Uncommon Sense

September 30, 2012

GOP Religious Nonsense, Part 12

The Republicans keep beating the drum for ostentatious school prayer.

The 2012 Republican Platform states “We affirm the right of students to engage in prayer at public school events in public schools and to have equal access to public schools and other public facilities to accommodate religious freedom in the public square.”

Right. As if the courts haven’t spoken about what the Constitution allows in the form of formal prayer in public schools. Informal prayer has always been okay, but that isn’t good enough for the GOP. As I have mentioned before the GOP’s understanding of politics is poor and their understanding of religion is even poorer.

Not only does the Constitution establish a separation between church and state (for the betterment of both, by the way), it doesn’t even use the name of God. They aren’t going to find any help there, no matter how hard they try to distort the meanings of words.

These zealots are not at all in favor of Muslim prayers in the schools, or Jewish prayers, or Jannist prayers, or Tibetan Buddhist prayers in their schools. They want Christian prayers and only Christian prayers. Which shows their ignorance of their own religion. I quote from the sixth chapter of Matthew:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others.


But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Basically Christian doctrine eschews ostentatious praying in favor of praying in private.

The idiots promoting this doctrine keep saying things like “praying in schools has been banned” and “they’ve outlawed praying in schools” or worse, “they’ve outlawed God in schools.” This is patent nonsense, absolutely untrue. Any student who wants to pray, out loud, for all to hear, has a recess period in the morning, a recess in the afternoon, and at least a half an hour at noon to do so. Also, if they are bored in class, they can pray silently for hours and my guess is no one will bother them. One wag put it that those who think there is no praying in school have never observed an algebra test.

Bad politics and bad religion what else can we expect from the self-righteous, posturing, pompous, and sanctimonious GOP?

September 25, 2012

Mitt Romney Wants Rolldown Windows on Airplanes

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:33 am
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I can understand the feeling of panic associated with one’s wife having a near death incident, but to suggest that airplanes should have rolldown windows in case of fire (presumably with childproof features that would only let a child or a moron roll it down part way) shows what we have suspected all along. Romney has no sense of the physical world around him. He lives in an etherial world of thoughts and financial instruments and has no connection to the real world.

Commentators constantly refer to Mitt Romney as an “intelligent guy” and point to his college degree and business success. Well, I have college degrees and taught at colleges for decades and I am aware of a great many people who got college degrees and don’t have the sense to come in out of the rain.

Romney’s ability to crunch numbers in order to extract earnings from companies without adding any value to them is not exactly rocket science, either. His wealth making act was pretty much a one trick pony. The fact that he can do Excel impresses many, but sheesh, even I can do Excel. But, was he innovative? Did he see things nobody else did? Apparently not.

His inability to understand things like climate change and what a runny brown streak coming down his windshield might mean indicate, that well-educated he is, but he is just not very bright.

Also, anybody who would sublimate their own beliefs and posture that they have others does not have enough moral character to merit serious consideration for public office.

September 20, 2012

Leftovers from the Chicago Teacher’s Strike, Final Part!

Filed under: Education,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 12:02 pm
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This is the end, I promise!

One of the major bones of contention in this strike was the manner of the inclusion of “student data” into teacher’s evaluations. They settled on (I believe) that 30% of a teacher’s evaluation would consist of “student data” which would largely be test measures of student performance. They also agree on three test measures to be used.

This has been a sensitive issue for teachers for reasons that aren’t apparent to ordinary citizens. Should a craftsman be judged by his/her work? This is only reasonable, for sure. Yes it is, but consider, say, a cabinet maker. The cabinet maker chooses the woods to use in a project, the tools to use, the techniques, and then executes the design. Whether his/her client is pleased or not is certainly a reflection of his skill, etc. But what if the choice of woods wasn’t his/hers? And only pieces of wood from a broken wooden crate were provided. How do you think that would affect the outcome.

