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Showing posts from August, 2014

Review of Ferguson

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This is a summary of a discussion held on On Point from WBUR Boston. The topic is the recent killing of a black man in Ferguson and the pursuant unrest in that town and the country. The guest on the show was Jelani Cobb, associate professor of history and director of Africana studies at the University of Connecticut. He is a frequent writer in the New Yorker magazine. Mr. Cobb spent eight days in Ferguson trying to better understand what happened. The discussion below goes beyond the recent events in Ferguson and tries to get at the why. We have a racial divide and a divide with our history of lynching blacks. This is certainly the case with white Americans and many black Americans. Michael Brown's death brought about memories of these hangings. Michael Brown's body lay on the street for four hours and it was like the spectacle of the lynchings of blacks peppered in this nations history. A major purpose of the lynchings was to say to blacks “know your place and behave”. Per Pr

To fix Detroit fix its schools

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It should be obvious to everyone more money is needed if significant progress is to be made in the level of education provided by Detroit schools. It is also clear the amount of funds needed to turn Detroit's schools around will not be coming from the state or federal government. Both of these governmental bodies have other constituents that will not agree to giving Detroit more money for education at the expense of their districts. It is also unreasonable for the President of the United States to show favoritism to Detroit. Where should the money come from? The city must help. It is obvious to anyone familiar with the city's problems, both financial and otherwise, that in order for the city to sustain long term growth and prosperity it must build and grow the percentage of its citizens who are in the middle class. Poverty must be reduced and prosperity must be increased. This is not going to happen without better schools. One of the key objectives of any parent is to improve

Sell art improve schools and improve Detroit's future

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“The museum is owned by the city, and the city is, in fact, in bankruptcy. That asset lawfully should be available to assist in the plan of exit,” said Ian Peck, Art Capital’s chief executive. “But we also believe that this art is a national treasure and should be preserved as such.” "As Detroit prepares to defend its plan next week to exit bankruptcy, city leaders have received an unusual offer: Why not mortgage all the Van Goghs, Picassos and other works in the Detroit Institute of Arts? A company called Art Capital, which makes loans backed by artwork, has told the city it is willing to lend it up to $3 billion, roughly 10 times the exit financing Detroit is now contemplating, using the museum’s art as collateral." Detroit Mum on Proposal to Use Its Art as Collateral , New York Times, August 26, 2014 With this deal Detoit could leave the agreement in place with the city retirees and provide funds to make Detroit Public Schools the best district in the state. Why wouldn

Obama and the Little League team that could

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In 2008 Obama gave the nation hope we would have a leader striving to do right for the country instead of himself. He seems to have given up. He has surrendered to depression and golf. Comparing an essay in the New York Times about President Obama hiding on the golf course these days to another one called " Black, White and Baseball ", written by Mr. Bruni also in today's NYTimes I have become saddened. Mr. Bruni's story is about a little league baseball team comprised of black kids and their white coach who dedicated his life to making a difference by building character and pride within the team and giving them confidence. The coach overcame odds and was committed to a positive result. The coach has been at it for 17 years. The black little league team, coached by a white man, overcame odds and excelled. They worked hard, stuck to their belief in themselves and coach and came close to winning it all. Obama worked hard to get elected and was quickly overcome by a

Heritage Foundation: Whose heritage they represent

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Larry P. Arnn, President of Hillsdale College sat down with Heritage Foundation President and former U.S. Senator Jim DeMint to discuss Mr. DeMint's new book Falling In Love With America Again. The following is my critique of some points made during that discussion. Per Mr. DeMint, “People who make good choices, (who work hard, play by the rules, and live within their means) succeed, and people who make bad choices (who don't work hard, don't play by the rules and live beyond their means) fail.” He states this is true for institutions and individuals. Problems arise when organizations get so large that their success no longer depends on the quality of service it delivers.” Bigness allows them to make the rules by which they must comply with. He goes on to say that is what happens when cronyism raises its ugly head between big business and big government. Interestingly, Mr. DeMint's organization, Heritage Foundation, is a big influence peddler in Washington. It is a co

