Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rant: Say Goodnight (if you dare), the Party's Over.

rant:What does freedom of speech depend upon? What depends upon freedom of speech - other than every freedom and liberty we have? Do we really have freedom of speech if the Govt doesn't censor us, though it meekly allows any random thug or nation to prevent us from speaking freely? Threatening the American people and businesses with death and destruction should they dare to watch and listen to something that a foreign tyrant finds offensive, is... tolerable? 

THE worst act that President George H.W. Bush committed in office was his mealy mouthed - 'measured' - response to the Ayatollah of Iran when he threatened to bomb American book stores if they dared to sell Salman Rushdie's "The Satanic Verses". That utter failure to defend not only our freedom of speech, but of commerce, trade and association, on top of Reagan's retreat after the barracks bombing, guaranteed, as weakness to tyranny always does, the terror soaked decades that have followed.

Today North Korea has topped the Ayatollah ten fold, threatening American theaters with a "9/11 response" should they dare show a movie he finds offensive. And not only has there been no response from this administration, there has been very little response from ether the media or from the public at all.

Seth Friggin' Rogen has made the most vocal response to this.

Might as well turn out the lights folks, the party's over.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Gruber is as Obama does.

Courtesy of the Gateway Pundit, here's ObamaCare co-architect Jonathan Gruber taking a stab at putting on a 'humble and contrite' face, after being called to testify to the House today, in regards to
the multiple videos (6? or is it 7 now?) gloating about conning the American 'Stupid People' into buying ObamaCare (and being paid millions of dollars to do it). Here you can hear him as he tries mightly to hide the words he can't avoid saying:
"Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI): The Obama administration promised the American people 37 times that if you like your plan you can keep your plan. When you were working on the law did you believe Mr. Gruber, did you believe, that no one would lose a plan that they liked due to Obamacare.

Gruber: I believed that the law would not affect the vast majority of Americans.

Walberg: The vast majority? But did you believe that no one, as the president said, would lose a plan they liked?

Gruber: As I said I believed it would not affect a vast majority of Americans. But, it is true that some people might have to upgrade their plans because their plans were not comprehensive as defined by the law.

Walberg: So they couldn't keep their plan, even if they liked it.

Gruber: What the law says is that there are minimum standards to be met.

Walberg: Why did the President make this representation if his experts, including you, knew it was not true, that some, as you said, would not be able to keep their plan, they'd have to upgrade, or they'd have to change it?

Gruber: I'm not a - political adviser, I have no answer to that question. "
But Gruber needn't have put himself through all the discomfort of trying to seem like a decent person, there was no need to call the American (Leftist) people 'Stupid', had he simply reflected upon two old American sayings first. They are:

"You can't cheat an honest man." and "There's a sucker born every minute."

Because an honest man isn't looking to get something for nothing, the American Right were never among those Gruber and Obama aimed their ObamaCare con at, so he wasn't addressing them at all, stupid or otherwise.

But he also didn't need to call the Leftists, Independents and RINO's 'stupid people', they were simply willing partners to the lie. After all, anyone who's interested in getting something for nothing, clearly isn't interested in anything to do with reality or the truth to begin with - they're simply looking for an excuse to justify going along with the deception.

The people Gruber called stupid were really only partners to Obama & Gruber's lie, and so calling them stupid was not only clumsy and rude, but self incriminating. True, that is stupid, but as neither their target audience nor themselves were ever interested in the Truth to begin with, there was no point in telling that inconvenient truth at all.

Oh well, I suppose there's another old saying that fits here: Stupid is as stupid does.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

What Justice is to be found in the passionate rejection of the process for attaining Justice?

RedState's Ben Howe has been catching some flack for his tweets on the #Ferguson issue, which he's ably summed up in an article entitled: "Why I Said I’d Have Shot Michael Brown in the Face". If you find that too provocative of a title, you should read it yourself, he defends his position well and needs no help from me.

But if you've got a moment, I'd like to ask you a couple questions myself. It won't take long.

Do you believe that Justice is something most likely to be attained by a methodical presentation of evidence and deliberated upon by a disinterested jury of peers? Or do you think that 'justice' is what the more vocal and passionate demand as satisfaction, and which everyone else must be compelled to agree with as well?

If you believe that the Judicial process is a Just process - not an infallible guarantee of determining THE Truth of what happened - but as being the most just process, the path most likely to achieve a reasonable and justifiable conclusion about what may not ever truly be known; if so then you'll have to concede that the decision of a jury of 12 citizens, who, after hearing extensive testimony, considering evidence, deliberating carefully upon it, concluded that Officer Wilson's shooting of Michael Brown was not an unreasonable action.

