Pay it Forward, Pay it Back: Making College (Debt) Free in Oregon

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How will you pay for college?

How will you pay for college?

“The United States has a third of the world’s colleges and universities and nearly all its best teachers” proclaims John D Kasarda.  With these words I feel great pride in American higher education and abject sorrow concerning the student-loan crisis.  The United States might have the best schools in the world, but increasingly costly bachelor’s degrees are out of reach for widening swathes of America’s middle class.  Those who can still afford college are often drowned in debt, forced into jobs they hate just to pay the bills.

This endemic problem must be solved; it is in Oregon that we find a likely solution.

Under the “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back” plan, students in Oregon public universities and community colleges can pay their tuition by promising three percent of their future incomes in the twenty-four year period following graduation.  No money down, no strings attached.  Everyone benefits.  Students of the humanities and other frugal majors will be able to rest easy and be able to pursue their passions without nightmares of debt. Those pursuing lucrative careers will have drastically fewer rivals, jobs will be easier to obtain.  Unemployed beneficiaries of this program will not have decades of credit-scores ruined, they will have not debt to haunt them.  And the specter of student-loan debt is banished, giving a new era of financial freedom for America’s youth.

Education is the cornerstone of the American Dream, in Oregon that glorious promise is rekindled for the twenty-first century.

The bill erecting the pilot program for “Pay it Forward, Pay it Back” was elected unanimously by Oregon’s state legislature on July 1, 2013.  They will evaluate the program and vote again in 2015, to improve it and provide a role model for the rest of the country.  One little state has kept the flame of the American Dream alive, imagine what fifty states could do.  Or even a functional federal government.

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7 Words For Bigot

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I hope you dont have to use these, but if you do know what they mean.

Sometimes you get to talking to someone who is just a bigot.  However, calling people such a word is a notorious faux pas; however, if you could detail the bigots specific sins instead it is more acceptable, even heroic depending on the level of intolerance.  Thankfully, the English language has a plethora of words that can fit all the most irksome antagonists.  Be sure to add these words to your lexicon for the next time your frenemy/debate buddy/quirky grandparent/ Queen of England get under you skin:

Chauvinist– one who has an attitude of superior towards members of the opposite sex.  Generally this word describes guys looking to score and have forgotten their manners.  However, recently I have also seem chauvinist emerge as a synonym for the feminists who are most critical of patriarchy.  Ironic.

Xenophobe – one unduly fearful of what is foreign and especially of people of foreign origin.  These people generally desire to suppress or turn away other people from other nations.  Anyone with anti-immigrant bumper stickers is asking to be called a xenophobe; often these generally nice individuals have logic gaps that cannot be explained.  Be courteous with those bigots of this sort, they often don’t know how unacceptable their manners or.  Or they have a gun.  Regardless, maintain your etiquette.

Jingoist – extreme nationalism marked especially by a belligerent foreign policy.  Similar to xenophobes, Jingoists prefer to elevate their own nation rather than putting down or excluding other nationalities.  Europeans everywhere has been completely riddled with this pandemic.

Homophobe – one who has an irrational fear of, or aversion to, or discrimination against homosexuality.  Only in the last decade or so has LGBT rights been a hot-button issue; with the rise of homosexuality in culture and in legal stature homophobes keep coming out of the closet.  More often the word homophobe should be used to shoot down distasteful jokers and overly religious zealots.

Supremacist  – an advocate or adherent of group supremacy, highest in degree or quality.  A broad word, attaching adjectives to Supremacist tailors this evolution of bigot to any situation.  White Supremacist and Aryan Supremacist or two common examples.   The word supremacist has been loosely linked Nazism, so beware skinheads!

Racist– a believe that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.  This word generally describes those who favor one skin complexion over another.  They are around the world, generally using the darkness of skins to justify genocide or systematic isolation.  While in America segregation has ended, the noxious odors of racism still exist along constricting class lines.

Dogmatist – characterized by or given to the expression of opinions very strongly or positively as if they were facts.  While dogmatists usually have good intentions they tend to bend facts and figures while openly ignoring any critical flaws in their theories.  These people are not always bigots, but they do often shut down other commentors ideas on baseless grounds.  Of all the words, this one is arguably the nicest because it is not always a faux pas.

Use these terms with care; sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can send you to therapy for thirty years.  However, if some intolerant fool crosses your path, spill social dribble everywhere, strike him down with whatever word fits best.  Expected results are sulking, stunned-silenece, and the bigots taking a hard look at their outdated opinions.  Be being forced to confront their reality they might change who they are.  And if worse comes to worse, you can always use the B-word to stop them in their tracks:

Bigot – one stubbornly or intolerantly adherent to his or her own opinions and prejudices.  Wide sweeping and social damning, this word is the atomic bomb of the heated conversation.  Careful how you use it, the fallout could be cold shoulders for weeks.  Of course, if you need to use the word than the cold shoulders are a blessing in disguise

Making Martyrs: How Capital Punishment Encourages Crime

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Last words are a poignant  mix of religious zealotry, bitter denial, and pained regret; now, the State of Texas posts the last words of every criminal they execute online for your pursuing.  Taylor Lee, one death row inmate, signed off lecturing, “I hope you don’t find satisfaction in this, watching a human being die.”  I do not find any satisfaction, but not because I mourn the passing of a thief and murder.  I am concerned that publicizing the last words of the most malevolent criminals provides role models for future killers, creating more crime.

