November 2008


At the recent National Middle School Association (NMSA) annual conference University of Florida education professor Paul George gave a lecture entitled “ Don’t Think of an Elephant” Paradigms in American Life and Education to a small group of educators.

The main title of the lecture came from a book of the same name by Democratic strategist George Lakoff who feels that conservatives have dominated the debate on key issues and lays out an outline on how progressives can reframe the debate.

George has applied the Lakoff strategy in his efforts to reframe the debate on education. He started the lecture off by defining the traditional paradigm or point of view which he defines thusly;

• Life is difficult & dangerous

• The supreme being is a strict & judgmental parent.

• Most people are weak, selfish, greedy, immoral & lazy.

• Evil is a prominent part of human experience.

• Individual responsibility is central.

• Trust in others must be limited to those very much like us.

• Competition is at the center.

• Great questions of the day have simple answers.

• Government is a thief and a waste.

The traditional paradigm to George represents the conservative point of view. To him all of the above represents what is wrong with conservative beliefs even though he misrepresents them and paints conservatives as cold and unfeeling.

As for the conservative outlook on education he listed the following as the paradigm;

• Students are untrustworthy, unmotivated, undisciplined, slothful and immoral.

• Students (and educators) cannot be trusted and must be monitored and coerced to do the right thing.

• Ability is the best way to identify and group students for learning.Isolation of able learners is essential.

• Education is evaluation and evaluation is education.

• Presentation equals teaching.

• Knowledge is the accumulation of brick upon brick of facts.

• Creative, caring, curious, critical citizens are not a priority.

• Public schools are a bloated ineffective government bureaucracy that should be privatized.

Once again George takes a dim view of conservatives and distorts their views on education.

However, when it came time to present the liberal paradigms it was a different story.

• Life is difficult and dangerous.

• The supreme being is a nurturing, loving parent.

• Humans are basically good and always motivated.

• Evil is a minor part of human experience.

• Cooperation and sharing, collective action and mutual support are crucial.

• Trust is the core of healthy human life.

• Complexity and ambiguity characterize our lives.

Frankly I think he got some of these paradigms in reverse.

The same can be said of his interpretation of the liberal paradigm in education.

• Human freedom and empowerment are more critical than accountability and punishment.

• Life is about relationships, not acquisition.

• School… democratic experience.

• Caring and trust for each person is the center of any truly professional activity.

• Schools are to improve society as a whole, not providing competitive advantage to the elite.

• Curriculum is best derived from the needs and interest of the learners.

• Instruction should engage active learners.

• Developmental appropriateness should supersede national assessment.

• School failure has political and economic causes.

As for the net benefits of a liberal education George cited teaching evolution as science, peace movements, civil rights and gay rights as examples.

The audience of course bought George’s arguments hook, line, and sinker but for conservatives this is just another example of just how far liberalism has crept into our education system and why school choice, charter schools and homeschooling are needed now more than ever.

If we want to reform education we need to train conservatives at all levels to become teachers, administrators and legislators that will stand up for an unbiased educational curriculum and be free of union control.

The voting is over and Prop 8 banning gay marriage in California passed.  Normally after the votes are in and there is a clear winner the voters go on there way and wait for the next election and the next set of initiatives.  But thanks to gay activists who are infuriated that the system failed them the issue of gay marriage is alive and well in California.

Actually I didn’t think the issue would totaly fade away but I have been taken aback by the beahvior of activists who have taken to the streets to protest the vote.

It has been well doscumented that the Mormon church which has a large membership in California energized its members to actively support Prop 8.  This wasn’t a political issue for them as much as it was a moral issue.  As with most Christian churches the Mormons believe that marriage is between a woman and a man and Prop 8 would have forced Mormons and others to obey a law that ran counter to their theology.  More importantly it would have also required Mormon Bishops to perform gay marriages if asked or face legal penalties if they refused and that was something they were not willing to do.

While the Mormons certainly played a large part in the passage of Prop 8, the Catholic church with an even larger membership than the Mormons used the resources at its disposal to help assure passge of the initiative.

Yet where is the anger directed?  At the Mormons of course.  I am not sure why they have been singled out except that they are an easy target.  Mormons are known to be extremely faithful to their doctrine and favor traditional families.  They also have built many large Temples that tend to stand out from the surrounding area making the edifices a prime target for protestors.

What the protestors fail to recognize that by singling out one faith and focusing their ire on the Mormons they are practicing the very bigotry they accuse the church of practicing against them.

The Catholic church which has sharp disagreements wth Mormon theology has rushed to the Mormon’s defense with this statement from William Weigand the former Bishop of Salt Lake City;

“Catholics stand in solidarity with our Mormon brothers and sisters in support of traditional marriage–the union of one man and one woman–that has been the major building block of Western Civilization for millennia.

“The ProtectMarriage coalition, which led the successful campaign to pass Proposition 8, was an historic alliance of people from every faith and ethnicity. LDS were included–but so were Catholics and Jews, Evangelicals and Orthodox, African-Americans and Latinos, Asians and Anglos.
“Bigoted attacks on Mormons for the part they played in our coalition are shameful and ignore the reality that Mormon voters were only a small part of the groundswell that supported Proposition 8.
“As the former bishop of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, I can attest to the fact that followers of the Mormon faith are a good and generous people with a long history of commitment to family and giving to community causes.
“I personally decry the bigotry recently exhibited towards the members of the Church of the Latter Day Saints–coming from the opponents of Proposition 8, who ironically, have called those of us supporting traditional marriage intolerant.
“I call upon the supporters of same-sex marriage to live by their own words–and to refrain from discrimination against religion and to exercise tolerance for those who differ from them. I call upon them to accept the will of the people of California in the passage of Proposition 8.”
SOURCE: Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento
Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento 
Kevin Eckery, 916-443-2528 
keckery@eckery.com

While the Mormons and the Catholics were a major force in the passage of Prop 8, they weren't the deciding factor.

Based on exit polls blacks favored the ban by a 70-30 margin, so where are the protests at black churches?

Apparently that won't happen since they are a solid Democratic voting bloc, but according to Michele McGinty of 
Beliefnet.com they are angry at blacks.

A couple of excerpts from McGinty's blog.

It was like being at a klan rally except the klansmen were wearing
Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks. YOU N*, one man shouted at men. If
your people want to call me a F*, I will call you a n*. Someone else
said same thing to me on the next block near the temple...me and my
friend were walking, he is also gay but Korean, and a young WeHo clone
said after last night the n* better not come to West Hollywood if they
knew what was BEST for them.

[…]

Three older men accosted my friend and shouted, “Black people did this, I hope you people are happy!” A young lesbian couple with mohawks and Obama buttons joined the shouting and said there were “very disappointed with black people” and “how could we” after the Obama victory. This was stupid for them to single us out because we were carrying those blue NO ON PROP 8 signs! I pointed that out and the one of the older men said it didn’t matter because “most black people hated gays” and he was “wrong” to think we had compassion. That was the most insulting thing I had ever heard. I guess he never thought we were gay.

[…]

“I have received several phone calls from Blacks, both gay and straight, who were caught up in Westwood around the time of that march. From being called ‘niggers’ to being accosted in their cars and told that it was because of ‘you people gays don’t have equal rights and you better watch your back,’ these gays have lost their d* minds.”

Gay activists would do well to channel their energy into positive efforts that would advance their cause instead of protests and name calling which only remind voters why they voted the way they did.


	
	

When the Democrats took control of Congress in 2006 they imposed their own version of fiscal conservatism known as pay as you go budgeting or “paygo”.  Under this policy the Democrats promised to offset any new spending increases or tax cuts with comparable tax increases or spending cuts.

It didn’t take long for the Democrats to quickly abandon their newly found spending restraint by waiving paygo restrictions no fewer than a dozen times that accomodated nearly $400 billion in new spending.

Yet despite this reckless behavior House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer reiterated his support as well as Speaker Pelosi’s support for paygo.

Now comes word from Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) that the Democrats are going to do away with paygo.  Why would they do that?  Because as Cooper was quoted as saying “It would be unfair to the new President to put him in a budget straitjacket.”  Whate he really means is that now that we control the White House the rules have changed regarding spending.

Conservatives complained about paygo and called it a sham which it was though the mainstream media said nary a word about this deceptive policy.  It’s just the first step in a return to the Democrats favorite tax and spend policies which undoubtedly receive little attention from the press especially under a new Democratic administration.

The people spoke last Tuesday and everyone will now pay a steep price for their folly.  Don’t say that you weren’t warned.

