Tuesday, December 30, 2014

It's All THEIR Fault!

From the LATimes. -- Police gun deaths surge in 2014; California leads nation --

-- In 2014, 126 law enforcement officers were killed nationwide in the line of duty -- a 24% jump over 2013. Of those, 14 were in California. --

As long as the sense of us vs them dominates the policed and the police, things will grow worse.  Everyone must work to restore a sense of community, in which there is only one side on which everyone works together.  To be policed should mean to be protected, to be an officer should be as respected as being a soldier.

Instead of trying to identify one group upon whom all blame can be affixed, everyone must look to solutions.  The bitter hatred of the military which dominated so much of the mid to late 20th century has transformed into respect; the same change can come to police forces, but  it will not simply happen.  We must work together to attain it.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Great Men Make Great History (Sort Of)

Men make history, but rarely as they please -- Karl Marx, quoted by Erin David Miller, author of "The End of Greatness" on Washington journal, in regard to the question of the great man versus great events theories of history.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

War Crimes: Then And Now

Report. --Japanese nationalists attempt to revise history on 'comfort women'--

This is why Japan, unlike Germany, is still guilty of atrocities. As a nation, responsibility, repentance, contrition, and reconciliation have never ocurred.  Right wing nationalists refuse to permit the millions of decent Japanese to perform these essential acts on a national stage.  Similarly, American right wing radicals refuse to perform these steps to forgiveness over torture and other war crimes of the Bush administration.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Yes, We Can (But We Don't Wanna)

 From the Charlie Rose interview of  Naomi Klein, the author of, This Changes Everything:

Referring to Germany's success in creating alternative energy, becoming energy independent, and lowering the costs of energy during a time of economic disasters and severe austerity, The author points out that, "…the German recipe has encouraged hundreds of cities and towns to take back control over their energy grids and to keep those profits within their communities to pay for other services; so now Germany has 25% of its electricity coming from renewable energy, much of it wind and solar, much of it decentralized …That model works."  She points out that this is a result of the incentivization of such programs by the government and that this incredible achievement has been accomplished in about 10 years. Our country has  achieved only 4% of our electricity produced by such sources.

The GOP says America can't accomplish this. They say it would destroy our economy. They say it would destroy jobs. Well, unlike Republicans, I believe that if Germans can do it, Americans can do it too.  This is especially true because Germany doesn't even have the resources we have in these areas. We can build bigger windfarms in areas of higher wind speed and the amount sunlight hitting our country is a much higher percentage than that of  cloudy Germany. Yet we are incredibly far behind them.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

It Was The Best Of Times It Was The Worst Of Times

Hard times, this year. But today we gathered together as a loving family. Even those in Kansas reached us through FaceTime. And now I have a tree  full of flashing lights with a star on top and new memories of the family enjoying Christmas together. The good is precious and the bad we endure.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Religion And Violence Or Politics And Violence?

In his review of Karen Armstrong's 'Fields of Blood' James Fallows comments that, "in modern times Hitler, Stalin and Mao were all atheists…

While this is undeniably true of Stalin and Mao, there are serious questions about the religious beliefs of Hitler. Many of his private comments display clear contempt for religion, especially Christianity, which he regarded as a slave religion (obviously based on a misinterpretation of Nietzsche's works). But some of his comments indicate that he believed that he had been saved by some form of divine intervention during an incident in World War I. Even assuming that Hitler believed in a God, the question then becomes. which God?  It is entirely possible that he was referring to the Hegelian Spirit of World History, which is not a God, and yet has at least some of the attributes thereof. Hitler's many references to God made in public are sharply contradictory to many of his private beliefs and were undoubtedly intended more as propaganda than as a statement of actual belief.

So, was Hitler religious? The answer is, we really don't know. Nevertheless, he believed that some sort of force or power of a mystical nature was strongly supporting him, even if that force or power was the force of history and culture.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Ben Secures The Borders

Edwin O'Donnell, a College of the Holy Cross history professor, presented this quote to his students during a C-SPAN presentation:

Why should the Mexicans be suffered to swarm into our settlements, and by herding together establish their language and culture to the exclusion of ours? Why should California, founded by Americans, become a colony of aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Hispanicize us instead of our Americanizing them, and will never adopt our language or customs, anymore than they can acquire our complexion.

Only six words have been changed from the original quote which was by Benjamin Franklin in 1753, referring to the German colonists moving into Pennsylvania.

I also decapitalized words which would not utilize the capital letter in today's grammar. Otherwise, the quote is as Benjamin Franklin stated it over 300 years ago.

Sounded like FOXNews didn't it? Oh, sorry! I should have used the proper name, FOXLies.


In the 1700s we were terrified the Germans would take over our country, speak German instead of English, and make us Not British.

In the 1800s we were terrified that the Catholics would take over our schools, teach our children the Catholic Bible instead of the Protestant Bible, and make us love and obey the Pope

In the 1900s we were afraid the communists would take over and make us love Lenin.

Today we are afraid the Mexicans will take over, refuse to learn English, make us all obey Sharia law (?!), and take back everything they gave up in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.

Now that's progress.

Facts Is Facts

In response to Andrew Sullivan's dish post, a ringing declaration against crimes against humanity and those who cover them up or excuse them, a man posted:

Andrew, if you really believe that Dianne Finestein's report is not partisan (after all she did catch the CIA spying onher computer) then you must also believe that the KKK should run Obama's race relations council or Rush Limbaugh should be a professor of Civil Discourse ... C'MON MAN, get a grip and a life....

To which I replied:
Facts are not partisan even if a partisan reports them.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lost Sheep and Cancer

My daughter's  post as her husband sufffers and dies of cancer and my reply:

Some times in the middle of the night are the hardest for me… After I do Ed's meds and get him taken care of my mind wanders…

Sometimes y'all say I'm strong and I feel very weak…

Sometimes I mourn Ed and my relationship and our love story…

Sometimes the tears run down my face and I don't think I can go on one more moment…

Sometimes I want to grab Ed up and run away (far away)

Even through all of these things I get up the next day and carry on…

I do it for Ed… I do it for our love…

It's just not easy and I am not strong I am just a woman who loves her husband and wants what's best for him…

A long response, but it comes from the depths of my soul and reflects a lifetime of struggle.
A person who does not suffer is not strong.  A person who does not feel is not strong.  It takes no strength to go on doing what you enjoy, or what is, at worst, boring.  

A strong person suffers and despairs, tries and fails, yet keeps on struggling.

Simon and Garfinkel's song declares:

In the clearing stands a boxer,
And a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down
And cut him till he cried out
In his anger and his shame,
"I am leaving, I am leaving."
But the fighter still remains

He still remains, not because of his injuries or his failures.  He remains in spite of them, because he is strong. He could run and hide.  Instead he stays and fights the good fight.

Remember the post below from your philosophy class?  What it says about courage is true of strength.  There is no strength in doing things you enjoy and which are easy.  Strength is in struggle and in carrying on when you suffer.