Congress: the art of doing nothing

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This is a summary of a podcast from On Point Radio discussing the gridlock in Washington*, what is causing it and addressing when and if it will change. The program aired on July 29, 2014. We are in a era where congress is polarized with less legislation being passed since 1973 when records began to be kept. Contributing to it is a Tea Party faction making the institution even more fractured. The opposition party, the Republicans, has control of the house and they are determined that there is no accomplishment under an Obama administration. In our system negotiation and compromise is essential to get anything done and the Republicans are determined to get nothing done while Obama is President. Republicans blame Democrats saying Harry Reid blocks everything presented by the Republican controlled Congress. The legislative portion of the process has turned into an extension of the campaign for election. The Republican party has created a situation for inaction and partisan war instead o

One view of economy

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This is a very good discussion of the status of our economy. The program is now daily on WDET. Follow it. Below is a summary of what Mohammed El-Erian is saying. (Do not be confused by his name. He is an Egypt born American citizen who is considered to be one of the top economic thinkers in the world.) Mr. El-Erian says we are in a world of economic contradiction and there is a 50/50 chance of the economy getting better or worse. The world is buying time for the economy to heal and it is not responding fast enough. "You have to have foundation to have conviction". He is saying presently there is not foundation. Per Mohamed the options we are facing are summarized below. What must be avoided is not to get paralyzed between the two scenarios. The economy in the United States has come back a long way. At some point if it continues it will reach critical mass. There is great innovation taking place We have an energy revolution making us more energy independent Many

Grand Bargain sucks

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"It has attacked blight in creative ways and, through its bankruptcy case, taken strides to mend its broken municipal budget." Reimagining Detroit: 5 policy questions that should be resolved in short order, Detroit Free Press, August 17, 2014 Great, the budget will be balanced after bankruptcy but will the living conditions and standard of living significantly rise? I do not see much of a plan for the future. Whether property taxes are cut or not any revenue lost will need to be made up. Detroit has a unique opportunity that no other troubled city in the United States has. It has between $4.8 and $15 billion dollars in assets in reserve that should be used to bring the city back to health. Those assets are stored at the DIA in the form of art and should be used to restore prosperity to the city and its citizens. The state of Michigan had a say in what to do with these assets. So did Kevyn Orr and his former employer Jones Day. The citizens of Detroit had no say. My guess i

Mike Brown and Race

Below is a good discussion on   Mike Brown, Riots, Race & Public Safety on WDET The moderator  Bankole Thompson did a great job and hopefully WDET has the wisdom to make him the permanent host of Detroit Today. He will make Detroit Today a "must listen to program".

Ferguson Missouri and us

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We still have civil rights problems in this country. Mr. Blow of the New York Times states the statistics on how the black male is treated by the law enforcement and justice systems compared to the white male but he barely addresses the reasons for this inequity. I submit that racism is one of many factors. Bigotry itself has been reduced over the last several decades. This is based strictly on my own observations and acknowledge there is still much room for improvement. The real culprits are poverty and education. In Detroit for example 80% of students attending the Detroit Public Schools are in poverty. 80% of the adult population in Detroit either does not have a high school diploma or is unemployed. In Detroit's case they have an opportunity to do something about it while that city is in bankruptcy but it may be tossed away by a plan called the Grand Bargain. The essence of the Grand Bargain is the city would give up its ownership of valuable works of art, valued by some o

ISIS Obama and bull

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Hillary Clinton and most in Washington seem to be beating the drum of getting more directly involved in the Middle East. The President is advocating a more deliberate approach. Who is right. Perhaps Obama's heritage gives him a clearer view. There is a third philosophy to the middle east. Could those having the commonality of radical Islam be carrying out a very sophisticated and long attack against the west, especially the United States? It started with 911 and has not stopped. This strategy is that of the Spanish matador fighting the bull. Without the matador having sophisticated weapons the bull has the advantage. The bull is bigger and stronger than the matador. If the battle is strength against strength the bull wins every time. The matador must outsmart the bull and gradually wear him down. The bull fight begins with a picador on horseback enraging the bull and weakening its shoulder muscles with a lance and having him attack a well protected horse. The matador then furthe