My paradoxical theory is rooted in the psychological fact that  one of the deepest desires of every individual to feel important.  Self-proclaimed religious martyrs can become idolized by future fanatics looking for absolution and historical significance.  Starry-eyed youth see cold-blooded criminals alongside other celebrities and aspire to chase fame with murderous intent.  Don’t follow my logic?  Nineteen suicide bombers killed twenty-five hundred Americans on September 11, they have inspired an increase in suicide bombers around the world.  Criminals rarely commit sadistic crimes just for monetary and emotional reasons, they have a pathological need for acknowledgement from society.   By publicizing these death row criminals crimes and rhetoric Texas is manufacturing martyrs and crime role models  for America’s errant youth.  This is the opposite of capital punishment’s intention.

I admonish the state of Texas plastering the last words across the Internet like billboard posters for a cool-kids concert.  Capital punishment is one of the most primitive and senseless punishments left in the United States.  Elevating capital punishments status through digital  publication gives a megaphone to the dregs of society pollute the impressionable minds with their sadistic wisdom.  I am not saying that last words should not be open to the public, I am saying they should be somewhere where they would not instigate future terrorism and crimes.  Perhaps eliminating capital punishment all together is the best solution to reducing extreme crime.  After all, there cannot be martyrs if criminals are forbidden to die.

 

Helicopter Parents: Undermining America’s Future

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I have great parents, they have always been vigilant when concerning my future while allowing me a reasonable level of autonomy.  I love them for allowing me that freedom; however, many of my friends live with a very different style of parenting.  Progressively, there are teeming numbers of “more involved”  caretakers, changing what it means to be a parent in the United States.  These Helicopter Parents, Go-Get-Em Dads and Tiger Moms, passionately push and prod their children so they are picture-perfect, giving them the best opportunities to make the most of life.  But these kids do not, they cannot; they never learned how to do anything for themselves.

Helicopter Parents, designated such as they hover around their children’s every decision and guide them along an optimized path,  are the bane of the modern college student’s self-initiative.  In college, even when these subdued children are continents away, this parenting style means the  umbilical cord is never cut; these kids cannot think for themselves.  Many young adults are in constant communication with their parents. Arthur Levine, a renown sociologist who studies college students, notes in his latest book Digital Natives and Their Customs  “One in five college kids are in touch with their parents three or more times a day, and 41 percent are in touch every day. ”  I hope many of these communications are simple text messages and Snapchats; inconsequential memos of nothing of significance.  But in the age of Helicopter Parents, these flurried texts and calls amount to the decision-making apparatus of too many college students.  This bodes poorly for America’s future.

The future workers of America are having their enterprising initiative diluted as they outsource decision-making to mommy and daddy.  This is not good, not for them and not for the country.   Empirical data indicates that those students afflicted with  helicopter parents have less accountability, worse grades, and are less satisfied with their lives.  Once their self-determination is undermined and stunted these children will never be able to forge their own healthy futures and identities.  The Helicopter Parents will just keep circling and circling, graying our collective future with apathetic colleagues incapable of seizing the day.  We will all lose out.

Forest Fires and Sequestration: Republicans Set Fire To America

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Fire Fighters Struggle With Flames and Budgets

Fire Fighters Struggle With Flames and Budgets

Every summer there is another record breaking forest fire immolating homeowners and ravaging communities.  2013 is no exception.

Throughout the American West, the United States Forest Service is scrambling to evacuate homes and contain destructive wildfires.  These fire epidemics are getting worse every summer.  Analysts blame urban encroaching into forests, global warming drying out the West, and bad luck.

Meanwhile, Washington’s sequestration and budget cuts have just axed the wildfire protection budget by more than forty-percent.

A gridlocked congress’s inability to act has pushed President Obama to preemptively reducing programs to offset future spending caps.  These cuts are on top of the millions lost to the sequestration eroding the Forest Service’s budget.  The Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program, responsible for controlling damaging megablazes,  has lost $208 million of its original $500 million dollar budget.   As the Forest Service chooses how to allocate its meager resources, experts are predicting worsening fires throughout  the foreseeable future.

The United States must invest in wildfire protection instead of cutting funding.  It also must spend smarter.  Proactive strategy, ranging from clearing at-risk brush to lighting clearing fires, are progressively considered the best option for the fiscally starved Forest Service.  Rather than fighting megablazes head on preemptive action curtails megablazes from ever burning out of control of threatening communities.  These preventive methods are the cheapest option to saving endangered towns; every dollar spent on prevention multiplies itself into ten dollars saved on firefighter costs.  To unlock the funds needed to reinstate funding to the Forest Services it will take political action from Congress, the institution originally responsible for the crippling cuts.