Who is braver? The person who never fears anything or the person who overcomes his fear? Shakespeare said, "The coward dies a thousand deaths. The brave man dies but once." This is a very common attitude and it's very foolish. The idea that man who is brave is never afraid makes no sense at all. Bravery consists of going ahead when you are afraid. If a person ever existed who was never afraid of anything, he had no courage at all. He didn't need any. Also, he had some kind of severe brain damage.

Remember Aristotle's Golden Mean between cowardice and excessive courage. The person with no fear at all would be about as excessive as possible.

Imagine you go to a petting zoo and in one area there's a snake. Are you very brave if you walk up and pet it, when you have no fear of snakes and even enjoy their company? Of course not.

But an old friend of mine, Barbara Hamilton, was once teaching her class of special needs students. One of our bus drivers brought in his huge pet boa constrictor to show to the children. Barbara was absolutely terrified of snakes, but didn't say so because she didn't want to teach the children to share her fear. Since she looked so calm, the driver showed the children how nice snakes were by putting the snake on her lap and wrapping it up around her neck. She showed no sign of her fear.

The next day she couldn't come to work because she had broken out in hives as result of her absolute terror. She was brave. Although terrified, she would not show that fear because she didn't want to teach the children to be afraid.

The driver was not being brave, he was enjoying his pet.

The Gospels say:

I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.  Luke 15:7 KJV

Is it not surely true that there is more joy and respect for those who suffer, yet carry on than there is for those who never suffered and which needed no strength?

We justly respect the man who serves by doing his job supporting the troops back home where there is no violence, but we only give medals to men who suffer and struggle and despair, but keep fighting on in combat.

It is better not to suffer, but if you do suffer, it takes courage to go on every day in the face of it.  It takes great courage.  It takes great strength.

You have both.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Making It Through

So much happening! But I must agree with Epicurus and Ecclesiastes: in this terrible, awful world good food, good conversation, friends and family still bring you joy.

It was a beautiful Thanksgiving and the family that could and wished to be there was there. My thoughts are with you, who were not there - both family and friends. I must admit I'm worn out, but I'm going to see if I can dig out the Christmas lights and follow tradition and get them up tonight, even though it's getting late.
So I have to find the Christmas barrel, even though the barrel that held all the Christmas stuff when I was a child has long since crumbled into dust.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fact: 0 Fear: 57

We're number 2 in ignorance? Not acceptable!  America will rise (sink?) to number one!

The video is also well worth watching, but oddly blames television for the problem. Surely the citizens of the other nations in the survey have televisions, yet they mange to be better informed and less deluded. The problem is that we allow our corporate masters to hijack our public airspace and use it against us.  Thank you, Ronald Reagan for vetoing the bill extending the Fairness Doctrine, and thus ensuring the robber barons would control our minds. My favorite superhero is Ronald Reagan, Destroyer of Democracy!


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Commercials I Love To Hate

State Farm commercial. Wife discovers her husband at three in the morning having a hot, sexually suggestive conversation. She grabs the phone and demands, "What are you wearing, Jake from State Farm?"

"My  boots, my old leather chaps, and my cowboy hat. And nothin' else."

Shocked wife, "What!?" (Avert your eyes from the television screen at this point unless you are gay, a female who appreciates the male body, a premed student currently taking anatomy, or an art student.)

Jake replies, "State Farm's helping your husband come out of the closet!"

End commercial.

Scream, Shriek, Curse, Spit...Oh, You're Innocent

I posted : After two years of lies, smears, and hysterical shrieks of "coverup" instead of doing anything useful for America, the Republicans finally are forced to admit that they were the liars. --GOP panel on Benghazi finds no Obama administration wrongdoing--

Dan responded: This thing got so ridiculous that it finally felt to me like a matter of racial hatred or fear. Not just from Congress but from a vast number of Americans. One of the reasons Democrats lost so badly in the midterms, I'm honestly afraid.

I responded: I sincerely wish that I could disagree with you, Dan. Unfortunately, I cannot. From the first arrival of Europeans, even when they were clearly a tiny minority, this was regarded as a White Man's Nation. The historical evidence leaves no doubt. I see three subdivisions of this basic issue:

1. Blatant racism. When Obama was running for president my grandson, who is in law-enforcement, and I had a lengthy and interesting series of discussions on what effect this would have on racist hate groups. We were in agreement that we would see a rise in the number and influence of such groups. Sadly, we were correct.

2. The simple fear of change. In spite of the realities, as I noted above, this nation was regarded as a White Man's Nation since Europeans first set foot on the continent. Now this is clearly changing. The demographics cannot be denied. We will be a nation of nothing but minorities in the near future. That means Whites will be a minority, albeit, the largest one, just like all the other groups in America. A new America is being born, and it is very different from the America of the past. To a generation that grew up in the oh so White 1950s, this is terrifying.

3. And finally we get to another issue. Minorities have traditionally been treated very badly in America. When has this not been true? Whites are going to be one minority among others. I have no doubt that many in this particular group are afraid they will be treated the same way. Now that's really terrifying!

I wonder, considering the two years of smears, lies and false accusations, if we can expect an apology from Fox Lies or the GOP?

Saturday, November 22, 2014

How Reagan Failed To Win The Cold War Or Tear Down That Wall

What really caused the fall of the Soviet Union and the opening of the Berlin Wall? Not Ronald Reagan.
So, my right wing friends, I am confident that you want to know what really did cause the collapses. Here is a brief, but accurate, answer:

According to Mary Sarot, History and International Relations Professor at the University of Southern California :

The Revolution was aging. The Soviets were crippled by instability; in only 2 1/2 years, the USSR had four leaders, because three of them had dropped dead. (No, Ronald Reagan did not sneak over the Soviet Union, have a gunfight with each one of those men at high noon at the OK corral, then ride off into the sunset, back to America, after each gunfight. They died because they were very, very old.)

Because of this embarrassing series of deaths, the Politburo decided the next General Secretary had best be a young man who was more likely to survive. Primarily for this purpose, they chose Mikael Gorbachev. (No, that is not Russian for Ronald Reagan.)

Gorbachev, the only General Secretary of the Soviet Union to have been born after the October Revolution, opened up the Iron Curtain and eased repression through Perestroika and Glasnost, both of which began to erode Soviet power and control. Rather than brutally crushing all opposition, the kinder, gentler route was chosen, and this ultimately lead to the people rebelling. (No, Ronald Reagan did not order him to do any of these things.)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, aka America, Ronald Reagan left office, his successor, George Bush Senior, fired almost all of the previous administration members. This was one of the most extreme changes of administration in American history. The policies of Ronald Reagan were canceled. (No, policies which have been abandoned no longer have the power to change the world.)

This easing of pressure by the Russian government caused the Hungarian Communist dictatorship, which had previously respected the East German government's refusal to allow their citizens to exit the country, to suddenly change its mind. Bribed by the West German government to do so in September, 1989, they began allowing East Germans to come to Hungary and from there take trains to escape to West Germany. So many took this route that the government in East Germany was in danger of collapsing. (No, Ronald Reagan was not the engineer, nor conductor on any of these trains. Neither did he work for the Hungarian government.)

