Thursday, September 25, 2008

Bush and Candidates to Meet on Bailout


WASHINGTON — President Bush appealed to the nation Wednesday night to support a $700 billion plan to avert a widespread financial meltdown, and signaled that he is willing to accept tougher controls over how the money is spent.

As Democrats and the administration negotiated details of the package late into the night, the presidential candidates of both major parties planned to meet Mr. Bush at the White House on Thursday, along with leaders of Congress. The president said he hoped the session would “speed our discussions toward a bipartisan bill.”

Mr. Bush used a prime-time address to warn Americans that “a long and painful recession” could occur if Congress does not act quickly.

“Our entire economy is in danger,” he said.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats said that progress toward a deal had come after the White House had offered two major concessions: a plan to limit pay of executives whose firms seek government assistance, and a provision that would give taxpayers an equity stake in some of the firms so that the government can profit if the companies prosper in the future. Details of those provisions, and many others, were still under discussion.

Mr. Bush’s televised address, and his extraordinary offer to bring together Senator Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee, and Senator John McCain, the Republican, just weeks before the election underscored a growing sense of urgency on the part of the administration that Congress must act to avert an economic collapse.

It was the first time in Mr. Bush’s presidency that he delivered a prime-time speech devoted exclusively to the economy. It came at a time when deep public unease about shaky financial markets and the demise of Wall Street icons such as Lehman Brothers has been coupled with skepticism and anger directed at a government bailout that could become the most expensive in American history.

The administration’s plan seeks to restore liquidity to the market and restore the economy by buying up distressed securities, many of them tied to mortgages, from struggling financial firms.
The address capped a fast-moving and chaotic day, in Washington, on the presidential campaign trail and on Wall Street.

On Capitol Hill, delicate negotiations between Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. and Congressional leaders were complicated by resistance from rank-and-file lawmakers, who were fielding torrents of complaints from constituents furious that their tax money was going to be spent to clean up a mess created by high-paid financial executives.

On Wall Street, financial markets continued to struggle. The cost of borrowing for banks, businesses and consumers shot up and investors rushed to safe havens like Treasury bills — a reminder that credit markets, which had recovered somewhat after Mr. Paulson announced the broad outlines of the bailout plan last week, remain under severe stress, with many investors still skittish.

Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut and chairman of the banking committee, said a deal could come together as early as Thursday. “Working in a bipartisan manner, we have made progress,” the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and Representative John A. Boehner, the Republican leader, said in a joint statement.

“We agree that key changes should be made to the administration’s proposal. It must include basic good-government principles, including rigorous and independent oversight, strong executive compensation standards and protections for taxpayers.”

Mr. Bush used his speech to signal that he was willing to address lawmakers’ concerns, including fears that tax dollars will be used to pay Wall Street executives and that the plan would put too much authority in the hands of the Treasury secretary without sufficient oversight.

“Any rescue plan should also be designed to ensure that taxpayers are protected,” Mr. Bush said. “It should welcome the participation of financial institutions, large and small. It should make certain that failed executives do not receive a windfall from your tax dollars. It should establish a bipartisan board to oversee the plan’s implementation. And it should be enacted as soon as possible.”

The speech came after the White House, under pressure from Republican lawmakers, opened an aggressive effort to portray the financial rescue package as crucial not just to stabilize Wall Street but to protect the livelihoods of all Americans.

But the White House gave careful thought to the timing; aides to Mr. Bush said they did not want to appear to have the president forcing a solution on Congress.

On Capitol Hill, Mr. Paulson, facing a second day of questioning by lawmakers, this time before the House Financial Services Committee, tried to focus as much on Main Street as Wall Street.
“This entire proposal is about benefiting the American people because today’s fragile financial system puts their economic well being at risk,” Mr. Paulson said. Without action, he added: “Americans’ personal savings and the ability of consumers and business to finance spending, investment and job creation are threatened.”

But it was the comments of Mr. Paulson, a former chief of Goldman Sachs, about limiting the pay of executives that signaled the biggest shift in the White House position and the urgency that the administration has placed in winning Congressional approval as quickly as possible.

