Monday, December 19, 2011

The Republican war on the middle class

The Republicans in the House of Representatives are making war on the middle class by denying them a tax break they so desperately need. Failure to extend the payroll tax relief will cost a million jobs according to some economists. Do the Republicans care? Evidently not.
The quote below was taken from a New York Times article. Yes, we all know that the New York Times a Liberal newspaper. The statement below, is not a value judgment on someone's position. Rather it states positions clearly enunciated by both parties.
"the looming question remains unresolved — how to pay for the extension. House Republicans want to cut middle-class programs, Democrats want to raise taxes on millionaires, and neither seems inclined to give ground."

On television tonight, the latest polls showed an approval rating for the Republican Party of 20% and the president's approval rating was 49%. The people can clearly see where the fault lies.  Everyone knows that the conservative wing of the conservative party is blocking passage of a law that would extend the tax cut.  Eric Cantor, not John Boehner, is is in control of the House of Representatives. For all intensive purposes he and his cohorts are in control of this country's economic fate. That is one scary notion.I believe Mr. Canter to be an honorable man. However, this is not about honor, it is about an a rigid mindset that will not give an inch.

Addressing the country's deficit is an important issue.,but it is not the only issue. If the government fails to act in ways to maximize economic stability, the impending economic crash a number of experts are predicting will become an inevitability.  The blood will be on the economic hands of the Republican Party.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The publishing revolution is over and we have won.

In a recent post, I talked about the digital revolution in the publishing world. Since then, I joined the Indie Book Collective. I think I needed a waiver to join because I have a publisher, and my novel, Unholy Embrace, was published as a softcover. In joining the collective, I became a full-fledged member of the revolution. What does this mean? In the short-term, I will be selling packages of my short stories on Amazon, Smashwords, and other Internet sites. Hopefully I will make some money from this endeavor.
The long-term consequences of joining this revolution are very important. When I finish my second novel, I don't have to worry about finding a publisher. I will publish it digitally at a time of my own choosing, with a price that makes the most sense for me, not a publisher. Isn't self-publishing a meaningless effort to bolster one's ego? Not anymore. Authors are making money, and more importantly, reaching significant numbers of readers without a single tree being chopped down. The picture to the left is like the "Don't tread on me," flag that flourished early in the Revolutionary war for Independence. I think that's a good analogy. Imagine yourself as an author. Which would you choose: to have an attractive hardcover edition of your book that few people buy and read, or published digitally and have a significant number of people buy and read your book.? Rhetorical question.
But what about getting a novel reviewed? Isn't it true that most reviewers will not touch a self-published novel? That depends on which reviewers we are talking about. The reviewers tied to the hardback and paperback trade will most likely continue not to review self-published authors. Fortunately, there are a significant number of reviewers who only review indie books. While none of these reviewers works for midsize and major newspapers, or has a national reputation (at the present time), they have readerships that are interested in reading good books not traditional reviewers.
Authors can get their books properly digitalized by submitting them to a site such as Smashwords. This will likely become a more competitive market. So, I write the novel, I published the novel, the novel is reviewed, and hopefully people will buy the novel so they can read it. Isn't that what it's all about?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jailed Afghan rape victim freed

The headline for this post is revolting. The description of what happened to this woman reveals a twisted and bizarre mindset. It is incomprehensible to me that a woman would be jailed after a man rapes her. Yet, this  happened in Afghanistan, and not for the first time. I assume that if I talked to a man from Afghanistan he would tell me that I did not understand the way his society functions. My response would be, "When you imprison women for being raped, you have a grotesque imitation of a society."

From CNN
 An Afghan woman imprisoned for adultery after a relative raped her has been freed after President Hamid Karzai intervened on her behalf. The woman, identified only as Gulnaz for her own protection, had been sentenced to prison for 12 years after she reported that her cousin's husband had raped her two years ago. Wednesday, she was free at a women's shelter in Kabul, with her daughter..
 Her plight gained international attention when the European Union blocked the broadcast of a documentary about her ordeal, saying it would further jeopardize her safety. Afghan Justice Minister Habibullah Ghaleb and a judiciary committee both proposed a pardon. Karzai then ordered authorities to decree Gulnaz's release.
 Afghani men do not need to be protected from the Taliban as much as Afghani women need to be protected from Afghani men.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Governer Rick Perry: Wrong on intolerance and wrong on his facts

Governor Rick Perry of Texas showed something other than Christian spirit when he took time  to say the following:

"I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm Christian. But you don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there's something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in schools." He went on to say, "As president, I'll end Obama's war on religion and I'll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage."
Governor Perry will have a very difficult time finding any written statements or recorded words documenting president Obama's war on religion. That's because president Obama's war on religion exists only in the mind of Governor Perry.  I hope the governor did not say what he did because he is a victim of mad cow disease.

