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Friday, February 28, 2014

Education Forensics Podcast #5 - Literacy Revisited

How does a person become literate?
What is literacy?
What is the difference between active literacy and passive literacy?
What is the trivium and how can you use it to become more literate?
How can a higher level of literacy help you succeed in various facets of your life?

Here I share some of my past explorations into literacy - especially during the last 5 years or so.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Podcast #4 - Congnitive Dissonance

From Wikipedia: "In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the excessive mental stress and discomfort[1] experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time. This stress and discomfort may also arise within an individual who holds a belief and performs a contradictory action or reaction."

In this podcast I explore the rampant amount of Cognitive Dissonance in today's world.  The main example I use it the phrase: "taxation in theft".  

If I poke a gun in your ribs, or threaten you with jail, or threaten to take your stuff if you don't give me money to give to the less fortunate - is that stealing?  It certainly is.  

But if I do the same thing and I call myself 'government' and I call the money 'taxes' - well then it's "different".  Different how?  They don't say.  The idea is that stealing is stealing, but when I change the words people are unable to process the information.  Even if I were to suggest NOT paying the IRS what it feels are its due, and the person knows he will go to jail, the point still doesn't get through.  

That is cognitive dissonance.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The New Media Monopoly - Book Review

In 1983, fifty corporations dominated most of every mass medium and the biggest media merger in history was a $340 million deal. … [I]n 1987, the fifty companies had shrunk to twenty-nine. … [I]n 1990, the twenty-nine had shrunk to twenty three. … [I]n 1997, the biggest firms numbered ten and involved the $19 billion Disney-ABC deal, at the time the biggest media merger ever. … [In 2000] AOL Time Warner’s $350 billion merged corporation [was] more than 1,000 times larger [than the biggest deal of 1983].
~ Ben H. Bagdikian, The Media Monopoly, Sixth Edition, (Beacon Press, 2000), pp. xx–xxi

The earliest version of The Media Monopoly came out in the early 1980's.  The version I read was after the above quote, from The New Media Monopoly, published in 2004.  

Bagdikian's grasp of what has happened in the Mainstream Media is superb.  The book, however, is a mixed bag.  The material on the media and the disconnect between what they say they do and what they actually do is worth reading.  The mainstream media (MSM) is one of the institutions that over the years has become a parody of what it was supposed to be.  The corporatization of the MSM is a topic that Bagdikian handles with skill.  A de-centralized media has become a tool for The Regime, The State.  Bagdikian shows bravery and independence by exposing the drum beating of establishment media outlets such as the NY Times.  One chapter in particular called "(not) All the News That's Fit to Print" exposes the government bootlicking and outright fraud perpetrated by the Times during the early W years.  The next chapter, called "All The News That Fits" goes into historical detail about how the Media became a profit machine, at the expense of individuality and meaningful reporting.

While Bagdikian's grasp of the media is good, there are parts of the book that are not.  He routinely (and correctly) laments the power of the big corporations to alter the media landscape.  The consolidation of power has destroyed media independence and obliterated the FCC as a regulator.  Bagdikian has a blind spot, however in realizing that the government is always the other half of the equation.  The special dispensations given out by the FCC and government regulators in order to allow the massive corporatization movement that began in the 1980's would not have been possible without government help.  Bagdikian seems to only see the corporations and their malfeasance as the issue.  He turns a blind eye to the necessary cooperation by government.  This exposes a shameless leftist bias and only exposes half of the problem.

This bias also shows in all of his economic explanations.  The worst examples are his trotting out the tired socialist shibboleth that the USA is the only modern country without universal healthcare - despite those schemes failing in Canada and the UK for decades.  He childishly talks about the the politics of the country veering to the "far right" because of the power of the moneyed interests and the corporations.  Bagdikian should know better - that this is the 'corporatization' of the country and has nothing to do with the "far right".  Lastly, he refers to the "uninhibited free market" of the 1920's multiple times.  This is unforgivable.  Both Lionel Robbins and Murray Rothbard have shown that the 1920's were manipulated severely by the Federal Reserve and the US Treasury.  They manhandled the money supply (creating inflation), managed interest rates and butchered sound monetary policy that had allowed a certain stability from 1879 to 1914.  Bagdikian apparently spent zero minutes and zero seconds studying this topic.  A middle aged nobody English teacher in the crappy neighborhood (me) should not be able to point out such obvious flaws in a book by a Media Analyst Giant like Mr. Bagdikian.

Overall, this book is worth it, just stick to the chapters that deal directly with media analysis.  Ignore the rest.

An interview with Bagdikian can be found here.

Independent New Media reporters mention Bagdikian here - Corbett and Pilato are modern Bagdikians in their own right:

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

EF Podcast #3 - Why I Use a $20 Gold Certificate as an Avatar

"Twenty Dollars in Gold Coin payable to the bearer on demand"

What was the Gold Standard?  Why do I use an image of an old $20 bill as my avatar / image?

The gold standard did two things that people in power and governments severely dislike: 1) it limited their power and reach and 2) it placed power and independence in the hands of the regular people.

Money backed by gold can't be printed, because gold can't be arbitrarily printed or created.  This limits the ability of governments to create war and exercise power over institutions or people.  The reason why the US gov't has devolved into a rapacious empire is because there is practically no limit to any cost.  Wars all over the planet? Not a problem.  Prisons out of control and a Police State to monitor the Herd?  No problem.  Big Business wants to capture a sector of the economy by creating a regulatory thicket to block the little guy?  No problem as gov't will create a department and enact legislation to crush small independent people.  How much will all of that cost?  Doesn't matter as the Federal Reserve will create the debt, monetize it and it is now "paid" for.

