Posts Tagged ‘Statism’

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How Obama’s executive orders threaten us more than anything else

February 15, 2014

I just did a piece on Obama’s executive orders over on Keep Americans Free. I invite you to read it.

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“Who is John Galt?” Asked. Answered.

January 25, 2014

lreganSo finally some of the cast of “Atlas Shrugged, Part III” has been announced. The previous two installments had completely different casts, and this final chapter is no different.

This time around Dagny Taggart will be played by Laura Regan (above), who is, if anything, less known that the previous two actresses who played her. I liked Taylor Schilling from Part I a lot, Samantha Mathis not so much.

And Hank Rearden will be played by, of all people…

rmorrowYep. “Northern Exposure” Rob Morrow. This guy is about as unlikely a Hank Rearden as I can imagine. He’s a well-known actor, but either Grant Bowler (Part I) or Jason Beghe (Part II) would be better. (Beghe is currently starring in a new network tv show, “Chicago PD.”)

Francisco d’Anconia, who should be a couple of years older than Dagny, will be played by experienced character actor Joaquim de Almeida. He’s almost twenty years too old, but a good actor. I liked him in “Clear and Present Danger.” He’s been in a million things before.

But the big question is: who will be playing John Galt?

This guy:

kpolahaI didn’t recognize him either. His name is Kristoffer Polaha, known for shows like “Ringer” and “Made In Jersey.” He has the look, and he is, in real life, the same age as the new Dagny. But he and Francisco and Ragnar Danneskjold were supposed to be about the same age, attending Patrick Henry University together. That part of the storyline will probably be downplayed in this film.

I liked other two films pretty well…I preferred the casting of the first one better, and the script of the second one.

The film should be out before the November 2014 elections. I look forward to how they finish it out. The book ends fairly depressingly, I cannot see how the film could end in another way. It’s a cautionary tale, after all. Too bad that generally, only those who already know that will watch it.

 

 

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“Keep Americans Free” is updated, finally.

October 14, 2013

I’ve updated my other blog, Keep Americans Free!, a couple of times in the last couple of days. I’m going to really try to keep it more timely in the future. I invite you to check it out.

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Is the government covering up more gun running?

May 16, 2013

I must confess this possibility never crossed my mind: that Ambassador Stevens was in Benghazi, where there is not a consulate (with associated security measures) but a mission, was there to conduct business related to arming those opposing the government in Syria. IN a recent interview, Senator Rand Paul raises that point. He believes that guns were being supplied by the US government to certain groups in Libya, to be shipped through Turkey and into Syria.

It makes a lot more sense, really, that there was a motivation like this for Ambassador Stevens to be in Benghazi, where he could not be adequately protected. It also makes sense that the Administration did not want anyone else there, either while the attack was going on, or in the aftermath, to possibly find clues to such plans. The FBI was charged with the investigation, but was not allowed close to the site for three weeks after the attack – plenty of time for the site to be scrubbed of all incriminating evidence.

Nowadays “political thriller” novels hold less interest to me than they once did. The actual bizarre actions of our government officials, sanctioned or not, are the stuff of such novels – except in those, someone uncovers the plot and it is brought out into the light of day.

I’m afraid we as Americans have had enough of big-G Government, and would just like to have them leave us alone, and it is very difficult to get worked up over the next stupid move made by someone in Washington. This Administration has gone so far beyond anything I ever imagined that it is impossible for me to believe any of this can be blamed on lack of communication, or sheer incompetence. I think the culture of the Administration is such that they really do believe they can do these things without concern for repercussions. Even Bill Clinton remained in office, and some people seem to look upon his years in office as some kind of Golden Age.

I’m afraid the folks who think they can do whatever they want without fear of the wrath of the American public are probably right. What can we do? We are in a representative republic, so we are separated from direct influence. The amount of time it takes to change the makeup of the legislature is too great, and the speed with which they can do damage too fast, for a “regime change” at the ballot box to be useful. Of course, it may also be that even should that be attempted, they have been in place long enough to have actually make it possible to influence national elections – I hate to use the term “rigged,” but there it is. Computer analysis tells them the very few counties in few states that tip the balance for one candidate or another. They only really have to concentrate on those areas. They don’t have to rig every precinct in every county in the US.

But I digress. Obviously the thin excuses made by Secretary Clinton have not led to calls for any action to be taken against her. No one else is supposedly at fault, and no one will be held responsible for the deaths of Americans in Libya. The Administration will weather another bumpy few weeks, but then something else will come along, and we will be waiting to hear about the next crisis.

