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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Part II: Greeley School District Latino Levy Blues

My "tour guides" tell me it is hopeless. Greeley Colorado has acted conservatively since the first domesticated cow dropped onto the farmer's fields decades ago. Greeley's local systems will remain bound financially and ideologically by voters dedicated to shredding government involvement in just about anything. The current debate over the Greeley District 6 Mill Levy Override is just another notch on the conservative belt.

My response to this mindset is that I don't want to deal with labels. What creates a reasonable and sensible outcome for the citizens of Greeley still makes sense whatever lick-it-and-stick-it label one wishes to categorize it under.

If private industry could handle effective education without the profit interest driving every decision I'd be fine with that. If private industry could create an effective transportation system, that could service everyone at an affordable price, I'd be fine with that too. If the essence of community needs like energy, health care, and other minimalistic survival needs could be handled in the same way I'd agree with that too.

But private industry doesn't work well in the delivery of public goods (utilities, education, transportation, and so on) most simply because demand outstrips supply. Every person requires some regardless of ability to pay. Did it work better in 1940? Yes it did--much better.

There were less people to service. Less diversity of needs. Less developed complexity of needs recognized. The spiderweb of need just keeps spinning bigger as the population expands and society finds new ways to examine the threads. Supply, earlier in the century, could meet reasonable demand without a company having to become a megalithic gigantic-titantic bureaucratic system.

The investment in assets was reasonable in earlier decades and the costs to start up within the means of several companies. Competition could and did flourish. If you could put together the investment capital and had the management expertise on your team a person(s) could build a company to compete and turn a profit without government subsidies. Now the costs to enter the market are so high that competition is very limited and left to the "big guns" and their ever soaring needs to return a higher ROI to their investors.

And when the "big guns" can't do they are enticed through big government subsidies. The ultimate marriage producing the ultimate opportunity for corruption and inflated costs.

My point is that those days are gone. A centrally organized system, like the government, has to be used to create public systems like education because they have gone beyond the reach of the common working man and woman. And the only entity we have that can serve all the people (well most the people), most the time, without making decisions based on profit but on the good the economy receives from the value invested, is the government. (I can hear the boo and hisses from here.)

Not the prudent option for everything but the prudent option in this case. The way I look at it is that I can check big government by being a pragmatic and well educated voter. I can't check big corporate interests without being a big investor or a very powerful politician. Essentially, as a working class stiff, I am shut out when education, transportation, and other public goods are in private hands. I need these goods, my children need these goods, and these are the ladder to success in America. I, with others, can create much more effective regulation and oversight than any politicized federal agency by rallying like-minded people suffering like-minded consequences to vote out elected public officials overseeing any public system. The true beauty of democratic principles in action--equality. In private hands our youths' educational options are doomed to the powers of capitalism and the market forces. Not a pretty sight in my opinion.

My point here is that conservative politics do not preclude building a good education system. Managing the expense of the system is just prudent reasoning not politics. A dollar invested by taxpayers should show a dollar's worth of value at the very least. A dollar + over the long run if we are good at it. Managing the expense of the education system to cut off its blood supply so that less value is returned because it is a government based program is dubious reasoning and political ideology at its worst. It is snipping off your community nose in spite of its face.

So now it is 2009 and we all want to decide how Greeley District 6 will spend its money and whether it really needs more money to create the return investment expected (value to the community) by increasing taxes. Well how many local citizens really know how to manage and run a system this complex and this big? I don't. And I have management background and training. But I do know that I expect elected officials to hire the most qualified people available to do the job and I expect voters to keep a watch over whether that job is being done well or not.
The outcome is the pudding proof. And our pudding is on fire only it is not called a flambe.

In other words, so far the outcome is seriously lacking. The returns on the community investment, the value we are getting, are dubious at best.

Looking at the Greeley Mill Levy Override brings this issue square about in the face of Greeley citizens and taxpayers. If the objective is to create the most education value for the dollars invested then Greeley citizens and taxpayers certainly have every obligation to uncover why D6 performance continues to be sub par and that the plan being put forth by the Administration will remedy these issues just as fast as possible.

According to the Greeley Tribune this week Greeley District 6 School Board President Bruce Broderius infers that Greeley's low performance is due to specific low performers he'd like to be able to cut out of the test score statistics. I hope he intends to clarify this statement.

My response is that Greeley District Six has an obligation to all students and not just choice cuts the District would like to make. Additionally I've decided to take a look at some of the potential causes of the sub par performance of District 6 from my own perspective. I published a list in my previous post in this series. I'll take on the first four items here. Mostly because the first four are the easiest to answer.

  • Is the performance problem related to the notion that Greeley is a unique district?
  • Is the performance problem related to the collective IQ of the students?
  • Is the performance problem related to the collective IQ of the parents?
  • Is the performance problem related to the collective IQ of the community?
Really this is just one question. "Is it us?"

I'll just cut to the chase here and address the racism inherent in this discussion and one which many, including authority figures and media figures, are want to use to distract from the real problem at hand. Other districts in Colorado also have high minority populations and immigrant populations without the same performance issues. Additionally Greeley already receives more funding than other local districts, like Poudre, that show a 14% Latino population in their school district. Greeley has a 44% identified Latino population.

Greeley Federal Funds in 05/06 Per Student $845.
Poudre Federal Funds in 05/06 Per Student $562.

Greeley Local Funds in 05/06 Per Student $2,826.
Poudre Local Funds in 05/06 Per Student $5,274.

Greeley State Funds in 05/06 Per Student $4,376.
Poudre State Funds in 05/06 Per Student $3,257.
Okay, close your eyes. Let's take a closer look at what's happening in relationship to these funding dollars. Here come the numbers.

This section will look at a comparison between the Greeley District Six costs and that of the Poudre District. I use ratios to examine the numerical relationship below because Poudre had about thirty five thousand students in 05/06 while Geeley had a bit over twenty-four thousand. We have to compare apples to apples as much as possible and not oranges to apples.

Administratively District 6 with 24,809 students is running .0006 administrators per student while Poudre Valley with 35,630 students is running .0005 administrators per student. However District Administrative support in Poudre is higher at .0046 per student than Greeley's Administrative support which is at .0038. What entails District Administrator support can very widely between districts. One district might hire Vice Principal's for instance whose job duties are very isolated while others may hire for the same position and also assign teaching duties.

Essentially the above ratios are one indicator that Poudre School District is performing more efficiently, in general, than Greeley District Six. What it does suggest is that Poudre is doing more per dollar and returning more value per taxpayer dollar spent based on testing results.

In this regard it is understandable that the District Six Board and Administrators would want to defend its performance achievement by claiming the district has additional burdens of low performing students. In response I'd ask if the additional resources, both Federal and State, which have been received (see above) are meant to provide for this difference, in part or in whole--if the special need indeed exists. With these numbers it would be possible to construct a similar ratio for special instructional services and would give an idea how these monies are being used. If the additional revenue sources have been provided and special services are not being provided I'd imagine that would be a big issue. If there are additional monies and they've been allotted accordingly then there should be no reason to use the "underperforming" populations as a scape goat for general poor performance.

At present I do not have these statistics on LEP and/or IEP learners. If anyone wants to provide them I'd be grateful.

Personally I have no issue with seeing the variety of performance issues related with LEP students or second-language students as a subsection of performance. Unfortunately though these figures are not being reported by either Greeley District Six or Poudre to the National Statistics site or the NCES site is withholding this information. However Greeley District Six, according to the NCES site for 2005/2006, as I stated above, had about forty-four percent of students identified as being of Latino origin to Poudre's 14%.

It is a thin line between inferring that all Latino students are low performers and saying that students with second-language development issues are performance issues. That 44% percent figure means very little without accurate figures on which students are nonnative citizens or first generation immigrants. Racism is not something this District wants to actively promote anymore than it does tacitly already through exclusion of programs directed specifically at migrant and low performance students.

