to Mississippi vs. a number of our neighboring states.  If I know that I live in a state where I’ll be safe on the roads, that job opportunity in Mississippi might become even more appealing.  And finally, think of the economic development opportunities.  Think of the number of businesses who might set up shop in Mississippi if they feel sure that their employees, executives, and suppliers will be safe getting to and from work and living everyday in the community.  And it instantly adds in our favor an advantage over our neighboring states, who face much more dangerous roads, and with whom we usually compete for the same kind of major economic development projects.  Our neighboring states Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, and Alabama rank as having the 4th, the 16th, the 18th, and the 26th worst drivers, respectively.  Texas, one of our main competitors in manufacturing jobs ranks 10th. 

So, more people come to visit, more people come to live, and more jobs come to provide an increased standard of living.  And this continuous improvement project would become a cycle:  as more people move here, more jobs will follow.  As more jobs move in, more people come to live.  And these will all be people who obviously value having safe roads, which makes us as a whole even better drivers.

            Good drivers make good neighbors.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Pocket Parks for North Mississippi

One of the perils of tough economic times is the effect on our quality of life. And I don't mean just our economic way of life, but our civic way of life, the little things our cities and towns do to increase our enjoyment of the place where we live. One way that can help is to think in terms of micro-projects, small civic projects that continue to add to the life of our municipalities. Pocket parks can do this with little money, with neighborhood-level involvement, with no great loss of tax revenue, while serving the needs of small groups who want to contribute and participate.

A pocket park is a small outdoor space, usually no more than ¼ of an acre, most often located in an area that is surrounded by commercial buildings or houses on small lots, with no places for people to gather, relax, or to enjoy the outdoors. There is no set design for a pocket park; each one is different depending on the size and use of the space.

In Indianapolis, pocket parks have become a vital force in city beautification. Since 1995, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. has helped neighborhoods, schools, churches, and other community-based organizations create beautiful places from vacant lots, old parking lots, medians, or little used areas. Often, these sites are neglected and overgrown—inviting littering, illegal dumping, or worse. These little-used, undervalued, or detrimental places are transformed into community assets--green and beautiful places that build community, encourage community pride, and add value to neighborhoods across Indianapolis.

In Salisbury, NC, a pocket park is born, honoring the history of textile mills in the area. It emphasizes Southern local history and community/school involvement, especially the school art departments. In Montana, a local horticultural group sets up a pocket park on irregularly shaped city right-of-way. In San Antonio, pocket parks have been tied in with the overarching RiverWalk park concept, tying together major city-wide projects with localized projects, (much like the new Rails to Trails could be done or perhaps tying in with the Tallahatchie River Park in New Albany).

The main goal of these little pocket parks is to make livable streets and neighborhoods. They emphasize shade, quiet, history, education, and increased property values. New York City is perhaps most famously known for its pocket parks, and it is the model of how to make it work, but there are a multitude of examples of a variety of pocket parks across this country. They can be city-owned with community volunteers; they can be privately owned with city assistance; they can be public-private partnerships; they can even be tenant-owned with access rights granted to the community.

Ideas for pocket parks in our area are unlimited. They could be set up and connected alongside the Tenn-Tom Waterway, tied in with tourist attraction/historical sites, set up as art installations, sculpture gardens, learning oases, block playgrounds. They can be quiet places for lunch in work areas, shopping breaks in commercial zones (like the Renasant Bank of Pontotoc pocket park), spiritual respites in busy neighborhoods, showplaces for horticulturists, community gardens for seniors and kids, rest stops for bikers, runners, and walkers.

In peril, our families, neighborhoods, and cities need anchors like pocket parks, tucked ingeniously into our civic life.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

"Traditional Values" Means Anything So Long As It's 'Not Gay'

"Traditional Values" means anything that's 'not gay.' Dan Savage and John Aravosis highlight this hypocrisy.

A point of order: When did premarital sex become a "traditional value"?

I don't care if your buddy fucks this woman or not. (He should; lots of rebounds turn into wonderful and lasting relationships.) I'm just curious how we got to the point where anything goes—premarital sex, oral and anal sodomy, multiple marriages (hey there, Karl Rove!)—for heterosexuals and nothing is a violation of "traditional values" so long as the fornicators are straight. An unmarried straight man with shit on his dick and three different women's pubes in his mouth can claim to have a "conservative sensibility and traditional values"—how'd that happen?

It reminds me of a friend of mine who went to a Christmas party attended mainly by women, all of whom are big up in the churches. And they went around the room and every single one of them had been married at least twice, some as many as four times. But these are the ladies that talk about my friend, behind his back and to his face, about being gay. These are the ladies that scream about the sanctity of marriage when they can't keep their own two or three marriages sanctified. The day not a single straight marriage fails to uphold the "sanctity" of marriage is the day I'll let you lecture me on the evils of gay marriage.

Gays & Abortion as essense of Christianity

Fundamentalist Christianity has been built lately around two pillars: gays and abortion. It's no wonder then that gay rights movement is so threatening. Walk into almost any fundamentalist church and you are sure to get a healthy dose of anti-gay and anti-abortion. For some reason, that's the only thing many churches have going for them--the hatred of others, the denigration of others, the subjugation of others in order to somehow perversely make their own lives better. And it will work for a little while--until reality slowly overtakes. And once it begins to crack, the emptiness left inside is exposed. That is why so many churches devote so many resources to fighting gay rights--it is the only way to keep a leg under the worthless foundation.

There is no philosophical underpinning anymore, no metaphysical philosophy, just hatred of gays and hatred of abortion. Why is that? And when you hook your wagon to a civic movement, progress is bound to run over you.

So while this trailing end of bigotry will probably get more extreme, we must remember: it is a trailing end. And every last bang is the death rattle of institutionalized bigotry.

Cheapening Christianity

Here in rural MS there is an interesting phenomenon occurring that the Brit Hume brouhaha brings into clearer focus. There is a rapid demeaning of religion, especially the Christian religion, occurring here. If you travel down any road, you will see churches popping up everywhere. I've lived here my entire life, and it used to be that each community had one church, usually Baptist, sometimes Methodist or Presbyterian, with a place name. Now they have names like Bread of Life, The Living Water, and By Faith; single-word names like Cornerstone, Compass, and Centricity. They pop up in the middle of nowhere, in abandoned storefronts, in closed-down factories, in metal buildings put up in the middle of the woods. And everyone has a preacher who is called Brother, or Elder, or Bishop.

And all these fundamentalist (I assume based on looks and publicity) churches spend the majority of their time either directly or indirectly involved with local, state, and national politics, involved in the Teabagger movement, the War on Christmas movement, the myriad boycotts movement, and posters and ads of every conceivable real or imagined movement.

As someone who had become immune to most of it, I can't help but be aware of the way in which religion in this area has been very deeply cheapened. It ceases to occupy a space of personal and public sacredness. It focuses not on the personal, but the political. And I am even beginning to detect this cheapening in acquaintances who I know to be quite religious. There is no war on the sacred; they are doing it themselves.

Update: Be sure to read Bill in Portland Maine's take on this.