Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year, New Laws

With the coming of a new year, new laws are scheduled to start as well. Here is a small sampling:

Athlete safety: requires school districts to develop a process for identifying cases in which students suffer concussions in sports mishaps and require a parent to give written permission for the athlete to return to the lineup.

Baby food: bans stores from selling expired infant food and formula.

Bail: requires that people extradited to California to face criminal charges face $100,000 in bail in addition to any bail already issued for the underlying offense.

Beer: bars the importation, production and sale of beer to which caffeine has been directly added as a separate ingredient, in response to incidents in which young people have been hospitalized with severe intoxication after drinking the beverages.

Child actors: streamlines the process for obtaining state permission for minors to work in the entertainment industry by allowing parents to get temporary permits online rather than through the mail.

Drunk drivers: authorizes courts to revoke, for up to a decade, the driver's license of any person convicted of three or more DUIs in a 10-year period. Another law bars police agencies that set up drunk-driving checkpoints from impounding cars from sober but unlicensed drivers if there is a legal driver available to take the wheel.

Elder abuse: allows wage garnishments against anyone convicted of elder abuse or financial abuse of a dependent adult.

Food stamps: eliminates the requirement that food stamp recipients be fingerprinted to prevent fraud. Another law calls for state agencies to promote more enrollment in the federal food stamp program.

Infused drinks:
allows bars to infuse alcohol with fruits and vegetables for use in cocktails.

Lying politicians: forces elected officials to forfeit office if convicted of falsely claiming they have been awarded military decorations.

Marijuana: gives cities and counties clearer authority to regulate the location and operation of medical marijuana dispensaries. Another law creates new penalties for the possession of synthetic cannabis products, which have been sold in convenience stores and tobacco shops.

Puppies: outlaws the selling of live animals on any street, sidewalk, parking lot or other public right-of-way.

Raves: requires any state agency that plans an event with more than 10,000 people on state property to conduct a threat assessment before the event.

Restaurants: may use up their supplies of shark fins — a delicacy in Chinese cooking — purchased before Jan. 1. After that, sale and possession of shark fins will be illegal.

Student government: authorizes illegal immigrants who are students to receive grants, fee waivers and reimbursement for serving in student government at public colleges.

What are your thoughts on these new laws? Would you like to suggest a law of your own?

Friday, November 25, 2011

Making Online Retailers Pay Taxes

As you know, the state of California is facing some serious fiscal challenges in its budget. One item the state government decided to go after was online retailers such as Amazon. Why? Those companies have not been paying state sales taxes for purchases made online. Some predictions put the amount of uncollected taxes on e-commerce around this country at $12 billion! Many states are pushing e-commerce companies to pony up. Other states are opting not to do much about it.

Would you support a federal law on e-commerce companies? Do you believe that e-commerce companies should pay sales taxes at all? You do understand who will probably pay higher prices as a result of states enforcing these tax rules, right?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Presidential Debates

The Republican party is holding a series of presidential debates in advance of the Republican primary elections that are coming up in early 2012. The winner of the Republican primary will square off against Barack Obama in the general election later in 2012.

It seems, however, that the Republican field is suffering a bunch of self-inflicted wounds. Rick Perry can't seem to remember which agencies he wants to cut. Mitt Romney, who is Mormon, has to deal with the fact that when he was governor of Massachusetts he implemented a health care law that looks suspiciously like the one Obama pushed through Congress. Also, will his religion be an issue with voters? Another candidate, Herman Cain, has been accused of sexual harassment by a number of women that he used to work with.

All of this begs the questions: should any of these issues matter for individuals running for president? And, what qualities matter for someone interested in running for president?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

School Unification

There is a citizen group in Galt that is pushing to have the Galt elementary district and the Galt high school district to unify into one district. Would this be a good idea? If unification did NOT save money, would you still think it was a good idea?

The citizen group is prepared to collect signatures to put this issue on the local ballot. Would you sign the petition? Would you vote for unification when/if it is on a future ballot?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Consumer Sovereignty

Bank of American recently instituted a $5 a month debit card fee. The public was upset by this causing many other banks to reconsider making a similar move. Even politicians criticized the bank for this fee. Now Bank of America is considering reversing this policy and ending the fee.

Netflix went through a similar public outcry when it attempted to break up its website and not offer DVD-by-mail and movie streaming on the same website.

Both of these are examples of the customer making a difference by voicing opposition and refusing to use the services involved. Can you think of another item in society that might cause people to get upset? What could you do to see the business change its practices?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Free Speech on Facebook

Most of you participate in some form of social networking such as Facebook. Have you ever added one of you teachers? If so, can your teacher say whatever he/she wants during off duties hours? A recent case in New jersey is testing these first amendment rights. Apparently a teacher used her Facebook account to describe homosexuality as "perverted" and that it "breeds like cancer." The teacher was objecting to the celebration of LGBT history month.

How far does a teacher's free speech rights go? Could a student who posted something derogatory on Facebook be held accountable by the school as well?

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Violent Sports

On Sunday, two-time Indy 500 winner, Dan Wheldon tragically died in a car crash at the Las Vegas 300. Car racing has a history of a considerable death toll as does boxing. In fact, football was so violent that 18 players died playing football in 1905, leading President Roosevelt to urge reforms in the rules of the game. Sadly, this past weekend a high school player from New York died in a game.

