Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Privacy

July 29, 2013

We always assumed the letter carrier could read our postcards and could notice the return addresses on envelopes. Not that I really suspected them of doing it. They were probably too busy to care. But I never assumed that these things were private. Some items came in plain brown packages so no one would know who was receiving them. Oddly enough, I can’t remember what those items were, but I know I read ads for them.

People talk as if there were a constitutional right to privacy. Aside from it not actually being in the constitution, I don’t think people really thought about it in the terms we do now. Before the invention of railroads, the vast majority of people lived in rural areas where they were well known. Strangers were watched and distrusted. Anonymity existed in cities and large towns, but most people lived in the country. In 1790 in the USA, farmers and other agricultural workers were 90% of the labor force. Local support for farmers probably added a couple of percent. Farming communities needed blacksmiths and harness makers.

People living on farms or in the small supporting communities rarely traveled long distances. Travel was very expensive in both time and money. The result of this was that people didn’t have privacy as to where they were. The chances were high that someone who knew them noticed them.

Anonymity is a modern invention. As long as human hands held the envelope, someone would know who was writing whom. As for telephone information being private by constitutional rule, the telephone was invented long after the constitution was written, and until the mid twentieth century, most phone calls were handled by human operators.

Making the assumption that NSA is telling the truth and they aren’t listening to our phone calls or reading our emails, we have no complaint. It has only been a short time in history when those things were genuinely private. If terrorist plots are foiled by this lack of privacy, it is a small price to pay.

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Are we accomplices?

May 5, 2013

We are allowed to drop students who miss more than a week of class, if we have it in our syllabus. The student gets a W grade for withdrawal. I’ve rarely done so, because I feel the student’s transcript should represent what he has done. The F says the student flunked or didn’t care enough to withdraw. The W might be because he had issues that had nothing to do with the particular class. For example, his job might require him to work when class met.

Students who are on visas or receiving financial aid usually need to be full time students. The student who disappears after a few weeks of class might be fooling the someone about his status. Although we report the last day a student attended, a student could appear in class at the end of the semester. His record wouldn’t show that he missed months of class.

By not dropping them, we are fooling the government agency that issues visas or the source of the financial aid. The financial aid situation is clear cut. If the student doesn’t get financial aid, it will probably go to someone else. If the ones who cheat are eliminated, there is more room for the ones who actually benefit from it. The visa situation is harder, since many students need full time jobs to support their full time education.

Some students are simply fooling their parents, who think they are spending their time in college. I’m not all that concerned about that, although I feel sorry for parents who pay for college and get partying.

Should I drop students who stop showing up? I don’t know.

Early Voting

November 4, 2012

I wish I’d voted early.

It’s not that I object to going to the polls on Tuesday. The only decisions I hadn’t made weeks ago were easily made this morning. I hadn’t looked at the school board candidates at all before today, and there were  two ballot questions I hadn’t decided on.

Why did I wish I did it earlier? We received eight robo calls yesterday. One number called us back twice after we hung up on them. Some left us messages, which had to be listened to enough to see that they weren’t important. My husband facetiously suggested we listen to the calls and vote the opposite direction.

I’m not in a swing state, but some of the ballot questions and local candidates have money behind them. We should stop receiving calls soon, thank goodness. Only two more days.

EDITED TO ADD:

I’ve voted. There were no lines. I still got two robo calls after I voted.

 

How Should Social Security Be Improved?

April 29, 2012

First, make the social security tax be on all income, not just salary. This would add to the revenue stream immediately.

Second, eliminate the cap on the income. As income goes beyond the maximum to contribute, which is about $110,000 per year, Social Security is still collected. No matter how much income someone has, social security is taken from all of the income.  However, a person who contributes twice as much to social security doesn’t get twice as much income. He gets one and a half times the income, and further contributions would lead to a lower rate of return.  People would still get something from the additional money, but not a proportional amount. This would mean the NFL player who goes broke later in life can still look forward to a reasonable amount of income.

I have no idea as to whether this would solve the problem, but it would help.

Environmentally friendly

April 24, 2012

They had an Earth Day trivia quiz where I work, and the questions amused me. One question asked which is better, a shower or a tub bath. Another mentioned bicycling to work. These are relatively minor issues. Bicycling to work may be an option for those who live close and are physically able, but it isn’t for most people.

What I found interesting was things they did not mention that help the earth:

1. Live in an apartment, not a house.

2. Live close to work.

3. Have a small family.

These are not really popular methods of helping the environment, particularly #1.

The population of Manhattan is roughly the same as the population of Idaho. More land is used per person for the people in Idaho than for those in Manhattan. We need some people in Idaho to grow potatoes, harvest lumber, mine silver, and so on, but the people use extensive resources in both land and transportation, simply to live there. Relative to Manhattan, there are few apartments in Idaho.  No one is suggesting what really would help, because people wouldn’t do it.