I know this sounds pretty negative, but I don’t have a very optimistic view of my country right now. I never thought it would come to this in so many areas and so quickly. And I have absolutely no ideas on how to change it short of direct action by large groups of people – and I shudder to think what the aftermath of that would be like.

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John Adams knew his stuff…and knew us.

January 16, 2013

John Adams was never my favorite of the Founding Fathers. His antipathy to the Roman Catholic Church, in particular, seems to be at odds with his beliefs in Religious Freedom, and bothers me. He was not, however, as many have suggested, a Deist, not in the mold of Thomas Jefferson. He did seem to believe in the active participation of God in the affairs of men.

However, ponder these:

There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.
Letter to Jonathan Jackson (2 October 1780), “The Works of John Adams”, vol 9, p.511.

Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free Constitution is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People in a greater Measure than they have it now, They may change their Rulers and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty. They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies.
Letter to Zabdiel Adams (21 June 1776).

The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take the place of, indeed exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that our sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. Our sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry and porcelain.
Letter to Abigail Adams (12 May 1780).

All the perplexities, confusions, and distresses in America arise, not from defects in their constitution or confederation, not from a want of honor or virtue, so much as from downright ignorance of the nature of coin, credit, and circulation.
Letter to Thomas Jefferson (23 August 1787), The Works of John Adams.

The History of our Revolution will be one continued Lye from one end to the other. The essence of the whole will be that Dr. Franklins electrical Rod, smote the Earth and out sprung General Washington. That Franklin electrified him with his rod—and thence forward these two conducted all the Policy, Negotiations, Legislatures and War.
Letter to Benjamin Rush, 4 April 1790. Alexander Biddle, Old Family Letters, Series A (Philadelphia: 1892), p. 55

While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation, while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candour, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world. Because we have no government, armed with power, capable of contending with human passions, unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge and licentiousness would break the strongest cords of our Constitution, as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other. Oaths in this country are as yet universally considered as sacred obligations. That which you have taken, and so solemnly repeated on that venerable ground, is an ample pledge of your sincerity and devotion to your country and its government.
Letter to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts, 11 October 1798, in Revolutionary Services and Civil Life of General William Hull (New York, 1848), pp 265-6. There are some differences in the version that appeared in The Works of John Adams (Boston, 1854), vol. 9, pp. 228-9, most notably the words “or gallantry” instead of “and licentiousness”.

Property must be secured, or liberty cannot exist. But if unlimited or unbalanced power of disposing property, be put into the hands of those who have no property, France will find, as we have found, the lamb committed to the custody of the wolf. In such a case, all the pathetic exhortations and addresses of the national assembly to the people, to respect property, will be regarded no more than the warbles of the songsters of the forest. The great art of law-giving consists in balancing the poor against the rich in the legislature, and in constituting the legislative a perfect balance against the executive power, at the same time that no individual or party can become its rival. The essence of a free government consists in an effectual control of rivalries. The executive and the legislative powers are natural rivals; and if each has not an effectual control over the other, the weaker will ever be the lamb in the paws of the wolf. The nation which will not adopt an equilibrium of power must adopt a despotism. There is no other alternative. Rivalries must be controlled, or they will throw all things into confusion; and there is nothing but despotism or a balance of power which can control them.
No. 13, Discourses on Davilia, 1790

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Why do we have these wacko gunmen all over the place?

December 14, 2012

The shootings in a Connecticut elementary school today prompted Limbaugh to mention that the left and the MSM will be jumping on the gun control issue again, as they do after every shooting. And they have, already, just a few hours after the shooting.

The difference is that our side is in collapse. We’re hanging our heads, figuring we’re going to get hammered with taxes, we’re going to have to put up with less medical care because of the new government medical bureaucracy coming into play, and because the leadership we have in Washington…well, it sucks.

But I was thinking of the bigger question – why do we have these wacko gunmen? Is it just opportunity – that we have always had mentally disturbed (probably right wing if you ask the liberals) people and now that they have such easy access to guns, they can do more damage than they used to.

I don’t think the numbers probably bear that out. Gun licensing is pretty heavy most places in the US. The only people I know who seem to have free, unfettered access to guns are the gangs. There doesn’t seem to be a waiting period for gun ownership if you are in a gang. I still think it’s not as easy to get a gun, or multiple guns, as it was in, say, 1970.

I think it’s because there is a tipping point in futility. I’m thinking about my own outlook since the election. I try to not let it bother me, but I fear for my children and grandchildren. We’re mortgaging their futures way too heavily. We have finally succeeded in creating a culture of entitlement. That will lead us on the road to European-style economic hell.This culture will continue voting themselves bread and circuses until there is none left.

