Robert F. Kennedy Jr.: Restoring Louisiana's Coast Will Require Restoring Its Democracy -- Governor Jindal Is Trying To Undermine Both 2014-04-16
The Mississippi's River southernmost delta is home to a rich ecosystem, robust, culture and booming economy. Wetlands provide critical storm protection for the Louisiana's coast. A recent poll by America's Wetland Foundation found that 74 percent of Louisiana residents "consider saving the coast to be the most important issue [in the state] of our lifetime." For Delta citizens, flood protection is a matter of survival. Louisiana wetlands are disappearing at a rate of approximately 1 football field every hour and coastal communities are already washing into the Gulf of Mexico. To date, roughly 2,000 square miles of land have disappeared under water and the erosion is accelerating. The disappearing land once buffered communities including New Orleans from catastrophic storm surges.
Managing the Mississippi River Delta is a daunting challenge, but the greatest barrier to restoration and flood protection is politics. Last year, a board of flood experts, acting to protect New Orleans, ignited a battle that has starkly pitted the public welfare against the sycophantic fealty of Louisiana's toadying politicians to a rapacious oil and gas industry.
The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority -- East (SLFPA-E) oversees the greater New Orleans levee system. The deterioration of the wetlands that protect the levees surrounding New Orleans led the SLFPA-E to file suit against 97 oil and gas companies. While the Army Corp of Engineers diversion projects have contributed to wetland shrinkage by starving the delta of sediments, study after study, including those conducted by the state and the oil industry, point to oil and gas activities as a principle culprit in the loss of Louisiana's wetlands. The petroleum titans have dredged approximately 10,000 miles of canals through Louisiana's fragile wetlands in their thirst for oil and gas allowing wave action and salt water from the Gulf to infiltrate and destroy what is left. State issued dredge permits require these companies to restore the injured wetlands. Petroleum industry practice is to ignore those permit mandates.
SLFPA's suit seeks to force these companies to finally repair the damage they have inflicted on coastal wetlands as the law requires.
These permit violations are not victimless crimes. In breaking the laws that require wetland restoration, these companies endanger everyone who depends on Louisiana's productive and delicate coasts. The protection of the many should take precedence over the protection of the money, but Louisiana's servile politicians seem more concerned with protecting cash flow for the most profitable industry in history -- an industry that provides local pols their largest source of campaign lucre.
Genuflecting to Big Oil's pressure, the industry's chief indentured servant, Governor Bobby Jindal, is leading an attempt to kill the suit by orchestrating the replacement of several members of the levee authority. Jindal's caper violates state laws that guarantee that body's political independence. Urged on by the Governor, crooked Legislators are currently advancing bills to undermine the levee board and retroactively kill the lawsuit. Louisiana is a classic corporate kleptocracy. There is no sunshine in Baton Rouge ; Like so many cockroaches Big Oil's state house sock puppets are working their mischief in the darkness with no accountability or public participation.
A Louisiana elected official once said "the flag of Texaco flies over the Louisiana State Capitol." Right now that flag is flapping in the face of every citizen. Tax-hating governor Jindall now wants to spend tens of millions of dollars of tax payer money to plug oil canals which companies are required by law to plug themselves. That money pales beside to the $50 billion cost of the state's Master Plan to protect the coast. Jindal's funding proposal caper will protect his oil industry patrons and stick the public with the bill: taxpayers will cover the costs of damage caused by oil companies.
A recent poll by the nonprofit, Restore Louisiana Now, found that 90 percent of state residents believe the oil and gas industry should pay it's fair share, and 75 percent believe the governor has no business shielding the oil and gas industry from the costs of its misbehavior.
As Seneca observed "To greed, all of nature is insufficient".
Jason Endacott: Why We Chose To Opt Out 2014-04-16
Thousands of children in our state are headed into schools today to take standardized tests mandated by the federal government under No Child Left Behind. Our fourth grade son won't be one of them.
Opting your children out of standardized tests is a very personal decision, and one that has been far more difficult to make than we originally thought it would be. There has been a lot of attention given in the media lately to children who won't be taking standardized tests and the parents who have chosen to opt them out. In response to this attention, those who have the most to gain from high stakes testing have begun to push back, even chastising parents for their personal choices.
Today's post is dedicated to explaining the personal decision we made to opt our son out of standardized testing. In writing this I don't hope to convince you to opt your own children out of future testing. In fact, that's why I waited until today to post this, to provide some food for future thought.
I'm an educator, an academic and a parent. In the current climate of education in the U.S. I have very little power over my kids' education in any of these three roles. As an educator I have watched politicians, corporations and wealthy philanthropists take more and more control over K-12 schools. No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, and the Common Core State Standards are all examples of how education is guided by those with wealth and power rather than those with wealth of knowledge.
No Child Left Behind started us down this path in 2002 by tying federal money to standardized tests. Give the tests or lose out on millions in Title I funds that go to schools with the neediest children. President Obama used the billions of dollars that were part of his Race to the Top to program to double down on NCLB by enticing states to compete for grants. In return, states were expected to adopt a common set of college and career ready standards (CCSS) and institute teacher evaluation systems that used test scores to measure teacher performance.
In the future, these test scores will be based on the Common Core State Standards, a set of de facto national standards that were created undemocratically, were not written by single classroom teacher, endured absolutely no field testing, suffer from dubious developmental appropriateness, and were forced down the necks of states by the federal government during the worst economic recession since the Great Depression.
So its no wonder that we sometimes see schools and teachers losing their minds in order to make sure that their students do well on these tests. They are required to administer them, federal monies are attached to them, their performance evaluations depend on them, and the legislatures of some states are already looking for ways to make it easier to fire them. Standardized tests are a gun that is being held to the livelihood of every public school teacher in the United States. Knowing all this makes it easier to understand why some schools have turned to disturbing practices like DATA WALLS, forcing teachers to teach from scripted lesson plans that don't allow for differentiation, narrowing the curriculum to focus on tested subjects rather than a well-rounded education, and judging studentsby the numbers they produce.
Meanwhile, a $500 billion dollar national market has been created in education thanks to Common Core and the endless tests our states and schools purchase. The Education sector is now 9 percent of G.D.P in the United States. That. Is. A. Lot. Of. Money. And there is no shortage of "edupreneurs" who are jumping into that market to get their share of the pot. As a nation we have been convinced that our public schools are failing, that the "status quo" is unacceptable, that schools need standards and testing in order to succeed, and that market based reforms such as privatization, charter schools, vouchers and "dumping the losers" are the way to get it done. The only problem is that none of this is true. None of it. Don't believe me? Read this. Or this. Or this. Good old common sense says these reforms will work. High quality research says they don't. In fact, we have been trying to "save" our public schools with standards, testing and reforms for so long that they've actually become the "status quo".
It is the test that binds all of this insanity together. Without the tests, the reformers have nothing to threaten schools with. Without the tests, the federal government loses power over states. Without the tests, schools would be able to stop assigning multiple choice tests to kindergarteners. Without the tests, there would be no way for education reformers to convince you that your schools are much worse than they really are. Without the tests, there wouldn't be a target on our teachers.
