Archive for the ‘usa today’ tag
Health care vote tally (updated continuously)
As I’m listening to President Obama’s speech on health care at George Mason University today, I’ve again come to realize how embarrassingly slow, not only this year’s attempts at health care reform has been, but nearly a century-long debate on the issue in this country. Even more so when compared to country’s like Germany and Great Britain, which enacted univeral health care more than a century ago and a half century ago, respectively.
A vote in the House will likely come Sunday, which would be one of the most historic pieces of legislation in history, and the single most important one regarding health care. Obama, who said at George Mason that he wasn’t sure how the vote would implicate his presidency, has, nonetheless, staked his career on it.
Here’s some resources to help you sort through the details of reconciliation bill:
- Congressional Budget Office cost estimate
- Full text of the reconciliation bill (H.R.4872)
- Senate version of the bill (H.R. 3590)
- Health care timeline
- USA Today Q&A on health care reform
- The Washington Post: 5 questions on health care
Here’s my favorite chart, and the most enlightening regarding who’s pockets are lined by the health industry, a table mapping campaign contributions, how House members voted Nov. 7 and their current leaning:
Who’s in play: House health-care vote (Hint: check out Rep. Joe Barton)
I previously wrote on this topic at this link.
Seemingly antithetical to anything that could be called educational planning, planning based on science and the record of history, that is, the Texas Board of Education handed down a 10-5 preliminary vote in favor of amending the state’s social studies curriculum, with many of the decisions falling along conservative political or ideological lines.
So, he introduced an amendment to state social studies curriculum standards that said: “understand how government taxation and regulations can serve as restriction to private enterprise.”
He said the students need to know that over-regulation and over-taxation can inhibit innovation and stifle industry.
His fellow member, Terri Leo, agreed. She said it’s especially important today, with issues like cap-and-trade and “policies that are based on supposed global warming theories.”
The amendment passed.
As part of the new curriculum, the elected board — made up of lawyers, a dentist and a weekly newspaper publisher among others — rejected an attempt to ensure that children learn wshy the U.S. was founded on the principle of religious freedom.
But, it agreed to strengthen nods to Christianity by adding references to “laws of nature and nature’s God” to a section in U.S. history that requires students to explain major political ideas.
They also agreed to strike the word “democratic” in references to the form of U.S. government, opting instead to call it a “constitutional republic.”
In addition to learning the Bill of Rights, the board specified a reference to the Second Amendment right to bear arms in a section about citizenship in a U.S. government class and agreed to require economics students to “analyze the decline of the U.S. dollar including abandonment of the gold standard.”
And possibly the most ridiculous example I can find, one that smacks of anti-intellectualism all around is the case of the children’s book, “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin Jr., which the board of education moved to ban because, and without doing any fact-checking, members thought it was written by Bill Martin, who indeed penned, “Ethical Marxism: The Categorical Imperative of Liberation.” The latter Bill Martin, however, is a philosophy teacher at DePaul University in Chicago.
From the The Dallas Morning News:
Hardy’s motion is “a new low in terms of the group that’s supposed to represent education having such faulty research and making such a false leap without substantiating what they’re doing,” said Michael Sampson, Martin’s co-author on 30 children’s books.
The social studies standards update, which started last spring when groups of educators met to suggest revisions, has brought criticism from the right and the left about politicizing the process. As trustees worked their way through a draft this month, political ideas like imperialism, communism and free enterprise were at the heart of some of the changes.
The good news, I suppose, is that the person holding the board’s most conservative, far right seat, member Don McLeroy, was ousted by lobbyist Thomas Ratliff earlier this month. Said Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network:
Voters sent a clear message by rejecting the ringleader [McLeroy] of the faction that has repeatedly dragged our public schools into the nation’s divisive culture wars over the past four years. Parents want a state board that focuses on educating their kids, not promoting divisive political and personal agendas.
The bad news, at least for students, is that
social conservatives claimed at least one victory as Ken Mercer of San Antonio successfully fended off a GOP challenge from Austin attorney Tim Tuggey. And conservative Brian Russell forced an April runoff with educator Marsha Farney in the race for the seat held by outgoing Christian conservative Cynthia Dunbar.
“I hope we can keep our conservative posture,” Mercer said of the board.
Since when should educational material break down along party lines or even ideological lines? I will now return to some corner silently weeping.