If you had the ability to open your browser, go to your bank account and move the decimal place around, or add numbers as you saw fit - you'd be thrilled.  The idea is a silly one, but that is what the FED can, and does, do.

How it came to be that way and how to find out more - see below:


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

EF Podcast #2 - Finding Reliable Sources of Information

In this podcast I discuss finding reliable sources of information - a necessary component for the Intellectually Curious.  Sites that get introduced are:
RT America - Breaking the Set
Corbett Report

These sites are like food for a hungry person.  Once you realize, as many thoughtful HS students do, that teachers, mainstream media and the Establishment are interested in what you think, not HOW to think - these websites are golden.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Education Forensics - Podcast #1

This is the first podcast in a series.

It is divided into three parts.  I speak about what the general philosophy of what my site and my philosophy is all about.  The three parts are: thinking for yourself, becoming intellectually curious, and finding good sources for information.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Facebook Dialogue part 27

I became Facebook friends with a young person who is really into punk rock.  That unto itself is worth a post because I am in the bad school on the wrong side of the tracks, and Punk Rockers are not common at all.  I asked him how he came about with his anti government view, which I saw on his FB page, and he said it was the music he was into.  Of course it made me feel old because he's interested in the late 1970's and 1980's Punk bands.  He thought it was great that I was alive during those times - I didn't have the heart to tell him about the fashions of the day...

A couple of days later he put up a post that was "F*** Racism. Fascism. Sexism. Nationalism. Anti-Semites. Homophobia. Nazi Punks. Transphobia. Control. Religious War. All War. -- Teach Peace and Anarchy."

I responded with: "just about, if not all of the 'isms' are a bad joke"
He responded with: "I know, a very bad joke indeed."

Here is where it gets interesting.  A friend of his came back with this: "Anarchy and peace don't go together as long as people with independent thought are in the mix"

I thought this was odd - how can a person see independent thinking people and independent thought as anything but positive?  How would independent thought hurt the cause of peace?  So I came back with this: "Anarchy and peace go perfectly together as independent thinkers don't need a Rancher to run their lives or whip them into a frenzy."

Then he came with what, under normal circumstances would be seen as a conversation stopper - a long response with some decent points, but not quite good enough: "Independent thinkers don't need someone to run their lives, that's true, but that doesn't mean that they'll agree to non-violence or even non-prejudice. Many wars and prejudices occur because of independent thought. In an anarchy, there would be no way to fight racism because people who have racist views would act on them without repercussion, and unfortunately that's a large group of people. Anarchy breeds violence and prejudice, because that is part of the human condition. Without a societal structure to have an open and safe discourse on the subjects that need to be improved upon, things will not be improved upon; in fact, things will mostly just devolve."

I jumped all over this - especially the last part: "Devolve into the way things are now? I think the current state of affairs, with the violent and rapacious drug / prison industrial complex, military industrial complex, regulatory thicket blocking the poor - - these things make your argument lose a lot of steam. Freedom is the answer - to think that a 'societal structure' will somehow stop racism - it can only do it by force, which defeats the whole purpose. Gov't is an opinion with a badge and a gun, nothing more, nothing less. You're arguing from an outcome, not an ethical stance."

I thought the person's focus on racism was odd.  The Gov't and their media lapdogs push the racism angle in order to keep the Proles arguing among themselves, but I'm willing to play ball and debate with that as an example...  Then I got this in return:

"I'm not saying that it's perfect how it is now, but I'm saying that anarchy and peace won't happen together. In theory, it sounds great. The problem is that not everyone has the same morals and not everyone will agree not to use violence. Anarchy and peace only work if everyone thinks the same way, but that's not how people work. Everyone thinks differently, everyone has their own view on things, and that's one of the things that makes us great. Sure, the current government has problems, but just because it has problems doesn't mean you should abolish it altogether. What is wrong, ethically, with having a social structure or governing authority?"

I was a little off put by the term 'social structure' - that is a term that is vague enough to be scary.  I came back with this: "Good question - because a governing authority can only enforce things through force. Governments use badges, guns, prison cells, confiscations and threats to enforce their mandates. The non-aggression principle that governs the (admittedly utopian) anarchist / libertarian world takes care of what you speak of. The principle is that one cannot use force unless it is perpetrated unto you. With that principle held, a free people, regardless of how they think, will live and prosper. If people have dark, sick, racist thoughts and ways, then free people will shun them. If they are bad rapacious businessmen or teachers or whomever then a free people will ignore them and the free market will get them to change their habits - or it won't and they'll have to figure it out on their own. I think the 'social structure' you speak of would emerge in smaller communities - among people who think alike and wish to live a certain way (possibly how the Mormons do their thing now). But if people are free to leave and move, then everyone can be a free agent. Anarchy is simply no central authority that uses force to do the "right" thing. That thinking has turned the USA into the horror show it is today, with the killing machine gov't it has today."

This young person is keen enough to ask questions of someone who is able to parry and confront his questions - this is why I kept going with the dialogue.  So far this is where it stands so far.  The young people are more willing to ask questions and debate, I've found out over the past few years.  This video would be helpful to this person, and many other young people: