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Excuses

In an earlier post, today, I get called to task in the comments by my most excellent friends, Billy Beck and Kyle Bennett, for stating that the indoctrination students receive in public schools (enviro-silliness, fear-mongering, politicized "science", submission to self-appointed "authorities", etc.) is "small potatoes".

All of this happens--of course, and unsurprisingly--but is such problem any more serious than any of the other rot we as individualists must endure on a daily basis?

Kyle comments:

You're right about the inefficiency and low quality of education
being driven largely form above, but what I see as destructive is the
content of that education - the stuff you call small potatoes. That
also is driven from above, but after decades of NEA influence, it has
trickled down to the teaching level as well.

Either way, it's an argument for privatization: allow parents to
choose what will be taught to their children, allow parents to choose
schools that will provide quality as cost-effectively as they can, and
allow the good teachers to earn what they're worth and have the
resources to do the job right.

And Billy:

The cultural destruction and mutilation wrought at the hands of
public schools is so enormous that, on about three days out of any
given five, I'll tell you that it is the single most important and
pressing problem that must be solved before anything else. For
an example: consider that the arguments over evolution could never have
risen to the pitch that they have if parents -- from Christian to
atheist -- were free

to choose among market alternatives for
their own children, according to their own values. And that's only one
example, before we even get started on the positive indoctrination of
good little statebots.

I'm with Kyle. Nothing about public education is "small potatoes",
Rich, and the good intentions of teachers amount to nothing, in the
end. The destruction of American culture begins with untold numbers of
budding minds, daily, in forced attendance of government
interests. Without that, it's nearly impossible for me to imagine how
the rest of this could go on.

I'll grant that the content being taught in school may differ from place to place, but I've been with my grade-school-teacher wife for 10 years, and what I see is very, very predominately the basics. Her kids read tons of books, do math, American history, some science, lots of writing (she's up most every night of the school year 'til 10 or 11 grading their essays). She's rarely home before seven, even though school's out at three. Many of her colleagues are still there when she leaves.

I'm sure that neither of you would disagree that there are thousands upon thousands of great teachers. I've met dozens. I've actually been quite surprised that whenever I attend some school-teacher event with my wife, they talk nothing but shop. No, they don't talk about the union, their benefits, how the district is in their shit all the time, or  their commie politics. They talk about the kids--by name. They are, in fact, among the very most dedicated people to a task that I have ever encountered in my life. I was and continue to be surprised and impressed. Facts, getting in the way of what I'd believed for years. It's just a fact, guys. It may be different elsewhere, but that's my personal experience without the slightest exception over ten years.

So I've pondered this a lot, spoken and argued with Bea a million times, and tried to instigate arguments with her colleagues. Here's what I know: the buck-stops-here responsibility for educating children lies squarely and non-transferably with parents or guardians. End of story. Now, I agree that the state should not be funding schools, or a million other things they do with the money they steal from you and I under threat of imprisonment. However, that doesn't mean that I need to consider the schools any worse or ominous than any other government program. And, if the schools do a generally good job, then that's independent of the fact that they do it with stolen money, which is a given.

Most of the criticism I hear of the public schools is generated by the political right. Why? There's only one reason: because the schools generally refuse to teach their children the collection of fairy tales that they would like them to be taught. Moreover, they don't want such fairy tales contradicted with things like facts and reason and science. So, though I oppose public schools on principal, I'm not about to have anything to do about it with the nutbars on the religious right and am going to generally discount everything they say until provided with solid evidence.

But Johnny can't read, they say. Yes, it's true in many cases, but the blame is often placed where it doesn't belong. Every teacher I've ever spoken with about this issue will tell you that their abilities are severely limited. They are not miracle workers, and if the parents don't support and back them up, then results may vary substantially. I don't know how many 5th graders my wife has received in her class that were new immigrants from Mexico or Viet Nam who not only don't speak a word of English, but are illiterate in their own languages. In many cases, parents too. Not to be daunted, Bea jumps right in and the progress she achieves in nine months with these kids is a near miracle. I've seen it. From zero to reading and speaking on a 3rd to 5th grade level in 9 months.

Teachers will tell you that their biggest problem is almost never the kids. "The kids are great," I hear over and over. It's the parents. In addition to the foregoing paragraph, you also have parents who consider the school nothing more than a baby-sitting service, and worse, those who undermine the legitimate authority of the teacher and the school, i.e., issuing scholastic assignments and grading the results. Give a kid a deserved bad grade and you're likely to have mom or dad right down your throat. Happens over and over, and what's the real lesson being taught to Johnny?