I don't see how anyone can live in Greeley and not be painfully aware of the racial stigma and divides which exist in this city. Programs that have racial implications, probably in the average Greeley citizen's mindset, have been banned, disingenuously dismissed, renamed, and a host of other politically opportunistic political tactics used to avoid creating the very programs that would hopefully address some of the nonperformance issues.

But you will be happy to know the school board is aiming to produce more charter schools which ultimately tend to serve the top performers.

The School Board isn't the only entity at fault here. The citizens of Greeley create this environment and, I'll argue a bit wildly, through their elected officials have institutionalized the scape goat mentality in order to give free reign to arguments keeping government and taxation minimalistic.

Guess what Greeley--It doesn't work in education. Education is an investment. The more you invest the more harvest this community will reap.

As investment examples, in 2005/06 Poudre paid out in salaries per student 24,185.00 Greeley paid out in salaries 17,547.5 per student. Greeley by comparison is running much lower in salary dollars spent per student.

Greeley looks on paper like it is the prudent investor but in reality the job just is not getting done. So which administration/community is the wiser investor?

It indeed may very well be that "we" are the problem. At least in part. But not in the way expedient local mindsets may think. While we probably don't suffer from lower intelligence quotients in general we do suffer from political ideologies applied with two wide a brush stroke. The problem may be the fact that the collective culture of Greeley is being harvested by our youth. And the harvest has turned out to be only "middlin' pickins".

I'll continue this conversation in Part III of this series. if you've got a beef with a statistic--let me know. It wasn't my favorite course.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Greeley School District Six Mill Levy Blues

Writing about the Mill Levy Override in Greeley Colorado's District 6 makes me really uncomfortable in my own skin. Mostly because I believe anything the community of Greeley can do to help District 6 schools improve should be done. When a community creates a climate of education good things happen. When it doesn't stagnation sets in. People create divides and develop cultural barriers to success. Children with great potential go undeveloped and unrewarded. Children who desperately need support and help get shuffled off to the corner. Yet, before I can simply just vote yes, I still have some lingering doubts and questions about just what this Mill Levy is designed to produce other than additional assets like textbooks and security systems.

Of course the exaggerated claims about the Mill Levy, from various sources, having been pouring out about how classroom size will grow or not depending on the vote. How Kindergartners will be left adrift after tea time every day. How miserable it is for social tweeners and teens to share books and learn cooperative time management skills. How, even though there really isn't a growing gang problem in District 6, we need security cameras so the parents feel safer. And how the heaven and stars can start falling but not one teacher will get one dime of the Mill Levy but teacher's aides, without the real-deal teaching credential, will be hired to help lower the teacher's burden.

As someone likes to say, "You get what you pay for."

Or do you?

What no one really seems to want to talk about is whether or not this Mill Levy will produce better learning results for our kids. Isn't that the operative goal we are all striving for as a community? Perhaps it is my reality that is skewed but it looks to me like we've basically drawn a 2 inch target on a huge red school barn and are standing ten miles away with shotgun in hand trying to hit it.

Sounds ludicrous? That is my point. Every one is shooting at something but no one really wants to talk about whether or not they are hitting that 2 inch target. Just as long as they get their shot off everything is handy-dandy. The School Board is hollering "Trust Us". The Administration is hollering "Support Us". The media arm is hollering "Fire-pay to put it out." Parents are hollering "Fix it" while the community grouses "Make Us"!

Greeley is caught up in the idea of improving education but not in the action of improving education. That action begins with the community idea that education is THEE priority.

Education takes a lot more than one kid in a classroom with a book in hand and a teacher calling home every time the kid looks out the window. We all know that by now, right? We've heard for years how parents should get involved. Yes, somewhere between working fourteen hours a day, taking the dog to the vet, doing community service for that overdose of Prozac, pasting up flyers for next city council election cycle, baking treats for the girl scout meetings, ballet lessons, soccer practice, trading playtimes and babysitting out with the neighbor, cooking that eight course organic nutritional meal, refurbishing the caulking before the next storm, making sure the lawn stays a pretty shade of green for the neighbors, and listening to the spouse grouse about those little lines starting to bag under the eyes, you, yes YOU, are supposed to make sure you are reading to your child at least a half an hour every night and that the science project you know you'll being doing most of, gets done on time and turned into the teacher, and that your kid gets up every morning to eat a healthy breakfast on time, gets dressed in the designer jeans without resident gang colors anywhere to be seen, plus makes it to school with a happy-sunny face every single day. Only then can you truly earn the badge of "responsible parent" according to the education community.

But I digress into reality. Back to my point.

What hasn't been fully addressed is the role community plays in building a healthy respect for the education process. And by community I don't just mean grandma and grandpa with aunts and uncles and anyone else your kid drags to the play at the local schoolhouse. I mean everyone--the business owners, the workers, the retirees, the unemployed, the illegals, the legals, the pseudo human beings, and the real human beings. Those who wear Prada and those who don't. Those who play poker and those who don't. Those that go to church on Sunday and those that show up just for the Hail-Mary at the end of the show. The dregs under the bridges and the all-mighty sitting in the resident temples. Single, married, unmarried, sort-of-married, married-until-last-night, divorced, over-the-hill, and under-the-hill. Yes, even the corporate executives at the slimy snail-snotting JBS Swift company are included here.


Education is an investment. It is an investment in the future. Today's Greeley District 6 kids are our future. All of us have a stake in this game. If Greeley expects to have good community leaders in the future who can handle the world of technology, the world of climate change, the world of energy crisis, the world of ever expanding population, then it needs to create these leaders. They don't create themselves.

This is the REASON to pay money for education. It creates a return on your investment. Alone, few but the most elite, would ever put forth the money to educate their children. This is why you get societies where only categories and groups of kids (usually by gender) get sent to school. Collectively, by uniting our resources, we create benefits for the individual AND for the group--our future.

One of the things I commonly overhear is "My kid goes to a Charter School." "My kid goes to the Christian Center." "My kid goes ....." Fill in the blanks. The problem with this type of thinking is not the selfish myopia so much but the selfish consequences we all pay for this single-minded mentality in the future.

If YOUR kid becomes a civic leader and all he/she has to work with are candy-crunching gang-banging cheering Prada-clothed undereducated semi-achievers there will be a problem. Maybe, just maybe, if your house is built high enough on a hill with gates around it you might not have to pay the consequences. But you can bet sooner or later one of your relatives will. It won't matter a lot if your kid came out of Harvard. Trust me. America may have been built on rugged individualism but now we are all in it together. You can cross America by yourself but one person can't fix a broken education system.

Which brings me to another point. What is really wrong in District 6? Is anything really wrong? Okay I mean besides the fact that the school board candidates running are looking like fresh ditzes out of a Cracker-Jack box.

These are all things that make me indecisive about the Mill Levy.

I've done some investigation. I know that the District is trying to change things around. They have a new math series coming online for example. They've hired a new (maybe not so new any longer) administrator and have brought in some new teaching talent. They have worked on developing a governance plan for the Board. They are looking at new testing series and how to perform better on old ones. They cleaned up their act by the State levels and received a brownie badge for doing so.

In the meantime they are stifling District 6 teachers on pay negotiations (there was a lock-out when the Union made an attempt to talk to their own teachers today), pushing a Mill Levy tax onto a public unready to receive it, and to my knowledge are pretty entrenched in the idea of not letting the public know just how bad the gangs are getting inside the schools. I won't even go into the rah-rah cheerleading tag-team District 6 and the Greeley Tribune are running together.

I've also combed through District 6's strategic plan (note: that is not the Governance plan). It is a nicely formatted, Susie-let-me-put-the-sunshine-here, kind of plan. It did not inspire me that the Administration has any more grasp on what the remedy may be for the problems showing up on the test scores than I do.