At what point do these sports become too violent? Does society have a responsibility to demand safer working conditions for athletes? Or should these sports industries be free to make money at any expense?

Keep in mind NASCAR and the NFL are both billion dollar a year industries. Is there a cost for our demand for violent sports?

Monday, October 3, 2011

Protests on Wall Street

Protests on Wall Street are entering the third week and spreading to other cities!!

These protests are focusing attention on Wall Street greed and the fact that no executives have been arrested for the economic meltdown of 2008 and the current stagnant economy. They are protesting high unemployment rates of over 9%. Poverty rates are at 15.1% now. These protesters are also pointing out the growing inequality in America.

Watch a video of the protest.

Do you wish these protesters well? Would you want to join these protesters? Yes or no?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Where Our Food Comes From

Most of us already know that the food that reaches our dinner table normally takes a very long path. Please read this article outlining this long journey. The length of this journey sometimes puts the quality of our food at risk of contamination at us at risk of death. What can we do to address this problem? After reading the article make a suggestion for how we can address this problem? More local farms? Better government regulation? Break up the grip agri-business has on our food sources?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Companies and Social Responsibility

The primary purpose of a company is to make money. Why should a company worry about its environmental record or stance on social issues? Well, that is exactly the problem in this story from the NY Times. From the article:

"A handful of advocates, armed with nothing more than their keyboards, have put many of the country’s largest retailers, including Apple, Microsoft, Netflix and Wal-Mart, on the spot over their indirect and, until recently, unnoticed roles in funneling money to Christian groups that are vocal in opposing homosexuality.

The advocates are demanding that the retailers end their association with an Internet marketer that gets a commission from the retailers for each online customer it gives them. It is a routine arrangement on hundreds of e-commerce sites, but with a twist here: a share of the commission that retailers pay is donated to a Christian charity of the buyer’s choice, from a list that includes prominent conservative evangelical groups like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family."

In other words, this Internet marketer would drum up customers for these businesses and then funnel their commission to controversial causes.

If you were a business, would you worry about whether the groups you were associating with had controversial positions on social issues, in this case homosexuality? If you were an owner of Apple, would you buckle to the pressure to quit your association with Internet marketers that give you customers but also advocate controversial ideas?

How does supply and demand impact your decision?

On another note, should Galt get a tattoo parlor?

Monday, September 19, 2011

Supply and Demand of Legalization

There has been much discussion about the benefits and drawbacks of legalization of marijuana, including a state-wide proposition in California last year. This week, our in class graded discussion will cover the issue of legalization. Here are some questions to consider as you conduct your research.
  • will legalization increase or decrease supply?
  • will demand spike as a result of legalization?
  • Will government profit by charging taxes? Reducing the number of criminals in prison?
Of course, there are moral questions to consider as well. Do we want society to accept the use of this drug?

When you post, please cite any research that you have conducted.

Monday, September 12, 2011


Chapter 4 covers the issue of demand. What dictates what you buy? Price? Service? Quality? As the law of demand dictates, the higher the price, the less we will demand it and the lower the price the more we will demand it. But other factors are relevant as well. For example, how popular is the product or service? Take a moment and describe how you would pick among the following choices.

  • What restaurant do you like the best for lunch? Why?
  • What gas station do you buy gas at? Why?
  • Where do you buy your clothes? Why?
  • What kind of breakfast cereal do you prefer? Why?
Think about what motivates you to make these decision.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September 11 Remembrance

Ten years ago this week, four planes were hijacked and crashed into the Twin Towers in New York, the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. and a field in Pennsylvania. Osama bin Laden was the financial backer behind this attack and 19 men from various countries in the Middle East carried out the attacks. As a result the United States passed the Patriot Act, attacked Afghanistan and later waged war with Iraq. While bin Laden is now dead, we still fight the two wars in the Middle East.

You were in 2nd grade when the attacks occurred. What were you doing when you first heard the news? What can you tell me about the attacks? Do you feel safe from terrorist attacks? Have the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq paid off? Do you have any other thoughts about 9/11 you would like to share? Where do we go from here?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

What Role Should the Government Play?

With Irene sweeping up the East Coast, we all watch in amazement and awe at Nature's fury and wish well to all those caught in the storm. However, who is responsible for the cleanup? Is it any of our problem that there are people left without homes? Should the federal government assist in victims of natural disasters? The same example applies in our state: should Californians receive federal aid after an earthquake hits? In these times of budget deficits, should the federal government help earthquake, hurricane and wild fire victims?

What do you say about those who chose not to purchase natural disaster insurance? Do we have an obligation to assist those who suffered through these disasters? If so, how much help do they deserve or need? Who should decide?

Essentially, what role should the government play? What would Marx and Smith say? Would you pay more in taxes to help these people? Or would you be willing to cut other government programs to offset the help?

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Downtown Arena for the Kings?

