Forcing Allegiance Is Fascism

Stonekettle Station on Facebook

Lauren McGaughey is reporting on this story for the Dallas Morning News. She says the case stems from a suit filed by parents of a student who was kicked out of school for not standing to recite the pledge. The student and her parents say the school violated her First Amendment rights with that punishment.

“Attorney General Paxton says that it’s a ‘moral good.’ He said, in a statement, that kids learn about citizenship and patriotism from saying the pledge every morning,” McGaughey says.

A First Amendment expert McGaughey talked to says he believes the Texas requirement that students recite the pledge is unconstitutional.The Texas Standard


The Texas Standard KEN PAXTON INTERVENES IN SUIT FILED BY STUDENT KICKED OUT OF SCHOOL FOR NOT STANDING DURING PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE September 26, 2018

Ken Paxton is a Christianist. He wants to force Americans to worship his God. This is a documented fact that anyone can find out for themselves with a simple Google search. A good portion of Texas agrees with him and his fascist views concerning the Freedom of/from Religion guaranteed by the US Constitution. If evil exists, and I am agnostic on the existence of evil; but if evil exists his views and the views of his fellow Christianists are an active evil in the mind of modern America. Ken Paxton should be shunned. He should be rejected at the polls. If you vote for Paxton, you are voting for evil.

I have a distinct opinion on the subject of forcing children to pledge allegiance, as the title of this article and the above paragraph should make abundantly clear. My qualms about the wisdom of making children pledge allegiance before they are old enough to know what words like allegiance mean go back to an early reading of The Children’s Story by James Clavell. In that story the children in a generic classroom are introduced to a new teacher sent to them by their new government. That teacher explains the intent behind the words of this pledge they’ve been forced to recite all their young lives, but the explanation she offers is a lie, and the children are too young and impressionable to know that they are being lied to by an authority figure.

These qualms came to a head when Texas passed a law requiring that children pledge allegiance to the Texas flag as well as the U.S. flag. I received a flyer amongst several other pieces of documentation sent home from school with my children the year this law went into effect, a flyer informing me that Texas law required all students to mouth the words of the United States pledge of allegiance, as well as the then newly revised Texas pledge of allegiance (HB 1034) in addition to observing a moment of silence once each day (SB 83) a practice that intended to re-introduce morning prayer into Texas public schools. The sponsor of HB 1034, when queried on the subject of religion, had this to say (source, Capitol Annex: More HB 1034 Exchanges):

BURNAM: Are you aware that Governor Perry has recently said, “Freedom of religion should not be taken as freedom from religion.” And my question is, do you agree with that statement, Ms. Riddle?
RIDDLE: I would say, Amen.

Which pretty much sums up the intent of the modification of the pledge, and the accompanying minute of silence. It also showed the utter contempt the governor and the majority of the legislature had for anyone who didn’t share their particular christian beliefs. Freedom of religion is a meaningless concept unless it includes freedom from religion; requiring someone to have a religion places constraints upon the person, negating any freedom that might be present.

The requirement to recite the two pledges has been on the books since 2003. When they changed the pledge in 2007 they felt they needed to inform parents, once again, of their children’s duty to stand and recite the pledges. This prompted me to fire off a letter to the school in response, telling them in no uncertain terms what I thought of their forced indoctrination into religion and what has become a transparent attempt to create an American theocracy.

Dictators and cult leaders require the slaves under their rule to swear allegiance to them, because power is jealous of rivals. In a free society, pledges of allegiance should not be required, because individuals are free of any allegiance other than to rational self interest. Additionally, pledges required of the public are contrary to the sentiments of the founders of the United States, as it reverses the role of the subservient state and places it above We The People.

Obviously, from the tone of this letter, you will be able to discern that I am hereby notifying you in writing that my children will be exempted from this practice. They will not be required to recite any pledges, nor will they be required to observe a minute of silence. This notice is given pro forma, because my children have abstained from reciting the pledges for the entire time that they have attended school; and they have done this without asking me or the omnipotent state for permission to do so. They have remained silent during pledges even in my presence, when I have recited the pledge autonomically; and I applaud them for their strength of will.

If it was possible, I would extend this exemption to any student of AISD, of any school district in Texas, or of any state in the United States, who wished to abstain from reciting the pledge, but lacks the permission that the state requires.

The Religious Right, the Christianist right, have simply become more strident over the years since 2007, not less.  They do not appear to have learned anything from the many battles they have engaged in and lost when it comes to the subject of making the US a christian nation against the will of the majority who like it just the way it is.

Nor is this an issue of socialism versus fascism, the author of the pledge having been a card-carrying Socialist of his timeSocialism itself is not a bad word. Socialism is another in a long list of bogeymen that really should be retired, since the mindset that inspired the pledges and Marxist Dictatorships of the twentieth century now looks as alien to us as most of the other concepts of the time do. However, it does remain fascist to force conformity to any ideology; fascism being the sole surviving ideology that holds up Authoritarianism as a benefit to society. Freedom of conscience requires that we allow people to believe what they want to believe and to act according to their own conscience. That means that allowing people to abstain from reciting the pledge is the least we can do in acknowledgement of their freedom of conscience. Imagine what it would be like if football fans could be reasoned with in this fashion.

The article that included the letter sent to AISD

The Key to Ending Mass Shootings?