East German officials became so desperate they declared they were going to close the borders even more decisively. This led to mass protests. (No, Ronald Reagan did not lead or participate in any of the protests.)

Now threatened with the demonstrations, the panicked government planned to have their own Tiananmen Square, imitating their Chinese allies. When protests erupted in in Leipsig on October 9, 1989, the government issued orders to shoot to kill. To accomplish this definitive crushing of protest, machine guns were issued to the massive number of troops sent to the city. The 100,000 plus demonstrators turned out to be far more than expected and were so peaceful that the troops refused to fire on them, and instead began to join the demonstrators. (No, Ronald Reagan was not in command of the East German army at that time. He did not issue an order to join the protesters, or refuse to fire on them.)

The spectacular failure lead to the leader of East Germany being kicked out of power. (No, Ronald Reagan was not involved in the decision to fire Eric Honecker or to replace him with Egon Krenz.)

Krenz proved to be incompetent. He decided to talk a nice game while maintaining all existing brutality and oppression. In pursuit of this policy, he made an announcement that there would be minor changes to travel restrictions. He intended this to sound as if changes had been made, while in fact changing nothing. The announcement was botched, leading reporters from the West to think the Wall was opening. The East German people, assuming that the reports were accurate and that this meant the Wall was now open, stormed it en mass. (No, the Great Communicator, aka, the Great Deceiver, did not write or make the announcement. Neither did he storm the Wall.)

With a successful Solidarity movement in Poland on their minds, with the efforts of the Polish Pope inspiring them, with the recent fall of the leader of the repressive government, with the success of the protests which turned the army onto their side, the people of East Germany decided that this was the time to act. Tens of thousands of them went to the Wall and demanded to be allowed to pass. The Stasi tried to hold the line, but began to fear for their own lives. They were outnumbered literally thousands to one. Finally, Harold Yeager, a junior officer on duty that night decided to let people through. Once this was done, the damn had broken and stations all over the city followed his lead. (No, Harold Jager is not the German spelling of Ronald Reagan.)

Remember: Ronald Reagan was no longer president of United States when the Wall finally did fall. Ronald Reagan's policies had been replaced by the sharply different policies of his successor.

So, Republicans, please pay attention. In spite of your fervent belief, your absolute conviction, and your total unwillingness to consider any alternatives, Ronald Reagan did not open the Berlin Wall in 1987. He gave a speech. He gave a rather poor speech. The Wall did not open until his policies have been repudiated and changed by his presidential successor.

So who did tear down the Wall? The answer is: The people of East Germany. Many others contributed and helped to create the atmosphere that led to this final action on their part; but ultimately, they did it. They put their lives at risk and they tore down that Wall. Ronald Reagan's contribution, if he made any, was minor and unimportant.

This is more than just correcting history and eliminating a foolish delusion. As Dr. Sarot points out, the idea that Ronald Reagan gave a speech and magically everything fell before him, has convinced American neocons that all we have to do is rattle our sabers and then wait around until, almost instantly, the world changes into a wonderful happy place. It was exactly for this reason that they included the phrase "from Berlin to Baghdad" in plans that led to the Iraq war and its foolish dreams of easy success and a war that would pay for itself.

Later in the same program, Melvin Leffler of the University of Virginia, a history professor, reported on how the fall of the Berlin Wall looks to various parts of the world, as explained at a meeting with his colleagues from other parts of the world.

He notes that in Western Europe, the fall of the Wall is regarded as evidence of the success of multilateral cooperation and integration among nations and institutions. Russia regards the fall of the Wall as evidence of the results of poor leadership and placing trust in foreign governments. China regards the event as proof of the need to have economic reforms to benefit the peoples' standard of living, while at the same time suppressing political liberalization and strengthening the power of the state.

At the meeting, Prof. Leffer's contribution was to explain the meeting of the fall the Berlin Wall to the United States. He explained to his colleagues that we regarded the fall as a triumph of "freedom over tyranny" and think it showed how effective the United States was in its use of power in the policy of containment and the threat of the use of force against Communism. In other words, we see this as an American victory as a result of American power, which shows the benefits of American supremacy.

It is important to note that no one else in the world looks at it this way. This is an American interpretation. It is deeply flawed. It ignores the people who actually worked so hard in cooperation with America to contain and defeat Communism and it assumes that we, and we alone, should take all the credit. It is a neocon fantasy. It is a neocon mythos.

Bizarrely, Republicans and Democrats, and especially Bill Clinton, actually somehow decided that we had destroyed Communism because of unrestricted free enterprise! This led Clinton and others to believe that deregulation would be a good thing because it would automatically make everything work better. The ultimate result was the second greatest economic disaster in the history of the world.

The professor agrees that memories of the Berlin Wall coming down were a major contributor to the strange belief that we would be welcomed as liberators in Iraq, which would spontaneously turn into a democracy. We know how successful that was.

Somehow the neocons forgot to notice that East Germany joined West Germany. West Germany! ...An established and successful social democratic democracy. That is to say, a highly regulated, free enterprise-based, socialist system. Not unrestricted free enterprise, but free enterprise working within a highly socialist and well-regulated system. He further notes that we were not a largely unregulated, radically free enterprise system when the Berlin Wall fell. That came later. At the time of the fall, we were still very much an FDR nation. Capitalism was well regulated, with socialistic safety nets such as Social Security and Medicare firmly established and welfare in full effect in this country.

He adds that what actually caused the fall of the Berlin Wall includes the reconciliation between France and Germany and the spread of economic cooperation across Europe in the form of the Common Market and in the expectations that the then proposed European Union would bring even greater prosperity.

All acknowledge that US power was an essential contributor through containment, but that it was a contributor, not the cause. Containment is what allowed these other factors to take root, flower, and lead to the harvest of freedom. Reagan did made a contribution, but it was not in blustering speeches and being threatening as Republicans would have it today. It was in working with other leaders who also contributed and in maintaining the decades old policy of containment. It was in negotiating. It was in cooperating even with our enemies, not in taking a bullying, domineering, militaristic stand. He did the former early in his presidency. He evolved to the latter position as he matured as a president.

Ultimately, the American president who most contributed to the fall of the Wall was George Bush Senior. He succeeded where Reagan failed, not by being provocative, but rather by encouraging reforms and a sense of peace between the Soviets and the Free World.

But if a single person is to be given credit for the fall of the wall, the professor indicates that the one who most contributed was Gorbachev. It was he who changed the vision of the Soviet Union, turning away from militarism, international bullying, and a threat based, security conscious state. If anyone tore down the Wall it was Gorbachev. (No, he did not do it because Reagan told him too.)

The next speaker, Jeffrey Angle of Southern Methodist University, the Director of the Center for Presidential History had much the same points to make, although his statements can be summed up as, the fall of the Wall was, "an intertwined global affair."

He then says that the ultimate lesson of the fall of the Berlin Wall varies from nation to nation. For America, he says, "Ronald Reagan single handedly spent the Soviets into the ground.… And single handedly, moreover, tore the Berlin Wall down, brick by brick."