As many of you know the Sacramento Kings almost left for Southern California this spring. The Kings' ownership is seeking a new downtown arena and when the Sacramento City Council failed to provide a plan for one, the team seemed destined for Anaheim. The Maloof's pulled the plug on the move at the last minute claiming that they will keep the team in Sacramento one more year but promise to move next year if a new arena deal is not in the works. The city of Anaheim has already approved a $75 million bond to provide the Kings with a new home. The Anaheim City Council claims that corporate backing and revenues from the Honda Center will pay for the bond and that no city tax dollars will be spent on the deal. However, what will happen if corporate backers fail to develop or revenues from the arena fall short of expectations?

Sacramento has some interesting questions to answer. How much city tax dollars should be used to fund a new arena? Would a new downtown arena provide enough tax dollars and new jobs to cover the costs? Should governments be in the business of enticing sports teams to move to their cities and provide tax incentives to do so? A new 70-member commission named "Here We Build" will release a report in September outlining the feasibility of a new downtown arena.

  1. Should Sacramento try to keep the Kings with a new downtown arena?
  2. Should tax dollars be used for the new arena?
  3. In general, do cities and states benefit from having sports franchises and, if so, what should they do to keep them?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Your Next Choice (Post #2)

Within the next couple of months you will be making some critical decisions. Do you want to attend college? If so, why? Can you afford it? Does the military appeal to you? Why? How about finding a job? As you see below, the more college you complete, the greater earning potential.

But as you can see, the cost of college is increasing rapidly.

Soaring College Tuitions

The military offers some incentives for you to join.

What are the trade-offs and opportunity costs of these decisions? Which one makes the most sense for you? Why? Our in-class debate on Friday will deal with this topic.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Welcome Back to School Class of 2012!

Take this opportunity to tell us what your plans are for your senior year. What are your academic and extra-curricular goal? Do you plan on getting a job? What do you see yourself doing in one year? College? Military?

Also, don't forget to brag about your summer plans the past couple of months. What exciting adventures did you participate in?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

No More Summers (post #30)

A recent op-ed article by LZ Granderson of ESPN makes a great argument in favor of ending summer vacation as we know it and go to year round school. He points out how much knowledge is lost over the summer months and how much more competitive America could be in almost every way internationally with a year round education program. The American school year is approximately 180 days long while other countries have a 220 day year. What do students do with their summer any way? Play video games? Watch TV? Get in trouble? Granderson may be oversimplifying things but it is difficult to argue against greater student success from more days of classroom instruction. The irony here is that it looks like budget issues may make California shorten the school year further at a time when the world economy requires we must be as competitive as possible. Seniors, you are almost done and don't need to worry about losing your last summer, what do you think? Would school be more effective in preparing you for your future if there was more of it? Are there other issues you would attempt to change first? How would you make your high school educational experience more valuable?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

AP Exam on Tuesday

AP review website

Mexico Drug Wars, Is It A Shared Responsibility (post #29)

A recent op-ed piece in the Los Angeles Times, Mexico's Drug War: Crossing the Border, raises the the subject of the cross border nature of the drug wars taking place in Mexico today. Over 15,000 people died in violence related to the drug wars in Mexico in 2010. The violence has caused the deaths of Americans on both sides of the border as well. Do you think America is responsible for the violence crossing the border? The violence in Mexico? The weapons used are blamed on American private gun dealers and government programs to help Mexico fight the drug cartels. Rueben Martinez the author of the piece also points out that the illegal drug market in the United States is a driving force in the slaughter happening in Mexico. Most of the illegal drugs used in America come from or through Mexico. The huge demand in America drives the the whole illegal drug trade. What do you think should be done? Is this just Mexico's problem? Should the U.S. expand it's involvement in ending the cartel's power over Mexico? What do you think? Please respect the thoughts of others when blogging.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The bin Laden Factor (post #28)

It seems natural to spend the second half of this week discussing the ramifications of the bin Laden killing. Does the bin Laden killing mark a significant milestone in the war of terror? What are (or should be) the goals for the US war on terror? At what point do we know we have won the war? Should President Obama get credit for this event and is it justified that his approval ratings will go up? Are the democracy movements in the Middle East a reflection of the success of our war on terror? How much money should we continue to spend on the war on terror at the expense of other priorities?

Please add any other thoughts about the bin Laden killing and the war on terror that you think might be relevant.

UPDATE: The Obama administration has decided not to release any photos of the dead bin Laden. Wise decision?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Power of Corporate America Courtesy of the Supreme Court (post #27)

In 1886, the Supreme Court ruled (Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad) that corporations have the same rights as a person. Since that time corporations have enjoyed free speech rights with limited liability. More recently, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations can spend unlimited amounts of money in getting a candidate elected to federal office (Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission). Now, just last week, the Supreme Court ruled that consumers are not allowed to bring forward class action lawsuits against corporations.

Here is the background as told by this article:

"The Concepcions, the California couple who filed the case, went to court contending that AT&T misled them when it billed them $30.22 for a cell phone that was supposedly free. Because there was reason to believe the charges were widespread - the carrier said it was simply assessing sales tax for the actual cost of a subsidized phone - their lawyers filed the case as a class action.