“The American people are angry about executive compensation, and rightly so,” he said. “No one understands pay for failure.”

Officials said the legislation would almost certainly include a ban on so-called golden parachutes, the generous severance packages that many executives receive on their way out the door, for firms that seek government help. The measure also is likely to include a mechanism for firms to recover any bonus or incentive pay based on corporate earnings or other results that later turn out to have been overstated.

Democrats were also working to include tax provisions that would cap the amount of an executive’s salary that a company could deduct to $400,000 — the amount earned by the president.

At the same time, Congressional Democrats said they were prepared to drop one of their most contentious demands: new authority for bankruptcy judges to modify the terms of first mortgages. That provision was heavily opposed by Senate Republicans.

In addition, Democrats also are leaning toward authorizing the entire $700 billion that Mr. Paulson is seeking but disbursing a smaller amount, perhaps only $150 billion, to start the program, with future funds dependent on how well it is working.

Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the lead negotiator for Congressional Democrats, said they also planned to insert a tax break to aid community banks that have suffered steep losses on preferred stock that they own in the mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

That change is in addition to others that already have been accepted by Mr. Paulson that would create an independent oversight board and require the government to do more to prevent foreclosures.

-Should Obama and McCain cancel the scheduled debate?
-Why might/might not the candidates meet with President Bush?

-Should executives at companies have salaries lowered after they are bailed out by the government?

-Alex D- It doesn’t make sense to bail out failing companies, wouldn’t they just make less money?

-(Class consensus) If we let companies go bankrupt, economy will crash, jobs will be lost, wages down, more debt.

-Is putting taxpayer money into buyout a temporary fix up or a solution? –Mr. Brown
-Stricter laws on businesses, make us seem communist, because government controls business. –John Ray

-McCain may be trying to block debate because Obama has advantage on National television, also to show he cares about the economy. If Obama doesn’t want to cancel, he can be accused of not caring enough about the economy. –Matt F.

-There’s a lot of days from now till the election, things will change. - Alex D.

-McCain IS ready for the foreign policy debate, he said he was. –Apeksha

-I believe that it’s all a part of the political campaign, when McCain cancels the debate. –Rajvir

-McCain does care and he is showing that. –Sanaa

-Can Congress change recess? –Alex

-A debate is only one day, Great Depression wasn’t fixed in one day. We need to know the plans of the economy from the candidates NOW. –John Ray

-Obama should us this economic recession to show what he can do about the economy.- Amir! (yes he spoke)

-Karamvir- McCain is trying to put Obama in a bad situation where he has to react.

-Weeks ago, the republicans and McCain were telling us that there was nothing wrong with the economy, now look at what happened. It’s all a part of his Maverick reputation where he stands pat on issues and comes across as courageous yet stubborn. –Matt F.

-Debate only takes a few hours, why can’t McCain take the time to just do the debate then get back to Congress to work on the bill? –Hemant

-The Republicans should have done something about the economy already. –John Ray

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

New York City May Raise Property Tax

By David W. Chen and Michael Babaro
September 23rd, 2008
The New York Times

-Bush approves $1.5 trillion into economy, value of dollar goes down, prices go up.

Why are property taxes increasing in New York City?
Who might oppose such an increase?

Potter: I DON’T KNOW
Matt B: increases are from money made from taxes
Sanaa: tax raise= prices of goods and gas go up, citizens will want a pay raise
Mr. Brown: If you raise taxes, why don’t wages go up?
Matt B: $400 to families is a diversion from tax hikes
Kaitlyn: public transportation prices going up, there will be more bikes as people try to save money.
John Ray: property taxes effect everyone that owns property. Prices could level out.
Mr. Brown: Pensions, retirement, city employees could be hurt by property tax increases.
Apeksha: Everybody moves to Florida. Why can’t we just make the economy like it was in 2000?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Illness Persisting in 9/11 Workers,


The largest health study yet of the thousands of workers who labored at ground zero shows that the impact of the rescue and recovery effort on their health has been more widespread and persistent than previously thought, and is likely to linger far into the future.

