Friday, December 31, 2010

Napolitano to aid Afghan Border Security?

Sometimes, like Alice, I am tempted to mutter, "we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto."  Reading an article on Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano's visit to Afghanistan, I actually did say that out loud.  But at least I was not overheard.

Ms. Napolitano arrived in Kabul this morning and ostensibly will meet with senior U.S. and Afghan officials to discuss security progress.  At first I was impressed that Ms. Napolitano was going to people who had experience in security measures, both in country and on the borders, and could give her guidance on how to handle our own difficulties in both travel and how to protect our borders.  Alas, I was to learn that I was in error...and that I had left Kansas (Well, actually I didn't start in Kansas, but I hope you will allow me the metaphor.).

Allow me to quote what came next in this morning's news article...ready?

"Napolitano also is accompanied by six DHS customs and border security agents who will join already personnel in Afghanistan to provide civilian security assistance to local officials. These officers work with the Afghan government to try to secure the country’s borders from militants, as well as from weapons and drug smugglers."(emphasis added)

The person who cannot bring herself to assign more personnel to our Borders to stop smugglers, gun runners and illegal aliens from coming unchecked into the United States is going to provide training to the Afghans on how to accomplish that?  What is this, a parallel universe?  I have never read anything so preposterous in my life.  This is akin to having an illiterate teach another how to read.

Not only that, but when we need additional agents on our own border, why is she sending 6 of ours to another country?  Can we take care of our own border first, thank you?  This is so wrong words cannot begin to do it justice.

I will give the Secretary points for least she used the word "try" rather than promise an absolute result...but that is probably just a political habit thing to leave the door open for escape in the event of failure.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Is Anarchy the only answer?

The term "good" government is fallacious; there is no such animal.  Government in any form is just the process of a few elites acquiring and exercising the power to control the "public"...the "others."  And minkind's unalienable and undeniable instinct to control others prevents any government from being "limited."

"If" government could be limited to providing for the common defense of our borders, to building and maintaining roads, power and water along with a Supreme Court to provide ultimate redress from local injustices, we could see some benefit.  But such is never the case.  It is like being a little bit pregnant...and each step of acquiring more power is presented as just a small, inconsequential step in such a reasonable manner that we sheep simply "baa" in acquiescence and later wonder where our freedom went.

And no ideology changes that.  On the one hand, providing we can keep them from bringing the country down with them, the Progressive-Liberal-Socialist-Democrat-elites will fail when they run out of other people's money.  On the other hand, the Conservative-Republican-elites cannot, once in power, resist the temptation to claim more power and create larger government even as the claim otherwise.

All forms of government and all ideologies end up denying individual freedoms and being punitive to all who would preserve liberty for all.  Perhaps peaceful anarchists have it right. Perhaps Chaos Theory should be a political ideology as well as a scientific one.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sometimes I am tempted to feel sorry for God...

There is a temptation to feel sorry for God. He (since there are so many thing wrong with the world, God MUST be a man...ask any woman) creates this world which he believes is perfect. Turns out, like a disappointed inventor, his major not quite perfect. As a matter of fact, a great deal less than perfect. So...he talks to him. Tells him how to do the right thing. Alas, no luck. Tries a lot of things to convince them to follow his lead: Captivity, slavery, even a flood. Nothing, nada, zip, zero. So...he figures...if they won't listen to me, maybe they will listen if I get down on their level....???

So now, here on our world stage in a production by God Almighty, we present... Jesus. The Messiah, the Superstar; he heals, he produces miracles, he makes water into wine... He sacrifices himself on the cross to give us a way to get right with God again...and then comes back from the dead!  Gotta make a difference, right? Well, except for the choir (the disciples and few of his followers, actually), not so much. Man listens to nobody (big surprise...again, ask any wife)...and understands nothing.

Me? I wonder how we ever survive a sunrise, much less the human imperative to control others and believe that we are some sort of universal elite. We are universally delusional. Just look around you.

Me? I look at asylums. The people in them are insane...we declare ourselves the ones in control. Really? Let us review the situation...They are cared for 24-7-365(or 366, depending on the year), can say and act any way they wish, get a roof over their heads, full health care (well, we are getting close there, I am promised), meals, snacks, and can pretend to live any life they can imagine. And it costs them nothing. Out here, I have to make decisions, be lied to by my government, insist on believing the lies, be insulted by my "public servants", have to find a way to earn enough money to pay for my own room and board, clothes, as well as support the government and that guy who is labeled and denigrated as "insane." ...and I am in control?

