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Sunday, December 23, 2012


One of the many glaring deficiencies in school these days is the lack of geopolitical discussion and awareness.  At the university level there are usually professors on the Left preaching their political dogma, even when it is inappropriate.  At the high school level, there are many reasons for the dearth of geopolitical discussion, not the least of which is that students are being prepped for the Global History Regents during 9th and 10th grades, then the US History and Government Regents during 11th grade.  For three years, students are being 'prepared' for a high stakes exam that is riddled with errors and propaganda and are useless for post high school life.  Even burgeoning history majors are not helped by these exams as they are barely surface level exams written by statists in Albany, NY.  A serious person would have to unlearn what he has learned for these exams.

Globally, we are in financial trouble.  The US, and much of the developed world, went through a technology bubble during the late 1990's and the early 2000's.  This was 'irrational exuberance' when it came to stocks that ended with a '.com' - a new phenomenon at the time. and the career of Henry Blodgett are worth analyzing for more information on this topic.  The US (the gov't and the Federal Reserve) then repeated the errors of the .com bubble by creating a new bubble in housing.  This meant that people were buying houses (plural) with borrowed money, taking money out with the house itself as collateral, and buying more houses and other things they may not have needed.  This was all predicated on the belief that the price of housing would never go down.  The 'housing bubble' burst in late 2007, and the DJIA (Dow Jones Industrial Average), the main indicator as to the health of the US Stock Market, hit a low in March of 2009.

Here's the problem.  The US government has never allowed the crash to happen fully.  It lowered interest rates, which keeps the price of money artificially low.  It also means that government spending can continue because paying the interest on the debt of the country is artificially inexpensive.  There were huge corporate bailouts - meaning that the large banks were, for all intents and purposes, bankrupt, but they were given taxpayer money to stay afloat.  There were huge 'stimulus' packages, gigantic spending packages courtesy of congress done under the idea that "government spending can juice the economy and get it going".   This is known as kicking the can down the hallway, and it can't go on forever.

The most absurd aspect of this obvious and frightening prospect of economic crash is the ability of the mainstream media to downplay or ignore it.  For the MSM, it is always a sunny day, and the looming fiscal cliff can be handled by our politicians making 'tough decisions' and 'getting things done' and 'working toward a bipartisan goal'.  Over the past years it has been helpful to find people who will talk plainly, about difficult topics, and tell the truth.  Marc Faber, of the aptly named "Doom Boom and Doom Report" is one of the people who is unafraid to speak of bad news.  Here he explains how badly he thinks things will go economically worldwide, and he begins by poking fun at how optimistic the shills at CNBC are.  I couldn't help but notice he politely laughed as the news anchors tried to poke fun at him - as if he were telling the audience that he'll have the last laugh.  It is important for you to learn about geopolitical issues because there is so much financial interconnectedness between countries.  A large crash in a country would cause connected economies to get pulled down as well.

People / sites I've found helpful:
The Aden Sisters
Peter Schiff
Marc Faber
Chris Martenson
Kyle Bass
Michael Lewis
Matt Taibbi

Here Marc Faber insists on telling bad news to people who ignore it:

Sunday, December 16, 2012

School Shooting

The school shooting tragedy is of a magnitude unfathomable.  The families and the communities deserve the wishes and help of anyone with a soul.  There is nothing more horrible than losing a child.  My mother has actually given me a directive that she made me swear by.  It is that I will not die before she does.  She told me in no uncertain terms that I could be an odious human being, a bum on the street loser, as long as I don't predecease her.  The parents must be going through a torture that I cannot imagine.

As to be expected, the mainstream media, bought and paid for by the Elite Class of these United States, is pimping the horror of the tragedy for all its worth.  They are on record of wishing the regular people to be disarmed, helpless and dependent, so they are playing this to the hilt.  Their unabashed wailing about the type of weaponry is ham handed and cloddish.  As usual, they expect the majority of people to follow along.  The NY Times this morning had "submachine gun" plastered in the title of the lead article.  Naturally, when a drunk driver mows down a family, they go into great detail about whether the car was a hybrid, or if it was a diesel, or if it was front wheel or all wheel drive.  The pathetic MSM is now not only going bankrupt, it is brazenly trying to control opinion with clumsy propaganda.

The call for 'more gun control' is the meme that the Power Elite wish to perpetrate.  The CT shooting was in a 'may issue' state, and the school was a 'gun free school zone'.  I see those signs saying 'gun free zone' and I wonder who they are for.  It was impossible for anyone to defend himself, as all of the law abiding people were unarmed.  The same thing happened in VA Tech a few years ago, and at Columbine HS in 1999.  The push for 'more gun control' is as absurd as it is wrong.  What more do people wish to control?  John Lott has researched the effects of gun bans for years.  He was originally a gun control advocate, but when he actually researched the topic, he found out that everything he had believed was wrong.  His book, More Guns, Less Crime obliterates the the shibboleths that surround gun control.  The founders had it right with the 2nd amendment.  You are not free if you can't have private property, or the ability to protect that property.  Your property begins with yourself, and if you are at someone's mercy to stay alive - you are not free. "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

Please notice - it says the "right of the people" and this amendment was seen fit to be second, right behind free speech.

One of my HS friends asked a good question on FB.  Interestingly, only a few people that are FB 'friends' are calling for stricter gun control.  They're usually partisan ideologues or not historically well versed.  Most people are hesitant to hit the "ban guns" red button.  Luckily, the Power Elite don't seem to be aware that there is an internet, and are doing their propaganda as if it's still 1988.  Here is some of the thread with my friend:

Original post: Me: "and yet when I post about the 168 children killed by the Bush Obama drone attacks - nothing. Nada. Actually, that's not true. One person asked me to help them buy a rake in 'Farmville'."

MRM: it's all horrible...all of it and us. we create this mess then scoff at it

Me: It is horrible Michelle, but we didn't create it and we aren't horrible. Everyone who liked or commented on this post, and the age range is from 14 to 40, is a good, peace loving person who is a non violent law abiding American. Some of them I've known since 1986. Some I met this Sept. Our Overlords, the Elite who are parasitical and despicable, use events like these to rip freedoms away from regular folk, get us to bicker amongst ourselves, and have a Corporate Media Monolith to disseminate their message. Notice how every 'tragedy' is used to assault the Bill of Rights. It is 'they', not 'us' who needs to be ignored and rejected.

MRM: We ridicule, persecute, ignore ppl who are "not normal". We allow and praise the media when they do what they r doing. We herald the shooter, bicker like u said, and then continue as if nothing happened. How r we part of the solution? If we r not, what does that make us?

Me: I think we need to teach the younger people a few things. Independent thinking is at top of the list. Right behind it is the fallacy of authority. People do and think what they're told. This tragedy is the perfect case. The NY Times had 'submachine gun' as part of its heading today. When a drunk driver mows down a family, is it on the front page? Why not? Do they say if it's a Prius or an SUV? Do they mention if it was a diesel engine under the hood? No, of course not as it's irrelevant. But most Americans are having the 'gun debate' decided for them via a corporate owned Elite propagating mainstream media and they don't even realize it. Thinking for yourself, doing research, questioning authority are things you should show everyone you know who is under the age of 18. That's what you can do. I have my opinions, and they come from lots of reading and a pathologically independent mindset. The Ruling Class would prefer that we watch 'Toddlers and Tiaras', shout "tastes great - less filling" at each other, and worship our Overlords (gov't). Sorry - those things aren't my style and I explain to young people that you can be different and think for yourself.