Not because he one was a policemen, and not because of the race of the dead person, but because that that was the conclusion most supportable by the facts.

If, on the other hand, you believe that the demands of the more vocally aggrieved are what society must appease, if you believe that those who are so sure that they know best, should have the power to punish those who disagree with them, if you believe that the passionate certainty of some confers upon them the ability to Just KNOW what other mere mortals can have no direct knowledge of; if you believe that intimidation and the threat of violence, actual violence, assault, arson, destruction of property and the violation of everyone's individual rights are justifiable because a few claim to know best and that everyone else must agree with them or else be subjected to invective and cast out... then you will conclude that 'Justice' can only be served by those who agree with you, and that those who disagree with you must suffer the consequences of their opinions.

If you align yourself with the second, congratulations - you are fascist fodder and your time, your rise, and your fall, is coming.

If you align yourself the the first, but quietly allow the second to parade on by without speaking up, then congratulations - you will be the first to be consumed by the second group.

If, on the other hand, you are one of the few who have bothered to learn the lessons of history, but are living in a society where such lessons were discarded from the educational system a century ago - then congratulations and pull up a seat, for we are very likely going to be stuck living through the lessons of history that everyone else seems so intent upon dooming us all to repeating.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

So tell me America, you feeling fundamentally transformed yet?

After the #Ferguson Grand Jury decision, a unanimous decision[NOTE: I mis-heard the verdict tally at the press conference, there IS NO WAY to know if unanimous or not. My apologies.] by - it shouldn't need to be said but does - white and black jurors, who actually heard and deliberated upon all of the evidence, they concluded that there was not enough evidence to charge the police officer with wrong doing.

A short time later President Obama came out and said:
"First and foremost, we are a nation built on the rule of law. And so, we need to accept that this decision was the grand jury’s to make. There are Americans who agree with it, and there are Americans who are deeply disappointed, even angry. It’s an understandable reaction."
Understandable?! To Friggin' WHO?! Did any of those who 'are deeply disappointed', have any rational reason whatsoever for feeling that way?

Better yet, did they have any, ANY, basis for presuming the police officer to be guilty, but for the fact that he was white, and his assailant was black? Do you know what that's called? RACISM, that's what!
Walgren's looted and burned

And what were these 'disappointed' thugs upset about? 'No Justice, no peace'?

Justice?! For WHO?! The Grand Jury sat for an unusually long period of time, heard all of the evidence, and determined that justice would be served by not bringing an indictment against the police officer. Just how in the hell is it 'understandable' or a means of furthering 'justice' to demand that the officer be killed, for doing what the Grand Jury could not find fault with?

And where in the hell is the Nat'l Guard in ‪#‎Ferguson‬?! Our Gov. Nixon, putz in chief, declared that people's lives and businesses would be defended - How?! Where?! One of the primary reasons why we have a government, is to maintain law and order - we all saw endless loops of Nat'l Guard troops being trucked in to the well-to-do town of Clayton - where in the hell are they?!

Ferguson's business, Ferguson's people, Ferguson's property and livelihoods are not being defended! WTH Governor!

This poor neighborhood, its businesses are being burned & looted, and even for those that might manage to go untouched (somehow), this is Thanksgiving! The Thanksgiving shopping period is here, which they'd probably pinned their hopes of salvaging what the earlier riots damage had done to them - what are they going to do?! Most will likely be closed. And the businesses that served them will have certainly have their earnings reduced as well.

Little Caesar's Pizza looted and burned
What do you think is going to happen to their employees? To their families? To their kids? What do you think is going to happen to this community after all of this?

Every damn last one of you who've posted your idiotic 'hands up don't shoot' and 'no justice no peace' B.S., Every damn last one of you who've been supporting and egging this agitation on to this inevitable point of violence... let me put this clearly: You are scum.

How despicable.

When President Obama was elected he famously said that we were days away from:
"fundamentally transforming America!"
So tell me America, look around today, not only at Ferguson MO, but Oakland, L.A., Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Washington D.C. and all air traffic diverted away from St. Louis - take a good look and tell me:
Are you feeling fundamentally transformed yet?
Police Car set aflame

So you tell me America, does this fundamental transformation seem more like Progress, or Regress to you?

From Ben Howe:

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Undocumented Power

I listened to the President's speech. I listened to the responses to it. I didn't hear the real problem being identified as a problem on either side.