But the long-term business outlook is just not good, folks. It just isn’t. “Slow recovery” is code for “no recovery” in the MSM. I don’t think it’s a single indicator – there are just too many things we hear on the news and see with our own eyes that make our outlook on the future of our families less rosy.

When a person feels he or she does not have control over his or her own life, it causes problems. Some people withdraw. Some drink. Some engage in “risky behaviors.” Some just suffer in silence…but none are happy. What we hear, more and more, is that the government owns us and controls our lives. The message is subtle and persistent. I’ve felt it, and I’ll be you have, too.

Some people feel a need to regain some kind of control, or have some kind of power. There are many ways for this to manifest itself. Many of those ways of seeking power are destructive to the person and those around him. For some, owning a gun is not about protection, or the bigger issue of the second amendment. It is a way to know that, at some level, I still have some control over my own life.

I think we might find that the shooters in these situations are at some level motivated by a feeling of powerlessness. They may not be out of work, or anything like that, but they still feel they are still spiraling out of control. I have no psychological training or experience, but I can see how a person of unstable makeup to begin with could snap under the strain of the negative outlook he feels.

I have no idea how this person in this situation felt or what motivated him to want to shoot children. By definition he is mentally damaged. Would he have been less dangerous if the gun laws were more strict? Or would he have turned to some other way to express his feelings of powerlessness?

Just a thought.

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How to improve our standings in the world’s education rankings

December 7, 2012

I recently saw a reference to yet another article decrying the state of US public education. Here, in a nutshell, is what I think:

Like with the recent presidential election, be careful what you wish for.

Huh? I’ll explain.

See, we say we want one thing, but we reward another. I taught high school for 34 years, in rural, blue-collar and then in “high achieving” suburban environments. I saw a wide range of student achievement and parental and societal expectations. What bugged the living hell out of me wasn’t the belief that if the kid didn’t get into exactly the right college, he would be a failure at life, although that pissed me off a lot. It was that there was so much focus on the environment of the school and the social life offerings there.

It was as if the kids and parents were picking a place to go for their summer vacation, not to get an education. The appearance of the campus, the athletic teams, the other social programs for the students, all the stuff completely unrelated to the actual business of learning dominated their thinking.

But I shouldn’t have been surprised. We have been looking at education that way all the way through, K through 12 and beyond, for decades.

Schools can’t be demanding, unless it’s an Advanced Placement course. Then you can do darned near anything to a kid and the parents won’t complain, because it’s cool because it’s a college course. We had one at our school that was targeted at sophomores. Sophomores? Really? Since when are they able to handle college material? If they are, why stay in high school? Skip the crap and go get the degree.

But the degrees are watered down in a lot of fields, too, and grade inflation has made “academic rigor” practically meaningless. I laugh when I hear somebody from a regular college complain about the “for-profit colleges” that are out there. To me, they should all be for a profit and not receive any state tax money. You want a college education, you pay for it. You need loans, you get them yourself.

“But college is too expensive.” Sure it is…cut the nonsense out of it, just pare it down to the education, and you can probably reduce costs (and staff) by half. It’s completely gotten out of hand.

But that wasn’t the point of this piece. It’s why we can’t compete in the rankings with other countries.

Here’s how to fix it, if the rankings are the priority:

Shoot the horses that can’t jump. Start in, say, 6th grade, separating kids by examination into college bound and non-college bound programs. Non-college bound will prepare the “workers” our Socialist President thinks we need more of. (How Lenin of him to call us “workers.” Sheesh.) Another set of exams at 8th or 9th grade. Kids who test high in science and math don’t get to be dockworkers or taxi drivers, or investment bankers or hotel operators…they are funneled into engineering and pure sciences, or into medical profession preparation.

You see, in many countries those are the kids who are tested for the rankings – not the entire general population. Every time we include everyone in that kind of testing we shoot ourselves in the foot.

Make businesses run the colleges. For example, if you test well in 12th grade, you can go to the college run by GE, or by Apple, or by BP…their own R&D folks would teach, and you would learn what they want you to learn to actually be of use to them. Afterwards, you work for them for a number of years to pay back your education. No summer vacations starting in mid-May, no winter or spring break…you learn straight through, 8 hours a day. You could do the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree in two years, tops, without “Gender studies” and garbage like that loaded in the curriculum. No football games, no fraternities.

This would also give those companies a stake in how the lower grades are handled…I can’t see how that could be worse than the way we in public education are led by the nose by the colleges today.

Sound silly? Japan has been doing this for more than 20 years, that I know of. I know because I was present for a panel discussion with Japanese educators where they laid the system out for us.