Many Republican Congressmen, ironically representing  the fire-plagued west, are responsible for the sequestration and budget cuts.  These austerity hawks are endeavoring to “starve the beast” of big government; by choking off the federal programs and taxes these zealots intend to force the nation towards smaller government.  The Republican leadership is now self-immolating its own districts to uphold a deranged ideology.  It’s no wonder Congress’s approval rating has plunged to ten percent.  Another record.

 

Bradley Manning: Why did he Expose American War Crimes?

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Bradley Manning:Beleagured Whistleblower

Bradley Manning: Beleagured Whistleblower

After three years of arduous delays Bradley Manning has finally had his day in court.  The documents and videos that he made public to the world revealed thousands of unreported  killings and gruesome maimings of civilians throughout Afghanistan and Iraq during the American occupations.  Even an attempted attacks on journalists were publicized.  Manning’s Cablegate was the single largest disclosure of classified American documents in history.  Needless to say, many are interested why Manning would go to such lengths to deface American troops and her allies.

Here  is the answer.

Manning’s  leaked documents in Cablegate exposed a systematic under reporting of war crimes by Americans in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.  Many of incidents Manning exposed were unreported killings of civilians, surrendering terrorists being shot to pieces, rapes and murders by unchecked local policemen, sadistic torture, and countless other acts of horror.  While often these incidents were noted by American troops, the war crimes were only reported internally; legal actions and reprimands were almost never carried out.  This transgression resulted in 15,000 unaccounted for deaths of civilians. These malfeasance were not deliberately masterminded  nor broadly coordinated.  They just happened; its part of war.  There has not been a war in history where such travesties have not occurred and it would be pretentious to assume otherwise

The gut-wrenching letdown is these crimes were allowed to go unreported.  To be hidden, to be wished away and forgotten.

The United States, backed by its NATO Allies, went into Afghanistan and Iraq to purge corrupt regimes and install unfettered democracies.  Yet they allowed widespread killings, just as the preceding governments did.  This conceited hypocrisy devalues the liberties and rights the Allied forces espoused.  What Afghan or Iraqi would trust the supporters of  rapists and murders?  The American-backed governments in these states lost hearts and minds whenever these war crimes went unpunished.  The global community may not have known about this secret slaughter, but the civilians on the ground did.  They were the ones who lost friends and loved ones.  They were the ones who justice was denied.  They were the ones who sided with jihadists to claim their righteous vengeance.

The United States has to hold itself to a higher standard.  It has to pursue the criminals in its ranks and flush their crimes out publicly.     It will be hard and painful, but it is right.  If the military can show purge itself of its fiendish criminals it can reclaim the virtue it stands for, winning back the support of the Afghans and the Iraqi nations .  As the sadists are rooted out there might be even fewer unintended killings.  This transformation was the goal of Bradley Manning’s Cablegate.  The cost of such a dream will probably be a life sentence in prison for Bradley Manning.  I hope his sacrifice will return righteousness to our armies.

Afghanistan thanks Manning

Afghanistan thanks Manning

Homeless in the Housing Slump: A Tragic Paradox

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monopoly homes

A home is more than shelter in America.  Owning a home is a social statement, a cultural priority, and the most significant financial investment for many Americans.  In the wake of the Great Recession record numbers of Americans lost their homes.  More than five years following the financial collapse over 630,000 Americans are homeless, one in every five hundred individuals.  Roughly forty percent of those homeless are children, in New York City 21,000 of the 50,000 homeless are underage.  Without a home these children do not have an optimistic future; most will be claimed by gang life, prostitution, and alcoholism.

The tragic paradox of homeless crisis is that there is not a housing crisis as well; the vacated homes remain unoccupied.

In the wake of the Great Recession, banks foreclosed whole neighborhoods of homes.  Preceding the recession investment groups pushed mortgage-originator banks to issue loans to prospective homeowners who they knew would be unable to pay them back, hoodwinking them with teaser rates and outright fraud.  These homeowners, overwhelming black and Hispanic, were manipulated into signing mortgages they lacked the incomes to pay.  When the housing market deflated these residents were left jobless, destitute, and homeless.  As the national economy dipped, this collapse of wealth played out again and again across the country.  Vacated homes were put on the market by the dozen, driving down property values and exacerbating the housing crisis and devaluing homes of remaining residents.  The majority of these homes are still on the market but left in disrepair by the banks, who were unprepared to take on so many residencies.   Left empty, these homes have been looted for anything valuable and left as crack houses, losing much of their remaining value.

I do not have a solution to this crisis.  It is too expensive for cities buy back these empty homes in bulk, but as long as the unwanted homes stand local property values will remain low while the crime rate remains high and the cities remain property tax starved.  It is doubtful the modern homeless will ever be able save enough to buy new property.   The mishandling of the housing bubble will ripple into the future, hampering the most impoverished Americans and further distancing them from a financial stable life.  A home is more than shelter in America, for many it is a dream forever out of reach.

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