Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Education, Societal Division and a Proposal

Überpost alert!  It is something I've been studying and thinking about since 1993, and writing about here for 15 years, so there will be a lot of internal links, external links, links to stuff that only exists because of the Internet Wayback Machine, etc. and a lot of stuff you've seen here before if you've been here very long. It's about a lot more than education but it all starts there.

Lets get on with it, shall we?

"All who have meditated on the art of governing mankind have been convinced that the fate of empires depends on the education of youth." - Aristotle

If you've read this blog for any extended period, you know one of my personal hobby-horses is public education. Specifically, its general failure to educate. That failure is hardly a new thing. Let me remind you:

Quote of the Day, July 13, 2012

Quote of the Day, July 14, 2009

Those are John Taylor Gatto quotes not necessary to requote in full here, thus the links. Here are a couple of other significant quotes:
The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, whatever the pretensions of politicians, pedagogues, and other such mountebanks, and that is its aim everywhere else.

--

And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps.

Henry Louis Mencken, 1924
Even Noam Chomsky concurs:
I quoted the Trilateral Commission view of the educational system, namely that it's a system of indoctrination of the young, and I think that's correct. It's a system of indoctrination of the young. That's the way the liberal elites regarded it and they're more or less accurate. So the educational system is supposed to train people to be obedient, conformist, not think too much, do what you're told, stay passive, don't raise any crises of democracy, don't raise any questions. That's basically what the system is about.
Watch the whole clip. It's about five minutes long.

I've written about indoctrination before, but my objection has been to what indoctrination is going on, not why:
...I am ambivalent on the topic of "indoctrination." My problem is with what that indoctrination entails. (Leo) Rosten objects to the failure of the educational system to indoctrinate moral values. I'd say it still does. It just doesn't indoctrinate goodness, kindness, and decency anymore. It indoctrinates "multicuturalism," "tolerance," "sensitivity," "fairness," "socialism," and "self-esteem." It fails to instruct in history, civics, ethics, mathematics, English, or for that matter, job skills. The education system receives "young skulls full of mush" and processes them right on through, sending them into the world with what Ayn Rand described as "a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts and fears."

The reasons for this are myriad. Diane Ravitch puts part of the blame (convincingly) on the textbook companies who are loath to put anything in a text that someone, anyone, might find offensive. I put a large part of the blame on the influx of socialist True Believers into the ranks of educators since the time of John Dewey. As far as public schools are concerned, we've abandoned the idea that education can liberate the human mind or human spirit. Schools are now warehouses, run by administrators terrified of lawsuits and too many teachers who are literally tyrannized by their charges and their parents. Indoctrination still goes on, though. Read this lovely little op-ed by Mark Bradley, a history teacher from Sacramento. I bet his classes are popular!

It would seem that if you want some good indoctrination, your only choices are homeschooling or private - often ecumenical - schools.

Indoctrination of children is not necessarily a bad thing, but somewhere along the line we stopped paying attention to what was and what wasn't getting poured into their heads, and it started long before 1975.
In 2008 I wrote another überpost, The George Orwell Daycare Center, specifically illustrating the kind of indoctrination I'm objecting to, followed by an observation by historian, profound thinker and university professor Victor Davis Hanson. I believe that it is still possible to get a decent education out of many, possibly most school systems in this country - if you want one.  This is due to those teachers who really do know their subjects and how to teach them, and students willing to do the work necessary to learn them. I think both still exist, however I graduated High School in 1980 so this may no longer be as true as it once was. It does appear that the ratio of such teachers and students to the general population is getting continually smaller. That question is "Why?"
Our once unchallenged preeminence in commerce, industry, science, and technological innovation is being overtaken by competitors throughout the world. This report is concerned with only one of the many causes and dimensions of the problem, but it is the one that undergirds American prosperity, security, and civility. We report to the American people that while we can take justifiable pride in what our schools and colleges have historically accomplished and contributed to the United States and the well-being of its people, the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people. What was unimaginable a generation ago has begun to occur--others are matching and surpassing our educational attainments.

If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might well have viewed it as an act of war.
That last one is from the introduction to the 1983 report of the National Commission on Excellence in Education entitled A Nation at Risk: the Imperative for Educational Reform.

It was an act of war. Guerilla war. But the battleground had been carefully prepared, like the Maginot Line, for an entirely different war.
In the first decades of the twentieth century, a small group of soon-to-be-famous academics, symbolically led by John Dewey and Edward Thorndike of Columbia Teachers College, Ellwood P. Cubberley of Stanford, G. Stanley Hall of Clark, and an ambitious handful of others, energized and financed by major corporate and financial allies like Morgan, Astor, Whitney, Carnegie, and Rockefeller, decided to bend government schooling to the service of business and the political state—as it had been done a century before in Prussia.

Cubberley delicately voiced what was happening this way: "The nature of the national need must determine the character of the education provided." National need, of course, depends upon point of view. The NEA in 1930 sharpened our understanding by specifying in a resolution of its Department of Superintendence that what school served was an "effective use of capital" through which our "unprecedented wealth-producing power has been gained." When you look beyond the rhetoric of Left and Right, pronouncements like this mark the degree to which the organs of schooling had been transplanted into the corporate body of the new economy.

It’s important to keep in mind that no harm was meant by any designers or managers of this great project. It was only the law of nature as they perceived it, working progressively as capitalism itself did for the ultimate good of all. The real force behind school effort came from true believers of many persuasions, linked together mainly by their belief that family and church were retrograde institutions standing in the way of progress. Far beyond the myriad practical details and economic considerations there existed a kind of grail-quest, an idea capable of catching the imagination of dreamers and firing the blood of zealots.

-- John Taylor Gatto, The Underground History of American Education
...between 1967 and 1974, teacher training in the United States was covertly revamped through coordinated efforts of a small number of private foundations, select universities, global corporations, think tanks, and government agencies, all coordinated through the U.S. Office of Education and through key state education departments like those in California, Texas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York.

Important milestones of the transformation were: 1) an extensive government exercise in futurology called Designing Education for the Future, 2) the Behavioral Science Teacher Education Project, and 3) Benjamin Bloom's multivolume Taxonomy of Educational Objectives, an enormous manual of over a thousand pages which, in time, impacted every school in America. While other documents exist, these three are appropriate touchstones of the whole, serving to make clear the nature of the project underway.

Take them one by one and savor each. Designing Education, produced by the Education Department, redefined the term "education" after the Prussian fashion as "a means to achieve important economic and social goals of a national character." State education agencies would henceforth act as on-site federal enforcers, ensuring the compliance of local schools with central directives. Each state education department was assigned the task of becoming "an agent of change" and advised to "lose its independent identity as well as its authority," in order to "form a partnership with the federal government."

The second document, the gigantic Behavioral Science Teacher Education Project, outlined teaching reforms to be forced on the country after 1967. If you ever want to hunt this thing down, it bears the U.S. Office of Education Contract Number OEC-0-9-320424-4042 (B10). The document sets out clearly the intentions of its creators — nothing less than "impersonal manipulation" through schooling of a future America in which "few will be able to maintain control over their opinions," an America in which "each individual receives at birth a multi-purpose identification number" which enables employers and other controllers to keep track of underlings and to expose them to direct or subliminal influence when necessary. Readers learned that "chemical experimentation" on minors would be normal procedure in this post-1967 world, a pointed foreshadowing of the massive Ritalin interventions which now accompany the practice of forced schooling.

The Behavioral Science Teacher Education Project identified the future as one "in which a small elite" will control all important matters, one where participatory democracy will largely disappear. Children are made to see, through school experiences, that their classmates are so cruel and irresponsible, so inadequate to the task of self-discipline, and so ignorant they need to be controlled and regulated for society's good. Under such a logical regime, school terror can only be regarded as good advertising. It is sobering to think of mass schooling as a vast demonstration project of human inadequacy, but that is at least one of its functions.
That was also Gatto.

Our education system, as Gatto has noted, is largely based on the Prussian system established by the great industrialists of their era in order to produce a two-tiered output - the workers and the owners and managers. However, it was rapidly suborned instead to destroy Western culture:
Translated into practical terms and updated from its early-20th-century Italian cultural setting, (Antonio) Gramsci's thesis is understood by the modern Left to mean:
Socialist revolution will never happen in a nation if its culture continually reaffirms and enshrines middle-class capitalist values. Thus, in order to pave the way for the arrival of a communist state, radicals must first insinuate themselves into and/or influence the media and educational system, and from these positions of influence change public attitudes about the status quo. To achieve political hegemony, you must first achieve cultural hegemony.
This was a significant change from Marx's and Lenin's original ideas about communist revolution, which basically involved simply seizing power, public opinion be damned, and afterward propagandizing the masses to accept the new order. Gramsci realized that Marx had it reversed, and that the propaganda and indoctrination must happen first, in order to make the populace open to the idea of revolution; otherwise, rendered complacent by middle-class values and comforts, the populace would never consent to the upheaval of a revolution.