What is wrong with this picture. I am starting to envy the guy we are all feeling sorry for even as we dismiss his existence. Maybe we are truly the ones who are insane.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Is Government too big?

"Is Government too big?" is a question asked over and over ad nauseum.  It is a good question, but it misleads the brain into discussing and focusing on a symptom of failure, not the cause of government excess.  The size of government is the result of it assuming tasks that are not it's responsibility and should not be made the job of government.

Government should guard our borders.  Government should build and maintain roads, power lines and water supplies.  Government should maintain a means of addressing injustice in local communities when it occurs. That is ALL.

Leave citizens free to chose their definition of happiness, and allow them to attempt to achieve it.  Don't define happiness for them...that is a personal freedom.  If someone choses to be homeless and not work, that is their right.  And it is also their right and obligation to endure the consequences of their choices...both good and bad. It is most assuredly NOT the job of government to relieve anyone of the consequences of their personal actions.  This country became strong on the philosophical foundation of self-responsibility. And it's current problems are primarily a result of it's abandonment of that philosophy.

Local towns and communities can and should regulate themselves:  decide what type of laws work for them; if police are needed and, if so, how many;  determine if someone in distress is deserving of neighborly assistance, or is a neer-do-well that never has tried to solve their own problems and deserves nothing more than benign neglect (remember the Community Chest and local Church organizations?).  And if some community mistreats it's citizens, have the Supreme Court available to be an objective arbiter.

Stop all Foreign Aid.  It accomplishes nothing.  Stop funding the United Nations...what little it accomplishes is 10 times more expensive that if the same services were done by any other entity; its primary purpose is to take money from poor and middle income people in America and transfer it to rich people in other countries while simultaneously supporting those who are enemies of America.  Expel the United Nations from New York and let them relocate it...Afghanistan seems an appropriate choice.

Require Congress to make sure our military can and does protect us and our borders.  Let the President and Congress determine how best to provide transportation, power and water nationwide.  Let the President negotiate long as those treaties don't weaken our military and limit our choices, and do not require that our troops defend other nations...that is for those other countries to do for themselves.  We are neither the policemen nor the Community Chest for the rest of the world.

Stop all subsidies...if you cannot succeed in a free market, such supported "success" is NOT success at is robbery of the taxpayers.

Congress should be required to pass, and the President required to sign, a bill that declares Congress, the IRS and all government agencies subject to the tender mercies of the RICO statutes.  Perhaps then we can eliminate corruption in government, and allow States Attorneys-General to sue any federal government officials and any federal agencies for violation of those statutes...that will keep the U.S. Attorney-General and the Department of Justice from practicing self-serving benign neglect.

Do this and the size of government will not be at issue.  But our focus will remain on the proper goals of government and the efficiency with which it pursues those goals.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Children's avarice is NOT just a Christmas thing...

Articles keep popping up at this time of the year either to complain about or explain the "I want more" attitude on the part of so many children as we get closer to Christmas...and to Hanukkah, and any other time of celebration that once only called for one or two gifts.  And often there is the talk of different ideas of how to instill a sense of gratitude.

Well, it is impossible to instill a sense of gratitude in anyone when the good things in and about their lives seem to be a natural entitlement.  And that is what children today have been raised to least most of them.  And that results from a faulty definition of "love" in the minds and hearts of their parents.

The vast majority of parents love their children. My parents loved me and, perhaps to a lesser degree than parents today, made the same mistake.  They had gone through the depression and knew extreme hardship.  They wanted to protect me from that kind of deprivation. So...they spoiled least in part.  I got more stuff at Christmas than I needed.  And if I really wanted something during the year, with time, effort and whining, I usually got it eventually.

But, and I thank them now for this (as some of you will understand, I felt much abused at the time), I was required to contribute to the family well-being:  cutting the lawn (it wasn't a power mower) during the summer, clearing the walkway and steps when it snowed during the winter, vacuuming the house twice a week (both my parents worked), preparing dinner so it was ready for the stove or oven when my parents got home.  I was raised to understand that life involved work and that work was to be performed enthusiastically, not grudgingly.  The plight of children around the world and even her in America was pointed out to me often and I was made to understand just how blessed I was to have a home, clothes, parents who cared, schooling and unfettered opportunity to succeed.  I might not have liked it, but I got it.  I did have gratitude.  Still do.  And...I think my children do also.