But tests aren't really the problem, the real problem is how the tests are used. Tests are an important form of data that can help educators determine how students are doing and how they need to improve. When used for that purpose, tests are great. Still limited, but great. However, when used as a tool for propaganda, profit and pressure, tests are more punitive than positive. As long as high stakes standardized tests -- despite their limitations -- are used as the primary means for evaluating schools, they will continue to be far more valuable for punishing states, schools and teachers than for evaluating student achievement.
There isn't much I can do about this as an educator and an academic other than write and speak when I'm allowed. But as a parent I have the power to take control over the education of my child, and that's exactly what my wife and I have decided to do. Federal laws clearly give us the right as parents to guide the education of our children. While the Secretary of Education has recently pushed for changes to those laws in order to give corporations as much access to your child's data as any teacher or administrator has, he hasn't been able to take away our right to decide what's best for our child. Not yet anyway.
So we're exercising that right. We're taking one bullet out of the standardized test gun that is being held to the heads of our nation's schools and teachers. It's only one bullet, and there's millions more left in the chamber, but it is OUR bullet so that's what we're going to do.
Some would say that our decision actually hurts our child's school because they NEED those test scores in order to stave off the federal government's punishments under NCLB. Schools automatically "fail" under NCLB if schools don't test at least 95 percent of their students each year. We prefer to take the long view on that issue. Educators have become so concerned with meeting short term testing goals in order to avoid punishment that many of them have lost perspective and a vision for the big picture. We are far more concerned about what will happen if the status quo is allowed to continue unchallenged. We will not allow our child's test score to be used to punish schools or teachers.
Others ask, "How will you know what your child is capable of if you don't have test scores?" The answer to that is pretty simple. We trust our son's teachers. The privileging of standardized test score data above all other forms of information regarding a student's progress is a relatively recent phenomenon. There was a time when we trusted teachers to teach, assess, and evaluate the progress of our students. We believe this should still be the case. We don't need standardized tests to tell us what our kids are capable of. Our sons' teachers are more than capable of evaluating and communicating our son's capabilities in the class using the data they collect through classwork, teacher created assessments and other formative data points that aren't mandated by the federal government. Did you know that the new assessments for CCSS will be graded completely by a computer? Even students' writing will be scored by a computer. They'll tell you that algorithms can be constructed to evaluate a human's writing capacity. As an expert in how kids think and learn, I'll tell you that's ridiculous. Testing is one of the least authentic ways to determine what any child is capable of. Nowhere else in life do we try to determine what somebody is capable of by putting them in front of a test and asking them to fill in bubbles. Yet in in American public education, that's quickly becoming the ONLY way we determine what students are capable of.
These are only a few reasons why we have decided to opt our son out of high-stakes and punitive standardized tests. We don't expect everybody who reads this to agree with us. As I mentioned at the outset of this post, opting out is a very personal decision. In fact, it is the personal nature of the decision that makes it a legitimate one in our eyes. We just hope that reading this will give you something to think about as you make your own decision about your own child.
Cross-posted from EduSanity.
The Motley Fool: 3 Things Wealthy People Do Differently 2014-04-16
The funniest thing I've noticed about rich people is how little their income has to do with their wealth. Mike Tyson earned $300 million during his career and went broke. An orphaned, unmarried administrative assistant died with millions in the bank. A lot of rich people aren't exceptionally talented at what they do. They just have quirks and habits that let them think differently about money than the rest of us.
Here are three I've noticed.
They are (mostly pleasant) sociopaths
I'm convinced that nearly every rich person has the characteristics of a sociopath. Not in a cruel, soulless way. But sociopaths can disregard emotional events that cause normal people to worry and panic. Great investors can do that, too. They can watch stocks fall 50 percent and shrug their shoulders or see 10 million people lose their jobs and remain unshakably calm. In her book Confessions of a Sociopath, M.E. Thomas writes:Sharks see in black-and-white. Scientists have suggested that contrast against background may be more helpful than color for predators in detecting potential prey, helping them to focus on crucial spatial relationships rather than extraneous details. I'm color-blind in a way that makes mass hysteria seem particularly striking in contrast to normal, expected behavior. My lack of empathy means I don't get caught up in other people's panic. It gives me a unique perspective. And in the financial world, being able to think opposite the pack is all you need.
Napoleon's definition of a military genius was "The man who can do the average thing when all those around him are going crazy." Rich people are similar. They remain normal when everyone else can't.
They care about time periods most can't comprehend
There are four ways to invest:Unsuccessfully Long-term (varying degrees of success) Short term, successful due to luck Short term, successful due to manipulation/fraud That's the complete list. Nos. 3 and 4 eventually become No. 1.
Long-term investing is the only sane choice. But it's unnatural. We're hardwired to grab immediate gains and avoid immediate threats. That's why we eat donuts and watch CNBC.
My friend Carl Richards made a great sketch last week:
As Carl notes, studies show that we have the same emotional connection to ourselves 30 years in the future as we do an unknown third-party today. Rich people have the rare ability to bridge that emotional gap. They are allergic to the short run. "If you look carefully," Bill Bonner writes in his book Family Fortunes, "almost all Old Money secrets can be traced to a single source: a longer-term outlook."
In August 1929, John Raskob wrote an article called "Everyone Ought to Be Rich." All you had to do was buy stocks and hold them for a long time, he wrote. Two months later, the market crashed. It fell 88 percent over the next four years. To this day, people cite Raskob's article as a sign of irrational hype. But was it? Anyone who bought stocks the day it hit the stands increased their wealth six-fold over the next 30 years, adjusted for inflation. Missing this is why everyone ought to be rich, but few are.
They don't give a damn what you think of them
Dilbert creator Scott Adams once wrote: "One of the best pieces of advice I've ever heard goes something like this: If you want success, figure out the price, then pay it. It sounds trivial and obvious, but if you unpack the idea it has extraordinary power."
The price of being rich is really simple: You must live below your means.
But living below your means is hard. Most people want to be rich to impress other people. They do this by spending money, which is the surest way to have less of it.
The reason so many Americans are in dire financial shape is because their aspirations, desires, and wants have grown faster than their incomes. That's why the size of the median home has increased by 30 percent over the last 25 years while the median income has barely budged. For every $1 raise most people receive, their desires grow by perhaps $1.10. This is the express lane to disappointment.
Rich people avoid this trap. They care less about what others think of them than ordinary people do. They don't give a damn, actually. They can get a raise without buying a new car or have a great year in the market and not blow it on a new watch. A lot of them are after control over their time, which comes from having a wide gap between what they can afford to buy and what they actually buy. They are more impressed with retiring early than $90 T-shirts or $20 cocktails. It's classic Millionaire Next Door stuff.
Having the emotional backbone to drive an uglier car than you can afford, live in a smaller house you can afford, eat out less often than you can afford, and wear cheaper clothes than you can afford is rare. In my experience, less than 10 percent of people can do it in a meaningful way. It's the cost of being rich, and most people have no desire to pay the price.
"A miser grows rich by seeming poor," poet William Shenstone wrote. "An extravagant man grows poor by seeming rich." I don't think it's any more complicated than that.