So I ask myself the following question. Why can't Greeley District 6 perform up to par with other similar school districts in the State of Colorado?

  • Is the performance problem related to the notion that Greeley is a unique district?
  • Is the performance problem related to the collective IQ of the students?
  • Is the performance problem related to the collective IQ of the parents?
  • Is the performance problem related to the collective IQ of the community?
  • Is the performance problem related to a lack of support materials?
  • Is the performance problem related to the transitory immigrant population?
  • Is the performance problem related to ineffective administration?
  • Is the performance problem related to wages and quality of people hired?
  • Is the performance problem a direct correlation to money?
I plan on answering these questions throughout the next week. In the meantime readers thoughts are welcome.

In the meantime, let me add, I know of at least one excellent teacher that is talking about leaving District 6. She is not excellent just by my standards but by the standards of her students, peers, and parents of her students. Her test scores also give her the red tape for us to affirm her greatness as well as if we needed it.

She is burnt out. Between the stress of the classroom gang bangers, the general challenges of teaching, the District wage non-negotiations, she had the poor timing of overhearing two local women talking to their kids about how horribly they were treated by teachers. Too much homework! Too strict on time demands! Over paid! Undereducated!

For me, I have always been a firm believer that kids model after their parents. If the parents and other adults in the community do not show respect for educators, let alone the idea and concept of education, then is it reasonable to expect that kids will be showing up in the classroom ready and eager to learn? In today's society what does respect cost? It costs a big fancy house, lots of designer clothes, a fast sleek new sedan, and membership at the local country-club. You don't get that on a teacher's salary. You get that on an administrator's salary.

We make our own beds and then we complain when we have to sleep in them.

This is why it is so hard for me to write about the Mill Levy. Good blankets make for a nicer, warmer bed. It is much easier to get out of bed in the morning after a good night's sleep. I'd really like to vote for the Mill Levy--because it does provide a couple of warm blankets for the local students. But first, I think, I need to answer the questions above and figure out just how much money or time it is going to take to pull this District into full performance and/or clean up its poor image on the streets of Greeley Colorado.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Northern Colorado Mimics Los Angeles Basin

For a time now, as I drive around Northern Colorado (usually lost), I have pondered the region's seemingly insatiable desire to become the Rockies version of the Los Angeles basin. Sprawling developments plopped in the middle of fields of corn, aquifers seemingly unthought of as raging boom town populations dispersed across the region, economic development agencies actively promoting specialized futures for some cities, and seemingly irrational (or complete lack thereof) zoning regulations.

Colorado will be the ultimate parody of the Los Angeles basin. Minus of course the critical environmental factor will most likely be water rather than bad, cough, air trapped into a basin. Boulder can play Beverly Hills 90210. Fort Collins can be the new blended good-side of Hollywood and Granada Hills. Loveland as Simi Valley with Greeley as Newhall and Neanderthal land. I'm just not quite sure where to stereotype Denver in yet. I haven't spent enough time in town I guess.

What puzzles me however is why the voters and citizens of Colorado are sitting back and watching it sprawl. I've picked up on the whole "We are the Libertarians" thing. I've recognized the whole neanderthallic "Tea Party" concepts. But for years I have heard my ninety-five year-ol ranching uncle talking about ways to tie all his properties up in a land trust so "the blankity-blank develops won't get their hands on it once I die." This from the most die hard conservative bastion of fiscal, social, and emotional constraint I've ever heard tell of. My uncle tells stories of watching men hang in "hangtown" California. Strung up for their color, for looking wrong at the right citizen, or because someone just plain didn't like them. "They let 'em swing from the porch of the hardware store."

Okay so environmentalist attitudes and progressive politics do not necessarily have to go hand in hand. But yet the area ranchers and farmers seem quite subdued in Northern Colorado. Where I come from the farmers, the ranchers, and the citizens would be armed with hayforks and pitchforks and demanding their own bizarro show called the "Town Hall".

My tour guides suggest this complacency is due to the fact the farmers and ranchers are struggling so hard that they may yet need the developers and their money if the big farm subsidies sink the small Mom and Pop ship any further. In my view a few more monopolistic-megalithlic-snail-snotter corporations controlling the markets--like our not so beloved JBS Swift and the bell will be tolling for those small Mom and Pops.

Another suggestion that has come my way is that " what... that's what's going to happen and we'll just have to live with it...".

I never buy into the idea that development can't be organized and planned. If you are working class or fixed residents of the area it is a prudent thing to keep a watchful eye out for what the future is developing for your quality of life. I do however buy into the notion it takes a lot of political clout, political power, economic power, or in lieu of these things, voter outrage and collective interest to create change.

Today, which brings me a few belated paragraphs later to my point, I have picked up another potential clue about the historic tendencies in Colorado that clear some of the fuzz off my puzzle. President Bush's Interior Cabinet Secretary is being investigated by Congress for potentially being in bed, and obviously enjoying it, with big corporate energy interests. The investigators of the very same Department of the Interior which she led turned her over to the Justice Department. That is NOT a good sign. Same said Secretary, Ms. Norton, previously served as Colorado's Attorney General.

I am just shocked. Aren't you? Who'd guess? The idea that such a conservative area would have the same elemental types of corrupt influences in government as the liberal state I just left behind. The players are different. The issues are different. But the motives stay the same.

Maybe we are all much more culpable, together, for the nation's spiral into gross special-interests than we would like to acknowledge. At least on the surface.

Here's a clip from the main article from the Los Angeles Times.

Interior Department investigators referred the case to the Justice Department after concluding that there was sufficient evidence of potential illegal conduct, according to federal law enforcement and Interior officials. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive and confidential nature of the case.

Those officials said the referral was based on an already comprehensive Interior Department investigation that included interviews with numerous Interior employees. The Justice Department has assigned prosecutors from its public integrity section and the U.S. attorney's office in Washington to the case.

Norton, 55, was President Bush's first Interior secretary. She had worked as an Interior Department attorney before being elected Colorado's attorney general. Later, as a private lawyer, she represented mining, timber and oil companies.

As Interior secretary, she embraced an industry-friendly approach to environmental regulation that she called "cooperative conservation" and pushed the department to open more public land for energy production.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Shifting Tides of American Politic Rock Healthcare Boat

The tension is in the air. It is between friends. It is in the workplace. It is in the grocery store. We have a jobless economic recovery in our front window and a nasty ideological debate on health care going on in this country rattling all the other windows in our glass houses. Plus we have the latent and aging racists and monarchists in our society bubbling over the top of the kettle throwing scare tactics, guns, Fox News pundits, and labels around like the circus has come to town. Plus the media is ducking responsibility for any worthy journalism on the topic hoping to fend off being the next cartel in line after the insurance industry gets spanked.

None of the above, by itself, is my biggest worry though. I'm always a survivor. I crave a good challenge. But the above are simply symptomatic of the change afoot in the American current. The waterfall is just coming into view and I am not so sure I want to think about what lies ahead. However, what I figure I can't survive is the changing politic in America.

My biggest worry is that America has lost touch with those who struggle in ways those with wealth rarely experience. American institutions have such vast markets that these institutions and the supporting businesses do not have any need or real incentive to cover the lower end of market spectrum. There is plenty of profit to be had by carving up the middle and upper class and developing new markets around the world. Hence needs go unmet if you are on the lower end of the market.

The American economy has done a great job of covering the most people's needs during the 20th century. But now it finds itself, albeit the consequence of too much wealth and population expansion, rather than too little capital, in a parallel situation to third world countries. Stagnated economies or underdeveloped nations have long sufferred their citizens on the lower end of the economic stratum being clobbered by those above. Basically it is a consequence that few "above" care, or need to care, because their cash needs are being met without caring. This is self interested capitalism at its best. Couple, this cash based disconnect, with government stepping out of the arena and either removing or looking the other way on almost all economic regulation between the players under the proclomation of the free market and "government is never a good thing". The resulting consequence is the smoldering embers of standard discontent in a society become open flames.

