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Posts Tagged ‘government’

I have a special place in my heart for anyone trying to give guided instruction in current events, especially lately. For one thing, we as a country are in the middle of an incredibly interesting journey on which we’re throwing it all on the table, getting it out in the open, and hashing out some things that have been swept under the rug for a long time. For another thing, the analysis of current events always looks different a month or a year or a presidential term later, so what we first see as truth is bound to change a little eventually. But someone has to get the conversation started.

I have a friend who says he’s teaching a class in civil discourse this coming semester. I think that’s a brave thing to do – I imagine it means he’s going to try to teach young people how to communicate without using anger or irrational behaviour. The more I think about it, the more I think it should be a required class in our schools. All of them. Catch the kids with the attitude problems before they’re old enough to buy guns.

The evidence is piling up in favor of paying extra attention to our country’s educational system. And that’s normal – schools need new rules all the time in response to a changing society. Remember typing class? That changed a bit over the years, didn’t it? In the seventies, it was typing class. In the nineties, it was keyboarding class. I have no clue what they’re calling it nowadays. For all I know, they’re now teaching 5-year-olds their ABCs using the touch typing system, word processing software, and the media controls on the computer, which takes care of all three skills at once.

So I made a little list of the new classes I think ought to be added to each and every school’s curriculum, and be made a requirement for high school middle school graduation. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think these new classes will really make a difference in the lives of the young adults we throw out into the world with questionable social skills.

– Civil Discourse: how to state opinions and discuss issues in productive ways, especially in response to angry and hateful boneheads (must earn a B or better to pass)

– Criminal Law 101: introduction to the nature of crime and punishment, the penalties for various laws in their local area, and the difference between movies and reality (unit on survival skills to be made available in certain gang-infested school systems)

– Beginning Personal Finance: everything from making change to balancing a checkbook to the joys of compound interest (or the avalanche of compound interest, in the case of credit cards), with a special section on how to avoid getting ripped off

– Fifth-Grade Ethics: why and how to act in everyone’s best interest, how to begin figuring out what that is, and when and how to speak up in the face of injustice (violators of other school rules must repeat this class with the fifth-graders, no matter how old they are)

– Introduction to Gun Safety (mandatory in TX, NM, and AZ; optional everywhere else): how to safely handle, clean, and fire a gun; with emphasis on hunting, the difference between self-defense and self-importance, and the dangers of semiautomatic weapons (prerequisite, Ethics; must be taught concurrently with the class on Civil Discourse)

Feel free to add your own, but I think these five classes could be the start of some cool new rules in school – and save lives, and save the government a heck of a lot of money down the road, and…

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I actually found a completely rational explanation of the corporate bonus debate in an article today:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/34809700/ns/business-answer_desk//

The best thing about it? The writer goes through a whole article on that particular subject without once pointing fingers at people who had nothing to do with creating the mess. Gotta respect a guy like that. Danke, Mr. Schoen.

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Check this out. The US Patent Office has officially declared that we don’t own our own genetic material, and apparently they’ve been doing it for years.

Now, normally I don’t jump every time the ACLU has a problem with something, but this one I like. On behalf of 20 plaintiffs, including other researchers and individual cancer patients who can’t get the testing they need, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit in a New York federal court to release the patent which says that Myriad Genetics is the only company that can study, test, and report on the BRCA genes related to breast and ovarian cancer.

This isn’t exactly a new story, but twelve years and eight patents ago, someone at the US Patent Office began setting a seriously questionable precedent.

If they’re really preventing anyone else from even looking at these genes, Myriad’s patents have succeeded in holding up cancer research – for now. Fortunately, someone has already recognized the futility of patenting nature. Myriad’s motion to dismiss was denied by the judge. Stay tuned.

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I was reading an article on MSNBC this evening entitled, “Insurers escalate criticism of health overhaul.” Apparently, the health insurance industry commissioned a cost analysis from PriceWaterhouseCoopers that projected higher premium costs for privately insured individuals over the next several years.

Let’s see. We’re going to require that health insurance companies accept all applicants, we’re going to take away their right to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and we’re going to increase their customer base because of that. Meanwhile, we’re going to legislate a series of give-and-take taxes, credits, and conditions to level the paying field (no, that’s not a typo). Finally, either they will raise their rates and watch their customer base decline in favor of public programs, or they will find a way to control costs and keep their customers.