Adam Winkler: Bloomberg Gives Boost To Gun Control 2014-04-16
Today's announcement by billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg of the creation of Everytown for Gun Safety, a new political organization committed to electing pro-gun control legislators, is just the boost the gun control movement needs. The failure of Congress to enact reform in the wake of Newtown, despite widespread support in the polls, has discouraged many gun control supporters. When proposals to enhance background checks has 90 percent support but fail even to get through the Senate, gun control advocates have reason to be worried.
That's why Bloomberg's new organization is so important. Background check reform was defeated by the effective political mobilization of gun enthusiasts by the National Rifle Association and other gun rights groups. The NRA and its allies were able to swamp senators offices with calls, letters, and emails against reform. Senators, especially from swing states, became convinced that voting to improve background checks would stir up single-issue, pro-gun voters on Election Day. Not without reason has the NRA been considered one of the most powerful political players in Washington.
Bloomberg is promising to bring those same types of political operations used by the NRA to the gun control movement. Everytown for Gun Safety will be devoted to identifying and scoring pro-gun control candidates; providing them with contributions and independent expenditures; and turning out the vote for them on election day. Everytown also aims to be an active membership organization for supporters of gun safety laws -- connecting them up in a political network that will promote the sharing of information and additional means of raising funds. With $50 million in financing from Bloomberg, Everytown will have funding unprecedented among gun control groups devoted to political advocacy.
Bloomberg understands that the lack of political mobilization has cost gun control advocates. The NRA is effective because it can turn out voters for its candidates. The same is true of other major effective political groups, like Planned Parenthood. Although the gun control movement has other important political players, like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Gabrielle Giffords' Americans for Responsible Solutions, Bloomberg is promising to build an active membership organization with a few million members. That's something the gun control movement has never really had.
There are obvious hurdles to any gun control advocacy group. There are a lot of single-issue, pro-gun voters in America but not a lot of single-issue, pro-gun-control voters. Everytown, to be successful, will have to inspire more people who support gun control to make this the sole issue they vote on in primary and general elections. It's also easier for gun rights advocates to mobilize because they are united by a common hobby -- shooting -- and all that it entails. They network at gun ranges, read similar periodicals and websites, and follow the same Twitter feeds. That means that information can reach them easily and they can be political mobilized to call officials or support a given candidate. Gun control advocates aren't united in the same way, which makes mobilization more difficult.
Perhaps Bloomberg's $50 million will help. That's what he's betting on -- and why gun control supporters should be buoyed by today's news.
Susan Casey-lefkowitz: Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Urge Obama To Make The Right Choice And Reject The Keystone Xl Tar Sands Pipeline 2014-04-16
As the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline nears the end of its national interest determination process, 10 Nobel Peace Prize laureates are urging President Obama to deny the project, citing the moral imperative of protecting some of the world’s most vulnerable populations from the devastating effects of climate change. The laureates include Archbishop Desmond Tutu, former President Jimmy Carter, landmine activist Jody Williams and others from around the world.
“You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change,” the Nobel laureates write in a letter sent to Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.
Nobel peace prize winners—including Williams and Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa— have previously written to Obama urging him to reject the controversial pipeline. This is the first time Carter, U.S. President from 1977-1981, and 2002 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, has also raised his voice in opposition. Others joining this letter include Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee, Tawakkol Karman, Mairead Maguire, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, and Betty Williams
In their letter, the Nobel laureates confirm that as the linchpin to driving massive expansion of extraction of the high carbon tar sands from under Canada’s Boreal forest, Keystone XL would add billions of tons of new carbon pollution to the atmosphere and worsen climate change.
Communities around the world are feeling the impacts of climate change on their health, safety and livelihoods. The most recent climate science community report shows a growing threat to our communications, transportation, security and food systems. As leaders struggle with what the need to fight climate change means in terms of energy decisions at home, the voice of moral leaders such as these Nobel Peace laureates becomes more important than ever. And they are sending a clear message that political leadership is essential to stand up to entrenched fossil fuel interests and to take the kinds of decisions that will put us on the path of a cleaner energy future.
“As you near a decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, please do not underestimate its importance. A rejection would signal a new course for the world’s largest economy. You know as well as us the power of precedence that this would set,” the letter states. “This leadership by example would usher in a new era where climate change and pollution is given the urgent attention and focus it deserves in a world where the climate crisis is already a daily struggle for so many.”
The Nobel laureates note they stand in solidarity with the two million voices who have sent comments to the U.S. State Department in opposition to Keystone XL. And their letter comes in addition to letters in the past few weeks from more than 200 business leaders, and more than 100 scientists and economists pressing for rejection of the project, as well as an event in Washington, D.C. where voices from indigenous and landowner communities will call for rejection of Keystone XL.
You can let your voice be heard as well at www.stoptar.org.
The Nobel laureates letter also appeared in a full-page ad in Politico and is reprinted here in full:
April 15, 2014
Dear President Obama and Secretary Kerry,
You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change. As you deliberate the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, you are poised to make a decision that will signal either a dangerous commitment to the status quo, or bold leadership that will inspire millions counting on you to do the right thing for our shared climate. We stand with the 2,000,000 voices who submitted their comments in the national interest determination process rejecting the pipeline and ask you once again to stop Keystone XL.
The tar sands are among the world’s most polluting oil and their growth in Northern Alberta has costs not only for our shared climate, but for the First Nations communities whose air, water, land, and human rights are being devastated by rapid expansion of tar sands production and related infrastructure.
The rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline would have meaningful and significant impacts in reducing carbon pollution. The myth that tar sands development is inevitable and will find its way to market by rail if not pipeline is a red herring. Oil industry projections are clear that to reach their production goals they would need all current pipeline proposals as well as rail; not either or. Industry experts agree that the Keystone XL project is the linchpin for tar sands expansion and the increased pollution that will follow, triggering more climate upheaval with impacts felt around the world.
This letter marks the third time that many of us have written to you to urge a rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. Let this reflect the growing urgency we feel for the hundreds of millions of people globally whose lives and livelihoods are being threatened and lost as a result of the changing climate and environmental damage caused by our dangerous addiction to oil.
You are among the first generation of leaders that knows better - leaders that have the knowledge, tools, and opportunity to pivot our societies away from fossil fuels and towards smarter, safer and cleaner energy. History will reflect on this moment and it will be clear to our children and grandchildren if you made the right choice.
As we have said in our previous letters, we have found hope in your words and promises to work to ensure a safer climate. We continue to be inspired by the millions of people who have made this an intergenerational movement of climate defenders with a goal of holding you accountable to these words. As recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize, we feel we have a moral obligation to raise our voices in support and solidarity for those across North America and the world that are fighting not only for impacted people and communities today, but for the generations to come that will bear the ultimate consequences of a failure to act.
As you near a decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, please do not underestimate its importance. While the climate crisis will require increasingly ambitious efforts to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, this moment has the potential to empower a generation that needs affirmation that their leaders are listening and care about their future. A rejection would signal a new course for the world’s largest economy. You know as well as we do the powerful precedent that this would set. This leadership by example would usher in a new era where climate change and pollution is given the urgent attention and focus it deserves in a world where the climate crisis is already a daily struggle for so many.
We thank you again for your attention and we sincerely hope our next communication is to congratulate you on a significant step towards a safer climate.
Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States, Nobel Peace Laureate (2002) — USA
Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Laureate (2003) — Iran
Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Peace Laureate (2011) — Liberia
Tawakkol Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate (2011) — Yemen
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) — Northern Ireland
Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Laureate (1992) — Guatemala
Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Laureate (1980) — Argentina
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Laureate (1984) —
Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1976) — Northern Ireland
Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Laureate (1997) — USA
Tavis Smiley: My Conversation With Orphan Black's Tatiana Maslany 2014-04-16
Join me tonight for my conversation with actress Tatiana Maslany. She has earned rave reviews, from critics and audiences alike, for her Golden Globe-nominated performance in the sci-fi clone saga Orphan Black. In season one, she played seven characters with strikingly different personalities and accents. Season two, which premieres on BBC America this Saturday, April 19, unleashes even more clones. In the clip below, Maslany explains how different music helps her get into character(s). Can you guess which clone's internal rhythm is musical theater?
For more of our conversation, be sure to tune in to Tavis Smiley tonight on PBS. Check out our website for your local TV listings: http://www.pbs.org/tavis.
Jennifer Tyler Lee: The Benefits Of Dark Chocolate On Easter 2014-04-16
The benefits of dark chocolate abound, especially when it comes to reducing added sugars in your Easter baskets!
The Easter bunny is coming and he's hopping along with baskets full of sweet treats. As a parent trying to get your whole family eating healthy, that candy bonanza can be tough to navigate. One candy bar can put your child well over the proposed WHO guidelines for added sugars. And it's those added sugars that are creating the massive obesity epidemic in this country, as Laurie David's riveting new documentary, Fed Up, exposes.
Avoiding sugary treats altogether at holiday time is a tough bar to meet. That's where the benefits of dark chocolate come into play.
Dark chocolate has been linked to improved heart health. A recent study published in Scientific American suggested that dark chocolate may also benefit the microbes in our guts. Beyond those important health benefits, offering dark chocolate as an alternative is an easy way to help reduce added sugars in your family's diet--dark chocolate has a fraction of the added sugars that milk chocolate contains.
Instead of banning sweet treats from your baskets, substitute them with a healthier alternative (along with non-food treats, like sidewalk chalk eggs). Here are some easy things you can do to bring the benefits of dark chocolate to your baskets:
1) Stick to chocolate with at least 70 percent cacao content. 2) Enjoy, but in small portions. 3) Limit sweet treats to the weekends only. Fruit on weeknights. 4) Make your treats at home.
Our dark chocolate bark recipe is a delicious treat for the whole family. Bonus, it's great fun to make with your kids -- the recipe is easy and the rewards are high. Make a big batch and package it up in cello bags with raffia ribbons. Tuck your homemade dark chocolate treats in your baskets, and save a few to give as teacher thank you gifts. It's a wonderful way to enjoy the benefits of dark chocolate, along with the benefits of cooking together as a family. Double bonus.
Jennifer Tyler Lee is author of The 52 New Foods Challenge (Penguin Random House/Avery 2014) and the creator of the award-winning healthy eating game, Crunch a Color®. Her family cooking adventures have been featured at Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, Rachael Ray's Yum-O!, Laurie David's Family Dinner, Pottery Barn Kids, and Whole Foods Markets. Her book, The 52 New Foods Challenge, releases November 2014.
Pauline Hawkins: Why I'm Resigning After 11 Years As A Teacher 2014-04-16
Dear Administrators, Superintendent, et al.:
This is my official resignation letter from my English teaching position.
I'm sad to be leaving a place that has meant so much to me. This was my first teaching job. For eleven years I taught in these classrooms, I walked these halls, and I befriended colleagues, students, and parents alike. This school became part of my family, and I will be forever connected to this community for that reason.
I am grateful for having had the opportunity to serve my community as a teacher. I met the most incredible people here. I am forever changed by my brilliant and compassionate colleagues and the incredible students I've had the pleasure of teaching.
I know I have made a difference in the lives of my students, just as they have irrevocably changed mine. Teaching is the most rewarding job I have ever had. That is why I am sad to leave the profession I love.
Even though I am primarily leaving to be closer to my family, if my family were in Colorado I would not be able to continue teaching here. As a newly single mom, I cannot live in this community on the salary I make as a teacher. With the effects of the pay freeze still lingering and Colorado having one of the lowest yearly teaching salaries in the nation, it has become financially impossible for me to teach in this state.
Along with the salary issue, ethically, I can no longer work in an educational system that is spiraling downwards while it purports to improve the education of our children.
I began my career just as No Child Left Behind (NCLB) was gaining momentum. The difference between my students then and now is unmistakable. Regardless of grades or test scores, my students from five to eleven years ago still had a sense of pride in whom they were and a self-confidence in whom they would become someday. Sadly, that type of student is rare now. Every year I have seen a decline in student morale; every year I have more and more wounded students sitting in my classroom, more and more students participating in self-harm and bullying. These children are lost and in pain.
It is no coincidence that the students I have now coincide with the NCLB movement 12 years ago -- and it's only getting worse with the new legislation around Race to the Top.
I have sweet, incredible, intelligent children sitting in my classroom who are giving up on their lives already. They feel that they only have failure in their futures because they've been told they aren't good enough by a standardized test; they've been told that they can't be successful because they aren't jumping through the right hoops on their educational paths. I have spent so much time trying to reverse those thoughts, trying to help them see that education is not punitive; education is the only way they can improve their lives. But the truth is, the current educational system is punishing them for their inadequacies, rather than helping them discover their unique talents; our educational system is failing our children because it is not meeting their needs.
I can no longer be a part of a system that continues to do the exact opposite of what I am supposed to do as a teacher-I am supposed to help them think for themselves, help them find solutions to problems, help them become productive members of society. Instead, the emphasis on Common Core Standards and high-stakes testing is creating a teach-to-the-test mentality for our teachers and stress and anxiety for our students. Students have increasingly become hesitant to think for themselves because they have been programmed to believe that there is one right answer that they may or may not have been given yet. That is what school has become: A place where teachers must give students "right" answers, so students can prove (on tests riddled with problems, by the way) that teachers have taught students what the standards have deemed to be a proper education.
As unique as my personal situation might be, I know I am not the only teacher feeling this way. Instead of weeding out the "bad" teachers, this evaluation system will continue to frustrate the teachers who are doing everything they can to ensure their students are graduating with the skills necessary to become civic minded individuals. We feel defeated and helpless: If we speak out, we are reprimanded for not being team players; if we do as we are told, we are supporting a broken system.
Since I've worked here, we have always asked the question of every situation: "Is this good for kids?" My answer to this new legislation is, "No. This is absolutely not good for kids." I cannot stand by and watch this happen to our precious children-our future. The irony is I cannot fight for their rights while I am working in the system. Therefore, I will not apply for another teaching job anywhere in this country while our government continues to ruin public education. Instead, I will do my best to be an advocate for change. I will continue to fight for our children's rights for a free and proper education because their very lives depend upon it.
My final plea as a district employee is that the principals and superintendent ask themselves the same questions I have asked myself: "Is this good for kids? Is the state money being spent wisely to keep and attract good teachers? Can the district do a better job of advocating for our children and become leaders in this educational system rather than followers?" With my resignation, I hope to inspire change in the district I have come to love. As Benjamin Franklin once said: "All mankind is divided into three classes: Those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move." I want to be someone who moves and makes things happen. Which one do you want to be?