You’re asking law enforcement to predict the future, but you’ve deliberately denied them any tool that would allow them to do so in any reliable fashion and left them only gross violation of privacy — which is why you say you need guns in the first place, to keep the government from taking away your rights

The situation is impossible. NOBODY could do what you’re asking the FBI to do. Not without significant changes in how we manage gun ownership in this country. Not without significant changes in existing laws. Not without an increase in funding. Not without a lot of things, most especially including a sane and rational citizenry.

If you want law enforcement to predict the future without violating your rights, without taking away all the guns, without turning America into an science fiction dystopian nightmare, you HAVE to give them the tools to do the job.

Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station on Facebook

If we want gun rights the way the gun defenders suggest they exist, the way their constitutional interpretation represents them, we will have to follow the rules of 17th century militia induction and assume that all adult residents of a region are militia members, and we will have to train everyone in weapons usage and assess their abilities accordingly.

The militia authority can then establish who can be relied upon to use what weapon and require those people to keep arms ready at all times for reason of regional defense. This is the way that the verbiage in the constitution works out. The military is subordinate to the civil authority. Civil authority has dictated that the militias will be organized under the National Guard. Every adult person in the United States is a member of the local militia. Everyone will immediately be enrolled in the Guard for the purposes of weapons training and assessment. We cannot have weapons in the hands of the untrained, and the proficiency of the soldier in question has to be known in order to ensure that they are properly trained in their military role. This is what it means to have the at-will right to keep and bear arms, especially military grade weaponry. You will be trained, and you will be assigned a weapon that suits your abilities.

It is either that or we have to interpret the constitution differently, and allow that the government has the authority to deny weapons to people who are not certified, trained and insured to handle those weapons. And if gunnuts start making comparisons to knives we can talk about training people with knives too. A lot of these arguments descend to the level of the ridiculous extremely fast.

Well you don’t want anyone to have weapons

I want everyone to know how to defend themselves and to be trained in the best methods of achieving that goal. Weirdly, escaping from a threat is probably the most useful method of self-defense, and the gunnuts I’m frequently arguing with never fail to reject the idea that the sensible thing to do when confronted or threatened is to run away if you can.

I have talked about both these slants on the subject previously,


The ability to move is just about as fundamental as it gets. It is why the human species has adapted to so many different climates on this planet.  We travel and set up shop somewhere else where there isn’t already ten thousand other people trying to live. Where resources aren’t already owned. Where our lives are not threatened by a greater number of others who want what we have and/or need to survive. A classic defensive strategy, not to be where your enemies are looking for you.

Travel is a right. Limitations on travel without due process is a violation of our rights, what the government is supposed to be safeguarding for us. So the existence of the no-fly list outside of due process is a constitutional violation of our rights. 


But that discussion is only tangentially related to the specific problem at hand, preventing future mass shootings. Restricting all semi-automatic weapons to the same kind of licensure that full-automatic weapons are subjected to would go a long way towards alleviating this problem. This is especially true in the light of workarounds that have been affected to make semi-autos into full automatic weapons. If there aren’t a plethora of semi-autos to modify in the population, there won’t be the problem with the mass shootings we currently have.

There has been a lot of talk since the most recent shooting about reinstating Clinton’s assault rifle ban. I doubt that the ban will have the effect intended since you can take almost any semi-automatic rifle and modify it to use the various workarounds currently employed with assault/military style rifles. The only way to restrict availability of these weapons without creating lists of people who can’t buy particular weapons, can’t buy weapons before they’ve actually done anything demonstrably wrong, is to restrict these types of weapons as we do automatic weapons. This proposal represents the real work before us if we hope to start cutting into the numbers of these events we have to suffer through.

The problem is not going to get any better on its own. This is because of population pressure is the likely culprit for the increase in mass shooting events in the last twenty or thirty years. There are simply more people living more densely than ever before in human history, all across the face of the planet, and that statistic is only going to increase if you look at projections into the future. America is only one facet of this problem, but we are the outlier when it comes to availability of weapons of mass destruction.

Local control is the reason that weapons are so prevalent in cities in the US today. City ordinances are generally pretty harsh (even in Texas) on weapons usage, even weapon carrying, but you can’t just stop and frisk everyone or expect every traveler to let themselves be x-rayed for weapons everywhere they go. So the local ordinances are overwhelmed by modern commercialism and the movement of populations. Weapons manufactured in other locals find their way into the cities where the police are already overwhelmed and don’t have time to track down every weapon in the city. Track them down so they can confiscate them. This was the law in Chicago and Washington DC for decades, no weapons allowed within the jurisdiction of the city authority unless they met specific criteria written into the law.

What is now needed is a revision to national laws. Some kind of coherent, proven method of harm reduction that applies to whole regions. Restricting all semi automatics to licensure and insurance requirements are in that vein. I don’t see the harm in allowing weapons for self-defense. What I do see harm in is claiming self-defense as your reason for having weapons, when what you have is a weapon that will demonstrably inflict collateral damage while you are defending yourself. QED, a weapon that fires multiple shots quickly and easily.

There is no way to be safe from harm. But there also isn’t any real justification for having a weapon that reloads itself for the next trigger pull, and propellant powered reloading is the mechanism that allows semi-automatic weapons to be become fully automatic, thereby upping the body count when firing into a crowd. If you have to work a bolt or a lever to reload, you aren’t going to be hitting 600 people in a crowded mall before the crowd disperses. That is simple math.

The mechanics of getting a weapon to reload automatically after being fired is quite tricky to pull off. Putting all semi-automatic weapons into the same category as automatic weapons will restrict the availability of those weapons and cartridges. The average city-dweller can defend themselves with a revolver, never mind that statistics show you are more likely to be killed by your own weapon than you are to kill others with it.

