Friday, November 30, 2007

Bill Richardson

This is part two of my series (I guess having two makes it a series?) on candidates for the United States presidency in 2008. I chose Bill Richardson this time, partly because he's the foreign policy candidate (and that's a welcome break from Ron Paul's isolationism), and partly because I politically came of age in a Richardson New Mexico. He's probably influenced me, and his years running for president have been interesting. (Like my post on Ron Paul, I'm pulling and critiquing Richardson's opinions as stated on his site.)

Bill Richardson through the Lens of Kelsey Atherton

Iraq - Richardson is bold here, and while that's at least partly a political move, it's a good one. Withdrawal, diplomacy, and a renewed focus on Afghanistan are all good points, but what sells me on his Iraq policy is this quote: "Key objectives of the conference should be assurances of non-interference and the creation of a multilateral, UN-led Muslim peacekeeping force". He's planning diplomacy, he sees the need for more interests than just those directed by the United States, and he sees the UN as capable of performing a function the UN is more or less charted to do. This is great, and other bits in his policy, while not fully developed, are great starts. Acknowledging that Congress needs to end this war, acknowledging that the military will know how to handle the withdrawal, acknowledging that Iraq's neighbors have a vested interest in Iraq's stability and deserve a role in negotiations concerning the exit of the United States are all great moves. Richardson, from this alone, would be an incredibly qualified secretary of state.

Energy - I don't like his tone, which I think is generally the New Mexican problem with Richardson. He has populist undertones, which are frustrating. As far as his policy is concerned, he proves himself to be a Keynesian here, not shying from the free market but instead acknowledging the positive ways government can influence the economy, for benefits that are not just about profit. Using government controls on the market here to make fighting global climate change and establishing energy independence feasible, and in fact expensive to not do, is a good move. His math could use work, and he does need to better phrase what Congress can do and what he will do (as he cannot do everything, no matter how much he tries to convince people that he can), but he says "multilateral" and sees the connection between oil security and terrorism. Acknowledging political realities is just such a good move.

Health Care - Before discussing his plan, I would like to say that his website would be a lot more readable if his sentences agreed with each other. Saying "Richardson" here and "I" there is a frustration, and unprofessional. As for his plan, it's a lot of promises, not all of them about functions he can actually perform. He rests a lot on initiatives he authorized in New Mexico, which at the time felt they were more show than substance, and seem to be the same thing here as well. He supports universal health care, through government programs already instituted, and he favors nanny-state taxes on things like cigarettes to pay for cancer research. Alright, but nothing remarkable.

Jobs and the Economy - He's strongest with his opener here, which looks at three factors that have made other nations highly competitive in terms of high paying jobs. His steps to remedy this problem are shaky. Fiscal responsibility is good, and I suppose he can't say what needs cutting (and what taxes will be raised) yet, but it is frustrating to have no idea of how he will address this issue. Tax credits are a good move, but he's vague about where they go. Starting Math, Science, and Innovation academies is iffy - it will look good, and it's way easier to do than fixing public education. I think the money spent on new schools would be better spent sending more Americans to college, and especially providing scholarships to students who declare in the fields he wants. Perhaps debt forgiveness towards students who pursue a highly skilled job upon graduation would work; Richardson isn't really offering innovation her so much as shiny packaging.

Agriculture - I would have expected yeoman farmers to show up on Ron Paul's site, but I find them in Richardson's vision. Breaking up agricultural conglomerates, combined with tax incentives for small-time farmers and technological improvements to rural areas is interesting, and bold. I do not know the economics of modern farming, but I strongly suspect that the age of the family farmer as viable is past. Farming is so climate dependent, so uncertain, that it seems a big corporation able to take losses is the way to go, though I suppose farmers' collectives organized nationwide could serve the same purpose. It would take an agricultural renaissance to work, but it is a bold vision. Beyond the logistics of farming in a global economy, his policy is mostly sound. Looking towards rural areas as places from which to draw renewable energy is also good, and favors highly skilled jobs and innovative technology. Proposing a system of labeling called "COOL" seems over-the top.