Furthermore, I will argue, that emotional or intellectual needs in modern American society can mostly be purchased with enough cash so these societal checks and balances have also been substantially eroded. Just ask yourself the question how many families or neighbors you know would approve of their son or daughter currying favor in their job or relationship for monetary gain? There isn't a lot of need to look over the backyard fence at how the neighbors are doing anymore unless their McMansion casts a shadow on yours.

Instead of being pushed to perform in this society I simply feel obligated to produce cash. For myself and for others. There aren't really any ethics or scope of morality attached to the production of that cash just as long as the cash gets produced. This has become the ethereal societal expectation from my fellow citizens. Basically I can, and they can, do as they please as long as they don't harm any little children and as long as they are making money for others as well as their own good. If one is simply making money mostly for their nepotistic "own" that can be a little sketchy too. Especially if caught. Just ask Bernie Madoff.

Now maybe I grew up in the wrong household but as a child I was raised with the expectation that I would be a productive human being. That demand was inclusive of nurturing my own well being and paying my own bills and also giving to others whenever possible so that, together, we all could be safe, healthy, and potentially happy. Hard work was simply an expectation in my working class family. It was how you lived. Whether it produced a lot of cash or just enough to live on--if you did your job well and with integrity then you had met your societal obligation. My father may have been a raging abusive alcoholic but he got up every morning and put in a very effective eighteen-hour weekday six days a week. He helped make the owners of the company very wealthy over a number of years.

As an adult I have learned that people are raised with many variant expectations of their own contribution to society dependent on cultural, familial, and even geographical factors. I guess I just never assumed that this nation would turn its back on people who struggle every day to do their best but don't acquire a lot of wealth mostly because capitalism doesn't value their skills, or what they have to give, as much as they do the person's next door. We pay our sports heroes and bankers mega-millions yet we pay the people who still can dig a ditch, pick up our trash, or take care of our loved ones only enough to meet minimal needs.

First insurance became a response to disaster. Ben Franklin got it right. If your home burned down the potential for replacing the shelter was improbable in times when there was minimal capital in a community. Your neighbors meant everything in a disaster not simply for the immediate response but to stabilize your future. Insurance made a lot of sense to pool the collective capital and lower the risk.

Then insurance became a need generalized to other necessities and larger investments. It at least made a little bit of sense that if you had something worth protecting you wanted it protected. Especially so from those with nothing to protect who might be a little less careful about their approach on life. It also still serviced those caught unaware by natural or man-made disasters.

Then insurance became an institution. A distinguishing and stablizing concept especially rewarding and productive for the middle class. A requirement in many states to be held up by legislation created by those with secure housing, food and water supplies, and a good education. Many legislators simply members of the "Lucy Sperm Club" themselves. By far our legislators and representatives reflect people in our society who have been equipped, mostly by birth, with the assets that open doors to success and stability. The rest of us have to clear a path to the doors and earn our keys to the locks.

Once institutionalized insurance companies have been kissing home plate. The government stepped in to cover 9/11 victims, the vast majority already well healed, to augment and supersede their insurance companies from taking them to court, where it would be plainly pointed out that most those insurance contracts, now required, put a clause in regarding "acts of war" and, too frequently, acts of Mother Nature. The nation stood by watching the misfortunes of families in Katrina. Those of lesser economic means were left without the cash to hire effective attorneys. We stood by and watched while the Katrina victims' insurance companies twisted previous promises like writhing knotted snakes to get out of fulfilling those obligations.

A century ago American media made stars out of those who worked hard and struggled to overcome adversity. As the struggle of life became less and less a standard and the wealth accumulated in families to be passed on to the generations that followed our taste for common heroes rising through the ranks fell to the wayside. The national focus tended more to those whose status came with birth or had already been achieved. The process was not the point of interest any longer. The cool factor became less about the struggle and more about the glitz and glam of the perceived treasures. The glorification of the process and struggle of obtaining status faded as Americans began to live vicariously through the society and entertainment pages.

We drive the media and we become our media. It tends to be a closed ecosystem.

I, personally, cannot think of a group that emulates, in the majority, this modern American representation of paper made icons better than Congress itself. Our for-profit media has not missed out on following the societal trends for opportunistic gains as much as for public information. It has followed these political leaders and icons for decades and held them up for emulation. House and Garden, GQ, Money, INC., Lives of the Rich and Famous, People Magazine, and so on.

Now health care, hopping into bed with its sugar-daddy, has become an extension of the institution of insurance. The idea that people, when sick, should be tended and looked after to be made well again simply because they are a fellow human being has fallen by the wayside. Senator Max Baucus' finance bill wanted every person who could not pay for health care insurance to pay $3,800. as a fine for not participating in the good enrichment of society. The moral assumption reads "If you can't pay to stay alive then obviously your not worth keeping around."

Prisoners on death row get public paid health care. People who get minimum wage get the death sentence. Great idea Senator Baucus. When people are allowed to go homestead a piece of land, cut down their own trees, plant their own vegetables, and not be fined for doing so then maybe, just maybe, it makes sense to force people with little economic means in the first place to pay to participate in the great Baucus society twisted out of the one LBJ once stood over. At least they won't have to lose their homes or go without groceries to make you feel secure in your gilded mansions at night. Or is the general idea here to enslave or outlaw people without means? Can we make the ugliness we don't like to look at go away like the unwanted bags under our eyes? Can we simply pay for someone to make everything look good on the surface and ignore the reality of the situation?

This is what frightens me the most about present day America. Watching the powerful in the Congress and the Obama Administration who seemingly think that coming up with $3,800 is within every person's means. What happens to a nation when its leaders become so out of touch with the workers that actually make the infrastructure of the system go round?

In my world Senator Baucus should have been embarrassed to even whisper such a proposal behind closed doors. We take out public servants who admit to canoodling with lobbyists in the bedroom but we leave in those who would loosen the Hound of the Baskervilles onto the throats of good honest hard working people with less accumulated wealth. We care about the boundaries and civilities of sex and marriage but not ALL the people those marriages produce. Simply because the poor are asking to have a stake and share in the essentials that society demands BEFORE a person can be a fully fledged participant in the economy we are to be fined.

Of course that is only if President Obama manages to get his way and there is some type of viable public option. Which is what the Senate Finance bill is looking to ensure doesn't happen. Senator Baucus is going to make absolute sure that the unworthy, meaning those without accumulated wealth, will suffer some type of second class citizenship if the "Have's" will be footing any part of the bill.

Suddenly I don't need to be walking inside a Castle in the Rhineland to get a feel for what it was like to be medieval peasantry. I can get it all right here in America in 2009. If health care has become a requirement to participate in the education system, to get a decent job, to be allowed to board public transportation, and just to be treated civil in society then society needs to make health care readily available to everyone they expect to participate. If not then the poor should be allowed to stake out a living space where ever they please without fines and stigma. A street corner, under bridges, in tent cities, where ever they can survive. Participation in society is already not an option. Does it also have to come with a fine for not being able to afford membership dues when a person is being actively excluded on many levels from full participation? It doesn't make sense unless we go back to an agrarian society where Senator Baucus can have his own fiefdom.

The only marker of a decent man or woman is not the property he or she owns Senator.

As an alternative we could just put every one making less than a living wage in America on a bus and send them to Canada. It would make governing so much easier for the insurance-controlled Congressional elite. At least Canada has a sense of humanity toward their own even if they would turn the buses away. America used to be the champion of humanitarianism throughout the world. How low we have sunk that we can't even champion our own.