Here's John Lott going up against a bought and paid for MSM propaganda piece.  Watch how Lott uses logic and reasoning, and MSM puppet uses emotion and scare tactics to try to marginalize and sway opinion:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Why I Hate School But Love Education

This video is indicative of the fact that people are beginning figure out that the cost of a degree does not equal the long term payoff of the degree.  "School" does not equal "educated".  The student loan bubble, the lack of rigor in many schools, the nonstop partying, the lack of the classics are all things that people are getting wise to.  The cost of the school simply is not worth it.  An amazing education is practically free.  You have to begin with the Trivium and continue a never ending journey into books all the while being entrepreneurial and running your own business, however small.

Is America Too Big?

This is a fascinating video about how our government has gotten too large.  Refreshingly, the video does not have the usual Establishment Conservative banter about Big Gov't Liberals destroying the United States.  This is a cogent look at the size of the government relative to the population of the US.  The House of Representatives, ostensibly the branch of the federal gov't that represents the people, has 435 members.  If we follow James Madison's recommendation that each representative should represent about 30,000 people, we would need 10,000 representatives.  That is simply too cumbersome and chaotic.  As it stands now, each representative represents over 700,000 people.  This is not indicative of a representative republic.

One of the concepts lost today is the idea of centralized power and its dangers.  When I was young, in the 1970's, there were many bumper stickers talking about 'small is beautiful' and 'question authority'.  The left, in those days, understood the danger behind large, organized power.  Now, neither side of the Establishment Political spectrum seems to understand anything.  Now it's akin to cheering for your favorite sports team.  "We" won the election and everything President X does is great because 'he's one of us'.  The only time the decentralization v. centralization came before me in school was the Anti-Federalist vs. Federalist debate presented in US history.  The Anti Federalists, who lost, did not get to write the history books, ergo I learned that the Federalists were right and a 'centralized power' was necessary for a functional country.

Now I see how the Federalists were wrong.  It seems to be an aspect of human nature that a concentrated power source is a dangerous - in all of its forms.  I have found it fascinating over the last few years that when it comes to corporations, the centralized power is easily spotted and vilified, but when the same concept is applied to government, people don't seem to notice.  I think they are still under the delusion that the government is filled with unnaturally altruistic angels who think of nothing but serving the public and ignoring their own desires.

I highly recommend this video - originally seen on the always informative Tom Woods page:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Other People's Money

When I got my administration licenses, the first thing the professor told us on the  first day of "School Finance" class was "you are spending other people's money".  Dr. Y., the professor, was adamant about being frivolous and carefree with money that was not ours.  A classically educated man, raised by a blue collar father, Dr. Y. knew the value of the dollar, and the value of it for his constituents as well.  He assumed that people would be careful with others' money as they earned it and they presumably wanted it spent in a manner that would help the school.  It was apparent that he considered it dishonorable to be reckless with others' hard earned wealth.  Apparently, not everyone has those same sentiments:

"More than 200 school districts across California are taking a second look at the high price of the debt they've taken on using risky financial arrangements. Collectively, the districts have borrowed billions in loans that defer payments for years — leaving many districts owing far more than they borrowed.

In 2010, officials at the West Contra Costa School District, just east of San Francisco, were in a bind. The district needed $2.5 million to help secure a federally subsidized $25 million loan to build a badly needed elementary school. ... In the West Contra Costa Schools' case, that $2.5 million bond will cost the district a whopping $34 million to repay."

There are many things wrong with the current paradigm.  Firstly, the money for property tax is taken by force, from everyone in the district, whether they believe in public education, have children in the public schools, or desire to fund the public education leviathan at all.  Behavior from government is solemnly accepted even when that behavior by an individual would get them jailed.  If I were to put a gun to your ribs and force money from you, would you accept my explanation that it is going toward education?  Secondly, the lack of wisdom in giving people the power to spend other people's money is obvious:

"Ramsey (the school board president) says it was a good deal, because his district is getting a brand-new $25 million school. "You'd take that any day," he says. "Why would you leave $25 million on the table? You would never leave $25 million on the table." 

So this is the reasoning.  The $25 million, is something you'd NEVER leave on the table, no matter what the cost.  The economic ignorance is bewildering.  It's as if the money just showed up - no consideration as to where it came from, how to pay it back, or rates of interest.  The reasoning gets worse: 

"Perhaps the best example of the CAB issue is suburban San Diego's Poway Unified School District, which borrowed a little more than $100 million. But "debt service will be almost $1 billion," Lockyer says. "So, over nine times amount of the borrowing. There are worse ones, but that's pretty bad." The superintendent of the Poway School District, John Collins, wasn't available for comment. But he recently defended his district's use of capital appreciation bonds in an interview with San Diego's KPBS Investigative Newsource. "Poway has done nothing different than every other district in the state of California," Collins told the program."

Forget the $1 billion, that's water under the bridge - chump change.  The rationale, the justification, the defense of this behavior is that, well, everybody else is doing it, therefore it is OK.  Where are we that a $1 billion bill in tax dollars and a logically fallacious defense of this action can even happen?  I tell the young people that they are living in a fantasy world if they think the adults in their lives have a cogent, logical, economically sound approach to life.  Articles like these (unfortunately) prove my point.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Joel Salatin - Polyface Farms

There is a documentary called 'Food Inc.' that is worth your while.  It shows the horrors of the government corporate food complex.  It's as horrid and repellent as the prison industrial complex, the government media complex and the government banking complex.  At the end of the documentary, there is this southern drawling Virginia farmer explaining how his clean, natural, self sustaining farm was a target for the, as he calls them, Food Police.  The documentary is well done because the viewer has just seen an hour and a half of the pathetic, sad and disgusting horrors of the Big Industrial Food Complex.  Salatin's farm, Polyface Farms, is what an old style farm used to be.  The cows eat grass, the crops are rotated and planted with non GMO seeds, the operation is clean and the meat is healthy and natural.  It is because of all of these things that Polyface was a target. Salatin explains all of this in the latter third of the documentary.

One of the tenets of my class, the premise I espouse early in the year, is that there are many people interested in keeping the General Mass Public sick, stupid, broke and afraid.  Food Inc. is the best way to begin the exploration of the 'sick' part of the quartet.  Our culture is rife with high fructose corn syrup, xanthan gum, splenda, preservatives that no one can pronounce, and nutrient free 'food'.  Big Agriculture is out of control via government sponsored subsidies, and the unintended (and some intended) consequences are being seen now - obese children, cheap empty calorie food, skyrocketing rates of  cancer and heart disease and possibly most distressing, a noted disinterest in where and how one's food is made.

Salatin is worth listening to for a few reasons.  Firstly, he is politically incorrect.  Like Ron Paul, he is talking about giving people the freedom of choice.  As Paul would talk about not shutting the FED down, but letting currencies (like gold and silver) compete, Salatin does not advocate shutting down a company like Monsanto, but giving people to option to grow their own food and letting small operations compete freely.  The United States is not free.  A citizen is NOT allowed to do these things via federal law or local statutes.  Also, regulation and government intervention is strangling healthy food production and innovation.  Your garden variety American still thinks that government regulation is geared toward your health and safety when it is just the opposite - as Salatin explains.  Secondly, he talks about this latest generation.  They don't know how to grow things, get dirty, preserve food, or tend to farm chores.  He mentioned something that stuck with me - that this is the first generation of youngsters that have not been burdened with chores.  It is these analyses of society that sets Salatin apart and makes his thoughts worth analyzing.