I could go on...and on.

But basically, the root problem is not with the public schools, and eliminating them, though desirable, would solve nothing for individualists. Statist indoctrination? Well, the state is just another form of authoritarian institution. The only valid authoritarian institution is the family, when kids are too ignorant to know better and must be forced to comply with certain norms (rational) of behavior. But parents don't teach their kids to be independent individualists, do they? No, they teach them to believe in a fairy tale, teach them to obey ancient idiocies written in an ancient book, teach them to unquestioningly obey men in "authority" who wear robes in the pulpit and on the bench, and it just goes on and on. In short, they teach them not to think, by which I mean: think only so far. No further, ever!

The indoctrination of people into humanoid bots began back when the first person looked to the heavens, created a fairy tale out of of whole cloth, and asserted himself to be the source of true knowledge. Understandable as that is, we don't seem to have progressed one bit in all these millennia. Our parents were taught, and then they taught us to be unquestioning idiots, to take things on faith alone, and to respect and obey those who assert authority over us.

The public schools reinforce all of this, of course, but so does everyone and every institution.

We give the public schools too much credit. Parents have far more influence. What's worse, a lesson in public school about how you should be a "good citizen" and recycle, or a dad who routinely disrespects other's property by various forms of trespass and littering? What's worse, a lesson in public school about "sensitivity," or a dad who smacks mom around and cheats on her? What's worse, a civics or "social studies" lesson in school, or a mom and dad who malign and denigrate daily the companies they work for and those who created those companies? What's worse, a lesson in school about some "great" politician (who steals and lies such as all), or a mom & dad who talk endlessly about the next government program that's coming around the corner that's supposed to make all of their lives better?

If public schools were at the root of all of this mess, then we should expect to see differences in the many thousands of products of private school and private universities. We don't. They're just as ignorant as the products of the public schools, many of them holding offices in the executive, legislative, and judiciary branches of the federal government, and in our statehouses. The only thing private institutions seem to do is perhaps create more effective and lethal statist elites.

The problem with the state is the problem with all of it. People are supposed to become independent and think for themselves. But to date, that's only done up to a certain level by most people, and the church and the state take advantage from there.

OK, have at me.

Cosmic Corruption

Of the millions of ways the government missuses, squanders, wastes money, the space program is one of those things I generally just shut up about. Yes, it's all the same theft--parasites sucking money from you and me in order to finance their values--but there are a million ways in which the state does harm beyond even the fact of the theft, and it's not obvious to me that the space program is one of those. So I give it a pass.

But perhaps no more.

The thing about the aviation and space business is that it's very serious business. While a bunch of dolts in DC and the statehouses have no compunction about sticking their noses in all manner of affairs they know nothing about--like how a business should be run--they have tended to leave the business of aviation design and space exploration to people who are actually experts in the field, like engineers, pilots, astronauts and such. Imagine that!

Now this:

NASA engineers had already seen how fixes can break things. After
they made a minor change in the foam application process in the late
1990's to comply with environmental rules, small divots of foam rained
off of the tank during ascent. The phenomenon, called popcorning, was
caused by trapped bubbles; NASA solved the problem by venting the foam
with tiny holes, but it was a reminder, if any was needed, that
seemingly small changes could have profound effects.

"Foam really is complicated," said Douglas D. Osheroff, a professor
of physics at Stanford and a member of the board that investigated the
Columbia accident. "Once you go supersonic, the top surface melts, the
bottom surface is brittle as all hell because it's very cold, and
you've got everything in between."

Although the material could be made less fragile by adding fibers
to the foam, he noted, "that adds weight" to the shuttle, and any
changes can take years
.

Ultimately, the accident board recommended that NASA find ways to
prevent any shedding of foam or other debris. And NASA gained
confidence during the time between flights that it was making progress.

Among other things, it improved the training processes for applying
foam by hand. At the Michoud tank assembly plant in Louisiana, an
observer monitors every worker spraying foam - "for every sprayer
there's a watcher
, a second pair of eyes," said June Malone, a NASA
spokeswoman.

But the tank that flew with the Discovery last week was made before
the new procedures went into effect, and NASA stopped short of
requiring that the ramps be redone, said a spokesman, Martin J. Jensen.