Civil Liberties - He supports net neutrality, which is great. He's against torture, because it is both morally wrong and ineffective, which is the best way to put it. Paper ballots and paper trails for elections are so good I'd call them vital. Native American self-determination, while I can hardly imagine it will be a major campaign issue, is still just a good thing, and it is reassuring to see him mention it in his campaign literature. Domestic partnerships are not the equality that would be ideal, but they are a compromise favorite of the moment, and gradually progressive will always get my vote before reactionary does. His pro-choice statement is good enough to quote, so here it is: "We can work together to make abortion safe, legal and rare. And we should do everything we can to support quality prenatal care and early child health care so that newborns and infants have the support they need to grow." It's good stuff, and while he isn't as outspoken as Ron Paul, and while he does dodge the Patriot Act, I can support everything he says here.

Defense - I like to think I'm a militarily conscious leftist, and reading his defense policy it is reassuring to know that other people consider these issues as well. The section has a rehashing of his Iraq policy, but after that it shows serious thought put into lessons learned by the political elite on how to use the United States military, how the US military is likely to be used, and how to change the military so that it will be capable in the decades to come. Removing mercenaries, creating joint civilian-military commissions to execute the aftermath of a war before the war is over, and providing a variety of ideas about what needs to be done in an occupation situation are all good moves, and moves that need to be taken. Moving funding away from cold-war era programs in general and nukes in specific is smart. Expanding the standing numbers of the army and of marines is an interesting point, and one for which he will take flak. This is unfortunate, as when these moves are coupled with his intended reforms of the national guard and of the army reserves, it allows for the military force that is supposed to remain at home to remain at home. This is all great policy, and as a final positive note, he includes humanitarian missions as part of the future role of the US military. It seems leftist military theory actually exists.

Education - This is an interesting one, especially looking at his rhetorical approach. He starts by talking about American power, an interesting choice given that this is his education page. He moves on, stating future goals and an optimistic outlook towards the United States public education system being improved. Pre-K next, and he says that we can fully fund it nationwide, which is a really good move. Scrapping No Child Left Behind for the reasons that students, educators, and state governments can all agree on is great. Raising starting teacher salary is a logical place to have built up to, but he tops himself in the next sentence by proposing 100,000 new jobs. That's big, not tremendous, but it's big. That would be like employing one in five people in the greater Albuquerque Metropolitan area. That's a lot of jobs, and jobs that take a lot of education to be able to have. He isn't quite living up to his posturing here, but he is putting forth some solid ideas. Public school choice instead of private school vouchers is something I support, and he does couple it with magnet and charter schools to make it effective. There's lots more here, covering a wide array of issues tied in with education, and it all seems solid. If half of this was passed, education would be greatly improved.

Environment - His environmental policy is sound and uninteresting. Restoring protections, removing many tax exceptions, making sure that the EPA actually works to protect the environment. It's good, what democrats will want, and dull. Only point worth mentioning is that he puts the Clean Water Act first on his environmental policies.

First Responders - An interesting category, this is designed primarily to make life easier on police and firefighters. Allowing unions, collective bargaining, and more benefits towards people who fulfill the public services we all expect to exist is good; that the entire section seems to be pointedly anti-Bush is petty and irrelevant.

Foreign Policy - This section is beautiful. Foreign policy is Richardson's strong point, and it's why I chose him as the follow-up to Ron Paul's isolationism. Richardson sees the US actively engaging in the world, willing to sit down and talk with all nations, and willing to reform the United Nations into a more effective entity. He favors expanding the security council, which is a great move, a realist move, and one that helps change the UN from a post-WWII winners club into something more substantial. The only bad move made here is the phrase "obnoxious regimes", which is more honest than we would like from a president. It reflects a clear bias, and Richardson is a man of clear biases and blunt language, who still believes in diplomacy. This is good stuff, and this will probably be what influence my primary vote.

