Essay Prompt: What Did You Learn in School Today?

userpic=divided-nationI can always depend on my Conservative friends for essay prompts. Here is today’s:

Why are schools acting like they own our children? We are not sending them to school to be indoctrinated! They are there to learn…. we want history math grammar NOT walkouts … gun control .. and Hate towards our President.

Oh, there’s so much to unpack here.

I. That’s right, the place to indoctrinate our children is at home, where you get to teach your children your prejudices and your religion, your hatreds and biases. But then again, some do send their kids to school to be indoctrinated: witness the rise of private and religious schools, both of which indoctrinate children with specific values and beliefs systems. So what you are really saying is that you don’t want schools to indoctrinate children with values different than yours. Remember what they sang in South Pacific, “You have to be carefully taught.”  But then again, I don’t want my children to be indoctrinated with YOUR values.

II. You do want your children to learn history, and how to read and write. Guess what? That exposes them to the fact that protests and walkouts are a part of American History. It teaches them that guns have been a problem throughout American history, and that there have been numerous attempts to control them. It teaches them to read, and to be able to find political analysis and read that. It teaches them to write and to find their voice. It teaches them math, so that they can see the numbers of how many other children are being killed, and how much money the NRA is spending to prevent any regulations on weapons. Any regulation.  It teaches them to think critically, which is what a school should do. And these critical thinking students learn the power of their voice from history, and they use it.

III. There’s something that people (and especially the NRA) forgets: gun control isn’t all or nothing. Gun control does not mean the government is coming for everyone’s guns. Gun control is increased regulations on some guns, and perhaps the inability to purchase new models of some other types, and increased energy to go after the illegal guns out there. But it isn’t going after the legal gun owners that follow the rules. They aren’t the problem. However, the NRA wants you to think the government is coming after you, so you buy … well, you get it.

IV. As for teaching Hatred of the President: I think if there were staff actually teaching hatred during school hours, they would be called out for it. In fact, many have. These children may observe this hatred from society, or their parents, or for that matter, much of the free world. But the meme said specifically during school hours, and that rarely happens from school officials. Official school curriculum does not teach like or dislike of particular politicians. After all, that isn’t on the test. It might teach students about issues that are relevant to their education. But even this gun control debate is not necessarily hatred of the President, it is hatred of his policies. Yes: there is a distinction between policies and the person saying them.

In closing, again, we have Tom Paxton and Pete Seeger to take us out on a song, demonstrating that “indoctrination” has been more on the right, in any case:

What did you learn in school today
Dear little boy of mine?
What did you learn in school today
Dear little boy of mine?

I learned that Washington never told a lie
I learned that soldiers seldom die
I learned that everybody’s free
And that’s what the teacher said to me
That’s what I learned in school today
That’s what I learned in school

What did you learn in school today…?

I learned that policemen are my friends
I learned that justice never ends
I learned that murderers die for their crimes
Even if we make a mistake sometimes
That’s what I learned in school today
That’s what I learned in school.

What did you learn in school today…?

I learned Newt Gingrich has a plan
Of healthcare for every woman and man
It’ll cost far less and the reason why
Is all you have to do is DIE DIE DIE
That’s what I learned in school today
That’s what I learned in school

What did you learn in school today…?

I learned that Hillary Clinton is bad
For taking a thousand dollars she had
And running it up to a hundred grand
When that should only be done by a man.
That’s what I learned in school today
That’s what I learned in school

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Did You Ever Ask Yourself “Why?”

A post from a friend on FB about immigration inspired this morning rant, which has been percolating for a while.

Have you ever asked yourself “why?” with respect to immigration?

You hear about “immigrants are taking our jobs”, but why would this be happening?

  • Are they willing to work for less? But isn’t it good business to get the lowest priced workers? Would you be willing to work for less?
  • Perhaps they are more skilled then you? Are they? What can you do to improve your skills that you aren’t doing, but they are?
  • Perhaps they have a better work ethic? Show up on time, less sick days, less absences, more productive?
  • Is it is job you would be willing to do, or is it “beneath you”?

Often, the reason an immigrant is hired is not because of the immigrant, but because of what is lacking in the person who isn’t hired.

