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


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.


Postcards in Pencil

In light of the Cambridge Analytics incident and the loss of privacy on Facebook, people have been going around deleting their Facebooks, left and right, for fear that their information has been released to the world. Never mind, of course, that they willingly gave up that information. This is all Facebook’s fault, and Facebook must pay.

Take a deep breath, world. This is nothing new. We’re dealing with postcards in pencil again. For those unfamiliar with the phrase, that was the analogy used to describe email to people. It was a postcard because anyone could read what you wrote. It was in pencil because anyone could change what your wrote without leaving much of a trace. Thinking of email as postcards in pencil, would you put sensitive information there?

The issue with Facebook isn’t a new one. It was there in the days of Livejournal. It was there in the days of My Space. If you don’t think of your web space as a postcard visible to all, even with controls, you are giving your information away, not the website.

Further, if you are participating in all these memes and quizzes that ask for personal information, and just think they are fun, you are naive. Why would a free quiz want personal information?  Why would a free quiz want access to your data and information? Remember the key adage: If you are getting it for free, you are not the customer, you are the product that is being sold.

The problem is not with Facebook, per se. It is with users who did not understand what they were doing, and had the belief that there information was security … that had the belief that those applications weren’t going to use their data. They gave away their data due to their stupidity and lack of knowledge, and now want to blame someone else.

Facebook is perfectly safe to use, if and only if you treat it as 100% public. If and only if you only put information on there that can be publicly disclosed. If and only if you are constantly alert for what information you are giving out. Oh, and be forewarned, there is information you are giving out even when you aren’t entering data. Everytime you linger on an image, every time you visit a website, everytime you click to open an article, you are giving away information about your interests that will be sold. Facebook is a free service. Remember what I said about getting stuff for free.

Delete your Facebook if you want, and run away and make the same mistakes on another service. Alternatively, just perhaps, you can understand the online world and how it markets you, and be much more careful about what you say and do online.

[ETA: Of course, society and Facebook itself make it difficult to leave Facebook. Just think of all the data you would need to reenter, all those logins to third-party sites you do via FB that you would have to recreate anew (including their data), all the relationships you would need to reestablish on other services. There’s just too much inertia and friction to deal with.]


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)


And You Thought Those Metal Rulers Were Bad

In response to the continuing scourge of school violence with weapons, there are those who believe the answer is not increased gun regulations, but increased armed guard and, in particular, arming school teachers. A few thoughts on that proposal:

  1. The right often quotes a statement by Benjamin Franklin about those who give up liberty for security get neither. This is usually in reference to proposals to ban or take away guns. But it is equally true to the notion of having increased armed presence in public and becoming a police state. Neither is the correct approach.
  2. Although the proposal is to arm the teachers, no one ever asks where those teachers would get the guns, and who would pay for them. Teachers are woefully underpaid as it is, using personal money for classroom supplies and educational material. Do we expect them to find the personal money to buy the guns; money that they don’t have? Do we expect the school districts, which are also underfunded, to supply them? What educational courses do you want cut this time; remember,  curriculum has also been cut to the bone due to lack of funds?
  3. In terms of hardening the schools themselves, ask yourself this: In the past — in the time of your parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents — schools were not fortified, and did not have guards let alone fences. Yet there weren’t school shootings. So what has changed?
  4. Would you be comfortable with loaded weaponry, out and accessible, being present in a classroom with curious children? If not, when the unthinkable happens, would you rather the teacher protect the children and get them to safety, or fumble to find the keys to unlock the gun safe to get out the gun, load it, and then shoot? Where should those precious minutes be spent?

Arming the teachers is not the answer, when you think about it critically. Think about what other solutions might work better. I have a few ideas.

[ETA: Over on FB, a friend shared a post that captured three other areas I missed: Training — who will train the teachers and who will pay for it; Liability — who will be liable if the teacher misses and hits someone else; and Psychological — there will be numerous psychological impacts of asking a teacher to potentially shoot a child or a former student, and who will pay for all the counseling afterwards. Yet more reasons this is a poor idea. Here’s the reference to that shared post.]


Working Towards a Solution on Violent School Assaults

Over on Facebook, a comment of mine has resulted in a thought provoking discussion between friends on all sides of the political and gun control spectrum — and I thank all the participants for being willing to listen to others and have a civil discussion. There have been some key underlying notions that have emerged that provide some good ground rules for discussion on this issue:

  • The answer is a complex one, and there is no single solution — or to use a bad analogy, no silver bullet. However, there are a number of small things that might work together to reduce risk.
  • The answer is not blanket taking away of guns. The guns are just a symptom of an underlying problem, and if you take them away without doing anything else, people will find another outlet that could be equally deadly.

The following is a collection of ideas and thoughts I’ve had from these various discussions. None are fully worked out, and I’m open to further civil discussion on them. Although they are numbered, that is solely for ease of discussion, and not to indicate any priority or ordering.