Here's the problem:

The problem isn't immigration, legal or illegal. The problem is a Govt that is supposed to be bound down by laws to protect and defend the Individual Rights of We The People for which "...Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...", and which is instead seizing hold of the power that we've given them and ignoring those laws that bind it; exercising the power that we've given them in opposition to our laws; exercising the power that we've them without even the pretense of respecting any restrictions or limitations upon their ability to exercise the power that we've given them.

When those we've given power over our lives to, promise to use power in pleasing ways if... we'll just... look the other way... and let slip our lawful restraints, they leave us with no way to restrain them with laws again, we leave ourselves with no way to prevent their using their power over us in ways that we do not find to be so very pleasing. When that's accomplished, then "As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn", they'll eventually use that power in ways that we'll find to be utterly horrifying.

That's the problem. And yes We The People, I'm looking directly at you.
"Where-ever law ends, tyranny begins, if the law be transgressed to another’s harm; and whosoever in authority exceeds the power given him by the law, and makes use of the force he has under his command, to compass that upon the subject, which the law allows not, ceases in that to be a magistrate; and, acting without authority, may be opposed, as any other man, who by force invades the right of another. This is acknowledged in subordinate magistrates."John Locke - OF CIVIL-GOVERNMENT BOOK II, CHAP. XVIII. Of TYRANNY
"... in questions of power then let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution."Thomas Jefferson
"...There are Church-quakes and state-quakes, in the moral and political world, as well as earthquakes, storms and tempests in the physical. Thus much however must be said in favour { 250 } of the people and of human nature, that it is a general, if not universal truth, that the aptitude of the people to mutinies, seditions, tumults and insurrections, is in direct proportion to the despotism of the government. In governments completely despotic, i.e. where the will of one man, is the only law, this disposition is most prevalent.—In Aristocracies, next—in mixed Monarchies, less than either of the former—in compleat Republick's the least of all—..."John Adams, A Defense, Boston Massacre
“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.” Samuel Adams
“It does not take a majority to prevail ... but rather an irate, tireless minority, keen on setting brushfires of freedom in the minds of men.” Samuel Adams
“If ever the Time should come, when vain & aspiring Men shall possess the highest Seats in Government, our Country will stand in Need of its experiencd Patriots to prevent its Ruin. There may be more Danger of this, than some, even of our well disposd Citizens may imagine.” Samuel Adams

Monday, November 10, 2014

Veterans Day - Soul Food

I've posted these three poems for Veterans Day before,  and rather than respond to the gutter filth at, I will instead, with heartfelt thanks, post them again, as soul food for our Veterans,

William Ernest Henley. 1849–1903

OUT of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1837)
The Concord Hymn

By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April's breeze unfurled;
Here once the embattled farmers stood;
And fired the shot heard round the world.

The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps,
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream that seaward creeps.

On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We place with joy a votive stone,
That memory may their deeds redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

O Thou who made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free, --
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raised to them and Thee.

John McCrae. 1872–1918
In Flanders Fields

IN Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Make Trick or Treat count for something this year, hand out "Hands Off My Gun" by Dana Loesch

If you want to give your favorite leftist a big scare this Halloween, put Hands Off My Gun, by Dana Loesch in their Trick or Treat bag (and treat yourself to a copy as well!). I can't say it will do much for their heart health (the cover alone might be too big a shock), but their mind could benefit greatly from it. Either way, I strongly recommend this - it's sobering, LOL entertaining, blunt, informative and surprisingly optimistic.

Dana succeeds in putting the emphasis where it belongs, not upon particular weapons or their accessories, but upon the reason for which the 2nd Amendment was written - the Individual Right and ability to defend your and your family's lives, and the liberty we should all expect to enjoy. This is a solid book through and through, and I'll make particular note of the following highlights:

From the opening pages of the Introduction and Chp. 1 'The Tragedy Caucus', using anecdotes from her own experiences growing up, she drives home and personalizes the importance of the Individual Right which the 2nd Amendment defends - and the importance of knowing, especially for the young, that it, and they, can be defended. This isn't simply a political ad issue, it is important to everyone's life, whether you choose to own a gun or not.

Chp. 2 'Obama's War on Guns', traces the views of Barack Obama from his early years, when in answering a questionnaire on whether he
"...supported a law to "ban the manufacture, sale, and possession of handguns."
...Barack Obama simply answered,
, to his later political responses that
"a complete ban of handguns is not politically practicable."
- let the implications of that answer sink in - to his administration's support for the U.N.'s 'Arms Trade Treaty' that would establish and maintain a national control system, with lists provided to the U.N.'s Secretariat. From that and much more, it is clear that the progressive left in general, and this administration in particular, would like to end the protections provided by the 2nd Amendment as we know it, and that we must oppose them by informing ourselves and speaking up.

