What I learned… Laurel Sprague

laurelA lot of the time in high school, I called my Info-Tech teacher, Wanda Smith “Mom.”  She always kinda looked out for me, and even busted my chops a few times when I got things wrong — drastically wrong, one time…  When I graduated high school, I got a card from Wanda that said “You’re like a Son to Me…” and it contained wonderful words of encouragement on my future to come.  After my mother died, Wanda, of course, in the status as “High School Mom” kept a watch on me…  “I’m still Mom #2!” she’s said once or twice.

Coming up on graduation yet again — as I enter the final stretch, Laurel Sprague’s likely holds the status of “College Mom” for me, as Wanda did and does for me from High School.  While I’ve only known her a little over two years, Professor Sprague and I hit it off right away as colleagues — spending up to an hour talking outside of class after class was over, frequently late to commitments we had after class because we had such interesting conversations on everything from political theory to adjunct faculty policy.

What I learned from Professor Sprague…

Over the summer after a class we had, she invited me to a lunch, asking how I was doing, how I did otherwise in my classes that term, and if I had any constructive criticism or statements on the class I had with her.  I was fortunate enough to even land an internship with her that day, too!

I found myself under her tutelage again this semester, which ended today — on Contemporary Political Theory.  While I’m far more versed (and comfortable, admittedly with the Classics of Political Theory, especially Social Contract stuff) — the good Professor saw I was having trouble almost right away.   “You’re not your usual, talkative self in class, Samuel!” she said at one point in one of our many after-class meetings.  After I said that this was a little out of my comfort and experience zone [in that I'd not studied much on the contemporary stuff we were covering] she offered to tutor me during her office hours, which, sadly conflicted with my work schedule — but I kept up the best I could.

This was a rough semester for me.   Between full-time work, more than a full time courseload, and all of a sudden now working full-time on a campaign too… but then presenting at our school’s largest academic conference, TOO,  I found myself in a very precarious position.  I was spread far too thin, and I had finally reached my breaking point.  While I didn’t break, I was *very* frayed… and in danger of it.  Things were further complicated with some personal problems, including a heart attack my father suffered in the last week of classes — when things were down to the wire.  While everyone, including the good Professor, was nice and even gave me some leeway on things due and presented that week because of it, the good Professor Sprague, being the unique individual she is, kept tabs on me.  At one point, she even ordered me to “Go home, and get some sleep,” because she could see I needed it.  She’s even let me poke fun at her once or twice with what I commissioned as the #Laurelmeme:

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I learned a lot from this woman — and while I’ve definitely earned better grades in her classes [even when she cut me some slack!] before, I’ve not only expanded my comfort zone a little in my theorizing, but I’ve also made a friend for life, I think.

While I don’t qualify for any more of her classes, I have a feeling I’m still going to be “reporting in” to the good Professor Sprague in the future.

Thanks for everything you’ve done for me — and for all your students, teach.  Serious students look for serious teachers like you to take the lessons they learn from you through the rest of their lives.   :-)

Memorable Quotes:

“In Locke’s world, things aren’t so bad!  In Hobbes’ world, it’s DEADLY.”

“Because when we’re  talking about the Leviathan… it’s this big…  monstrous… THING [emphatically gestures "largeness" with her hands and arms] from which there is no escape.”

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For Behold: The power of political incumbency?

Cynthia Brim, a Cook County, Illinois judge was suspended in 2012, after a series of bizarre incidents wound up having her declared “legally insane.”

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Judge Cynthia Brim

While the board investigating this incident (a panel made of two judges and two civilians) continue to investigate and determine her plausibility to stay on the bench, not only is she continuing to collect her nearly $200,000 a year salary while on suspension — she’s since won RE-election to the bench.

Reportedly having been hospitalized for mental-related illnesses nine times since 1994, including after having gone catatonic during an official proceeding, the major problem came after she assaulted two Deputy Sheriffs; one was struck by her, and another was thrown a set of keys in an allegedly dangerous manner.

While her case continues to be evaluated, she continues to serve as a suspended judge — meaning she takes no cases, but receives all the pay and honors of a member of the bench; and indeed, has since been RE-elected.

Does this say something about the power of political incumbency?   I encourage you to do your own research and find out.

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RadioShack — On the Decline…

One of the places that was special to me as a kid was RadioShack.  As late-20s guy, I saw RadioShack at its height — late 90s/early 2000s, as the corporatization of the stores was taking place.  Back in the day, RadioShack was more a hobby-shop, a place where you could get LEDs, solder for your soldering iron, and was meant to be a “Geeky place, for Geeks, by Geeks.”