  1. Constitutional freedoms are not unlimited. Courts have ruled that there are limits on speech, especially when it goes to the level of harming others. Some rights are limited to citizens; others can be lost with criminal convictions. It is permissible to regulate guns in various ways (“well-regulated” is part of the 2nd amendment) — the question is what is the right way.
  2. In discussions like this, people commonly bring up Benjamin Franklin’s statement about giving up liberty for security not being the answer. That’s true on both ends of the spectrum. Just as giving up the ability to legally own guns doesn’t bring security,  nor do armed guards and bag checks and hardened facilities everywhere. Some levels of both, when warranted in a risk reduction context, are appropriate; however, neither is a complete answer. [ETA: The answer is also not arming the teachers, for the reasons discussed in this subsequent post I made.]
  3. One approach might be to treat more lethal weapons (automatic or semi-automatic weapons, for example) differently. Not to take them away, but to have increased regulation of ownership: regulations for refresher training on how to store such weapons, more frequent health and anger screenings, special permits. Handguns and hunting rifles and such may have easier ownership regulations. In a way, this is similar to what we do with vehicles: motorcycles and commercial vehicles have different training and licensing regulations than passenger automobiles and trucks.
  4. It is increasingly clear that we need to address the root causes of the problem: the stresses that make people turn to guns and such violence as a solution to their problems. Perhaps what we should be discussing is the cost and benefits of a different tradeoff: the tradeoffs of tight gun control or armed protection on one side, vs. the cost of health and societal safety nets on the other. It might ultimately be cheaper — and more preserving of liberty — to have no cost, low cost, or affordable mental and physical health services available so that those facing the stresses can get help before turning to guns; to have living wages and financial support for families in need so that those pressures don’t result in a turn to violence; to have programs that address the inequalities and bullying so that people don’t feel the need to turn to violence. It could be that the cost of providing those things is much less than the cost of arming or taking away things (with the concurrent costs of the regulatory and legal structure). There’s often the comparison to other countries that don’t have those problems. Those countries don’t have the guns, but they also typically have better support systems as well.
  5. We need to address the culture of anger and hate that underlies the violence. We need to teach people that violent assaults are not the proper response to stress and anger. Just as the car chases you see on TV never result in the criminal winning, shooting up innocents has never solved the underlying problem behind the solution. We need to better understand the role our various media — the internets, publishing, music, games — play in this culture of anger and hate; we need to figure out appropriate regulations — but regulations and processes that move away from taking away things (negative) to positive additions. This means emphasizing a different message, and using media to teach other ways to resolve problems.
  6. We need to address the acceptance and glorification of violence in society. When our media celebrates violence; when video games focus more on violence than positive interaction; when guns are used casually and no thought (and no consequences) in movies; when our social media celebrates and amplify violent memes — we’re doing something wrong. We need to replace violence as a solution with a different message.
  7. We need to address dehumanization. When one sees others as “less than” due to various attributes: economic status, skin color, sexual orientation, political stance, religion, gender … then violence against them becomes more acceptable. I have seen — on all sides — views that people of different political stances are not worthy of life … and that’s plain wrong. We need to value everyone, from the lowliest welfare recipient to those with economic success; gay or straight; all shades of skin tones; all religions. We need to address the Internet echo chambers that feed upon and amplify the hatred of the different.
  8. If we are to build a culture that values life, we need to do it at all stages. One can’t be valuing the life of a fetus and then turning a blind eye to the person once born. The entire spectrum needs to be considered. Reasonable regulation of abortion (making it harder to obtain as independent life outside the womb is increasingly viable), as well as social safety nets demonstrating we value  the child once born, and the adult that child grows into. If we value children and adults in everything we do, than it becomes increasingly unacceptable to have violence against those who are valued.
  9. We need leaders that are role models again. When we have leaders that joke about violence to others, that act in ways that dehumanize segments of society, and that who operate through bullying and ridicule, we teach that those values are acceptable. We need to make it clear that such leaders are not leaders to be followed and emulated.
  10. We need to care about and for each other, and that means recognizing that the camel’s back is about to break before it breaks. We need to teach society to recognize the signs that indicate someone is antisocial and about to snap, that someone is dealing with situations they cannot handle. This is not to “take away their guns”, but to intervene with solutions that will help the individual before they turn to violence. The best gun is not one that is taken away, but one that isn’t used out of choice.
  11. While it is reasonable, in a National sense, to restrict certain rights and privileges to citizens (for example, ask yourself if the Second Amendment applies to the undocumented immigrant or the violent felon who has lost certain rights), some solutions may not be acceptable to limit. For example, we don’t restrict vaccines to citizens, because non-citizens can get sick and spread disease. It may be reasonable to extend societal safety nets and other support systems broadly, because even non-citizens and undocumented residents can go crazy, get angry, and grab their weapon of choice to assault others. Weapons don’t work only for citizens. (This, by the way, is a notion similar to why drivers licences should be available to undocumented residents — they still share the roads, and their vehicles can still crash into ours. That doesn’t prevent the license from making clear that the bearer is not documented, which simplifies law enforcement’s job if they do get in an accident.)
  12. There has been much discussion of thoughts and prayers. But I never seem to see the notion that God’s answer to our prayers might be the brains that God has given us. We were made in God’s image, and that includes the ability to answer our own prayers by developing a solution, perhaps with a little divine inspiration. We have been given free will; we have been given the choice of life or death, right or wrong, to act properly or not. The answer to our prayers is not doing nothing, the answer is choosing to do the right thing even when it is difficult to do.
  13. In general, the answer is not to ban and take away things, to be negative. Rather, the answer is to be positive and proactive. Prevent the situation that leads to the violence. Educate people on alternative solutions. Make the necessary help available so that violence and guns are never considered even as a potential solution.



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

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.


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.