Immigration - He's tougher than I expected here. That makes sense, moving away from New Mexico to a national arena (New Mexico is going to be about the most sympathetic state on illegal immigration). He wants no fence, but double number of border patrol agents. He doesn't offer amnesty, but instead a "tough but fair" path to citizenship. He wants to crack down on those employing illegals, and he wants to work with Mexico to make illegal immigration harder, while making legal immigration easier. He also wants a national ID, which is scary, and it being mentioned here was a little shocking. He is okay here, and is less militant than many. The national ID could probably be defeated in congress, and so I'd be okay with his plans here under that condition.

GLBT - This section has a grammatical faux-pas, saying either that Richardson's vice president will have aids, or will be GLBT, or both. What is intended is that the vice president will chair a HIV/AIDS commission, but sloppy grammar looks really bad. The area itself is another strength of his, though it seems he is trying to both show support for the GLBT community as much as he is trying to show off that he can be progressive in a conservative state. New Mexico isn't a red state, it's a battleground state, and whatever voting patterns it has, staunch republicanism isn't one. As for the policies, yeah, they are decent, and his "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" stance is nice and solidly nailed down, with the decency to say that sexual orientation doesn't matter; dishonoring GLBT people serving, and those who have served/were turned down from service is a pointless, harmful and entirely unnecessary act.

Women - He wants to bring back the Equal Rights Amendment. Awesome. Everything else here is decent, and he's very pro-choice and very adamant about how pro-choice he is. He's pro-affirmative action, and he wants employers to collect data on their employees race, pay, and gender, which is great for social scientists, but perhaps iffy for employers and civil rights. The section opener here is another good example of writing in his populist-realist mode, if you like to read politicians for style and not substance.

Veterans - Lots here, mostly health care related, with nice bits on some tax exemptions, and some money guaranteed. An improved G.I. bill is this sections best point, with debt forgiveness for veterans who graduate from college. The problem here is the $15 billion price tag, which can be added to all the price tags from previous sections and leaves a large chunk of either deficit spending, new taxes, cut programs, or unfulfilled promises.

Conclusion -

Money's the issue. He mentions $75 billion increase in tax spending (from education and veterans programs), and he mentions a $57 billion cut in defense spending. Already he has a gap, and it's a gap I'm okay with, but it isn't great. It will hurt him in getting what he wants passed, and in many programs for which he has no outlined cost.

Richardson would not be a great president. He's too populist, too "in your face", and too belligerent to have an easy time working with congress. His ideas are good, when he has them, and he has such good foreign policy and defense ideas that I would be content with four to eight years of him. Foreign policy is my biggest issue, and so I'm willing to give up a lot for a US that acts as it should in the international community. With Richardson, I wouldn't have to give up much, but he is so very much a realist and a pragmatist that his stances have some decent leeway. He would be Bush's pleasant shadow, that quietly began picking up the pieces in the rubble. I can settle for less than memorable.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ron Paul

Today was a GOP presidential debate on CNN. I hate televised debates, and the transcript isn't up, so instead I decided to go ahead and poke around Ron Paul's website. What follows is all reaction to his stated campaign opinions, and I am perfectly willing to respond to what he has said, instead of listening to people question him about issues he will dodge.

Ron Paul through the lens of Kelsey Atherton

American Independence - Strong advocate of American independence from international obligations. It's an USA-first perspective that clings more to isolationism than unilateral action. It's a stand I disagree with on many levels, and his fear-mongering about international law and community is terribly upsetting and does nothing to help improve both America's image in the world, and the idea of a world where negotiation and reason take the place of conflict and brinkmanship. If he was talking about Texas relative to the US in this way, it would be treason.

Immigration - militancy, which I suppose I should expect. I find his points about not rewarding the 10-20 million people frustrating. Deporting 10-20 million is also awful, and it doesn't really acknowledge the reality of the situation. Reform is good, but this is a nativist stance, and that too seems at least 90 if not 100 years outdated.

Debt and Taxes - he sees lots of issues with taxes, but doesn't say outright what he would cut. Reform of the Federal reserve is interesting, but without a proposed alternative, I'll treat it as bullshit.

Education - he's cutting bureaucracy everywhere. I'm skeptical of a plan that allows for $5000 tax credit to home school, but I'm more skeptical of making this entirely the parents decision. It seem possible that a parent could take the 5 grand, keep the kid at home, and then the kid would have no education and the parent would have money. Improbable, but I'll take bureaucratic waste over that possibility. Tax credit towards full time teachers is nice, though.

Environment - Ron Paul has no trust for public goods being used as public goods. I trust his actions here, if not his logic, and think environmentally, he would be a sound president. However, he follows the Lockian spirit of the constitution to the letter, and that has a serious flaw in holding that land is only valuable if it is held as private property. Interstate roads, public education, and the whole concept of the common are out of place in a Ron Paul United States.

Health Care - this is an arena where very interesting opinions have been presented, and Ron Paul's faith in the free market system to take care of us is matched only by his distrust of federal government's ability to do anything right. The free market approach here, and a return to a more constitutional (read: bare-bones) federal government seems appropriate here. I'm still skeptical, and think that health is, to a degree, a public good, but socialized medicine offers benefits in cost that it loses out in efficiency (far as I can tell). This would be okay.

Health Freedom - More fear of internationalism here, coupled with incompetence on the part of the FDA, and I think I'm picking up something implied but not overtly stated about illegal drugs here. This opinion seems among his weaker phrased -if the FDA has not done a good job protecting us, what can we trust to fill that role? Fear of international standards has flaws when he fails to take into account the role the US has in shaping international standards (hint - it's big). I do agree wholeheartedly about the forced vaccination not being something the government can order, and a violation of civil liberties (even if that is an instance of health as a public good).

Home Schooling - this is more weirdness. Yay to educational freedom, yay to resisting national standards, but providing exceptions especially for home schoolers, and using the Department of Defense instead of the Department of Education to regulate homeschooling strikes me as suspect. Also, it ignores the economic realities of those who have no choice to send their kids to public school; situations where all these great benefits will have minimal impact on working class mothers (or fathers, for that matter).

Life and Liberty - He's right to life, and he has enough evidence to prove that he is seriously committed to this idea. Good for him, and a smart move to let states overturn Roe v. Wade (instead of another supreme court decision). I disagree with it all, but he sticks to his guns, no arguing that. Using "Life and Liberty" as the title for the section does bother me.

Privacy - I agree in full. The man has this right, and I fully support him fighting these battles in congress. Working against the Patriot Act, making sure that we don't need national ID cards, and letting information be more discrete (with the subsequent reduction of identity theft possibilities), is great stuff. Bonus points here to you, good sir.

Property Rights and Eminent Domain - This one has Ron Paul in a nutshell "Property rights are the foundation of all rights in a free society." I disagree, as stated above.

Racism - Bonus points for attempting to address the issue, and bonus points for looking at institutionalized racism as a problem. While not outright saying it, his opinion has the core basis to argue against Affirmative Action, and against anything that has race as a requirement. Interesting, but the rest becomes fluff about rugged individualism, which is a concept of the American that died out (in practical terms) about a century ago, with the closing of the frontier, and that has yet to die completely in the public consciousness.

Social Security - repealing tax on Social Security rings like one of those "oh, duh" moments. As for keeping the system from paying out to illegals, I'm pretty sure there are plenty of illegals who get payroll taxed (meaning they pay into the system), but excepting that it makes cold, heartless sense. Also, letting those younger opt out (more or less), while still rewarding seniors who have paid into the system seems like the free market thing to do. Comprehensive promise, but... I mean, this is FDR's touchstone. FDR may be out of date, but this was good. Eh, I'm resistant to change - Paul may have the right idea here. It's, at the least, an original idea.

The Second Amendment - Well, the strict constitutionalist likes his guns. He;s smart about it, though, and says "this right is the guardian of every other right", which is a truism as the founders intended. I'm historically ambivalent about gun control, both wanting to not be shot, and also not wanting to have no recourse against an oppressive government. While the government has bombers and nukes, I think this right is more trivial, since no war of scale could be waged on behalf of citizens against the gov't, and instead guns will, as always, fuel crime and concerns about crime. I'll object to Ron Paul here, instead, for sponsoring "H.R. 1146 [which] would end our membership in the United Nations, protecting us from their attempts to tax our guns or disarm us entirely."
The UN is not nearly as big and scary as you want it to be, Mr. Ron Paul, and if it was, it'd be overthrown by a rebellion of most if not all member states. You want to cripple a three-legged dog, for fear that it may one day learn chase after children and brutally murder them. I think you are wrong here.