The study, released yesterday by doctors at Mount Sinai Medical Center, is expected to erase any lingering doubts about the connection between dust from the trade center and numerous diseases that the workers have reported suffering. It is also expected to increase pressure on the federal government to provide health care for sick workers who do not have health insurance.
Roughly 70 percent of nearly 10,000 workers tested at Mount Sinai from 2002 to 2004 reported that they had new or substantially worsened respiratory problems while or after working at ground zero.

The rate is similar to that found among a smaller sample of 1,100 such workers released by Mount Sinai in 2004, but the scale of the current study gives it far more weight; it also indicates significant problems not reflected in the original study.

For example, one-third of the patients in the new study showed diminished lung capacity in tests designed to measure the amount of air a person can exhale. Among nonsmokers, 28 percent were found to have some breathing impairment, more than double the rate for nonsmokers in the general population.

The study is among the first to show that many of the respiratory ailments — like sinusitis and asthma, and gastrointestinal problems related to them — initially reported by ground zero workers persisted or grew worse in the years after 9/11.

Most of the ground zero workers in the study who reported trouble breathing while working there were still having those problems up to two and a half years later, an indication that the illnesses are becoming chronic and are not likely to improve over time. Some of them worked without face masks, or with flimsy ones. “There should no longer be any doubt about the health effects of the World Trade Center disaster,” said Dr. Robin Herbert, co-director of Mount Sinai’s World Trade Center Worker and Volunteer Medical Screening Program. “Our patients are sick, and they will need ongoing care for the rest of their lives.”

Dr. Herbert called the findings, which will be published tomorrow in Environmental Health Perspectives, the journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, “very worrisome,” especially because 40 percent of those who went to Mount Sinai for medical screening did not have health insurance, and will thus not get proper medical care. The Mount Sinai results found, as studies done by the New York City Fire Department also have, that those who showed up in the first hours and days after the twin towers collapsed have the worst medical problems. Seventy percent of the workers in the study arrived at the site between Sept. 11 and Sept. 13.

Mount Sinai’s screening and monitoring program, which excludes New York firefighters, who are tested in a separate program, run by the New York Fire Department, covers law enforcement officers, transit workers, telecommunications workers, volunteers and others who worked at ground zero and at the Fresh Kills landfill, where debris was taken.

Members of the New York Congressional delegation, who have been fighting to get the federal government to recognize the scope of the health problem created by toxic materials at ground zero, saw the Mount Sinai study as proof that the federal government has been too slow to address the issue.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who participated in the news conference at Mount Sinai yesterday morning, along with Representatives Jerrold Nadler and Carolyn B. Maloney, said that the results made the need for federal assistance for treatment more critical than ever.

“This study, I hope, puts to rest any doubt about what is happening to those who were exposed,” said Mrs. Clinton, who was among those who pushed for $52 million in federal funding for health treatment for the ground zero workers, the first treatment money provided by the Bush administration. “This report underscores the need for continued long-term monitoring and treatment options — they go hand in hand,” she said.

Several members of the delegation are scheduled to meet in Washington tomorrow morning with Michael O. Levitt, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, to press for more aid.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, speaking at a news conference at City Hall yesterday, questioned the conclusiveness of the study, saying that statistics could suggest a connection between events, but not prove a direct link.

“I don’t believe that you can say specifically a particular problem came from this particular event,” he said. Nonetheless, Mr. Bloomberg announced that the city would create a screening and treatment program for anyone exposed to the trade center dust or fumes.

The Mount Sinai study, released yesterday, which covers 9,442 workers who met the screening program’s eligibility criteria and agreed to have their health data included, focused on respiratory problems because doctors believe those illnesses are the first to surface. Of those studied, 46.5 percent reported symptoms like chest tightness, shortness of breath and dry cough that generally affect the lower airways of the lungs.

And 62.5 percent reported upper-respiratory symptoms like sinusitis and nose and throat irritations. (The study did not include cases of cancer reported by workers and their relatives.)
The doctors said that the persistent nature of the respiratory symptoms raised troubling questions about the workers’ long-term health. Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, a founder of the screening program at Mount Sinai and an author of the new study, said that the toxic nature of the trade center dust had led doctors to conclude that there would be serious health issues for years to come, especially for workers who were exposed to the heaviest concentrations in the early days after the terrorist attack.

