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An American Dream

thumbnail.aspxAn American Dream

High-speed trains in the United States: Is Alfred Twu’s fantasy map too fantastical? – Slate Magazine

Last month, graphic designer and railroad aficionado Alfred Twu published a stunning map of what America would look like if virtually every last nook and cranny of the country were connected by a state-of-the-art, 220-mph rail network. Twu’s plan for a national high-speed rail system could get passengers from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Albany, N.Y., in just under 12 hours. It captured an old-school patriotic longing among young tech-savvy Americans for big, prestige projects with a design that was elegant in its simplicity. Online media outlets described Twu as a “visionary.” “This Is What America’s High-Speed Rail System Should Look Like” was one typically glowing headline.

Some conservatives had a different description for Twu and his map. “High-speed rail supporter Alfred Twu has gotten a lot of attention for having boldly drawn a map of where he thinks high-speed trains should go,” wrote Randal O’Toole of the libertarian Cato Institute. “Twu’s map is even more absurd than Obama’s plan,” he wrote, describing the map, and high-speed rail in general, as a “ridiculous fantasy.”

O’Toole’s reaction demonstrated one of the principal reasons why American high-speed rail has been mostly stymied: One person’s beautiful vision of the future is another’s terrifying government boondoggle. The Obama plan to use $8 billion in stimulus money as a carrot to get states to invest in high-speed rail went down in flames two years ago. It failed largely because Republican governors in states such as Florida rejected federal funds. But if there were some way to get beyond partisan politics and legal battles over right-of-way issues, what would an ideally efficient map of an American high-speed rail system actually look like?

High-speed trains in the United States: Is Alfred Twu’s fantasy map too fantastical? – Slate Magazine

 

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Public School Teaching Crisis

Teaching ate me alive – Salon.com

Wrong profession? Lost perspective? Just another whiny, self-absorbed wool-gatherer? Guilty as charged. Hey, I’m a card-carrying, fellow-traveling union member! But I do have one suggestion for civilians. As a public school teacher, I considered myself a public servant, like cops, firemen, food service workers and other “heroes” who are willing to do difficult, thankless, vital jobs for very little pay and not much more than the scorn of their fellow citizens. Thus, the door of my classroom was always open to parents, administrators, politicians, journalists and passers-by. But I waited in vain for company, for visitors were scarce. All the jibber jabber about public education these days seems to be based solely on idle speculation, memories of a Golden Age and the bilge that the LA Times publishes in lieu of objective journalism. So please stop by a classroom sometime. You might be surprised. And you’re paying for it.

Teaching ate me alive – Salon.com

The teaching profession is an endangered species. A learned and difficult profession is under attack with the apparent intent of reducing its pay to something akin to a hamburger flipper. The ideas of the “reformers” seem to consist not of putting money into public schools but removing teacher  protections. Teachers are now portrayed in popular movies and “reformer” financed documentaries as evil or incompetent obstacles to educational success. Teaching is an institution laboring under the ridiculous burden of No Child Left Behind, a barrage of often bizarre state mandated rules and governed by administrators who at times seem to be focused on driving out every vestige of independence and enthusiasm. We destroy the teaching profession at our peril. It is an institution that has served this country well.

Make no mistake. The public school teaching crisis will have real casualties not just among the faculty. Without teacher opposition, school boards will have much more power to create rules and policies without interference.* They are the main line of defense against the threat of privatization, a pet project of a good number of billionaires and largely a failure at improving test scores.** But the simplest and clearest danger is that many teachers will leave the profession. After all, in a nation that believes “you get what you pay for,” many have decided teaching is worth but little.

James Pilant

*Don’t take my word that school boards do strange things. Run  a simple search, school board controversy, and then have fun wading through the entries.

 

**     http://www.shankerinstitute.org/publications/charterreview/

Policy Brief: The Evidence on Charter Schools and Test Scores

Rick Scott’s Welfare Drug Test Saves No Money: Judge

Once again, we find ourselves in the wonderful world of the upper class mind set. Obviously, people on welfare must be on drugs. Why? Because it obvious.

