A Few Things

I am not a baby killer. Regardless of whether a foetus is or is not a person I do not think abortion is a good option in most circumstances. However, I do not feel I have the right or duty or ability to judge a person for the actions they take regarding their own body. I cannot advocate for their spiritual condemnation. That judgement is God’s and God’s alone. I also believe that legislating morality is dangerous, even more so when it involves the individual decision of one person regarding their personal decisions

Those who favor banning the teaching of any type of reality, even if only relative to a subset of humans, is a fascist. Banning such teaching is tacit denial of that reality. Denying the existence of any human demographic as human is an offense against God and the American understanding of all people being created equal. This is eugenics and reviled by civilized peoples. These individual’s and group’s desire to withhold truth from their children results from fear that their children might learn something counter to their own values. They are terrified their children do not have the common sense to realize that knowing about something bad will not make them bad. In essence they are discriminating against their own progeny. They do not trust their children to be clear thinking individuals. They have no faith in human love or compassion. This is perhaps because they have difficulty with loving and empathizing themselves.

Yes, by themselves guns do not and cannot kill people. This is not a bonafide defense of people with guns. People with guns can and do kill people. None other than that famous woke Supreme Court Justice Samual Alito, in his decision for the Heller vs. Washington D.C. ruling, stated that even the second amendment is subject to regulation in the instance of the infringement of one person’s rights by another person who uses a gun. Freedom does not mean everyone has the liberty to do whatever they want. Violating the liberty of another who exercises their liberty to use their freedoms is ostensibly a crime.

At the leadership level Republicans and Democrats are less different than they and the media would have you believe. Both parties are heavily influenced by corporate interests. Republicans answer to more malevolent corporations who are completely interested in profit. They continue to follow supply side economic principles and have little interest in the real welfare of the people, contrary to their floral rhetoric. Democrats answer to more benevolent corporations who use a modified Keynesian economic approach to rein in the party faithful. They feel that appealing to the needs and desires of the average American will bring greater profits in the long term through establishing a loyal customer base. The Republican party panders to its base through hardline racial and white supremacist dog whistles, which are more audible now than in the past. The Democrats appeal to their base with progressive rhetoric which only rarely becomes people oriented legislation. Both sides accuse the other of transgressions they themselves are prone to. Both use the shiny ball syndrome system to keep the populace distracted from the real issues of the time by trumpeting less than critical culture war issues, such as which bathroom trans people can use, in both mainstream and social media. Republicans continue to attack many specific niche demographics to keep people at each others throats. As an ever shrinking coalition they feel this is the only way to keep an ever growing liberal voting bloc from organizing into a dominant electoral force. Democrats appeal to the native decency of people they feel have been brainwashed by incessant right wing propaganda. They feel this is the only way to convince them to stop voting against their best interests. The Republican message has backfired somewhat to the extent that flight to the suburbs is no longer strictly conservative and inner ring suburbs continue to become more blue. These folks have become disillusioned by what they consider to be ridiculous culture battles and the continued erosion of government services under local Republican rule. Democrats keep bleeding votes from certain previously loyal voting blocs such as Blacks and Hispanics, picked off by right wing persuasion that Democrats only pander to them at voting time and do nothing to truly help their communities. Voting trends in America work like a perpetual sine wave supported by a corporate media that nudges the public from right to left and back again to give the illusion that voting is meaningful to the individual.

To expound on something I touched on earlier many Americans confuse Freedom and Liberty and conflate them to mean the same thing. This is not true. Freedoms are granted by governments through constitutional edicts and laws. They apply to everyone equally and are limited for everyone equally. Everyone has freedom of speech and no one can yell fire in a crowed theater to use to common example. Liberty, on the other hand, is individual. Each person is at liberty to use and express their freedoms how and when they wish. Liberty is granted to each individual simply because they exist. The issue with individual liberty is that by nature there exist conflicts of interest when two people’s liberties clash. Conflicts of liberty are the underlying basis for civil and criminal law. For example the second amendment gives every American that meets legal limitations the right to bear a firearm. The first amendment gives everyone the right to speak freely unless that speech could constitute a threat to everyone else. But the person with the gun is not at liberty to shoot the speaker just because they don’t like what they are saying. Society determines how conflicts of liberty are to be judged by democratically electing representatives who debate and make laws pertaining to such conflicts. In essence, freedom does not allow anyone to do whatever they want when and wherever they want. And liberty is only an inalienable right when it does not interfere with another’s liberty. These words are tossed about much too cavalierly. Once again, inadequate civics education rears its ugly head.