Notable points:

  • Let your children walk around barefoot and get dirt under their fingernails - it is actually an immune booster that is healthier in the long run than the antiseptic environments we've created.
  • Having chores and responsibilities is a boon to your child.  They will learn about responsibility and contributing to the whole of the household.
  • Food freedom is vital - giving people the power of choice is paramount for the survival of the West.
  • The Food Police - the government corporate food complex is killing your children.  Raw milk is illegal and will warrant a visit from armed thugs, but Mountain Dew is acceptable.
  • Monsanto can have its GMO product ravage your crops, literally have their GMO pollen blow on to your crops, and YOU have to pay a royalty to THEM - this is approved by this current Democratic president.  I thought this was bold of Salatin to mention because the talk he gave at Google is undoubtedly young left leaning types who think that the halls of government are filled with weeping angels unnaturally predisposed to helping the downtrodden.  A risky strategy but Salatin pulls it off nicely.

Here is Salatin's talk @Google:

For those who think the raw milk armed raid is hyperbole - here you go:

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Which "Fiscal Cliff"?

There is a lot of chatter nowadays about the 'fiscal cliff'.  The first question to ask is: where are you getting your financial information?  The mainstream information, naturally, is propagandized faux panic.  Mainstream pundits on channels like MSNBC and CNBC are hyperventilating about two things: the new higher tax rates that go into effect on January 1st, combined with the government 'cuts' that go into effect the same time.  The higher tax rates will cause economic problems, as will the implementation of 'Obamacare'.  The more things are taxed, the less you get with regard to economic activity.  Taxation is not only theft, it causes economic slowdowns.  The government 'cuts' are farcical.  They are cuts in spending increases - meaning that if a 9% increase in spending was planned, the new 5% increase in spending is accounted as a 4% "cut".  Congress can pull this off because many Americans get their financial information via the mainstream media, or they aren't paying attention at all.

There is a much bigger cliff about which to worry.  Peter Schiff was one of the early sources that changed my economic thinking.  He follows the free market 'Austrian' perspective and knows his history.  These two factors allow for an economic analysis that is superior to any mainstream source.  This video is typical of the SchiffReport - in depth analysis that is not geared toward an agenda.  When the Great Default happens, the real 'fiscal cliff', there'll undoubtedly be more of the "Peter Schiff was Right" videos posted on youtube.

For a daily site to check for national and international financial news, is a good choice.  For Austrian free market analysis combined with historical background, I can't think of a more readable and media friendly site than

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

'The Odyssey' to 'Into the Wild'

Why I didn't do this sooner in my career I don't know.  I begin 9th grade English with The Odyssey - the epic poem by Homer.  Even with the watered down version in our anthology, the classical lessons in it about human nature and behavior are relevant and useful.  I constantly refer to The Odyssey as a 3000 year old piece of literature just to hammer home the point that human nature hasn't changed that much and the older lessons are sometimes the better ones.  The members of The Remnant in my classes (yes, even in a school like mine they're there) are instantly intrigued when I explain to them that the elite boarding schools analyze human nature and then use that knowledge to manage the masses.  I decided to follow The Odyssey with the story of Christopher McCandless, and the parallels are wonderful.

The Journey

The Odyssey is instantly recognizable as the standard bearer for the journey being more important than the end result.  It is the means, not the ends that matters.  On the first page we learn that Odysseus makes it back to his troubled house in Ithaca alive and alone.  Jon Krakauer does the same thing in "Death of an Innocent", the original article about Christopher McCandless.  Purposeful or not, this odd pairing of authors does the same thing by introducing the end of the story first - thereby tipping their hands and letting the reader know that it is the journey, the path, the decisions made and the behavior therein that is paramount.  Christopher McCandless personified this idea by creating an open ended journey that culminated with his death in Alaska.  He maintained integrity throughout as he constantly sought experiences that would make his journey more worthwhile and meaningful.  The tragic irony of the McCandless story is that his decision to end his journey in Alaska was the decision that brought him down as it cemented his permanence in the lexicon.  Odysseus is constantly creating difficulty for himself by succumbing to his human frailties and those of his crew.  It doesn't help that a couple of wily goddesses wish him to be their plaything and he is held up as he attempts to "escape" their embraces - literally and figuratively.

Analysis of Human Behavior

One of the tragedies of classical literature falling by the wayside is that today's young people don't get the full complement of lessons about Human Nature.  What are the most important qualities a person could have?  What is important in life?  What is truth?  What are the major human flaws that must be overcome?  The Odyssey and "Death of An Innocent" are the perfect vehicles by which to discuss the necessary skill of thinking independently.  McCandless stays on a unique and dangerous path as a vagrant / hobo while traveling the US.  He is totally free to exist - away from what he sees as the corruption of society and the limitations of the regular people within it.  Odysseus is constantly freelancing as he tries to return home to Ithaca - he gains respect from the gods for his ability to think.  The ability to think critically and independently comes to the fore while both of the characters face danger.  It also is a necessary component of their dealings with 'regular' people. Odysseus has to handle his less than capable crew, McCandless has to cross paths with less enlightened folk.  Being smart and thinking for yourself are qualities that make a person dangerous to the establishment as well as able to navigate the difficult and frustrating roadblocks in the labyrinth of life.


  • Humility is a virtue - self absorption can lead to an unhealthy single mindedness.  Odysseus is arrogant before the gods, and McCandless is not fully respectful of the power of nature.
  • Call things by their real name - the movie "Into the Wild" brilliantly latches on to this idea toward the end.  McCandless is ready to rejoin his family, eschew his fake name and go back home.  Perhaps if we'd stop trying to fool others and fool ourselves we'd be better off.  I'm reminded of the quote about Tolstoy, one of McCandless' favorite authors, by G. K. Chesterton: "The truth is that Tolstoy, with his immense genius, with his colossal faith, with his vast fearlessness and vast knowledge of life, is deficient in one faculty and one faculty alone. He is not a mystic; and therefore he has a tendency to go mad. Men talk of the extravagances and frenzies that have been produced by mysticism; they are a mere drop in the bucket. In the main, and from the beginning of time, mysticism has kept men sane. The thing that has driven them mad was logic. ...The only thing that has kept the race of men from the mad extremes of the convent and the pirate-galley, the night-club and the lethal chamber, has been mysticism — the belief that logic is misleading, and that things are not what they seem."
  • The Return Home - McCandless is ready to go home, and actually tried.  Odysseus makes it home after 20 years away, and he has to eliminate the suitors and win back his wife.  It is this basic truth of family and home that both men sought to regain.  
There is a natural progression from The Odyssey to the McCandless story.  It is a fascinating juxtaposition of a 3000 year old work of fiction to a 25 year old non-fiction article.  The stories are good, but that isn't the most important aspect.  The thing on which to focus is how the authors have analyzed human behavior, and taken an honest shot at trying to explain why we do the things we do.  It is the 'long discussion' that has been going on for thousands of years.

Here is a short Q and A session after a screening of the movie "Into the Wild".  Krakauer's remarks are particularly noteworthy. 

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Saying NO to College

I thought of calling this post "welcome to the party" or "It's about time", but it would just get lost in the ether.  The NY Times, the largest and most sycophantic serf in the Government Media Complex (in addition to hemorrhaging cash), had an article today on the benefits / trend among young people on NOT going to college.  The "paper of record" just set the world record for being behind the curve.  When you've eschewed the mainstream, as I have, the 'not going to college' idea is an old one.  Actually, the idea of not attending school at all - getting home schooled or getting much of your degree via the web has been a major tenet of the groups that have been constantly ridiculed for quite a while.  From the article: "“College is training for managerial work, and the economy doesn’t need that many managers,” said Michael Ellsberg, the author of “The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won’t Learn In College About How to Be Successful.”"  Good for you Mr. Ellsberg.  Now that you've come this far why don't you go a little further.  John Taylor Gatto has been saying that not only is school not preparing you to be successful, it is training you to be a manager who slavishly follows orders and maintains the fallacy of ad verecundiam or ad populum.  This keeps the status quo going and one is NOT to venture outside of it.

