Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Polticians and Teenagers

As J asked… Do we drive accountability by passing referendums or defeating them? I gave some thought regarding this question and it reminded me of my teenager and one of my favorite comics.

The following is one of my favorites from the comic strip named ZITs. A must read for any parent with teenage kids.

Now I love spending on my children, seeing them so happy and having them truly appreciating me. (or at least my wallet) How can someone not want to do this? I mean, they think they really need those events and items, don’t they? Won’t I harm them by limiting them? And I love that great feeling!!!

Then reality hits and crashes my party!!! It is at this time that I remember we have ~3 years to turn this typical teenager into a functional early adult. And therefore as a responsible parent, it is my job to say no and play Scrooge often. How else will she learn the value of work, budgeting, responsibility, etc?

The simple reality is that a normal teenager could very happily spend an unlimited amount of cash on things and activities that they think they really need!!! In this way I think they are very similar to Politicians...

The simple reality is that a normal Politician could very happily spend an unlimited amount of cash on things and activities that they think they really need!!! With this in mind, maybe the only way to hold politicians accountable is to limit their funding. Imagine the extreme alternative... If the politicians had unlimited funds from us citizen's (ie Parents), do you really think they would run out of programs, projects, buildings, wars, parks, museums, etc.... Do you think they would work to be productive, efficient, responsible, etc or would they just try to make everyone happy?

It is likely that J has made a very good point, though of course are we willing to have kids lose programs, equipment, Teachers, etc while the Politicians, Boards, Admins and Teachers (ie Union) struggle to become mature responsible "adults"??? Thoughts?

Legislative Candidate Forum Notes

I attended the LAC Legislative Candidate Forum last night. There were ~16 candidates and ~70 attendees. The diversity and similarities in answers were fascinating and pretty well along party lines.

How to improve funding? (ie need to prioritize education funding, improve accountability, repay shifts and stop borrowing from schools, etc) How to close gap? (ie teach parents to be better parents, improve accountability, early education, more school for at risk kids, smaller class sizes, etc)

After about an hour, they broke us into small groups by District. This was great because it allowed us to have some more direct face time with our particular candidates. I am in District 43, so mine were Sarah Anderson vs Audrey Britton, and Norann Dillon vs Terri Bonoff. Since I love psychology, it was fascinating watching the 4 candidates interact this close to the election. You can definitely tell the stress level is pretty high, and they are on edge. The good news was that there were no wrestling matches, though that would have been interesting. It also reminded me that I will never become a politician. (ie too much soft talk to avoid alienating some constituency)

Some hot topics discussed in the breakout were tenure, bullying laws, how to get kids ready for kindergarten, etc. Though Terri is much smoother and more experienced than Norann, I found Norann a refreshing change from the typical politician and she will likely get my vote. Audrey was way too passionate about passing additional anti-bullying laws for my taste, I’ll stick with Sarah. I am sure that they are the GOP candidates had nothing to do with my decision. (wink wink nod nod…)

More thoughts?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Your Vote Matters for Schools

Don't forget to attend... Whether you are inside or outside the RAS community... Below is the info and link...

The Legislative Action Coalition (LAC) of Robbinsdale Area Schools will host a public forum featuring area candidates for the Minnesota State Legislature on Tuesday, October 26 from 7 to 9 p.m.

This free forum will allow voters to hear candidates’ views on education, to consider their proposals for funding education in the face of a $5.6 billion projected budget shortfall, and to prepare for the upcoming election by meeting the candidates face-to-face. All legislative candidates from senate districts 43, 44, 45 and 46 who represent Robbinsdale Area Schools have been invited.

"Strong schools are the key to healthy, vibrant communities," said LAC co-chair Kami Aho. "Minnesota’s students traditionally outperform the nation’s schools, but decisions made by state leaders are putting this tradition in jeopardy. This year’s election will be critical for the future of education in Minnesota."

The Legislative Action Coalition is a group of community members (both parents and nonparents) established by the Robbinsdale Area School School Board to be an advocate for our public school district and the learners, families and communities it serves.