Chp. 7 'The Left-Wing Lynching', emphasizes that especially for minorities and the physically or politically weak, the Individual Right which the 2nd Amendment protects is critical to the substance of Individual Rights as such, and that the modern progressive left is flat out opposed to it. Loesch notes that in the infamous Supreme Court decision in "Dred Scott v. Sandford", one of the reasons which Justice Taney (Democrat appt, BTW) cited for the judgment that blacks could be owned as property and Never be considered citizens, was that recognizing blacks as citizens
"would give them the full liberty... and to keep and carry arms wherever they went."
. The fact is, that to deprive persons of the right to defend their lives, deprives them not only of a central tenet of citizenship, but of personhood - and we all have reason to fear a govt that would view you as neither; a view which is every bit as compatible today, as it was in 1860, with the 'progressive' aims of the Left.

Chp. 8 'Founding Firearms', traces the development of the 'right to bear arms' in English law, and how the limitations which it observed, in deference to a Ruler, were rejected by our Founders. The media matters hit piece plagiarized in several of the 1 star reviews in Amazon's customer reviews (which, BTW, are hugely outnumbered by 4 & 5 star reviews - and the book is listing at '#1 Best Seller in Law Enforcement' as of this moment!), illustrate just how frightened and intellectually disarmed the rabid left is by Dana Loesch!

First off, she makes very clear that she is selecting quotations provided by the 'Buckeye Firearms Association' which she noted had
"...compiled a list of quotes attributed to various Founders that demolished beyond any shadow of a doubt "
what was understood by them, and intended with, the 2nd Amendment. Despite MMFA's over the top accusations, Dana isn't the one who edited the quotations for brevity (and the edits do not alter their meaning whatsoever), she's simply reproducing what they've published.

Secondly, not only do the few quotations which MMFA felt they could parse into taking issue with, fully comport with why they were chosen, it is only the Left's feeble understanding of our Founders, their era, of Individual Rights and the meaning of a Militia, that enabled them to make their charges with a straight face. The least bit of understanding of such meaningful matters, shows that they mean exactly what their quote conveys!

The Supreme Court provides further back up for that point in the recent case, 'DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA et al. v. HELLER', where after reviewing the history, the court judged that:

1. The Second Amendment protects an individual right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.Pp. 2-53.

(a) The Amendment's prefatory clause announces a purpose, but does not limit or expand the scope of the second part, the operative clause. The operative clause's text and history demonstrate that it connotes an individual right to keep and bear arms. Pp. 2-22."
, and,
"There seems to us no doubt, on the basis of both text and history, that the Second Amendment conferred an individual right to keep and bear arms."
It even goes on to quote a favorite reference of mine, with
"...In 1825, William Rawle, a prominent lawyer who had been a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly that ratified the Bill of Rights, published an influential treatise, which analyzed the Second Amendment as follows:

"The first [principle] is a declaration that a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state; a proposition from which few will dissent. . . .

"The corollary, from the first position is, that the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

"The prohibition is general. No clause in the constitution could by any rule of construction be conceived to give to congress a power to disarm the people. Such a flagitious attempt could only be made under some general pretence by a state legislature. But if in any blind pursuit of inordinate power, either should attempt it, this amendment may be appealed to as a restraint on both." Rawle 121-122.20
On top of all that, maybe the most glaring problem with the quotations that 'media matters' so desperately parsed, is how many others were cited which not even their indomitable ignorance could find an issue with!

Chp. 10 'Reclaiming the Language', Stresses the importance of taking back the language and that in talking about the 2nd Amdt we are talking about our lives and our right to them,

"This is a liberty inherent to American citizens that was not formed by the state, or granted, given, or gifted to the citizen. It is a liberty with which they are born, the privilege of free citizens belonging to a free state."

, and we should not allow such important matters to be reduced to emotional appeals and fears over the 'shootier' appearances of particular guns, which the left is so desperate to focus upon.

