It’s Witch-Hunt Season – Paul Krugman, NYTimes.com

It’s Witch-Hunt Season – NYTimes.

Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman

This Op-Ed article by Nobel laureate economist Paul Krugman sums up the current Republican/Tea Party hysteria quite well.  I suggest it to everyone – especially given the sudden rise of irresponsible right-wing extremism. Read more of this post

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Crony Capitalism, Corporate Personhood and Our Decaying Democracy – Ryan Rhoades

Part 1 of 3 – A Brief Look at Executive Branch Corruption and Unethical Practices

Against the background of the plugging of the BP-Deepwater Horizon oil well and behind the recent Supreme Court ruling Citizens’ United V. Federal Election Commission looms a much larger issue – a problem that pervades throughout our society, permeating the branches of government and perverting the very Constitution that public servants have sworn to protect.

Big business and finance are running our government, and they are running selfishly amok.

This is not about Democrats versus Republicans or liberals versus conservatives.  This is about an ideology that has taken over the basic democratic functioning of our government, and it is deeply embedded in our current political culture.

It is about the largest corporations, run by the wealthiest individuals whose motives are to maximize profits for themselves and their shareholders.  And let me tell you, they are making record profits even as millions of Americans suffer from joblessness, foreclosures, stagnant wages, vanishing pensions, and a host of other challenges to labor rights. Read more of this post

Commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Ryan Rhoades

Many Americans are observing the forty-seventh anniversary of King’s cosmic “I Have a Dream” speech.  King created positive change by defying the odds and fighting against the power of the status quo – including the FBI, who spied on him because they considered him a threat.

During this anniversary, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin (with support from the NRA) are giving their own speech entitled “Restoring Honor”, and they are doing so at the Lincoln Memorial.  Enough has been said about Beck and Palin’s attempts to revise history so instead of commenting on their ignorance, we should all commemorate Dr. King by actually reading his speeches.

Below you will find a timeline of King’s most memorable speeches with selected excerpts and links so you can read the speeches in their entirety.  Then you will understand what King was really about – which is starkly different than the FOX News pundits who shamelessly disgrace his memory and legacy on a daily basis.  I also apologize for cutting out so much and sacrificing the contextual flow for the sake of brevity.

**[I have excluded his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream”, because there is extensive focus on it all ready.  I feel this focus may have unintentionally led to the lack of focus on his other speeches, which are just as powerful]**

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Hateful Politics over Peaceful Principles – Ryan Rhoades

I am completely disgusted over the current controversy surrounding the Islamic community center near Ground Zero.

I am even more disgusted by the weak character of all the politicians, Republicans and Democrats alike, who are attempting to capitalize on hateful and unconstitutional rhetoric.

Hateful is implied because there really is no other way of describing the belief that all Muslims or all Christians or all Jews are terrorists.  Unconstitutional is apparent to anyone who has ever read the Constitution or exercised their First Amendment rights.

Yes, this also includes freedom of speech, but when politicians and pundits exercise their freedom of speech to denounce or mischaracterize a person’s freedom of religion, it only results in negative and deadly consequences.

For instance, on Tuesday night a young white male got into a taxicab and engaged in conversation with the cab driver.  Once the 21 year-old discovered that the cabbie, Ahmed Sharif, was a practicing Muslim, he slashed the taxi driver in the throat, arms and hand with a knife.

Fortunately, Sharif is in stable condition.  Unfortunately, he stated that he never felt, “this hopeless and insecure before.”  Sharif immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh 25 years ago and has been driving taxis for over 15 years.

Another unfortunate incident, highlighted Monday on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report, occurred during protests in New York City near the proposed Muslim center when a large white male obstructed the path of a black male he believed to be Muslim.  As it turns out, the man is not even Muslim, but a construction worker who is currently building the new World Trade Center.  But he happens to be black.