Indeed, people actually KNEW what they were selling, and what they did — and how they worked.  You effectively had to have a Ph.D. in “Geek” to work there.  Now, not so much.

Walking into the store, I’m often surprised to find how much Associates do *not* know about the product… more about how to *sell* it.  When asking about products capacity, or the output of another product, etc…  they simply don’t know anymore.  They’re educated now, in “upselling,” and “add-ons,” versus how products themselves actually work.

This is a stark contrast from the RadioShack I grew up with — maybe its because of the restructuring that took place in the early 2000s, where hiring was adjusted from the Store Managers, to now strictly out of its Headquarters in Fort Worth, and Store Managers having little control, past scheduling, to the restructuring of simple education and training — versus being a “hands-on with your project,” they’ve become “hands-on at getting you to spend more.”  While there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself — its changed the culture of the store, dramatically.

Maybe it’s a symptom of my age, maybe it’s a symptom of the brand of the RadioShack label, I’m not sure — but I think if RadioShack went “back to the basics,” and went back to the model that worked, of hobbyists doing what they love — versus a corporatist atmosphere of “We wanna get you what you want, but also sell you this shit too!” I think they could find the glory they once had.

Further, recently, RadioShack noted the close of 1100 stores, citing a 19% loss in sales, particularly during the last holiday season.  CFO John Feray says simply “We are overstored.”

I tend to disagree — I think its more a matter of quality of experience, versus simply being overstaffed.  RadioShack isn’t the place it used to be — and people are taking notice, I think.

I miss *this* RadioShack.

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Lack of News Coverage, or Sensationalist Media?

As a center-left guy, I’ve always tended to favor CNN when it comes to national news.  FOX is well known for being a mouthpiece of the big-money Republican establishment and MSNBC is equally as liberal; with their own agendas and stuff they will either NOT cover, or will cover with a strong bias.  CNN, while with a liberal slant that comes with mainstream media, it’s relatively informed and and when reporting on information, individuals such as Anderson Cooper or Wolf Blitzer seem to present information relatively impartially.

However, with the recent loss of Malaysian Flight 370, I’ve noticed every time I turn on CNN… there’s NOTHING ELSE covered, except maybe on the bottom ticker.  I’ve learned more about the pinging signal from the Black Box than I’ve learned in COLLEGE in the last year — and that’s a sad statement.  Further, during the Fort Hood shooting, I noticed little press on the matter on CNN; or even the removal of limitations on monetary donations to federal-level election funds.

…aren’t these things the public may wanna know about?  Not more lack-of-news on a plane that sadly vanished a month ago, and we’ve learned LITTLE from since?

American media is starting to scare me.

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China shields North Korea from reports, citing them “divorced from reality.”

Having not posted recently, I figured this was as good a topic as any to cover…

The People’s Republic of China, through its representative in China’s Mission in Geneva, said of a UN Report on Human Rights abuses in North Korea; that the reports of Human Rights abuses in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are “divorced from reality,” placing themselves in the way as a shield to the atrocities reported of North Korea, particularly their prison camps.

The report itself, made by a panel of jurists commissioned by the United Nations, specifically pointed to reports from political prison camps; and indeed, by those fortunate few who have escaped and are able to give eyewitness [and, further, often physical evidence] accounts to the regimes tactics of political imprisonment.

The government of the DPRK has stated that the reports are “a fabrication by hostile forces,” the standard-issue rhetoric when North Korea speaks in relation to critical statements made of it.

By Beijing’s willful “shielding” of North Korea’s human rights abuses, it makes one wonder if they may not take further action to shield their ally — and how far they may go to do so.

Further Reading:
- UN Report on North Korean Human Rights

Russian Helicopters over Ukraine during 2014 Invasion

Russian Military lands in Ukraine… What now?

The Ukrainian President has been removed from office.

Former Prime Minister [and oligarch?] Yulia Tymoshenko has been released from prison.

…and Russia has begun an armed invasion.

Those are the images seen from the Ukrainian Crimean Peninsula today — Russian Spetsnaz gunships landing in civilian airports, Russian soldiers crossing the border on foot, and reports of telecommunications sabotage.

These events happening in just a matter of hours all begs the question: what’s next for the former Soviet republic?