AT&T fought them on procedural grounds: It said the Concepcions had no right to be in court at all, because their contract with the carrier required that disputes be resolved via arbitration. And it said they also had no right to claim that other customers were similarly harmed, because the Concepcions' contract with AT&T barred them from joining in a class action - in court or before an arbitrator.

AT&T's solution? Customers who felt wronged could try to get their money back by filing individually for arbitration. And the company touted its unusually consumer-friendly arbitration process, under which a successful claimant could get lawyers' fees and even a bonus award of $7,500 - if the arbitrator found he or she was entitled to more than AT&T's final offer.

Ruling in AT&T's favor, Justice Antonin Scalia said the case turned on a 1925 law, the Federal Arbitration Act, that he said preempted California state law. "Arbitration is a matter of contract," Scalia wrote, "and the FAA requires courts to honor parties' expectations."

What's the problem with Scalia's ruling? Unless Congress intervenes, the court has essentially allowed any company that deals with consumers to mistreat them with impunity. By writing a contract that mandates arbitration and at the same time bars class actions, a company can insulate itself from the only kind of legal challenge - a class action - that can deal with a large number of small-dollar wrongs."

Does this ruling seem fair? How much power should corporations have compared to consumers? Should Congress intervene and pass a law or Constitutional amendment to work around this ruling?

What about the concept of federalism? The court is clearly holding a 1925 federal law supreme over state law. Are you pleased with that?

On another tangent, should federal judges have term limits? Should citizens be allowed to conduct a national referendum to repeal Supreme Court rulings?

Please express your thoughts with civility and respect.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

California Legislature may change what History is taught in public schools (Post #26) due Friday

The states determine what curriculum should be taught for each grade and what classes should be required for graduation.  In California, you are all aware of the courses you've had and the general material in them.  Well a bill in the California state assembly if passed would require public schools to include gay history.  A similar bill was vetoed by the Governor in 2006  The reason for the bill is to create awareness for a minority group that has received bullying, hate crimes, and a higher suicide rate among teens.
Over the years, the history of African Americans, Native americans, women, and many other immigrant ethnic groups have been added to history requirements.  How is this similar or different?

While sharing your opionion about the teaching of gay history, refrain from lifestyle judgements or rude comments.  You will be deleted, fail to receive credit and possibly school actions depending on the severity of your comments.

Read the linked article above to see arguments on both sides.

Do you believe this should be added to public school curriculum or not? If so, what grades might be appropriate? Give your reasoning.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Presidential hopefuls 2012 (post #25)

Last week President Barak Obama announced his intention to run for the 2012 presidential re-election. The Republicans have a list of possible presidential nominees from the House and Senate along with a few state governors. The names range from the well known and controversial Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney to the less well known and more centrist Chris Christie and Tim Pawlenty. Recently the loudest and most visible republican hopeful has been Donald Trump. For the past couple of weeks he has been on any and every television talk show that will have him and discusses the nature of Obama's American citizenship. (see below) "The greatest con in history," Trump declares unhesitatingly. Is this true? Did the Democratic party find a Muslim Kenyan Senator to run for president of the United States of America? Or is it possible Donald Trump knows an opportunity for self promotion when he sees one. What do you think? Who will run against the incumbent? After a mid-term election trouncing by the republicans and Tea party politicians will the office go back to the the other side of the aisle. Who would you like to see run and why? What would be best for America? Please the opinions of others when you blog.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Electoral College and the Interstate Compact (Post #24)

AB 459 is a bill currently before the California legislature that would change the way our state allocates its 55 Electoral College votes for President.

Currently, California has a winner-take-all approach. Whichever candidate wins the popular vote in California essentially wins all 55 of California's Electoral votes. For example, Obama won the popular vote by 24% over McCain so he received all 55 of California's Electoral votes. If Obama had only won by .01% he still would have won all of California's Electoral votes. Either way, public opinion polls showed that Obama would cruise to victory so neither candidate spent any time campaigning in California. This bill would attempt to bring California, which has over 12% of the nations' voters, back into play.

Normally, the only way to change the Electoral College is to amend the Constitution but that requires 2/3rds of a vote in Congress and ratification by 3/4th of the states. This is a tall task. Instead this bill relies on Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution which allows states to make interstate compacts (agreements) and Article II, section I which allows states to decide how it wants to allocate its Electoral votes.

Here is what the bill would do: California would award its 55 Electoral votes to the nation-wide popular vote winner. In other words, whichever candidate wins the most votes across the country would get all of California's Electoral votes. If states with Electoral votes totaling 270 (out of 538 possible) or more decide to join this interstate compact, then it becomes official and the next president of the United States will be elected through popular vote.

If you were a state politician would you vote for this bill? Why? Why not?

Here is an argument against the bill.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sales Tax on the Internet (post #23)

Due to state budget deficits, there is a movement going on across the nation to begin collecting sales tax for purchases made on the Internet. Currently, if you buy something online from another state, you are not paying that state's sales tax. Many states are moving to change that, including conservative states such as Texas.

The Supreme Court has ruled that for a state to require a company to charge and collect a sale eBay and Amazon are fighting this movement.

Do you think it is a wise idea for states to ask companies to collect sales taxes for online sales across state lines? Is this something the federal government (Congress) should take up based on the Commerce Clause?