And of course most Americans believe that Reagan did this because he believed in freedom and strength and, I add, that for strength you can also say militarism or bullying.

He again makes the point that neocons in America assumed that this meant that all we had to do was run around, make threats, maybe have a very brief pay for itself war, and everybody will automatically want to be American just like the East Berliners had. The problem with this, he points out, is that the East Berliners did not want to be Americans. They wanted to be Europeans.

They had, he says, "A desire to join the collectivist spirit embodied in the nascent European Union." So, to Europeans the lesson was clear, unrestricted socialism as found in Communism is a miserable failure while well regulated capitalism working together with well-regulated socialism make a great team. Collectivism is desirable, if it is balanced with individualism. That's pretty much the exact opposite of what so many Americans take as the lesson of the Berlin Wall. The Director points out that Gorbachev expected us to reward him and his country, now Russia, with aid and support and by keeping NATO right where it was. Because we interpreted bullying, and militarism, and saber rattling as the solutions to all international conflict, we did those things instead. The result is Vladimir Putin.

So let me draw a conclusion: Ronald Reagan helped, a bit, to cause the collapse of the Berlin wall, while George Bush Senior, who did less than many other leaders in the world (and who did it by being thoughtful, careful, and keeping his mouth shut), contributed more.

In other words, if I were channeling Ronald Reagan's ghost I would not declare in his famous drawl, "Well, I won the Cold War. All by myself." Instead I'm quite certain he would say, like that little girl in the Shake and Bake commercial that anyone of my age remembers, "And I helped!"

I repeat: The big contribution America and Reagan made to the fall of the Berlin Wall had nothing to do with spending or threatening. It had everything to do with the policy of containment, a policy practiced by every American president from Harry Truman (who developed it) through George Bush Senior. However, containment alone could do nothing but exactly what it's name indicates, contain Communism. By doing so we kept the rest of Europe free and allowed them to develop the capacities and systems which eventually outcompeted the Soviet Union. But remember, we did not beat the Soviet Union through unrestrained, unregulated capitalism. The defeat of the Soviet Union is correctly attributed to a combination of well-regulated capitalism and well-regulated socialism, combined with the efforts of many world leaders, the aging of the revolutionary, Stalinist leadership of the USSR, and the courageous sacrifices of the oppressed people of the Warsaw Pact.

During the question-and-answer period, Prof. Sarotte indicated that if there was one thing she could change about the historiography of that era, it would be that, both then and now, people talking about this era would not simply talk about Europe, but would also talk about Europeans! She points out that it's not possible to accurately talk about the fall of the Wall without talking about Berliners or about the reunification of Germany without talking about Germans, but many people, including historians, do exactly that. She then recalled a former activist she had interviewed on the subject. This was a woman named Mafianna Buetler (sp?), an activist in East Berlin, "It still amazes me when I read history books about the history I lived...about the history I made. I read these history books, and they say the Wall fell and it gave us our freedom. We fought for our freedom and then the Wall fell." The professor said that's what she would change. She would make it clear that there were people who risked their lives to gain their freedom and that the Wall fell as a result of their struggle and its success.

Got it?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Emo vs Geek

In response to a post which suggested that Republicans have difficulty with Obama because they are not intelligent enough to understand him, I posted:

There is some truth to this point of view, but it goes much deeper than a mere question of intelligence. Republicans are emotionalists, while Obama is a rationalist. Obama's biggest failure is that he does not communicate well. Ronald Reagan was often remarkably incompetent, but he communicated his incompetence at a very personal level. What he said in his speech may not have made any sense, but it made you feel good.

Obama knows the judgement of history will look upon him as one of our better presidents. That's good enough for him. But he could have been an even better, perhaps even a great president, if he had taken the time to make his case more clearly to the American people instead of simply letting the facts speak for themselves.

He did very much the same thing I did as a principal. That is to say, he has spent time doing a good job instead of spending it convincing everybody that he was doing a good job. Sadly, reality is clear on this point. The person doing a poor job, but who does a good job of convincing people he's doing well, will be rewarded. The person who is simply doing a good job, who is actually doing a good job, but who fails to clearly communicate that fact will be judged poorly in the present. His true value will largely be seen in retrospect.

What Obama has not done well is to reach the American people on an emotional level. He believes the fact that he's doing a very good job should stand on its own. And so it should. However, that is not true of most human interactions, certainly not in the area of politics.


Thursday, November 13, 2014

New Common Core Math vs Algorithm Man

In response to a post from respected colleague regarding common core math (note: she is a skilled practicing teacher with real world experience), I responded:

Thanks for the input from the front lines. I always listen to actual practitioners much more than to theorists. However, I must note that similar confusion attached to New Math thirty years ago. New Math was also supposed to replace mindless algorithms with understanding. It failed to accomplish this noble goal (no sarcasm intended) and we went back to algorithms. Now I have difficulty helping my great grandson with his first grade math homework.

I will make a prediction. Common Core Math will face the same fate as New Math for the same reason, not all of us are born with a natural talent for mathematics. Some of us, many of us, NEED mindless algorithms just as some of us are tone deaf and cannot benefit from music theory.

"Lhude Sing, Cuccu!"

In response to the LA Times article (California legislators flying to Maui to meet with special interests) I posted to a linguistically inclined friend:

Dan, note how language is changing and becoming both shorter and simpler: "provide a relaxed setting" is the new way of saying, "provide an extravagantly generous, but technically legal, bribe".

This shouldn't surprise us. After all it was only a few hundred years ago we were singing, "Sumer is i-cumin in—" Whereas now we say "Summer's here".

The song went on, "Lhude sing, cuccu!" or "Loudly sing cuckoo!"

Interestingly, the cuckoo part has only changed in spelling.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Commence Unrestricted Free Enterprise

In response to a friend and colleague's post on Bush getting big donations in return for tax cuts for the wealthy, I responded:

Okay Jeff. I'll bite. Step one: the Republican Party has become a wholly owned subsidiary of big oil and other mega corporations. The Democrats are certainly not a terribly moral party, but at least they remain a party with multiple sources of support rather than a single master (extreme wealth).

As far as capitalism goes, there's nothing wrong with a free enterprise system. The problem is, we don't have one in America today. The government gives massive tax breaks and massive kickbacks to various huge corporations, and thus totally destroys the concept of a free market. America today is an economy controlled by the central government.

The facts show that a great many corporations pay zero taxes. This includes General Electric which actually makes a profit off the US government. In what way is this competition? The answer is it is competition only in the sense of who can get the most corporate welfare from the US government.

Entitlements ARE a big problem, but not the entitlements given to individual US citizens. The real entitlement problem in America, one which destroys our budgetary stability, is the entitlements of huge corporations; the vast subsidies paid to them by the US government no matter how incompetently they run their businesses.

Corporations constantly scream and yell about the high US corporate tax rate, but they know that is only on paper. In reality we have a tax system so beneficial to those corporations that we not only have the lowest effective corporate taxes in the developed world, we actually have a negative tax rate in which we pay out to the corporations. Remember, during our economic boomtimes, the 1950's, the tax rate exceeded 90%!