These days I see kids arguing with their parents...and surviving.  I see grandchildren disrespecting their grandparents.  I see kids acting like rules were made for others, not them.  I see young adults clueless about the definition, much less the concept, of "consequences", which they think is something that happens to "others."  And NOBODY seems to think that that is unacceptable.

Forget Christmas.  Deal with the rest of the year.  If we do, Christmas, Hanukkah, and any other celebration will take care of that you "really" love your children...say, "NO," and mean it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Sometimes Renovation doesn't work, You have to demolish and rebuild.

There is more talk these days of allowing Universal choice for parents to take their tax money to the schools that they feel will best educate their children, particularly in light of the ongoing failure of most public school students to perform as well as students in other countries.

Nonsense.  The concept of Universal choice is like choosing a way to make the Edsel into a good inefficient way to try to accomplish the impossible.  In this case, the Edsel is the Federal Department of Education...and it's partners, the Teachers' Unions.  There is lack of local community accountability and control.  Local School Boards are rubber stamps for Federal Mandates and Teachers' Unions.

For almost a century, communities have seen the power to control and hold their school personnel accountable for successfully teaching their children taken away and put in the hands of the monolithic Federal Government and National Teachers' Unions.  And these organizations aren't about education, they are about power...and protecting that power.

Do you want good schools?  Want your kids and grandchildren to be able to read?  If a child can read, they can be their own assistant teacher...they can read their texts and remind themselves of just what the teacher had  explained to them earlier that day...or even last gives them second and third chances to both learn and review, which make them better taught.  Without reading, they have only that one shot to learn...that one period when the teacher is actively explaining and teaching the complexities of whatever element is in the lesson plan for that day.  Extra help after school?  Sure, but how many kids voluntarily admit that they didn't get it the first time by going for extra help?  Only those that are going to succeed in spite of the situation anyway...the one's that we should value more but not worry over.

Want you kids to be able to make change without the help of a machine?  Able to create and understand a budget and use it in their lives?  Most importantly, do you want your children to be taught HOW to think, rather than WHAT to think? too.  But...the ONLY way you are going to get that is if you take your schools back; demand the power to continually evaluate your teachers and explain and demand the results you want.

Are there good teachers in our schools?  Of course.  And they should be be given both the opportunity and the obligation to shine at their craft...and rewarded for it.  And those who are there for the Union benefits should likewise be made to find a line of work more befitting their skills, whatever they may be.

That means abolishing the Federal Department of Education.  And if that proves impossible, it should be emasculated and reduced to census type operation providing statistical support absent any funding or enforcement powers...sort of a country-wide report card, but without the power to interpret or enforce its findings and opinion.

I can hear a cry now, "Isn't that a bit extreme?"

Was it your community that decided to stop using phonics to teach children to read, moving to the unworkable concept called "whole word" recognition and insisting on continuing to claim that its use was teaching students to read adequately...even to this day?  No?  Mine neither.  Who made that decision and who endorsed its implementation and continued use even in the light of proof that it was not working?  Your community? was the Department of Education supported by the Teachers' Unions.

If the government, supposedly acting on our behalf, could take control of GM and, in order to prevent it's failing, throw out Union Contracts and Pension Plans, legally defraud bond holders...all in the interest of "too big to fail," how much more justified is it for our communities to take back control of our schools under the aegis of "Too Important to Fail."  Seriously.

Like Home Improvement, sometimes you cannot have to demolish and rebuild.  This is one of those times.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why do the best Educated usually write so poorly"

I read an article the other day...or was it this morning...that declared that the written word has become a poor excuse for communication.  And that the more educated the writer, the poorer the writing.  Well, in the process of acknowledging this obvious truth I caught myself up short and pondered the subject for a bit.

True, writing has deteriorated a lot.  I have commented verbally and in writing at length of the extinction of the profesional journalist, of someone who could clearly provide facts without judgmental adjectives that direct the reader to an opinion.  But is this disrespect for the writings of the learned REALLY appropriate?

Now, I do remember (now that I am forced to do some time travel) that, among others, I once had a very distinguished and highly acclaimed Professor of Economics who had just finished a text on his view of the field of Economics and how it worked.  He wanted us to use his "in process of being published, but not yet available, text" so we were forced to stand in line and receive each chapter on copy paper (which or course required us to punch holes in each sheet and accumulate them in an extremely large loose-leaf binder).  And what stood out in my memory was that each and every chapter...correction, each and every PAGE was as if written in Greek.  This very intelligent person, I am quite certain, knew his subject well...perhaps even at a genius level...but his ability to combine words into comprehensive sentences in order to pass on his genius was, alas, absent.  One Hundred Per Cent Absent.