Eurasian Union compared to the European Union

Eurasian Union compared to the European Union

With the so-called Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, as well as Russian Chairman President Vladimir Putin’s brainchild of the Eurasian Union, which is billed as an European Union-answer to post-Soviet states; to which its own stated policy seems to be more a 21st century answer to the USSR than another EU — this apparent military takeover of a pro-West/pro-European Union nation seems to be more a politically self-serving move for Putin than an allied military entering to assist a nation to restore order.

General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Commander of NATO

General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Commander of NATO

Former NATO Supreme Commander General Wesley Clark states this is “an armed invasion.”  Ukraine’s Ambassador to the UN has said that his nation is prepared to defend itself, and urged the UN to support it.  This isn’t a nation who’s “friend” is entering to “assist” the government in Kiev.

So… what now?

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Former Ukraine PM released from prison, a new beginning?

The embattled former Ukrainian Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, was released from prison in the middle of what appears to be a monumental shift in government in the former Soviet republic.

A stark contrast from her usual publicity photos pre-prison, the wheelchair-bound former head of government broke down in tears when she announced that her countrymen were “heroes, [and are] the best of Ukraine.”

No stranger to political revolution, the then-recently defended Ph.D. student was instrumental in bringing about the Orange Revolution, a political shift that brought her and her political coalition, “Bloc Yulia,” to power in Ukraine, becoming Prime Minister, and Forbes-rated third most powerful woman in the world, behind then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Communist China’s Vice Premier Wu Yi.

With the release of Tymoshenko, the sitting President’s effective political enemy, does this signal a true shift of power within the former Soviet state; or just a simple placation move while the President figures out his next move from a Russia-bordering stronghold?

Michigan Supreme Court, including the disgraced former Judge Diane Hathaway

Should Court Judges be elected… or appointed?

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A man insults Broward County Judge John Hurley after an unfavorable bond decision, to which he has an astonished look upon his face, who later handed down two consecutive 60-day contempt of court convictions.  Judge Hurley is an elected official.

A question that’s recently been raised to me is:

“Why do we ELECT judges as opposed to having them appointed?”

I’ve always been extremely uncomfortable with elected judges; particularly with educational or other professional credentials required simply to get on the ballot; and the argument is simple: elected judges become constrained and influenced by the political process.

This is a contrast to an appointed judge — someone who is selected by an executive or other governing body, to some term, and is not subject to the political or partisan process otherwise.

With this in mind, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that Judges may find themselves rendering politically-biased and motivated decisions and findings if they are subject to an election.  Indeed, this is evidenced in several case studies, one in particular by Loyola Law Professor Berdejô and Berkley Professor of Business Noam Yuchtman found that in Washington State alone, judges who were up for re-election gave considerably harsher sentences in the time leading up to their election compared to their appointed peers; a figure that sharply declined following their re-election.

Another issue to consider is one of judicial bias — not toward the people, as-such, but toward those who are funders, or otherwise their political “heavyweights.”  For example, the justices of the Michigan State Supreme Court enjoy election, and while on the ballot as non-partison, the individuals are nominated for the ballot by the party.  This not only lends to possible bias, but even “judicial gerrymandering.”  All it would take is one “bought” justice to walk to the offices of all the others and say “Look, I’m facing a re-election battle, this guy could pull out on me if we rule unfavorably against him.”

Possible?

US Constitution - We The People

An upcoming Constitutional Crisis… Same-sex Marriage.

I had an exam in a State and Local Government class where we were asked about the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” of the United States Constitution.  I see a very big crisis coming in the future with Article IV here, very soon…  What do you think? Continue reading

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Republicans picking back up in 2014 Polls

It’s true that Democrats tend to blow Midterm elections — for some goofy reason.  It’s historically true, anyway, particularly in the last 15 years.

However, that having been said, with this being an early poll, I don’t think it really *matters,* because polls are a flash in the pan, of “that moment,” just like even elections are.

The CNN/ORC poll also shows that Republicans seem to be more enthusiastic about the upcoming elections than Democrats — however, I think this is also a sign of the historical Democratic midterm malaise that’s become true in recent history.

Could a balance of power tip be coming soon?  Sure, things go in cycles, like anything else.  However, I think the Government Shutdown and the blunders of the cronyism of the Bush Administration will still weigh on the minds of the voters when they go to the polls.  Sure, Obamacare’s roll out was lackluster — but it’s working now; and people are getting insured.  Overall, while the Obama Administration’s approval rating has taken a beating, overall, he’s still getting the job done, and young people still respect him as the Commander-in-Chief, regardless of what SuperPAC attack ads say.

What do you think?