You know when the mainstream media publishes an article like this that the ideas of the 'lunatic fringe' are catching on.  Our Overlords, the Great Makers of Public Opinion, apparently realize that they will look impossibly foolish by ignoring massive trends - however uncomfortable they may be writing about them.  Sending students in for four years of parties and foolishness for a price tag of $100,000 in debt is complete insanity.  Even if a young person is serious, the price tag is absurd.  Jim Altucher writes about this quite often, and he is mentioned in the article, as is Peter Thiel.  Guess what?  Altucher is a regular contributor to Lew Rockwell's site, and Thiel was the biggest contributor to Ron Paul's campaign.  Naturally, these facts are not included in the article.  Gary North has been hacking away at the Government School Complex and promoting homeschooling for at least three decades.  Since I've broken from the mainstream and become much more of a libertarian / voluntaryist, I recognize how far behind the curve I was for 35 years.  Perhaps it's time you ventured outside of the cozy box that was built for you during the 15,000 hours of indoctrination that is organized School.

Naturally much of the fun with an article like this is the criticism of an heretofore unorthodox idea.  Here is an example of Mainstream Bleat: "Such opinions have met considerable headwind. Jacob Weisberg of Slate pounded Mr. Thiel over his “nasty” idea, which he argued is “diverting a generation of young people from the love of knowledge for its own sake and respect for middle-class values.”"  Do you understand this comment?  I don't.  First of all, the idea is 'nasty'.  Of course, there is no explanation of why it's nasty or in what way.  Secondly, students are at the university not for 'knowledge for its own sake' but to get a diploma, because they think it will lead to a good job.  Mr. Weisberg, obviously a gatekeeper who is unable to grasp new ideas, has it backwards.  I have no comment on the 'diverting a generation away from middle class values'.  What are 'middle class values' and are they only learned in college?

The web is changing everything about education.  More people are realizing that a college diploma is not worth the debt load and that a diploma does not equal intelligence OR education.

Useful sites: - - (requires a subscription) - - arguably the site that breaks the Academic Cartel - - the authority as to the origins of school and why it is engineered to fail. - - go to MIT - for free.  Yes, you read that correctly.
How to Become a Libertarian - a 30 day reading list. - the best place to go to learn free market 'Austrian' Economics.

Food for thought - this is a 'radical' video now.  I predict that in 10 - 15 years it won't be.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Page 3 - Ben Franklin

And it isn't even page 3 of the actual Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, it's only the foreword.  Already there are noteworthy things to comment on.  The first: "For him it (writing his autobiography) may have been an act of defiance, a celebration of himself and his county as they had been before a heedless set of British officials tired to change them."  His 'country' was a British colony that had no problem being under the aegis of the British Crown.  The issues began when Parliament began taxing at a rate that was unacceptable, and without representation in British government.  Franklin was visibly upset that he was losing freedom.  It was both this loss of independence and having a busybody nanny state taxing his every move.  I thought this was relevant because of 2 things:  1) the tax rates that were placed on items (there was no income tax) were around 1 - 3%.  Juxtapose that with the 35% that the middle class pays in income tax now.  2)  The middle class not only allows themselves to be taxed as such a ridiculous rate, it doesn't bother them.  This, and the invisible tax of inflation on paper fiat currency leads me to believe that Americans today are both docile and economically inept.

Franklin ruminates about how the British ruined a successful system by their overreach: "It should have been British policy to avoid alienating a people whose submission to British direction depended only on their satisfaction with it."  There is a parallel today.  The amount of tax, surveillance, propaganda, injustice, force, fraud and coercion has reached a fever pitch.  I have always thought that if our Overlords would have just kept these things at a 1999 level they could have continued siphoning wealth and controlling the masses for eternity.  But no.  The Empire apparently must attempt to shackle the whole planet and impoverish everyone - hence the state we're in today in the "most free" country on Earth.  Many people are noticing that things are bad.  Even docile and bovine herdmembers are looking up from the trough because they're being poked and prodded at levels heretofore unseen.  Franklin's comment from the mid 1700's echoes perfectly today.  Our system survives because people are satisfied with it and they don't understand leverage.

John Taylor Gatto has always mentioned that The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is a seminal book to read, not for the story but for the details.  How the youngest of 17 children of a candlemaker became a multi lingual world renowned renaissance man BEFORE there was a school system is telling.   Gatto has always said not to read it for the story but with a pen in hand to note how Franklin was 'educated' - so that's what I'm doing now.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Ex America - Book Review

It is easy to see how The State can grow like a cancerous tumor in current day America.  The population is addled by reality TV, Black Friday, wretched music, and a mainstream media that is beneath contempt.  Empty phraseology like "hope and change" and "compassionate conservatism" can sway millions of voters - sometimes to the point of tears.  War is a bad thing under President X, but under President Y it is ignored or explained away with pithy justification.  Massive deficits under President X are terrible, but under President Y it counts as "trying to help America".    We're told that home prices will never go down, or before that .com stocks will permanently rise - all the while gold and silver constantly go up in price.  Talking about gold and silver seriously as an investment naturally means you are a "nut".  The school system is in shambles.  The Global Warming Hoax is talked about as fait accompli, economics is ignored, and literacy levels are frighteningly low.  America is populated by a horde of 'citizens' bereft of common sense and intellectual self defense.  The State, naturally, grows unchecked with the consent of the governed because much of the governed was denied a classical education.

But how did the population in the 1930's, under FDR, fall for the massive government intervention that was the New Deal?  It never made sense.  You had a population that had been classically trained, the school system was much smaller, and the schools that existed were, for the most part, rigorous and steeped in logic and rhetoric.  Literacy levels were higher and academic rigor was commonplace.  With all of these things, how was a libertarian, independent and proud electorate duped by the avalanche of brazen government intervention into affairs into which it had never gone before?  Garet Garrett explains this in the first of three lengthy essays "The Revolution Was" (1938).  He begins with this classic: "There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them. It went by in the Night of Depression, singing songs to freedom." Garrett eloquently makes the case for a revolution based on stealth, a 'revolution within the form'. The wording of this "revolution" was all proper and acceptable for an America that understood freedom and the constitution. However, the actions of the FDR administration were planned, quick, efficient and forceful. The population was not used to the specter of radical change, as that was something for Europe - not a free America. It was this flat footedness that enabled the US government to go from a servant of the people to the people becoming the government's servants. Garrett lays out the steps clearly and concisely in this, the most radical of the three essays.

The other two essays "Ex America" and "Rise of Empire" were written in the early 1950's. Garrett continues his analysis of America's regrettable decline. "Ex America" goes into the folly of debt based, non gold backed fiat currency, and the speed at which the debt and the money supply has to expand to maintain such an economic fiction. The bedrock of capitalism - the inviolability of contract is discussed and noted how it began to erode in Europe after WWI and the repudiation of war debt. Garrett sounds the alarm to the economic problems today - 60 years before the bill came due.

"Rise of Empire", written in 1952, could easily have been written by Ron Paul last month. This final essay deals with the erosion of American sovereignty and the parallel of the American Empire to the inevitable fall of Rome. Such a collapse requires the willingness of the population to respond to bread and circuses, the endemic overreach, the debasement of the currency and the defenseless populace willing to trade freedom for ethereal "security". Garrett skillfully shows how all of the moves done since the beginning of the FDR administration and particularly those done after WWII were designed to create an American Empire, which demands a bottomless purse and serf-like Americans. Garrett ends the monographs noting the evils of globalization, and lamenting the fact that Americans lack the strong leader to show them what a once free country was like.