War and Foreign Policy - Despite his statements to the contrary, the man is an isolationist. This is all great stuff (again excepting the fear of the United Nations), and he knows how a foreign policy shouldn't be run. I don't think he knows how one should be run, as he quotes men who were not world leaders so much as they were leaders of a nation just barely in the world. I also have no idea what threat he feels is necessary to recall all our armies home to defend against. The last few lines might be about exercising soft power, which is a good thing.


Ron Paul is the ideal candidate for 1916. He has the right attitude, the right free market/strict constitutionalist/federal minimalist approach to better suit a long gone era in US history. Some of what he says holds true today, but on the whole, I cannot support the man. He is too wary of any good coming from governments. He fails to understand the United Nations. He has no concept of the Common Good. He believes in individual rights, to the point where I am convinced he could argue the dissolution of the state back to the level of the individual, and still have fanatical followers.
He's interesting, certainly, and it will be fascinating to watch how the republican candidate adapts to appeal to his constituency. I hope it's towards his war and privacy stances, or perhaps his health care or environmental opinion. He is, after all, not the worst man for the job, but he isn't an incredible candidate either. He would have great supreme court selections, and he would have a serious deadlock with congress all the time. Beyond that, we'd have four years of pleasant stagnation, with hopefully some small changes in the above mentioned areas, and minimal damage to the federal governments capabilities to satisfy the vital duties of a state.


I may well do another of these (the full clusterf*** is unlikely), but reading through campaign literature is very low on the fun scale. If you have a candidate you'd like me to evaluate, feel free to drop it in the comments, and if I do it, it'll be during winter break

Monday, November 26, 2007

Globalization and the Desert

At lunch in Albuquerque recently, a friend mentioned the efforts she went to to make a local Thanksgiving. It was an impressive display of work, especially given that it was both November and Albuquerque, and at the table we all spent time discussing the sustainability of our chosen desert home.

The meal ended before my thoughts finished forming, but here they are, in amazing bullet-point-o-vision
  • Albuquerque could probably only have a small population, if the population insisted on a local food supply
  • Agriculture in this state is very water intensive
  • Water is a terribly limited resource in this state
  • In terms of capital generated relative to water used, urban industry and urban living win out over local farming
  • Without this usage of water, Albuquerque would not be what it is today, and it takes a bit of technology and wealth to sustain this state of being (as evidenced by Albuquerque being 300+ years old, but only growing with any decency over the past 60 or so years)
  • Aurora, Colorado is a wealthy urban (really suburban) area that has water problems, but bought up the entire water of a Colorado County. That county had previously been agricultural dependent, and all I can imagine now is that it is SOL
So, what is the best use of water? Local food, and small population, or high-value urban water used to attract and sustain a city that has the money spent to pull in food from elsewhere?

Globalization seems to favor our desert city sticking to high technology at discount rates, with low land costs and lots of intellectual capital. Farming is mostly done elsewhere already, and the city is supported by the Labs, the Base, and Intel. Agriculture's place in a truly global economy is uncertain, but I can almost guarantee that it isn't in Albuquerque. Not when Albuquerque water has a much higher value sustaining the city as is.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blog Readability

cash advance

Well, this fits my arrogance quite nicely, and bodes well for my blog functioning as the pretentious external brain I've always wanted.

Of course, it doesn't bode well for readers, but since when have blogs been about readers? Right. Since always.

This does give me the opportunity to state that, as you've probably figured out, my blog isn't really anything like appropriate for the blog mold. This is me playing around with the ideas for future essays and papers, full of my thought and very light on references. The kind of writing I really enjoy, but the kind that is highly suspect and perhaps intellectually bankrupt. I can talk a good game, but I can't yet defend it, which I suppose is a big point of the college education.