A poor person cannot create their own economy of scale to lower costs. Nor can individuals without many collective resources easily organize political power for their own benefit. Poor people have little representation in Congress because they cannot pay to purchase their senator and representatives ears or their integrity. And often, strangely enough, the lower economic classes suffer from roadblocks on the way to polling. Not to mention that Congress, the Senate the House Richie-Rich built, is heavily invested in the industries which make a lot of their wealth from the backs of labor. Businesses, banks especially, earn a large bulk of their wealth and profit by charging the poor excessive fees, surcharges, and usury interest rates.

Good credit has also become a need for survival. Try having a health care crisis and keeping your stellar credit rating. It has brought more than one middle class Joe into the sewers with the unwashed masses. In many jobs there are so many qualified applicants that the employers screen out those with health care issues and those with poor credit. The public education system has been repeatedly raped by financial conservatives over the past three decades so it can produce only the minimal cloned workers from the masses entering the system. Higher education has become increasingly more and more difficult to access.

In short, the competition for the higher status in society, is being systematically eliminated. Capitalism is all about competition and so is the innate shadow self of humankind. Check-mate goes to the wealthy elite and the others in this country whom they have managed to convince that government is never a good thing and thus compel these citizens in many cases to vote against their own true self-interest.

Left unchecked, both of these mechanisms, bring out cycles of destruction which the world has seen before. Let's just hope we are not doomed to repeat our mistakes of ego.

President Obama is right to make health care a moral argument. The problem still remains that he needs to let us know which side of the moral ideology he is keeping tune with rather than vaguely chastizing both ends of the spectrum. One end has all the power Mr. President and the other end has most of the day to day burdens and consequences.

If the Senate Finance Committee doesn't come up with a plan for all the people please don't just send them back to their room without dinner Mr. President. Publically expose their strategic posturing for what it really is--grotesque, devisive, and a fuedal elitism designed to reappoint and legitimize through the hands of government a second class citizenship for the peasants in America and a ruling first-class citizenship for the insurance industry, corporate monopolies, and the blue blood. Let them hang for social canoodling regardless whether a Republican, a Democrat, or a Republican in Democratic fuedal drag.

Let's just hope he gets a bill in front of him that can knit this nation of opposing forces and ideologies together for another two hundred years. Then President Obama will have done his job well, in my view, and delivered full value on his own obligation to society.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Greeley District 6 School Board Election: Brave Souls Seeking Hot Seats

It is time for Greeley Colorado's District 6 School Board elections to take place. First out of the dugout are Doug Kershaw and Brett Reese. These are the new kids on the block. Judy Kron, Doug Lidiak, Linda Trimberger are existing members and already serving, whether elected or appointed, and are looking for voter approval.

I am not going to point to profiles for the candidates until I can find a good one for every one. The Tribune has minimalistic values they are using to describe the candidates. The District 6 website has profiles on the existing members. I'd like to give the new "kids" time to get their public relation materials up and out before I link to anything. Incumbents always have an advantage because they have name recognition.

In the meantime I've been trying to sort out whether the new alternative education high school Trademark West that just opened pulled a couple of hundred low performing kids off the progress reports for District 6. That certainly would help give a positive impression of the District. And, if it isn't true and the stats issued to the public are correct then that is a deflation of my argument that the District isn't putting a heck of a lot of focus on low-level performers.

But I will get into a heavier critique the closer to ballot day. Right now I thought it might be prudent to publish what voters need to be looking for as qualities and skills in their educational leadership. Good hair, good teeth, and over six feet tall really doesn't do it. I went to grade school and I know it is a popularity contest when running for a public position in grade school but it would be really nice if we could put bags over every body's head and just vote for the people who can get the job done. District 6 needs the community to do it's job. The kids graduating from District 6 need voters to get beyond the special interest politics and get as much support for effective management on board as possible.

I don't think there are many people around town who will argue that point with me.

So here is my first post in a series on Greeley's District 6 School Board election. this post will concentrate on the qualities suggested for effective school board members.

First a quick view of what the school board's primary responsibilities are all about. (If you have one to add to the list give me an email please).

  • Set the vision and goals for the district (effective goal setting leads to objective achievement and objective achievement leads to vision achievement in both the short term and into the future. Basically it keeps the ship heading to the right port without wasting a lot of money trying to get to London by going around the Cape Horn, so to speak.)
  • Adopt policies that give the district direction to set priorities and achieve its goals (In my personal view this is a key quality. A wily administrator can maneuver policies in front of a Board that will meet their personal agenda. While their personal agenda might, or might not, be a set of good ideas it is important that Board members have enough experience with management practices (not necessarily education specific) to watch out for this type of manipulation and truly ensure that the Board is making good policy decisions that work for everybody--management included, but concentrate on strategies that will achieve the best for the students and bring the vision into the right port.)
  • Adopt and oversee the annual budget (A school budget isn't like your personal checkbook. It is a complex, dynamic, and complicated guide.)
  • Manage the collective bargaining process for employees of the district (key to quality personnel and key to controlling costs--a double edge sword).
  • Hire and evaluate the superintendent (The superintendent is key and the one in District 6 makes nearly $185,000 + perks. That's almost half of the base salary President Obama gets for running the leading nation of the free world. The board needs to expect, demand, and make accountable their employee for returning superior service to the community's education system which reflects the community's investment. The superintendent will set the tone and culture for all District 6 employees--including teachers. Not a small job in and by itself.)

Which leads us to a few statements on what type of skills and qualities will be required for the school board candidates to possess. There are many different regional and state views, recommendations, and discussions on the topic. One of the best resources I have ever used comes from Jossey-Bass. I have used this company's textbooks for other work as well and they produce a high quality product. If you have one, another skill or quality, to add, again, please send me an email or post a comment. Clicking on the top link will take you to one site on the topic. There are several with many ideas.

It takes a lot of work to build an effective school board. Time spent reading, studying, attending board governance lectures, building a good board governance policy, and simply understanding how a good board works together and delegates to its employee. Relating to the community generally comes with trial and error plus a witch-hunt now and again.
Functioning Cohesively as Group

A healthy decision-making process naturally flows from board members working together to fulfill their responsibilities. When school board members gel as a unit, they exhibit many characteristics of other well-functioning groups: a shared respect and trust that recognizes the contribution of each individual, a feeling of cohesiveness, shared goals for the board, able leadership within the board (often the board president), shared values, and agreement on the board's operating rules.

Exercising Appropriate Authority
In discussing their ability to act effectively, board members speak of the need to negotiate the delicate balance between exercising authority and supporting the school district's chief executive. Traditional governance wisdom suggests that you hire the best chief executive and then get out of his or her way. Board interviews indicate that it's not that simple. The superintendent's recommendation may be clearly contrary to the board's sense of what is important or supported by the community, or the superintendent may violate prior understanding of proposed action. In these are other situations, boards feel they must exercise independent authority.

Connecting to the Community
The board serves as a liaison between the district and the community. An effective board understands what the community wants and explains to the community what it believes to be in the best interest of children.

The process works both ways. The long-established tradition of local control of education is based on the value of the community shaping its schools and of the schools "belonging" to the community. This close relationship contributes to greater community participation in the education of its children and interest in how the schools operate. Even in the context of current times, which see a decline in the number of households with school-age children, fewer volunteers, and a diminishing respect for public schools, interest in education is intense.

As communities become more diverse, so do their values. Building understanding and support becomes an increasing challenge. The board's role in explaining actions to the community and ensuring consideration of all points of view becomes increasingly important.

Working Toward Board Improvement
When boards talk about effectiveness, one area they center on is self-improvement. This shouldn't be surprising. Forty percent of board members have three or fewer years of experience. They say in interviews that it takes them two years to understand their board roles well enough to be fully effective. Furthermore, it is through ad hoc, unplanned contact with other board members and the superintendent that they learn much of what they know.