On the Media – Rinse and Repeat – February 21, 2018

Almost all of the mass shootings are done with long guns. Not having a semi-automatic weapon easily accessible would achieve the goal of ending mass shootings as we have come to know them. The counter argument to this observation runs along the lines of machinists being willing to put themselves at risk by manufacturing and selling semi-automatic weapons out of their garages, but you aren’t going to see a lot of machinists willing to be targeted for lawsuits if they start cranking out semi-automatic weapons on the cheap, and then those weapons are used to kill a bunch of people.

Again. There is no way to be safe from harm. People who are afraid are not reasonable people. Which is why you can sell people afraid of what the Orange Hate-Monkey represents on the idea that they are safer with a weapon for self-defense. This is statistically simply not the case. Women are more at risk of being killed by someone else with their gun than they are of killing someone with it. Men take their own lives with a gun far more frequently than they use that very same gun for self-defense. Guns are not the answer to worries about personal security.

I am all-in on making people feel secure. I am neurotic about locking doors. I tried to get my children into self-defense courses when they were younger. I think everyone should be trained in hand-to-hand defensive tactics. I think every woman should be trained in how to kill a man with their bare hands, if not actually outfitted with whatever weapon they are comfortable with, at a cost borne by the government, in the furtherance of ending violence targeting women. All-in on teaching women to fight back, equipping them to fight back. This is how you reduce the numbers of women who are victims, stop making them victims-in-waiting.

But that doesn’t negate the simple statistic that the presence of a weapon means that the weapon will be used against the owners of the weapon more often than not, especially in the case of women.

I grew up in rural Kansas. I currently live in Texas where, if you drive out to the country, you’ll still find a firearm and/or gun rack in every vehicle. I have owned weapons in the past, including semi-automatics. I understand gun culture even if I’m no longer immersed in it. I was a gunnut once. Owning a weapon is shorthand for having independence in the US; and this delusion we live with, that weapons keep us free, is probably the largest blind spot most Americans have. We are being robbed blind by thieves as I sit here typing and no increase in firepower will stop that theft. Understanding how modern battles are fought, and where, is how we get a handle on that theft. The first step is admitting we don’t understand what is happening, and then trying to figure out what is going on.


Information inequality is the biggest contributor to the gap in the perceptions between rural and metropolitan, the poor and the wealthy. I live in Austin, one of the high-tech hubs in the US. I have the entire knowledge of mankind available to me in a fraction of a second. All I have to do is know what question to ask, and the internet will give me the answer to that question. Day or night, rain or shine. If my home fiber-optic cable happens to be down, there are an even dozen places within walking distance that can get me equivalent access for free or nearly free. I don’t watch TV. I don’t listen to the radio. I read, and I do that voraciously. I listen to targeted podcasts and audiobooks almost constantly.

I can do this because the metropolitan area and my own economic niche I carved out when I was a productive member of society allows me access to this information that easily. But I have relatives that live in the country. Going out to their homes is almost like turning off my mind. They watch TV and still pay for cable so that they can get at least that much entertainment. They are limited by their cellular data plans, cannot access the information that they need to make informed decisions even if they knew they needed to ask questions before making decisions that they simply don’t have the knowledge to understand. They aren’t stupid, they are just not well informed because the entertainment that they can get access to doesn’t offer them any real information. They don’t even know that they are missing information that is critical to making whatever decision is in front of them.

We are living in a Dunning-Kruger experiment of hellish proportions in the US today. Whole segments of the population are asked to render opinions on subjects that they have never had exposure to, and they only know of a subject because of the advertising in the form of infotainment that they get from mass media. That is a recipe for disaster, a disaster we are currently living through.

Imagine what it would be like to be able to get access to the information you want right now, the websites that contain the info you need to bolster your argument or to prove that your initial perceptions are wrong. Fully half the time I start out writing anything, I discover that I am wrong on some key part of my understanding which then alters the narrative that I’m composing as I’m writing it. I go through this process on an hourly basis.

And the most important understanding that I have developed over years of attempting to understand a myriad of subjects is that NO ONE is capable of digesting the amount of information required to make knowledgeable decisions on every subject. It simply can’t be done by the average human being. There is literally too much information now for any one person to know what the right answer is to any random question without spending days, weeks, months and years studying the problem. We, as a people, need to accept this fact. That expertise has a value that we should support. That we don’t know everything we need to know and truthfully can’t know it all at one time.

More Perfect – The Gun Show – October 11, 2017

When it comes to weapons and the statistics of their use, we are all dealing with a subject that we think we understand, with views that we are loathe to give up crafted over a lifetime. Most ideas about guns and the proper way to respond to gun violence, simply don’t work to alter the statistics that more knowledgeable people bring to the table. In order to have a criminal record that will disqualify you from owning a gun, as the laws are currently written, you have to have committed a crime that disqualifies you. This means that we cannot screen out the unknown quantity of people who should never have access to firearms.

There is no specific need to throw large amounts of lead downrange quickly, the one thing that automatic and semi-automatic weapons were designed to do well. Ammosexuals will argue that their weapons have to reload themselves or they aren’t worth anything. This simply is not the case and limiting access to these weapons would radically reduce the numbers of deaths and almost instantly end most of the mass shootings, because the weapons that allow them simply are priced out of the range of people intent on creating mayhem. Will they turn to other weapons? Some of them will. It will at least require them to work harder to conduct their mayhem, meaning we’ll catch more of them in the process.