You might that “obviousness” wouldn’t be enough but that didn’t stop the State of Florida from charging in and creating a drug testing policy. It is a disaster with the state paying out far more money for tests than gaining in benefits.

Why do people like Rick Scott think these kinds of things are good ideas? Because people like Rick Scott are worthy. That’s right. If you earn money at a job, it’s people like Rick Scott who made it possible for you to have a living. You owe everything you are to people like Rick Scott. That’s what they believe.

Rick Scott and his friends are part of the top 1 percent in this nation.

Rick Scott got to the pinnacle of success through contacts and the manipulation of the laws that allowed him to turn once public hospitals into private facilities firing workers, reducing care and introducing fascinating new ways of billing Medicare.

Without elaborate connections, large sums of money and a willingness to forego traditional concepts of morality, these things are not possible. Those people willing to do these things consider themselves to be creators of wealth – “job creators.”

To them, that American workers are losing ground is due to the workers’ own inability to work intelligently and hard. Yes, they believe that.

They are unable to consider the circumstances of people who live without their enormous array of contacts and knowledge about how to use the levers of power. To the friends of Rick Scott, it is always a matter of hard work and initiative, for if it were anything else their enormous advantages would have to be taken into consideration, and their successes would appear more inevitable and unearned.

But those who do not have regular employment, the friends of Rick Scott only have disdain. “If there are want ads in the paper, anyone can get a job.” I’ve actually heard that. I have had many reports of people saying it and those stories astonished me but to actually hear it was still a shock. In their world, anyone can either find employment or can create an entrepreneurial job working out of the home or their car or something. Millions of Americans are unemployed right now with little chance of getting a job anytime. That is a fact, but not in the world of Rick Scott.

So, if you are unemployed, something must be terribly wrong with you. And it must be drugs. Of course, they also believe that the unemployed eat, drink, smoke, watch television and play video games too much and these also figure as candidates for these people’s unworthiness. But as I said, it is obvious that they must be using drugs. That they aren’t isn’t going to change anything in the world of Rick Scott.

Studies will be produced explaining that the dismal effects of Florida’s were actually a rousing success. (There’s already one out.) They will be trumpeted on sympathetic web sites, talk radio and Fox news. New studies will be commissioned for sympathetic academics to generate preordained “studies” which will justify further restrictions on the poor. Maybe next time, it will be tests for alcohol use, evidence of a stable marriage or a requirement for multiple approvals from the school, the county and the State before some one can get aid. The media, academia and the government have enormous sympathy and compassion for the Rick Scott’s of the world continually reinforcing their worthiness with awards, studies, gushing front page tributes, and favorable laws.

One thing that Rick Scott feels every day of his life is worthy. He has been a blessing to his fellow Americans because of his drive, his ambition and his successes. No grant, no loan, no use of a State or county road, no aid from a sympathetic relative was a critical element in his success. He will freely admit that they eased the way but he would have succeeded in spite of every obstacle on his own without help. So would the others of his class and since they did not need Social Security, student loans, publicly funded institutions of any kind, etc., etc., you don’t either.

They cannot understand why you do not understand this. They are the job creators. They are the makers of this society, the useful members. Weighing them down with obligations like taxes is a tax upon yourself because you stop them from being successful so they can help you by being more productive. It is clear to them that you should bear total responsibility for any problems without any aid whatever (save in a charitable sort of way) because that produces the best possible outcome. The spur of your pain, your struggle, will make you more like Rick Scott.

And in their eyes, then and only then, will you become worthy.

James Pilant

 

Rick Scott’s Welfare Drug Test Saves No Money: Judge

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Andi Comments on the Post – Business Ethics: Should a Company Recover Metal from Cremated Human Remains?

Andi Comments on the Post – Business Ethics: Should a Company Recover Metal from Cremated Human Remains?

This is from Andi in Sweden. It is a thoroughly intelligent and perceptive comment. I hope the author choses to return often.