Acting Strategically
Board members discuss and resolve issues that are central to helping children learn. They plan systematically and for the long term, taking into consideration the needs and concerns of internal and external constituents, all the while balancing reality and politics. They match plans against results. They organize responsibilities and authority between superintendent and the board to adjust for strengths and weaknesses. Boards that can accomplish these tasks can deal effectively with crises, especially when they have no choice but to act.

Now all we need to find out is if each candidate can fit this bill. I'll try to find email addresses for the new candidates and see if I can get statements from them. I can get the incumbent email addresses from the District 6 website and I'll forward this posting to each one also in case they would like to respond. I'll have to work for the other two emails. In the meantime if someone has got 'em.... please pass the potatoes via phone or email. Thanks.

Obama's Health Care Speech: Senator Baucus and His Prissy Elitist Underclothing

A toast to President Obama. He's pulled the roast out of the fire and stuffed the apple into the mouths of Congress to chew on. Senator Baucus please review Obama's words carefully before you decide to show your prissy elitist underclothing to the public this week when you present a bill without a public option. Ms. Senator Feinstein please phone home ET wants to explain to you how government can serve all the people not just the rich and pretty. And Senator Grassley go back to your no frills pragmatic working people in your state and explain to them again just why health care reform is not in their interest. Pragmatic, sensible, and a chess player. This President is a professional and he has integrity.

And he lies in wait for his prey to come to him. Less work, more fulfilling, albeit a bit nerve wracking to watch.

Cut the politics and get the job done. And don't create a second class citizenry when you do it.

In my last position, management, I boycotted the Board approved health care plan because it was essentially worthless unless you made the kind of money management tends to make. The janitor, the office staff, and others could not afford the plan. All the Board members were quite wealthy individuals and had little relationship to the living struggles of the employees trying to make ends meet on ten dollars an hour. They had little sympathy as well.

Today, self-employed and freelancing, without health care insurance I went to see my new physician in Fort Collins. $120 dollars for the office visit. $145 dollars for a simple routine blood test. Another $75 for a return visit on Friday. That is $340 spent in less than two weeks. Cash.

For me the worst part of the visit was the stigma I felt when I told the office I'd be paying in cash. "Don't you want the clinic down the street where you will have to wait three months for an appointment, sit with a lot of sick people needing immediate care, see a physician overworked, overstressed, and mildly pissed off you are just coming in for a blood pressure check, and can we dust the chair for fleas after you leave? You are poor aren't you? Why else would you be paying cash? Maybe you should just pay us now and then we'll give you service."

Um, no, thank you anyhow. I'd like to see a private care physician, thanks for your concern. Are you Republican? And just how many years of your life have you given to public service? Nice fingernails by the way. Do they match your pedicure? Is your 401k invested in AIG?
If a person is making a wage of $7.75 an hour $340 is around 30% of their monthly income without taxes. And that would be for routine services. While I certainly would be on board for a single payer system, and yes I trust my government to keep me alive longer than any of my Republican friends would ever opt to--at their own expense, I was content for now to hear President Obama reinforce the idea that the bill that passes his pen will need to have a public option alternative for those who don't fit into the other boxed plans.

I will trust, when the time comes, that the Republicans will not take that opportunity to create a second class service for the low-life Americans who would need such an option. Such as many of the self-employed and underemployed and between employment Americans will find as they will still be trying to regain a foothold in the "jobless" recovery. It isn't just the inhuman trolls who live under the bridge after Reagan threw them out of the mental institutions that will be using this option.

Indeed if big insurance T-rexahealthosauruses don't cure their huge appetites for profit even more may be using this option.

Oh my God. Next thing you know the unwashed masses may start demanding an legit education system to! Worse, President Obama is at the helm. He may actually listen to their needs! What now? Maybe the right wing nut jobs are right their America is over--the feudal system, the elites so diligently nurture, is truly going down the toilet.

Please, allow me, in all my cynical ranting... to push the handle for a good flush.


President Obama's Speech on Healthcare from the New York Times
The Gallup Website where you get real poll figures from the morning after rather than Fox Math

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Socialized Medicine is a Lick-It-And-Stick-It Label

Socialized medicine is such a lick-it-and-stick-it label.  It reminds me of a travel bag I had with stickers from Vienna Austria plastered all over it.  I'd been passed down the alligator trunk bag from a good friend.  I've never seen Austria.  The labels are meaningless after the first impression.  They did manage to start a conversation or two for me while I traveled around.

I've been told that debunking the junk put out on health care is a waste of time.  People do not want to know the truth.  Personally I don't buy into that idea wholesale.  Americans tend to be fixated on getting their news and facts through entertainment channels or soundbites for a myriad of reasons.  Word of mouth carries quickly in social circles and some of the more isolated states whose Senators somehow got Magic Proportion Power over our health care still trade heavily on social capital.   So I keep fighting the battle.

In the meantime it looks like the local fish-wrap, the Greeley Tribune, has a bit of a problem covering all sides of the issue.  I've heard tales of people who have written past editorials for the paper having their pro health care reform editorials gutted and placed in the Letter to the Editor section.  Gutted so that the Tribune represented at best a distorted version of the editorial argument and at worst the opinion and information the paper wants the local public to be indoctrinated with.  Social engineering in Greeley Colorado?  Please say it isn't so.

I'm posting in part an article below written by a Canadian insurance executive which a friend also from Canada, who owns one of those glide-and-slide-get-healthy Canadian health cards, forwarded to me.  It is worth a click on the link to read the whole article and to be armed with facts closer to a real knowledge source than Fox News. | Opinion | A puzzled Canadian ponders surreal U.S. health-care debate
If asked to single out an aspect of Canadian society superior to that of our American neighbours, most Canadians would cite first our health-care system. What I also might have mentioned were aspects of the American health-care debate that Canadians find puzzling, if not downright perverse. These include:

* The use of wildly misleading references to wait times in Canada even though 47 million Americans have no health insurance and, therefore, are forced to line up for treatment in hospital emergency rooms, to say nothing of the thousands who queue in parking lots across the U.S. to receive free treatment periodically provided by "Remote Area Medical" volunteers.
* U.S. opinion polls that show 77 per cent of Americans are generally satisfied with their health care when so many millions of their fellow citizens are uninsured and many millions more under-insured; when three-quarters of the families filing for illness-related bankruptcy actually have health insurance; and when insurance premiums have grown three times faster than wages between 2000 and 2008.
* The negative representation of Canadians' experience with "socialized medicine." That portrayal is at odds with reality. For example: 85 per cent of Canadians have their own primary care physician and 92 per cent would recommend that doctor to a relative or friend; 95 per cent of Canadians with chronic conditions have a regular place of care; of those requiring ongoing medical care most were able to see a doctor within seven days.
* The widespread use of an exceptional and misleading Canadian case. It involves a television commercial featuring an Ontario woman, who (American viewers are told) had to go to the U.S. to have a life-threatening brain tumour removed in order to save her life. Why? Because of a six-month wait time in Canada for treatment. The patient has since admitted to a three-month wait time involving a diagnosed benign Rathkes cleft cyst, the removal of which at a Mayo Clinic in Arizona cost her $97,000 that she is now seeking to recover from the province where its removal would have cost her nothing.
* The fact that a huge contributor to the rapidly rising cost of U.S. health care is the central involvement of insurance companies. They add significant cost due to both administrative complication and inefficiency as well as the pursuit of profit. Canada constructed a health-care "insurance" system from which insurance companies were excluded in favour of single-payer, state-financed insurance. Thoughtful Americans understand that insurance companies are needed for an efficient, patient-oriented health-care system as much as a fish needs a bicycle. Minimizing the payment of health claims by insurance companies is, for executives interested in their compensation and their careers, what the companies' role in health care is all about.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Political Life in Greeley Colorado

Father forgive me for I have sinned.