But in the meantime we have people who shouldn’t have access to guns being given access to the best killing machine that money can buy, available at every sporting outlet in the country. This is a surefire recipe for disaster.

Jim Jefferies — Gun Control (Part 1) from BARE — Netflix Special (Part 2)

Good guy with a gun? Self-defense? If you see someone breaking into a car, do you shoot first, or do you try and figure out why they are breaking into that car? I’ve broken into my own vehicle countless times. It took years for me to start carrying a spare set of keys around with me and/or making sure I had my keys on me before locking and closing the car door. I’m glad no one ever shot me for breaking into my own car. Is it self-defense to shoot someone for breaking into car? Really?

We’ve had people right here in Austin shot for breaking into cars. The specific shooter that I’m thinking of was acquitted because the thief brandished a screwdriver before being shot, or so he claimed. We don’t know because the thief is dead and the only witness to the incident was the shooter. In any case we have a pedestrian who is dead in someone’s driveway because he had a screwdriver and was purportedly caught in the owner’s vehicle. A screwdriver!

This is insanity. I’m all for self-defense, as I’ve said many times. I’m a Texan whether I like it or not. Self-defense arguments are in my blood. But a guy threatening you with a screwdriver deserves a bullet?

What he deserves is to be disarmed and hauled before a judge. A criminal record will keep from ever owning a firearm. Which is a finding that should have been applied, at minimum, to the shooter. If you shoot someone, you probably shouldn’t have access to firearms. At least for a few months of cool down time. Good luck even getting that minimal amount of change enacted into law.

Wildly expanded Facebook status and comments. Here too. And here. I’ve been thinking about this subject for awhile now.

Berning it All Down?

This article penned by Glenn Greenwald is making the rounds of Facebook today, September 9, 2016, and I am personally a bit more annoyed than I probably should be at the continued whining of Sanders supporters. The whining surrounding the announcement of Hillary Clinton’s presumptive nomination by the Democratic party.

LAST NIGHT, the Associated Press — on a day when nobody voted — surprised everyone by abruptly declaring the Democratic Party primary over and Hillary Clinton the victor. The decree, issued the night before the California primary in which polls show Clinton and Bernie Sanders in a very close race, was based on the media organization’s survey of “superdelegates”: the Democratic Party’s 720 insiders, corporate donors, and officials whose votes for the presidential nominee count the same as the actually elected delegates.

It probably bears noting that these same superdelegates, which the democratically demanding Sanders supporters deride when lined up for Hillary, are the very same votes that Sanders will need to win the nomination now since Hillary has a commanding lead in numbers of votes and numbers of delegates in the popular vote.

But that isn’t the part that really annoys me.

No, the part that annoys me is that Greenwald is printing an outright fabrication in that article. Yes, it is true that the AP story which he cites claims that the survey was only of super-delegates, but it was no secret that Hillary Clinton was going to cross the threshold of delegates on the seventh or before, and that the announcement would probably be made before California went to vote.

Don’t believe me?

Here is the podcast I heard it on first (stream link)

Weekly Roundup: Thursday, June 2
A week of defense for Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton goes on the attack in a big foreign policy speech. This episode: host/reporter Sam Sanders, White House correspondent Tamara Keith, digital political reporter Danielle Kurtzleben, and political editor Domenico Montanaro. More coverage at nprpolitics.org. 

 Please note the date of the podcast (June 2nd) and that the hosts of the podcast note that Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands voted before the four states whose primaries ran on Tuesday, and that the projected announcement date of crossing that threshold was on the seventh.

Which puts the lie to Greenwald’s assertion that “nobody voted”.  There were people voting, they just weren’t voting in the officially recognized states of the United States. A minor oversight, I’m sure.  Except he’s a journalist, and I’m just a blogger with access to the internet.  One would hope that a journalist would have a firmer grasp on the truth, especially Glenn Greenwald after all the times he’s gone to bat for it.

But NPR isn’t the only source that understood the impending threshold that would be crossed on the 7th. Fivethirtyeight was predicting the seventh as the latest date that the threshold would be crossed as far back as May 24th!

Does this mean that the major news outlets will declare Clinton the nominee at exactly 8 p.m. on June 7? Not necessarily. There aren’t likely to be exit polls in New Jersey, and the news outlets will probably wait for returns — exit polls are expensive — from the state to determine whether Clinton has clinched. Still, it’ll probably be pretty clear after some votes are counted that Clinton has hit the minimum delegate threshold to win the nomination.

It turned out that the number of delegates required to be declared the presumptive nominee was crossed early, as it was always possible could happen.  Nothing about this is unforeseen, or a surprise, except to the politically inexperienced who don’t understand how this game is played.  That group certainly doesn’t include Glenn Greenwald or Bernie Sanders.

It is time and past time for Bernie Sanders to put a lid on the ridiculous accusations leveled at the party that he is purportedly running as a candidate in, and to start making the kinds of noises one makes when one wants to make a civilized exit from a political race. It is time and past time for the media to stop inventing reasons to dump on Hillary Clinton.

The voices of support for her are few and far between at this point, and the brave few who dare to speak out are routinely targeted as paid shills for her.  As if she hasn’t earned some legitimate supporters of her own just through her own hard work in office and in the Democratic party itself.