The analogy isn’t strong, but ask yourself: are teachers allowed to choose their own students? (No.) Are they allowed to choose their own classrooms? (No.) What about the air temperature? (No.) What about the furniture? (No.) What about the textbook? (No.) What about the teaching techniques? (Sometimes no.) What about the tests for accomplishment? (No.) Some teachers have lavish classrooms in air-conditioned classrooms, with attentive students from homes that send them to school having eaten and with expectations that they be “good students.” Other teachers have none of this.

Still evaluation is something teachers agree is needed because they know that “bad apples spoil the basket” and even the perception that many or even just some teachers are substandard affects them all.

So what is to be done?

Basically, what is needed is study, something teachers are supposed to be good at. If the tests used as “student data” turn out to be volatile, maybe a time average (three year or four year) would work better. If those three tests don’t work, how about just those two with this new third one? Steps in this direction are being made. For example, instead of absolute measures, relative measures are being used. If your sixth-grade class is sent fourth grade proficiency students, are they at least making progress appropriate to their situation?

The issue is important enough to get it right. But nobody wants their job to be determined by whether they can turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse.

Leftovers from the Chicago Teacher’s Strike

Filed under: Education,Politics,The Unions — Steve Ruis @ 12:00 pm
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There was a certain flavor of this strike that the Teachers’ Union wasn’t getting the respect it deserved. There had been labor peace and cooperation for thirty plus years and, yet, there was a constant drumbeat that the core problem of Chicago Public Schools (CPS) was the teachers. Then legislation was pushed through the state capital making it much more difficult for teachers to strike. This did not sit well with the union, nor should it have.

This is definitely not the way to do business, either for the Union or the District.

Also, I found it a bit incredulous that the phrase “so Principals can hire the best available teachers” went unexamined. What makes school principals such great judges of teacher horseflesh? Have they been well trained? (I think not.) Have they always hired well? (Where did all of the bad teachers come from then?) Is there any evidence that Principals will make good personnel decisions if given a “free hand?” (I think not. I think that Principals are like teachers: some are really good, some are really bad, and most are journeyman-like competent.)

I have said over and over that the owner of a business has every right to hire and fire whoever he/she wants for whatever reasons (legally, in any case), but principals are not the owners of the business, they are just another category of employee. And teachers do not trust them when it comes to hiring and evaluations because, well, that trust hasn’t been earned.

One of my major contentions is that the management of schools is as big a problem as any part of the whole situation, possibly the biggest part. School principals are supposed to be good at: hiring and firing, personnel evaluation, personnel management, budgeting, curriculum development, and educational program management, and sports program management, and. . . . Principals are supposed to oversee special education, non-English speaker programs, summer sports programs, etc. etc.

Isn’t this a tiny bit much to ask for an employee not paid all that well? Huh?

Educational management is broken and it needs to be fixed, any ideas?

Here’s one. Create a management team in which each school has a manager in charge of each important segment (physical plant, scheduling, personnel, programs, hiring and evaluation, etc.). If these aren’t full time positions, they can teach classes to fill out their responsibilities. This team would meet regularly to coordinate their activities under the supervision of the district’s management team. This is managing functions instead of managing schools. People who want these jobs would need training, and a lot of it, but this is a good thing to do in-house. Extensive management training should be a pre-requisite to getting those positions.

There is only one function that a principal serves that couldn’t be covered by this scheme, that of being “someone to get fired” in the case of real or imagined malfeasance.

Redistribution of Wealth My Ass! Revisited!

Mitt Romney is going around the country talking to people about the difference between his America, where people get to keep their hard earned income and what he characterizes as the “entitlement culture” which is based on the “redistribution of wealth.” He has even dredged up a 14-year old video of then State Senator Obama saying that “some redistribution is good.” Not according to Mitt Romney. Romney’s disdain for the word “redistribution” resonates because it gets people to think about freeloaders. Nobody wants to support freeloaders.