What we have today is the equivalent of unrestricted submarine warfare. We have unrestricted free enterprise, in which wealth can destroy the functionality of the free enterprise system by granting itself endless bonuses and endless benefits.

If we were to return to a well regulated system such as we had in the economic glory days of the 1950s, when United States dominated the world in all economic areas, partly as a result of the disaster of World War II, but also as a result of a superior economic system, We could restore many of those past benefits.

Note that the individual entitlement system under the G.I. Bill was huge then compared to now. This was an economic engine that drove economic development, not the drain that ideological conservatives and fantasists would have it to be. Facts matter. Fantasies matter only to those who hold the fantasies and to those who suffer the consequences of their delusion.

The United States today has become a government of the corporations, by the corporations, and for the corporations. Mere human beings are no longer considered to be full, first class citizens.

Lots more at:

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bread And Circuses, Symposia, Or...?

We need to begin serious discussions now about how we will economically adapt to many current jobs being performed by robots.

Consider self checkout at the market and the library. Clerical tasks once performed by professional, well trained, highly skilled librarians are now performed by computers cooperating with the library patron. Librarians are still essential, but fewer of them are required to attain the same level of performance. At first, you might think that this is good for librarians. Now they have time for more serious tasks and longer need to devote themselves to what is essentially a repetitive clerical function. However, consider that this was one of the ways which librarians most interacted with the patrons they were serving. Also, it becomes a money-saving measure for government through reducing the number of librarians actually employed.

So robots are already taking jobs away from humans. This is a trend which shows every sign of rapid expansion. With even self driving cars now legal in some states, it is clear that humanity will soon find itself with far fewer occupations available when seeking employment. What will happen in the future when the leisured class includes almost everyone?

The Roman model was bread and circuses for the unemployable mass of poor citizens. The Greeks turned to a planned level of limited wealth ("How far the Persians have traveled to rob us of our poverty!” said Spartan king Pausanias.) combined with public service and a rich intellectual life.

With robots filling the jobs held by slaves in classical economies and by minimum wage, part time employees in ours (and potentially many skilled functions as well), a strategy to keep the unemployed occupied is essential. The topic is as challenging and interesting as it is essential.

Any thoughts?

Consider the interrelated fields of cosplay, role-play, historical reenactment, fanfics, and other ways of extending entertainment from a passive act to an active one.

A Non-Aristotelian View Of Aristotle


In response I posted: Finally! A professional scientist agrees with me that Aristotle was in many ways the first scientist. And also that Plato was the enemy of science. Positions I've held for a long time. Positions which generally are held in reverse.

The review indicates that the author does note that neither of these men grasped the concept of experimentation, which kept them from being true scientists. But you cannot ask a philosopher to become a true scientist without all the background of centuries of intellectual development which led to what we now know as the scientific method.
Aristotle has had a bad name because the scholastics of the Middle Ages, with the support of the Catholic Church, warped and distorted his philosophy into something it was never intended to be. Criticizing Aristotle for the attitude of the middle ages Church is like criticizing Darwin because of Social Darwinism. Darwin never supported or accepted Spencer's bizarre beliefs, even when Spencer renamed them Social Darwinism. Similarly, Aristotle ever accepted the mindless belief in authority once promulgated by the Church.

Reflections On Our Lives

How strange the twists of life. Being warriors in a war we never wanted to fight, getting the news that the cause we love so dearly seems irreversibly lost, seeing the ruin of so much that is precious and irreplacable...

Yet, somehow at least we have each other to hold. In the end family is really all we have.

And yet tonight my son and I could talk. And in the midst of everyday life and all its little interlocking bits and pieces, little gears whirling and twirling...and in the midst of all the great disaster all around us...we could talk. The horror is no less. But somehow there's a sense of acceptance. A sense of resignation. A sense of it will have to do.

We both regret the time we no longer have just to bum around together, but we are not strangers. He has learned that which I taught him. He has learned family. He does what needs to be done and still finds time to simply to be with his children, close together, sharing life, making moments.

This is a gift it took a lifetime to create. It is a gift I hope will pass on down, generation upon generation.

And it will have to do.

Hard News

I use Facebook to keep in touch with the world. Thanks to Facebook and my iPad, I'm not a complete hermit. I usually stick with political posts, scientific posts, and an occasional spot of humor. However, sometimes I do use it for more serious issues, as when I asked for support and prayers for my son-in-law, then just diagnosed with cancer.

It's been a very long and very brutal fight. No point in going into details, but even for cancer patients it's been an unusually bad run. Anyone who has been through it knows the ups and the downs which come and go. I didn't feel the need to share those.

I do thank you for your spiritual and emotional support but I must tell you the news that was delivered yesterday. The doctors believe that Ed has no more than six months to live. Again, no point going into lengthy detail. It's just that it's a hard time for me and my family right now.

Normal family interactions notwithstanding, no one ever felt anything for Ed but love and respect.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Withdrawal Symptoms

Bobby! I'm a little late in answering your question, even for me, but nevertheless, here it is. (Back in philosophy club, I made a comment about if horses had gods, their gods would be horses. You asked me who said that? I responded some Greek guy. That was because I couldn't remember who. I wanted to say Zeno, but I knew that was wrong, as I usually think Zeno said everything. So, here's the answer:

But mortals suppose that gods are born, wear their own clothes and have a voice and body. (frag. 14)

Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and black; Thracians that theirs are blue-eyed and red-haired. (frag. 16)

But if horses or oxen or lions had hands or could draw with their hands and accomplish such works as men, horses would draw the figures of the gods as similar to horses, and the oxen as similar to oxen, and they would make the bodies of the sort which each of them had. (frag. 15)"-Xenophanes

Profound philosophical question for the day : Is science-fiction related to ancient Greek philosophy? There are a lot of people with x's and z's starting their names in both. Just wondering.

Also: What are the odds that Jesus had blue eyes?

Finally, I am upset. You have been to California at least twice without spending time with me. You are therefore and hereafter banned from the state unless you come and teach me something. I need a sharp philosophical debate. It doesn't matter about what, as long as it is philosophical in nature.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pardon Me, But Your Panic Is Showing

Want to talk about the Ebola crisis? The one that's threatening the end of America? The one that's going to kill every single human being in the country over the next couple of days?

Tell you what. I'm going to go to the bathroom. Trim my beard. Maybe take a quick shower. Next to the kitchen. Get a nice cold beer. Make myself a really good sandwich.

Meanwhile, you do all the screaming, shrieking, foaming at the mouth, and soiling yourself in terror you want. But when I get back, maybe we could talk about some of the serious problems confronting this country.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

It's The End Of The World -- Again!

In response to the latest Right Wing Bizzaro rants about Obama and Africa and Ebola and plots to destroy America, I posted:

While I rate Obama as an above average president, I nonetheless do have some very serious concerns with his administration. There are areas in which I believe he has seriously failed in his duty to the American people. (Most of these are areas in which he is continuing the practices of past presidents.)