Is this a fair tax? Your thoughts?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Would schools and teachers encourage cheating? (Post #22)

Beginning April 5th, Galt High will begin taking the California Standards Tests for the 9th through 11th graders.  Our government uses incentives to encourage or discourage behavior.  Rewards (usually money) and punishments (fines, closings, and firings) are used.  For students historically, the test has no punishments and minor rewards.  This week, for example, some of you were invited to lunch with a teacher and some of you were let out of class early and given ice cream. This year, Galt High is offering a grade boost for high scores, but not for Fs.
Most incentives for the test affect schools and jobs.  Schools with low scores can be closed and Principals and teachers can be fired.  By 2014, the federal law dictates, 100% of public school students must be 'proficient' in math and reading. If not, a school can face replacement of its entire staff.
Some states and localities have rewards as well, including up to $25,000 bonuses for teachers with good scores and improvement.  So what are the consequences of high rewards and high punishments?
Schools in Washington D.C. have joined a list of schools around the country under investigation for irregularities in their testing on statewide standardized tests.  The claim is that cheating is occurring, including one teacher in Ohio who gave his class the answers to study before the test.  Read the article, so you have some basis to add to your answers.

Cheating already occurs among students on tests that affect their grades.

Does making a test count encourage more cheating?  For example, compare a practice test or CST before the grade bump to a normal in class test or a final exam.
What do you think the overall results of offering a letter grade increase will do to CST test scores?
Do all teachers do enough to prevent cheating?  Give examples if you know some.
If money were an incentive, would that make people work harder or just be more dishonest or both?
If you might get fired over low test scores, is cheating worth saving your job?
What then is the solution?  How do we get students and teachers and schools to educate and assess and care about the results?
Big question I know, but give it a shot.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Has the U.S. entered another Middle Eastern War? (Post #21)

Many questions have been raised since the United States began air attacks on Libya a week ago as part of a United Nations coalition. America turned the lead in the air strikes over to the U.N. Sunday night. President Obama will address the nation Monday night to answer some of the people's questions about our nations involvement in another foreign entanglement. The president's worst critics accuse him of an unconstitutional war and call for his impeachment while his supporters claim that the action prevented a massacre and will lead to eventual democracy. We are all feeling the effect of the disturbance in the form of rising gas prices. How do you feel about our military's involvement in another conflict? Can we afford the sacrifice of blood and treasure required to maintain our role as the moral police of the world? Or, is this a key key battlefield in the war on terrorism? Check the links for more information and respect others opinions when blogging.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Competition in the Telecommunications Marketplace (Post #20)

Most high school students have their own cell phone and by the time they are out on their own, practically 100% of you will be paying for cell phone service to some provider.  Many of you have heard that AT&T is purchasing T-Mobile for $39 billion in cash and stock.  T-Mobile has been owned by a German company that will receive a share of AT&T of less than 10% as part of the merger.  Currently Verizon ranks #1 in customers, AT&T #2, Sprint #3, and T-Mobile #4.  This merger will make AT&T #1 with Spring a distant 3rd.  The FCC and the department of Justice will review the sale and probably won't make a decision for 12 months.  Read the FAQ regarding what the merger means to customers.

What service, if any, do you currently have?
How do you think AT&T will benefit from the deal?
If the telecommunications industry is an oligopoly(market dominated by a few) already, what will be the effect of reduced competition?
What will be the effect on quality, service, and price in your informed opinion?
Why might the FCC and department of Justice block the sale?
AT&T claims that consumers will benefit from the merge.  Are there economies of scale (larger companies result in lower costs than smaller companies) in this industry?
Are you in favor of this merger? Why or why not?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Disaster in Japan, what effect on the economy? (Post #19)

As we are all aware, a major tragedy struck Japan over a week ago.  The loss of life, damage to property, and risk of radiation from nuclear power plants have been all over the news.  There are scarcities of water, food, and fuel in the impacted area for residents and rescue workers.  Additionally, Japanese stocks have fallen as industries have lost production. Japan is a major exporter in the region and that means less goods for other nations. 

Read and answer questions on any one of the links and stories below.  After answering them, include this question at the end: what could the U.S. could learn from this experience?

The cost of rebuilding will put burden on Japanese debt which is already one of the highest in the world.
Who will pay for the rebuilding in Japan?
How will Japan finance this debt?
Why do they already have such a big problem?

Production of energy is vital to operate a nation's industry.  With the loss of nuclear plants, Japan must rely more on natural gas and foreign petroleum.  This impact on foreign oil may affect prices throughout the world.
What affect could this have on the U.S. Economy?  Why?
Why would other nations look to buy Japanese yen in this situation?
How would we benefit from this?

The World Bank is an nongovernmental international organization whose purpose is to assist nations with loans.  They forecast a temporary slowdown of the Japanese economy, followed by a recovery.  Read the article on the link.
Based on the reading, explain in your own words how an economy's GDP could benefit from this situation?
Be specific to what is happening to Japan and how that relates to a nation's GDP.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In Free Market We Trust? (Post #17)

Many of you have noticed that gas prices have inched up to $4.00 a gallon. This increase in gas prices may hamper the nascent economic recovery that is taking place in our economy and it comes at a time when oil companies are reeling in record profit levels.