There will be more tidbits of opinion coming soon.

Trash or Trash Talk?

While today there is plenty of attention is being focused on DJT’s arraignment and its political implications I feel the kerfuffle surrounding the NCAA women’s basketball championship has and will have more cultural significance. Angel Reese, outstanding woman’s basketball player for the LSU Tigers, 2023 champions, has been, often mercilessly, attacked for making demeaning and hurtful gestures and using foul language directed at superstar Caitlin Clark of the Iowa Hawkeyes. There is also evidence of Clark making the same gesture toward Reese but she seems to be facing less vitriol than Angel. Angel is Black, Caitlin is White and they are both women; women who have recently been thrust into the national spotlight.

Since Sunday’s championship game, there have been more tweets, quotes, and opinions voiced about this than Carter has pills. There are claims of racism and sexism, accusations, and defenses, from more angles than has a geodesic dome. Even flamboyant and controversial LSU coach Kim Mulkey is being criticized for her sartorial audacity. I say let the woman represent. But seriously, there is great sociocultural import here and it is not pretty. 

The primary issues that anger me and should anger you are not the ‘ism’ charges themselves or even the over the top coach’s outfits. Nor are they the trash talk and actions themselves. It is the hypocrisy of this commentary and the fact that in an evolved civilized world all of this should never have happened.

Trash talk has happened in basketball almost since Naismith set up the first peach baskets. In forums like the NBA, it can and often does get particularly graphic and vicious. Yet if you examine players who have been identified as the worst trash-talkers you find a who’s who of all-time great players. Universally accepted as the worst offender was Larry Bird whose episodes will his biggest rival, Magic Johnson, were considered either epic and legendary, or vile and obscene, depending on your point of view. Another player at the top of the list was Michael Jordan, widely considered basketball’s GOAT. These are two of the greatest players in the history of the game and rather than being reviled as crass and unsportsmanlike they are revered, even worshiped, as role models and heroes who saved the game and brought it to the height of popularity and profitability it enjoys today.

My point is the hypocrisy here is astounding. When cultural icons, wealthy men both white and black do this it is shrugged off as ‘part of the game’. When two young women student athletes, one white and one black, do virtually the same thing, the Twittersphere goes viral with flame wars and attacks unbecoming alleged adults. Yes, it is racism. Yes, it is sexism. But we are nearly one-quarter of the way through the 21st century. When in god’s name are we going to work through these infantile, unhealthy, foolish, cruel, uncivilized, wicked, and psychically wasteful cancers of sexism and racism? This should not be happening. This is supposed to be an advanced human culture, not toddlers screaming “I hate you” to anyone within listening distance. I continue to be appalled at the damaging stubborn stagnation of this conflict of willful obstinance. Yet there is only inertia present when the outrage fades and society is supposed to be doing the dirty work of real change

I might not have another 25 years. Will I ever see the day when the public response to such an event is a simple ‘Did you see those two players trash talking. Not very good role models” with no mention of gender or race? And when the only lesson for the players is learning that their actions on the national stage are more consequential than when they were in a high school gym and not on national TV. This should have been just another 3rd page sports section event and not a bloviated something that should never have been. A minor blip on that day’s Sportscenter.

The racism and sexism of this event are sinful examples of a mainstream tragedy of moral failure; grossly vestigial and much, much, much, much overdue for amputation from America’s spiritual body.

Not Really About Economics

Economic prosperity and likewise economic distress are both very complex issues with a considerable number of variables sharing responsibility for the economy’s health. To blame any one political party and/or politician for our economic troubles is disingenuous. Knowing that people like simple solutions to complex problems Republicans cleverly apply Occam’s Razor to their campaigning. They frame both our problems and their solutions in the simplest terms possible. Democrats have an unfortunate tendency to endlessly debate, then partially address, each of the numerous variables responsible for our most significant problems, leaving people confused and suspicious.