I find it very sad, and quite disturbing, that there is so much fantasy based bigotry and hatred directed at this man that it is almost impossible to discuss these real world issues. Instead, when I am trying to debate these matters I find myself spending my time trying to convince people that he's not the antichrist, secret Muslim plotter, evil Kenyan destroyer of America... well you know all the weird accusations that have become Gospel truth to terrified, but otherwise reasonable human beings.

They then begin to attack me as a member of the cabal who believes Obama is perfect. We never get to reality or considered critique.

There is so much smoke and mirrors and so many absurd accusations (the situation reminds me very much of a Hollywood special-effects blockbuster -- all smash 'N crash and flash 'N splash with absolutely no substance or meaning whatsoever) that serious discussion or thoughtful consideration become impossible.

That is not a healthy situation for the obsessed and terrified hate mongers or for our nation.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

An Immiscible Day

What a strange day it's been today. I actually slept seven solid hours. While this doesn't sound like much of accomplishment, it has been months since I've slept for such a sustained period of time without awakening. I've also been up and active for far longer than seven hours. It's been several months since that's happened also.

Obviously, physically I'm doing better than I have in quite some time.

However, I also had to speak with an old friend about his wife's death. I've known them about 35 years. They were married for 41. I told him that I always envied him in that; that he had married once and stayed married. That I never managed.

As I said to my middle daughter, as odd as it sounds, it's hard to imagine one of them living on alone. You simply never thought of one of them without thinking of the other. It's as if one dying would mean the other one would die also.

Then again, when is life ever so simple? It's always messy. Which is why we try to cherish every precious moment that is good and do our best to get through the bad as quickly as possible.

I ought to make a poem of this, perhaps I will. The arts are good at expressing emotions which otherwise can't really be explained.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Fear Is The Mind Killer

I shared the comment below. In response to friends' comments, I added:

Republican Maine state Representative Lawrence Lockman said in 1995, “If a woman has (the right to an abortion), why shouldn’t a man be free to use his superior strength to force himself on a woman? At least the rapist’s pursuit of sexual freedom doesn’t (in most cases) result in anyone’s death.”

Once a group, perhaps especially a political party, becomes dedicated to the tactics of hate and fear they find themselves carried along by their own self generated avalanche. An endless barrage of new, ever more shocking declarations are required to maintain their movement's energy.

Apparently this individual has already apologized for his statements, but the mere fact that he felt not only free but even obligated to make them means that no apology is sufficient. Worse, he doesn't seem to repudiate it. He's just sorry he said it and it got reported. Every parent knows this one. "I'm really sorry I got caught. I'm not sorry I did it, only that you caught me."

My question is, why do any women vote Republican? Why are there still Log Cabin Republicans? Even allowing for gerrymandered districts, how can any Republican be elected to anything?

Much of the answer lies in taking a closer look at a phrase from the cult classic Dune. "Fear is the mind killer," say the Bene Gesert Witches. Partly correct. Any truly powerful emotion is the mind killer. Fear and hatred, currently all that the Republican Party has to offer, can very quickly destroy the already limited capacity of the human mind to think in a rational manner.

Note: I have long thought someone should rewrite the novel and call it Prune. The Benihana witches are seeking the ultimate household appliance, the Cuisinart Hat Rack... There's lots more but there's no point in going on because either you like Dune and don't appreciate my trying to spoof it or you don't really know what the hell I'm talking about, so I'll just hush up.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dancin' The Hypocrite Rag

The oh so very Christian Republicans adore the teachings of Ayn Rand. They say "Jesus" endlessly while doing the work of the implacably atheist Rand.

-- Think of it like a vegetarian opening a steak house. --

Matthew 6:24
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."

But the Republicans sure try hard!

(Oh, on a side note, Ayn Rand died poor living off Social Security. So much for opposing big government programs and rallying for “personal responsibility.”) Jesus Christ believed in helping the poor; feeding the hungry; opposing greed; believed in acceptance; taught to provide for the needy, all while preaching love and generosity. Ayn Rand believed that we should only worry about ourselves, that the “self” is the only thing that matters and essentially charity was stupid. - See more at: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/republicans-trying-mix-ideologies-jesus-christ-atheist-doesnt-make-sense/#sthash.7LGSTLGZ.dpuf

Everyone In Rome Wears A Toga!

In response to the often repeated Internet meme regarding how Republicans cannot possibly be anti-minorities since Lincoln freed the slaves:

The facts do not support your position. Yes, the Republican Party was once the most liberal party on the face of the planet. Conservatives all over the world bitterly condemned Abraham Lincoln and his supporters. They were called the Radical Republicans because they were so extremely liberal. Does this mean that the Republican Party is liberal today?

That was 150 years ago. It does not mean they are liberal now. The Romans threw Christians to the lions in the past. That does not mean the Romans throw Christians to the lions today.

In the 1960s when the Democrats became the party of civil rights, a group of Democrats called the Dixiecrat's rebelled. They ceased being members of the Democratic Party and became members of the Republican Party. They did this because the Democrats were in favor of civil rights and the Republicans were totally opposed to them.

The Democrats were supporters of Jim Crow over 100 years ago. They became the enemies of Jim Crow in the 1960s. The Republicans were supporters of Jim Crow only 50 years ago. And much more recently than that.

People change. Political parties change too. To say, "my party was liberal during the Civil War" does not say anything about what your party is today.


Congress has also declared: Money equals speech. Peace equals war. Facts are whatever makes Congress feel good. Reality isn't real, and if reality was real, it wouldn't matter anyway. Being a good Christian means doing the opposite of whatever Christ said. Patriotic Americans do everything they can to support international corporations while destroying American jobs. Rich people who make money by manipulating financial markets and stealing other people's money are "job creators".

Oh well. What's the point? You get the picture.

Dreams of Glory

I am sorry to say that Americans love the idea of war (yes, right now we are tired of them, but just wait a few years and we will eager for the next) and we absolutely adore the dream of the citizen soldier. When it gets real and starts to take time and cost money, we lose interest.

I wish we were more realistic and fair, but we love romance and fantasy enough to put our soldiers in harm's way, and we lack the maturity to deal with the results. I hope this will change and we will grow up as a nation. I doubt it, but I have hope.


A Fantasy Curriculum in Hobbiton

I made a Facebook response to a Fox News claim that in the past every school had a curriculum which included gun safety and gun usage. The response I made was that I had never encountered such a lesson in my years in school, cleaning schools, teaching in school, or running a school.

Someone responded, "They should've said except in California."

I then noted that I had attended school in: Mississippi, Oklahoma, Connecticut, and the Department of Defense school system. A friend added that she had attended school in Massachusetts and didn't notice any of the supposed gun curriculum either.

A Failing Democracy

It isn't that America is a failed democracy, it is that we are a failing democracy. I believe we will turn things around and return to being a successful democracy, but it will not come soon nor be easily accomplished.

Posted in response to a news report that Amnesty International has, for the very first time, sent observers to America in order to monitor possible human rights violations. I'll bet you can guess to which city these observers were sent. (Hint: Ferguson, MO.)

Note: I regard the ongoing failure of democracy in America as a direct result of 30 years of Republican dominance of American politics. Even when a Democratic president was in the White House he was pushed to the right by the growing extremism of the GOP. The same applies to Congress.

A Startling Contrast

"Convert or die!", Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of ISIS.

"Convert or die!", Phil Robertson, leader of the Duck Dynasty.

It certainly is obvious which one of these is a follower of Christ, the Prince of Hate. I mean Peace, the Prince of Peace.

Prevent Fascism...By Acting Fascist!


Once again, the Koch brothers and their fellow travelers are using words when they do not know the meaning of those words. In the post which stimulated this response, they carefully avoid specifics while their supporters repeatedly referred to well-regulated capitalist systems as being fascist or, at least, invariably leading to a fascist dictatorship taking over the entire country.

If in fact the concept is correct, then England, France, Italy, Finland, Japan, and all all the wealthy countries of the world other than the US are already fascist. They have all followed economic policies the Koch brothers and their colleagues claim are automatically deadly to freedom. Of course, that fact doesn't matter because the Koch brothers and their colleagues don't give a damn about facts and reality. They care only about the emotionalism that they can use to generate fear and hysteria and thus gain their goals through the panicked reactions of a population turned in to a political mob.

Obviously, a well regulated capitalist system has nothing to do with fascism. If it did, then America post World War II was a fascist country from the 1950s through the 1970s. Historical note: it wasn't.

Disturbingly, much of what the Koch brothers are trying to accomplish actually does copy the fascist economic system. No, I didn't call anyone Hitler. I referred to the fascist economic system.

It's important to note that not all economists agree that there was a specifically fascist economic system; however there were common elements, especially in those of Germany during the 1930s and 40s.

The system was built upon private ownership. It was built on monopolies. It was built on a few becoming extremely wealthy and using their wealth to maintain political power. It was based upon workers having little or no power. It was bitterly antiunion. It guaranteed that the wealthy capitalists would face no real risks because if the company did face an economic failure, the government would immediately bail them out. The system was a social Darwinian system which assumed that classes were necessary. The superior would rise to the highest class, the wealthy, while the inferior would naturally degrade into the lowest class, the workers. Regulations, especially environmental regulations, were despised. It was assumed the Darwinian effects so desired by the system would be muted by such regulations.

So far, the real Fascists, especially those in Germany, adopted an economic program nearly identical with that of the Koch brothers and their conservative allies.

Now, we must note there were differences between the fascist system and with the Koch brothers' proposals. For example, while there were a few regulations, the German government took an active and, if it desired, a total control of investment.  Nevertheless, most of the significant features of a fascist economic system are replicated in the Koch brothers' proposed economic system for America.

See the following article: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economics_of_fascism

Excerpts from the article follow. It is a long read, but clearly reports the elements of a fascist economic system, which is in many ways very similar to the Koch bothers and GOP economic policies, while it is significantly different in a few ways. Please don't just take my word for it. Read the article and do some research on your own. I don't need blind, mindless agreement. I need thoughtful intelligent conversation.

...On the whole, except in a few cases, nationalization of the economy of the fascist states developed on the basis of private property and of private initiative, but it was subordinated to the tasks of the state. As part of the relations between workers and employers fascism was guided by the principles of social Darwinism: the strongest prosper, while the weaker are rooted out. In economic practice this meant on the one hand, protecting the interests of successful businessmen, on the other the destruction of trade unions and other organizations of the working class, "the use of extreme violence to suppress the working class and all working people." 

...The Nazis favored corporatism and class collaboration for assuming - as opposed to the Socialists - that the existence of inequality and the division of society into classes - it's good.

...the responsibility of taxpayers to private capitalist enterprises, the state thus covers failures of the capitalists' profits - business and private individual.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Data Access Error -- Code 203

Written in response to a friend who was surprised I recalled some details from a conversation we had a couple of decades ago...she said she wished she had a memory like mine and asked for any memory improvement hints. I replied:

I don't think you really want a memory like mine, sweet girl! It's functioning is really bizarre. We were walking out behind your apartment, and I remember the conversation and how you looked that day quite distinctly, well... I couldn't tell you what you were wearing, bit I recall the look on your face. On the other hand, as I have been wont to confess of late because it's getting hard cover up, many times I don't remember people I know very well.

Sometimes I'll talk to someone (and I know I know that person really well) and I'll try to cover up because it hurts people' feelings when you admit you don't really remember them. They think was because they were not important to you, which is not true. It's because I have a very strange memory. Sometimes even weeks later I will suddenly the remember who that person was and think oh my Lord what an opportunity I passed up to catch up on old times!

It's actually been a problem since I was a little kid. Not recognizing even close friends from time to time. But it's gotten much worse as I've grown older. I suppose there is some elaborate psychological or scientific term for it, but the fact is I would happily not remember details so well if I could remember everything in general more accurately.

Sometimes i see a face. I think, do I know that person? Sometimes it turns out I do and then again sometimes it turns out I don't. A lot of times I don't try to check because, as I said, it's embarrassing to admit it.

I was in line behind a woman I knew I recognized. But I just couldn't place her name. Finally I broke down and asked her. It was Shirley Leary! I mean, I'd only known her for 30 years. Okay, I haven't seen her in a few years, but still!

I'm fond of telling people that it is said that FDR had a forested mind. Meaning a mind with a rich ecology and many varied forms of life, or in this case, ideas. I then note that I have swampy mind. It doesn't look like much at first glance, but you never know what's going to bubble up to the surface, hang around for a while, and then sink slowly out of sight again.

My family is becoming accustomed to it. James takes a lot of time to try to get me to remember certain individuals that he knows I knew very well at one time, and sometimes it does work and I do remember them. Other times it doesn't.

I miss those old walks...

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Forgive Me, Lord, For What I Have't Done Yet

In response to a post from a family member meditating upon the issue of those who commit sins believing that it's no big deal, they can always be forgiven for it later; I responded:

An interesting point. TE Lawrence in his Seven Pillars of Wisdom reported that before he was tortured by his Muslim captors during World War I, they often prayed for forgiveness before torturing him. They knew what they were doing was wrong but thought they could get pre-forgiven. Some reports from the captives held in Iran after the attacks on the US Embassy reported the same behavior. It assumes God is a real idiot, I suppose.

He seems to be easily deluded by pre-regret for the crime you're about to commit but haven't actually done yet. Somehow the concept of repentance is lost in this, or at least distorted into a pro forma ritual. You don't need to actually regret your sin; as in you wish you had never done it, promise never to do it again, even wish you could go back and undo it. Instead you simply go through the magic ritual and now you no longer need to have any responsibility for any actions you commit even if they are clearly sinful and wrong.

I do not think this particular attitude is associated with Islam any more than any other religion. I think it is associated with individuals who do not wish to take a careful look at the actual nature of sin and repentance, preferring to think there's always a magical get put of jail free card which can be played to get out of responsibility for your own actions.

I'm inclined to doubt that God is as easily deluded as they think.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Part 2 -- The Best Educational System In The World, And How We Can Have It, Too

So now that we have seen what a superb educational system actually looks like, and noted how radically different it is from our own, it's time to ask the question, "How do we get there?"