Dana also skewers a favorite bugaboo of mine, of how the 'Yelling fire in a crowded theater' is continually misused to justify infringing on our liberties:

"I hear this argument ad nauseum from the uninformed as a way to negate the liberties of a law-abiding American. Never accept this phrase even in passing. It's simply historically ignorant to use in this context."
If you've ever been caught unsure of how to respond to that, then these few paragraphs alone are worth the price of the book! In 'Schenk v. United States' Justice Holmes specifically states that
"The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force. Gompers v. Buck's Stove & Range Co., 221 U.S. 418, 439 , 31 S. Sup. Ct. 492, 55 L. ed. 797, 34 L. R. A. (N. S.) 874. The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree. When a nation is at war many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right."
IOW 'falsely shouting fire in a theater and causing a panic' would not be allowed, emphasis on FALSELY. Just as you have no right to falsely slander someone, you have no right to falsely incite a panic, but neither is a limitation upon your freedom of speech. I'm no fan of Justice Holmes (or J.S. Mill which the quote ultimately goes back to), but while Context matters, in all things, the 'yelling fire in a crowded theater' should never be tolerated as an excuse for abridging our rights and liberties.

Chp. 11 'The Fourteen Biggest Anti-Gun Lies, Debunked', Read it - it will strengthen you and infuriate the Left!

Perhaps most surprising of all is Chp. 12 'Victory', and how optimistic Dana Loesch is about the 2nd Amendment not only surviving the current attacks of the progressive leftist (who are Pro-Regressive through and through), but about the future of our society, an optimism which is unusual these days and a very welcome point of view!

Buy this book, read it, discuss it, change the world!

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Materialist's inversion: When power is not forced to serve Truth, truth is abandoned for Power - Progress or Regress pt.4c

Yesterday's post illustrated a few useful points of History to keep in mind: that savagery is normal, even easy, for human beings, that power over others is naturally tempting for people to seek after and to excuse using in order to maximize their political and personal security. And maybe most important of all, that neither primitive grass skirts, fashionable tweed jackets, nor their accompanying technology (or lack thereof) are reliable indicators of whether or not the people wearing those clothes are savages themselves.

We also left off noting that it would be the simplest and the most natural thing in the world to be socialized into such a society - unless you happen to experience the interference of something which somehow helps to dispel that society's illusions, rather than being drawn in to them. What that is and how to magnify it is a question that's worth asking, continually, because doing so is what leads you to steady Progress, upwards and outwards from the societal baseline. But examining that, for the most part, will have to wait for a later post; not that we won't see hints and flashes of it here and there, but as important as that certain something is, we've still got to get a clearer picture of what it is that we hope to make real progress away from. Because if you don't have a clear idea of what regressive movement would be, we're all too easily tempted to pursue what unknowingly cannot lead to real progress, and so confusing motion itself with making real Progress, and History is replete with this tragic trajectory, we become Pro-Regressive instead.

A worthwhile distinction to make is that while savagery is the historic norm for humanity, being natural, has almost nothing to do with whether it is Right or Good. And if you'll continue to question appearances, you find that the features with which a society naturally flatters itself with, being 'Modern'; having technological skills, material wealth, and a wide web of cultural habits and stylized dress; you'll find that they are not only not, in and of themselves, marks of real progress, but more often than not they are the means of suppressing worthwhile change and avoiding real progress, dressing their natural savagery up in more appealing clothes. The widespread acceptance of the significance of appearances ( from race to technology to fashion) and unquestionably meaningful and distinctive, is a sign that most people are unaware of or unconcerned about the differing directions that Progress and Regress would lead them in.

The problem of Materialism isn't in pursuing stuff, but in becoming stuff
The features of the societal baseline worth taking note of are not those features that seem so very different on their surfaces - remember from the last post that despite what appearances might lead you to expect, the anthropologist's academic brethren behaved every bit as savagely as the Yanomamö did. And so as with other appearances, from war paint to web pages, they are but variations and elaborations on the eternal theme of getting, protecting, and in one way or another, becoming, stuff - the fruits of power. And by 'stuff' I do not mean Money, or 'Property', but the mental action of reducing them to possessions; so that these very different things are easily mistaken for being one and the same. The problem of materialism isn't the quest for more material goods - antibiotics and Smart Phones can be fantastic things to have, improve on, and get more of - but the process of seeing ourselves and our ideals as little more than materials that we desire more of for utility, gain, attaining pleasures and overcoming obstacles, is. The truth is that reducing our goals to these won't differentiate them from of the goals of any other savage in any way other than that of fashion.

The action of seeing people and values as but materials for your goals, is the materialist inversion, and is a most common and time honored societal norm, and key to redirecting movement towards the societal baseline, rather than away from it, and when you seem to see all change reduced to appearances, it's a trick you'll willingly perform upon yourself - a judo flip of the soul.