I found "Ex America" to be fascinating and haunting. My questions about the ability of strong Americans to get duped were answered. His laying out of the FDR plan, which had to be planned in advance as it was so seamless and specific, is fascinating to read. It was also a horror as it seemed as if I was watching a free people and a libertarian society vanish before my eyes. We're taught in school that FDR is a godlike figure, and criticism of him is the purview of kooks and nuts. Garrett takes that idea and obliterates it. He'll also prove to you that the critics of the New Deal had a great case, and the Establishment had to work very hard to stifle the words of Garrett and Flynn and Nock. If you want to know why we're in a country that lacks freedom and is a ticking financial time bomb, Garrett's "Ex America" will tell you.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ask a Question and PAY

ZeroHedge, a site I enjoy immensely, had a post today featuring Michael Burry giving the commencement address for the UCLA Economics Department.  Burry is one of the stars of the Michael Lewis book The Big Short, which analyzes the few people who went against conventional wisdom and made huge amounts of money.  Good for them.  Burry and the few others who called the crisis correctly (Peter Schiff comes to mind) are examined in Lewis' book.  They are fascinating characters and the fact that they were able to summon the monumental act of will in order to go against conventional wisdom is inspiring.  Reading Lewis' book coincided with my introduction to Austrian Economics  and libertarianism - both non mainstream schools of thought and it made the transition easier as I had inspiration to guide and help me down a path ridiculed by the mainstream.   It has now gotten to the point that I enjoy being the odd man out, asking the questions that just shouldn't be asked.

Burry's 15 minute speech is worth it.  As I get older I listen much more closely to those who went against the grain.  What is noteworthy is 14:05 into the speech.  Burry describes what happened to him after he published an op-ed in the NY Times called "I Saw The Crisis Coming, Why Didn't The Fed?" Within 2 weeks, his 6 defunct funds were all audited.  The Congressional Economic Crisis Commission demanded all of his correspondence dating back to 1993.  The FBI showed up at his door.  It should be noted that a government that is incapable of doing anything right is suddenly able to react with efficiency and speed when it comes to someone who criticizes the FED in print.  I wouldn't trust the government to fix a pothole as it is so cloddish.  This is the same government that botched the response to Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, missed the economic crashes of the dot com bubble and the housing bubble, blew the chance to catch Madoff's ponzi scheme even after the SEC was tipped off ten times, is trillions of dollars in debt and has an approval rating near the single digits.  Despite whiffing on huge issues, it is able to, with pinpoint accuracy, go after Burry with dedication and skill.  This is what a once proud country has come to.  Burry asked a question, and he paid - about a million dollars in legal fees and hundreds of hours of wasted time, all for naught as he broke no laws.  All he did was state (1st amendment?) that the emperor has no clothes.  What government apparatchik made the call?  Which of the obsequious toads decided that this guy needed to 'be taught a lesson?'  This is a pathetic response from a government that exists at the consent of the governed.  That anachronistic phrase should be retired, as we are now servile whelps who bow and scrape before our overlords.  Good for Michael Burry to "bet against America, and win."  America deserves to take some losses as collectively we have become soft minions genuflecting before our god, The State.  Perhaps we have already lost.

Recommended reading:  Harry Markopolos' Nobody Would Listen.  Mr. Markopolos continually figured out that Madoff was running a ponzi scheme.  He repeatedly informed the SEC.  Nobody would listen, nor would they take him seriously.  Anyone who thinks that 'government regulation' is worth anything should read this book.

For those who are upset at my disdain for the much of America:

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Non Fiction Short List

A friend of mine and former student SM, along with another, KP, asked me to provide a short write up as to which books might be worthwhile.  As their young active minds crave knowledge I always attempt to give them the answers they seek.  Here's the comment:

1) G. E. Griffin's "The Creature From Jekyll Island". This book changed many things for me. It is a wonderful historical romp and covers the lead up to and the birth of the FED. Sounds dull but is not, as you get LOTS of history you never learned in schule. Highly recommended. 2) J. Grisham's "The Innocent Man" - I just finished this and it was pretty good. A true story about a guy getting the death penalty for something he not only did not do, but couldn't have done. 3) Ron Paul's "The Revolution". This morphed me from an odious Establishment Conservative to a free thinking libertarian. Well written and a quick read. 4) If you want to know why I type 'schule' and my reform plan for skoool is to close them all down, then read (for free) John Taylor Gatto's "The Underground History of American Education". Again - rife with history and info that is impeccably researched and the prose is poetic. (I know, oxymoronic but forgive me). It's one of the few books I'd wished I'd read 10 years ago. For a shorter version of his philosophy "Weapons of Mass Instruction" is a winner. It's the book that is my pic. One fiction selection: "Watership Down" by Richard Adams. Anyone who can read English should read it. It's that elegant and wonderful and beautiful. Let me know if you have a specific brand of nonfiction as these may not be your cup of tea...

Here's G. Edward Griffin talking about his Magnum Opus, The Creature From Jekyll Island.

I followed with this tepid list of fiction books - just off the top of my head but worth a look....
Ayn Rand's "Anthem" is really good - a dystopian collective nightmare where the group is all encompassing. It does not contain the subject pronoun "I" - that's how hard core it is. Bradbury's "F451" is spectacular - another future dystopia where firemen burn books because they are illegal and make people smart - sort of like now. I just read the uncut version of Stephen King's "The Stand". It was complex, wonderful, strange and engrossing. His serial "The Green Mile" is also exceedingly well done. I like his work.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Ron Paul Retires

Politics in the United States is a mess.  Normally I would limit it to 'federal politics', but local politics is a disaster as well.  The Good Ole Boys are running all of the local districts into the ground.  At the federal level, a titan has retired.  Ron Paul is retiring from Congress.  Here is his farewell speech.  I recommend you listen to it all, as it harkens back to how politicians in the US used to speak.  We hear about eloquence when it comes to Obama, but he is not in Ron Paul's class when it comes to rhetoric.  Ron Paul was one of the seminal forces that changed how I think.  I was an establishment thinker until my mid thirties; Ron Paul and Peter Schiff were responsible for the paradigm shift in my personal philosophy.  I learned more about economics and government from Ron Paul than I did in high school and college, and I went to good schools.

The man is right, and the message is clear.  No welfare, no warfare, just liberty and following the Constitution.  Now that Mr. Paul is unshackled by the constraints of Congress, the word is that he'll dedicate his time to teaching young people.  I think he'll be extremely successful.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Library

There was an interesting blog post on the LRC blog this morning.  Here's a key quote: "I chose three books from the meager selection of science books and proceeded to checkout. The clerk scanned my library card and told me he would have to confiscate it. It was no longer valid. He told me that to get a new card that I would have to bring in a utility bill postmarked in the last thirty days and a state approved picture ID. Remember I have had a library card continuously for over 55 years. I have lived in the same house in this town for 32 years, and I have checked out more than 10,000 books from this library in my lifetime, without incident. I was the former chairman of Friends of the Library. To no avail. I was informed that Homeland Security requires these new rules. It is interesting to me that the library, which removed all the old pockets which showed previous borrowers and which might help a patron find another person of common interests, and which removed these supposedly in the name of privacy, now requires a scannable ID from a continuous user of over 55 years."

There are two fundamental concepts in this quote.  The first is that the process of bureaucratization dehumanizes people.  Here is an old man who has lived in the same Rust Belt town for decades, and he has to 'prove' who he is.  This is not a natural state for human interaction.  The bureaucrat cannot think outside the box - he must follow the protocol on the paper and must not deviate from the plan.  The second is that these orders come from 'Homeland Security'.   The name of that bureaucracy should give an historically literate reader pause.  Also, what do library habits have to do with 'security'?  Here you have the justification for information gathering regarding American citizens under the Bill of Rights in the name of 'security'.  This is not freedom.