The forum will be held at Robbinsdale Area Schools' Education Service Center, 4148 Winnetka Ave N in New Hope. For more about the LAC, go to and click on Legislative Action Coalition, or contact Andrea Wiley at 763-504-4087 or


Friday, October 15, 2010

Better Public Education

Work has been crazy of late, so I am running a bit behind on my blogs. However this one is worth discussing. Historically 281 Exposed has been a bit controversial, in my opinion they have been improving their content and tone. And this post marks a great turning point, they discuss some excellent ideas.

281 Exposed A Way Forward

They seem pretty rational and business like to me:

  • We can’t spend more than we have
  • Get out of defined pensions
  • This is a tough one, but perhaps we need to consider making some cuts permanent.
  • Negotiate Merit Pay
  • Get rid of steps but not lanes
  • Shorter referendums
  • End tenure
  • Simplify the formula
  • Level the playing field and end some mandates
  • Get rid of some school districts
  • Competition
  • Federal Funding

On an unrelated topic, I owed folks a list of some key things I would change in order to improve public education. Here they are:

  • Ensure Teacher's are evaluated based on subjective (ie Principal, Peer & Parent/Student feedback) and objective (typical student academic improvement during the year as compared to other similar classes with similar demographics/challenges) criteria. Then set their compensation and responsibilities accordingly. No steps or lanes, since advanced degrees and experience hold no value if they do not improve capability and performance.
  • Discontinue tenure and provide serious Employee Opinion Survey and Upward Feedback systems. Actively use these to address the employee's concerns and improve their engagement. Bad managers, peers, systems, processes, etc must be removed or improved if the employees are to be highly motivated and highly energetic. (ie one questionable Mgr can stifle a whole school) The Mgr must value and compensate the best Teachers, not just try to meet the budget. Besides who needs tenure, that's why we have age discrimination laws...
  • Me and 281E part ways here. Create ~20 std national curriculums that work for different situations (ie economics, population, culture, etc) and get rid of at least 50% of the districts. We live in one country, let's get some common education and economies of scale going on. We do not need 360+ different districts, boards and admins creating unique curriculum in Minnesota alone... Give me a break
  • Schools need to embrace competition instead of fearing it. The motivation, energy and creativity it can create within your organizations can be incredible. Besides the "burning platform" may help you sell required changes to the status quo folks. And the community's kids can only gain from adults who are working harder to improve and teach them. (ie instead of resting on their laurels)


Monday, October 11, 2010

Healthcare Cost Control (4)

Well everyone wants to talk about old folks, and Annie's thinking I am voting for roving death squads to wander the Old Folk's Homes freeing up beds, so let's move to part 4 and meet the reader's needs. This should be interesting.

While taking an MBA course, the professor had us practice a technique that is used to resolve differences between people's beliefs, and to help them understand the other's perspective. The technique was named the veil/oracle of ???... (anyone know?) He divided the class into 2 groups, and assigned one to the PRO side and the other to the CON side of a topic. Then each student needed to write a one page paper in support of their view without putting their name on it. (just an ID code) The instructor then collected the papers and redistributed them to students with opposing view. I think we repeated this cycle a couple of times.

The result of this process was an interesting consensus. Even though many of the people had religious, ethical, societal and other concerns. By the end, each of these students fully supported the concept that Physician Assisted Suicide should be their legal right. Note: this was during the Dr Kevorkian time period and it was highly publicized.

Now, it may have been that these Type A High Achievers were just Control freaks. Because the factor that overwhelmed all others was that they did not want the Government preventing them from dying on their terms, when they chose.

With this in mind:
  • Why in the world does the government prevent it's citizens from committing suicide? I can understand the anti-abortion argument, since that is someone else's life. But if an adult wants to end it, who are we to interfere?
  • If it was legal, a person could pull the plug before incurring all those end of life health costs that we just discussed... Also, life insurance would be required to pay out in most cases. If my prognosis is terminal and I am in pain, I would rest in peace much better if I did not wipe out my spouse's nest egg.
  • Wouldn't it be nice to invite your family to be with you at the end? While you can still recognize them and they have pleasant memories of you just drifting off.
  • Would your God really want you to lie in severe pain and dementia waiting for death?