No – wait. They just said that the legislation will raise their rates again, and that would be bad. The health care reform bill will raise their rates for them. It will be all someone else’s fault that we’ll be paying higher premiums, not theirs.

Do you think there will ever come a time when the insurance industry will see raising rates as a choice instead of a mandate?

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This isn’t your father’s town hall meeting anymore. This is disturbing.

The coverage of the local town hall meetings across the country has been interesting, to say the least. I don’t know whether some of the townspeople are shooting themselves in the foot or having trouble extracting it from their mouth. The yelling, the rudeness, the harsh words that have nothing to do with healthcare – you’re being compared with primates, for Pete’s sake.

These town hall meetings are supposed to be a forum in which we the people can voice our concerns in person. Our elected officials are making time to listen to us, and in some cases, we’re showing appreciation by blowing up on them. We’re going backward, not forward – and by “we,” I mean the bellowing, belligerent blowhards that keep disrupting the meetings. This isn’t productive conversation. This is the Middle Ages, complete with ignorant peasants and public stonings largely due to hearsay.

If you need to yell at public officials because you’re unhappy with the current healthcare bill, you need to know that you’d get your point across better with a carefully-worded question based on mutual respect and the need to clarify what the hell is going on. You don’t have to agree with the politician at the podium, but it would be a good idea if you respect him or her as a person and realize that this person is probably not personally responsible for the bottleneck.

You’d get more done if you stay on point, too. You won’t solve anything by telling a speaker that they will go to hell for what they’re doing. The subject is Healthcare, not Religion. And by the way, your God is probably pissed at the way you’re trying to make that call for Him.

Get a grip, people, and save the yelling for your therapist. Don’t let the angry rants of others get in the way of your ability to think for yourself. Make good use of the time at those town hall meetings, because if you want your voice to be heard – if you don’t want to be dismissed as an out-of-control, crazy jerk – you might want to present your justifiably strong opinions in some sort of civilized manner.

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It’s April – have you filed your taxes yet?  Are you going to?  Of course you will – you consider yourself a law-abiding citizen and you’re afraid of the IRS.

There is a case to be made about how taxation borders on socialism.  The ‘redistribution of wealth’ argument has been staring us in the face ever since the beginning of the 20th century, when the tax code began to take shape and become enforceable.  Most people agreed, however, that financing a war or two was a little too daunting for volunteer efforts, so off we went.

When the tax code began to allow for social programs and complicated business practices, it began to get messy.  Various administrations began to use it as a motivational tool for different purposes, and eventually to manipulate the economy. 

Did we go too far with that?  There’s a question – but I’m not qualified to answer that one.  I’d love to hear the answer, though.

The difference is that, while taxation is meant to be somewhat of a mandatory collaborative effort to provide common services to the people, our government and our tax code are kept in check by Congress – the representatives of the people.  If we don’t like how they do things, we can replace them.

In a socialist government, the government doesn’t just keep the economy in check, the government owns the economy.  They own the resources and don’t allow for private ownership.  They plan the economy, they manage the distribution of the GDP, and they make sure everyone gets some no matter who earned what, all without respect for private enterprise.

We are nowhere near socialism.  For instance, whether or not President Obama’s bailouts were the right thing to do is debatable, but they don’t qualify as socialism for the same reason that sane bank presidents generally insist that you prove that you are responsible with your money before they lend you enough to buy a car or a house.  In a way, they own the property, but only until you pay it off.  That’s not socialism.  That’s just good business.

Property taxes have always been around in some form, but we are still free to own the property.  Income taxes have been around for years, but we are still free to start our own businesses and charge our own prices.  Our government has been running the country for over two hundred years, but we are still free to elect our own representatives to participate in setting policy.

In America, there is no danger of us giving up our property rights, our entrepreneurial spirit, or our free market economy.  In this country, we can implement social programs without practicing socialism.

Socialism is not in the future of the United States of America – not even with a qualifier of “if we don’t…“.

The loud voices of the people do serve a purpose.  Be loud to keep things in check, though, not to scare people about something that isn’t going to happen.

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