For instance, the Egyptians could calculate the area of a triangle just as Pythagoras could with his geometrical theorem - Pythagoras very likely learned how to calculate the area from them - but despite appearances, they were not doing the same thing at all. There is something in what Pythagoras added to their calculations which lifted him, Geometry, and the resultant West, far and away above what the Egyptians were doing while working their calculations. And without that certain something, which one approach has, and the other lacks, Progress, takes on two very different meanings and directions. And... again I'm going off in a different direction than we need to in this post, I'll go more into that in coming posts, but for the moment, keep in mind that what separated the Egyptians geometric skills from Pythagoras's Geometric Theorems, is what separates receiving training in vocational skills from getting an actual Education.

Geometry and higher mathematics used to be, in the Pythagorean sense, seen as the pinnacle of higher education, a mark of philosophic excellence. Now however, we see them only as useful skills for our students to pick up to get a good job and compete with the [insert threat of the moment here: Chinese, Japanese, Russian, German, etc.].

That there is the Materialist's Judo Flip of the Western soul in action.

And only an Education, meaning a Western Education, which demands that something be true in order to be accepted, can help develop within you a habit of questioning and reflecting upon what is real, once called 'the good, the beautiful and the true', and so be capable of avoiding being fooled by appearances. How else could you judge whether or not your society's' assumptions are either right or good? And why else would you? The answer is that you wouldn't, and the societal baseline knows it.

The changelessness of endless change
Lacking that higher perspective, what would there be, what could there be, to separate the idea of political position, from the desire for political power? That, not that perspective itself, but its lack, is key to recognizing the real appearance of the societal baseline we're in pursuit of. Outside of the West the answer is that power and position and value are synonymous. But within the Western tradition? The answer is no, they're not... or at the very least it raises an uncomfortable question, the asking of which makes it nearly impossible for someone to say, as Gwenyth Paltrow said aloud what so many others implicitly urge:
“It would be wonderful if we are able to give this man all the power he needs to accomplish the things he needs to.”
. More and more the Western Tradition becomes hard to find in the West, and that is because it isn't a tradition which somehow removes us from the perils of humanity, or makes us better than others, it only notices that there is a way to rise above that see if we'll but make the effort to climb. But be that as it may, promoting a political position primarily for the politics of the position, is not and cannot be Progress, as it places the pursuit of Power, over what is Right for power to be used for - Might makes Right - which is, in the most important manner, Regress.

Not surprisingly, trying to explain that to those who do not question their own point of view, who do not look beyond the things they expect it to do for them, will make you seem very strange to them. Man is after all, as Aristotle put it, a political animal, and when his political ideals come primarily from his animal nature, as they are naturally wont to do, that society will be one where those who can physically dominate others by force, will - a distinctive aspect of our 'societal baseline'. It also means that those who are primarily concerned with the Justice of a position, will seem to most people to be very strange and upside down people - and to them they are.

From the point of view of my former friend Dice, it no doubt seemed to him as if what he was doing was making progress - he was defending the political security of his tribe, and his own place within it. Actions such as that, forcing others to comply with you because you can, are actions that can be acted on very successfully, for thousands of years at a time, as the tens of centuries the dynastic struggles of the Pharaohs of Egypt can attest to. And within that limited view, such struggles and changes can very much appear to be making progress. Even though what it really means is using power to prevent change.

The truth is that through all those superficial changes, there is rarely any real change occurring, no differences are being made - for all their struggles, no Progress is made. Exchanging one tyrant or dynasty for another is what mankind spent the tens of thousands of years of pre-historic times doing - but nothing of significance ever really changed! That's why they are referred to as being Pre History! The sorts of changes they engaged in, were not the sorts of changes that could produce Progress... and so as we attempt to look closer at them, they simply fade into the mists of time. The existence of History is itself a sign that real change had finally occurred, that change was worth noting, inquiring into, and pondering, so that more real progress could be made.

Those who've flipped their souls (or perhaps it is that they've never done so) mistake appealingly shallow hopes & changes for something more, are in the habit of thinking that things control and dictate our actions, they think that more things makes for better lives, and so they cannot see, do not see, and even laugh at, the person who doesn't value those same things, as they do, over the higher values, ideals and virtues. Those people who look to power for progress, are the 'rich man' who will not only never get his camel through the eye of the needle, but will forever try to hire someone to do it for him.

And they will fiercely persist in calling you the strange one.

Look back at that snippet from Jonathan Alter, and the other headliners - what is it that they are seeking to do? Isn't their primary goal to prevent change? To keep corporations from relocating, to forcibly punish dissent and debate(that 'climate change' was the subject is almost irrelevant), to prevent the wheels of justice from turning, or considering the matter very deeply at all, Why? Because 'maximizing political and personal security was the overwhelming driving force in human, social and cultural evolution.'