In news earlier this month, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America moved to allow people to serve as pastors if they are in “faithful, committed same-gender relationships.”
The pivotal question on othis issue immediately struck me, as it apparently did the USA Today column writer of “When it comes to gays, what would Luther do?”
Mary Zeiss Stange, in the above article, generally surmised that, given how the man’s “theological mind worked,” Martin Luther would not take a negative view of homosexuality were he around today, as have other evangelics, themselves products of modernity. As Stange writes,
Like his role model Paul (presumably, the one from Tarsus), Luther was a product of the social prejudices of his time and culture: a time when the concepts of homosexuality as an “orientation” or a “lifestyle” were still unheard of. But would the man whose break from Roman Catholicism involved a revolutionary rethinking of the role of sexuality in human relationships take such a negative view of homosexuality today? Most probably, given the way his theological mind worked, he would not.
But as the referenced article, “Sodomy in Reformation Germany and Switzerland, 1400-1600″ notes,
And, from the early stages of the movement, German Reformers, like Luther, used these “polemics against sodomy” as a weapon against Rome, which in turn led to “an almost exclusively Protestant discourse” about the spiritual profit of marriage (p. 177).
Yet, I’m not convinced these “polemics against sodomy” were used as anything other than rhetorical tools against the Catholic Church and sincere arguments for loving, same-sex relationships. As Stange says, the concepts of homosexuality as some sort of “orientation” or “lifestyle” were not in public thought. But, it does seem that Luther was fairly silent on the topic, if not altogether mute. I own a 506-page book entitled, “Martin Luther: Selections from his writings edited and with an introduction” (by John Dillenberger, Doubleday, 1961) and there is not one word on sexuality or homosexuality. There does appear a few words on the town of Sodom, which I will recount here:
I have truly despised your see, the Roman Curia, which, however, neither you nor anyone else can deny is more corrupt than any Babylon or Sodom ever was, and which, as far as I can see, is characterized by a completely depraved, hopeless, and notorious godlessness. (page 45)
Wherefore even by this we may plainly see the inestimable patience of God, in that he hath not long ago destroyed the whole Papacy, and consumed it with fire and brimstone, as he did Sodom and Gomorrah. (pages 115-116)
Stange does note that in the Augsburg Confession of 1530, Luther said that
biblical references that depart from New Testament inclusiveness — abstaining from eating pork, for example, or requiring male circumcision — not only can but should be set aside.
Stange also makes the claim that a
21st century Luther would affirm the ordination of such persons, as in line with his theology of the “priesthood of all believers.”
I feel compelled to address the anachronistic problems with such a statement. Luther is only important to us in his historical context. Were he alive today, he would not be Martin Luther, the renowned church reformer, he may be some important church figure, but he would be altogether a different person. We can make conjectures about how he may feel about current topics of the day, but we cannot resurrect him and then juxtapose modern-day topics or issues onto the man. I feel we can only deal with his works as they appear in his time and no other. So the question, “What would Martin Luther do” only works if we assume he’s still Luther, the historical reformer, not Luther, the modern day reformer. Thus, we can only work from the man’s own writings in his day and try to come to some sort of conclusion about how he might have felt. But it goes without saying, we certainly can not presume a modern-day incarnation.
His opinions on the Old and New testaments (the former more accurately titled the Hebrew Bible) are quite interesting, as he seemed to give preference to New Testament teachings of the new law versus the old. Given that, were we to take the “new law” as the one to be followed, Christ himself doesn’t say a word about homosexuality, while the old one says much about sodomy. Further, if homosexuality is innate in some people, what does that say about God, who apparently created the same folks he would come to reject? (As a side note, the point about homosexuality is undebatable at this juncture.) If homosexuality is not innate at the gene level, it is at least innate at the hormone level, where a meager amount of testosterone in some guys could trigger sentiments toward gayness, while a small amount of estrogen in females could render the same. Regardless, even if that isn’t true and something else is the cause of gayness, there is no reason to believe gayness, with all the prejudice and mockery gay folks must face, is desired by them. Indeed, if I thought I was gay, but if I knew I would face the loss of my family and friends for “coming out,” I would pretend otherwise. So, there is no great joy or freedom in “coming out.” Actually, there is much hardship in doing so. Thus, arguments that claim folks prefer to be gay (I can’t imagine why) break down.