Trim the fun stuff out. No more athletic teams. No extracurricular activities. No fine arts. None of those are used in those rankings, so why bother? Do you think the Estonians who rank higher than our kids are all great violinists or soccer players? If they are, it is because their parents decided to have them do that after school on their own, not depend on the school to pay for it and teach it. There are some outstanding concert bands in Japan, for instance – but not school-sponsored, and they for sure don’t rehearse during the school day.

And yes, I know that since I am a former fine arts teacher I sound hypocritical. Remember, I am telling you how to raise our rankings, not to provide the proverbial “well-rounded education.” Obviously that has not been a priority or I would not have had a job for 34 years.

If you know of a country that matches the extent of arts and athletic and extracurricular activities we offer in most of our schools, let me know; I don’t know of one – including those who rank ahead of us.

While we’re at it, we can cut about half the social studies classes – have you looked at what kids are offered today? But American History and American Government, especially learning about that pesky Constitution, are not required. But we don’t cut the Home Ec and Industrial Tech – those are needed for the kids going into the service and technical industries. We need more auto shop, not less.

Full-time school. Sorry, fellow teachers, but the cushy part of the gig is the days off. We aren’t bankers and really it doesn’t make sense to barely see kids 180 days a year. Kids no longer work on the family farm, and that’s what determined the school schedule a hundred years ago that we still use today. Give ’em July off, even, but not Columbus Day, or Presidents’ Day, or whatever, and for God’s sake cut out all the shortened days for conferences and teacher work days and meetings. Just teach the kids. We have been reducing the actual number of hours kids learn for decades. It’s a crime, and I never saw that most of those days were worth the time spent. Most of us thought most of the stuff we did was a waste of time and effort. Often the activities were planned to make it look like the administration had us focused on something new and cutting-edge; then we went back into the classroom, closed the door, and taught like we always had because the old way still worked.

Make teachers accountable. Not in terms of social interaction, but in knowledge of subject matter. I don’t want my granddaughters to get an education from people who teach math but got no higher than a B in algebra – and that is far too possible today. One of the reasons for the turnover in education is because smart people get out to do something real with their lives instead of putting up with the administrative BS, the snotty kids and their arrogant parents. That leaves us with, sorry to say, not the top of the heap. I’m not saying we need PhDs in physics to teach our classes – often those folks have no clue how to teach. But we do need people who know how to teach and what they are teaching.

Look, to a great degree, the effectiveness of a school has to do largely with the raw material. I taught in a district that selected for intelligence just like a Catholic high school that required entrance testing, except ours was based on housing costs. You couldn’t live in the district if you couldn’t afford a house there, and really stupid people rarely could. Or really unmotivated people. Move kids from low-achieving areas to that school and sorry, you wouldn’t get the same results. We were good but not that good. We had smart kids to work with, motivated kids with motivated parents and a history of valuing a good education. So we got results and were ranked high in the state tests. But that’s a topic for another piece another day.

That should be enough to move us up, say, 10 places. But we won’t do it, because we can all complain about the rankings, but we still want our daughters to be cheerleaders, or in drama, or our sons to play football or (heaven forbid) join the Chess Club. And then, when they graduate, we want them to “enjoy their college experience.” When or if we ever get more serious about kids getting an education than about the football team’s record, we’ll see some changes.

Oh, and one more…

Make the schools ethnically and culturally homogenous. According to an article in the UK Guardian, the top 10 countries in reading are:

South Korea
Finland
Canada
New Zealand
Japan
Australia
The Netherlands
Belgium
Norway
Estonia

Math and Science rankings were similar. Show me how any of those countries are as ethnically and/or culturally diverse as the USA. The dirty little secret is that we are trying to be everything for everybody, and to do anything else is racist by the standards of the US. I’m not saying any ethnic or cultural group is less able than another, just that cultures dictate learning styles, as well as a host of other things that help or hinder receptivity to educational processes, and we can’t do everything at once for everybody. I think some of the inner-city charter schools are doing well because they understand this and focus on particular neighborhoods and populations. They have high standards but they don’t have to take their eyes off the educational ball. We are constantly being told we have to do this and that because of culture and diversity. Either we all learn the same way and buckle down or we don’t. If we can’t get to kids one way, we don’t have time to find six others. We really don’t. But other schools can.

When I retired, the smallest department by enrollment was “Educational Services,” or what used to be called “Special Education.” It also had the largest number of faculty. Huh? But that, too, is another piece for another day.

This little piece ought to piss some folks off. But I’m telling you, if the goal is to be better at math than the kids in Finland, we have to become them. We can’t do it the way we have our schools structured now.

Well, what do you think?