The media and public schools were correctly identified by Gramsci as the most influential cultural institutions, and it was therefore those that the left realized must be targeted.

It is this sophisticated Gramscian plan, and not the more brutish Marxist idea of simply seizing power by force, which has guided leftist thought in America since WWII. And it is why the media and education have, over time, been slowly turned into engines of leftist propaganda. Gramscianism matured into "critical pedagogy" which is the real-world application of his educational theories, and countless left-leaning young adults have for decades been nudged toward careers in education and the media. Some time ago, we crossed a threshold in which the Gramscian infiltrators no longer had to ply their trade surreptitiously, but became the majority in the media and in education, and after that point the process accelerated rapidly as they took over both fields and turned them into ideological weapons.
Sugatra Mitra, Indian solid state physicist and now Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, England, was among the forefront of people who had to learn how to write software, and ended up doing more teaching of that than physics. When the generic PC hit the market, his colleagues were astounded to see that their young children could learn to operate these complex, expensive machine without instruction. This piqued his interest in primary education. Though his interest was specific to the British system, he came to a similar conclusion:
I tried to look at where did the the kind of learning we do in schools, where did it come from? And you know you can look far back into the past, but if you look at present-day schooling the way it is, it's quite easy to figure out where it came from. It came from about 300 years ago, and it came from the last and the biggest empire on the planet. Imagine trying to run the entire planet without computers, without telephones, with data handwritten on slips of paper and traveling by ships. But the Victorians actually did it. What they did was amazing. They created a global computer made up of people. It's still with us today, it's called the "bureaucratic administrative machine."

In order to have that machine running, you need lots and lots of people. They made another machine to produce those people - the school. The schools would produce the people who would then become parts of the bureaucratic administrative machine. They must be identical to each other. They must know three things: they must have good handwriting because the data is handwritten, they must be able to read, and they must be able to do multiplication, division, addition and subtraction in their head. They must be so identical that you could pick one up from New Zealand and ship them to Canada and he would be instantly functional.

The Victorians were great engineers. They engineered a system that was so robust that it is still with us today, continuously producing identical people for a machine that no longer exists.
I will come back to this later when I delve deeper into the education portion of this post.

So the purpose of "public education" isn't so much educating, it's building dependable uniform cogs for a machine run by elites. As I have noted in the past, despite the inspirational rhetoric of Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence and President Lincoln in the Gettysburg Address, the purpose of governments has always been, until the American Revolution, to protect and expand the power and privilege of the powerful and privileged, not the protection of the individual rights of the cogs, not to be "of the people, by the people, for the people." Referring back to that first Gatto link, you'll note that our Founders were, as they pretty much had to be, self-taught. That has changed since the late 18th century, at first slowly, but exponentially.

Angelo Codevilla, Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Boston University, calls this "elite" our Ruling Class.
Our ruling class's agenda is power for itself. While it stakes its claim through intellectual-moral pretense, it holds power by one of the oldest and most prosaic of means: patronage and promises thereof. Like left-wing parties always and everywhere, it is a "machine," that is, based on providing tangible rewards to its members. Such parties often provide rank-and-file activists with modest livelihoods and enhance mightily the upper levels' wealth. Because this is so, whatever else such parties might accomplish, they must feed the machine by transferring money or jobs or privileges -- civic as well as economic -- to the party's clients, directly or indirectly. This, incidentally, is close to Aristotle's view of democracy. Hence our ruling class's standard approach to any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, is to increase the power of the government -- meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves, to profit those who pay with political support for privileged jobs, contracts, etc. Hence more power for the ruling class has been our ruling class's solution not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming. A priori, one might wonder whether enriching and empowering individuals of a certain kind can make Americans kinder and gentler, much less control the weather. But there can be no doubt that such power and money makes Americans ever more dependent on those who wield it.

Laws and regulations nowadays are longer than ever because length is needed to specify how people will be treated unequally.
--
(The party) is composed of two tiers. The lower tier produces many outspoken members who make their demands known to the upper tier. The lower tier is derived from the inner-city population that serves as the base of the party. The lower tier's members are generally educated in public school systems and if they aspire to advanced training, they are educated in facilities provided by the state. This wing constitutes the majority of (the party's) membership, but contributes little or nothing to party theory or platform. It votes the party line and is rewarded with cash payments, subsidized housing, subsidized education, and occasional preferential employment in government positions. The lower tier provides only a handful of clearly token individuals allowed to serve in high offices.

The upper tier, which includes most of the party's management, virtually all the appointed and elected government officials, and all of the party's decision-makers, is drawn exclusively from suburban areas where wealth is a fundamental criterion for admittance as a resident. These party members are generally educated at private schools and attend private colleges. They are not affected by food-rationing schemes, income caps or taxation laws, as the legislation drafted and passed by members of their social group inevitably contains loopholes that effectively shelter their income and render them immune from unpleasant statues that restrict the lives of lower-tier party members and all nonparty citizens.

(The party) leadership recognizes that in return for supporting a seemingly populist agenda, they can obtain all the votes they require to remain in power. Even the most cursory analysis of their actions and attitudes, however, indicates that they are not populists but, in fact, are strong antipopulists who actively despise their voting base. This....is proven by their efforts to reduce public educational systems to a level most grade-school children (in other countries) have surpassed, with the excuse that this curriculum is all that the students can handle. They have made the inner-city population base totally dependent on the government, which they control. -- John Ringo from the novel The Road to Damascus
I'm by no means a fan of Pat Buchanan, but I think he was absolutely correct when he said:
Our two parties have become nothing but two wings of the same bird of prey.
So our system of Public Education has been largely turned into not only a system to crank out identical cogs, it also serves as a place for political indoctrination, and a place to ensure that a love of learning is beaten out of those cogs.

The political Left, once referred to as "the loyal opposition," has been suborned by Marxists in order to pursue their holy quest for the Utopia promised by Marx. Marxism promised the birth of the "New Soviet Man" as a spontaneous outcome of a Communist society, but that has never occurred. Of course, the counter argument is that none of the societies that call themselves Communist actually have been. "True communism has never been tried!" But the supporters of Marxist philosophy eventually concluded that Gramsci was right, those men are required in order to achieve "True Communism" instead of them spontaneously springing up after "the Revolution." The New Soviet Man had to be made, and the public education system has been the primary tool, along with the entertainment and information media, to pursue this goal.

To some tiny extent it has been successful.












In other significant ways it has spectacularly failed.

Thomas Sowell, economist and philosopher and the best thinker in my opinion of the last 70 years, wrote in what I consider to be his magnum opus A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles that human beings philosophically break down, crudely but sufficiently descriptively, into two fundamentally opposed worldviews that they are effectively born with, not that they reach through reason:
 Sowell calls one worldview the "constrained vision." It sees human nature as flawed or fallen, seeking to make the best of the possibilities that exist within that constraint. The competing worldview, which Sowell terms the "unconstrained vision," instead sees human nature as capable of continual improvement.

You can trace the constrained vision back to Aristotle; the unconstrained vision to Plato. But the neatest illustration of the two visions occurred during the great upheavals of the 18th century, the American and French revolutions.

The American Revolution embodied the constrained vision. "In the United States," Sowell says, "it was assumed from the outset that what you needed to do above all was minimize [the damage that could be done by] the flaws in human nature." The founders did so by composing a constitution of checks and balances. More than two centuries later, their work remains in place.

The French Revolution, by contrast, embodied the unconstrained vision. "In France," Sowell says, "the idea was that if you put the right people in charge--if you had a political Messiah--then problems would just go away." The result? The Terror, Napoleon and so many decades of instability that France finally sorted itself out only when Charles de Gaulle declared the Fifth Republic.
I would argue that France hasn't exactly sorted itself out, but it is for the moment stable enough. My point here is that those born with the "unconstrained" worldview are the ones that can be, and often enthusiastically are, receptive to the Utopian promise of Marxism.  The problem is that those born with the "constrained" worldview aren't, and they don't understand that. As a result, as Charles Krauthammer put it:
To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.
So President Trump got elected to the shock of almost everyone, everywhere. No one in the political establishment, entertainment or information media could understand it.  He was, despite his wealth and education, not part of the Ruling Class, but he was President and a danger to the status quo, so everyone who is part or imagines themselves part or wants to be part of the Ruling Class has agreed that he won illegitimately and must be gotten rid of, regardless the cost. All those people who voted for him? Moronic knuckle-draggers, Christian fanatics clinging to their faiths, evil gun owners clinging to their pseudo-penises, evil greedy capitalists clinging to their ill-gotten gains, white supremacists longing to bring back slavery, etc, etc, etc. In short, the non-human enemy that cannot be reached so it must be wiped out.  You know, like Hitler and the Nazis.