No doubt there was a lot at stake in the 2008 presidential election that concluded this week with a resounding win for Barack Obama over John McCain.

Not only did the Democrats recapture the White House but depending on official results have picked up at least 6 seats in the Senate and 19 plus seats in the House.

For the GOP this was certainly depressing news as they have now seen all of their gains since they took control of the House in 1994 erased and then some.

While the Republicans lick their wounds from Tuesday’s results they should waste no time in preparing for the mid-term elections in 2010 and even more important planning their strategy for redistricting in 2011 which will affect congressional races in 2012.

As it stands now the GOP may have a slight edge as they control both the state legislature and governor’s mansion in states that are likely to gain about 7 seats while Democrats control everything in states that are expected to add about 4 seats.  On th flip side most of the states that are expected to lose seats are either in total Democratic control or have a Democratic governor with a split state house.  Think rust belt here.

This means that Republicans have a shot at making sure the districts they draw favor the GOP and won’t face much opposition giving the a chance to make a small gain on the Democrats.

Yet this is not a sure bet yet.  For example Virginia which currently has a divided statehouse will hold elections next year.  They could elect a Republican governor and  re-take the Senate which would give them complete control but that isn’t likely to occur if recent trends hold.  There will be some other state wide races across the country in the next two years but they aren’t expected to bring a change of control that will affect redisticting.

For the GOP to make anything but incremental gains in redistricting will be hard.  After all in the 14 states that they control the legislature , 6 of them have Democratic governors.  In the 7 states that have a divided legislature there are 6 Democratic governors in place.  That leaves just 11 Republican governors in the remaining 28 states with Democratically controlled legislatures.

With gerrymandering a longstanding tradition I expect that the Democrats will draw favorable districts in states that they control the legislature or the governors mansion and the GOP while they will do likewise will face more opposition from Democratic governors in their states than vice-versa in an effort to blunt any GOP gains.

The Republicans can and should gain a few seats in the House in two years but if they can somehow find a good message and squeeze out some favorably drawn districts they could come closer to parity in 2012.

While conservatives ponder living under an Obama presidency and Democratically controlled House and Senate, California liberals (read Hollywood) are stunned by the passage of a gay marriage ban in their state.

There is no doubt that the Obama candidacy brought out far more black and Latino voters than normal, but while that was good for the Democrats it was also bad for the supporters of gay marriage.

Exit polls showed that blacks voted for the ban by a whopping 70-30  percent margin and Latino’s by a smaller 51-49 percentage.  With white voters mostly favoring gay marriage there is no doubt among experts that the black vote was the key to victory for supporters of Prop 8.

If you think of it though it makes perfect sense.  Blacks and Latino’s are more liberal in general on economic issues but tend to be more socially conservative than white Democrats.

This has to do that most blacks are very religious at their core and are faithful churchgoers where they have been taught that marriage is between a man and a woman.  The same can be said for most Latino’s who tend to be mostly Catholic and much more traditional in their viewpoints than white Catholics.

Couple the California victory with that of similar measures in Florida and Arizona, the gay adoption ban in Alabama and the ending of affirmative action in three other states and conservatives actually have something to celebrate.

For the Democrats and President-Elect Obama they should be mindful that just because these groups voted for them and generally agree with their policies that if they dare to tread into highly charged social issues like gay marriage they will  be in for a rude surprise.

The votes are mostly in and Barack Obama has decisively defeated John McCain to become the first black president of the United States.

Based on the wide array of candidates that initially ran for president this year from both parties I think it was only a matter of time before a black person or a woman would have been elected to either or both of our country’s highest offices. Prior to 2008 I certainly didn’t think this would be that year.

There will be plenty of what I will call Wednesday morning quarterbacking by pundits and others as to how Obama won or more likely why McCain lost.

Obama won because he had a consistent message of change and he successfully tied McCain to President Bush who isn’t likely to win any awards for good governance.