Republicans are aware that people approach life and its problems emotionally rather than mentally. They use emotional persuasion based in such things as fear, revulsion, and scorn to get their point across. They use emotional ad hominem attacks and sensational prevarication to vilify their enemies (read opponents). They avoid issues primarily because there are no easy solutions to complex problems. Thus they don’t spend a lot of time on policy and problem solving. They do spend in inordinate amount of time disseminating emotionally charged attacks and simple solutions to as many people as possible through their cleverly purchased and easily accessible information sources. They use glib and charismatic talking heads to sell their framing to the masses. These tactics are often successful given peoples’ tendencies to get their information from just one source without taking time out of their manufactured busy day to investigate issues.

On the other hand, assuming we have two hands, Democrats rely on the overrated fact that life is practical and ordered, based on truth and knowledge. They have a different concept of simplicity than Republicans. They feel (over)confident that if they simply and clearly reveal all the factors that influence public policy and problem solving that the people will magically absorb it all into their heads. Voters will obviously recognize and embrace the truth, facts, and irrefutable policy conclusions of the nearly infinite research and careful considerations of the hard working, honest and empathic clerks of the Democratic Party. What a crock. Most people fall asleep before the end of the first paragraph. Luckily for the Democrats, the country, contrary to expansive marketing, is mostly a center/left nation. Philosophically there are more Democrats and sympathetic independents than Republicans. If the Democrats can somehow motivate, logically of course, their base and likely allies to forego chatting over their weak lattes long enough to vote they can usually win. These outcomes hold up for both major parties unless one of the frequently incompetent candidates is vastly more incompetent than the other. Herschel Walker this means you.

It is relatively easy for Republicans to proudly and loudly shout out their simple and emotional views of our problems and their simple and emotional solutions while attacking the Democrat’s complex, mental, and issues oriented assessment of problems and their complex and mentally oriented policy solutions. Democrat’s tough but convoluted solutions are normally more effective but Republican’s easy and understandable solutions are more popular. It is so much easier to convince someone that you are correct in one or two sentences than in a white paper.

Tangentially I rest partial blame for the incredibly short attention span of the modern American squarely on the head of MTV, even though they essentially no longer play music. The accepted metric for editing a music video states there should never be a continuous scene of more than four seconds. For a generation raised on music videos and their progeny and progeny’s progeny this style of editing has conditioned and normalized the average American’s attention span to that very four seconds. Well, perhaps as much as 10 seconds. Barely enough to get in a sentence, or maybe two if they’re short.

Enough of my tangential hypothesis.

Frankly, this very essay is too long and complex. There is a reason many modern opinion pieces, news articles, essays, social media comments, and actual conversations are passed over by ultra busy people. They haven’t the time to read anything longer than a tweet. In the 21st century time is money and you don’t get paid for the 10 minutes it takes to read something that actually covers the subject. With the acronym TLDR: Too Long, Didn’t Read (these days everything seems to be an acronym ) writers apologize for their verbosity, warning the reader, and targeted readers apologize for choosing to avoid reading the piece regardless of it’s relevance.

Here’s my attempt at something succinct. Not easy for this Irish Italian. The Democrats suck but the Republicans suck more. A fender bender sucks but totaling your car sucks more. Do you wanna vote for a fender bender or a totaled car? No brainer if you ask me. Don’t wanna vote for either one? That kinda makes sense but it means you probably don’t have a car.

A final thought. Control of the government roughly resembles a sine wave, with the GOP ruling above the axis and the Democrats below. Once the public elects a party that controls government they eventually become disillusioned with that party’s inability to do much for the people and subsequently vote them out of office. They figure out that the Democrats have such a complex plan they can never really effectuate it and the Republicans have no plan and can only fool people for so long.

So yeah, both parties suck but one party has no plan and the other party has a flawed plan. For my money flawed beats none by a nose.

And if you choose not to vote you’re riding the bus.

Guns and Woes Is

That well known screaming progressive Justice Antonin Scalia in his majority opinion for Heller vs. Washington D.C. stated that even the second amendment could be regulated and in fact all constitutional rights can be regulated by society, limiting the liberty of individuals to act in a way that threatens society. Infringement means encroachment, an intrusion, a breaking of the terms of a law. It does not refer to a reasoned regulation based on serving the greater good. This aspect of the constitution is rarely/never referenced or talked about. 