Moving on to current articles and studies that have come to my attention, I was forced to conclude that even today many University level articles written by those  at Professorial and above levels were virtually unreadable...I have known sixth graders who could write as well...and perhaps better.  Of course that is not necessarily a vote of confidence.  But then I pondered some more...

The denigration of professorial writing, while correct, is perhaps a tad unfair.  The pressure to publish or be denied tenure and perish has panicked  many an academic into writing that in later years caused them to blush.

I have occasionally wondered how many self-declared literary and academic journals have been started, and continue to be supported, by bands of desperate supplicants for tenure in order to provide themselves a ready source for publication...creating, in the process, sort of a vertically integrated academic industry where they could control their destiny without it being readily apparent.

But...I suspect I am more content not actually knowing that kind of information, as it allows me to grant academics some contented regard...

And I wonder occasionally if we use the right criteria for selecting any level.  Do degrees trump teaching skill?  Of course we want both, but which deserves the most weight?  A faculty with many advanced degrees gains a certain respect in the academic community...and that draws students and additional highly-qualified faculty.  But the real talent of teaching helps to best achieve student learning.

I would hope that a school board, or principal, or College or University Dean would chose the most talented teacher, trusting on student success to ultimately guarantee the reputation of the school, and the criteria would include the goal of teaching students HOW to think, rather than WHAT to think, to imbue them with the knowledge that reading and listening are the tools that guarantee the opportunity to pursue happiness, by whatever definition.

One can hope...

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Economics is the new "religion"

Beginning in the later part of the Nineteenth Century, and continuing to the present, Progressives (which morphed into liberals, then back again, and include Socialists and Liberal Democrats) have successfully fomented the notion that mankind does not need God, that God is passe.  Their efforts to remove God from public life has been singularly successful, as has their effort to sell the populace on the the idea that Mankind can raise itself up and create it's own Utopia...self-governing it to increasingly improve both Mankind and life on this earth.

There is, however, a small problem.

Whether consciously or sub-consciously, mankind knows that it doesn't have all the answers and needs reassurance that it is doing the "right" thing.  Other humans cannot meet that need...after all, if you don't have the answer there is no reason to believe that any other human being on the planet, no matter how smart and gifted they claim to be, has the requisite authoritarian position.  So...what to do.

Having already denigrated and dismissed religion of any sort, that path is now closed, but...perhaps by another name?

Consider that success for the past Century plus has been defined, not by moral happiness, but by acquisition of money and all that it can buy.  How automatic has it become for us to gage how well we are doing by the level of our bank account, our savings or our investments...breathing a sigh of relief if the balance looks "healthy."  Gone are the days that even if you had little money, you considered yourself successful if you had a house over your head (rented or owned) weren't going hungry, your family was reasonably clothed and MOST IMPORTANTLY, you had a happy family that loved each other.  No mention of money in that sentence, right.  Money was seen as a necessary evil,  not the gauge of happiness.

Then, God out, self-improvement in.  No longer is morality or contentment the signal evidence of a good it is "stuff" and "wealth."  But...there is that aforementioned doubt and desire for affirmation from a higher source.

Enter the development and standing of "Economics."  A "Science", an authoritative statement and means of judging success.  And, of course, a new High Priesthood...Economists.  Not the same as Priests, to be sure, because they were talking about "Science" and using their authority to protect your ability to "succeed."  But their status gave their utterances a higher consideration, a higher authority (like priests, speaking for God?).

Just how, pray tell, is this any different (other than nomenclature)  from religion.  And there are competing Economic theories, just as there are different Churches. Instead of Churches, there are buildings and Colleges dedicated to the study of Economics.  I will admit that, with one exception, there isn't a 100% parallel (but it is very close).  The only completely parallel comparison is with Islam.  Both Economic Theory and Islamic belief call for taking political power so as to create, protect, and defend the coming Utopia for the people of the world...continued rising wealth for all people in the case of economics, and paradise both here and the hereafter for Muslims.

So that will be the future battle for world domination...Islam versus Secular Economic Wealth as a measure of success. One heck of a choice.  I predict a bloody future, whichever wins.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

I'll miss Ed Rendell

Every once in a while you find yourself surprised by your own reaction to something or someone.  And it almost always, if I find the time to mull on my surprise, leads to a self-teaching moment.  I saw an article a few days ago about the fact that Ed Rendell, the outgoing Governor of Pennsylvania, is about to be out of public office for the first time in quite awhile.  Now, I do not agree with much of what Rendell's writings and comments say that he believes...not at all.  But I found myself feeling a loss at his departure...and that was a real surprise.