I argue that “redistribution” is all that government does. It takes its revenues (taxes, fees, tariffs, etc.) away from people and gives them to other people. Some of my taxes go into the pockets of soldiers, some goes into the politician’s pockets (in the form of their salaries), and into bureaucrats pockets, etc. All government does is take and give. That is its role. The government represents our collective needs and we donate from funds that could go to address our individual needs to pay for the collective ones.

But Romney’s whole argument is a scam because his scathing remarks about “government redistributing wealth” are entirely disingenuous. In fact he is flat out lying. (Well, he is also pandering to his conservative base, too. He is implying that the government is taking your hard-earned income and giving it to shiftless, lazy, no accounts (code words for racial minorities).)

But Romney’s “class” lives off of government redistributions. Let me give you just one of a great many facts that are pertinent to this discussion: in 1950, corporations paid $3 in taxes for every $1 paid by an individual. In 2011, corporations paid 22 cents for every dollar paid by an individual. In other words, corporations paid 75% of corporate and income taxes in 1950, but only 18% now. How is it, do you think, that this shift in the tax burden, off of corporations and on to workers, got made? It got made by politicians being bribed to change our government’s tax laws to favor corporations over ordinary folks. That, my friends, is good redistribution, according to Mr. Romney. (It is no accident that the wealthiest Americans are more and more corporation executives. Surprised? You shouldn’t be.)

And there are many, many other examples: just one is that hedge fund managers making over a billion dollars a year pay only the lowest rate (15%) on all of their income while you get that rate on only the first little bit of your income—the reason?—because they don’t actually have to work hard for their money; they never even break a sweat. Oh, and they bribed enough of our public servants to make it so.

So, Mr. Romney is in effect saying “Don’t do what we did and get your government to redistribute the wealth in this county because we are enjoying all of that money very, very much.”

September 14, 2012

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Filed under: Education,The Unions — Steve Ruis @ 9:46 am
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Just yesterday I said about the Chicago teacher’s strike “In my city (Chicago) there is a teacher’s strike currently stalling the opening of the school year. This is one of very, very few strikes in this era of crippled unions. The surrounding discourse is very disappointing. Mostly there are newspaper editorials that are shallow, often appealing to doing our “best for our children.” The real issues are nowhere to be seen.”

Well, today Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune made a liar out of me with the thoughtful (and fact-based!) column I reblog below. (I do not reblog stuff as a rule, but Mr. Zorn graciously gave his permission.)

Why teachers have test anxiety, too
by Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune

The statement of the obvious: Bad teachers are afraid of being evaluated based on how well their students perform on standardized tests. When they fail their students, their students fail them.

The question: But why are so many presumptively good teachers also afraid? Why has the role of testing in teacher evaluations been a major sticking point in the public schools strike in Chicago?

The short answer: Because student test scores provide unreliable and erratic measurements of teacher quality. Because studies show that from subject to subject and from year to year, the same teacher can look alternately like a golden apple and a rotting fig.

The background: Statisticians have known for years that end-of-year student test scores alone aren’t a good gauge of teacher performance and have sought instead to try to measure the degree to which year-to-year improvements (or decreases) in student achievement can be attributed to the individual teacher.

This is the “value-added” approach that Chicago Public Schools have proposed to use for up to 40 percent of teacher-evaluation scores.

Refinements over the years have tried to take into account more and more of the different educational challenges, even within the same school, that can distort the scores. Add in a few extra pupils with learning disabilities, behavioral issues or language difficulties, for example, and even the best teachers will struggle to add value.

The analogy: A fertilizer test.

In a critical takedown of the value-added approach (.pdf) published this year in Notices of the American Mathematical Society, John Ewing, president of Math for America, an organization dedicated to improving high school math education, invited readers to consider the way scientists might compare the effectiveness of an array of fertilizers on different plants under various types of soil conditions.

Scientists would mix and match on dozens of plots of land and chart the growth and health of the plants over time. And with luck, in the end, they’d come up with simple fertilizer ratings that gardeners and farmers could use with confidence, year after year, on plants and in conditions not specifically measured by the test.