Constitutional rights and inalienable liberty are two different things. Everyone has certain rights but when ones expression of those rights interferes with the liberty of an individual to do as he legally pleases that expression is subject to the laws of society, laws that limit people from infringing upon the liberty of another person. For example, everyone has the right to drive a car. Society limits that right to those over 16 because society has determined that those younger than 16 present a danger to society. Technically everyone also has the right to drive on the wrong side of the road but society says that we are not at liberty to run headlong into another’s vehicle, as that endangers the other individual’s right to life. 

We, as a society, agree that reasonable limits to the second amendment are needed to help protect society from gun violence. That is a verified fact. People do kill people. People with guns. People with the means to accomplish their plans, however heinous. The argument that criminals will always be able to get guns is specious. People will always be able to break any of society’s laws. Is that a valid reason to stop striving to refine our laws, make them more effective and fair? This is why we have laws, law enforcement, a judicial system, and consequences for behavior that violates the laws that are enacted to protect the many. We strive for justice. We don’t give up because injustice is not always served. If even one domestic massacre is prevented by stricter scrutiny of those buying guns that effort is worth it. 

Laws, by their nature, are reactive. They address illegal behavior and its aftermath. Gun safety laws are no exception. People talk about addressing the ‘root causes’ of gun violence but their vision is mostly myopic. They talk about mental illness and youthful transgressions. Some even mention limiting those who have publicly stated their intent to commit violence, which is good. However, the root causes of violence go much deeper. They go into what society accepts as conflict resolution. They go into the accepted societal mores of masculine roles. They go into abject poverty and lack of parental guidance. They go into poor and/or neglected education. These things are deeply ingrained in today’s American society and to break these cycles armed only with weak social and political will will be incredibly difficult. 

I’m not sure we have it in us to do so, especially when our very democracy is confronted by so many intense existential challenges. Where would these potential solutions to rampant violence fall in the current national triage? One immediate thing that can be done is a redoubling of the efforts of public education to teach our children the lessons of empathy, humility and civic responsibility. Racial and religious biases and prejudgement of the ‘other’ are all learned behaviors. They can be unlearned by way of a quality education full of truth and respect. This type of education, an education embraced by a populace that cared about each other, one that gave us the ‘greatest’ generation and has served America for a very long time is being slowly chipped away by forces who would prefer that children only learn what they want them to learn, truth and critical thinking be damned.

Most recently, these authoritarians loudly complain that public education has a liberal bias. But that squawking only serves to mask the fact that what they want to teacher youth is not merely biased but often patently untrue. They are the ones with the agenda. That agenda is to sow mistrust in America’s democratic institutions, confusion about the truth, and to stir up outrage over nonexistent problems they themselves created, such as their virulent attack on something very few people know anything about, Critical Race Theory. Backed by obscenely wealthy oligarchs they are winning.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

All the news that’s fit to teach: The battle for our students hearts and minds

The people who justify not approving math texts that advocate for including SEL (Social Emotional Learning) strategies use the seemingly legitimate argument that the function of math education is to teach students how to get the right answers and not to influence their emotions. This sounds good on the surface, as many right wing arguments do. It does not consider that there is math in everything we do; that knowing basic essential math helps a person function better in society. Learning how to express emotions, empathize and get along socially with others helps students learn how to use math principles, often subtly, in their daily lives to everyones benefit. Have you ever experienced irritation with a cashier unable to give you correct change?

A big part of the reason so many students think they will never use math after high school is that very idea that math is only used to get the right answer. Students know there is life after school. When it is implied that all you need to do in math class is get the right answer they figure it’s waste of their precious time. They dismiss math as worthless, just another useless part of a useless education. There is no connection to living a better life, with others, through math. This kind of thinking promotes not a love of learning but a disdain for education. It contributes to the continuous decline in critical thinking skills and social responsibility among Americans. The resulting tendency toward dependency on others to think for them makes them vulnerable to propaganda of all sorts. 