I think that is how it goes, right? The only Catholic in the family (and I love her dearly for she reads my blog religiously) married in so I apologize if I have breached etiquette.

I said I would never again post a comment as a reader to the Tribune. Unfortunately there just are not many alternative places to get local homegrown news in this town. And, admittedly, I get sucked into the neurotic and wild ranging viewpoints posted about topics like education and economic development issues.

Humans are such interesting life forms. They remind me of the beautiful sea anemones I used to see while walking the beach. They cling precariously to the rocks fearful of that big storm that will come and try to push them out to sea while waving their tendrils about furiously as if they are in complete control. At first they all look the same. Little plasmid soldiers all gathered together to fend off the world. But if you get down and start looking more closely you begin to see the signs of uniqueness in each one. Each sponge has worn spots and chunks missing from its journey through life. Each one is a different size a bit different shape. Each one has a unique story to tell.

Greeley is fascinating in the same way. I have learned new ways of visioning ideas and concepts since I've landed here.

Originally I lumped conservative thinking into one broad category--keeping government minimal and competition stoked regardless if the system that this mindset produces works or not. But this never made a lot of sense to me. For one I look at the government for infrastructure and as a referee. If you have a lot of players in a game you need a ratio of referees to players. So if you get more players, and then more, and then more players again, eventually you need more referees to keep watch. And once the game becomes massively huge you need a whole new strategy for how to manage the game. Which is the point I think America is at right now.

But if you argue that government has no place in that game or needs to continually be cut--well that doesn't work in my view. What always puzzled me is that I have a great many friends and teachers who have been conservatives calling for less government and they have amazing minds and depth of intelligence. Pieces to my puzzle were obviously missing. I like to understand as many viewpoints as possible because it helps me to derive better solutions.

I think I've found some of those here in Greeley. By comparing the systems that have developed here, and driving around (and around and around and around--lost) I began putting what I could see in front of my eyes into context with the people I have met here and discussed things with. It has dawned on me, clearly, there are distinctions within the anti-government folk that come from an ideological base I had never quite fathomed. Call it development of a complexity of a nuance if you wish.

I often speak about systems in the context of human happiness and what the point of life is all about. To do this I like to describe the context in the most primitive of states--before society forms. The Clan of the Cave Bear type outlook. What motivation did these people face every morning when they woke up in their cave? Why go outside? The answer of course is to survive. To experience being human. And, ultimately, to find ways of making it easier to survive and the odds better. And so on, and so on.

Many times I thought back to how we have added in functions and systems since the beginning in the name of survival. Although lately I think in the name of happiness and establishing that one person is better than the other might be more appropriate.

I've always thought the big picture idea was to create an infrastructure for systems which would lead to the greatest quality of life for the most people. To me that requires people having their survival needs met. Clean water, some sort of shelter, basic foodstuff, transportation, and health care are all included in this package. Then comes education. Education fits in here because it serves both the individual's growth and society's need for survival. This is why I pay taxes to the government. I can't provide these things nearly as well as an individual because I can't get the economy of scale that I can in a group. Hence I see government's responsibility not as a parental figure but as one of mediator, the referee between powerful individuals and not so powerful individuals--between systems and the individual, and to create economies of scale that are in the interest of all people. Hence infrastructure.

Of course this idea is people centric. Humanistic in origins. I believe we should take care of each other rather than try to kill each other... imagine that. If that makes me a liberal then I'll wear the lick-it-and-stick-it label proudly.

But now I live in a community where most people don't see the world from this viewpoint. I mean it isn't like I dropped in from Mars or something. I just moved from another state. And I really like the people here. So it has become a current intrigue for me to sort out the various perspectives I am now surrounded by.

And it ain't easy being green, let me tell ya.

I get it that people don't like government and don't want the nose of government meddling in individual lives. They would rather duke it out with their neighbors than have government mediate things. Like land zoning for instance. Why should government be able to tell someone if they can or can't build on land they own? From an individual perspective it is interference. It is a feeling that robs an individual of a sense of being free as a human to live as they choose. Yet from a tribal perspective we all have to live together and that means you have to also act in the interest of the group.

Although I may not be expressing my new found perspective on this viewpoint well it certainly makes much more sense to me than my previous state of confusion. It explains, at least for now until I get new information, how a town can be quite happy not having integrated planning and systems that work well. The freedom of the personal decision making and lack of government intervention simply has more value for the greater number of persons living, and voting, around here.

While I think that this strategy in the short run makes sense, and it would still make sense if the town didn't grow at all and new people weren't added, in the long term this strategy doesn't work for modern times.

When I read the crazy wing-nut posts about various topics discussed in the local news I tend to think "fanatic" less and less. Instead I see people who are scared and frightened and feeling out of control that their world is changing more rapidly than they ever imagined it could. New feelings, new ideas, and new systems are forcing their way in while the magical ideological lifestyle some would choose gets more remote and distant every day.

I am not sure this is how the West was won but I am pretty sure that this is how the West will be changed. I guess the only win/win to be had will be to find a way to express that fondness for independence and freedom from rules, regulation, and the taxes that come with them--while creating an infrastructure that works for the most people, the environment, and the generations to come.

Of course that, the above statement, is not a solution it is just a reiteration of the problem most who live in this community are probably already aware of--whether conscious of it or not.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Doh! What Constitutional Right to Health Care?

The radical right is right. The financial conservatives are right it is not a right. The idea that universal health care was not a consideration when writing the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution is true. See the logic? It all makes sense now doesn't it. People don't need health care because the founding patriarchs thought we'd all be happy just having a few leeches and butcher knives around the house along with staying home when Small Pox went past our doors.

Where did these people go to school? Home Mountain ParaMilitary School of Appalachia? The logic and the reasoning behind the arguments against health care are Palinesque. Just like Sara Palin, left alone, these people all end up blowing their own feet off with their mouth-guns.

Perhaps I just need to be more pragmatically sane like my friend RCH to understand the big picture. He writes
I always like countering the right wing "strict constructionist" types who argue that something cannot be required if it is not in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights by noting that not only was paper money not envisioned by the Founding Fathers, the Federalist Papers all argue against it. So, the U.S. government during the First World War did a nifty dance around this "problem" by having U.S. currency printed by the Bureau of Printing and Engraving be distributed by the Federal Reserve Bank. The Fed is a private bank whose Chairman and Board just happen to be appointed by the U.S. President and confirmed by the Senate.
Health care is a necessity. It is a public and private necessity. Children can't go to school without their vaccinations. Kids and teens have to stay home when ill. Mom and Dad can't go to work sick and if Mom and Dad die the state will end up supporting Junior and his sugar habit. In several industries, and for the evil insurance Goliaths, you have to pass a Doctor's physical to work. When you get really ill you have to pass another one to go back to work. Wal-Mart thought it would be a peachy idea to get rid of their aging and fatter employees simply because they might be health risks--to their bottom line. Oh and try getting on an airplane while talking about the Swine Flu and see how far the friendly skies will take you.

Now this wouldn't be quite the same argument if you could run out yonder and pitch a tent in the woods and camp all year round. While you may have to vote down your eight year-old son on that family option it is well worth the family conflict. Basically the authorities won't let you do it. Not only does it violate land and planning use; federal, state, county, and a few other laws, the child-you-aren't-raising-right authorities will also have a say in this process.

So damned if you do and damned if you don't. And the logic behind maintaining this handy-dandy little status quo just keeps on getting better.

No Free Riders! No Free Loaders! You must rely on the system, our system, one-size fits all, or you go to jail and get all your loved one's taken away from you. No purple hair, no trying to making it alone, no get-out-of-jail free, just take your bread and gruel and get back to work. And don't forget to show up in church on Sunday or we'll come lookin' for you. And none of that "equality" crap. You are either equal to us or you aren't and you ain't so be happy with your salt-mine lives. You either live like we think you should live or you get kicked to the curb real, real, hard.