Pauline Hawkins is an English instructor at Liberty High School in Colorado Springs, CO, where she has been teaching for 11 years. She also initiated the student-run newspaper, The LHS Revolution, and is its adviser; the paper is in its tenth year of publication. Read more by Pauline at paulinehawkins.com
Huff Tv: Watch: Arianna Discusses How To Thrive With 'tiger Mom' Author Amy Chua 2014-04-16
Arianna recently sat down for a discussion with Amy Chua, a professor at Yale Law School and author of the book "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." The two came together for an event at Yale entitled Strive Meets Thrive and spoke about Arianna's new book "Thrive: The Third Metric To Redefining Success And Creating A Life Of Well-Being, Wisdom, And Wonder."
"I am really excited that this has been called Strive Meets Thrive, rather than Strive vs. Thrive, because I really profoundly believe that there is no contradiction. Thrive is not against hard work or striving or big dreams or big accomplishments. It's about nurturing our human capital, so that actually we're even more effective at accomplishing all our dreams," said Arianna.
She went on to explain, "I feel this is an amazing moment for this conversation, because of two kind of mega-trends colliding. One is a growing recognition that the world the way it has been designed is unsustainable. That it's not working for women, it's not working for men, it's certainly not working for polar bears. And that we need to redesign workplaces, redesign the way we approach work, redefine what success is. And the second trend is that now for the first time we have an amazing amount of scientific findings validating ancient wisdom. So while, even two, three years ago, things like meditation and sleep and pauses were seen as new-agey, flakey California, you know, now we see them as performance enhancement tools."
Arianna recalled a story from seven years ago in which she woke up in a pool of blood in her office after collapsing from exhaustion. She described the incident as a "wake-up call."
"And that's what started me to redefine success, to go beyond the first two metrics that our culture basically has reduced success to: money and power slash recognition, fame, etc... to include a third metric which includes well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving."
WATCH THE FULL VIDEO BELOW:
Strive Meets Thrive: Amy Chua in Conversation with Arianna Huffington from Yale Law School on Vimeo.
Emily Roenigk: 5 Reasons 'poverty Porn' Empowers The Wrong Person 2014-04-16
Generally, the objectification and exploitation of human beings in the media bothers us. At least to some degree, we are bothered when media simplify humans, women and men, down to the characteristics that can be used to prove a point, elicit a high emotional response and generate profit. We see this in advertising, movies, pornography.
There is a similar problem with the way we represent the poor in our media, exploiting their condition and even their suffering for financial gain. As we often do with the objectification of women, we need to pause and ask ourselves whether it is ethical to depict the graphic qualities of a human being to Western audiences for the sole purpose of eliciting an emotional experience and ultimately, money. It is a practice called poverty porn, and it does almost nothing to address the real structural problem of poverty. Here are five major issues with this common practice:
1) Poverty porn misrepresents poverty
Poverty is a result of both individual and systemic problems, involving not only personal circumstances but the social and justice systems in place that either work to empower the poor or perpetuate their condition. However, poverty porn defines poverty as merely the observable suffering resulting from a simple lack of material resources. And there's a reason for this.
According to critic Diana George, organizations have a hard time convincing Western audiences that real poverty exists outside their day-to-day life in a culture that is completely saturated by images. She writes that showing extreme despair may seem like the only solution. Poverty porn shows grotesque crises, often through individual stories, that audiences can easily mend through a simple solution or donation. Poverty porn makes a complex human experience understandable, consumable and easily treatable.
2) Poverty porn leads to charity, not activism
According to George, poverty porn leads to charity, not activism: donors, not advocates. Poverty porn fails to produce both a deeper understanding of the issue of poverty and the necessary structural changes that must occur to effectively address it. Instead, poverty porn says that material resources are the problem and the solution, where poverty can be addressed through a simple phone call or monthly donation.
To be clear, this kind of giving has the potential to make significant impacts once in the hands of organizations that address poverty in a sustainable way. However, it perpetuates dangerous ideologies along the way that do more harm than good. It tells the poor that they are helpless beneficiaries and it tells financially secure donors that they are the saviors. In this dynamic, donors are told that they are the only ones with the ability to make a difference. Nothing is said about what it would look like to empower the poor and walk alongside them to help them realize their inherent ability to be the change agents in their own communities.
Gary Haugan, President & CEO of International Justice Mission and co-author Victor Boutros recently released The Locust Effect, a compelling book about why the end of poverty requires the end of violence. Haugan addresses this necessary shift from treating the symptoms of poverty to treating poverty itself. He writes:"The history of the world's effort to fight severe poverty is largely a story of seeing what's obvious and simple and trying to do something about it, and in the process, discovering the hidden and complex realities of poverty, and then trying to re-engineer solutions that better fit those realities."
3) Poverty porn misrepresents the poor
George writes, "In such images, poverty is dirt and rags and helplessness." In reality, poverty has "many faces" and no simple solution. Poverty doesn't only look like a starving child with flies on his face. In fact, poverty doesn't look any particular way. It is multi-faceted and should be depicted as such. Reporter Tom Murphy writes, "Suffering is a part of poverty, as is good news, as is a family sitting down for a meal."
Poverty is holistic, affecting the whole person and not just what is seen. In their book, When Helping Hurts, authors Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert explain that the helper and the helped define poverty very differently. Most North American audiences define poverty by physical suffering and a lack of material resources, while the poor define their condition psychologically and emotionally. They use words like shame, inferiority, powerlessness, humiliation, fear, hopelessness, depression, social isolation and voicelessness (World Bank, 1990).
Additionally, poverty porn becomes competitive because organizations must constantly convince audiences that they are dealing with the most needy or the "deserving poor," as opposed to the "undeserving poor," according to George. It is about staying relevant and attractive to donors and it is almost never about the subject, writes critic Lina Srivastava.
4) Poverty porn deceives the helper and the helped
One of the biggest problems with poverty porn is that it is incredibly successful at empowering the wrong person. It does this in two ways. First, Poverty porn tells donors that because of their position in society and because of their resources they have the ability to be the saviors in vulnerable communities they might know nothing about. It fails to awaken Western audiences to the mutual need for transformation they share with their poor brothers and sisters and instead perpetuates dangerous paternalism.
Second, poverty porn debilitates the helped. Poverty porn objectifies its subjects, defining them by their suffering and stripping them of the vital components of all human life -- agency, autonomy and unlimited potential. Advertisements and marketing materials depicting the suffering of the poor and soliciting financial support may inadvertently tell subjects that they are indeed helpless beneficiaries, dependent on the support of the wealthy for any lasting transformation.
In reality, successfully addressing poverty means empowering the poor to transform their own communities, even admitting our own inadequacy and ignorance in understanding the true nature of poverty. I have the honor of working for World Relief, a humanitarian agency committed to empowering the local Church to serve vulnerable groups around the world. I love the words of World Relief President & CEO Stephan Bauman in the book Shared Strength when he writes, "Seeking ways to allow the poor to become helpers or actors in their own community change represents the difference between a program and a movement."