The question becomes: should the government step in to regulate the price of gas?

A free-market advocate would argue that the increase in gas prices and the record profits of the oil companies are results of the finest aspects of capitalism. Oil companies are simply passing along the cost of the crises in the Middle East and consumers in America are not willing to adjust their lifestyles or purchasing patterns to keep costs down. Free market advocates would also argue that taxing oil companies or charging them a "obsessive profit" tax would undermine the incentive oil companies have to supply more of their product.

Regulators, on the other hand, would argue that since oil companies are making record profits at the expense of consumers who are tied into a car culture (inelastic demand?) that they cannot quickly change, the government should regulate. This regulation could keep the price of gas down while still allowing for a more modest profit for the oil companies. In this way, the government could also keep the modest economic recovery from falling apart.

Where do you stand? Regulate on oil companies or let the market take its natural course? Where do you think the major political parties stand on this issue?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What are Your Plans? (Post #16)

Here is a survey of the economic terrain just three months before you graduate from high school:

The national unemployment rate dropped to 8.9% last week.

The California legislature increased community college costs $10 a unit, making a 12 unit semester cost $432 dollars. Costs and four-year colleges are escalating as well.

While the military offers various opportunities, you are obligated to serve for a specific amount of time and you may be sent to one of the several active war zones.

For profit private institutions such as Heald and DeVry are very expensive and have been under scrutiny by the federal government.

To summarize: the employment outlook may be improving while college costs continue to rise. The military, as usual, provides some opportunities but it also controls your time. What route do you see yourself taking and why? What are the opportunity costs and trade offs of your decision?

Where will you be one year from now?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

America and Libya (Post #15)

Libya is in the midst of a violent civil war with mercenaries from Africa are fighting the revolting citizens of that country. Kadafi is using bombers to try and take back lost ground while the rebels manage to hold on against unbelievable odds. Human rights are being stomped on by the dictator who seems to be in complete denial blaming the countries problems on Al Qaeda who he says drugged the populace to cause this uprising. Talk of american and U.N. intervention has begun. Should we, america, become involved to end human rights abuses and to oust the dictator? Should we stay out of the middle east and worry about issues here? As the worlds police force where do we stand? Please respect the opinions of others when you blog

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Wisconsin Protests (Post #14)

Governor Scott Walker just passed legislation he deemed necessary due to his states budget shortfall. About two weeks before the of piece legislation got to the point of being voted on protests broke out and the state police had to be sent to find fourteen democrat legislators who left the state to stall the vote. Why all the drama over state budget cuts, see below, when they are happening across the nation? The real issue behind all the problems in the state of Wisconsin has to do with public workers unions and their right to collectively bargain in negotiations between employee and employer. Governor Walker is not completely stripping public workers of their rights but is definitely making serious inroads in that direction against long held, uniquely american labor rights. This issue has quickly divided the already partisan public of america into two distinct camps, one supporting union rights, and another who seem to blame some or all of our current state economic problems on unions. What is your opinion in this growing political battle? Do you support the Governor? Do you support the public workers like firefighters, police, and teachers? Are there other ways to meet the universal state budget crunch? Please respect the opinions of others when you blog.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Representative vs. Direct Democracy in California (Post #12)

To continue our theme from eariler this week, the topic of balancing the budget, many students failed to do so successfully without some raising of taxes.  Governor Brown promised in his campaign that he would not raise taxes without the voters approval.  The California legislature must pass all taxes with a two-thirds majority.  The Governor currently is proposing to have the state legislature vote to put a measure on the ballot this June that would extend taxes increased under Arnold Schwarzenegger that would otherwise expire in July.  The Governor has a plan to cut spending even further (mainly in education) to balance the budget should these taxes not be extended.  Click here to see what the results to budget would look like.  Recently, a state senator was quoted as saying that Republicans will not vote to put the tax measure on the June ballot.  Since Democrats are a majority of the legislature, they need only two or three Republican votes (depending on an upcoming special election) to pass the measure with two-thirds in the State Senate.
Since we are a representative democracy, our legislature is elected to vote on budgets, taxes, laws, etc. But we also have the inititative and referendum which allow California voters to directly pass laws, taxes, and other concerns affecting the state.

So here are the questions:
Should lawmakers directly vote on the taxes for us? (meaning have them vote yes or no) or is this a topic that citizens should get to decide? (whether or not you would vote for it) explain why

What influence do constituents have on their local state senators and assemblypersons that might impact the budget and/or this measure being placed on the ballot? (what could someone do, if anything)

If the measures are placed on the ballot in June, seeing what the consequences are (linked above), what are your thoughts?  You may discuss how you might vote, but if that is private to you, then discuss the consequence of either the tax increase or the cut in spending or both.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Balance the State Budget (Post #11)

Sorry folks, you're going to need a real computer for this one.  Your phone won't be able to handle the link.  Go to this website for Adobe Flashplayer if you have trouble with it.  And even though there is no school on Monday, it is still due on Wednesday.
California is facing a $27.6 billion deficit over the next 18 months.  The single largest area of spending is K-12, community college, CSU, and UC education.  Click on this link here to balance the state of California's budget with a gadget provided by the Sacramento Bee.  Right click on it and choose to open it as a new tab or window, so you can reference this page as well.
Your assignment is to go through all of the spending categories and choose which ones to cut.  Once you've done this, answer the questions below.  Go ahead and answer them in narrative form (meaning write it as a paragraph) and address those questions that were the most relevant to how you thought and felt about this exercise.  Good luck.