In the meantime, I'll direct you to the more accessible blog that pointed me in this direction, and then do final packing before returning to that little desert city I love.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Narwhal Windup

The post that this immediately follows is bleak, and while I felt the need to write it, and I think it has a purpose, I can't in good faith recommend it as something fun to read. So, this is here, before an angsty thing (and it owes it's name to a tradition on boing boing, which as a further parenthetical, you should be reading if you aren't). And, finally, the content.

My Pandora radio station
(another thing I heartily recommend) keeps pulling up Beatles-esque music, and has finally gotten around to the Across the Universe soundtrack. Can't wait to see that film. Anyone in Albuquerque waiting to see it?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lights Out All Over

[Disclaimer - this is a bleak one, and is best thought of as a companion piece to this article. If you've read that, and still feel like delving into revisionist pre-apocalypse nuclear policy, read on. If not, it's perfectly understandable, and one day I'll blog about kittens and how awesome sunsets are.]

I don't know how quickly the connection was made between September 11th, 2001 and a new era in nuclear policy, but we're sitting six years after the fact, and sixty two years after nuclear weapons came into existence. Increasingly, the end of the Cold War seems to be an interlude and a reorganizing, and less of an end to nuclear fear. Surely, the fears are different, but we've moved from mutually assured destruction to random acts of extremists. If one fears things on a personal level (and most people tend to), the fact that one random nuclear strike would not be nearly as devastating as a full launch of a nuclear arsenal is not a comfort. Extremists are random if weak; nations can be strong but are usually more predictable. And, as fear works, the one random strike is just as likely to kill kid A on the street as the full launch would be. If any statement better epitomized the disconnect between rational brain and the fearful brain, it was when John Kerry said that someday terrorism will only be a nuisance. No one thinks in terms of nuisance's - they will see themselves as victims, and random crime will inevitably hit home.

I don't see nuclear war in the future; the remote possibilities of Pakistan/India or Israel/Iran are still present, but will be as localized as nuclear war can be, and will only devastate earth in bits and pieces. The more likely scenario, the new scenario, is that some nukes will be used. A few, here and there, with devastation that nations can survive. The perpetrators will not long survive these things, but that won't matter - given the current population, people are incredibly cheap and delivery systems are expensive. Weapons themselves are expensive, but a whole cadre of nations will exist that can look favorably at a world where they lose nuclear weapons and their enemies suffer terrorist attacks. These won't, almost as a rule, be democratic or wealthy countries. They will be run by elites, those who see power as a game and apply Machiavellian insight to the usage of the most powerful weapon ever created.

Realpolitik hasn't been practiced lately because it's a zero sum game, and everyone is afraid of upsetting the balance and getting less. At some point, people without anything are going to be willing to go to lengths to increase their worth. A stable dictatorship, if oppressive, will look much better than an impotent republic or a formerly opulent empire. This changes the zero sum game, where no new values are put in, but some are lessened. Nothing looks a lot better when everyone else is sitting on negative values.

This isn't the way it has to go, and it's far too abstracted to have much relevance on how things will be. It's a possibility, though, and its one that lines up more with a Bush Doctrine view of the world. This view holds that terrorists act, if not at the behest, than with the explicit consent of sponsor states. These people are opposed to the United States, it's wealth and values, and the whole of the Western world. For the United States to do nothing, in this world view, is folly, and as a corollary, diplomacy is inaction. This doctrine holds that it is not safe to refrain from using power, and that any state capable and willing to sponsor terrorism must be forcibly prevented from doing so. This is why weapons of mass destruction were the reason given for invading Iraq, and why the invasion has failed by its own tenets.