Dysfunction junction and the middle east

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Dysfunction at home leads to dysfunction abroad. Our allies and enemies recognize we have a splintered government including a winged president. How can we help other countries when we cannot address our own problems? Both the president and congress are the blame and it all leads back to outside money. We the people complain about dysfunctional politicians. We take up time arguing amongst ourselves, but when the arguing is done we go back to our homes, plan vacations, evaluate the next car we are about to buy and meet our best friends for a night out on the town. We don't think of ourselves as one nation with liberty and justice for all. How does anyone think we can solve the problems in the middle east when we cannot solve, or at least agree on, how to solve the problems in Detroit? The middle east will not wait for us to fix our own problems but we must address them. They will not go away. Big money has taken over our government on both sides. The Democrats complain about th

Chinese and Japanese conflict

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China, Taiwan and Japan claim ownership of the uninhabited Senkaku islands. These islands have been controlled by Japan since 1895 except between 1945 and 1972 when the United States administered the islands. The islands are close to key shipping lanes, rich fishing grounds and may have significant oil reserves. The Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan was signed in 1952 and it would require the United States to come to the aid of Japan if that country defended the island from takeover by China. In the 1970's when Mao Zedong was negotiating a trade treaty with Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon a sticking point was control of Taiwan. This disagreement was resolved by Mao saying that he would allow the island to be kept under the wing of the United States initially because the United States was in a better position to protect it for the time being. When China was ready, fifty to hundred years from then, China would request the United States

Europe take lead in Ukraine

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Europe must take the lead with American assistance. Mr. McFaul in today's New York Times has made many good points with the most important one being that Europe, with U.S. involvement, must take action now that sends a message to Putin that the west fully expects the final outcome to be that Ukraine becomes a part of the EU sooner than later and the remainder of the EU is completely behind helping one of its future members. Our citizens must be told to expect pain. Pain in the form of economic repercussions. Europe must be weaned off of Russia's natural gas and at least in the short run that means we must share in the increased cost of energy that will occur in Europe. Europe must bare more of the burden on their military defense. We assisted our allies in many ways to recover from World War II and the Korean War. We helped rebuild Europe. We defended the "free world" from a takeover by communism and we helped their economies by entering into trade agreements that d

Gaza from the view of one Israeli

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Gordon Levi, columnist for Haaretz (Israel), talks about his coverage of the Israeli occupation of Gaza over the past two decades. He spoke at an event held at Columbia University in 2010. He speaks of the conflict with Gaza from a different perspective and it is worth listening to the first 42 minutes of the video clip below. Prior to becoming a writer Mr. Levi was in the Israeli army. Below is a summary of some of his perceptions. * Palestinian citizens of Israel are deeply discriminated against. * He questions who is the "super power" in the relationship between Israel and the United States. If the U.S. was willing to stand up to Israel it could solve the problem in the Middle East * Mr. Levi describes the average citizen of Israel as "blind to the problem" of how their country treats Palestinians, including those who are citizens of Israel. * Israeli citizens are in a comma relative to acknowledging how its government views the Palestinians

Succeeding in school includes character

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This is a summary of an excellent article by David Brooks about learning, the importance of building character and ideas of how to do it. DPS, along with many suburban schools, could learn from this. In the article he points out that improving results of a child's education is more than focusing on basic skills including reading, writing, math and science. Parents and others must also teach good character traits such as longer term planning, focus and determination. The article is called The Character Factor , New York Times, August 1 2014. Here are the major points. 1. Richard Reeves of the Brooking's Institute estimates that drive and self-control influence academic achievement roughly as much as cognitive skills. 2. Mr. Brooks points out if you can change behavior you eventually change disposition and desire. People doing small acts of self-control find it easier to perform big acts in times of crisis. These traits are learned more by observing and performing small