In this telling, in order to do something as hard as becoming the first female presidential nominee of a major political party, she had to do something extraordinarily difficult: She had to build a coalition, supported by a web of relationships, that dwarfed in both breadth and depth anything a non-incumbent had created before. It was a plan that played to her strengths, as opposed to her (entirely male) challengers’ strengths. And she did it.

She is the presumptive nominee of the party.  Her landslide victory in California proves that she has the backing of the Democratic party across the nation. It is time to put this race to bed and get on with the convention shenanigans.


The 2018 midterms are about to occur. It is mid-October 2018, and still the Berners can’t seem to understand that they can’t get their way just because they want it done their way. this has been going on for at least two and a half years now, and they are as clueless about how the system works as they were two and half years ago. I think this proves just how fruitless arguing with them is. I have the same message for them that I have for the Stormtrumpers and their leader the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM). They think they can subvert the constitution and throw all the people they don’t like out of our country. That simply isn’t going to happen.

Berners who insist that the Democratic party is still rigged against them are also trying to subvert the system by force. That isn’t how this process works, and will ultimately fail just like the Stormtrumpers will fail and take the Republicans with them.

Bernie Sanders is putting on a good fight trying to move the Democratic party away from conservatism and more towards recognizable international liberalism. It has been hard going, to say the least. The difficulty in getting changes into the American system of government is one of its laudable achievements. The fact that the OHM can’t sign an order and alter the constitution and/or the law in the US is about the only thing keeping the United States democratic in any real meaning of the word. Changes have to follow a set course to be effective and durable. Ask any DACA recipient if they feel like they are are secure in their citizenship now. If they worry about becoming stateless and ergo expendable in the near future. This is an outgrowth of Obama being unable to get congress to follow his lead in making American children with cloudy citizenship secure in the nation they’ve chosen to devote themselves to. The voting population of the US to follow his lead in embracing the people who make this country function, bringing them officially into the system.

The durability built into the American system is also one of the biggest stumbling blocks for updating the system. The system is rigged, but it isn’t rigged in the way that Berners pretend. It is rigged against all forms of change by generations of old white farts who don’t want to be forced out of power before they are ready to leave power. The solution to this problem is not voting third party or boycotting the Democratic party. I don’t recommend trying to alter the Republican party, either. They made their hangman’s noose quite well, and they’ve already put it around their collective necks. They will hang, eventually. In the meantime this leaves only one party that can viably take over the party-geared machinery of the US government. Right or wrong, that is how the system operates currently.

Altering state parties and their associated primaries means altering the laws in 50 different states, laws that are set up 50 different ways. Fixing the gerrymandered mess that the US legislature is currently mired in means creating a whole new bureaucracy to handle redistricting. Fixing the primary vote means the adoption of some form of alternative voting strategy that keeps the most extreme individuals (The most recent examples of this were the OHM and Bernie Sanders. Hillary Clinton was never extreme. That’s why Berners hate her) from rising to the surface and winning elections. All of this has to occur in 50 different states, set up in 50 different ways. Two years isn’t nearly enough time to make that much change occur. It takes thousands of people working at the same goals across vast swaths of landscape to make these kinds of changes. We won’t see this done for at least 20 years, but it needs to be started now.

In the meantime, as the above mentioned changes are making headway across the 50 states, changes visible all around us, declaring you won’t participate in the system because it isn’t yet exactly what you want is to engage in Hunting for Unicorns. A pastime that I refuse to engage in. Let the social airlocking commence, because I have no more patience for people who will not participate in their government in a meaningful fashion. Go waste someone else’s time.

If you won’t vote for Blue, be prepared to be ruled by Red; and that Red is a dictatorship no matter how you slice it or define it. The only good dictator is a dead dictator. Even Bernie Sanders knows this is true. It’s too bad his supporters can’t figure this out. 

Journalism? General Education, That is the Problem

A comment on Robert Reich’s status went a bit long;

Trump is a manifestation of poor education in the US exacting its price on the US and the world.  The chickens have come home to roost. The wide-spread, wrong-headed notion that a strong leader is the way to get the change you want in a complex system, has manifested in the personages of Trump and Sanders, the demagogic “outsiders” who are believed by the uninformed to be capable of effecting change on a system by themselves.
While Sanders elected alone would fail just as Obama failed to live up to the dreams of the people who voted for him in 2008, Trump is quite capable of wrecking the system all by himself if he is elected. 
It is much easier to destroy than it is to create. 
At this point in this one election all that is left is to hope for is that the Democrats can pull out a win.  It would be nice to think that they could gain a sweeping victory that would bring in enough progressives to alter the system in a positive way.  Hand the Republicans such a crushing defeat that they are forced to re-invent themselves into a opposition party that doesn’t deny science and embrace religion as its starting point.  The Bernie or busters are going to make that possibility as remote as they can, unfortunately.
The Bernie or busters are not interested in reforming the system any more than the Tea Party Trump supporters are.  They want to re-invent it, which is just one step more than simply destroying it.  They tell themselves they’ll be happy with a Trump presidency because at least the status quo will end.  Both the Trump supporters and the Bernie or busters don’t really understand the kind of misery bringing down the US system will create.  I’m becoming afraid we might just find out how deep that well of misery is.
The fix for this is so much more than just reporting.  Just being able to predict what the population will go for in an election. That is not even scratching the surface of the problem. First you have to educate the voting public on just how blind this faith in a strong leader is.  The journalists who inform us on politics cannot be held responsible for the failure of the education system in the US to actually educate the population to the dangers of dictatorship.  As college educated people they of course discarded the idea that the average American would fall prey to a demagogue like Trump.  It’s obvious he’s lying and has no clue what he’s talking about.  Why would anyone take this orange hate-monkey seriously?
…Unless of course you believe that a strong leader is what we need, in spite of the obvious fact that a system as complex as the US government cannot possibly be run by one person. Then all bets are off and the people who want a guy who pretends to have all the answers have control of the mechanisms of statecraft through the selection of the next head of state.
We’ve been so busy propping up dictators in other countries that we’ve forgotten we might be subject to one ourselves.  That fate is now just the flip of a coin away. 