“This was extremely toxic dust,” Dr. Landrigan said, noting that some samples showed the dust to be as caustic as drain cleaner. The dust also contained innumerable tiny shards of glass, which could get lodged in the lungs, and a stew of toxic and carcinogenic substances, like asbestos and dioxin, that could potentially lead to cancer decades from now.

With the expanding dimensions of 9/11 health problems, concern is also growing about the cost of health care for responders, particularly the 40 percent who either never had health insurance or who lost employer-provided coverage after they became too sick to work.

Dr. Landrigan declined to estimate what the total cost might be, saying only “it will be very expensive.”

Dr. John Howard, who was named the federal 9/11 health coordinator in February, has already said that the $52 million the federal government has appropriated for treatment late last year is inadequate. He said in an interview yesterday that the new study will very likely mean that the gap between funds and the need for them is going to grow.

But he said the solid medical data from Mount Sinai would help him make the case that more needs to be done. He said that there was little doubt that if a third of the people in the study showed abnormal breathing, similar problems exist among the entire population of 40,000 rescue and recovery workers.

“These are just the kind of facts that are important in making a logical argument that the funding needs to be adjusted,” said Dr. Howard, who is also the director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.

Mount Sinai officials said they would release a study of mental health effects on ground zero workers soon. They also are planning to begin a statistical program this fall to examine the occurrence of cancer, lung diseases and other ailments among that group. That information will then be compared to national rates to see if there is a higher-than-expected incidence of those diseases.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Voter Registration by Students Raises Cloud of Consequences


The widespread practice of students’ registering to vote at their college address has set off a fracas in Virginia, a battleground state in the presidential election.

Late last month, as a voter-registration drive by supporters of Senator Barack Obama was signing up thousands of students at Virginia Tech, the local registrar of elections issued two releases incorrectly suggesting a range of dire possibilities for students who registered to vote at their college.

The releases warned that such students could no longer be claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns, a statement the Internal Revenue Service says is incorrect, and could lose scholarships or coverage under their parents’ car and health insurance.

After some inquiries from students and parents, and more pointed questions from civil rights lawyers, the state board of elections said Friday that it was “modifying and clarifying” the state guidelines on which the county registrar had based his releases.

Student-registration controversies have been a recurring problem since 1971, when the 26st Amendment lowered the voting age to 18 from 21, and despite a 1979 ruling by the United States Supreme Court that students have the right to register at their college address.

Virginia is not the only state with murky guidelines. South Carolina’s voter-registration site, for example, says students who want to register to vote at their college address must demonstrate “a present intention to remain in the community.”

“There’s no issue for snowbirds who live in Iowa but fly to Florida for the winter,” said Sujatha Jahagirdar, program director of the Student Public Interest Research Group’s New Voters Project. “One demographic group, like students, shouldn’t have to overcome a special hurdle to vote. We impose all the responsibilities of citizenship on students, and we have to provide them with the privileges of citizenship, too.”

Ms. Jahagirdar said Virginia’s warnings were profoundly misleading. “We have been registering young voters for 25 years,” she said. “We registered 500,000 young voters in 2004, the majority on college campuses, and we’ve never heard of a single one who lost health insurance, scholarship or tax status because of where they registered to vote.”

In Virginia, the county registrar first issued an alarming release on Aug. 25, and two days later a slightly toned-down version using language taken directly from the state Board of Elections’ Web site.

That site says students can determine their legal residence, but advises them to consider certain questions. “Are you claimed as a dependent on your parents’ income tax return?” the site asks. “If you are, then their address is probably your legal residence.”

The site also tells students to check whether their coverage under their parents’ health or automobile insurance, or their scholarship, will be affected by changing their residence.
Civil rights lawyers say these guidelines are problematic and could infringe on students’ rights.
“What the state Board of Elections has on its Web site, to me, sounds like it is discouraging students from registering at their school address,” said Jon Greenbaum, director of the Voting Rights Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.