Oh, and if you think they are hiring undocumented immigrants, ask yourself who is hiring them? It isn’t any companies of any size who have to fill out and submit the government paperwork. It is those paying cash under the table to avoid taxes and other overhead. In other words: Businesses who think more about profit than anything else. It is those hiring day works or household workers, who can avoid paperwork. Perhaps that guy you picked up at Home Depot to help you build your wall. Then ask yourself: Who (or what) is pushing you in that direction, and why?

Now, ask yourself: Why are people opposed to letting in more legal immigrants? Hint: It isn’t due to jobs or crime or any of the reasons given. There are really just a few underlying reasons:

  • Fear of the other, of those who are different, those who have different customs.
  • Fear of dilution: that letting in those with different customs and practices will somehow weaken your majority position and your implicit privilege
  • Fear of loss of power: that those entering the country will be of a different political persuasion than you, and will dilute the power your party or faction has in running the country. That is also, by the way, why Puerto Rico can’t become a state: it will upset the balance.

That last one is the real reason immigration is opposed by the Conservatives: Most immigrants, when they come in the country, vote Progressive. More immigrants means dilution of the voting block, dilution of the last stand for $skin_color $political_value $religious_value. I think you can fill in the parameters. Sure, you’ll hear arguments about being fair to those that came before them, who have had to wait in line for years. But since when has this country really been fair to all?

What are my thoughts:  We should cut much of the immigration red tape and quotas. If you have a clean background (no violent or sexual crimes), if you are not connected with terrorist groups, and you have the ability to support yourself, you should be able to get a limited time work visa. If you can demonstrate by the end of that visa that you were able to be employed, sustain yourself, pay taxes, and pass the citizenship test, you should be able to become a citizen. I’d love to be able to add a minor change: You become a provisional citizen, which can become permanent by voting consistently in a two year election cycle.

Once you see the whole immigration debate — and indeed, much of what the party in power does (whatever the party in power is) — as a power play to retain their power, much becomes clear.

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These Boots are Made for Walking

A lot of energy is being spent by folks blathering on about how students shouldn’t have walked out, they should have walked over, or in general, not walked at all. My thoughts? I have absolutely no problem with students — of any age — peaceably protesting about any political interest that is of concern to them. It teaches civic involvement; it teaches that one can stand up to the government when one believes differently; it teaches that one voice can start a change, and many voices can bring about change; it teaches our youth the value of political involvement. As for missing school, more time is wasted on pep rallies and similar school spirit idiocies that teach nothing than an hour of protest.

I’m a child of the 1960s. I remember the days when students across high school and college campuses stood up to protest the Vietnam War, because it was their lives that were being used as cannon fodder by the government. They brought about a change in attitude towards the war, they changed society. I remember the days when students across campuses protested for civil rights and equal treatment for minorities, when student idealism brought societal change that benefited everyone.

It was protest that started with walking out.

Your shoes, my shoes, 
Done walked a mile or two.
Your shoes, my shoes, 
Done all shoes can do.

They walked with Rosa to the front of the bus;
They walked with Martin when he prayed for us.
They walked with me and they walked with you;
They done all shoes can do.

There are those who say students should walk over instead of walking out. Those who say the bullies should make nice with the bullied, and that will solve all the problems. Although that’s a nice theory, it is full of holes (perhaps .44). Those who have been bullied know, once bullying has started, the bully can’t make nice and the problem will go away. The distrust and the hatred has been sown. Bullying must be stopped before it starts. Further, it is an example of blaming the victim, of saying it was the bully who does the shooting. It is an example of diversion of the discussion away from gun regulation. It is an example of black and white thinking: if you walk over and make nice, everyone will forget about the problem with guns and we don’t need to do anything about them. Nothing says you can’t do both: address bullying in schools, and improve regulation of guns. Nothing says you can’t make schools more secure and safe, and regulate guns. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

[ETA: For those who haven’t seen my thoughts on the issue: Here’s how I think the problem of school violence should be addressed, and it isn’t the arming of teachers, which is a bad idea.]

The children will lead us on this issue, because they are the ones bearing the brunt of this violence. It is their lives, and they are taking control of them. They are saying never again. They are saying not here. They are saying that we need to keep guns out of schools — be they in the hands of students, visitors, or teachers. They are saying we increase restrictions on the most dangerous and deadly guns: make them harder to obtain, make those who own them legally more responsible for securing them, and going after those who have them legally. They are telling the gun lobby that their lives are more important than the lobby’s profits or the politicians they own.