He also used his incredible charisma to spread his message and gave hope to millions of Americans who wanted to be inspired and uplifted. As Hillary Clinton learned it didn’t matter that there was a severe lack of substance in the message, it sounded great and that’s all that mattered. Also despite associations with dubious characters like the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers Obama managed to put on a Teflon shield and watch the criticisms just bounce off without putting any real chinks in the armor. The overwhelming support of the news media helped in this regard as they saw the attacks on Obama using Wright and Ayers as either racist or old news and gave them short shrift by relegating them to the back pages of the newspaper if they covered them at all. But the biggest factor may have been Obama’s ground game. It was crucial in defeating Hillary and proved to be extremely effective as the campaign registered millions of new voters and managed to increase voter turnout in areas that had been long ignored by both parties.

For McCain, the loss can be generally summed up by one word, confusion. After being given up for dead early in the campaign he raced back, snatched the nomination from frontrunner Mitt Romney and began to plot his strategy. The Straight Talk Express of 2000 that so enamored the media when McCain was attacking the Republican establishment all but disappeared as he moderated his views to appeal to conservatives and wound up turning off his former media allies. As for a cohesive campaign strategy I certainly didn’t see one. McCain tried several different tactics but by not sticking to a central theme he couldn’t get any traction. Then there was the general distrust from the conservative base of the GOP that he tried to mollify by selecting Sarah Palin. The selection of Palin while energizing conservatives also set the McCain camp up as an object of ridicule as Palin’s initial media appearances made her look more like a deer caught in the headlights.  Yet despite all the fumbles of the McCain campaign he probably would have one if not for the economic crisis and the blame voters pinned on the GOP for the mess.  This despite the fact the Democrats have controlled congress for two years and many leading Democrats turned a blind eye to the problems because they were receiving campaign donations from these institutions or that they were being run by Democratic sympathizers.  

Now that Obama has won he must get to work quickly. In the next few weeks he will likely select his staff and name his cabinet. By inauguration day he will need to hone his message and add some substance to it. He won’t be able to ride the hope and change message without action for very long.

For conservatives and others who fear a new socialism that remains to be seen. Obama will have large majorities in the House and Senate though not as large as they had hoped so he won’t get everything he wants as long as the Republicans can effectively filibuster in the Senate. With higher taxes, more regulation, and possibly more government control of once private industries the country is certainly headed in that direction.

Voters have purchased the Democratic mansion with a huge mortgage in the sense of entitlements yet to come. The question is can we afford it, and is this new Messiah (as many have compared Obama to) leading us to an Obamageddon?

Yesterday electronics retailer Circuit City announced that they were closing 155 stores and laying of 17% of its workforce by December 31.

For fans of the chain this is the beginning of the end.  The company has been mired in a deep sales slump for quite some time and now with cash running out just as the Christmas shopping season approaches this will be one un-merry time for its employees.

I have been shopping at Circuit City for some thirty years now and when I started it was really the first true big box electronics retailer bringing a wide assortment or television’s, computers, phones etc… at prices that were cheaper than the department stores and specialty stores that had dominated the retail sector.

Then came the big blue behemoth from Minnesota otherwise know as Best Buy.  While the two companies had a peaceful co-existence for a number of years, once Best Buy started moving into the City’s territory the balance of power began to shift.

It didn’t help that in an effort to cut costs that Circuit City lopped off some 3,400 long time higher paid employees in favor of inexperienced newbies.  The predictable result was while costs dropped so did sales making the chain worse off.

The Best Buy strategy has worked because even for those that detest the company the marketing and sales strategy is a winner.  When they first launched the Reward Zone loyalty program they charged $10 a year.  After a couple of years they dropped the fee and lowered the benefit levels somewhat to make up for the free membership but that lowered the barrier to increased loyalty.

They also have built large spacious stores that are well organized and although sales associates aren’t always easy to find it generally isn’t difficult to find what you are looking for and checking out in a relatively short amount of time.  Compare that to Circuit City which is plagued with many small cluttered stores with poor lighting  and where checking out can be a disaster when the store gets even slightly busy.  They have a reward program but it’s tied to a credit card and that limits the membership and therefore the loyalty.

How far has Circuit City fallen?  Their stock price was a whopping 36 cents yesterday and the total market cap is now $60.53 million versus Best Buy’s $11.45 billion.

With a tight credit market and a choppy economic picture Circuit City will be lucky to survive the Christmas season.

I will miss the chain that has been a part of my life for so long, but that is how the free market works.  They certainly aren’t the first large retailer to fail nor will they be the last, but there is still plenty of competition with Walmart and warehouse clubs that consumers won’t suffer.

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