The bad luck: It turns out that when you chart the achievement growth of students (plants in our analogy) and try to take into account the socioeconomic factors (soil conditions) that affect educational attainment, there still are too many variables to yield a reliable, consistent measurement of the quality of teachers (the fertilizers).

Ewing quotes from a 2010 report from the Economic Policy Institute:

Analyses of (value-added model) results have led researchers to doubt whether the methodology can accurately identify more and less effective teachers. (Value-added model) estimates have proven to be unstable across statistical models, years and classes that teachers teach.

One study found that across five large urban districts, among teachers who were ranked in the top 20 percent of effectiveness in the first year, fewer than a third were in that top group the next year, and another third moved all the way down to the bottom 40 percent.

Another found that teachers’ effectiveness ratings in one year could only predict from 4 percent to 16 percent of the variation in such ratings in the following year.

The confirmation: Last year, 10 leading academics in the field of educational testing wrote a letter that said value-added measurements “are too unstable and too vulnerable to many sources of error to be used as a major part of teacher evaluation.”

It concluded, “Proposals that would place significant emphasis on this untested strategy . . . could have serious negative consequences for teachers and for the most vulnerable students.”

Author and independent education researcher Gary Rubinstein published on the Teach for Us blog a five-part analysis of 2007-10 value-added data collected on individual New York City teachers ( Part 1 and Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4 and Part 5).

He found so many startling and absurd results that he begged his readers to “spread the word, since calculations like these will soon be used in nearly every state.”

The statement of the obvious, part deux: School officials need to find ways to identify and weed out bad teachers. But they, and the good teachers in their charge, should be very wary of using test scores.

(links at http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2012/09/test-anxiety.html)

Problems with the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers — Economic Policy Institute, 2010

Analyzing Released NYC Value-Added Data Part 1 by Gary Rubinstein, Teach for Us. See also Part 2 and Part 3 and Part 4 and Part 5.

“Here’s the letter that 10 assessment experts sent to the New York State Board of Regents (in 2011) urging it not to approve a system that links student standard test scores to the evaluations of teachers and principals”…Valerie Strauss, Washington Post
Mathematical Intimidation: Driven by the Data (.pdf) by John Ewing, Math for America

Standardized test scores are worst way to evaluate teachers by Isabel Nunez, associate professor at the Center for Policy Studies and Social Justice at Concordia University Chicago (Sun-Times)

The Toxic Trifecta, Bad Measurement & Evolving Teacher Evaluation Policies by Bruce D. Baker, professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers (School Finance 101 blog)

Performance or Effectiveness? A Critical Distinction for Teacher Evaluation – Rod McCloy & Andrea Sinclair, Education Week

Why Standardized Tests Don’t Measure Educational Quality by W. James Popham, emeritus professor, UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies (ASCD –formerly the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development — “an educational leadership organization dedicated to advancing best practices and policies for the success of each learner”)

Director of Private School Where Rahm Sends His Kids Opposes Using Testing for Teacher Evaluations In These Times

Writing on the University of Chicago’s Lab School website two years ago, (Chicago Lab School director David) Magill noted, “Measuring outcomes through standardized testing and referring to those results as the evidence of learning and the bottom line is, in my opinion, misguided and, unfortunately, continues to be advocated under a new name and supported by the current [Obama] administration.”

Review of Learning About Teaching, National Education Policy Center

The data in fact indicate that a teachers’ value-added for the state test is not strongly related to her effectiveness in a broader sense. … many teachers whose value-added for one test is low are in fact quite effective when judged by the other . . .there is every reason to think that the problems with value-added measures … would be worse in a high-stakes environment…

September 13, 2012

Is School Choice the Answer?