The answer to this question is a very ethical one. On the one hand even dead people have dignity and nobody should harm this dignity. But on the other hand the metal would be lost if no one “recycles” it. In the view of sustainability and especially the environmental view, everyone should try to effectively manage physical resources and try to save resources. Metal is a resource like oil and water and if we all waste these resources then they will be exhausted and gone forever.
I think by stating this opinion I focus on the utilitarianism theory which states that a decision is morally right, if it provides the greatest amount of benefit for the greatest amount of people. In this case the whole society profits from not wasting resources.

(To Andie, the author of this comment – if you have a web site, send me the link and I’ll give you a write up. Also, if you want your name published here in full. I will happily put that data in. JP)

James Pilant

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Fraudulent Threats – By Foreclosure Lawyers (via byebyebanksters)

Isn’t this nice!? Enclose legal appearing documents indicating that a case has been filed to encourage you to pay up.

This is disgusting.

What makes it worse is that the state bar association decided it was an “honest” mistake. I often defend lawyers while teaching my classes. I point out that without attorneys, enforceable contracts would not be possible, that the weak and helpless would have no recourse. And here to make my job easier is a bar association with the all the moral fervor of card cheat giving the strong implication that the bar is an organized band of thieves.

Just great.

James Pilant

Fraudulent Threats – By Foreclosure Lawyers The Tampa Tribune has a fascinating yet sickening story about a lawyer for BB&T who sent a Florida homeowner a demand letter requiring payment of the balance of her mortgage within 30 days.  Threatening letters like this are common; where this one is so different is that the lawyer attached it to a document that looks like an official court filing in a pending foreclosure lawsuit … only it’s not.Take a look …At first blush, this looks like a … Read More

via byebyebanksters

Does nuclear power have a negative learning curve? « Climate Progress (via Coral Gables Watch)

A brief and intelligent analysis of nuclear power. It’s too expensive.

James Pilant

Does it make any sense to keep expanding nuclear energy in South Florida.  As a consumer you will end up paying for the accelerating costs of nuclear reactors, without doubt. Drawing on largely unknown public records, the paper reveals for the first time both absolute as well as yearly and specific reactor costs and their evolution over time. Its most significant finding is that even this most successful nuclear scale-up was characterized by a su … Read More

via Coral Gables Watch

Should Photographing Chickens Be a Felony? (via A Philosopher’s Blog)

You have got to read this!

Apparently chicken farming will soon cease to exist if people photograph the conditions on the farms. That sound more to me like a reason to think something must be very, very wrong. If the big guns are out to stop the photographic truth of chicken farming, what are we not seeing that they are afraid of?

I don’t like this.

I want to express great appreciation to “A Philosopher’s Blog” for calling my attention to this!

James Pilant

Should Photographing Chickens Be a Felony? I stumbled across SB 1246 by chance rather than design, but I did find it a rather interesting bit of legislation. Trespassing onto a farm will result in a felony charge. Taking pictures at a farm without permission will also result in a felony charge. Lest you think I am making this up, I have pasted in the full text: Florida Senate – 2011 SB 1246    By Senato … Read More

via A Philosopher’s Blog

Happy House, Sad House (via Mike LaMonica’s Blog)

Mike LaMonica calls us to look at a single home, a beautiful home. I would guess another mortgage foreclosure. I’ve seen houses around here that have been for sale so long, that one of the two word supports has rotted and left the for sale sign in the grass.

I love houses. I like the old ones, brick and sturdy. The mid-sixties ranch house designs are my favorite. It’s a tragedy when a beautiful house goes empty.

LaMonica is right. It is sad.

James Pilant

Happy House, Sad House It all started out with so much promise. In about 2004 construction began on this house at 4191 Ingraham Highway in Coconut Grove, FL. It was an odd shaped lot and I wondered how they would plant a house there. But sure enough it started to go up and took shape.  Then the most beautiful day of all came.  The builders put up a tastefully done custom sign that said, “FUTURE HOME OF THE JONES FAMILY” and I thought it was a nice and personalized touc … Read More

via Mike LaMonica’s Blog

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