Indeed, the Montgomery County registrar, E. Randall Wertz, said several students had canceled their local registration over their worry about the possible consequences. Mr. Wertz said he had issued the release to try to dispel confusion and explain what he believed to be the consequences of choosing a college address as a primary residence.

“My understanding of state law has been that by declaring you’re voting here, you’re saying this is your primary residence, your domicile, and that while you can have many abodes or residences, you can only have one domicile,” Mr. Wertz said. “And if this is your primary residence, you have to register your vehicle here, charge your driver’s license to here and so on. That’s been the interpretation at state training sessions.”

Kevin Griffis, the Obama campaign’s Virginia spokesman, said the release appeared to be a good-faith effort to convey state guidelines, not a politically motivated effort to stop voting by students.

Mr. Wertz said the initial release had been written by an intern whom he asked to summarize the guidelines. Although the second release used the state’s precise language, he said, it still left room for confusion. In other counties, registrars have refused to accept dormitory addresses as residences. But so far, the state has not set clear standards.

“Different registrars around the state interpret it differently,” he said. “We’ve asked for more guidance from the state legislature, but they haven’t wanted to deal with it.”

Mr. Greenbaum’s Voting Rights Project has been involved in other student-registration cases. Last fall, in Statesboro, Ga., in a hotly contested city council race, there were challenges to the registration of about 1,000 Georgia Southern University students who had used dormitory addresses. “We threatened suit, but the issue went away when they figured out that the challenges weren’t going to affect the results of the election,” Mr. Greenbaum said.

In 2003, in Waller County, Tex., the district attorney wrote a column in a local newspaper threatening to prosecute students at Prairie View A&M, a historically black university, for illegal voting. The project sued, and the district attorney backed down.

In the 1970s, that same county required Prairie View students who wanted to register to fill out a questionnaire asking, among other things, whether they owned property in the county, had an automobile registered there or belonged to any church, club or organization unrelated to the college. A challenge to that practice led the Supreme Court to uphold students’ rights to vote at their college address.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Plain Speech

ST. PAUL — Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska introduced herself to America before a roaring crowd at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night as “just your average hockey mom” who was as qualified as the Democratic nominee, Senator Barack Obama, to be president of the United States.

An hour later Senator John McCain, a scrappy, rebellious former prisoner of war in Vietnam whose campaign was resurrected from near-death a year ago, was nominated by the Republican Party to be the 44th president of the United States after asking the cheering delegates, “Do you think we made the right choice” in picking Ms. Palin as the vice-presidential nominee?
The roll-call vote made Mr. McCain, 72, the first Republican presidential candidate to share the ticket with a woman and only the second presidential candidate from a major party to do so, after Walter F. Mondale selected Geraldine A. Ferraro as his running mate for the Democratic ticket in 1984.

But the nomination was a sideshow to the evening’s main event, the speech by the little-known Ms. Palin, who was seeking to wrest back the narrative of her life and redefine herself to the American public after a rocky start that has put Mr. McCain’s closest aides on edge. Ms. Palin’s appearance electrified a convention that has been consumed by questions of whether she was up to the job, as she launched slashing attacks on Mr. Obama’s claims of experience.

“Before I became governor of the great state of Alaska, I was mayor of my hometown,” Ms. Palin told the delegates in a speech that sought to eviscerate Mr. Obama, as delegates waved signs that said “I love hockey moms.” “And since our opponents in this presidential election seem to look down on that experience, let me explain to them what the job involves. I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a ‘community organizer,’ except that you have actual responsibilities.”
As the crowd cheered its approval, Ms. Palin went on: “I might add that in small towns we don’t quite know what to make of a candidate who lavishes praise on working people when they are listening, and then talks about how bitterly they cling to their religion and guns when those people aren’t listening.”

Ms. Palin was referring to Mr. Obama’s experience as a community organizer in Chicago before he served in the Illinois legislature and was elected to the United States Senate in 2004 as well as comments he made at a fundraiser in California about bitter rural voters who “cling” to guns and religion.