5) Poverty porn works
There's a reason this depiction of poverty has become so popular among humanitarian aid organizations. When it comes to profitability, poverty porn delivers on its promise. Tom Murphy explains that NGO marking and communications teams are producing these messages because they have been proven effective through rigorous testing. In fact, audiences are more likely to make a financial donation when an ad shows a child that is suffering, rather than happy and healthy. At the end of the day, poverty porn is the result of well-meaning organizations attempting to raise money for their programs, and it works.
This raises an important question -- is the profitability of poverty porn worth the perpetuation of false ideologies and stereotypes? I say no. This may sound counterintuitive to the capitalist nature of Western culture, but it's really not. Sustainable change in poor communities is more than the sum of its financial donations. According to Srivastava, if we want to truly transform communities so they are economically and socially just, we have to create avenues for their voices to be heard. We cannot impose our constructs on them.
Do you think "poverty porn" perpetuates stereotypes? Feel free to comment below.
Emily Roenigk works in social and digital communications for World Relief. She lives in Baltimore, MD and is currently finishing her final semester of college. She is passionate about telling stories in a way that empowers and honors the vulnerable.
This piece was originally published in Emily from Charm City.
Peter Diamandis: 64 Billion Messages In 24 Hours: Key Takeaways From Whatsapp's Massively Disruptive Statistics 2014-04-16
In February of this year, Facebook's $19 billion acquisition of mobile messaging platform WhatsApp set a record for the largest software acquisition of all time. It set the value of WhatsApp at more than Sony Corporation.
Most recently, the 5-year-old startup broke yet another impressive record -- 64 billion messages processed in 24 hours. To give you some perspective, that is 10 times the amount sent in the entire US text message industry in one day. That is just insane!
I wanted to share this story with you to discuss three key observations:
1) 6 D's Update -- Disruptive and demonetizing the wireless communications industry: WhatsApp is a 99 cents-per-year service with 465 million users. These users are sending 20 billion messages and receiving 44 billion messages every day. WhatsApp is both disrupting and demonetizing the entire wireless industry, and now the Facebook acquisition provides the infrastructure needed for WhatsApp to begin offering voice calls. So instead of people paying on average $80 per month, users only have to pay $0.99 per year for the same services. Wireless carriers, beware. This shift could disrupt more than $100 billion in annual wireless revenues.
2) Great example of an exponential organization: As we learned at Abundance 360, every exponential entrepreneur needs to have a Massively Transformative Purpose (MTP). The founder of WhatsApp, Jan Kou, has one: "Disrupt the wireless industry and stop them from stealing our money." Jan said, "[I'm] interested in disrupting the way cellphone carriers nickeled-and-dimed customers for text messaging, which was especially useful for those looking to connect with loved ones overseas." Not even five years old and with only 55 employees, WhatsApp has done just that. It is hard to comprehend how in such a short time, one company has grown to handling three times more messages than the entire global text message industry. This is exactly the stuff our community is discussing and I'm teaching at Abundance 360. I trust this makes perfect sense and is inspiring instead of terrifying.
3) Why you should care: This kind of technological disruption is happening all around us, all the time. The $100 billion wireless industry was completely taken off guard. If they were able to read a technology roadmap and knew this was going to happen, they might have had enough time to prepare and capitalize on this shift. Learning how to understand how technology evolves, using tools like a Technology Road Map, is what you need more than anything to ride on top of the tsunami instead of being crushed by it. This is exactly what we're going to be focusing on within the Abundance 360 community for the next 25 years.
Quick Stats on WhatsApp: 64 billion messages processed per day - 20B sent and 44B received 465 million users on platform 1 million join platform every day 70 percent of users come back every day $100 billion mobile communications industry being displaced $18 billion -- Sony is worth less than WhatsApp 50X ROI - Sequoia made on WhatsApp deal 55 employees when sold to Facebook -- that's a price of $375 million per employee!
Russell Simmons: Celebrating Our Oprah: The Queen Of Consciousness 2014-04-16
Lately I've been out promoting my new book, Success Through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple. From Dr. Oz to Arsenio Hall to Steve Harvey to Dr. Sanjay Gupta to Queen Latifah, tons of other wonderful people have let me sit down with them and talk about the benefits of meditation. And people seem to be listening. It's been a New York Times best-seller for six weeks already and I'm humbled by how many people have told me that they've started the practice after reading the book.
There have also been those who haven't been as receptive to my pitch. Who think that meditation isn't sexy. Who think that listeners or viewers might change the station when I start talking about sitting in silence. And I get it. After all, I've spent a lot of my life pounding the pavement to promote rap music, comedy, poetry or fashion. Subjects that are obviously full of life and energy. I can see why some people might shy away from a subject that seems to go in the opposite direction (even though the irony is, of course, that nothing promotes life and energy like meditation).
That's why I'm so grateful and humbled that a few days ago I had the opportunity to sit down with my greatest inspiration, Oprah Winfrey, and talk to her about the benefits of meditation. Something that she not only understands personally, but also understands the value of sharing with her audience.
And sitting with Oprah in her backyard and sharing about meditation, it struck me again what a national treasure she is. That as much as we celebrate her, we still don't celebrate her quite enough.
That's because it's so extremely rare that someone with the leverage and platform, who could be promoting whatever she wants, consistently chooses to shine a light on that which promotes consciousness compassion and happiness.
Think about it. All these years, Oprah has never stopped beating the drum for consciousness and compassion. Never stopped encouraging her audience to see that they are all connected. And through that connection they can draw tremendous power.
She's the only reason I'm an author. I wrote my first book as a cleansing process, as way to share what I learned after years of studying yogic scriptures, but never thinking that it would go any further than that. Instead, Oprah read a draft, re-named the book Do You! and then humbled me by inviting me on her show and helping me share my message with the world. All the money I make from my books goes straight to charity, and I know that's only possible because of Oprah.
And while I keep talking about "me" and "I," there's such a long list of incredible authors she's helped introduce to the national conversation. Look what she's done with books like Eckhart Tolle's The Power of Now and The New Earth, Deepak Chopra's The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success or even Rhonda Byrne's The Secret. These books and authors have done so much to make people aware of the concept of consciousness that you have to say they've changed the trajectory of this country.
Sometimes I get knocked for promoting celebrities, but let's be real: When a celebrity like Oprah chooses to use her platform to promote the positive and inclusive, it creates so much change. More change than a politician or religious leader ever could. A power we saw this firsthand when she did so much to get our president elected.
I certainly haven't seen a politician, or any religious leader (even the current pope, though he's off to a good start) help more people realize that happiness and well being are within their reach than Oprah. Some might question that, but I know it to be true. If we are a country that's moving towards a higher collective consciousness -- and I like to believe that we are -- then we have to thank Oprah first and foremost for that.
That's why today I want to encourage everyone to tip their hats to the women I call "The Queen of Consciousness." Too often we wait till someone retires or fades from view to celebrate them. Let's not do that with Oprah. Despite her incredibly success, she's a sweet, humble and giving person whose example can remind us every day of what we're each capable of.
Like it or not, celebrities have some of the loudest voices in this country. And if only a fraction of them could use their voices to articulate the power of consciousness, tolerance and compassion the way Oprah has, then we could truly begin to realize our collective potential.