Like Bill Bradley, Rendell was on the other side of the political table and I did not like their policies. So I leaned back and thought about it for a bit...and discovered that I thought they were both "Good Guys."

Let me define who I consider to be "Good Guys."

To me, a good guy in politics is a candidate and office holder who believes in the United States of America as a just and dependable entity...a country they think of as did the founding fathers: an imperfect experiment in trying to protect individual freedom (to succeed, to fail, to suffer, to conquer) by protecting that freedom from danger from both other countries and saboteurs within.

Sure, Rendell and Bradley wanted to encourage helping the disadvantaged; they felt some people need more help than others to succeed and believed that the government should provide that help.  In that sense, they had less confidence in the American people than I do, but their heart was in the right place.  They wanted to help the deserving, not support the ne'er-do-wells that would live off of the public teat for as long as it would be allowed.

But they believed in the essence of America, of the United States of America, of an assimilated group of citizens that believed as one even as they argued and fought over the details...Good Guys.  They, and others like them didn't believe in ignoring our borders, throwing citizens to the wolves of illegal invaders, foregoing their constitutional duty to protect us.  They listened to their constituents most of the time...and when the didn't, and the elections proved it, they didn't deny the lesson of those elections...Good Guys.

Wish there were more "Good Guys" out there today.  I miss them.  And I'll miss my imaginary arguments with Ed Rendell, too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Have Politicians REALLY Changed?

Suddenly (in the past couple of years, or so) we have started hating and disrespecting our politicians.  Oh, we have always hated and disrespected politicians in general, but now we are including our own politicians.  Why?

Have any of them really changed?  After all, those among us who consider these things long ago realized that no person runs for public office for the least not the salary.  It isn't high enough to pay for the trouble, aggravation and responsibilities thrust upon one by the job.  And some of us recognize that "pay" is split into two kinds: monetary (salary, pension, etc.), and psychic (I like doing it, people are helped by what I can do, I get a car and driver, I get 5 weeks vacation, I get to tell others what to do, my commute is short, etc.).  This is all pay, and explains why some people stay at jobs that we know pays less than they could get elsewhere; the psychic income makes up for the monetary shortfall.

One of the elements that is psychic and always applies to a political office is one of these two attitudes: "I know better than anyone else how to take care of this."; or "No one else that knows what their doing is stepping up to the plate so I have to."

So, since this applies to all politicians...and has always applied to all politicians...why are we just now starting to get really, really unhappy with even our own representatives at each and every level of government?

I suggest that it is because all politicians are becoming more truthful.  Stop gasping...I mean it.  Now, don't get me wrong...not in everything, but just a small and perhaps inadvertent way in dealing with we, the voters.

Given that each and every one of them believes that they are superior to everyone else, at least in their district or state or whatever area they represent, and that has not changed...why do we feel differently now?

Well, think about how you have felt in the past.  For me, it was always that "every guy in office is crooked, taking money under the table and ignoring the public except for mine."  See, when he or she came back to their local office or was running for office or hosted a Town Hall Meeting, they acted as if they were listening, they behaved toward us with respect, telling us with their expressions, their words and their posture that they cared about what we wanted and wanted our guidance so they could accurately represent our interests.  Think about it...really...that what they used to do.  All of them...every time they went "home."  Of course, for Federal office holders, home was always in D.C....they never, ever wanted to have to come back to their roots,  but that is for a later discussion.

What started happening during the debate about changing healthcare was that politicians became tired of pretending to value their constituents' views, of pretending to care what they thought, of pretending to treat them as equals.

Sure, we always knew, deep down, that we were being conned.  But they worked so hard at it, and avoided rubbing their presumption of superiority in our faces so well, that we allowed it, reassuring ourselves that at some point they did understand that we (collectively) could throw them out on their posteriors at any time...and that their posturing was an acknowledgment on their part that they understood.

But for some reason, last summer they didn't bother to put on the mask.  They stopped playing the game.  Or perhaps they decided that it really was a game and didn't need to be played anymore; the "children" were now to be told "BECAUSE" instead of being taught, to be told to go sit in the corner, instead of reasoned with, to be treated as the lesser beings that they were and continue to be.  In other words, our representatives assumed the authority of Divine Right, if not of Kings, then of superior, elite holders of public office.

And then they acted, and continue to act, surprised that we do not hold them and their judgments in the high esteem that they themselves assume.