When Perry expresses his concern over the inability of children to pray in school, I assume that he's speaking on behalf of Jewish, Moslem, Hindu, and children of other faiths, not just Christian children.  There should be no shame attached to a person being a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, or a member of any other religion. Shame occurs when people cloak themselves with religion and use it to make vile utterances

Sunday, December 4, 2011

New Age of Publishing Books is Now

If, the world is flat as Thomas Friedman says it is, then the world of publishing is becoming paper thin. There was much ado when Amazon said it was going into the publishing business. Authors can make their pitch to Amazon and get the best deal possible. So what's the difference, you ask? Amazon has a fraction of the overhead  of traditional publishers. Amazon can afford to let the public make decisions about what he wants to read. Traditional publishers can print books and have them collect dust.

Amazon is only the beginning of the revolution, sort of the tip of an iceberg that's coming dead on a ship too slow to move out of its way. For those authors that don't like dealing with Amazon, there are other alternatives. Take a minute to visit Smashwords. On their website, you can buy novels, novellas, and all sorts of short stories. Probably the low end stuff many people would say. Most people don't know that John Grisham sold novels out of the trunk of his car. Stephanie Meyer's overly large manuscript was read by an assistant to the literary agent who probably would've immediately tossed the 125,000 word sumission into the circular file. The old publishing model was failure avoidant. Accumulate as many best-selling authors as you can and publish their novels until the readership disappears or the ink dries

If Amazon is the publisher, it will want to sell the novel on its site, not competing websites .Smashwords will sell your novel, short story, etc. on its website, but it will also place novels at Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo, Diesel, and any other site that sells novels and pays their bills. Barnes & Noble has entered the publishing business. I'm not a shill for Smashwords. I haven't put my first short story up for sale there, yet. But it will happen soon. Most importantly, I know it will sell. It's about vampires and werewolves, two lovers, and a battle that makes the gunfight at the OK corral seem like a tea party at Buckingham Palace.
This post is based on what I've learned in the last two weeks. Most assuredly, there are many things I don't know about in the new age of digital publishing. But I hope to have fun learning them. This is the first of at least two posts on this subject. The next post will focus on the changing nature of the relationship between the writer and the reader

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Districts Pay Less in Poor Schools, Report Says

Never under estimate the federal government's power for discovering the obvious. A newly released study showed that students in poor neighborhoods are frequently taught by low-paid rookie teachers who move on as they gain experience. The quote below from the New York Times is priceless. Everyone in America knew that poor schools had the most inexperienced and often poor teachers. Is there some conspiracy to deprive these children of a quality education? Maybe, but the single best explanation is that good teachers don't want to teach children who "don't want to learn." I put the last four words in quotation marks because a number of elite schools have demonstrated that these children can make significant progress, and many go on to college in these exceptional schools.
Unfortunately, the schools led by exceptional educators and backed up by the best teachers are rare exceptions. It's not just a matter of salary or experience. The conditions under which a teacher has to work are extremely important. Most of the poor children go to schools, which are the oldest and most dilapidated in each school district. If school districts weren't able to keep up all the maintenance in the past, and build new schools when necessary, it is going to be more difficult in the future when monies are going to be tight tightly budgeted. With so many people are out of work and/or owning homes that are worth less than they paid for them, they are not going to vote for increases in taxes to provide more money for the schools. 

If you are an experienced teacher with demonstrated competence and seniority, would you rather work in an old rundown school with rust and mildew, or, in one of the districts where the schools have all the bells and whistles? Would you rather teach children who are frequently underfed, often neglected, and have little motivation to learn, or teach motivated children wanting to learn, well fed, and cared for by their parents who expect them to go to college? Don't reach for your pencils these are rhetorical questions.

The report went on to document that the problems began in 1965 with the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which channels money to educate poor children. The report cites a loophole that allowed school systems to report educator salaries on a district wide basis, which masked the difference between schools with low-income children and those with middle or upper middle class incomes. That's another surprise. Can you imagine people working the system for Washington? Ask the bankers. Maybe they could load the school districts the money lady..

Michele Bachmann: Evolution-Only Approach In Schools Amounts To 'Censorship By Government'

It seems we have returned to the place where religious belief determines scientific fact. It's one thing to have a theory that guides your research. It's quite another to have a belief system that overrides the facts, or at lease changes The interpretation of them to fit the belief system.

Religious belief systems don't depend on empirical evidence, But rather on faith. If they find empirical evidence that supports their beliefs, that's fine. If the evidence doesn't support their beliefs, then they don't believe in the evidence. Or, they cobbled together bits and pieces of "evidence" and assemble a shaky theory to support their belief system.