Barry Levinson: The Economics Of Abbott And Costello, Part Ii 2014-04-16
Apparently in many parts of the country, the minimum wage is below the poverty line, so in essence you can be employed, working over 40 hours a week, and still be unable to provide a for a family of three. I found this fact perplexing, so I thought I needed the careful logic of Abbott and Costello.
Lou: I am below the poverty line, things are desperate. Bud: Then you need a job... go to work, Lou. Lou: I have a job! Bud: Then all is well. Lou: But I can't afford to live and support my family. Bud: I thought you said you had a job. Lou: I do. Bud: Then why'd you say you can't support your family? Lou: Because I can't! Bud: But you just said you had a job. Lou: I know. Bud: Do you have a job or are you living below the poverty line? Lou: I'm living below the poverty line. A lot of us are. Bud: Then you don't have a job? Lou: I do have a job. A minimum-wage job that I can't even support my family on. Bud: Are you working illegally? Lou: It's a legal job, Bud! Bud: A legal job and you're living below the poverty line? Lou: Precisely. Bud: Oh, I get it. You're working part-time? Lou: It's full-time. Forty hours a week! They need to raise the minimum wage. Bud: But if they raise the minimum wage, it will put people out of work. Lou: Who? Bud:The people who are living below the poverty line. Lou: I'm living below the poverty line! Bud: Exactly. Isn't it better to be working and living below the poverty line, than not working and living below the poverty line? That way you have a sense of pride. Lou: But I need more money to get by. Bud: Do you want to put people out of work? Do you want to be responsible for them losing their jobs? Lou: No. Bud: That's the spirit. You all share in getting less. Lou: Why can't we all share in getting more? Bud: That's socialism. Lou: Then what's sharing and getting less? Bud: That's capitalism! Lou: Why is getting a little more socialism? Bud: Because if you all get a little more, someone is going to get less. Lou: Who? Bud: The person who used to get more. The job makers. Lou: Why can't they make a little less? Bud: Well, that's un-American! This is the free market... Do you want to destroy American capitalism? Lou: Of course not. Bud: Do you want to stifle the American economy. Suffocate ingenuity? Lou: No. Bud: That's the spirit. Lou: But I can't support my family. Bud, I work 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, no vacations, and I still can't support my family. Bud: Criticize. Criticize. Be thankful you have a minimum wage. There was a time you could have been paid less than minimum. Lou: There was less than minimum? Bud: Yes! Be thankful that these are the good times.
David Paul: Charles Koch Wonders Why People Don't Appreciate Him. Really. 2014-04-16
Two weeks ago, Charles Koch returned to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to defend himself. One has to wonder if the Journal was the best choice. After all, readers of the Wall Street Journal are probably not the one's attacking him. They are the choir, so to speak.
"I have devoted most of my life to understanding the principles that enable people to improve their lives." He began.Unfortunately, the fundamental concepts of dignity, respect, equality before the law and personal freedom are under attack by the nation's own government. That's why, if we want to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans, we have no choice but to fight for those principles. I have been doing so for more than 50 years, primarily through educational efforts. It was only in the past decade that I realized the need to also engage in the political process.
Then, not to waste much time, he launched into his own ad hominem assault on those who disrespect him and attack is character on an (almost) daily basis. "A truly free society is based on a vision of respect for people and what they value.... The central belief and fatal conceit of the current administration is that you are incapable of running your own life, but those in power are capable of running it for you. This is the essence of big government and collectivism."
For my own part, I did not know I was a collectivist until Wayne Berman told me I was. After all, as a Wharton grad and somewhat of a free market economist. But as is so often the case these days, you are either with us, or you're against us. So I was just a bit taken aback as I was walked into Wayne's office -- truly an inner sanctum of Republican power -- and he introduced me to one of his business associates. "You should know David, he is a collectivist, like you."
A half century ago, every day on my way to school, we drove past the small, red brick building in Belmont, Massachusetts, that was the home of the John Birch Society. That was in the 1960s, and the John Birch Society did not have a big following in the area, but that was not necessarily the case in my own family. My maternal grandfather, Bob Byfield, was an acolyte of William F. Buckley, and as such was a fellow traveler of sorts with the Birchers.
Wayne's comment took me back. Collectivism, totalitarianism, and communism. These were the central enemies of America that my Grandfather wrote about. Now the enemy was inside the tent, and it was me. Collectivist is no insignificant label, it is a moral slur. You are morally bankrupt, and you are my sworn enemy. You are not just un-American, you are anti-American.
Thus, the irony of Koch's response. "Instead of encouraging free and open debate," he bemoans, "collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They engage in character assassination." Take that, you totalitarian commie Nazi.
The fatal conceit of Charles Koch's defense of himself is that he uses the term "fatal conceit" at all. It is a phrase that reeks of philosophical, intellectual arrogance, that shuts off the free and open debate that Koch suggests he so admires. There has been no free and open debate in our politics since the advent of the Tea Party. I am not suggesting that Koch or the Tea Party ended free and open debate, but they most certainly have not espoused it as a value, as Koch suggests.
"Rather than try to understand my vision for a free society..." Koch goes on, "Our critics would have you believe we're 'un-American' and trying to 'rig the system.' Rig the system, sure. Un-American? Not so much. Rigging the system is why we have lobbyists, it is why we have K Street. Our First Amendment right to petition Congress to redress grievances has morphed into the right to petition Congress to grant us special favors and smite down our enemies.
Koch's vision of a free society is clear. It is not that complicated. And I understand the perspective that the rules and practices of more regulated society undermine the values and freedom that he asserts as higher order values. In that world view, unemployment insurance, minimum wages and other income support programs undermine the survivalist imperative that keeps poor inner city families in Los Angeles from moving to the central valley to do the agricultural labor work now done by migrant laborers. I understand that he believes that the children of those families would have a stronger desire to get an education to improve their lot in life, restoring the work ethic that Koch sees having been lost.
I understand Friedman's principles of how market forces can winnow out failing banks, companies that make bad cars. All of that. And as Bob Byfield's grandson, I have read The Road to Serfdom. Really, back in the old country, my other grandfather's forebears were probably serfs.
Koch suggests at the outset he has devoted his life to understanding the principles that enable people to improve their lives, but along the way he has forgotten that these are just theories. I understand the philosophical roots and economic theories that underpin his world view, but I do not agree with them. That does not make me a collectivist, a totalitarian or a communist, just one citizen in a free democracy who disagrees with his perspective, and opposes his conclusions.
As much as Koch imagines himself a herald of liberty and a "free society," his politics have been just one more uninspiring assault on the poor and the middle class. And that is Koch's Achilles heal. Robert Welch, a founder of the John Birch Society along with Charles Koch's father Fred, is widely quoted as having said that "both the U.S. and Soviet governments are controlled by the same furtive conspiratorial cabal of internationalists, greedy bankers, and corrupt politicians." When Charles Koch describes his 50 years of advocacy work, his words suggest that he has continued down this path.
"A furtive conspiratorial cabal of internationalists, greedy bankers, and corrupt politicians." Who better to have brought us NAFTA, bank bailouts and the massive corruption of political campaign finance?