And it has always been so, from our day, to Jesus's day, to Aristotle's day and on back before that. From Last book of the Nichomachaen Ethics:
"...Solon, too, was perhaps sketching well the happy man when he described him as moderately furnished with externals but as having done (as Solon thought) the noblest acts, and lived temperately; for one can with but moderate possessions do what one ought. Anaxagoras also seems to have supposed the happy man not to be rich nor a despot, when he said that he would not be surprised if the happy man were to seem to most people a strange person; for they judge by externals, since these are all they perceive..."
And in a society formed around the externals of fashion, image, power, then strange means different, and different is threatening. Translating Anaxagoras into today, is well put in this snippet from Political Philosophy Needs Revelation: A Conversation with James V. Schall
"Gradually, civil government becomes an instrument to implement these ideas fashioned by the leader who promises to lead the people to happiness against their enemies, principally those who affirm that there is an order in nature and that the liberty to do anything or live any way is rather a form of self-chosen and eventually government imposed ideology..."
The roman poet Horace said that 'Power without wisdom falls of its own weight', and the Amazon tribe of Yanomamö are in a perpetual state of free fall, an unchanging struggle for change such as Hobbes' war of all against all. When force governs, not only does nothing of significance ever change, but real change is just what is not wanted. The changing faces of power struggles are routine and pursued all around - and you can just as easily look to Soviet era East Berlin or modern North Korea, as the Yanomamö for neverending changes in the cliques and faces of those in power, but their stagnant lands, the gray souls of their people, those do not change.

But the suggestion of change that might herald higher ideals of truth and rightness than that of might makes right, the slightest hints of ideals of liberty and individual rights, or of ending slavery, those 'fools and poets' are killed off or are sent to the Gulag post haste - real change, real progress will not be tolerated.

Change, not superficial, but real, is what the savage fears most.

Primitives and the power minded, either want no change (climate change?!!! AHHH!!!), or they want a constant stream of superficial alterations which give the appearance of change, but really serve only to distract from what is not being allowed to change in that society. The only exception being changes which lessens or removes that certain something which leads to real progress, that sort of change, fundamental transformations which forces people to accept their diminishment as if nothing had changed at all - while 'maximizing their own political and personal security' - that sort of change they are all for, all night long.

The savage doesn't want what requires THEM to change, and they will gleefully change everything else, up to and including changing you into dust - living or not - to avoid that too real change, that really would be Progress. The dark little secret of the savage, whether tribalist or technologist, is that Progress is what they fear and will fight tooth and nail to avoid.

But that still undefined something which separates the Pythagorean theorem from the Egyptians calculations, is the driving force of real Progress, it is what led to the creation of History and it is feared by the exponents of regressive changes, from the Yanomamö to the Pharaohs, and from Thrasymachus on up to our modern Academics and 'intellectuals' who've never risen to the level required to recognize, let alone make true Progress. They are content with the only answer they can imagine: the rule of power for power's sake. And every step taken in that direction is truly Pro-Regressive.

Our own history shows the Pro-Regressive change in action, in going from the Founder's ideal of people living in liberty, to that of Rousseau's egalitarian ideal of people being be forced to be free, inexorably leads to the Orwellian times where 'telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act', and it is heartbreaking to see, whether in schools turning away from education to indoctrination, or hospitals established by religious orders yielding to laws which require violating their convictions... you know they're telling themselves that they must in order to remain intact, but what they retain is gone - flipped. Those who want to maintain their institutions political and personal security, rather than what it was that their institutions - be it church, media, school or govt - were created to preserve and spread, they will perform the materialist flip and willingly go along with forcing everyone else to be free.

For the greater good.

This isn't to say that power is bad - far from it - but it is to say that it must be the tool, not the workmen. Power is an important tool of the Good, and Liberty requires governmental power to enable just Laws to uphold & defend Individual Rights. But Power cannot do good, it can only serve it; to try to do good entails abandoning what is Good and True. If power is not forced to serve Truth, truth will be - in truth has already been - abandoned for power... and used to see that things remain the same.

Ok, it got too late last night as the Cardinals lost, and dinner is calling now, so we'll have to leave fully identifying our 'societal baseline' and that 'certain something' that makes Progress away from it possible... for the next post.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Savagery has a History in the past and the present - Progress or Regress pt.4b

In yesterday's post I proposed taking a trip into the not so distant past, for two reasons. The second reason was the more traditional of the two, to more clearly see the troubles of our present. Has anyone ever fed you that line before? How is that supposed to help? Has anyone ever sat up in History Class (or the 'social studies' that passes for it), and asked
"Why? Why do I need to know what so & so did x hundred years ago?!"
If the answer they give you is only that it's for you to learn 'important and and useful cultural references', you might want to consider leaving. If their answer is 'to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past', you should probably go ahead and get up and start for the door. If their answer is 'to get an appreciation for diverse points of view', I suggest burning rubber to get out of there.