Here's Benjamin Franklin: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

The post also lamented about the poor state of the science section in the library.  The NY Times bestseller section was well kept, as were the DVD's and the audiobooks.  "I was shocked by the lack of periodicals, but I thought that, perhaps, it was because of the prevalence of the internet, and they were no longer needed. I was more shocked when I found that all of the old first editions which I had read as a child and the old bound magazines going back to the 1870s were no longer there. They had been in the library for over 100 years. It is a grand old Carnegie library built in 1905. I was told by a librarian that they discarded them because they wanted the shelves to look better with only new books. Of course, the old classics were no longer there in a new form either, be they science or literature."

This is how bureaucracy dumbs down a people.  The only block to this is a populace, an electorate, a people who are independent thinkers, logically sound and critical of authority.  This old man shows my premise that the older, more rigorous schools were superior, and the citizens they produced recognized it when their freedoms were infringed upon.  I'm not so sure we recognize this today.  Go here for the old periodicals.  I recommend the Mencken articles in the American Mercury.

Here's your right to privacy - it's also known as the 4th amendment.  "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."  Think about this when you hear a pundit or a politician talking about a "living constitution".  They are not your ally.

Here's the rulebook.  It's a pretty good one to follow.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Election 2012

Maybe it should be called sElection 2012.  I wrote in Ron Paul's name.  It basically means my vote not only didn't count - it was probably erased in the voting machine - the same machine that 'counted' my vote.  I have no idea what it counted, if it got it right, if the vote was changed - there was no receipt or record of anything.  The screen did say 'thank you for voting' when it was done reading my sheet.  Why am I not confident in our future?  I remember during the W Bush years how the Establishment Left was infuriated (justifiably) by the electronic voting idea.  The makers of the machines, the lack of receipts, the ability to steal elections - these were huge issues.  When Bush Was President.  Not any longer.

Many other things are no longer issues amongst the Establishment Left.  War, for instance.  The Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace is raging hotter than ever.  Now, in addition to stalwarts Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military is involved in Libya, Yemen and soon to be (if not already) Syria.  Mentioning these things on Facebook is of course taboo - it means you're on the 'bad' side of things and, well, a horrible person.  As the propaganda gets stupider and stupider, the Herd falls for the same tricks that worked 100 years ago.  Adam Curtis' documentary "A Century of the Self" explains the bamboozlement of the people to whip up frenzy about WWI.  We see the same Bernays style propaganda working now.  I posted this on FB: "It's interesting to see the justifications for voting for a person who has increased the illegal wars, ramped up the drug war that tosses brown people in jail at absurd rates, has done nothing to curb the police surveillance state and totally caters to the Big Banks and the FED. There sure are lots of opinions and feelings out there, but not much reasoning, facts or logic. Both candidates are trash, stop voting for the Master Who Will Whip You Less."

After posting that it was suggested that I move out of the country.  Someone also suggested that perhaps I didn't understand how things worked, and that war and the police state are things about which to not worry, because the police and the President work for me.  The ability to justify the cognitive dissonance is spectacular.  Things that were repellent to the Establishment Democrats and Liberals from 2001 - 2009 are now justified using statements about their feelings, or sound byte style defenses.  The people who got compulsory Prussian style schooling into the United States during the 1800's did so so they could inculcate the people into the religion of The State.  They have succeeded spectacularly.

Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Dialogue With a Journalist

Russ Baker, on his site, ran an article on the dirty tricks being used by the Romney campaign to defeat Pres. Obama.  Mr. Baker is a rare breed these days - a journalist without fear.  His book, Family of Secrets, is a masterpiece of history, current affairs and government malfeasance.  The chapters on the JFK assassination are thoroughly researched and some of the most groundbreaking material on the topic this past decade.  I found it odd on the day I visited his site, the seemingly partisan slant to the Organized Establishment Left.  I noted this and our dialogue went as follows.

MeComing here the last two days is disappointing. I can read about how Mitt's advisors have no clue about foreign policy, how he cheated during the debates, and how a video might be able to dive bomb Obama's chances. 
This, combined with the absurd stance on guns, seen in the "Oakland Paradox" article, does not sound like a site dedicated to dispassionate journalism. What's Obama's foreign policy? Blow people up with drones? Augment the 'war' in Afghanistan? It seems like the leftist roots are hard to shed. The 'Obama good, Mitt bad' meme is tired, as is its converse. You mean there'll be a 'difference' if Obama is elected, as opposed to Mitt? Please walk me through the Obama vs. W differences because I don't see them.
Family of Secrets is a towering masterpiece - odd that this site has devolved into partisan team play. The Rockwell interviews with you got me here in the first place - I'm not sure I'll stick around.

Russ BakerYou sound like you're looking for a place that confirms how right you are about your pre-existing beliefs. That being the case, you probably will not want to stick around.
This site is a journalistic one--we research, we think, we come to conclusions. It is full of tough reports about Obama. You'd have to be willfully blind not to see that. But, we're not interested in creating false equivalencies, because that's not journalism.
There are many similarities between Obama and Romney, as noted repeatedly here, principally on foreign policy and finance, but also many differences--which we've reported on here. For one thing, many of Obama's domestic appointments, his approach to the basic mission of departments like EPA, the kinds of court appointments that appeal to him--he's strikingly different. He also has a very different attitude toward income equality, consumer protection, and other areas. Just ask Romney. Generalizing about there being no difference at all would not not be non-partisanship. It would be journalistic malpractice.

MeThank you for your reply - you have integrity and this sets you apart. You, however artfully, dodge the issue of the appearance of the site. My point was how slanted things seemed to be here. It is criticism. I am not looking to justify how "right" I am - I am simply trying to provide criticism that could possibly help. It wasn't until I started doing my own research and backing away from the Mainstream Opinion Creators (FoS was a large part of this as I was a "conservative" at the time) that I realized how wrong I had been most of my life.
I think you show the slant about which I spoke with this: "He also has a very different attitude toward income equality, consumer protection, and other areas. Just ask Romney." First of all - "approach" and "attitude" are superficial to the core. I am not swayed by that low level rhetoric. Income equality? Is that a goal? Should the gov't have a role in making incomes equal? That is as repellent as Romney trying to further line the Eastern Banking Establishment's pockets - which seems to be his main purpose. Consumer protection? Where? The FDA is run primarily by Monsanto - one of the most rapacious corporations on the planet. The SEC and the Obama justice department have gone after none of the big banks. Zero bankers are in jail. And you know what? People don't need an Overlord seeing to it that incomes are 'more equal' or that they are 'protected'. Folks are capable enough. We are people, not domesticated animals. What they need is a forceful 4th estate populated by people like you and Chris Hedges to hold their feet to the fire.
Thank you as always for the forum.

Notice how Mr. Baker replied to my comment in a serious and professional matter.  I disagree with him.  I think he has a bias, and it bothers me that this shows on his site.  However, it is his site, which he runs well as it is current and provides a forum for discussion.  Find sources of information on the web that have people with integrity and allow dissent and discussion.  The web is the greatest information superhighway in the history of the human race, and you should do your research and reading at the highest level possible.  Find out the Russ Bakers and Chris Hedges of the world, and get what you can out of their experiences - even if you disagree with some of their philosophies.  As a libertarian / anarchist type, Baker and Hedges are too trusting of government for my taste, but their journalistic skills are beyond reproach, and burgeoning journalists should check them out.