 Christian Conservatives have a right to believe in anything they want to. But when they exert pressure to determine the science that is taught in schools, they are infringing upon the lives of all the people that don't share their religious beliefs. No one ever said ever said that Darwinian evolution explains every fact and has no contradictions. Of course it does. That is the nature of theories. A scientific theory has to stand up against new findings that threaten its assumptions. Religious theory, particularly those based on the assumption that the Bible is the written word of God need to be kept in the churches and not in the school system.

Ms. Bachman is not alone in disbelieving Darwinian evolution. But when she makes statements that hundreds of scientists support our belief system, She's twisting the facts to support a belief system that's based on twisted facts. 
The so-called theory of "creative design" will never go away despite its paucity of facts, because it isn't based on facts but rather on religious beliefs.

Our system of government was created to protect the rights of minorities. That system shouldn't be used to allow minorities to impose their beliefs on the majority of the population

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Miley Cyrus Woes

"Miley Cyrus Alludes To Smoking Weed, Being A Stoner," was the headline on Huffington Post and many other print and web media. Is anyone surprised? Doubtful. Should anyone care? My initial reaction was to say no. However, here is a young woman on a train bound for places other than glory.If the headline is true, there will be a future filled with drug-induced crises, comebacks, more drug-induced crises, followed by more comebacks. Hopefully, there will be a substance-abuse free future for her. but by then, time and experience will have etched deep lines on her soul. The lessons she will have learned by then, she could have learned earlier, at a cheaper price.

I can't help but think of Taylor Swift, who recently appeared on 60 minutes. Her head seems to be screwed on right and her thinking clear. She Is not only in charge of our own life, but in charge of the  major corporation she has become. She showed  a combination of wisdom and courage when she acknowledged the impact of her behavior on her young fans. She almost looks and sounds too good to be true. But Thus far,Ttere are no shocking pictures or revelations to indicate she is other than what she says she is. Miley Cyrus could do far worse than hanging out with Taylor Swift.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Hero Emerges- Senator Tom Coburn Steps Forth

The American system of government could not be more broken. Both parties stand miles apart in their stated beliefs and values and hurl invectives at each other. In the midst of this, a hero has emerged, Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.  The following headline is a rocket bursting through political hypocrisy and greed. . Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) released a report detailing special tax breaks for wealthy income earners that could give members of the supercommittee common ground for raising tax revenues.

 Sen. Coburn is not a liberal Democrat, a four letter word to many in this country, but rather a conservative Republican. It took an immeasurable amount of political courage for him to say the following.

“From tax write-offs for gambling losses, vacation homes and luxury yachts to subsidies for their ranches and estates, the government is subsidizing the lifestyles of the rich and famous. Multimillionaires are even receiving government checks for not working,”

His report found that millionaires enjoy $30 billion worth of tax giveaways in federal grants every year. His staff found that millionaires received $74 million worth of unemployment checks from 2005 to 2009.  In 2009, 18 people earning more than $10 million a year received an average of $12,000 in unemployment benefits. These people didn't take advantage of a loophole. rather, they were the beneficiaries of a tax and political system that is morally bankrupt.

I can understand people having a value system in which they seek to reduce the size of government and to minimize the tax burden on the vast majority of working Americans.I cannot comprehend why members of Congress would seek to preserve a system that gives handouts to millionaires. From my perspective, a substantial number of congress persons seek to enshrine a government dedicated to increasing the wealth of the most affluent
I am not a socialist. If I were a rich man I would seek to hold on to as much of my wealth as possible. However I would not expect the government to actively work towards increasing my wealth.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The death of the Liberal arts education curriculum.

Recently, Michael Crowe, President of Arizona State University argued for the maintenance of traditional liberal arts courses. He did so in response to Florida's Gov., Rick Scott, call for reductions in state appropriations for particular academic disciplines so that public universities can focus resources on producing graduates in the STEM fields—science, technology, engineering, and math. although I am a proponent of a liberal arts education, I am unable to agree with Mr. Crowe.

Over 40 years ago I graduated with a Bachelors degree in psychology from a well-rounded liberal arts program.  I have no doubt that it made me a more complete person with a better understanding of the world around me. However, I went on to get a doctorate, which is how I earned a living. The realities of present day society are different than they were four decades ago.Getting a bachelor's degree in psychology, sociology, or English literature is not going to pay for an apartment in a major city, let alone student loans that have grown immensely.

My youngest daughter obtained a degree in mechanical engineering and in 2000 had no difficulty getting a well-paying job in Boston. She met other young woman her age who had liberal arts degrees from some of the finest universities in America. Many of them worked as "executive assistants" earning 60% of what she did. Before people get $50,000 or $100,000 in debt for their college education, they need to think about how they are going to pay it back. I think it is a shame that many of the courses that I took and enjoyed will no longer be offered. But the times change and what worked 40 years ago does not work today.