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.