Here is Russ Baker - eliminating inconsistencies and using reasoning to counterpoint his book vs. former Pres. Bush's book:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Their Plan is Working

My plan, however, is not. I have a few tenets that I've used for the past 5 years or so.  They're usually effective.  Through literature, I try to show students that for the past few centuries, there has been a faction quite interested in keeping them sick, stupid, broke and afraid.  This of course invites the label of conspiracy theorist, a label I gladly accept.  This is unique among teachers, opens up many discussions, and we're off and running.  I prove my case in many ways.  Plato's Allegory of the Cave is pure apologia for the State, Poe vicariously kills off his freemason 'father' in "The Cask of Amontillado", the lawyer becomes otherworldly bright in his cell in Chekhov's "The Bet"...  We have a lot of fun.  Writers throughout time have been warning us to be on the lookout for sinister forces, all the while telling us to read voraciously.  "Have some intellectual self-defense", "understand reason and logic", "reading provides and anti virus program for your brain" - say all the classic authors from the grave.

This approach has worked well, with all of my classes.  The good classes cover a lot of ground with me.  We invariably cover a lot of historical ground - literary analysis demands it.  Current affairs comes into play, as the literature and the history echo the events of the old days.  As stories reflect wealth and greed (see Tolstoy's "How Much Land Does a Man Need?"), we'll discuss economics, money, gold and silver.  The less stellar classes get caught up in the conspiracy discussions and we're able to approach literary material from that angle.  Intellectually, everyone gets a turn.

Not this year.  This year the forces of the dark side have won.  I have an inability to reach but a small fraction of the groups.  The instant gratification corporate media and social media have destroyed attention spans.  Students openly feel that nothing should ever be 'boring' to them and are offended if they aren't entertained.  The ability to listen and concentrate is gone, as is the ability to use discretion and prioritize.  What bothers me the most is the fact that everyone is happy about their lot.  There is no urgency, no awareness of the danger that comes with being intellectually misguided.  The incessant student conversations are cheap, silly and false.  This current group wants to be yelled at and TOLD what to do.  This is maddening.  As a libertarian I find force repellent, but it's almost as if this cohort craves it to be used on them.  There is no intellectual curiosity, and when I have tried to spark it - I'm told that what we're talking about is 'boring'.  The progenitors of compulsory public schooling were open and blatant about their plan. They intended to indoctrinate and inculcate obedience and docility in the masses.  If this year is any guide, they've succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

"I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one. It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason. He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceases to be a man." - - Frederick Douglass

" We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class, of necessity, in every society, to forego the privileges of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks." - - Woodrow Wilson

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Writing Revolution - article review

The Atlantic had an article called "The Writing Revolution" last month.  It is noteworthy in that it promotes a classical method to teaching writing, and eschews the modern methods of the past 30 years, which have produced nothing except students who cannot write.  My neighbor showed me this article, and I was pleasantly surprised to see a publication like The Atlantic pin the blame on the methods of writing instruction in schools.  Modern public schools are usually beyond reproach.  The 'criticism' that one usually sees is tepid - tinker around the edges type stuff that is meaningless and impossible to implement.  After all, the public schools are bastions of good feeling, hard working teachers, and the students, but for a few minor tweaks,  would be scholars in the lyceum mold.

The article analyzes New Dorp High School, a middling high school on Staten Island, in NY City, that recognized a problem, and was determined to actually fix it.  The article mentions some admirable teachers and administrators, particularly the principal, who were willing to fix what was broken, and not just say the right things and 'hope' that they would get better.  The article begins with a student, Monica, who was a decent student, but who had no idea how to write.  Here was a high schooler who could not form a well done paragraph, let alone connect ideas for an essay.  How does a teenager get that far and not know how to connect ideas in writing?  The teachers realized that the crux of the problem was that Monica (and others) had no idea how to use conjunctions.  This paragraph tells the sordid tale:  "But the truth is, the problems affecting New Dorp students are common to a large subset of students nationally. Fifty years ago, elementary-school teachers taught the general rules of spelling and the structure of sentences. Later instruction focused on building solid paragraphs into full-blown essays. Some kids mastered it, but many did not. About 25 years ago, in an effort to enliven instruction and get more kids writing, schools of education began promoting a different approach. The popular thinking was that writing should be “caught, not taught,” explains Steven Graham, a professor of education instruction at Arizona State University. Roughly, it was supposed to work like this: Give students interesting creative-writing assignments; put that writing in a fun, social context in which kids share their work. Kids, the theory goes, will “catch” what they need in order to be successful writers. Formal lessons in grammar, sentence structure, and essay-writing took a back seat to creative expression."  (bold and italics mine)

Imagine any part of a child's life other than school.  Would you accept a mentor, coach, guide - a leader of any kind - saying that the child will "catch" the skill and incorporate it into their lives?  I think most of us would dismiss it as charlatanry and immediately fire the person who promotes the 'catch' strategy. Look carefully at the motivation: "In an effort to enliven instruction and get more kids writing".  Now look at the cure: "Give students interesting creative-writing assignments: put that in a fun social context in which kids share their work.  Students will "catch" what they need in order to become successful writers".  Look at the results.  Monica is asked to write a paper on Alexander the Great.  She came up with six borderline coherent sentences and was unable to continue.

The article goes on to talk about other 'feel good' methods of writing instruction - peer editing, journal writing, personal narrative, poetry...  None of these things involve grammar instruction or any type of drill activity.  They are all 'fun'.  Peer editing is what I call 'lazy teaching'.  Having peers, who are no more knowledgeable about writing than you, editing and commenting on your work, is useless.  What can they contribute?  It does lessen a teacher's workload, however.

At teachers college, you read a lot of theory, like Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, but don’t learn how to teach writing,” said Fran Simmons. How could the staff backfill the absent foundational skills their students needed in order to learn to write? "

This small anecdote in the article is hugely important.  Freire went into the jungles of the Amazon, and wrote socialist and communist friendly pap about how his work with them proved the merits of his leftist worldview.  While he was right about the innate power, skill and ability to learn of the average person, he used this platform to push a political agenda.  The colleges of education picked this up (along with the fraudulent Jonathan Kozol) and used it to dumb down teachers and students.  Aspiring teachers get a lot of theory, about politics it turns out, and not instruction on how to teach children how to write.  My experience was similar.  I was introduced to Freire's work in graduate school, while getting my MS in Instructional Technology.

If one wants to express complex thoughts in writing, he must get formal (and not always fun) writing instruction.  This was talked about in the article, and it reinforced my study of the Trivium, as rhetoric, the third leg of the Trivium, instructs how one might share, via speaking or writing, complex ideas.  Yet more evidence that multiple choice exams are useless.  They were abandoned by the Elite universities over one hundred years ago.  This is not a coincidence.

Here is the author on the Hochman Program - a program that would "not be unfamiliar to nuns who taught in Catholic schools circa 1950": "Children do not have to “catch” a single thing. They are explicitly taught how to turn ideas into simple sentences, and how to construct complex sentences from simple ones by supplying the answer to three prompts—but,because, and so. They are instructed on how to use appositive clauses to vary the way their sentences begin. Later on, they are taught how to recognize sentence fragments, how to pull the main idea from a paragraph, and how to form a main idea on their own. It is, at least initially, a rigid, unswerving formula. “I prefer recipe,” Hochman says, “but formula? Yes! Okay!”

What I put in bold letters has been almost totally abandoned in the garden variety public schools today. Grammar instruction - appositive clauses (!) - as part of a formula for formal instruction?  I was taught in the Colleges of Education that this is no longer done as it is no longer necessary and it is so boring that who could do it anyway?  The experience shown at New Dorp HS by the teachers willing to adjust and the principal  to subsume her ego and try something new shows that the old classical ways weren't broken, and the politically correct feel good approach has been an abject failure.