[emphasis mine]

So now the popes, cardinals, bishops and priests of environmental hysteria get to have a say in the design of spacecraft? And now, even in the face of good evidence that complying with these environmental rules by formulating a foam that does not contain the dreaded freon is the very root cause of the Columbia meltdown, they fail to address that root cause? They just throw more money, more people, and more bureaucracy at it, so now it's virtually indistinguishable from any other sort of government boondoggle.

Well, perhaps Rutan and Branson will get it right. See the first three articles.

He also said that test program would put more people into space than
have flown there in the last 44 years of spaceflight. Forty-four years,
which have so far yielded fatalities for each 62 flights, according to
Rutan. It's the result of ground-launch methodology that among other
things places people "on top of a one kiloton bomb," according to
Virgin Galactic's Whitehorn. Part of the plan is to exponentially
surpass that safety record.

There She Goes

Well, signs went up today on our beautiful home in Willow Glen. See here.

It's tough. It was a dump with promising features when Bea & I purchased it in January of 1999 and I met the Realtor to pick up the keys with a crowbar in hand to knock out a kitchen / dining room wall to create a great room. My brother and & set beams and a column the next day, and then I began tearing out the carpet covering the white oak hardwood floors throughout. Since then, I've spent countless hours (hundreds and hundreds) myself, and supervised many tradesmen on improvements.

I'll throw up some photos of the interior and the back yard this weekend, perhaps.

We're actually downsizing. We bought one of these, last weekend.

Update: Here's a listing with additional photos that can be enlarged by clicking on them.

Is The American Dream Killing You?

Not me, it isn't. Then again, the American Dream, to me, is about the freedom to pursue things I love. It's not about material wealth, per se. And, to the extent it is about wealth, it's far more about the process of creating it than actually having it.

Anyway, the guy who's been pretty much my best friend since we met as Navy officers in 1988 is just on the verge of having his second book published. During the year he was writing it, which ended nearly a year ago already, we exchanged hundreds of emails, all of them addressing serious aspects of philosophy, politics, and science.

He makes some interesting points, but I don't think he's an individualist. I'll wait to read his final word on it.

His first book was an entertaining read. I recommend it.

“Only” 365

That's miles, not days in the year.

It's how many miles my friend Davis Straub (author of the "Windows [...] Secrets" series of books) flew in a hang-glider on Tuesday--half way across the state of Texas. This isn't him (another friend), but it's the same wing (ATOS VR) and how he'd be looking in flight gear.

It's "only" 365 because he flew 427 miles in 2001 from the same place.

Go read his flight report.

…Javelin On The Move


Once considered by some to be a sleeper, at best, in the VLJ market, Aviation Technology Group's
Javelin, a fighter-like two-place twinjet, has been piling up orders as
it gets its prototype ready for its first flight. The company has also
hired veteran Cessna exec Charlie Johnson as chief operating officer to
guide the project through certification. Johnson took 20 Cessnas
through the process and told a news conference on Tuesday he's excited
about the prospects for the plane. More than 100 deposits have been
received from individuals who'd like a $2.8 million, 600 mph jet that
climbs at 10,000 feet per minute. But the military-style performance
hasn't gone unnoticed elsewhere. At least one unnamed European country
has ordered eight military training versions of the Javelin at a cost
of $5.5 million a copy. The extra money covers ejection seats, military
radios and electronics, including head up display. The prototype of the
all-composite jet has been taxied as fast as 100 mph but the first
flight won't be launched for six to eight weeks while the nose gear is
redesigned to get rid of a shimmy.

(Source: Avweb)

VDH: Cutting Through the Bullshit

If you only read one person regarding geopolitical affairs in the age of Islamic terror, make it war historian Victor Davis Hanson.

See, history is a very complex subject, and in that, nearly everyone possesses a certain myopia. All the facts are there--they really are--to be connected into what forms a pretty clear picture.

Here are some excerpts from VDH's most recent:

First the terrorists of the Middle East went after the Israelis.
From 1967 we witnessed 40 years of bombers, child murdering, airline
hijacking, suicide murdering, and gratuitous shooting. We in the West
usually cried crocodile tears, and then came up with all sorts of
reasons to allow such Middle Eastern killers a pass.