The good old days weren’t good

January 28, 2012

“… the productivity of U.S. workers has increased fourfold since the 1950s. Put another way, as of 2000, employees work one hour to produce what it took four hours to create a half-century ago. Meanwhile, the buying power of wages has remained stagnant…” 

I don’t believe it. Not that I don’t believe the figures. I am sure that someone figured out that it would take the same number of hours to buy a 1950 car as a 2011 car. But the average age of a car on the road today is over ten years, and in the 1950’s five-year-old car was an old car, while the wealthy changed their cars annually. Tires? They advertised tires that lasted 3,000 miles. Housing? Only movie theaters had air conditioning, and coal furnaces weren’t unusual.

Medical costs have gone way up, but so has life expectancy. Neither mammograms nor colonoscopies existed in 1950. The polio vaccine was first tested in 1952 and the measles vaccine came in the next decade.

If we wanted a 1950’s lifestyle we could do it much cheaper than they did it then, but it wouldn’t be a safe or comfortable society. Not only did 1950’s cars not have airbags, they didn’t usually have seat belts. But don’t worry, we wouldn’t drive them as fast, because Interstate Highways didn’t exist. Air travel was for the rich, and jets were for the military, not for civilian travel.

Instead of cell phones, in the 1950’s people used operators and often had party lines. Calls outside of a small area were very expensive. Of course, there were no personal computers.

Perhaps the rich get richer, but the lower middle class lives much better today than most people in 1950.

The Social Dance Around Politics

January 2, 2012

There is no one in my life who agrees with me completely about all issues. Or at least I assume there is no one, since I don’t compare opinions with most people. I just returned from the gym and had conversations with two people. We don’t talk about anything controversial. The only thing I know that I agree with them about is that exercise is good.

Politics comes up with some people, but most people skate around the issues. There is a dance where one person makes hesitating steps to move toward a topic and the other person either follows or leads in another direction, depending upon whether they wish to go that way or avoid the topic. There is one person in my life who won’t follow the lead away from a topic, and that makes for social difficulties, since we often disagree. Most people are surprisingly adept at the dance. I’ve known people for decades and spent many hours socializing with them, but have no idea of their opinions on many topics.

In the long run, most of the time it doesn’t matter. I don’t expect to agree with everyone.

Required multicultural/diversity training

October 14, 2011

I work at the Rockville Campus of Montgomery College in Maryland. My information is somewhat out of date, but in the past I was told that we had students from 160 countries and about a third of the students on the Rockville Campus were not U.S. citizens.

It’s not just the students. Today, I interacted with colleagues from India, Cuba, Ethiopia, and Taiwan. I love the diversity of the campus. Nguyen is a more common a last name than Smith, and many languages are heard in the hallways. But apparently someone is showing insensitivity, because all full-time faculty members are required to have multicultural/diversity training.

We are going to have to do this every year. How many hours are being devoted to this? I assume a relatively large percent of the faculty (at least 5%) are behaving inappropriately in their interaction with people from other cultures. I would hate to think everyone would get training if they did not need it. I would rather sit down and chat with one of my colleagues from another country than attend training.

“Prosecutable cases of voter fraud are rare.” the Washington Post, October 9, 2011

October 9, 2011

Prosecutable cases of drug use would be rare, if there were no serious attempt to go after drug users, so this statement doesn’t say much. I don’t know if voter fraud is common or essentially non existent, but if no serious attempt is made to prevent or find it, how can we know? I know someone who volunteered to help during elections, and complained that too much of the process left things with one person able to allow or commit voter fraud. He was rewarded by not being called back to volunteer again. (Perhaps he wasn’t called again for other reasons, but the problem existed, and it was unlikely to be solved.)

Too much is at stake for us to say that the problem is non existent.

Social Security: Affluent elderly need not apply?

May 20, 2011

When my husband went to college, he resented the fact that someone he grew up with was eligible for a scholarship and he wasn’t. His neighbor’s family made more money, but saved nothing. My husband’s family paid off their mortgage and put away a remarkable amount of money for their slender income. From my husband’s point of view, he was cheated. His neighbor lived better and still got a scholarship. He didn’t understand that scholarships are not a reward for a low income, but a means to educate people who would otherwise not be educated.

There are people who would make social security into something different than what most people understand it to be. Instead of being a pension that was earned by years of payments, it would be a means of supporting the elderly in need. Translation: welfare for the elderly. Affluent elderly need not apply.

Is it fair? Well, the only completely fair way would be to tell people that anyone sixteen and older will be on the old system and the younger people will be contributing to a welfare fund, but I don’t think the government is willing to wait until those sixteen-year-olds reach sixty-two to begin reaping the benefits.

The new vs. old system has been done. The Federal Retirement system changed so that new hires were forced into the new system in 1984. The benefits of the new system to the government are probably just starting to show up.

When an individual or company breaks a contract with someone, he has the option of going to court. The government can change the laws and do what it pleases. The government has behaved honorably in the past, but finances may make that impossible. I hope the government at least attempts to keep part of it’s implied promise to workers.