How easy or hard did you find it to balance the budget?
What was easy for you to cut?  Were there any cuts you made that were difficult for you?  Which ones?
What did you think of Governor Brown's proposals?  Did they go too far or not far enough?  Why?
Did you need to raise taxes to balance the budet (those were the ones that added revenue)?
Which taxes, if any, were you most comfortable raising?
If everything you chose actually happened, what would be the effect on California? Show you understand the costs of your decisions.
Since overall, this was a fairly easy exercise in balancing the budget, why do you think our government has such a hard time doing it?  Think about your answer.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Student Online Access (#10)

As many of you know the Galt Joint High School District blocks wikipedia, blogs, and Facebook (among other things) from school computers. Do you think this is a good policy or can you make the academic case for opening up Internet access to a wider selection of sites?

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wal-Mart Good for Galt? (#9; due Wednesday)

A Sacramento Superior Court (using judicial review) recently ruled that the city of Galt can continue to move forward with the construction of a 133,000 square foot Wal-Mart. The court
ruled that the environmental documents necessary for such a project do not need to be revisited. There still are other hurdles the company and city need to overcome before Wal-Mart becomes official but estimates now put ground breaking sometime around spring 2012.

Naturally, there are many trade-offs and opportunity costs associated with the establishment of a Wal-Mart in Galt. How will it impact pollution, traffic and property values? Will other local businesses suffer? Will the tax revenue that Wal-Mart brings in be worth the costs? How many jobs will this create and will they be good jobs?

On another level, we see the role of local government: our federal system allows for local decisions to be made by local governments, in this case the Galt City Council. Is the Council making a wise decision?

What are your thoughts on the very real possibility that Wal-Mart may soon be part of the Galt scene?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Is she serious.....enough? (Post #8)

With the next presidential elections coming in 2012 the republicans are looking for a candidate to run against Barak Obama. The list of possible nominees is long with names like Mit Romney, Donald Trump, and Sarah Palin among others. Sarah Palin the former vice-presidential candidate, Governor of Alaska, and reality television star, is in the news again. After the State of the Union address she commented the president's speech using a fairly common acronym "WTF." The president was referring to "winning the future" Ms. Palin was not. She has been described as "folksy," unorthodox, funny, and cute. Are any of these terms appropriate to describe a future president? Does she possess the necessary gravitas? Would Ms. Palin have the ability to deal with the extremely serious position of President of the United States? What is your opinion in this matter? Would you be happy with President Palin or not? Please be respectful of other opinions when you blog.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Egypt, Who Do We Support? (Post #7)

Egyptians have taken to the streets in protest of a despotic, corrupt, and U.S. supported government. After days of protest and a couple of "flinches" by President Mubarak regarding a new cabinet and the constitution Egyptians continue to protest with a million man march planned for Tuesday. America is in a precarious position here, do we support Mubarak and his repressive regime or do we support a move towards free elections and democracy? Even if it means a rise to power for the Muslim Brotherhood the main opposition to the current government? Is this a repeat performance of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 that saw America's good friend the Shah Reza Pahlavi lose power to the Ayatollah Khomeini and fundamentalist Islam? What about America's best ally in the area Israel and how they feel about the possibility of a pro-Palestinian Egypt next door and another Six Day War with the chance of a different outcome? If you were the president how would you handle this difficult foreign policy issue?Would you support Mubarak or a new democratic government and the uncertainty of free elections? Please respect the opinions of other bloggers.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union: Jobs and America (Post #6)

As your years of mandatory schooling soon comes to an end, you will all be faced with the task of finding work and surviving in the economy.  Some of you will attend college first, but that will only delay the inevitable.  Your future doesn't just depend on what you do, but it depends on others as we are all interdependent in the economy.  Watch the video of the President's speech (about 4 minutes), listen carefully, and address the questions below. 

Do you agree with his view on American jobs past, present, and future? Are you as optimistic for the country as he is (short term, long term)? Will we continue to lead or be passed up by nations like China?
Are you optimistic for yourself? Has your education prepared you for the world? Will it when you have finished? What will your role in the economy be?
What will it take on the part of citizens (not the government) to improve America's economic future? What can the government to do help?