Why Are You So Angry?

This is the most common question I’ve been asked for as long as I can remember.  From high school through to the last argument I had “Why are you so angry?” pops up again and again.  Everyone I talk to on almost any given subject is convinced that there is some one thing in my life that is bugging me, and that if they can just fix that one thing I’ll be happy.

I’m not angry, I’m intense. This would be my explanation. I’m focused on whatever it is that I’m talking about, writing about, thinking about.  It comes across in nearly every conversation, in nearly any documentation, in almost any interaction.  I’m pretty sure it freaks most people out and I have no idea how to turn it off.

The quickest way to get me to feel actual anger is to ask me why are you so angry? when I’m simply responding with emphasis.  This tendency to fly off the handle has gotten me sent to many headshrinkers over the years. Thoughtful types who purse their lips and want to dig through all the detritus in my head to find out what makes me tick. They would press me to get past the anger masking the real emotion so that they could help me.

Let’s say I’m angry, just to admit a point for debate.  Why would I be angry?

I have always been a smartass. My father made sure that I knew this at a very young age, informing me “you really are a smartass, aren’t you?” throughout most of my youth. The internet age has given me a synonym for smartass. Troll. I apparently trolled my parents and teachers pretty frequently.  I was sent on mysterious errands in Sunday school for asking things like “who made god?” or “where did the extra loaves and fishes come from?” I had no idea I was being a smartass.  The questions occurred, and questions need answers. There were always more questions than there ever were answers, and I’d bet one of my limbs that the first time I was labeled a smartass was when I observed this fact to an adult. Why couldn’t they answer my questions?  I thought adults knew everything.

Standing apart and observing others with a clinical eye when most people are too busy, too caught up in the rough and tumble to notice the larger picture.  Disturbing the peace with my questions, my unwelcome observations. Daring to call down the wrath of adults and spending more hours sitting in a corner than I probably ever did on the playground, just to gain an insight into behaviors that puzzled me, patterns and habits that baffled me.

Stuck in the middle of Kansas surrounded by people that I could just barely relate to, forced to participate in rituals that I had no interest in.  Church? Football? Rodeo? That last one is the kicker I will never understand.  What purpose is served by rodeo? In the medieval guilds you would call what rodeo does a demonstration of skill. A demonstration that a journeyman attempts in order to be hired on somewhere as a master. I guess if I was in the need of horse riders or cattlemen, I’d go to a rodeo to find them. Luckily for me, I don’t need any of those so don’t need to go to the rodeo. The inscrutability of rodeo is tangential, though. It is a speed bump in the middle of nowhere that makes you ask, why?  The speed bump is irrelevant, the question is important.

Why am I so angry? Well, there is a start right there.  If I’m angry at all.  Am I really angry?

I was first clued in on the synonym for smartass while in a Compuserve chat group way back at the dawn of the internet. They called me a troll. In hindsight this label was indeed accurate. I was trolling then. Internet trolls do seem angry about something, although what they are angry about is open to question. The wife insists I’m not a troll because in her eye trolls are evil creatures. Trolls are not evil, trolls are misanthropes; and all of us are misanthropes outside of our comfort zone.  I was called a troll because I didn’t understand and wanted to know. Wanted to know about being other kinds of people than I appeared to be. I appeared to be, still appear to be, a white guy who appreciates his guns, cars and the company of women. I understand that.  That is life for the average male in the midwest.  It’s not enough for me, but it appears to be enough for most men.

I wanted to know, so I went outside my comfort zone which is the only way to learn anything and started asking questions, making observations.  As I have always done.  As I will probably always do. I asked, I read, I listened and I learned.  Because I learned I became sensitive to the misuse of various words, which I have even wrote about in the hopes of educating others.

If you don’t listen to the answers to your questions, if you don’t learn anything from asking questions, you are worse than a troll; you are wasting everyone’s time asking questions that you have no intention of internalizing the answers for.  You are tormenting others just to hear yourself talk. You are engaging in casual conversation, conversation without feeling. Conversation without meaning.

I loathe casual conversation.

If I am angry, a point which I do not concede, then the demand to engage in meaningless banter on a near constant basis is probably the biggest reason why.  I do not speak to hear myself talk.  I’m not quick on the uptake and most wit goes right over my head on first pass.  It is only later that I will piece together the joke and then facepalm over the stupidity of not getting the point while the conversation is occurring, when it would have done me some good.

It takes mental energy to engage in small talk effectively.  To be witty in a casual fashion. Far more energy than I care to devote to a brief conversation with a stranger whom I will probably never meet again. I have always had goals that were far more important to me than witty banter.  Goals which consumed most of my mental energy.  When the adults around me failed to produce answers to my questions, I turned to the only source available in 1970’s Kansas.  I went to the local library.  For most of my life I have wandered around with my nose stuck in books.  Books were the only place where answers could be found, where stories that interested me were being told.