In order to answer this question we must begin with an essential element of Finland's schools that cannot readily be applied to our educational system. This reality is that child poverty is rare in Finland. I have pointed out on repeated occasions that the only real problem with the American educational system is child poverty. Eliminate that one factor and we immediately rocket up to being rated as among the best schools in the world.

This does not mean that we do not need to pay attention to the system of Finland. It is a vastly better educational system than ours, even allowing the absence of child poverty. However, the fact remains that the biggest educational problem America faces today is that so many of our children come from poor homes.

That is an entirely different subject and one which would require extensive examination. So, as important as it is, I regarded as largely unaddressable within the context of the current discussion.

But there remain many things which we can and should be doing now. At this point I'm tempted to say the key to all of these educational reforms is…but I cannot do so. That is because there is no one key. There is no one magic solution. Well, with the exception of eliminating child poverty, there is no magic solution, there is no one key.

The things we need to do must start with centralizing our educational system in that the federal government should be responsible for education in this nation and it should establish the guidelines and rules by which everyone else operates. At the same time, we must give a much greater autonomy to the teachers and the principals of individual schools. In other words, we must both become much more centralized and much less centralized. This seeming contradiction makes sense when you realize that we centralize in some areas and decentralize in others.

At the same time we must stop the adversarial cancer which is in eating away at our educational system. When I first became a teacher, our district was just beginning to unionize. I was against teacher unions then, and to some extent remain so to this day. I felt that public service employees, such as teachers, policemen, and firemen, should not be unionized. Instead, I believed we should serve the public and in return be treated with the respect due to those professions. 

I was part of the first contract negotiations held in our district. Because it was a new practice to us, a representative of the California Teachers Association was present. At one point in the negotiations, while our group was in caucus, I said that I really felt that we were taking an adversarial position which was unnecessary. I commented that I sincerely believed that if I sat down with the district superintendent, he and I could quickly reach a solution and agreement with which everyone would be satisfied. I suggested that we all should take that attitude which should lead to a win-win situation. 

The CTA representative was shocked and angered. He said I was betraying my fellow teachers. He threatened to report me to the Labor Relations Board for my unacceptable attitude. He declared that we must treat the administration as our adversaries, any suggestion of developing a cooperative relationship he regarded as repulsive.

I responded as those of you who know me well would expect me to respond. A cooler and older head at the table suggested that both of us should calm down and we should continue on. We finally simply ignored the conflict and proceeded.

I tell this story to emphasize what I despised about unions. Why was it necessary for us to be adversarial? What was the need for that? Today I take more nuanced view, I'm not necessarily opposed to unions if those unions have the correct goals. IF.

If the union's goals are to protect its members no matter what... If the union's goals are to create an adversarial relationship with the administration... If the union's goals are not to make education the best it can be...then I oppose unions.

However, if the union's goals are to protect teachers who need to be protected and deserve to be protected while at the same time weeding out teachers who should not be in the classroom... If the union's goals include creating a cooperative and mutually beneficial relationship with the schools' administrators...if the union's goal is to make education the best it can be for the children's sake...then I strongly support unions.

In Finland a teachers' union works as a cooperative colleague of the administration. We need to create that situation. This requires a fundamental change the attitude of union leaders, not easy to accomplish, but I think my attitude is closer to that of the majority of teachers. So it is possible.

We also must eliminate the adversarial relationships between teachers. Teachers who work together to attain the goal of making their school a fine place for learning will have much greater success than teachers struggling to get the merit or bonus pay available from attaining higher test scores than those of their colleagues' classrooms. Teachers should not be enemies in a zero sum game. They should be professional members of the same team. No merit pay, no bonuses, only a fair wage for a dedicated public servant. 

The competitive model being pushed so hard in American education today, the model created by the Republicans and embraced by the Democrats, is poisonous. There is no competition in Finland, only the accomplishment and the development of the individual child. Our divisive attitude can be changed only if we change the politicians and they can only be changed if we change the opinions of the public. This could be done. However, the likelihood of attaining it in our current environment of political bitterness and hysteria is unlikely. It is not impossible, and it is worth working for, but it will not be an easy task.

Both responsibility and autonomy must be given to individual principals and their staff members. Teachers are professionals. Given the level of respect they deserve (in Finland they are among the most respected of all professionals) and given both the responsibility and the power to control their own schools in cooperation with their principals, teachers will get the job done. I have no doubt of that. They already have my trust and my support. Getting the rest of the country to agree to that won't be easy. Ever since Ronald Reagan first smeared the nation's teachers to shift attention away from his own failures, teachers have been the scapegoat for just about every single thing that's going wrong in our country.

Before Reagan's smears, teachers were highly respected and honored in our country. We can get back there again. I can only repeat that it will not be easy, but it is entirely doable.

Most importantly of all, education in America must return to being child centered. Children are not raw materials. They are not mere objects to be milled, ground, forged, and hammered into the correct shape. They are human beings who should all be encouraged and assisted in reaching their own full potential as an individual. Such an attitude cannot be attained in a test driven environment. If we are to improve our educational system we must ban standardized tests, or at least reduce the number of standardized test a student takes in his school career to one, as the Finns have done.

This is a mere outline. In order to actually obtain the reforms needed, much more planning is required. However, the outline is valid. We must begin the struggle and we must begin it now. We have one great advantage on our side. That is that even the conservatives admit that Finland's educational system is superb. There is the blueprint; we only need to follow it. There is the pattern; we only need to cut and sew it. There is the model; we only need to copy it.

It is said that it is hard to argue with success. Unfortunately, one of our political parties today has largely taken over the media, has dedicated itself to being pro superstition and anti-science, has based its actions not upon facts and reality but on fear and rage, and thus made sensible change difficult. However, these victories need not be eternal. We can turn the tide back to reality-based decision making.

For another view, see the following:

My disagreement with this article is that it assumes it was necessary to go through the extreme educational system which preceded the blossoming in order to reach the blossoming. I completely disagree. The earlier efforts were in fact failures and I do not see that is necessary to reproduce other people's failures before copying their successes. Nevertheless, I offer it to you for the sake of open discussions. It is a thoughtful article which at least approaches the subject without a rigid sense of Ideology.

Frankly, this is quite surprising since the The Thomas B. Fordham Institute tends to be a self-styled conservative organization which usually displays an extremely rigid sense of ideology. I do not recommend their articles in general, only this particular one and it is presented only as an alternative to my views.

I also cannot help but note that while this organization is forced by facts (a remarkable accomplishment for a conservative organization) to admit that the Finnish system, which is so antithetical to their ideology, is in fact highly successful; they manage to conclude that the only way to reach the Finnish system is via all the mindless rigidity of their ideology.

This attitude reminds me of the great Marxist screed. First we must have a dictatorship of the proletariat. This is undesirable, but a necessary stage. Then it will simply fade away. (As if dictatorships ever simply fade away.) However unpleasant this may be, it is a necessary base for finally attaining the real goals of a classless society.

So we must suffer all the bad, awful things before we can finally attain the good things? How sad.