They are walking to make a statement.

Your shoes, my shoes, 
Done walked a mile or two.
Your shoes, my shoes, 
Done all shoes can do.

They’ve been up the mountain where the trees don’t grow,
Been ‘cross the desert where they never seen snow.
Been so tired that they can’t hardly go,
But they’re good enough to get us to glory.

It’s left shoe, right shoe, don’t know the size.
Shoes on the ground and eyes on the prize.
They’ve been to the river and they’ve been baptized,
And they’re good enough to get us to glory.

(Lyric credit: “Your shoes, My Shoes”, Tom Paxton, 1998)

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Playing the Propaganda Card

I was thinking over the weekend about Donald Trump, Gamesmanship, and Nuclear War.

No, not that incident regarding Donald Trump, Gamesmanship, and Nuclear War. North Korea is so last week. I was thinking instead about the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller, and the 1965 Flying Buffalo card game Nuclear War.

In the game Nuclear War, the objective is to be the last player (country) standing, if indeed any country is left standing. Players/countries can be eliminated in two ways. First, the use of nuclear weapons can reduce your population to zero or below. While potentially more fun, this approach has the drawback that players eliminated through weaponry have the opportunity to retaliate — to launch a final strike with any available weaponry they can piece together. The second way that a player can be eliminated is through propaganda.

In the game, propaganda can be used to convince another player’s population to move over to your side through the media and other approaches. They move over through their own volition; you haven’t made the decision, and thus no retaliatory strike, because who (after all) do you blame?

Think about this now in terms of Mueller’s investigation, the election involvement the Russians had, and Trump’s election as President. Mueller may never find evident that Russia directly changed a vote in an election system, or that Russia never directly worked with the Trump organization to influence the election. To do so would directly place the blame on Russia, just as firing a missile would. Instead, Russia played the propaganda card.

Russia influenced the influencers of the election. They played an expert propaganda game (in disguise) to influence the voting public with fake news, conspiracy theories, misdirection, and so forth. They magnified issues, help deflect away from other issues, and timed the release of information perfectly. They might not have made people vote for Trump, but they surely made people vote against Hillary — or just not vote at all. (The Democrats didn’t help by having a field of intrinsically weak candidates, but they didn’t see it at the time …. and this made it easier for Russia to sway the conspiracies.)

Here’s the kicker: In the 1950s and 1960s, at the height of the Cold War, American society was worried about “commies and pinkos” invading our media just for this purpose. Had this happened then, there would have been hearings, and Russia would have been held responsible and sanctioned for the meddling. But today? Many in the party that was most concerned about the “red menace” couldn’t care less, because they meddling worked to put them in power, and to question otherwise would be to weaken the legitimacy of their control of government. Given the choice of defending their country, or protecting their self interest and positions, self interest and position win again.

This leaves the party that was traditionally viewed as “leftist” to be the group most concerned about Russian interference in the last election, and most concerned about their doing it again in 2018.

I bet you wish this was a card game now.

[ETA: After some discussion on FB, a friend of mine kept arguing about how Hillary Clinton stank. I wrote the following in response, which really demonstrates the game Russia was playing: Propaganda is the art of making people think they smell shit when they are really smelling a rose, and thinking they are smelling a rose when they are really smelling shit.]

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Political Commentary: Guns, Antisemitism, Chain Migration … What Trumps What?

userpic=divided-nationHere’s one last collection of news chum this morning: all articles centering our our current political debates:

  • The NRA and Antisemitism. Here’s a real interesting article on the underlying Antisemitism of the NRA. It shows how many of the fears and tropes promoted by the organization align with antisemitic fears and tropes. WIthout mentioning Jews by name as a class, the examples that are always cited are Jewish or connected with Judaism. As the piece notes: “This McCarthyite vision of a cancer destroying America, what Richard Hofstadter called “the paranoid style in American politics,” is classic populism. It posits a good, mostly rural, less educated, implicitly white Volk being undermined by a corrupt, mostly urban, over-educated, and foreign set of elites. Sometimes those elites are actual Jews controlling Hollywood, “the media,” banks, or political structures. Other times, they are “structural Jews” – foreigners, Communists, elites, or other outsider-insiders who don’t share the values of “the people.” ” It is yet another example, of implicit racism, often arising from privilege issues (or changes in perceived privilege) that often underlie these shootings. I’ll note I’ve seen this implicit attitude commonly from Conservative folks when they talk about “Globalism”, which is a thinly veiled reference to the notion of a Jewish elite class and the Protocols.
  • Mass Shooting Statistics. Here are a collection of statistics involving mass shootings. I invite you to tease out what is common in these shooting, and hence, what might be controlled. While doing that, note what isn’t there: understanding of the motives of the shooters, why they did it, and any common emotional or medical issues. If we don’t know the underlying cause, masking the symptoms solves nothing.
  • Donald Trump’s Faith. Here’s an interesting explanation of how Faith is behind Trump. Why are the evangelicals supporting him? What is the doctrine of prosperity and why is it, so to speak, Trumping Christian behavior. How do power dynamics play into the equation.
  • Chain Migration Here’s an interesting explanation of why Trump hates chain migration. Again, the real answer boils down to political power, and immigrants often supporting more liberal and progressive causes. The use of “chain migration”, by the way, is pure propaganda. Family reunification is a better term, and it takes much longer to do, results in better citizens, and has much different impacts than are portrayed. By the way, when thinking about “white” vs. “black”, remember that the terms were invented by those supporting slavery and racial superiority beliefs and are relatively modern terms. For most of human civilization, there was no such distinction.
  • Net Neutrality. Net neutrality has been in the news, yet most folks don’t know what it means. Burger King provides a great explaination. Think about it this way: How would you like to have to pay extra to get your burger faster, while your neighbor who didn’t pay as much had to wait. This about what this means in separating privileged classes who can pay from the classes who cannot.

 

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A Lunchtime Rant: Ohm on the Range

userpic=divided-nationEarlier today, a politically conservative friend of mine posted the following cartoon from Legal Insurrection:

Sourced from https://legalinsurrection.com/2018/01/branco-cartoon-love-trumps-hate/
 

My initial reaction is the situation pictured will be about as successful as the “Hate Obama/Clinton” strategy was for the Republicans in 2016.

I’ll let that sink in a minute.

But seriously, the picture highlighted a problem and perception that I have with our progressive, resistance movement. Far too many of us are just as knee-jerk in our hatred of Trump as the Conservative side was of Obama. Look at the memes from groups like Occupy Democrats making fun of Trump. Look at the posts on Pantsuit Nation with people in fear of Trump. As you read memes from our progressive groups, ask yourself if they are the same types of memes you might be seeing from the Conservative side against Obama or Hillary. Hell, you’re still seeing them from that side against Hillary.

An aside to any Conservative reading this: We’ve given up on Hillary; you should too, and let her fade back into the historical record.

We are better than that. I like to think that liberals and progressives are well educated and critical thinkers (which is why we’re liberals and progressives). I like to think that we have in-depth knowledge of the issues; that we take the time to learn the nuances and complications before we tweet. We shouldn’t need to sink to sophomoric name calling, fat shaming, slut shaming, ad hominem attacks, and all the other silliness that I see.

The issues in the upcoming elections are critical not only to our nation, but to the world. They are complicated issues — health care, climate change, treatment of women and minorities, religious freedom, equality, economic class warfare, and much more. I like to believe we have the better positions. I like to believe that we can represent and discussion those positions, and win based on the strength of our arguments — even in the face of conspiracy theorists. Certainly, in a fact based discussion, we can demolish Trump’s position and expose them for what they really are, and who they do and do not benefit.

If our platform for 2018 and beyond is simply hatred of Donald Trump, we’ve lost. We’ve let partisanship eclipse our intelligence and common sense. Let’s win the upcoming election season not by dropping down to the level of hatred, but by rising up to the level of intelligent political discourse where we take the time to listen to the other side, and use our intelligence and critical thinking to refute their arguments and to convince them of the correctness of our positions.

Hatred never wins. Well, except when you manipulate the electoral college and district boundaries.