The irony, it burns!

The American Left is most strongly concentrated in urban and suburban areas. As previously noted, they control the information and entertainment media and the entire education system from Kindergarten to post-graduate. They therefore think that almost everyone thinks like they do. They swim in waters that they don't ever think about. But the people who elected Trump exist in large quantities nationwide. The Left doesn't consider that number. It's their blind spot. These people live in  "flyover country."

When Trump appointed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education in 2017, the Left came further unhinged. DeVos, we were told, was unqualified, unprepared, "fundamentally incompetent," a zealot, and - to the Teacher's unions - apparently Gozer the Gozerian because she is enthusiastically in favor of education vouchers and school choice. Something the teachers unions vociferously oppose. You'll notice that our "Ruling Class" already practices "school choice." Their offspring attend private schools.
It is only from a special point of view that 'education' is a failure. As to its own purposes, it is an unqualified success. One of its purposes is to serve as a massive tax-supported jobs program for legions of not especially able or talented people. As social programs go, it’s a good one. The pay isn’t high, but the risk is low, the standards are lenient, entry is easy, and job security is pretty good...in fact, the system is perfect, except for one little detail. We must find a way to get the children out of it. -- Richard Mitchell, The Underground Grammarian
School choice is not enough. We need to nuke the whole thing from orbit, and make the rubble bounce.

Sugatra Mitra, previously quoted, was among the forefront of people who had to learn how to write software, and ended up doing more teaching of that skill than physics. When the generic PC hit the market, his colleagues were astounded to see that their young children could learn to operate these complex, expensive machine without instruction. This piqued his interest in primary education. Though his interest was specific to the British system, he came to a very interesting conclusion:
I used to teach people how to write computer programs in New Delhi, 14 years ago (1999) , and right next to where I worked there was a slum. I used to think how on earth are those kids ever going to learn to write computer programs? Or should they not? At the same time we had lots of parents, rich people who had computers, and who used to tell me "You know, my son, I think he's gifted, because he does wonderful things with computers. Oh and my daughter - surely she is extra intelligent." and so on. So I suddenly figured that how come all the rich people are having these extraordinarily gifted children? What did the poor do wrong?

I made a hole in the boundary wall of the slum next to my office, and stuck a computer inside just to see what would happen if I gave a computer to children who never would have one, didn't know any English, didn't know what the Internet was. The children came running in. It was three feet off the ground, and they said "What is this?" And I said "Yeah, it's, I don't know." They said "Why did you put it there?" I said "Just like that." And they said "Can we touch it?" And I said "If you wish to." And I went away.

About eight hours later, we found them browsing, and teaching each other how to browse. So I said "That's impossible, because- You know how is it possible? They don't know anything." My colleagues said "no it's a simple solution. One of your students must have been passing by and showed them how to use the mouse." So I said "Yeah, that's possible." So I repeated the experiment. I went 300 miles out of Delhi into a really remote village where the chances of a passing software development engineer was very little. I repeated the experiment there. There was no place to stay, so I stuck my computer in, I went away. I came back after a couple of months, found kids playing games on it. When they saw me they said "We want a faster processor and a better mouse." So I said "How on Earth do you know all this?" And they said something very interesting to me. In an irritated voice they said "You've given us a machine that works only in English, so we had to teach ourselves English in order to use it." That's the first time as a teacher I've heard the words "teach ourselves" said so casually.
Please watch the entire 22 minute video. It's important for your understanding of the rest of this essay. If you've not seen it before, it'll knock your socks off. If you're unfamiliar with the man, watch several more of his presentations. But Self Organized Learning Environments and the School in the Cloud answering "big questions" are also not enough. Human beings need to be able to do simple math in their heads, to at least understand algebra, to read with comprehension and for enjoyment, to understand history, both Western and worldwide, to understand how different governments work (or don't), and much more. In addition they need to be able to apply their knowledge to reach logical rather than emotional hypotheses and test them, and to learn skills that have been, as Mike Rowe observes, abandoned in the pursuit of mostly useless, incredibly expensive college degrees with the specious promise that a piece of paper promises a well-paying career leaving a society with a disdain for jobs that require physical labor as somehow inferior and degrading. And they need to be taught a work ethic. I like Mike's take on it.

As R.A. Heinlein put it:
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
While there are autodidacts (I'm one when it comes to American history, education and Constitutional law), I don't think many people are. Those people who aren't need some direction, some pressure to learn. Generally it's pursuit of better employment opportunities, but those are adults. We're talking here about primary education. Again the Internet has become the place to go for everything from mathematics to chemistry to ancient history, to just about anything you can imagine, but someone has to provide that content and point kids at it with interest in learning it.

As far as content creation is concerned, there is multiple-degreed former hedge-fund manager and now The Most Influential Person in Education Technology, Salman Kahn, who in 2004 was tutoring his niece in mathematics long-distance using YouTube, Yahoo Doodle, a closet, a $900 desktop from Best Buy and a $200 microphone. Sound familiar?

Kahn established his non-profit Kahn Academy in 2008, beginning with a mathematics curricula, but with outside funding he's been able to hire staff and expand to many, many other subjects. His major concern, however, is mastery of the subject. That requires keeping track of each student's progress, and not allowing them to move on until they demonstrate that mastery:
I grew up with plenty of smart people. They would beat me at chess, they could solve brain teasers before I could, but then they would struggle in algebra. These were incredibly smart people who simply did not have the foundation in math that I had. I saw the same thing with my cousin, Nadia. She had actually gotten “A”s and “B”s in every math class. Despite that, she had some serious gaps in her knowledge that became more significant as the content became more difficult.
These gaps are due to the Prussian system - all students arrive in the classroom at the same time, are lectured by a teacher who has little to no time for individual attention but must finish the lecture before the next bell rings and then gives homework to the students to be turned in the next day. As he has said many times, would you construct a building this way? His example is that a contractor is hired to build that building, with a rigid time schedule. The contractor has X number of days to pour the foundation, regardless of weather or anything else. When the inspector shows up, he says "Well the concrete isn't quite dry here, and there's a crack there. I'd give it an 80%." Well, 80% is a "B" and that's good enough, right? So the contractor proceeds. But when they get to the 4th floor, the entire structure collapses. Who's at fault?

The education system.

With the Kahn Academy the lectures are viewed at home where you can back them up or simply repeat them until you've got the idea. Only then are you given problems to work, which can be done in the classroom in collaborative effort with five or six other students helping explain anything the struggling student still doesn't quite grasp, just as Dr. Mitra's SOLEs are set up. Software keeps track of the student's performance by providing those questions to solve, and once the student gives a sufficient number of correct answers in a row it determines that the student has shown mastery of the idea and allows moving ahead to the next concept. Each child learns at a different pace, with some progressing rapidly and others needing more time. The Kahn Academy model is the very definition of "No child left behind." The critical thing is, short of a mental disability, your kid isn't necessarily more brilliant than other kids. They're all a lot brighter than we give them credit for, but they're forced to not learn.

Back when I started this post literally years ago Kahn was working with a public school and concentrating on mathematics with this reverse system. I found an article about it which I can't find now, but I do remember that the class he was working with was something like sixth-graders. One student really grasped math. She had advanced to Calculus in a very short period - a class I had to work hard to get into my Senior year of High School in the Prussian system. There were nine of us in that class out of about 200 Seniors. She was maybe 12 years old. But what struck me was a comment by one of her teachers: "How do we slow them down?"

We shouldn't, but that "teacher" should be fired. I refer you back to that quote from the Underground Grammarian.

Kids learn, as Dr. Mitra has found, when they are intellectually challenged.  They learn at different rates, as Salman Khan has exhaustively documented. And they generally learn best when allowed to collaborate in small groups, receive enthusiastic reinforcement from adults, and are otherwise left alone to teach themselves.  No wonder the teachers unions are afraid. They're pretty much not needed, and are instead an anchor slowing if not inhibiting not "education" but learning. The money thrown at "education" has no effect, but the education establishment constantly blames a lack of sufficient funding as the root cause of the failure of the education system, so more and more money gets poured down that particular rat-hole.


And where does that money go? Not into infrastructure, not into the classroom, certainly not into the pockets of teachers, no matter how good or bad they are, but into the pockets of an ever-expanding army of bureaucrats that "administrate" or monitor students for things like political correctness and diversity and tolerance. Like all government programs, failure means "throw more money at it."

In addition children need to be challenged and allowed to work with both their brains and their hands to learn useful skills.  That opportunity could come from access to "Maker Labs" now springing up, albeit slowly, around the country. Hopefully the growth of these learning centers will also be exponential. The problem here though is that such labs are expensive to establish, to stock and to maintain.  That money has to come from somewhere, and the Ruling Class has no incentive to provide that funding, given that it does not produce the dependable, uniform cogs they depend on.