Filed under: Education,The Unions — Steve Ruis @ 11:41 am
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In my city (Chicago) there is a teacher’s strike currently stalling the opening of the school year. This is one of very, very few strikes in this era of crippled unions. The surrounding discourse is very disappointing. Mostly there are newspaper editorials that are shallow, often appealing to doing our “best for our children.” The real issues are nowhere to be seen.

But the vast majority of Americans, I would wager, are fed up with public education and are looking for “solutions.” One such proposed solution is offering parent’s vouchers for their children’s educations to be spent where they wish. So, I have two questions:

1. Are the problems real? and
2. Are vouchers a “solution?”

Are the Problems Real?
It is undeniable that schools are not doing as good of a job as we would like them to. I hope this would never change as striving to do “better” is the only way I know of not back-sliding. But are the schools in crisis? Are we doomed?

The current state of the news media is tragic. Basically all of the old “news” organizations have been taken over by the entertainment divisions of mega-media corporations and basically, if it doesn’t entertain, it doesn’t get covered. One form of entertainment that sold newspapers and still gets ratings and advertisers dollars is “awfulizing.” I didn’t invent the term, but it is extremely accurate in its characterization. Basically, awfulizing is telling people how awful things are.

If you think otherwise, try to identify some actual good news on any media outlet (you can’t count the YouTube kitten videos so prominently used for a shot of “feel good” so common today). Good news doesn’t sell, so you don’t hear any.

The best I can tell is for about the top quarter of our school children, the public schools are educating them just fine. For the middle half, their schooling is mediocre. For the bottom fourth, their education is tragic.

So, I believe there are real and significant problems with the way we educate our kids.

Are Vouchers a “Solution?”
I keep putting the word “solution” in quotation marks (darn, I did it again) because such a simple thing cannot be a real solution. The short answer to this question is “no.” The reasons are simple. The pro-voucher crowd claims that injecting competition into schools will increase their quality. Uh, no, again. The general guidelines are: within your “in group” cooperation works best, outside of your “in group” competition works best. Look at the higher education system. Are the private schools stratified by competition? Does MIT or CalTech really compete for students? Does Harvard? Does Yale? Well, there is some competition going on, but by and large it is not a competitive market place. So, competition cannot be the source of the USA’s reputation of having the finest system of higher education in the world.

But still the pro competition group wants there to be competition: winners and losers. They want “for profit” schools siphoning money out of the system to use for purposes other than educating kids. And do you think teachers are primarily motivated by money? (They aren’t. Investment bankers are, but teachers are most certainly not, so how are you going to reward them for competitive success?) If you are really “pro competition” do you think that having your kids clean their rooms with the winner (being the one who does the best job, normalized to age) getting to eat dinner as the reward is a good idea? Is competition always good?

The desire for a simple solution to a complex problem is the problem here.

There are no simple solutions to complex problems. There are cornerstone ideas that trigger new commitments, that change people’s thinking, but they aren’t the “solution.”

If you really want to improve education, study what we are doing now then ask yourself how you would like the schools to operate. Then you can begin to see what really needs to be done to fill that gap.

I will share a trio of my perspectives:

1. There are no standards of student accomplishment (so we really don’t know what works and what doesn’t).
2. There are no systems in place to improve the process (so things get better only by accident).
3. There are no standards for management (so the odds of a good school also getting good management are poor at best).

In Finland, if you take a course of study in college that leads to teaching, your education is free. But the standards are high and continuing education is, well, continuous. You must commit to teach for five years or repay the cost of your education. Teachers are respected and well-paid in Finland. Their education system is one of the best in the world. In this country, we solicit the group of college graduates who have the least ambition and are willing to work on the cheap to educate our children. How’s that workin’ for ya?

Maybe, just maybe, we might consider that another country already knows how to do public education better and we could mimic them to good effect.