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Where The Shutdown Blame Lies

userpic=divided-nationThroughout the day, I’ve been reading posts trying to place the blame for the looming government shutdown. The Republicans blame the Democrats for holding up the bill because of DACA. The Democrats blame the Republicans for not passing a bill, given they are the majority party. Where does the fault really lie? Hint: It has nothing to do with DACA, and everything to do with Congress — in particular, Congress not doing their job.

The US Office of Budget and Finance has a great infographic on the budgeting process. In short, Congress is supposed to develop a budget and appropriations bill well before the start of the government fiscal year on October 1. This bill should be one that can pass both houses with appropriate majorities — meaning that it must represent bi-partisan goals and compromise. Neither side gets 100% of what it wants, but can live with the results. It must be something that either the President can sign, or Congress can override the veto.  When this happens by the start of the fiscal year, there are no government shutdowns. Money is appropriated, Federal agencies can operate, they can do appropriate long range planning, and things run smoothly.

When the majority party FAILS to do its job — that is, fails to pass budget and appropriations bills on time and get everyone on board, then continuing resolutions become necessary. This keeps the funding going at last year’s levels for a short period while they supposedly are finishing the budget. We are now on our second or third continuing resolution, and they are attempting to pass another one.  Further, this ends up costing the government more in terms of wasted time, inability to plan ahead, in ability to purchase ahead for a discount. Congress failing to do its job costs you, the taxpayer, more.

So when placing the blame, remember that the entire need for a continuing resolution goes back to the majority party not doing their simple job of passing the needed budget and appropriations bill. It means the President failed to work with all parties to reach concensus. It means that the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader failed to negotiate a compromise in the overall interest of the nation, as opposed to just their party. And since the President, Speaker, and Majority Leader are from the same party, there’s only one party to blame: The Republicans, for not doing their constitutionally-mandated job.

Remember also that it is the Republicans that have conditioned us to expect budget bills to be late, to hold up appropriations threatening shutdowns, to say they are against deficits but then pass tax bills that increase the deficit. It is the Republicans that continually “kick the can” down the road when they don’t want to face an issue and do their job: be it establishing a realistic budget that might be balanced, or hiding the deficit inherent in “temporary” tax fixes for individuals but permanent fixes for corporations.

P.S.: Both sides will be trying scare tactics with the shutdown, claiming social security checks or welfare checks won’t go out, or soldiers won’t be paid. That’s not true. Here’s what won’t shut down:

  • Programs that don’t require annual appropriations. That group, which includes Social Security, Medicare and other so-called entitlements, continue without interruption.
  • Those entailing functions “necessary to protect life or property.” Law enforcement, the military, intelligence agencies and foreign embassies all will stay open.
  • Some programs that have other sources of money that will allow them to function for a while. Courts, for example, can spend money they have collected through fines and fees, funds that would allow them to keep functioning for a while.
  • The U.S. Postal Service. It’s a quasi-independent entity and does not depend on annual appropriations, so its business will continue as usual.

What does shut down? Parks, non-essential services, and such. Who gets hurt? The middle and low income contractors, who don’t get paid. The people to whom the government owes money. Taxpayers, who can’t file returns or get refunds.

Now you know.

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Girth Certificate? Really?

userpic=trumpEver since the report came out on the President’s health, the liberal groups I read have been in an uproar? “How could it be true”, they ask. “They’ve got to be lying about his weight — I demand to see a girth certificate“, they jest, while posting pictures comparing the President to athletes.

C’mon folks. As they say, “get a life”. This is a distraction, a diversion. There are more important things to focus on. Consider:

  • Does it really make a difference if the President is obese, other than to make fun of him? They say, when he sits around the White House, he sits around the White House.
  • As for mental health: Be careful what you ask for. Although a President with mental impairment does make a case for invoking clause 4 of the 25th Amendment, that likely wouldn’t happen anyway, and I hope you’re not wishing that the leader of the free world is crazy. Perhaps you’re scared that maybe he isn’t crazy and knows exactly what he is doing. I find that a lot scarier, given what he is doing. Further, passing a mental acuity test doesn’t mean he has the right skillset to be President, or that he has sound judgement, which is different than smarts. Mental tests don’t judge personality issues or things like self-aggrandizement or narcissism.

As I noted, the health issue is a diversion, a focus of our attention away from issues like DACA, the President’s racism, and the potential illegal, impeachable acts that are being investigated by Mueller. Don’t let yourself be distracted.

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