So we have the opportunity to switch to a system that allows the maximum possible development of every individual, rather than producing those uniform, unthinking cogs our current system relies on, but who wants that? Instead the Ruling Class wants to perpetuate this forever:


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

9/11 Revisited

I posted this several years ago, but I thought it appropriate to repost with an update.







And then there was Spain:




Then London:



But in between those came Beslan:



Does anyone doubt that the enemy wants to do that here? I recommend that you read Steven Den Beste's latest (2006) piece, The Disunited States of America, but remember this: Disagree all you want, but when you start working for their side, don't be surprised when the rest of us roll right over the top of you, leaving nothing but a smear.

I'm sorely disappointed with my fellow man seventeen years down the road from the initial attack.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Humbled

During my second, third hospital stay? my daugter set up a GoFundMe fundraiser, and - being cogent - I told her to take it down.  She did.  But the first 2-3 days of my last hospitilization, "I wasn't all there" puts it mildly.  I'm currently on short-term disability, and I need a replacement liver.  My health insurance is great, but there's only so much it covers so my wife told her to fire it back up again.

She raised $10,140 over a very short period, almost exclusively from readers of this blog.  Other bloggers such as Say Uncle (and I don't have a complete list) linked to it.  Lots of encouraging comments were left with the donations, along with a lot of praise for the contents of this blog.

All I can say is, I'm humbled and grateful for all of you.  Thank you from the bottom of my soul.  Thank you for letting me join this tribe, where I have met, both online and in meatspace, some of the finest human beings anyone could ever know.

"Thank you" is inadequate for what I feel, but it's the best I can do.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Still Alive

I'm pretty damned sick, but I'm still kicking (weakly).

So far I've had four hospital stays: Memorial Day through the following Friday, July 10-14, August 11-14, and August 15-24. 

I've been "not right" since at least January, beginning with severe swelling of both legs.  The first hospital trip was due to that.  Diagnosis:  non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver.  (That means "lots of scar tissue to the point the liver don't do it's job much.)  Second trip was due to internal blood loss from a gastric ulcer combined with blood thinners I'd been taking since May of 2017.  I had about half my normal blood volume.  Felt great for for a couple of weeks after being given three units of blood, then August 11 I didn't feel great anymore.  Lots of blood tests, lots of medication adjustments.  After being discharged from the hospital, I collapsed at home the next evening, so back we went.  Seems your kidneys don't work real well if your liver isn't working right, and also if your liver isn't working right, nasty crap like ammonia builds up in your bloodstream.

I "lost" a couple of days there I literally have no memory of.  Took about a week to get my brain fully back online.  For an engineer, it's scary to realize you cannot do simple arithmetic in your head.

So I've been at home now since 8-24, and I'm setting up "Short-term disability" until I can get some strength back, at least enough to get into my office to start doing some paying work.  So if' you've been wondering where I've been, now you know.

Friday, August 10, 2018

How Do You Have "Reasoned Discorse" With a Far Leftist?

Over at Quora, I answered the question "What do most Americans fundamentally misunderstand about the U.S. Constitution?"
That the purpose of the Constitution is to establish the rules under which the Federal government is constructed, and that those rules are designed, as George Will once observed:
When James Madison and fifty-four other geniuses went to Philadelphia in the sweltering summer of 1787, they did not go there to design an efficient government, the idea would have horrified them. They wanted a safe government to which end they filled it with blocking mechanisms. Three branches of government. Two branches of the legislative branch. Veto. Veto override. Supermajorities. Judicial review. And yet I can think of nothing the American people have wanted intensely and protractedly that they did not eventually get.

 The world understands. A world most of whose people live under governments they wish were capable of gridlock, that we always have more to fear from government speed than government tardiness.
And:
The very virtue of a constitution is that it is not changeable. It exists to prevent change, to embed certain rights so that they cannot easily be taken away.

And we get this:
In the comments I had several exchanges with someone who is so far left I can't even grasp it.  Here's one:

Bhuvanesh Bhatt
“The reason that almost all "improvements" make matters worse is that most new ideas are false.”

Kevin Baker
I was quoting George Will, but in answer to your question let me recommend to you a couple of excellent books on the topic, The Burden of Bad Ideas, and Intellectuals and Society

Don Tracy
Honestly, I have never found any conservative ideology to even be readable. I would not waste my time on any proclaimed conservative because they write in a mysterious religious tone that is baffling to anyone used to rational discourse.

Kevin Baker
Translated: “There’s no talking to The Other Side™, because their philosophy is not understandable by my side of the aisle.” That way lies physical conflict.

Don Tracy
More accurate translation: “There’s no talking to the Republican/Conservative coalition.”

Kevin Baker
You’re falsely attributing to “the Republican/Conservative coalition” the beliefs of “murderous racists in Charlottsville” who are a tiny minority of the population.That’s called “Othering,” a necessary precursor to dehumanizing your opposition. Once they’re not humans, well then you needn’t regard their rights.

Don Tracy
You totally miss the point. The conservatives have never condemned the racist behavior and some actually blame the “non-conservatives” for instigating the trouble. I understand you truly believe in the “cause” but what gives you the right to be so twisted?

Kevin Baker
"Face it, non-conservatives are committed to respecting all people and their arguments with the expectation that they will play fair.

Yeah, right. You’ve exhibited just that in this comment thread (not).

Don Tracy
I fully support and even believe in Antifa. They are freedom fighters.

Kevin Baker
So you’re good with Antifa violence? I thought you supported rational discourse. Yeah, we’re on very, very different sides.

Don Tracy
It is valid opposition. Trash can fires are a great way to get your attention.
As for different sides, I think you made a choice out of ignorance. If you would investigate with an open mind then you would have to agree with Antifa. Childish fear should never be part of decision making.

Kevin Baker
Not exactly “trash can fires.” Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley

Don Tracy
It is still valid opposition and required to expose and castigate the un-American fascists leading our nation at all of our expense for their profit.

Kevin Baker
So you endorse their violence. Check.

Don Tracy
The violence is only in your imagination.

Kevin Baker
No, it’s reported in the media - which I’m sure you believe is right-wing. But I can point you to the people arrested at the Berkeley event as reported by the police there. Who’s ignoring reality now?

Don Tracy
That’s true - the media is entirely biased for the right wing. I don’t need it.

We live in entirely separate realities.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Oligarchy

I knew that D.C. was corrupt, but I was unaware just how bad it actually is.  Elect someone new to Congress or the Senate?  They can't represent the people who elected them because they have no power.  That is in the hands of the Power Elite, and through them the staffers and the lobbyists.  And if they don't toe the line, the RNC and DNC will do everything in their power to make sure that they don't get re-elected.  We don't have a Representative Republic, we have descended to an Oligarchy.  Watch all four parts of The Swamp.  If that doesn't piss you off, nothing will.  And note that the only members of Congress that agreed to be part of this documentary series are Republican House members - no Democrats, no Senators.

Part 1:



Part 2:



Part 3:



Part 4:



Torches, pitchforks, tar and feathers anyone?

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Quote of the Day

When we were young of course we always wanted to change the world, and thought we could.
But now I think we're smart enough to know we're only here to help the neighborhood - Rick Danko

Thursday, June 28, 2018

SCOTUS

I know Mike Lee is being promoted for the opening Supreme Court seat, but he's currently part of the (tiny) Republican majority in the Senate.  Should he be the successful nominee, his most likely replacement would be Mitt Romney.

Trey Gowdy, on the other hand, is a member of the House and is not running for reelection. He's a supporter of the Tea Party, and if you've watched any of the videos of him grilling department officials and others, he's pretty damned impressive. He's qualified, and I think he'd be an excellent choice.

What say you?

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

So TV chef Anthony Bourdain recently committed suicide.  As to "why," there's very seldom any understandable reason.  I've seen a lot of Bourdain's work, as my wife loved his No Reservations and Parts Unknown shows, and I got sucked into them as well.  Then I ran across the YouTube series Raw Craft, which was about as commercial as Bourdain got.  That was fascinating to me.

The thing about him that appealed to me was that he was very open about what he thought, but was open to pretty much everything.  He listened.

Being an openly New York liberal, his basic beliefs conflicted with a large percentage of the U.S. population.  As an example, in an interview he was asked what he would serve President Trump and Kim Jong Un if given the opportunity.  His response:  "Poison."

Unsurprisingly, that offended a lot of people.