Pakistan, as the article discussed, is a state much more likely to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists, and so Pakistan was either to be courted or attacked. The United States, being sensible, decided that bringing Pakistan into line ('courting' is too weak a phrase for the policy) made more sense than invading the foremost nuclear Muslim state. In this process, the Bush Doctrine admitted a fatal error: it allowed Pakistan to come on board and keep it's nukes. Alliance through disarmament may have been too much to ask for, but it was essential for this policy to work. Losing the alliance with Pakistan, after having helped them disarm, would have been disappointing but not globally destabilizing. Losing a nuclear Pakistan is terrifying. Expediency, as in most military affairs, was a flaw, and a consequence is the current political situation in Pakistan. The pro-US dictator is holding onto power, and more or less has to if Pakistan's nuclear capability is not to be let loose piecemeal. Piecemeal nukes are terrifying.

This isn't a good thing, and I can't ignore the decent person voice that says that the democracy protesters are right, that this dictator is bad, and that the general will of the people comes before preserving unfair power structures. This isn't good, and the whole affair is too rough a thing, too unjust a thing to let slow change fix. But this is what it demands. Ideology inevitably gives way to realpolitik, and to justify it I'd have to extend this social contract to the whole human community.

I'm not doing that. I'm not forgiving oppression. But it's a bleak day, a bleak era, and while it isn't 1939 all over again, it feels a good deal like January 1936.

United Nations Quickie

A longer post was planned, but I've learned to censor myself when it comes to meandering semi-autobiographical prose (thank you masters of western thought), and so here is the barest idea of what had been written.

The United Nations Paradox

1. The United Nations is weak and ineffective, because it has very little power and authority.

2. If the United Nations had more power, that power would come at the expense of national sovereignty, and this will lead to an oppressive world government that no one wants and many already fear.

This perspective baffles me, but if it is indeed the view held by many, it makes sense for why everyone thinks the United Nations is a joke. Doesn't make sense for why people still let the UN exist, and doesn't leave much more than simple idealism as the possible reason for the United Nations creation.

This can't be right. I'll have to look more into this, which means a follow up post to this one in December. Until then, I'll wear my peacekeeper beret, display my UN flag, and proudly support what most people consider a laughingstock.

Sounds good

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Back into the Fray: Vocational Style

APS Pepsi
Today I received in physical mail an article published in the Albuquerque Journal on November 7th. The article is short, but I'm not a big fan of the journal online, so I'll just quote the meaningful bits here.

"We've created an environment where we want every child to go to a four-year collegiate program," she said. Cole said there's a stigma attached to students who don't. But recognizing that all don't want the same future "allows students to choose a nondegree track if they wish and have that be an honorable decision."

I talk a lot about education, and an idea I've voiced in class that has yet to make it to the blog is that the notion of "every student can go to college!" is wrong and flawed. First qualifier - the big deal here is the use of "every". If it was just "any", that would be fine, and it would make sense for resources to be provided. After all, no one wants to be told that their kid can't make it to college. That will lead to all kinds of nasty territory, and that is not really a productive use of energy.

But to say that every student can go to college is wrong. It is a lie, and in a school district with a dropout rate close to 50% (under, but close), it seems to me criminal.

College isn't for everyone. 25% of Americans graduate from college. Public school serves more than 25% of Americans, and while it is realistic to expect that number to increase, it is unrealistic to expect it to increase that dramatically. College is not for everyone, and in a state where cost is increasingly becoming, if not a non-issue, much less of an issue, we should be content with the job already being done on this front, and focus on other problems.

The drop-out rate, say.

A solution to this, and a solution that the Great Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce (source of the quote above; and yes, I can hardly believe I agree with them) is to provide more vocational education, and to work with the city's secondary and post-secondary institutions. This makes lots of sense, and while the GACC may well want this to create a greater pool of skilled workers to attract investment, I see this as a way to make school meaningful for kids who don't see the point to taking math up to calculus, or the point of taking algebra 2/trig at all. Or even for the kids who see no point to history. Doesn't matter - if they don't think the college prep course is meaningful, they won't find the watered-down college prep (in path not quality) regular education system meaningful. And, well, vocational school, the trades and what not, they are more immediately meaningful. They're useful. And they're useful and meaningful for the youths who hear all this praise of college, know that college isn't for them, and don't know where to go next, except straight into the job market.

It's rather pathetic to not devote any resources to them.


Image by Esther