An interesting twist on the topic was addressed in Star Trek The Next Generation "Half a Life". In this episode, the crew interact with a race whose culture believes that it's citizens should end their life before they get old and infirm. David Ogden Stiers (Charles from MASH) agonizes over if he should stick with the cultural norm, or if he should rebel and live on. If I remember correctly, he honors his people's culture and submits to the end of life ceremony...

So what do you think, is Physician Assisted Suicide:

  • a good way to cut healthcare costs?
  • a violation of God's rules?
  • an unnecessary governmental interference in a very personal matter?
  • a step on the slippery slope toward roving death squads?
  • a way to promote dignity and peace in the dying process?
  • Thoughts?

Wiki Assisted Suicide
Ethics in Medicine PAD

Over the years I have spent a great deal of time in various nursing homes. I always wonder what some of the residents would do if they had a choice? What if they could have put a Physician Assisted Suicide order in their Living Will before the dementia hit?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Helathcare Cost Control (3)

Posting those Healthcare slides has given me a lead into something I started early in the year when the topic was hot. The posting of pointed thoughts and questions about healthcare cost, and our own contribution to the escalating problem. Here is the background:

G2A USA Spending Priorities
G2A Healthcare Cost Control 1
G2A Healthcare Cost Control 2

Today's topic: The weakening of the Human Race and the Growth of Long term Care Costs...

Darwin's Evolutionary Theory is based on Natural Selection. My simplified definition is that the weak or those no longer suited for the changing environment die. And the strong or well suited to the changing environment, live and propagate. So what happens when modern medicine is used to unwisely prevent natural selection?

I propose that we pull many babies, kids and adults back from the natural course of things and subject them to a life time of care centers, nursing homes, group homes, etc. The cost of which is carried by society. With this in mind, should we "save" everyone that we can?

Now let's compound the problem. The weakened human is not institutionalized, yet they require significant healthcare. Then they choose to propagate, thereby passing along and spreading the genetic defect. Thereby growing the population of those that require extensive healthcare intervention. With this in mind, should we "save" everyone that we can?

Stop and think. How many kids, adults and senior citizens do you know that have a low quality of life and are driving up the cost of healthcare?

I had a ~95 yr old Great Aunt who was ready to pass, she had lived a full life and could no longer get around. She was ready... Yet a nurse tried to convince a family member to use heroic measures to save her when she got sick. Thankfully the family member held their and my Great Aunt's ground. Enough is enough... You may want to make sure you have a living will in place, or they will turn you into a zombie...

Of course it gets harder with younger people or when it your friends/family, however the situations are often similar. Now as usual, I do not have an answer. What are your thoughts on the topic? When is saving someone a really BAD idea? Who should make the decision? Who should bear the cost of the BAD decision?

Now on the lighter side. Movie Trailer Movie Trailer 2 Stunt1 Stunt2 With this in mind, should we "save" everyone that we can? Do we want these people propagating? And do you really want to carry their healthcare costs?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fun Keeps You Healthy

Sometimes I get very lazy... And these are so cute... Thanks to those that sent them in and who ever created them...

Let me get this straight. We're going to be "gifted" with a health care plan we are forced to purchase and fined if we don't, written by a committee whose chairman says he doesn't understand it, passed by a Congress that hasn't read it but exempts themselves from it, to be signed by a president who also smokes, with funding administered by a treasury chief who didn't pay his taxes, to be overseen by a surgeon general who is obese, and financed by a country that's broke.

What the heck could possibly go wrong?

I do not like this Uncle Sam,
I do not like his health care scam.
I do not like these dirty crooks,
or how they lie and cook the books.
I do not like when Congress steals,
I do not like their secret deals.
I do not like this speaker Nan,
I do not like this 'YES, WE CAN'.
I do not like this spending spree---
I'm smart, I know that nothing's free.
I do not like your smug replies,
when I complain about your lies.
I do not like this kind of hope.
I do not like it.
Nope, nope, nope!

Go green... recycle Congress in 2010!
One serious question: What was the rationale behind Congress opting out of the National Health Plan ??? If it is good for us... Isn't it good for them ???