So for the first episode of his eleventh season of "Parts Unknown" he decided to forego the normal destinations like Uganda or Suriname and instead he went to someplace truly exotic and literally unknown:  West Virginia.  (Give that link a watch while it's still available.  It's not quite an hour long.)  From the show notes:
I guess for a long time I’ve been going to foreign locations like Iran, Liberia, Vietnam, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia where the culture and politics are very, very different than my own, and yet I try to go with an open mind and show some respect. And I like the idea of going to the heart of “Trump, God, and guns” country and looking at it in exactly the same way — with an open mind, as I’ve done elsewhere. It seemed only fair and only right.

I’ve gotta tell you, I was absolutely rocked back on my heels by, first of all, how beautiful it is, and how kind people were to me, and generous. I mean, in the same way that my preconceptions are upended so often around the world, I felt the same thing happening in West Virginia. In the stereotypical coal mining town in West Virginia — which is pretty much where we went, into the poorest area of West Virginia coal country — I was utterly moved and enchanted by the people and the place. And I like to think I came back from it with a more nuanced picture of what it means to be a coal miner, and why people voted for a sketchy businessman from New York who’s never changed a tire in his life.

You know, I went right at those things — guns, God, and Trump — and I was very moved by what I found there. I hope that people who watch the show will feel the same kind of empathy and respect, and will be able to walk in somebody else’s shoes, or imagine walking in somebody else’s shoes, for a few minutes in the same way that hopefully they do with one of my other shows.
Yesterday Rod Dreher posted a eulogy to Bourdain, A Tale of Two Tonys for The American Conservative. Give that a read as well.  Dreher concluded his piece with something I cannot say any better than he did:
If you didn’t follow Bourdain’s work, I hope you will now. We lost a great American last week.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Central AZ Blogshoot

On Saturday SUNDAY, June 3 a friend of mine who moved here from Australia wants to introduce anyone interested to his brother, who is the Membership and Branches Officer for the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers party, a pro-firearms political party Down Under. As I mentioned a few posts below, it will be at the Casa Grande public shooting range, just off I-8. Stephen Bowler will be available to answer questions about what actually happened in Australia after their buybacks and hand-ins, and everybody can bring their bangsticks and throw some lead downrange at the same time.

Unfortunately I won't be able to make this one.

Elzy Pearson Public Shooting Range: 2766 S Isom Rd, Casa Grande, AZ 85222

Opens at 8:00AM

Take I-8 West from I-10. Exit at Trekell Rd. Turn left. At Arica Rd. turn left again. At the end first intersection, turn Right on to Isom Rd. The public range will be the second range on the left. The first belongs to the police department and they don't play well with others.

Several of the ranges are covered and equipped with concrete shooting benches, but no chairs. Bring chairs, beverages, etc. The main range is 300 yards, and there are 100 and 50 yard pistol ranges. The range has portajohns, but I'd bring a roll of TP just in case. No glass targets, no tannerite, and no .50BMGs.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

"...another round of organized violence and hands on learning...."

Over on the Book of Face, Mike Rowe gives another example of why he is The Man™. He cuts through the BS to the heart of the matter:
Off the Wall

Sharon Freeman‎ to Mike Rowe

Mike Rowe, I’m curious as to your opinion on the tragic death of the Boy Scouts of America?! I have several cousins that are Eagle Scouts, and I know that you are one also, so I feel you have somewhat of a vested interest in this matter. I didn’t have a problem with entire families going on Boy Scout camping trips, but to force them to become co-ed...I think that’s sad.

Hi Sharon

In 1974, I was a painfully shy twelve-year-old kid with an annoying stammer and a deep fear of trying anything new. I was also very awkward around girls. I dreamed of being near them, but in real life, their proximity made me sweaty and nauseous. So one evening, my father dragged me to the basement of Kenwood Presbyterian Church, where the boys of Troop 16 were in the midst of an organized brawl called British Bulldog. The rules were simple.

One kid stood alone in the middle of the room. On the far end, 25 boys waited for the scoutmaster to blow a whistle, at which point they’d bolt to the other end. During the charge, the kid in the middle would attempt to tackle somebody and lift him in the air long enough to yell, “1,2,3, British Bulldog!” That kid, if successfully lifted, would join the other kid in the middle of the room, and together, they’d go about the business of tackling and lifting other kids during each subsequent charge. In the end, the last one to be lifted was declared the winner – the British Bulldog.

I was immediately thrust into this pandemonium and hoisted into the air, despite my best efforts to remain grounded. Somewhere along the way I got a bloody nose. Others sustained busted lips, black eyes, and sprained fingers. Happily, the game was followed by a course in First Aid, taught by a local paramedic who showed us how to apply a tourniquet and administer CPR. It was awesome.

In the coming weeks, I learned how to tie a sheepshank, throw a boomerang, build a fire, and make a lean-to. I was given a Boy Scout Handbook, and told to memorize the Scout Law and The Scout Oath. I did, and a week later, after another round of organized violence and hands on learning, I was summoned to the stage in the basement. There, I stood by the flag, raised my right hand, and promised to “do my duty to God and my country, obey the Scout Law, help other people at all times, and to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.”

The Scout Oath was the first promise I ever made, and I tried my best to keep it. I also got busy earning Skill Awards and Merit Badges, a consistently frustrating pursuit that always seemed to highlight my chronic incompetence. The Scoutmaster, a retired Army Colonel named Mr. Huntington – often said, “I know you're uncomfortable, Mike. Might as well find a way to enjoy it.”

In Troop 16, merit badges reflected merit. There was a boxing ring, where differences were often settled, monthly camping trips, frequent visits to the shooting range, weekly fitness tests, poetry readings from memory, and many other activities tailor-made to pull every kid out of his particular comfort zone. It was often humbling, but never humiliating. Failure was simply viewed as the most common symptom of trying. Consequently, the more I tried, the more I failed. The more I failed, the more I succeeded. The more I succeeded, the more confident I became. My grades improved in school. My stammer vanished, as did my awkwardness around girls.

One year at summer camp, I was called upon to sing a song of my choice at the evening campfire. It was parent’s night, and several hundred people from multiple troops were on hand. None were expecting me to belt out a tune from Tom Lehrer called “Be Prepared,” but that’s precisely what I did. https://bit.ly/2wJWpjm

If you’re not familiar with this little gem, give it a listen. It is without question the most inappropriate song a Boy Scout could ever sing in public, but I thought it was hysterical, and packed with excellent advice. Afterward, Mr. Huntington offered a general apology to the parents in attendance, and gave me latrine duty for the duration of the encampment. Later though, he pulled me aside and said, “Mike, that was the funniest damn thing I’ve ever heard. Great job!”

Six years and two-dozen merit badges later, I was an Eagle Scout. Thirty-five years after that, I became a “Distinguished” Eagle Scout. I’m still not sure what I did to “distinguish” myself, but I accepted the award with gratitude, and I’ve tried ever since to give something back to the organization that gave me so much. Which brings us to what you've called “the tragic death" of The Boy Scouts, and the frightful prospects of “forced co-ed camping.”

According to their official statement, https://cnn.it/2HOv7gY, the Boy Scouts are welcoming girls because that’s what the overwhelming majority of parents want. From what I can tell, no one is being “forced” to do anything. Nothing in their statement talks about “co-ed” camping or even co-ed Troop Meetings.

As I read it, The Boy Scouts are launching a separate program that serves girls. Yes, The Girl Scouts are pissed, and the reason is clear - they don’t want the competition. https://theatln.tc/2l0pq4f. But respectfully, is that argument even remotely persuasive? Competition is good, even among organizations that have similar goals. Especially now, with 90 million kids in this country unaffiliated with any youth-based organization. So I’m not opposed to building a program within Scouting for girls. But I am very worried about the future of Scouting in general.

When I left the organization in 1979, there were 5 million active members. Today, there are 2.3 million. With the recent departure of the Mormon community, that number will soon drop to under two million. Clearly, something is wrong. The question is what? Is it the past sexual scandals? Is it the more recent admission of gay and transgender members? I would imagine those are factors. But a 60% decline? That seems very unlikely. Besides, the drop-off started long before all that. Likewise, girls have always been excluded from The Boy Scouts, so I’m skeptical that welcoming them now, will fix whatever’s broken.

In my opinion, this kind of attrition can only explained by an increasing lack of relevance, or, the perception of irrelevance. Unfortunately, in situations like this, there's no difference between perception and reality. And right now, there's a perception that The Boy Scouts have gone soft. That's the real tragedy, Sharon, because I can’t think of anything more needed in our country today, than a youth organization that offers kids the same experience I underwent in the basement of Kenwood Church. Why? Because our country’s current obsession with “safe spaces” is destroying character faster than the Boy Scouts of today can build it.