The multi pronged efforts of those advocating for ideas such as parental rights to choose what their children learn, stacking school districts, decrying diversity and diversity training, attacks on curriculum and control of textbooks, syphoning public money into private schools, denial of resources, covert and overt racism, mandates for strict standardized testing etc., represent a concerted effort to weaken public education to the point that it is ridiculed, reviled, and especially, defunded by disinterested families. Some of theses ideas have a semblance of legitimacy. Others are blatantly cruel. This strategy is designed to allow for sociopolitical control of the educational narrative and the concurrent control of it’’s content. This sort of control of education is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes, largely because it works well in creating a supportive, compliant populace.

School is not a spectator sport. It needs to be participatory. Large numbers of students treat school as a necessary evil and actively resist learning to the point of chronic interruption of class and even threats to the well being of teachers. The claims behind the justification for ‘reform’, say that public education is failing, but fail to mention the major factor of so many indifferent, ill-prepared, and counter productive students entering the system. Parents these days seem to consider schools as nothing more than glorified day care centers and teachers as executive babysitters. The disinterest and disrespect their children show in the classroom make those claims of failure self fulfilling prophecies. When there is no interest in education in the home and there is a movement by many of the public to abandon public education how can the system inspire any child to strive for excellence and a love of learning. There is a selfish and parsimonious faction loathe to educate children who ‘don’t deserve it who are taking over school boards everywhere.

It is this disinterest in education and doubt of its value that has led to a never-ending generational cycle in many American families of discouraging the teaching anything of value to their precious progeny. A cycle that is difficult to break. When parents tell their children that school doesn’t matter it opens the door for external control of what exactly their children learn about the world. Either the parents themselves or other sociopolitical influencers will then offer their own alternate ‘truths’ to the student as a means to indoctrinate them in a particular ideology. This is done under the guise of telling the student ‘what your teachers and government don’t want you to know’. Once again we have a recipe for authoritarian control of the information available to our youth.

Somewhere in the last third of the twentieth century education took a right turn away from a goal of producing adults with critical thinking skills, respect for others, and the ability to adjust to the challenges of life. The new mantra was ‘we’ll get you ready for a job and don’t worry about the rest of that stuff because all you really need to succeed is money and the things it can buy’. Developing quality citizens capable of contributing to a thriving society began to take a back seat to preparing our youth to be cogs in the capitalist machine, capable only of following orders and being told what to think. The oligarchs pacify them through assurance of the opportunity to become bosses themselves and the ‘personal freedom’ to enjoy the creature comforts the exploitation of international workers provide for them.

Authoritarian types are very good at creating societal problems and then currying favor by magically coming up with ‘solutions’ to those problems. Of course, those solutions move the needle toward their own dominance. I’m not sure there are any immediate and viable solutions to these huge manufactured problems. The promises of the capitalists are hollow but they gleefully point out to the masses, over and over, the sad fact that no one else has solutions and at least they have a plan they say will work, eventually.

The only strategy that comes to mind for resolving this issue is taking children away from their parents’ influence and teaching them facts and debatable concepts with an honest, open and comprehensive approach, inclusive rather than exclusive. Of course, even if it is better for the student’s welfare and development this methodology is also somewhat authoritarian in nature. Parents and students alike will hate it and it’s proponents. It is as undesirable as the modern strategy of rejecting everything educational that makes anyone uncomfortable.

Many of the people who want to delete these uncomfortable truths purport to be strong Christians. Perhaps they have forgotten that Jesus exists not only to comfort the afflicted but to afflict the comfortable. Evidently they desire the Cliffs Notes method for entering heaven for themselves and their children. Sadly, they insist a theocratic authoritarian control of society through false promises of prosperity is the way to salvation of everyone.

Today there is such a broad range of attacks on public education that to neutralize their effects people will need to be strong in standing up to revisionist history and the ‘cancel culture’ of those afraid that teaching our children anything about feeling or thinking will lead them down a path of destruction and damnation. Their path of censorship and denial leads only to the destruction of American democracy as we have known it. How Orwellian to witness Americans being led down a path they think leads to the renewal of American pride and world dominance only to find that path leads to their oppression by the few, wealthy and white.

The wolves are at the doors of our classrooms.

Our living rooms are next.