Can't live with us. Can't live without us. So if you die early because the rest of us don't want to pay for you to actively and fully participate in our system--too bad. We could raise the minimum wage I guess and we could manage to cover those we can't shove into the work farm doors and we may even to be able to ship off a few poor ugly unadoptable white orphan's to Mexico when we deport all those disgustingly hard working illegals without the right to stay here back home. This will all happen right after we sign over that euthanasia bill to get Granny and Grampy off our dime.

And quit your whining to our "There Ain't No Big Bang" Senators and Congressmen too. We slogged long and hard to get these award winning prize nincompoops raised in private snob school into office. It gets annoying when you question their logic, their education, their sanity, their religion. How dare you not trust us--we're the Better Gene people! Your liberal shtick about health care being a right won't even begin to fly against our insurance industry hot air balloon because "WE" the Almighty Already Insured at the Good Gene Plant think you poor unhealthy bad gene people should just continue to be slaves to our economy. We get the tax breaks, the stimulus money, and Bernie Madoff phones home every Christmas. How in Hades do you think you have any right to not suffer when you can't buy it? When ya all drop dead we'll just replace you with another Bad Luck Charlie Stiff.

You ain't got no "Right" to health care because in 1776 no body thought they'd live long enough to need it. So quit asking. Besides the Insurance Company executives are just God's Angels in a Armani business suit. They mean you no harm. We like them, we trust them, why can't you? Your Mama should ask them in for Sunday brunch. And be sure to take good care of them now because they are FILTHY RICH and deserve your Sunday best.

They must have good genes if their rich. I get it now. Thanks I'll sleep much better tonight knowing I have no right to ask for equality in the land they once called "America".

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Health Care: Greeley Colorado Sings the JBS Swift Blues

JBS Swift is in process of acquiring Pilgrim's Pride. JBS Swift is embroiled in fraud and finance scandals in Brazil. JBS is being sued by more than one family over damage from eating E.Coli infected meat products this summer. JBS Swift has just been found guilty by a government agency of treating their workers like '1940's dog-meat" here in Greeley Colorado by firing people for having specific religious needs outside the boundaries of the local mainstream and having the courage to express those needs.

Reuters: The dispute began last year during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when the workers walked off the job after managers denied them a prayer break at sunset.

Supervisors had initially agreed to adjust work schedules to accommodate the requests by Muslim workers but later reversed their decisions after non-Muslim workers protested the changes.

So now we understand what gets Greeley citizens moving their feet--the idea that other people who are different might want to be treated humanely too. Is the rest of Greeley just watching from their patios while they grill their steaks and vote the religious conservatives into public office? I like my meat rare and my religion in the church--not in my politics please. Can you imagine the heat JBS Swift would take locally if it refused to allow community Baptists to adjust their schedules so they could attend Sunday Easter Service? Yikes! Now that would outrage the locals. But not much else seems to stir the pot.

And, it looks like, JBS Swift just raised the $2 billion IPO they needed to acquire Pilgrim's Pride. Tasty chicken legs on your grocer's table. Yum. I'll pay the price for organic chicken first, thank you very much.

JBS is currently the world's largest beef producer and exporter with a daily harvesting capacity of 73.9 thousand heads of cattle and the largest global exporter of processed beef. The company's operations include 25 plants located in nine Brazilian states and six plants located in four Argentine provinces, in addition to 16 plants in the USA, 10 in Australia and eight in Italy.

JBS lept to the forefront of world beef production when it bought Swift & Co. of Greeley, Colo., for around $225 million in 2007. Additionally, JBS S.A. is the third largest pork producer in the USA, with a harvesting capacity of 48.5 thousand heads per day.
Does anyone besides me wonder how companies with infamous track records, like JBS Swift above, stay in business?

One thought is, as I have stated early on, the consumers do not know they are buying JBS products when they go to the store. As long as JBS Swift doesn't have to clearly label and brand their products their retailers will take the hit and the FDA, apparently, will protect JBS from having to disclose who they sell their products to.

I'm going to start asking at my local meat departments, "Could you point out the JBS products please so I can avoid giving a dollar to this company?" At least until there is a federal law made that makes it illegal for the meat department worker to disclose any information that might harm JBS Swift's sales by leaning over the counter and whispering into a customer's ear. Now that would be a Dickensonian novel in the making. I keep returning to the Bush era nightmare of protectionism. It has been a traumatic journey for individual consumers and the "little-guy".

And, truthfully, some consumers don't care--as long as they don't get sick or their family member doesn't have to work in a modern pseudo rendition of a Dickens slave ship. I always get that weird-feeling cynical sneer when I think about these "It's not in my backyard so it's not a problem" people. I've met more than a few folks that go to church on Sunday and talk about the importance of community and shared ideas along with their particular philosophy of life yet when it comes down to it--as long as they don't have to pick up that extended price tag for harming people with less political and monetary power, the problem belongs to someone else. As long as the apple trees in their own backyard look ripe and healthy--why bother looking over the fence.

To be fair, I've also seen people in the same situation above who just feel they have no power or know what to do in order to bring about change.

My answer to the situation is "stop putting your dollars on the counter". You'd be amazed at the protection each consumer vote buys for a company like JBS Swift. They don't have to listen to any one, even if they are inclined to do so, as long as their investors still think JBS Swift is a good bet to line their pockets with. Forget the neighbors... what's a little E.Coli in exchange for a 10% growth in my 401k?

Consumers have a lot of power. They are the market after all. But investors, like those still willing to put their bucks into JBS's Swift machine, count on consumers not being able to organize well enough to put a stop to poor corporate practices. How many people in America today have the time to research the background of any company--unless they are paid to do so? Do we just shop on blind trust that the government will protect us? Well as a matter of fact that is mostly just what we do. And the people who make money on blind faith will continue to do so. Investors count on their stock brokers and investment bankers not to hold up a mirror of consequences to their faces when that monthly investment statement comes in the mail.

By the way, do you know whose pockets your 401k is lining? Or was lining? My guess is probably not. You just know how much it lost or gained last year.

In reality consumers, as well as investors, are also lazy. That plays into the hands of those manipulating for profit just like ignorance plays into political accomplishments. But the game isn't so transparent any more. The game has become very good at disguising the winning pot the gamers take home. It is getting harder and harder to keep a check and balance on companies with seemingly poor ethical human management. When layers of protectionism are nurtured in government watch-dog agencies and when local politicians can't do the real math and instead just jump up on that platform of "jobs-at any cost-for any wage" you just have to wonder if we haven't already slid over that slippery slope of having our systems and mechanisms manage us rather than us, the voters, managing the system.

In the meantime we have tea-baggers and blue-doggers running about screaming about how the government is evil and private enterprise is the victim. Give me a break. Take the sheep's wool off that delusion please and let's see how big the wolves teeth truly have become over the past two decades.

And you thought this article is all about JBS Swift.

Folks, in my opinion, putting the balance back in the hands of the consumer is what health care reform is really about, taking back the system from the inhuman processes that want control. Megolithic insurance companies, banks, snail-snot mega-internationals like JBS Swift, get a monetary bonus that comes with "herding" people for profit. The government hasn't changed or altered our lives nearly as much in the last two decades as corporations have through the unchecked market power and purchasing of protectionist legislation.

I'd rather be in the hands of government than a corporation--I can vote government out of office. I can't vote out insurance companies or snail-snot corporations like JBS Swift. These elements are more like ticks--they burrow in and hang on for the sweet taste of life until someone puts a little heat to their arses and makes them let go.

JBS Swift is just a symptom of a much bigger problem. And as long as we keep buying into these problems and as long as wealth is the status symbol of higher achievement in society the boil is going to continue to fester.

And now we have to worry about our chickens.

More on JBS Swift
Butchertown News
Unhapppy butchertown people
And more


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