Obviously, we want our kids protected from the hazards of a dangerous world. And clearly, the world we live it is a dangerous place. But safety is not the purpose of our existence, and this whole idea that kids need to be protected from fear, distress, discomfort, and disappointment is far more dangerous to the future of our country than anything I ever encountered in Scouting. You can’t build character in a “safe space.” You can only build dependence and entitlement, and you don’t have to look very far to see the results. Pardon my rant, but the stakes are high.

Too many kids are graduating from high school with no sense of who they are. Too many kids are leaving college with no marketable skill. Too many kids have never pondered a code to live by, or considered the importance of anything beyond the pursuit of their own comfort. It’s easy to call these kids “snowflakes,” but where do you suppose they came from?

We are the clouds from which the snowflakes fell. We are the ones who gave them trophies just for showing up. We’re the ones who told them that their feelings were more important than their actions, and that their dreams would come true if they simply followed them. Now, we are confronted with millions of dissatisfied young adults with no tolerance for beliefs that conflict with their own, and no realistic understanding of how life actually works.

I know I’m generalizing. I know there are many hardworking, conscientious millennials out there. I employ several. But I also know the “safe space movement” is real, and I can think of no better way to push back than to expose more kids to the brand of Scouting that I was lucky enough to encounter four decades ago. If by some miracle the dynamic I experienced in Troop 16 were available to everyone today – if Scouting could somehow recapture that combination of risk and wonder and pride and personal accountability - I believe their ranks would swell with the sons and daughters of millions of anxious parents, desperate to expose their kids to a program that prepares them for the real world.

I worry about The Boy Scouts for the same reasons I worry about The Girl Scouts and The Future Farmers of America and Skills USA and The 4-H Club and every other group that tries to elevate virtues like hard work, delayed gratification, and personal responsibility. I worry, because those ideas are wildly out of fashion, and organizations that have traditionally celebrated them are under enormous pressure to “evolve.” And so they do. But to what end? A 60% drop in membership?

If the Boy Scouts want to attract a new generation of members, they'll need to stand for something more than inclusion. Because being inclusive doesn't make you relevant. If I were calling the shots, I'd take a stand against the safe space movement and everything it embodies. And I'd do it in the most public way possible. But of course, that might also require a level of risk completely inconsistent with current orthodoxy.

As we all know, in 1974, a chipped tooth or a black eye didn’t lead to lawsuit, and today, I’m pretty sure a boxing ring and a trip to the shooting range would make a lot of parents...uncomfortable. But that’s exactly the point. In a world that values safety above everything else, discomfort is never welcome. Neither is risk. And yet, discomfort and risk are precisely why my time in Scouting was so valuable, and why Troop 16 was the polar opposite of a safe space.

Anyway Sharon, that’s a very long way of saying that girls are not the enemy. The enemy is bad ideology, and the inability to effectively confront it. Do I favor co-ed Scouting? Hell no. I can’t think of a single good reason to put girls and boys in the same troop, the same tent, the same boxing ring, or the same game of British Bulldog. But I can think of many good reasons to include them in a unified effort to confront the siren song of “safe spaces.”

Someone has to challenge the insipid belief that safety is the most important part of living. Someone has to challenge the idea that feelings trump achievement. Someone has to challenge the idea that “crying closets” on campuses designed to console stressed out students who just can't handle their finals exams, (or the outcome of a presidential election,) will produce a responsible, productive adult.

It’s not enough to simply ignore bad ideas. The safe space movement needs to be confronted, and I’d love nothing more than to see Scouts of both genders lead the charge.

Mike

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Beware Scammers

So, somebody tried to run a scam on me today.

I received a phone call on my cell as I was leaving a job site, and while I normally check the incoming number, I don't do that while driving. I just hit the "hands-free" button and answered.  A young woman who sounded remarkably like my daughter does in hysterics (I've heard her in hysterics before) said she'd been in an accident, didn't know where she was and a guy "wouldn't let her go."

Said guy got on the phone and informed me that he had my daughter, and if I wanted her back alive, I was going to have to get him some money - all I could scrape up - and fast.

I informed him I was two hours out of Tucson in the freaking middle of nowhere. Took a while to convince him, but he finally instructed me that he wanted me to drive to the town of Superior and wire him some money from a check-cashing place there. I told him that I was on an AT&T cell phone, and that service out there sucked, and the call would probably be dropped before I got to Superior. He informed me that if the call dropped, my daughter would be dead. He did everything he could think of to keep me on the line.

Sure enough, the call dropped just outside of Superior. The phone number was Mexican (+52 country code). I called 911 as soon as cell service was restored. I checked and my daughter was at work, and so was my grandaughter.

Got my adrenaline dump for the month.

Beware scammers. This guy had done this before, and was very smooth. I wanted to rip his spleen out through his mouth.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

May Victims of Communism Day


Today is the tenth annual Victims of Communism Day, a day to remember the people murdered by their own governments in their quest to achieve a "worker's paradise" where everyone is equal, where "to each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities" is the beautiful dream lie.  R.J. Rummel, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Hawaii, has calculated that the total number of victims of Communism - that is, the domestic victims of their own governments - in the USSR, China, Vietnam, North Korea and Cambodia is 98.4 million people.  For all Communist governments during the 20th Century, he puts the estimate at approximately 110 million.  And this wasn't in warfare against other nations, this was what these governments did to their own people - "breaking eggs" for their utopian omelette that never gets made.

Six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, and another six million people the Nazis decided were "undesirable" went with them.  "Never again" is the motto of the modern Jew, and many others just as dedicated.  But "again and again and again" seems to be the rebuke of history.

The Communists are hardly alone in these crimes.  Rummel estimates that the total number of people murdered by their own governments during the 20th Century is on the close order of 262 million, but the single biggest chunk of that truly frightening number is directly due to one pernicious idea:  That we can make people better.

Why do I own guns?  For a number of reasons, but one of them is this:
And how we burned in the camps later, thinking: What would things have been like if every Security operative, when he went out at night to make an arrest, had been uncertain whether he would return alive and had to say good-bye to his family? Or if, during periods of mass arrests, as for example in Leningrad, when they arrested a quarter of the entire city, people had not simply sat there in their lairs, paling with terror at every bang of the downstairs door and at every step on the staircase, but had understood they had nothing left to lose and had boldly set up in the downstairs hall an ambush of half a dozen people with axes, hammers, pokers, or whatever else was at hand?  --  Alexandr Solzhenitzyn, The Gulag Archipelago

--

The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed - where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once. -- Judge Alex Kozinski, dissenting, Silveira v. Lockyer, denial to re-hear en banc, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, 2003.
I intend to repeat this post each May 1 that I continue to run this blog. 

Several years ago, Sipsey Street Irregulars had a post to go along with this one.  STRONGLY RECOMMENDED.

In 2013 Not Clausewitz also made a worthy addition.

Friday, March 30, 2018

More Quora Debate

I recently received an invitation to answer a question over at Quora because another contributor had used a previous answer of mine in his response.  Instead of answering the question, I directly engaged the other contributor.  The question was, "Is there a rigorous, logical and consistent way to define what firearm constitutes an 'assault weapon' and what doesn't?" The answer by Mr. Dave Consiglio that started all of this was:
This answer:

Kevin Baker's answer to Are the differences between assault weapons and sporting weapons merely cosmetic?

Perfectly illustrates the problem we currently have with a vague definition of assault rifles.

Is there a rigorous way to do this? Sure. There are dozens of rigorous ways to do this. How would I do it?

I'd define (and ban) any weapon that can fire more rapidly than the weapons available when the 2nd amendment was passed. If it was good enough for Madison and Jefferson, it should be good enough for us.

I've heard estimates between 2 and 5 rounds per minute for a musket of that era. Please feel free to correct me if that number is in error. But anything faster than that is an assault rifle in my book.

That takes all semiautomatic weapons off the table. Handguns are mostly out, too. What's left are single shot hunting rifles. Slow ones.
So I responded:
Each time I come across this answer, I find it amazing that the author thinks it’s original to them, and has never been proposed before.

Let me quote from one of my favorite legal dissents once again:

“Judges know very well how to read the Constitution broadly when they are sympathetic to the right being asserted. We have held, without much ado, that ‘speech, or...the press’ also means the Internet...and that ‘persons, houses, papers, and effects’ also means public telephone booths....When a particular right comports especially well with our notions of good social policy, we build magnificent legal edifices on elliptical constitutional phrases - or even the white spaces between lines of constitutional text. But, as the panel amply demonstrates, when we're none too keen on a particular constitutional guarantee, we can be equally ingenious in burying language that is incontrovertibly there.

“It is wrong to use some constitutional provisions as springboards for major social change while treating others like senile relatives to be cooped up in a nursing home until they quit annoying us. As guardians of the Constitution, we must be consistent in interpreting its provisions. If we adopt a jurisprudence sympathetic to individual rights, we must give broad compass to all constitutional provisions that protect individuals from tyranny. If we take a more statist approach, we must give all such provisions narrow scope. Expanding some to gargantuan proportions while discarding others like a crumpled gum wrapper is not faithfully applying the Constitution; it's using our power as federal judges to constitutionalize our personal preferences.”

If you apply your logic to the First Amendment respectfully, this is the only technology you are Constitutionally guaranteed:

The quill pen:


The hand-operated printing press:


The soap box in the public square:


And hiring a town crier:


After all, if they were good enough for Madison and Jefferson… Right?

Oh, and were you aware that individuals could purchase cannon back then? Even cannon-armed ships used a privateers to harass enemy shipping?

No licensing, no registration, no tax stamp.

Good enough for Madison and Jefferson, right?
He responded rather swiftly:
I’d be OK with legalizing period cannons. It would be inconsistent for me not to be OK with it, wouldn’t it? But black powder only, and you’ll have to use traditional packing and lighting methods. Also, police will be armed with the latest weapons because the 2nd amendment only applies to common citizens, not to the military or police forces.

I would also oppose licensing or registering cannons, muskets, and related devices. I would posit that ships would have to be registered, though, as flags and other insignia were required on ships in those days. Similarly, docking and transporting were regulated, even during the revolutionary war. Thus, privateers would face some small regulation.

Oh, and they’d have to be sailing vessels only. Of course. Wood and canvas.

As for the 1st amendment, I would gladly give up the internet in exchange for the more than 30,000 people dead each year in this country at the hands of modern firearms. The post office existed in those days, and we could return to writing letters. Since I allowed for modern guns with similar firing rates to muskets, I think it’s fair that modern pens are allowed, though quills would certainly be permitted. Similarly, electric presses that printed at a rate similar to those available in 1791 would be permitted.

It really was good enough for Madison and Jefferson…and it is still good enough for me. I knocked on doors this weekend, campaigning for a future congressperson who will begin the dismantling of the murderous modifications to our laws undertaken by the NRA. It is my hope that we will soon return to a time when ordinary people could not own weapons that could slaughter crowds of people in mere seconds.

And you should want that, too.
OK, it was ON.
Someone once observed that there can be no useful debate between two people with different first principles, except on those principles themselves.

Since that’s not what is happening here, I’d like to explain what I am doing: Mr. Consiglio represents one side of a rather intense debate in this country. I represent another. In keeping with Quora’s BNBR policy, I think Mr. Consiglio is an outstanding example of his side, and appreciate his participation in this forum, but I’m not here to change his mind. I’m here for those not committed to one side or another to witness two opposing views and decide for themselves which better reflects reality.

Let us begin:

“…I would gladly give up the internet in exchange for the more than 30,000 people dead each year in this country at the hands of modern firearms.”

Note his anthropomorphism of the firearm - “at the hands of modern firearms.” The guns are at fault. They are the active vector causing death. Yet a gun cannot load itself, aim itself, or pull its own trigger. That requires, well, actual hands - the hands of a human being.

And of those 30,000 annual deaths? Nearly 2/3rds of them are suicides. About as many more people commit suicide without firearms annually. Generally, when someone has decided to take their own life, they find a way to accomplish it. Yet we’re not seeing marches in D.C. to end suicide.

And the United States with all of its guns ranks about 48th for suicide behind such gun-controlled nations as Japan and Belgium.

The remaining 10,000 annual deaths? Overwhelmingly homicide, true. But the U.S. ranks around 100th worldwide for homicide rate. Nothing to be proud of, but 10,000 deaths isn’t nearly as scary a number as 30,000 is it?

Next: “Also, police will be armed with the latest weapons because the 2nd amendment only applies to common citizens, not to the military or police forces.”

Just for the sake of argument, let’s stipulate that we suffered (a wildly excessive) 30,000 firearm deaths annually since passage of the 1934 National Firearms Act. That’s been 84 years x 30,000 = 2,520,000 deaths in the United States at the hands of private citizens - either their own hands, or the hands of another.

During the 20th Century alone, governments caused the deaths of something on the order of 200,000,000 of their own citizens.

China: 76,000,000

USSR: 62,000,000

Germany: 21,000,000

Cambodia: 2,000,000 (over far less than 84 years)

Etc. etc. etc.

But Mr. Consiglio sees absolutely nothing wrong with ensuring that the agents of government have overwhelming superiority over the average citizen - for our own good, of course. After all, nothing like that could possibly happen here. Right? And after all, what are we mere citizens going to do against nuclear-armed bombers?

Ask the Vietnamese and the Afghans.

As a friend puts it, “Faith in government defies both history and reason.”

And, finally: “I knocked on doors this weekend, campaigning for a future congressperson who will begin the dismantling of the murderous modifications to our laws undertaken by the NRA.”

Thank you, Mr. Consiglio, for participating in our Representative Republic. But somehow I doubt you aware that those supposedly “murderous modifications of our laws undertaken by the NRA” have corresponded with a dramatic decline in gun crime specifically and violent crime overall?

Gun Homicide Rate Down 49% Since 1993 Peak; Public Unaware


What's Behind The Decline In Crime?

Pssst: Crime May Be Near an All-Time Low

The worst thing you can say about things like expanded “shall-issue” concealed carry laws, for example, is that they might not have contributed to these remarkable declines. Oh, and over the same period the number of firearms in private hands has skyrocketed, finally putting a stake in the heart of “more guns = more gun crime” mantra.

Too bad that only works on vampires.

P.S.: “It is my hope that we will soon return to a time when ordinary people could not own weapons that could slaughter crowds of people in mere seconds.”

We’ve never lived in a time like that. One black powder Napoleonic cannon loaded with grapeshot fills that bill. And I find it disturbing that you want such power to be only in the hands of the government.

ETA: I stumbled across this after writing this comment - An Assault Weapons Ban For the IRS (And Other Federal Regulatory Agencies)

Pullquote:

“In 1996, the Bureau of Justice Statistics officially counted 74,500 federal officers who had arrest and firearm authority. By 2008, the Bureau quantified over 120,000 such officers. Newly updated counts were supposed to publish by this July but the Bureau now admits that over 80% of federal agencies ignored or stonewalled responses to their latest survey. What are they trying to hide?

“Even though our organization at Home Page | Open the Books estimated the number of non-Department of Defense federal officers at 200,000+, the current number of non-military federal officers and security personnel could be much larger.”
I think Dave pulled a frontal lobe:
You make the usual compelling but incorrect arguments. People really are much more likely to kill themselves if they have a gun. And we are marching against suicide by marching for universal healthcare, which would help prevent it. And I don't care what the murder rate is in Cambodia - I'm talking about America and you change the subject. And a Napoleonic cannon weighed a ton and needed horses to move it but the Las Vegas shooter easily carried his arsenal into a hotel room and killed dozens. And the government could already vaporize you with a drone or a tank or a nuclear weapon regardless of your gun.

The list goes on and on.

The truth is that you like guns and so in your mind you should have a right to own them. Anyone who suggests otherwise is just wrong.

I would just remind you that slave owners really liked owning slaves and thus felt they should have a right to own them. All their arguments and statistics and logic were just rationalizations of what they wanted to be true. They started a war to defend their beliefs. We had to outnumbered them and then amend the Constitution to finally put an end to their dominance over national discourse.

We will do the same again. It will take time. We have time.
I've been pretty busy, so I let that sit and stew for a bit, then responded:
Sorry for the delay in responding, but I’ve been busy with work. Thanks again for continuing the discussion. Let’s begin:

“People really are much more likely to kill themselves if they have a gun.”

And you can point to which studies that prove this statistically? The study performed at the behest of the Clinton Administration by the National Academies of Science indicated that five-day waiting periods had only one statistically provable effect - it changed the method, but not the rate, of suicide in men over the age of 50. This has been the case for multiple studies conducted in multiple nations over multiple years. So in order to bolster your claim, I think we’d need multiple studies saying what you’re asserting. I haven’t seen them.

“And we are marching against suicide by marching for universal healthcare, which would help prevent it.”

Japan has universal health care. Their suicide rate far exceeds our own. Again, I think you’re making assertions that the facts don’t necessarily back up. And I don’t recall seeing a “Universal Health Care” march on Washington. Perhaps I missed that one.

“I don't care what the murder rate is in Cambodia - I'm talking about America and you change the subject.”

No, you deliberately dodged the subject - retail death at the hands of criminals, vs. wholesale death at the hands of government. You insisted that the government wasn’t affected by the Second Amendment and could have all the mass-murder-capable firearms it wanted while we mere peons should be limited to 3–5 rounds a minute, tops. You stated that you wanted our military and law-enforcement members to have that kind of firepower. I pointed out that - historically - mass murder by governments exceeds mass murder by individuals by a couple of orders of magnitude at a minimum.