And, just to come full circle . . . as a former union negotiator, any strike is a failure. Unions know that strikes are net losers for them, so they are a sign of failure to do a good job on the behalf of their members. Any time you see a strike, one other thing is guaranteed, and that is bad management. Management knows that unions know that strikes are losing propositions. The best deals can be made by pushing up to a “strikable” proposition, but no further. The Chicago Teachers Association strike is a judgment of the District’s management and the judgment is “you failed.” But, rarely are there any consequences for being a bad manager and managers have no money in the game.

September 12, 2012

The Goose, The Golden Eggs, and the Republican Party

Filed under: Politics,Religion — Steve Ruis @ 2:08 pm
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Regular readers of this blog will probably note that irrationality is one of my favorite themes to write on. I continue. . . .

When I was growing up, all school kids seemed to know the fable of “The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs.” This was one of Aesop’s fables (5th C. Greek maybe) which had more than one version. In each the goose gets killed: in one out of foolish curiosity and another out of greed. Motive is not important here.

The point here is: which is more important, the goose or a single egg?

Ah, now you can see where I am going. The connection is with the topic of the legality and the morality of abortion. As far as the Republicans are concerned, an unlaid egg is worth more than the goose. I am going to make a practical argument about why abortion needs to be available and freely so. And I shall not mention the arguments about raising unwanted children, or women having abortions on a whim, or any of the arguments already made; those just don’t add to the debate. This is strictly practical. Okay, buckle your seat belt; here I go.

Children just aren’t worth much.

What?! How can I say such a heinous thing? I can say it because it is true. Now I fully acknowledge that your children are precious to you (as mine is to me). But other people’s kids, not so much: we find them irritating, obnoxious, spoiled, ill-mannered, . . . , need I go on? Just listen to any conversation about kids at a family gathering and, well, “our kids” are sweet and nice or maybe even “a handful,” but when the topic rolls around to “their kids,” the knives come out. So, I don’t think the “children are precious” line holds any water.

It fact, it wasn’t that long ago in this country that women of no particular means had six, eight, ten, or more children. And it wasn’t a shock to anyone that fewer than half survived. (This is still the case in poorer countries now.) Where were the Republicans then (or now), wringing their hands about how life was sacred and we needed to protect the little children? You couldn’t even get them to donate to “poor houses” and orphanages then. You can get them to care about starving children in Somalia now. So, I don’t think the “life is sacred” line holds any water either.

In reality (a place far, far away from Republicanland) women are a far more precious resource than children because, well, women can lay golden eggs, many of them if they wish. Heck, the Spartans left less than perfect children out in the wilderness and went home to make better ones.

Republicans are even siding with rapists and incestuous fornicators on this issue. I don’t think these are their Christian morals popping up, because they show no pity, disrespect the poor, call the jobless lazy, and favor greed over all other attributes. They wouldn’t cherry-pick the Bible, now would they?

Maybe they are just pandering to people who think like they do, you know, the irrational.

September 10, 2012

I Wonder How He Would Fair on Today’s Supreme Court?

Louis Brandeis (1856–1941) was an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939.

According to Wikipedia “as Justice William O. Douglas wrote, ‘Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible. . . [and] the fears of the Establishment were greater because Brandeis was the first Jew to be named to the Court.’ He was eventually confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 47 to 22 on June 1, 1916, (21 Republican Senators and one Democratic Senator (Francis G. Newlands of Nevada) voted against his nomination) and became one of the most famous and influential figures ever to serve on the high court. His opinions were, according to legal scholars, some of the “greatest defenses” of freedom of speech and the right to privacy ever written by a member of the Supreme Court.”

Some Brandeis quotes (the emphases are mine):

“We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”
As quoted by Raymond Lonergan in Mr. Justice Brandeis, Great American (1941), p. 42.

“What are the American ideals? They are the development of the individual for his own and the common good; the development of the individual through liberty, and the attainment of the common good through democracy and social justice.”
“True Amercianism” (1915).