What was real? Where are we going? Where did we come from? Every question answered produced at least two new questions that needed answers.  A never-ending task of education which now extends out beyond my mortal existence. Another good excuse to be angry.  Frustrated by the limitations of life itself.  I will die still needing answers to questions that will never be answered.  If that doesn’t piss you off, you aren’t thinking about the problem.

Thinking. Thinking about thinking.  Thinking about thinking about thinking.  The philosopher’s dilemma. Is this me thinking or is this an outside influence causing me to come to a particular conclusion?  Am I angry or does my thinking make you angry which you then reflect on me? I’m thinking the latter.  Of course I would think that.  You would think that in my place.

I’m thinking that most people hate thinking so much they’ll pay to undergo pain in order to stop themselves from thinking. I’m thinking I’m not angry but that you wish I’d stop troubling you with my thinking, my desire to make you think. You are angry because I’m thinking and thinking makes you angry. I apologize for not having electric probes for you to blank those thoughts with. Is it sadism to make people think knowing that they would rather endure pain than think? Am I the jackass whisperer? If I’m not, am I the jackass? It’s probably best to leave the jackasses to their electric shocks and not taint myself with their pain.

“Casual conversations, how they bore me. Yeah, they go on and on endlessly. No matter what I say you’ll ignore me anyway.   I might as well talk in my sleep, I could weep.” 

Why go on, just hoping that we’ll get along.”  

Supertramp

AISD superintendent should “Form a Line”

The Superintendent of AISD issued a vaguely worded threat today;

At a speech Tuesday morning Austin schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said that she would not propose job cuts, declare a financial emergency or call an election to raise property taxes in the coming year as long as the school board and employees continue to ‘hold the line” on some of the tough decisions made this year.

The All Staff Convocation, streamed live to schools across the district from the Preas Theater at Austin High School, was the third such speech in Carstarphen’s three-year tenure – and the second virtual one. Teachers reported to their campuses this week. The first day of school is Monday.

“Hold the line” means sticking to the school closings and teacher layoffs that were proposed last year. A plan that is mapped out here;

An AISD task force of district staffers, parents and community members has identified nine schools that could be closed or revamped to help the district run more efficiently: Barton Hills, Brooke, Joslin, Oak Springs, Ortega, Pease, Sanchez and Zilker elementary schools and Pearce Middle School.

On January 25, Becker, Blackshear, Dawson and Govalle elementary schools were added to the list for consideration.

Under the proposals, the first schools could close in 2012-13.

I find it quite telling that all of the schools (but one, and that one in downtown) are in South and East Austin. As usual, Terrytown gets what it wants, and the rest of us must suffer for them.

But we’re in a budget crisis, we have to cut somewhere!? Budget crisis? Here’s my opinion on the subject.

Fire every non-teaching employee above principle. If you want to work for the school district and not teach, we’ll accept your charitable donation of time, just like the board members (this goes double for the Superintendent and her assistants) If you want to keep your job at the school district and get paid, you better find a class that you can teach. We should only be paying people to staff the schools themselves, and sell those multi-million dollar facilities that the district occupies downtown. Should more than make up the shortfall. Want to tighten belts? Tighten your own first, or face a vengeful public.

Nothing worse than a bunch of hogs, lording it over the rest of the farm animals, telling the rest of us how we need to make sacrifices. You first.

Discord Over Harmony Schools

This is an example of real harm resulting from the religious posing of Texas leaders.

Harmony schools are charter schools in Texas; they are unquestionable successes in the realm of schooling, in fact. Two of their high schools were named in Newsweek as “miracle schools” representing the best of the best to be had in education in the entire United States, much less in Texas.

But that’s not good enough for those conspiracy theorists out there who see different as threatening and Muslim as terrorist. Almost since the day they opened their doors, Harmony Schools have been the target of hate groups throughout the state.

Led by the Texas Eagle Forum, a conservative pro-family organization, Harmony’s critics have issued a flurry of legislative alerts in recent weeks that said the state’s $25 billion endowment for “our children’s textbooks” was imperiled by “Turkish men, of whom we know very little other than most are not American citizens.”

They gathered enough momentum that earlier this week some conservative legislators cited the concerns when they voted against a key budget bill — and almost killed it.

But one conservative protector of the endowment, the Permanent School Fund, says the criticism of Harmony is unfounded.

“There is a lot of misinformation, a certain level of fear and a small helping of bigotry that needs to go away,” said State Board of Education member David Bradley, R-Beaumont.

Bradley said he would be the “first to sound the alarm” if there were anything to be alarmed about. But the board has not received substantive complaints from parents of the 16,000 children that attend any of the 33 Harmony campuses across the state, he said.

“The only thing these guys are guilty of are high scores and being Turkish,” Bradley said.

(from Austin-American Statesman)

Love the way the article soft-pedals the Texas Eagle Forum. They are a hate group, and should be rightly labeled as such. I have yet to hear of anything they support that isn’t related in some fashion to the stupid people observation I made in the last post.

So, not content to simply make themselves look like idiots, they want to incur unnecessary costs on the cash strapped school system, and the even more cash starved charter schools.

House General Investigating Committee Chairman Chuck Hopson, R-Jacksonville, said his committee has started a preliminary look-see into Harmony “and all the other charter school operators in the state.

“It’s nothing criminal. We just want to see whether they are spending our (state) money wisely,” he said. “There have been some concerns about (Harmony) building schools without competitive bidding, and about other issues, but we are going to looking at every one of the charters.”