And you responded with “I don't care what the murder rate is in Cambodia….”

The Khmer Rouge killed those 2,000,000 victims in a mere five years - from an overall population of 7.5 million - about the population of Dallas-Ft. Worth.

Then you said: “And a Napoleonic cannon weighed a ton and needed horses to move it but the Las Vegas shooter easily carried his arsenal into a hotel room and killed dozens.”

Yes, dozens. As opposed to millions. Or merely hundreds of thousands. Yet you’re OK with private citizens possessing Napoleonic cannon that they can move around with, say a truck.

Something tells me that your concern about the capability of mass-murder isn’t really what we’re discussing here.

“And the government could already vaporize you with a drone or a tank or a nuclear weapon regardless of your gun.”

Sure, if they want to declare all-out war on the citizenry. But they have to leave the drone shack, climb out of the tank or get out of the nuclear bomber some time. And the people they take orders from aren’t exactly invulnerable either.

“The truth is that you like guns and so in your mind you should have a right to own them.”

The truth is that I have a right to defend myself and my family, my neighbors, my state, and my nation. It just so happens that for an individual a firearm is pretty much the best tool for that defense. Denying me those tools while ensuring that others have them puts me at a severe disadvantage. The people who founded this nation understood that an armed populace was the last, best bastion against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and thus they wrote a guarantee into the founding legal document establishing our form of government ensuring that the government would not have the power to disarm the people wholesale.

Now we’re hearing calls to repeal the Second Amendment because - at last - The Other Side™ has acknowledged that prohibition. But they neglect one further bit of recognition: The Second Amendment protects a pre-existing right, stating that right “shall not be infringed.” Repealing the Second Amendment won’t overturn the right to keep and bear arms, it’ll just make confiscation “legal.”

Like slavery used to be. Remember, slaves weren’t allowed to possess arms, either.

He responded almost immediately. Sorry for his lack of formatting:
Sorry for the delay in responding, but I’ve been busy with work. Thanks again for continuing the discussion. Let’s begin:

. “People really are much more likely to kill themselves if they have a gun.”

. And you can point to which studies that prove this statistically? The study performed at the behest of the Clinton Administration by the National Academies of Science indicated that five-day waiting periods had only one statistically provable effect - it changed the method, but not the rate, of suicide in men over the age of 50. This has been the case for multiple studies conducted in multiple nations over multiple years. So in order to bolster your claim, I think we’d need multiple studies saying what you’re asserting. I haven’t seen them.

Guns and suicide: A fatal link

Guns in the Home and Risk of a Violent Death in the Home: Findings from a National Study | American Journal of Epidemiology | Oxford Academic

There are more. The Clinton study was about waiting periods. I'm talking about an absence of guns.

. “And we are marching against suicide by marching for universal healthcare, which would help prevent it.”

. Japan has universal health care. Their suicide rate far exceeds our own. Again, I think you’re making assertions that the facts don’t necessarily back up. And I don’t recall seeing a “Universal Health Care” march on Washington. Perhaps I missed that one.

That is correct. But their murder rate is far below ours. Also, many countries have universal health care and a lower homicide and suicide rate. The average for countries with universal health care is much lower on both counts.

. “I don't care what the murder rate is in Cambodia - I'm talking about America and you change the subject.”

. No, you deliberately dodged the subject - retail death at the hands of criminals, vs. wholesale death at the hands of government. You insisted that the government wasn’t affected by the Second Amendment and could have all the mass-murder-capable firearms it wanted while we mere peons should be limited to 3–5 rounds a minute, tops. You stated that you wanted our military and law-enforcement members to have that kind of firepower. I pointed out that - historically - mass murder by governments exceeds mass murder by individuals by a couple of orders of magnitude at a minimum.

Yes it does. So what? Our government doesn't engage in mass murder. We're talking about homicide and suicide.

. And you responded with “I don't care what the murder rate is in Cambodia….”

The Khmer Rouge killed those 2,000,000 victims in a mere five years - from an overall population of 7.5 million - about the population of Dallas-Ft. Worth.

Yes they did. Our government does not do that. Off topic.

. Then you said: “And a Napoleonic cannon weighed a ton and needed horses to move it but the Las Vegas shooter easily carried his arsenal into a hotel room and killed dozens.”

. Yes, dozens. As opposed to millions. Or merely hundreds of thousands. Yet you’re OK with private citizens possessing Napoleonic cannon that they can move around with, say a truck.

How could one man with one cannon kill millions? He'd have a hard time killing a few. Then, people would restrain him.

. Something tells me that your concern about the capability of mass-murder isn’t really what we’re discussing here.

You're the one who thinks everyone should have access to a portable cannon (aka AR-15)

. “And the government could already vaporize you with a drone or a tank or a nuclear weapon regardless of your gun.”

. Sure, if they want to declare all-out war on the citizenry. But they have to leave the drone shack, climb out of the tank or get out of the nuclear bomber some time. And the people they take orders from aren’t exactly invulnerable either.

Please. Drones are in the sky 24/7. Nukes haven't been dropped from bombers since the 50s. The president pushes a button and you die. Your gun is useless.

“The truth is that you like guns and so in your mind you should have a right to own them.”

The truth is that I have a right to defend myself and my family, my neighbors, my state, and my nation. It just so happens that for an individual a firearm is pretty much the best tool for that defense. Denying me those tools while ensuring that others have them puts me at a severe disadvantage. The people who founded this nation understood that an armed populace was the last, best bastion against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and thus they wrote a guarantee into the founding legal document establishing our form of government ensuring that the government would not have the power to disarm the people wholesale.

Now we’re hearing calls to repeal the Second Amendment because - at last - The Other Side™ has acknowledged that prohibition. But they neglect one further bit of recognition: The Second Amendment protects a pre-existing right, stating that right “shall not be infringed.” Repealing the Second Amendment won’t overturn the right to keep and bear arms, it’ll just make confiscation “legal.”

Pre-existing rights aren't a thing. When the 2nd is appealed you will have no right. The sooner the better.

Like slavery used to be. Remember, slaves weren’t allowed to possess arms, either.

Nope. And you can't possess a slave anymore. Soon it'll be slaves and guns.
Oy, this is really getting good, so I decided to tweak him again and see what else I could get him to say:
“The Clinton study was about waiting periods. I'm talking about an absence of guns.”

No, the Clinton study was about ‘gun violence,’ including suicide. The study overall said “We find no statistical evidence that gun control has any effect - positive or negative - on the rate of gun violence, but five-day waiting periods have this interesting statistical effect of changing the method of suicide for older males.” The study was Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review.

Your second link - “Guns and suicide: a fatal link” was a survey. It shows what in statistics is known as correlation, but not causation. The majority of vehicles owned in Wyoming are pickup trucks. This correlates with the suicide rate, but does not cause suicide. Connecticut and New York are both anti-gun states and their “Gun Ownership” numbers look approximately the same, but Connecticut has a much higher Suicide rate than New York. Massachusetts has the lowest “Gun Suicide” rate and is the most gun unfriendly state in the country, yet California and Illinois - also very gun-unfriendly states - have much higher rates of suicide by gun. Why? Strain all you wish, but you haven’t proven causation.

Your first link was from a 2004 study that - once again - correlated gun ownership with the risk of dying by gunshot. That being the case, why is the homicide rate in Washington D.C. where guns are very difficult to get legally so much higher than right across the river in Virginia where they’re practically unregulated? Correlation does not equal causation, either here or worldwide.

Next topic: Government. “Our government does not do that. Off topic.” Our government supported slavery for its first 100 years. Our government put Japanese-Americans in concentration camps and stole their property. There’s a lot of things our government hasn’t done - yet. But “It can’t happen here” is a mantra I fully expected.

“How could one man with one cannon kill millions?” One man can’t. But an army can. Which is why one man with an AR-15 rifle concerns me less than an entire police department equipped with the full-auto version.

“Pre-existing rights aren't a thing.” Tell that to your neighbors. See how they react.

Once again, thank you for being such a sterling example of type.
He popped back immediately with this:
You, as well. A perfect example of blind faith in the 2nd amendment in the face of incredible evidence to the contrary. The cult of gun is strong indeed.

And I am telling my neighbors, with my vote. My candidate supports strong gun control. So will the majority of the House of Representatives by this time next year.

In the end, your arguments won’t matter. Your vote won’t be enough. We are coming for your guns because your “right” to own one doesn’t trump our “right” to not be slaughtered by the members of your cult who keep demonstrating with crystal clarity that we should not allow citizens to own whatever gun they want.
I was sorely tempted to ask him - if there are no pre-existing rights, why is slavery wrong? And is lethal force in the avoidance of enslavement justified? But I'll leave that to others.

Oh, and Mr. Consiglio is a high-school teacher. Quelle suprise.