A litmus test for the efficacy and usefulness of a program is now to look at the Education Establishment's reaction to it.  If it dislikes the approach, adopt it.  If it loves the approach - abandon it.  Here is the response to this successful paradigm shift by Lucy Calkins, a professor at Columbia University's Teachers College: "While (Calkins) welcomes a bigger dose of expository writing in schools, she says lockstep instruction won’t accelerate learning. “Kids need to see their work reach other readers … They need to have choices in the questions they write about, and a way to find their voice.

So despite the evidence in the article, and the evidence in the nation as a whole, the evidence at your local public school - Prof. Calkins says lockstep instruction "won't accelerate learning".  My track coach in high school told me in the late 1980's that Teachers College had done more to ruin education in the United States than any other institution.  Now I can see why.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Debate About Nothing

My Facebook 'wall' (it is now called 'home) is filled with posts about tonight's presidential debate.  The Establishment Liberals are putting up posts about how wonderful the "Democratic Liberal" side of things are and how wonderful their government programs are, while the Establishment Conservatives are putting up posts about how horrid government is and how awful our current President is.  It reminds me of a sporting contest, how people cheer for their team, and whatever their team does, well, that's OK.  On a side note, Yankee fans are the worst offenders in this arena.  Big money, steroids, arrogance and fan disconnect are terrible, but when an Yankee does it, nothing to see here, move along...

The political discourse seems to be cut from the same cloth.  The "Teams" are gearing up for their guy to debate the other, and they will both announce that their guy was the winner.  Both sides seem immune to fact.  The more H.L. Mencken I read the more I agree with his term 'booboisie' - the term he used to describe the uninformed and incurious mass herd of sheeple.  What are these debates about?  If you listen, they aren't about anything at all.  There is tinkering around the edges.  Should we tax the masses at 36% or 39%?  Should we use the unconstitutional powers of the Patriot Act or the NDAA?  Which of the 5 major banks should get more billions of taxpayer funds?  How long should the unconstitutional wars continue?

These are all the wrong questions.  "If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers".  This Thomas Pynchon quote is perfect because the questions in the 'debates' are all wrong, and they serve no interests but those of the State, and those connected to the State.  I used to buy into these flawed lines of 'reasoning'.  I was a person of the Left for a long time.  As I saw the policies of the Establishment Liberals collapsing around me, I reflexively figured the 'other side' was the answer.  I wasn't even close.  There was a third way.  The non aggression credo of the libertarians and the economic freedom of the Austrian School economists is exactly what made sense to me.  The timing was perfect, as I was, unknowingly at the time, searching for a philosophy based in logic, non aggression, freedom and common sense.

I use the terms Establishment Liberals and Conservatives because they shill for the established powers.  I am currently conversing (on FB) with a woman who professes extreme levels of support for our President.  The fact that he has simply repeated the policies of the previous president is meaningless.  When I mention the most basic things - the continuation of the wars, the wretched alliance with the Big Banks and the FED with the top echelon of government, the cronyism, the violations of privacy - I was dismissed as a peddler of "BS" and called a 'conservative'.  This is indicative of the state of affairs today.  Establishment Liberals agree with whatever the Democrats do.  We're seeing this now.  We have had a repeat of all of the previous administration's policies and wars, but the former protesters are now 'for' the policy.  The Establishment Conservatives decry the aggressive advance and onslaught of Big Gov't, but the previous 'conservative' administration expanded gov't at an alarming rate.  Then it was OK with these people of course.  This is not logical and it defies common sense.

I remember being told that "common sense isn't so common" by one of my graduate school professors. I wasn't sure what he meant at the time.  I'm sure now.
War under the other guy - bad.  War under this guy - good.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

4 Classic Teams

I haven't been as focused on sports as of late, but I was glad to see the final four teams in the MLB playoffs as follows: the NY Yankees, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, and the SF Giants.  What do these teams all have in common?  They are not expansion teams.  These are part of the original 16 teams that made up Major League Baseball from 1903 - 1960.   As an old hand at reading and studying Major League Baseball, this was the first thing I thought of when I saw the teams still active in the playoffs.

The Yankees were originally the NY Highlanders.  They played in uptown Manhattan - what would now be called Heights Inwood.  They were part of the 'new' American League - a challenge to the original and monopolistic National League by one of the most interesting men in MLB history, Ban Johnson.  The NY Franchise changed its history and the history of baseball by buying a young left handed pitcher from the Red Sox named Babe Ruth.  This move vaulted the newly named Yankees from tepid, also ran status to the top of the American League.  They shared the Polo Grounds with the NY Giants baseball team (now in San Francisco) until the original Yankee Stadium was built in the early 1920's.  The Yankees are arguably the most successful sports franchise in history - only the Canadiens, Packers, Celtics and possibly the Lakers are allowed into the discussion.  (For the global readers, Manchester United, the Yomiuri Giants and the Taiwanese Little League franchises should merit consideration...).
Thurman Munson - the Captain.

The Detroit Tigers are an old franchise.  For many years they played at one of the most beloved stadiums in the AL - Tiger Stadium.  They had a great announcer in Ernie Harwell and were able to compete most years.  I grew up with the Jack Morris, Darrell Evans, Allan Trammel and Lou Whitaker Tigers.  The 1984 team was completely dominant.  I remember them as always having a veteran team and not being cowed by anyone.  One of the surprises of the 1980's was when the 1987 Twins caught a capable Tiger team looking the other way and eliminated them in the ALCS.  The Tiger uniform is a tasteful classic, and the orange, gothic "D" on the away uniform hats has always been my favorite uniform idiosyncrasy, along with the red #'s on the Dodger uniforms.

C. Granderson and the Tiger Colors.

The St Louis Cardinals are the storied franchise of the National League.  They are, along with the Reds, one of the oldest franchises in MLB history.  They have one of the most impressive alumni lists in baseball history. To name a few: Lou Brock, Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Albert Pujols, Bob Gibson, Whitey Herzog and Curt Flood.  For a franchise that has been in existence since 1882 they have been remarkably consistent in keeping the tradition of winning alive, and have revamped the team in order to stay competitive.  Even now, after the retirement of Tony LaRussa and the defection of Pujols, the Cardinals have been competitive and are still alive.  They recently and unexpectedly won a world series, and somehow stay around in order to bother the favorites.

Lou Brock of the St. Louis Cardinals.

The San Francisco Giants are the only team that isn't in its original city.  Originally the New York Giants, they were the original dominant franchise of MLB.  They played in an old, oddly shaped park called the Polo Grounds - now the site of apartment buildings.  The early 1900's had a team that included Christy Matthewson, Mel Ott, Carl Hubbel, John McGraw and Frankie Frisch.  The Giants' standard bearer is Willie Mays - arguably the best player in MLB history.  Mickey Mantle and Babe Ruth enter into the discussion, and it hurts Giants fans to no end that they are both Yankees. The Yomiuri Giants use the old NY Giants colors because at the time they toured Japan, the NY Giants were the best team in baseball, had the best players and the richest tradition.  Recently, the SF Giants did a wonderful thing, they moved from the impersonal and windy Candlestick Park, and moved into San Francisco proper to a fantastic stadium.
The original Polo Grounds.

The current stadium for the SF Giants.

Prediction:  The SF Giants, with their superior pitching, defeat the Cardinals.  Tim Lincecum seems to have regained his form, and Barry Zito has possibly resurrected his career from the scrap heap and is now a serviceable left hander.  The Yankees will defeat the Tigers, simply because Justin Verlander won't be able to pitch three times.  Because Verlander was needed to defeat the A's, the Yankees will win.

The Yankees win the World Series, in a matchup reminiscent of the 1951 and 1962 World Series - a nostalgic NY fan's fantasy.