Strong, responsible unions are essential to industrial fair play. Without them the labor bargain is wholly one-sided. The parties to the labor contract must be nearly equal in strength if justice is to be worked out, and this means that the workers must be organized and that their organizations must be recognized by employers as a condition precedent to industrial peace.
Reported in Osmond Kessler Fraenkel, Clarence Martin Lewis, The Curse of Bigness: Miscellaneous Papers of Louis D. Brandeis (1965), p. 43.

“The prevalence of the corporation in America has led men of this generation to act, at times, as if the privilege of doing business in corporate form were inherent in the citizen; and has led them to accept the evils attendant upon the free and unrestricted use of the corporate mechanism as if these evils were the inescapable price of civilized life, and, hence to be borne with resignation.
Dissent, Liggett Co. v. Lee, 288 U.S. 517 (1933).

“Through size, corporations, once merely an efficient tool employed by individuals in the conduct of private business have become an institution—an institution which has brought such concentration of economic power that so-called private corporations are sometimes able to dominate the state. The typical business corporation of the last century, owned by a small group of individuals, managed by their owners, and limited in size by their private wealth, is being supplanted by huge concerns in which the lives of tens or hundreds of thousands of employees and the property of tens of hundreds of thousands of investors are subjected, through the corporate mechanism, to the control of a few men. Ownership has been separated from control; and this separation has removed many of the checks which formerly operated to curb the misuse of wealth and power. And, as ownership of the shares is becoming continually more dispersed, the power which formerly accompanied ownership is becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few… [and] coincident with the growth of these giant corporations, there has occurred a marked concentration of individual wealth; and that the resulting disparity in incomes is a major cause of the existing depression.
Dissent, Liggett Co. v. Lee, 288 U.S. 517 (1933), at 565-67.

In the field of modern business, so rich in opportunity for the exercise of man’s finest and most varied mental faculties and moral qualities, mere money-making cannot be regarded as the legitimate end. Neither can mere growth of bulk or power be admitted as a worthy ambition. Nor can a man nobly mindful of his serious responsibilities to society view business as a game; since with the conduct of business human happiness or misery is inextricably interwoven.
“Business — The New Profession”, La Follette’s Weekly Magazine, Volume 4, No. 47 (November 23, 1912), p. 7.

I wonder whether Justice Brandeis would even be confirmed were he available for nomination, so “radical” his thinking. He must have been a socialist; yes, that’s it, he was a socialist!

September 4, 2012

You Are Known By the Company You Keep

According to the Bill Moyers & Company television program, Ralph Reed is making a political comeback, this time as the head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, another “nonprofit” that is collecting dark money, swearing to the IRS that it spends nothing on politics, and then spending all of its money on politics.

Reed seems the same as he was in the past, with one recent quip delivered to a FFC audience quoting the Bible “My people perish from a lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4: 6 , KJV) and basically telling them that people need to be told how to vote. Of course, the biblical quotation means nothing of the kind; in fact, the knowledge referred to was religious, not political. Ordinary knowledge and political knowledge are given short shrift in the Bible. So, Reed is back to his mealy-mouthed ways.

If you don’t remember Reed, he was the creator of the “Christian Coalition” a group which told conservative Christians how to vote. (At least he is consistent.) Reed was one of the “Three Amigos” of Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist, and Jack Abramoff who lobbied Congress under the Bush administration and bilked clients out of millions of dollars. Only Abramoff went to prison, Norquist and Reed somehow escaped prosecution. Norguist even escaped political banishment, but Reed did not.

I wish I could remember G.W. Bush’s quotation about “Fool me once, . . .” because it applies here. Ralph Reed constantly appeals to his “conservative Christian values” when he addresses his audiences, but it is hard to determine which of his two faces he is speaking from. Reed’s new organization is accumulating millions of dollars, he says he is going to use to inject religion into politics. Since Reed’s religion is apparently “power” this does not seem surprising.

Conservative Christians, though, should hold up some of their vaunted values to Mr. Reed’s performance in life and see him for the snake oil salesman he is and not end up with his taint liberally smeared on their faces.

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