As I said here, I like words, and I like information. While pictures and graphics can provide some level of information, I think solid reporting and well-crafted stories serve our communities the best. I think The New York Times’ traditional design is a beautiful thing. Newspapers such as that offer less filler and are teeming with information. As such, I would probably fit perfectly well in some 18th century London coffeehouse or pub reading the latest edition of The Spectator. But then again, and for better or worse, I’m not the average Joe.
Print media, as is evidenced by the recent demise of the Rocky Mountain News, the Detroit Free Press scaling back to only three days per week, Knight Ridder’s purchase by McClatchy, among others examples, print media is tanking. Perhaps sooner than later, the days of sitting in the local Huddle House or at your kitchen table reading the morning paper may be one and done. Today, at least among small to mid-size dailies, there’s this dire atmosphere, almost like a desperation, to sell papers. I saw it at a local daily I used to work for. The leadership wanted giant photos, “teasers” everywhere, sports cut-outs … basically as much crap as one could pile above the fold, the better, information and usefulness of such “elements” (as they called them) be damned. For a national example of this, see USA Today.
The problem with that model is that a publication could offer the most artistic, elegantly designed and well-photographed publication in the country, but if it missed the boat on content, it has failed in its duty to inform and educate the community it serves. After all, with all those “elements” flying around everywhere, something has to be compromised. And the content usually gets the ax, and at this aforementioned paper, that’s exactly what happened. Thus — and I know to the budget-minded publisher or editor this is unpopular territory — but the public is shortchanged when elements take precedence over content. The job of newspapers is to add to the intelligence and knowledge of the public, not take away from it or contribute to the general dumbing down taking place in other outlets like radio and television. Have we lost our muster when we simply can’t sell newspapers by compelling headlines and probing reporting? Have J-schools across the country failed us in producing a generation of editors and publishers who are OK with this nonsense? Can’t we be everything television and radio isn’t?
As an example, Stephen King’s name doesn’t jump out at you because he’s got lots of cool pictures and graphics in his books. In fact, it’s hard to find a single picture anywhere! His name jumps out at you because he does something with words and ideas that few others can. We are raising and educating a generation of journalism amateurs — or wimps — in this regard. What King does and what journalists do are polar, of course, but I’m arguing that words, in and of themselves, can be compelling and can make newspapers or books or whatever fly off the racks. Journalism is not for the bashful. True journalism doesn’t hide behind snazzy graphics or photos. It can be powerful, and it can change communities. I’ve seen it happen. But I’m probably arguing in 20th century, or even 19th century, terms.
Here in the 21st century, the Internet provides a literal free for all of information, thus rendering newspapers largely irrelevant, except only to a select few still enamored with their morning coffee-paper routine. I’m in that crowd, but admittedly, we must move on. Insomuch as small- to medium-sized dailies are going to continue to offer their daily fare of elements, giant photos, graphics simply for the sake of graphics and cartoon-sized headlines, they should just fold up shop and put all that time and effort into the Internet, as witnessed by this publication:
Whoever created this is probably quite proud, but this is a newspaper, not a graphic showroom. And by the way, to further illustrate why this is trash, where is the local news on the front page? Can you find it? Clemson Tigers basketball is local, but that’s sports. A local feature story about an artist is not local news. Photos and graphics have all but consumed this paper. I am sure local news in short supply can be found inside, but it should be found out front, and it’s not. (The paper recently reformatted to this tabloid design.)
Almost all of this paper’s readers — and millions more — are online, so why not scale back the effort, stop contributing to the trash heap and publish solid reporting and well-crafted writing on the Web site. And, the money saved from going virtual could be put into increased attempts to sell ad space on the Web through banners, specially-priced ads based on where they appear on the page, Web design, hosting and other ventures. In short, if the goal is to abandon the traditional model for newspapers as we know them, get on with the end game. Get completely virtual, stop publishing graphic-laden, information-less trash and give up the ghost. I’ll never read books online and if there is still a local or national newspaper still putting out quality work in print form, chances are I’m going to read it. But thankfully, books still have a market in print form. Of the former newspapers, I’m not sure. We are too enamored with the sound bites of FOX News and CNBC and CNN to care about newspapers anymore. And that’s fine. But it’s time some papers stop pretending to be relevant, if that relevancy means compromising journalistic integrity to en masse photos and graphics signifying nothing.