The address by Ms. Palin, 44, who stunned the political world last week as Mr. McCain’s pick for a running mate, took place before a convention transformed from an orderly coronation into a messy, days-long drama since the McCain campaign’s disclosure on Monday that Ms. Palin’s 17-year-old daughter, Bristol, was pregnant. Since then there have been a host of other distractions, including Hurricane Gustav, questions about how thoroughly Mr. McCain vetted what people close to his campaign have called the last-minute pick of Ms. Palin, and charges from Mr. McCain’s top aides that the news media has launched a sexist smear campaign against his running mate.

“I’m not a member of the permanent political establishment,” Ms. Palin said in her remarks. which took aim at the news media as the crowd began lustily booing the press. “And I’ve learned quickly, these past few days, that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone. But here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion; I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this country.”

Ms. Palin spent the first part of her speech introducing her family one by one to the crowd, including her husband, Todd. “We met in high school, and two decades and five children later he’s still my guy,” Ms. Palin said.

Ms. Palin also displayed humor in one of her biggest lines of the night when she said that “the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull” was “lipstick.”

Ms. Palin’s speech was the big draw of a convention night notable for not a single mention from the stage of the unpopular president, George W. Bush, who addressed the delegates Tuesday via satellite from the White House after the hurricane forced him to cancel his appearance.

Ms. Palin’s speech came after Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York launched a withering attack on Mr. Obama as part of a relentless assault by Republicans arguing that Ms. Palin, the former mayor of a town of less than 7,000 people who has been governor of Alaska for 20 months, had a more impressive résumé than Mr. Obama.

“She already has more executive experience than the entire Democratic ticket,” said Mr. Giuliani, one of three former rivals of Mr. McCain for the nomination, including former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, who took on Mr. Obama in speeches Wednesday evening.

“Barack Obama has never led anything, nothing, nada,” Mr. Giuliani said, then launched an attack on people who have questioned whether Ms. Palin will have enough energy to focus on the vice presidency as the mother of five. “How dare they question whether Sarah Palin has enough time to spend with her children and be vice president,” Mr. Giuliani said. “How dare they do that? When do they ever ask a man that question?”

The criticism of Mr. Obama reinforced new television commercials by the McCain campaign that similarly belittled the Democratic nominee’s experience. The campaign and its surrogates also took on what they called biased and sexist coverage of Ms. Palin.

In her address, Ms. Palin criticized Mr. Obama on foreign policy and national security issues as she tried to display comfort on those areas. She also embraced one of Mr. McCain’s favorite mantras this summer, “drill now,” a call for more offshore oil exploration as a solution to record-high gasoline prices.

“Our opponents say, again and again, that drilling will not solve all of America’s energy problems, as if we all didn’t know that already,” Ms. Palin said. “But the fact that drilling won’t solve every problem is no excuse to do nothing at all. Starting in January, in a McCain-Palin administration, we’re going to lay more pipelines, build more nuclear plants, create jobs with clean coal and move forward on solar, wind, geothermal and other alternative sources.”

The speech was the first public emergence for Ms. Palin since arriving here Sunday, two days after Mr. McCain named her as his running mate. Ms. Palin has spent her time in a hotel suite with her husband, Todd, and their five children preparing for her speech and the questions on foreign policy, national security and family matters that she will face from the news media when the McCain campaign makes her available to reporters. Their son Track, 19, deploys overseas for the Army next month.

Democrats, who have held much of their fire this week as the Republican melodrama has played out in Minnesota, criticized the convention as failing so far to address the concerns of ordinary Americans.

“You did not hear a single world about the economy,” Mr. Obama told an audience on in New Philadelphia, Ohio, before Ms. Palin’s speech. “Not once did they mention the hardships that people are going through.”

Mr. McCain landed in Minneapolis on Wednesday afternoon and was greeted on the tarmac by Ms. Palin, her family and his family in a striking multigenerational tableau, 16 strong, with the youngest member Trig Palin, Sarah Palin’s 4-month-old, who has Down syndrome. Later, in Mr. McCain’s appearance at the convention, he praised the Palins as “a beautiful family.”