(from Austin-American Statesman)

Harmony schools are on record in that article as “welcoming the investigation” but I can’t imagine a group in their position daring to even suggest that the waste of time and money involved in investigating superior schools (for any other reason than to determine and duplicate their superior tactics) might not be welcome. Jack-booted fear mongers tend to not react well when their authority is questioned…

Sunset the SBOE. It’s the Only Viable Solution.

Textbooks from ten years ago the subject of a current resolution; and even at that, erroneous conclusions from 10 year old textbooks. Why hasn’t the SBOE been sunset yet? Clearly, they don’t have enough real work to keep them busy.

Attacking Religious Freedom: The Anti-Islam Resolution

After recklessly politicizing new social studies curriculum standards just months ago, the Texas State Board of Education wasted no time manufacturing another political controversy instead of focusing on the education of public school students. In July a failed state board candidate, Randy Rives of Odessa, asked the board to adopt a resolution condemning what he alleges are “pro-Islamic/anti-Christian bias” in social studies textbooks. Here is a short clip of Rives introducing his resolution in July, comparaing the “pro-Islam” agenda in textbooks to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s declaration that he would take over America without firing a shot:

The proposed resolution, now championed by far-right members of the board, includes a variety of disingenuous claims designed to demonstrate the alleged bias in high school world history textbooks published in 1999. A Texas Freedom Network analysis shows that the resolution and its supporting materials are based on claims that are superficial and grossly misleading. Further, examples cited in the resolution come from world history books no longer used in Texas schools. Yet the board is set to consider the measure at its September 22-24 meeting in Austin.

This resolution is another example of state board members putting politics ahead of expertise and refusing to consider the advice of real scholars before doing something provocative and divisive. Indeed, the board has asked no scholars or other experts for public advice about the resolution. Moreoever, the resolution insists that the board has the authority to reject any proposed textbooks that do not deal with Christianity and Islam as board members desire. As a result, this measure represents and end-run around Texas law barring the board from editing or censoring textbooks.

The Texas Freedom Network believes textbooks should treat all religions with respect and dignity. This ill-considered resolution, however, is simply a thinly veiled attempt to generate fear and promote religious intolerance. And more than this, it involves our children in a divisive political debate that has no place in Texas classrooms.

Help Prevent Political Interference with Curriculum Standards

From http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:h.res.1593:

H. RES. 1593

Supporting academically based social studies curriculum standards for the Nation’s elementary and secondary education public school textbooks.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

July 30, 2010

Ms. EDDIE BERNICE JOHNSON of Texas (for herself, Mr. ORTIZ, Mr. HINOJOSA, Mr. REYES, and Mr. GENE GREEN of Texas) submitted the following resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Education and Labor

RESOLUTION

Supporting academically based social studies curriculum standards for the Nation’s elementary and secondary education public school textbooks.

Whereas the National Council for the Social Studies believes that State social studies standards should be developed by consulting scholars for their expertise, soliciting input from community members and educators, and having master social studies educators write standards to ensure that they are effective and grade appropriate;

Whereas the Texas State Board of Education appointed teachers and scholars to serve on writing teams and tasked them to use their expertise and professional judgment to draft curriculum standards for each subject or grade level;

Whereas elected officials at the Texas State Board of Education disregarded many academically based recommendations and approved politically biased standards within the curriculum that are outside of mainstream scholarship;

Whereas due to the size and influence of the Texas textbook market, curriculum standards adopted in Texas have long exerted a strong influence on public school textbooks used around the United States;

Whereas changes made by the Texas State Board of Education, such as downplaying the struggle leading up to and during the civil rights movement and undermining basic concepts of the constitutionally mandated boundaries between institutions of religion and government are outside the mainstream of historical scholarship;

Whereas over 1,200 history scholars from universities across Texas and the Nation signed a letter stating that Texas’ social studies curriculum revisions would undermine the study of the social sciences in public schools by misrepresenting and even distorting the historical record and the functioning of United States society; and

Whereas civil rights organizations expressed concern that the curriculum standards adopted by the Texas State Board of Education do not accurately portray the struggle by minorities and women to achieve civil and equal rights in the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives–

(1) supports standards that guide curriculum development, instruction, and assessment in classrooms that are developed by experts and not subject to political biases;

(2) supports social studies curriculum standards that reflect current historical scholarship to accurately present vocabulary and content-specific knowledge to students, help students acquire the analytical skills to understand chronology, and engage in comprehension, interpretation, problem-solving, and decisionmaking required for college readiness and the 21st century workforce;

(3) supports social studies curriculum standards that accurately address the fundamental conflicts and triumphs that have shaped the Nation’s past and influence its future; and

(4) supports social studies curriculum standards that are clear, informed, and inclusive to allow students to be knowledgeable of the Nation’s diverse history and culture, just as our diversity represents an integral part of the Nation as a whole.

Those who are concerned about the impact of the SBOE in Texas’ effect on national textbooks should write their congressperson in support of this resolution.
https://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

…or you could use this link.
https://secure3.convio.net/cfi/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=230
Be warned, it goes to CFI.

Evolution in America

A good discussion on evolution/creationism debate. However, just listen to the first 5 mins or so of the presentation and…

40 percent of Americans accept “young earth creationism” but 78 percent accept “continental drift”. This should be a bright red warning flag on the (lack of) thought processes of the average American.

Can people that ignorant be trusted to open cans properly, much more be trusted to point guns (or ballots) in the right direction before using them? I think it’s a valid question.