Yasser
Arafat, replete with holster and rants at the U.N., had become a
“moderate” and was thus free to steal millions of his good-behavior
money. If Hamas got European cash, it would become reasonable,
ostracize its “military wing,” and cease its lynching and vigilantism.

When
some tried to explain that Wars 1-3 (1947, 1956, 1967) had nothing to
do with the West Bank, such bothersome details fell on deaf ears.

When
it was pointed out that Germans were not blowing up Poles to get back
lost parts of East Prussia nor were Tibetans sending suicide bombers
into Chinese cities to recover their country, such analogies were
caricatured.

When the call for a “Right of Return” was
making the rounds, few cared to listen that over a half-million
forgotten Jews had been cleansed from Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, and lost
billions in property.

When the U.N. and the EU talked
about “refugee camps,” none asked why for a half-century the Arab world
could not build decent housing for its victimized brethren, or why 1
million Arabs voted in Israel, but not one freely in any Arab country.

The
security fence became “The Wall,” and evoked slurs that it was
analogous to barriers in Korea or Berlin that more often kept people in
than out. Few wondered why Arabs who wished to destroy Israel would
mind not being able to live or visit Israel.

[...]

But now?

After Holland, Madrid, and London,
European operatives go to Israel not to harangue Jews about the West
Bank, but to receive tips about preventing suicide bombings. And the
cowboy Patriot Act to now-panicked European parliaments perhaps seems
not so illiberal after all.

So it is was becoming clear that butchery by radical Muslims in Bali,
Darfur, Iraq, the Philippines Thailand, Turkey, Tunisia, and Iraq was
not so tied to particular and “understandable” Islamic grievances.

Perhaps the jihadist killing was not over the West Bank or U.S.
hegemony after all, but rather symptoms of a global pathology of young
male Islamic radicals blaming all others for their own self-inflicted
miseries, convinced that attacks on the infidel would win political
concessions, restore pride, and prove to Israelis, Europeans, Americans
— and about everybody else on the globe — that Middle Eastern warriors
were full of confidence and pride after all.

Meanwhile an odd thing happened. It turns out that the jihadists were
cowards and bullies, and thus selective in their targets of hatred. A
billion Chinese were left alone by radical Islam — even though the
Chinese were secularists and mostly godless, as well as ruthless to
their own Uighur Muslim minorities. Had bin Laden issued a fatwa
against Beijing and slammed an airliner into a skyscraper in Shanghai,
there is no telling what a nuclear China might have done.

India too got mostly a pass, other than the occasional murdering by
Pakistani zealots. Yet India makes no effort to apologize to Muslims.
When extremists occasionally riot and kill, they usually cease quickly
before the response of a much more unpredictable angry populace.

What can we learn from all this?

You'll want to go read the whole thing.

For my part, it has always seemed rather obvious that the root problem is to be found in the insane religious ideology held by these people (and I don't just mean the radicals). For one, it ought to give anyone pause to consider the nearly unlimited power of dogma, cleverly utilized. You can literally convince people that blowing themselves up to kill children that have done them no harm is the highest form of virtue to which their life might ascend. Ponder that. Then, be mightily skeptical of anyone, anywhere who tells you that he (somehow), and he alone (somehow), has answers for you from on high. 'Course they're all full of shit, en masse, and that includes the Christians and Jews, not just Muslims.

...It just occurred to me that perhaps this is a feature of monotheism. In polytheistic societies, there may exist more acceptance of competing ideologies. Of course, it's all bullshit anyway, but perhaps the many-god scenario is less volatile, and 'God knows' we could certainly do with that until such time as society grows out of the need for supernatural pacifiers. Oh, well, just thinking out loud.

Another guy worthy of reading regularly, Christopher Hitchens, had this to say, as reported in the New Statesman. I can only honestly say that I agree fully and completely with that sentiment, top to bottom.

Most NS readers are likely to agree that Hitchens opted for
the wrong side after 9/11. (Which is not to say that all his arguments
on the subject were wrong.) How did this happen? In an interview, he
admitted to "a feeling of exhilaration" that September day: "Here we
are then . . . in a war to the finish between everything I love and
everything I hate." What he loves most is the idea of America, and
particularly of New York, "the magnetic compass point of my life". What
he hates most - a "cold, steady hatred . . . as sustaining to me as any
love" - is religion, "the most base and contemptible of the forms
assumed by human egotism and stupidity".