Post your responses by Friday.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Organ Transplants and Scarcity (Post #5)

Around the world, governments and citizens make decisions on how to best use scarce resources.  In the case of organs, science has made great strides with surgeries that allow one person's organ to be put into another body, thereby extending the life of someone who otherwise faces death.  38% of American adults are identified as organ donors on our driver's licenses.  A deceased person's family have the option to choose to donate at the time of death, as well.  People can also voluntarily give up their own organs while they are alive. .For example, we have two kidneys and can survive with one, bone marrow, and blood and plasma can be given.
The problem is that not nearly enough of these organs are available and people in need are placed on lists during which time many die while waiting their turn--having never received their donor organs because of the shortage of organs.  The only incentive is the rewarding feeling of helping someone else and obviously that isn't enough to solve the problem.  A blackmarket exists in some countries where those with enough money can find an organ while those without cannot.
In the nation of Israel, they have a long history of problems getting organs.  "Most Jews are under the mistaken impression that traditional Jewish law requires a body be buried whole at all costs," according to Robby Berman.  So in 2008, a law was passed in Israel to give donor card carriers a legal right to priority treatment if they should require an organ transplant.  Also, families who agree to donate the organs of deceased loved ones may accept money to "memorialize" the deceased.  These decisions to donate must be made by the individual while they are alive in order to qualify.  So, Israel has become the 1st nation in the world to legally do both of these things.

Read either linked article underlined blue above and consider the following questions.
Are you an organ donor or do you plan to be one?
What could be done to help encourage your decision or the decisions of others to become one?
If you needed a kidney or other organ, how far would you go to get one?
What should the United States do to increase the quantity of organs available for transplant?
Consider and explain both the pros(benefits) and cons(costs) of the idea you present.

Please post your comments by Wednesday Jan. 26

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Anchor Babies Aweigh (Post #4)

The 14th Amendment (1868) guarantees citizenship rights to people born in the United States. Here is the relevant part of the 14th amendment:

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside."

This amendment was passed after the Civil War in light of the South's tendency to deprive slaves basic citizenship rights. For over 100 years since the passage of this amendment babies born in the United States have been granted US citizenship.

More recently, however, there are calls from some politicians to change what they call the "anchor baby" loophole. Proponents of this change argue that a large number of illegal immigrants take advantage of the 14th amendment by sneaking over the border, giving birth, and then reaping the benefits of citizenship for their family because the child born here is a US citizen.

Arguments in favor of birthright citizenship.
Arguments in favor of ending birthright citizenship.

Here is your task:
  • Does the original intent to the authors of the 14th amendment matter? Did they really think their amendment would apply to so-called "anchor babies?" Does it?
  • Should the 14th amendment be amended to prevent babies of illegal immigrants from being granted citizenship rights by birth?
  • Should citizenship be based on where you are born or what the citizenship rights of your parents are?
Definition of jus soli.
Definition of jus sanguinis

Please use good judgment in your responses.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Constitution Now and Then (#3)

As its first order of business in the 112th Congress, the new Republican leadership decided to read the US Constitution out loud. The implication of this reading is that the previous Congress (which was controlled by Democrats) had lost touch with the true meaning of the US Constitution.

This issue brings up a wider discussion of the term "original intent." Much debate has taken place over what our Founding fathers intended for the Constitution and whether their original intent is being followed by our current politicians. But did all our Founding Fathers agree on the original intent of the Constitution and if so can we accurately decipher what that intent was over 225 years later? Additionally, is their original intent still relevant to us in 2011?

With that said, what was the original intent of the founding fathers regarding the 2nd amendment and our right to bear arms? Here is what the 2nd amendment reads:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Does this amendment refer to our personal rights to bear arms or is this a right from a bygone era where states were responsible for raising an army and protecting its people with militias.

Incidentally, the Supreme Court has not made many rulings on the 2nd amendment over the course of our history but most significantly, it did rule in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) that individuals have a personal right to bear arms in federal enclaves (Washington D.C.) outside the jurisdiction of a militia. The Court will soon rule on whether individuals have that right in the 50 states.

But what would our Founding Fathers say about the status of guns in society in 2011? Would they hold true to their 18th century beliefs or would they see a need to adjust to the needs of our current society? Do we need to protect ourselves from a tyrannical government in the same way our ancestors did in the 1700s?

Current Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer argues that our Founding Fathers would support gun control.

Original intent: Federalist #29 on the militia.

Here is your task:
  • Can you accurately determine what the original intent of the Founders was on the issue of gun rights? Be sure to cite your information.
  • Do you believe the Founding Fathers would approach the issue of gun rights the same way today? Explain and defend yourself.
As usual stay civil and within the bounds of good taste, especially in light of the recent tragedy in Arizona.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Who's to Blame? (Post #2)

On Saturday in Tucson Arizona twenty two year old Jared Loughner committed the heinous crime of mass murder killing six and wounding fourteen including Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. This tragic event was immediately blamed on the vicious and vitriolic nature of political discourse in America today. Both sides of our unbiased news media found a way to put the cause of this horrible event on each other. Did the media incite violence in this terrible event? Or, could it actually have been a sad act committed by a disillusioned psychopath unaffected by politics right or left? What do you think? Has political discourse in this country gone too far? Is there any connection to freedom of speech here? Please be respectful of other bloggers opinions. (More here, please follow the links)

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What does it all mean? (post #1)

Recently the United States has experienced several fish and bird mass die offs. This has been a much discussed issue in the media. Even Jim Carey joked that the world was ending in reference to what has happened in Arkansas and Louisiana as well as other places around the country and world on Saturday Night Live. Many theories have been offered to explain these animal deaths ranging from secret weapons tests to nature to armageddon. What do you think? Please be respectful of others opinions while blogging