Apr 262013

In 1887 Alexander Tyler, a Scottish history professor at the University of Edinburgh, had this to say about the fall of the Athenian Republic some 2,000 years prior:

“A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury.

From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse over loose fiscal policy, (which is) always followed by a dictatorship.”

“The average age of the world’s greatest civilizations from the beginning of history, has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed through the following sequence:

From bondage to spiritual faith;

From spiritual faith to great courage;

From courage to liberty;

From liberty to abundance;

From abundance to complacency;

From complacency to apathy;

From apathy to dependence;

From dependence back into bondage.”

The Obituary follows:  Born 1776, Died 2014

It doesn’t hurt to read this several times.

Jun 062012

I recently had the need to order some used books and went to Amazon. Of the 8 books I ordered they were split between 4 sellers. Three of the four shipped within 24 hours. However, one still hadn’t shipped or communicated with me after 6 days. I emailed them and a day later got a response saying “sorry…we’ll get it our right away”. The following day I got notice the book had shipped but no tracking info other than to say it would be delivered 20 days later.

I emailed the vendor back and told them that sitting for a week and then to have it delivered nearly 3 weeks later (making it nearly a month from order to delivery) was not acceptable. The next day (8 days after the order and 2 days after I contacted them) they responded and asked me if I wanted the order cancelled and a refund. That meant that they had not actually shipped the book when they claimed. I said yes to the refund and was told to go to Amazon and file a claim (which I did).

I tried to leave feedback at Amazon about the vendor only to get a response from Amazon a day later saying they would not allow me to post the message as written. Amazon pointed me to their feedback area (on my orders). However, because I had requested a refund the option to leave feedback for that particular vendor was gone. I emailed Amazon to complain about the flaw or intended inability to post. I got back an auto-responder message telling me to call CS if I wanted to.

So, it appears that Amazon takes steps to protect their vendors from negative feedback. Whether this makes any difference to you or not it does me and will affect my decisions to purchase (or not) from Amazon.

Mar 272012

As Egyptian officials prepare to send to trial 19 American democracy and rights workers, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg visited Cairo last week where she suggested Egyptian revolutionaries not use the U.S. Constitution as a model in the post-Arab Spring.

“I would not look to the U.S. Constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012,” Ginsburg said in an interview on Al Hayat television last Wednesday. “I might look at the constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights, have an independent judiciary. It really is, I think, a great piece of work that was done.”

Since when does a sitting Supreme Court Justice tell me people not to use the US Constitution as a template? If she doesn’t believe in the Constitution completely how can she rule on the legal aspects? It appears that she should retire and allow others to do the job. Here comments are scandalous.
Feb 232012

What is the Department of Education? What purpose does it serve? What does it do? Should it exist?

From the Departments web site:

ED’s mission is to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.

ED was created in 1980 by combining offices from several federal agencies. ED’s 4,400 employees and $68 billion budget are dedicated to:

  • Establishing policies on federal financial aid for education, and distributing as well as monitoring those funds.
  • Collecting data on America’s schools and disseminating research.
  • Focusing national attention on key educational issues.
  • Prohibiting discrimination and ensuring equal access to education.

Further examination of their charter yields this description:

  • The department establishes policy for and administers federal aid-to-education programs, including student loan programs, programs for disadvantaged and disabled students, and vocational programs. In the 1990s, the Department of Education focused on raising standards of education for all students; improving teaching; involving parents and families in children’s education; making schools safe, disciplined, and drug-free; increasing access to financial aid for students to attend college; and helping all students become technologically literate.

The most recent annual budget report I could find indicated that about $77.4 billion will be spent in 2012. The Washington Post provides a copy of the high level breakdown of fund uses.

Basically the federal government has taken over the role of coordinating educational standards and tells States what to do, how to do it, how to measure results and then channels money to them based on whether they do what they are told or not. If States (and their school districts) don’t follow the mandates they have funds withdrawn or restricted. The mantra is to assure equality and uniformity – which is a great goal. Unfortunately trying to make a mold that fits the variations in States and local communities doesn’t work. Given the that federal government needs to be able to measure results their imposition of teaching methods, education materials, etc., are necessary to assure they get the results to support their mission. It becomes a self-serving circle.

What if the money that is siphoned off from local counties and States was left there and not gathered for redistribution? What if the money used to manage the program at the federal level wasn’t wasted in administration but used locally to produce results? What if people who live and work were given the ability to call the shots about education as they see fit?

The US Department of Education was a bad idea when it was formed and has only grown worse. Stop this nonsense and disband it and let the States and local communities do what they think is needed and right.