Writing in the Wall Street Journal in early 2011, Charles Koch emphasized this theme.Government spending on business only aggravates the problem. Too many businesses have successfully lobbied for special favors and treatment by seeking mandates for their products, subsidies (in the form of cash payments from the government), and regulations or tariffs to keep more efficient competitors at bay. Crony capitalism is much easier than competing in an open market. But it erodes our overall standard of living and stifles entrepreneurs by rewarding the politically favored rather than those who provide what consumers want.
He reiterated this view in his recent piece.Far from trying to rig the system, I have spent decades opposing cronyism and all political favors, including mandates, subsidies and protective tariffs -- even when we benefit from them. I believe that cronyism is nothing more than welfare for the rich and powerful, and should be abolished... If more businesses (and elected officials) were to embrace a vision of creating real value for people in a principled way, our nation would be far better off -- not just today, but for generations to come. I'm dedicated to fighting for that vision. I'm convinced most Americans believe it's worth fighting for, too.
But Americans for Prosperity -- the main Koch-funded political organization -- has completely disdained these broader, unifying themes, and instead rushed to the vanguard to defend traditional Republican power in the Blue vs. Red political wars. The Kochs appear to be captive of their family history as titans of the far right-wing, and seemed incapable of any effort to bring Americans together around real, common interests or values in post-economic collapse America. Early on, the Tea Party and Occupy movements shared common rhetoric around the conspiratorial cabal of internationalists, greedy bankers, and corrupt politicians, but principled hatred of the left made it impossible to seize the moment to create a movement that might bring the left and right together around real, common interests, to take on the entrenched power of the center.
And that is the shame of Charles Koch. He may believe his own words, but he has not acted on them. He claims in his writing to see two broad areas of abuses of government. One area includes those programs such as Medicare, Social Security, healthcare and public pensions that by and large support Americans who are far less well of than he and his family. The other area includes the corporate welfare and crony capitalism that he alludes to above. But his political agenda has been completely one-sided. The full brunt of the Koch political enterprise has been focused on those things that benefit retirees, school teachers and the poor. There may be an occasional nod to too big to fail, but that side of the Koch agenda has been rhetoric alone, and barely that.
That is the true indictment of Charles Koch. Un-American is a slur slung from right at the left. If he feels stung by that label, he should take comfort that it is just someone trying to steal the rhetoric that Birchers and others have used to such effect, for so long. Charles Koch is most definitely American, but unfortunately he has not been as special an American as he imagines. He describes himself as a man standing on and fighting for principles, to be engaged in a great battle for the future of freedom, but in the end his has been a one-sided pursuit of a narrow, partisan agenda.
Charles Koch made a choice to focus his energy on the destruction of income support programs for the poor, the safety net for older Americans and the retirement security of school teachers. Somehow he wants to be applauded for that, even as he has left alone the entrenched infrastructure of crony capitalism and corporate welfare. How does that comport with his claim to stand up for moral principles? Where do the words of Isaiah, St. Augustine and Pope Francis stand relative to Hayak and Schopenhauer the pantheon of philosophers he likes to cite?
If Charles Koch does not like being called names, he should stop calling other people names. If he wants to be respected, he should try respecting others. And if he wants to be admired for seeking to lead America to a higher ground, to a better place, he should try to act on his own words, and not just focus his vaunted war chest on those Americans who are most vulnerable. If he doesn't wanted to be treated like a caricature of himself, he might start by not acting like one.
Alternatively, as a Republican insider who was bemused by Charles Koch's fit of pigue reflected, "Anyone who really cares or worries about what others say about them should shut up and sit down. Otherwise fight the fight and deal with it."
Wray Herbert: The Psychology Of A Memorable Lunch 2014-04-16
It's about 11 in the morning, and I'm already thinking about lunch. I'm at my desk in my downtown office, so I have lots of options. I could go to that new sandwich place around the corner, where I know they make a great turkey club. Or I could walk up the street and get one of those big salads, which would be satisfying and healthy. Or I could just run downstairs to the snack bar and grab a yogurt and some pretzels. It's a tough decision.
It's also a common decision, one that many of us confront every day. Our choices have implications, not only for how much we enjoy lunch today, but also for longer term goals like fitness and health. But how do we choose? What are the basic cognitive processes that lead from initial hunger pang to this soup or that sandwich?
Memory may play a key role. After all, sorting through our lunch options is basically an act of remembering lots of past experiences. How was that tuna fish sandwich from the deli? Was it pleasurable and filling? Skimpy? Did the clam chowder live up to its reputation, or was it disappointing? And so forth. The answers are our memories, but how reliable are they? Are they good guides to today's lunch decision and overall good nutrition?
These are among the questions that Stanford University psychological scientist Emily Garbinsky and her colleagues have been exploring in some recent experiments. They wanted to know if certain tricks of memory might bias our food decisions in healthy or unhealthy ways. Here's the scientists' reasoning:
The simple fact is that most of our eating experiences are boring and repetitive, sort of like my default to pretzels and yogurt. These meals, such as they are, are not rich and memorable events that we store away and cherish in their every detail. How many of your weekday lunches do you remember at all? As a result of this repetitive, tedious munching, it's very easy for our final memory -- that last satiating bite -- to trump memories of all of the earlier, identical bites, including the first.
This is known, in the field's jargon, as the "recency effect." Garbinsky suspected that the final moment of enjoyment has a disproportionate influence on whether and when we will choose a particular sandwich or dessert again. Specifically, she speculated that the more satiated we are at the end of lunch, the less we will recall enjoying the lunch -- and the less likely we will be opt for that same lunch again soon. So portion size might influence satiety, which in turn might shape lunches of the future.
At least that's the theory, which they tested by asking a group of students to eat some crackers. Not exactly a savory lunch, but fine for the sake of the study. Some ate just five crackers, while others ate 15. The idea was that those who ate 15 crackers would come closer to being satiated. The next day, some students of each group were prompted either to recall their last cracker, or their first. They were all then asked when they would like more crackers. The scientists wanted to see which memories made them more or less eager for more crackers.
The findings were clear. As reported in an article to appear in the journal Psychological Science, the snackers' memories for the final cracker -- and the moment of greatest satiety -- interfered with their memories of the first crackers. These final memories were what influenced their desire for more. What's more, portion mattered: Those who ate a large portion recalled much less enjoyment, compared to those who ate a small portion. Being full diminished their memory of the last bite, and thus the entire meal, causing them to tire of crackers for longer.
The scientists ran a couple more variations on this experiment, to expand and clarify the results. Taken together, the studies show that enjoyment at the end of a meal -- not the beginning -- determines how much time will pass until that particular food appeals again. This is because we really don't remember the rest of the meal, which tends to blur together.
The findings show what a crucial role memory plays in our decisions about what and when to eat next, and they could have practical implications for all those pondering lunch across the country. Portion sizes in the U.S. have been steadily increasing since the 1980s, clearly an unhealthy trend. Big portions not only make us eat more, they decrease our average enjoyment of that food. But those who sell us our lunches should also pay attention. If our last memory of the deli is one of being stuffed and uncomfortable, that memory may keep us from going back there for a while. After all, we have lots of other options.