Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Peculiar Institution -- Discussion Question

#9: As stated on pg 24, "Why is it that at the very last moment, when the much proclaimed sentence is about to be carried, the official strategy suddenly shifts to one of concealment and containment?"

We left off our discussion on this question because it makes an important point on the evolution of the death penalty and how America still uses it. Garland mentions how the American government does everything within it's power to hide the actual act of carrying out the death penalty from the view of the public. Not only do they hide it, but they have completely reversed all aspects of what one thinks of historically as capital punishment. Most people when you think of capital punishment through a historic lens think of hangings, the guillotine, or even the electric chair. Beginning in the 1970's the United States, being the last Western country to use the death penalty, started developing the most "humane" way of killing someone. What it has evolved into is the lethal injection. The lethal injection is everything that the former death penalty is not. It is done in the most private of settings with very minimal observers, medical staff has taken the place of the executioner, and the people who do observe the event are prevented from seeing the actual injection. I find this practice to be a contradiction to the whole concept of the death penalty. I feel that if the government is so ashamed of it why do they continue to use it?
Garland makes a great argument that the reason they conduct the penalty in this manner is to distance themselves from any relation to the history of lynchings in the American South. However there is still several similarities and deep connections to lynchings within the modern use of capital punishment. I will not divulge into those here. Overall, I believe that America continues to carry out capital punishment because it is the will of the people. No matter how ashamed the government may be about it, they act on how the people vote (in regards to capital punishment at least). Not to do so would go against the founding principles of this country, therefore, capital punishment will continue to be used so long as the people support it and the government will do its part to keep it as humane as possible.

Peculiar Institution-- Review

I really enjoyed reading David Garland's book. I was impressed with his writing and how he remained relatively neutral throughout the book. At the end of the book he noted that about 80% of Americans do not have a strong opinion regarding the death penalty. On a survey asking about capital punishment, they answered "I don't know" in regards to how they felt about the subject. To be completely honest, before reading this book I did not have a strong opinion either for or against capital punishment myself. I never really thought of it as a controversial issue. I knew it existed, but did not realize the extent to its severity and how America is the only "Western" nation who still uses it. I assumed that the whole world still used it. Garland's book did not change my opinions on the death penalty. I still feel it is the right of the state to decide how they punish their criminals. He did, however, open my eyes to several discourses and problems with the current process of putting someone to death. I hate to think that racism still exists in our court system and government, but the evidence is overwhelming. I do not look at it as blatant "in your face racism," but more of a subtle racism. It appears that racial division persisted for so long that it is taking decades to completely eradicate it. The system was geared to support the majority and it has yet to find an equilibrium. Stereotypes over power truth in my opinion. Societal stereotypes and social norms shape the minds of jury's, local politicians, and local communities. If a community is engrained with racist ideologies, or remaining traces of it, they will be more likely to inflict harsher punishments on minority crimes against majority victims. This is a shame and I hope that something will be done to fix it.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

All The Devils are Here--Discussion question

#2: “Though a 30-year fixed mortgage may seem simple to a borrower, mortgages come full of complex risks for investors.  30 years, after all, is a long time… part of the answer came from tranching, carving up the bond according to different kinds of risks.  Investors found this appealing because different tranches could be jiggered to meet the particular needs of different investors.”  (p. 8)
            Tranching has obviously changed the nature of the relationship between borrower and lender into a baffling economic reality.  Do you feel that tranching could theoretically possess the redeeming quality of encouraging a greater level of investment in the housing market, or is this merely a ‘quick fix’ scheme and not worth the risk of long-term fallout?

Obviously, this played out to be not worth the long term risk. Anytime someone bundles a bunch of bad things into one, the outcome is not going to be a good thing. In my mind, I see this as taking a bunch of blown up motors and combining them into one motor. It is possible you may be able to make it run, but it is not going to run as long as a brand new motor would. I can see how investors felt comfortable purchasing these tranched mortgages from the banks because it allowed them to get a huge chunk of this booming mortgage market. However, I think they became too confident with themselves and started making poor investments despite the risk. They were making so much money that it was no longer necessary to rate the risk of the investment. This obviously led to a whirlwind of problems and the eventual recession when the real estate bubble burst in 2007-8. 

All The Devils are Here - Response

I would like to start by first congratulating the group on a terrific presentation of this book. I can image how difficult it must have been to deal with this material, but you three did a wonderful job of combining it all into one solid, comprehendible, presentation. It is going to be a tough act to follow!!

The part of this book that really struck me as interesting was how no one saw this coming in time to do something about it. I find that so hard to believe! I said this during the presentation, but looking back at it now, it seems to be such poor decision making on behalf of so many people. From the investors and big bankers all the way down to the home buyer. The concept of a sub-prime loan is one that I feel no one would have felt was safe from the beginning. I can't help but question a person who makes $90,000 a year deciding to buy a house worth over $300,000. I would never consider buying a house worth that much when making so little, despite what the banks told me. To me, I see this as handing the keys to a Ferrari over to a 16 year old boy, something bad is going to come of it. The fact that no one predicted this is hard to believe. I have always thought, and maybe its sheer ignorance, that we had officials within the government and working with the president who are professional economist. Economist that have PhD's and what not, who study nothing but the state of the economy and think of ways to improve it. How could they let something like this build for over 20 years?

My only conclusion is that everyone turned a blind eye to the problem. They swept it under the rug until eventually someone tripped. Unfortunately, it was a huge fall and it took the entire country down with it. Supposedly the country is out of the recession that was caused by this crisis, however, I still have relatives and friends who are foreclosing on their houses. I do not see this ending anytime soon. Now that I am entering the job market, and into the professional world, I hope that we don't make similar mistakes like this again......but we will.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Week1 Reading Response

This week's readings discussed the various positions a teacher can take when presenting his or her viewpoints to a classroom regarding controversial issues. I found Kelly’s argument to be very thought provoking. For the longest time I thought that teachers were supposed to be neutral in every sense when discussing anything political or religious ect. Not necessarily because I believed this idea, but because that is the perspective I came to learn through my educational career. I had teachers in high school and college who were not neutral at all, but more exclusively partial as Kelly would title it. They felt their opinions were correct and that they should become our opinions as well. I did not agree with them on many issues and in turn, I tuned them out. This played a role as to why I always thought neutrality was best. I never considered Kelly’s idea of complete impartiality. This means to state your opinions while presenting and encouraging students to examine the opposite and form their own opinions. It allows the teacher to take a side while encouraging the students to form their own opinions and conduct research to support whichever side they choose. I had never considered this before, but I support it fully. I am going to shape my classroom discussion around this model. I really think it will help build a relationship with the students and foster the higher-level thinking that I will expect from them.