Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fixing the Public Schools

Here's the smartest thing I've ever heard anyone say about our public schools: "People say we need to fix the schools. They're wrong. We need to fix the public."

Two weeks ago, my wife and I attended her 50 year reunion of the class of 1963 in a tiny town on the eastern edge of Iowa. Half a century ago, many of the kids who came into town for high school had been schooled for their first eight years in rural one-room buildings with one teacher who taught all eight grades in a communal classroom. I listened while one man recalled the experience. "Starting in 1st grade, we could hear the lessons that the teacher was giving to her 8th grade students, and that same process was repeated every year until we, ourselves, were the 8th grade students. By that time, we had heard the curriculum seven times before. There was no way we could have failed to learn it."

Another reunion attendee... a woman... recalled that her rural school, which averaged 20 to 25 students total each year during the eight years she was there, contained a mix of English, Irish, Swedes, Germans, and one black boy. The King's English was the only language spoken or taught.

And one last thing... during the 12 years of school (1951 - 1963) preceding my wife's graduation, the United States of America was well on its way to achieving eventual manned flights to the moon because our nation had half of all the industry in the world, and half of the world's total GDP to finance research and production. And we had the best education system on earth.

Basically, we were, then, where China is now.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Sarah Palin In a Different Dress and Using a Different Name

Today, October 1, 2013, might actually prove to be highly significant when the future history of the U.S.A. is written. This was the day when a small band of radical extremists showed that destructive attacks didn't always need to come from foreign outside forces. Leading the charge was Sarah Palin, although now she was wearing a different dress and masquerading under the name of Ted Cruz... but there was no mistaking that old familiar right-wing narcissistic self-righteousness.

There isn't any law that says a nation is only allowed to have a civil war ONCE in its history. All it takes for a country to look like Egypt or Iraq or Syria is a lot of weaponry and a lot of divisive ideology, and the United States has more guns and political animosity than anywhere else on earth. Our downfall right now is our democracy itself. Democracy has always been a fragile form of government that was played out like a game under a strict set of rules, a game... it depended on having all the players stay within the rules. And the main rule was always that the loser in an election had to accept the loss. But now we see that the rules are unenforceable, so they don't apply.

I honestly believe that what we saw today is the first step in the transition from a democracy to something else, and I'm certainly not smart enough to know what that "something else" might be. 

Saturday, March 16, 2013

It's How We Honor God and Country

As the Supreme Court prepares to weigh in on the Defense of Marriage decision, we are reminded that gays are merely the latest group to come in for a healthy dose of American condemnation and discrimination. Many other groups have had their turn in the past.... Catholics in the 1920s, Jews in the 1930s, Japanese-Americans in the 1940s, Blacks and Reds (Negroes and Communists) in the 1950s, feminists in the 1960s, anti-war Hippies in the 1970s, pro-choice liberals in the 1980s, Mexican-Americans in the 1990s, Muslim-Americans in the 2000s, and gays on and off continuously for the last two hundred years. Some group or other is always on the American shit-list. Despising a minority segment of the American population is the main way to assert ones righteous patriotism. It's how we choose to honor God and country.
Only Evangelical Republican heterosexual white males of European descent are immune to discrimination.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why is the Pope Resigning?

Yesterday, Pope Benedict was caught red-handed committing an act of "papus interruptus." As a result of this, he has no choice now but to resign, but those closest to him admit that his true reason for stepping down from his job was to spend more time with the kids.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Not Much Hope for Gun Control.

There's something that I find inconsistent about the NRA's position on the Second Amendment. It's the fact that, while they will defend the right to keep and bear almost any kind of firearm without any consideration of the gun's killing capacity or lethality, nevertheless they do seem to recognize that there are limits to the constitutional right granted by the Second Amendment. The NRA doesn't claim to defend a person's right to keep an functional howitzer in the garage or a bazooka in the bedroom closet.... at least not yet, so clearly the honchos at the head of the NRA recognize that there is some level of firepower that just plain goes too far. The guarantee protecting gun ownership, then, seems to be a matter of degree, and not essence.

My personal opinion is that the real flaw isn't in the NRA or in the Second Amendment. The real flaw is in the Constitution of The United States itself. Every other democracy with a working constitution has a mechanism built into it that makes it possible (but not necessarily easy) to change provisions that prove to be unworkable. Other constitutions recognize that nothing is perfect. But here in the U.S.A. we only seem capable of dealing with absolutes. Our religions are absolute in the certainty of their beliefs. Our political parties are absolute in their sense of self-righteousness. And our Constitution is invested with a sense of absolute perfection. In a sane country with a realistic constitution, the Second Amendment would have been eliminated many years ago because of its intrinsic irrationality and threat to human life. But for those of us in America, absolutism trumps sanity every time. Don't expect much from Obama on gun control.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Zero-Dark-Thirty is Right On the Mark

The little wife and I saw Zero-Dark-Thirty yesterday, and we both thought it was a truly remarkable film. We loved it. I know that the film has drawn a lot of criticism for its portrayal of the torture that America inflicted on captured Al Qaeda members in the early stages of "the war on terror".... and the scenes are hard to watch.... but I've gotta believe that the portrayal is accurate. To argue otherwise is simply to continue the string of propaganda lies pushed by our government. If the good ole U.S.A. really wants to make the world believe that our nation doesn't torture enemies, then we need to hear that from Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. If Cheney pronounces Zero-Dark-Thirty to be bogus, then I might believe it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Why Eliminate Obamacare?

Most, if not all, of the developed nations (excluding the U.S.A.) have a healthcare system that provides their citizens with all the medical care they need, even if they can't afford it. Here in America, our system provides our citizens with all the medical care they can afford, even if they don't need it. And by eliminating Obamacare, the Republicans are seeking to keep things the way they are. They think this will keep America "special," and in a perverse way I guess they'd be right about that.