As Colbert put it, “Still, it is pretty insensitive of him to seem Muslim so close to Ground Zero. I mean look at the other black guys in the crowd  – they have the sensitivity to be white.”  [If you haven’t seen the clip, the video shows that the people protesting the center being built are all white] Read more of this post

Ignoring the Issue Behind the Issues – Ryan Rhoades

CCDHS Classroom, Miles City

Image by dave_mcmt via Flickr

As I watched Making the Grade, the MSNBC’s special segment on the state of the nation’s education system, I couldn’t help but notice how the real issue was largely ignored.

The moderator, Tamron Hall, hinted at the real issue a few times, particularly when she asked Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan about the gap between the amount of money we as taxpayers spend per student versus the amount of money we spend per prisoner (we spend more than double for imprisoning than educating).  Duncan’s response ultimately went back to accountability and graduation – holding teachers more accountable for their results and getting more students, particularly minority students, to graduate.

As a certified teacher, I completely agree with the sentiment that schools must hold their teachers accountable in order to ensure success.  This is no revelation.  All workers must be held accountable in order to ensure a successful outcome.

Imagine if all our politicians were held accountable, not by citizens’ vote alone but by an objective rubric that measures whether or not their policies improves the standard of living of most Americans, most notably the poor and middle class.  Teachers hold students accountable through rubric-based assessments and in many public schools teachers are also held accountable through rubric-based evaluations. Read more of this post

Regressive Politicking of Incumbent Senator Jim DeMint (R – SC) – Ryan Rhoades

Senator Jim DeMint receives Taxpayers' Friend ...

Image via Wikipedia

Since 2005, Senator DeMint has received most of his campaign contributions from Club for Growth1, a conservative advocacy group and major campaign finance group that backs Republicans who support privatizing Social Security, eliminating or reducing corporate taxes and capital gains taxes, and increasing the number of charter schools.2

His Political Action Committee (PAC), Senate Conservatives Fund, has given $1.7 million worth of campaign contributions to nine extremely conservative Republicans, including the following:3,4

1.) $141,000 to help the campaign of Colorado Republican Ken Buck, as well as paying for radio ads ($85,000).  Ken Buck is the candidate who, when asked why people should vote for him and not his primary opponent (Jane Norton), quipped, “Because I don’t wear high heels.”  He also believes that Social Security is “a horrible policy” and that the Department of Education is unconstitutional.5 Read more of this post

Economic Policy Wars by Ryan Rhoades

So let me get this straight.

We are in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.  The national unemployment rate stands at 9.5%, is at least 10% in 128 metropolitan areas and over 15% in twelve of the largest urban areas.  The ratio of unemployed persons to job openings stood at 5.4 to 1 in January, slightly lower than in December, when the ratio was six-to-one1.

Teachers, police officers and other service workers are getting laid off, taking pay cuts or getting furloughed.  Since August of 2008, over 180,000 local government jobs have been lost.   Estimated projections show that local public-sector job losses are only going to increase through 2012 due to budget cuts2.

With all this happening now, some politicians, news commentators and pundits are preaching fiscal austerity – suddenly concerned about the deficit and our national debt.

I say suddenly because many of the same people calling for reducing the national deficit by cutting programs and gutting state budgets were suspiciously silent during Bush’s rampage on the economy.  For instance, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that , “just two policies dating from the Bush Administration — tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — accounted for over $500 billion of the deficit in 2009 and will account for almost $7 trillion in deficits in 2009 through 2019, including the associated debt-service costs”3.

These critics – mostly Republicans but more specifically fiscal conservatives supportive of ‘Reaganomic’ policies – are intent on cutting government spending while also calling for the renewal of Bush’s tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans.  Bush’s tax cuts are set to expire this year.  In 2008 alone, the tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% totaled $79.5 billion4.  That’s enough money to hire well over 2 million workers for one year on a modest $35,000 salary.  Such a jobs creation program reminiscent of the New Deal is clearly more important than extending tax cuts for the superrich. Read more of this post