Delegates said they were enthralled by Ms. Palin. "I think she’s great; she’s giving it back to the Democrats for all the sorry things they’ve said about her and about America," said Anita Bargas, a delegate from Angleton, Tex. "She’s a conservative, and she has a great sense of humor."

With Ms. Palin facing a torrent of inquiries from reporters, Mr. McCain joined other Republicans in assailing news outlets when he told ABC News in an interview on Wednesday that “Sarah Palin has 24,000 employees in the state government” and was “responsible for 20 percent of the nation’s energy supply.” He added that he was entertained by the comparison of her experience to that of Mr. Obama and that “I hope we can keep making that comparison that running a political campaign is somehow comparable to being the executive of the largest state in America.”

Monday, September 01, 2008


The new reality is that the public-education system is no longer the only, or the paramount, place where we go to learn.

printer-friendly version

by James Daly

For more than 150 years, the local public schools were our community's temple of knowledge. They dutifully gathered, assimilated, and dispensed the wisdom of thousands of years of insight and learning to the eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) ears and eyes of fidgeting youth. Once you left the school's care, however, as a young adult, you were pretty much on your own to track down the information and wisdom that would lead to a more enriched mind or pocketbook.
Then something dramatic happened. In 1989, researcher Tim Berners-Lee was noodling around in his Swiss lab, working on a way for his colleagues to share ideas electronically on different networks using an odd jumble of computers. He came up with an online knowledge-sharing device: the World Wide Web. By the mid-1990s, new Web browsers produced by companies such as Netscape and Microsoft made sailing through the sea of online information simple; Berners-Lee had inadvertently kicked open a door to the world's knowledge.
T hen came the crackling summer of 1995. While a staggering heat wave scorched the country -- New York City had a record-setting streak of twenty-four consecutive days with no precipitation, while out in the Great Plains, a freight train derailed when the tracks warped in 112-degree heat -- Netscape planned something even hotter: It went public. When that offering happened on August 9, the company's stock and its fortunes skyrocketed. Where there is money to be made (and Netscape was making billions), inventiveness and ambition followed.
The rest of the story, writ in large neon letters, has been a redistribution of knowledge that has essentially turned our world upside down and inside out (or is it the other way around?). In the past decade, the easy access to nearly any piece of information imaginable has become an expected part of our daily life. We've been Googled and YouTubed and iPodded so completely that the names of these very companies have seared into our cerebral cortex, even becoming verbs ("Did you google it?") in our daily chatter.
What happened with our schools? Not much. They continued to plod on gamely, passing out paper-based textbook after paper-based textbook, keeping their rooms and halls nearly free of the technology saturating their students' lives. The public-education system was a modern-day Rip Van Winkle, dozing peacefully beneath its educational elm while the distance increased between the technology that schools provided and the daily reality of the world students live in.
Subtly, but inexorably, schools -- or, for that matter, libraries -- were no longer the key holders to the temple of knowledge. A millennia-old arrangement of information distribution disappeared in the time it took for a newborn to reach fifth grade.
The new reality is that the public-education system is no longer the only, or the paramount, place where we go to learn. Most likely, the average child did his or her first Google search on a home computer. For many kids, they probably first logged on to a network (most likely AOL or Yahoo!) remotely, using a portable PC a parent brought home from the office. Their first online chat was more likely to happen at home while the child was enjoying Club Penguin than it was in English class.
This shift represents a fundamental restructuring of what public education is all about. Schools must now jump into the river of information provided by business, international groups, and the media and step into a new role: assembler of the collective intellect. Educators must help students sort out the insightful from the ludicrous, assisting them in their new role as capable and critical thinkers. Schools should not shun the seemingly endless variety of outside information sources, but should instead see them as new sources of inspiration for their daily lessons.
In an age when the flow of information was limited and controlled, schools were worthy gatherers of knowledge. That world is gone. Public education has entered a new phase, and it's time for it to catch up to the students it's charged with teaching.

Editor in Chief James Daly

This article was also published in Edutopia Magazine, July 2007