Not that those points, even the last one, aren't useful, and even necessary results of 'inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation' (the original Greek definition of History), they are, but they are not, in and of themselves, separately or combined, worth your wasting hours of your life every week to 'learn'. The purpose, the benefit, the value of studying history, aside from it being just plain interesting (and if yours isn't, then you are probably studying it from a... let me guess... 'textbook'? RUN!) is to gain a better understanding of yourself and your position in your life, and how to better your life, here and now. History enables you to identify and familiarize yourself with the tendencies that are common to men in society everywhere, meaning common not only to those of the past, present & future - but to that space between your own two ears as well,

History isn't for learning about dead people, but about the living, about yourself, so that you can understand something of, and develop the habit of reflecting upon, how people end up doing what they do - that is after all, what History is made of. If you aren't trying to put yourself in the minds of those you are reading about, if you aren't managing to, in some way, identify with the thinking of the slave holder as well as the slave, then you aren't learning any lessons worth the time you're spending on learning them.

Seriously. And if that isn't what you get out of history, or if it seems that those teaching it to you are intent on your not getting those valuables out of their lessons, then you should either figure out how to do it yourself, or get the heck out of there, or if that's not possible, at least do some serious daydreaming.

But I digress. Back to why we're here.

The first reason I'd given was a fairly tangible one: to begin to identify a 'societal baseline', a recognizable point which any sound claims of progress should be clearly moving your society away from, rather than back towards.

Make sense?

And again, what's past isn't the point of studying history, escaping it is - and that requires, as best as you are able, ignoring the differences between your world today, and theirs then, and even whether or not you even live in different times from that being studied. There is nothing preventing, and much to recommend, looking at your own world from an historical perspective.

History provides many examples of this baseline, and by inquiring into the history of societies as separated in time and space as those whose beginnings can be traced from Sumer, Babylon, ancient Egypt, to the modern primitive stone age tribes of the Amazon or New Guinea, as well as the haunts of modernity, they will provide you with plenty of examples of men descending to our sought after zero point on the progress meter. The hope I have here, is that by identifying our baseline Progress point – whether measuring against our past, present or future - we'll have a point to begin measuring real progress, and regress, from.

Without that, how can claims of progress have any real meaning?

Savages are every bit as savage in tweed jackets, as they are in grass skirts
I know of one example that is especially well suited to quickly tying together Cave Men, Philosophers, modernity and academics, and doing so quickly. In 1964, an anthropologist went looking to study a primitive, technologically undeveloped society, where he, shocker, found their society to be one that had not developed civilized behaviors. That anthropologist, Napoleon Chagnon, prior to his expedition, seemingly put little or no thought into the thoughts that went into (or never did) those behaviors he thought of as civilized, and so it took their absence to finally begin to make an impression upon him.

As noted by Professor Backflap (H/T Gagdad Bob):
"Napoleon Chagnon’s Noble Savages is the remarkable memoir of a life dedicated to science—and a revealing account of the clash between science and political activism.

When Napoleon Chagnon arrived in Venezuela’s Amazon region in 1964 to study the Yanomamö Indians, he expected to find Rousseau’s “noble savage.” Instead he found a shockingly violent society. He spent years living among the Yanomamö, observing their often tyrannical headmen, learning to survive under primitive and dangerous conditions. When he published his observations, a firestorm of controversy swept through anthropology departments. Chagnon was vilified by other anthropologists, condemned by his professional association (which subsequently rescinded its reprimand), and ultimately forced to give up his fieldwork. Throughout his ordeal, he never wavered in his defense of science. In 2012 he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences."
He expected to find a Noble Savage? Really? In a place he thought of as not having a developed civilization, he expected to find one of the finest fruits of civilization? Would you?

My first question on reading this was how much thought he could have given to the concepts of either nobility or savagery, much less the requirements of either?

My second question was, how prepared was he by his own education and study of History, for the reception his studies received back home in Academia?

Well if he studied the sort of 'History' in college, that was similar to the sort I mentioned in an earlier post, and coming from an anthropology department that was almost certainly the case, then the answer to both of my questions is: little or nothing at all.
[Hey kids, what is the value of an education that tells you so little about your fellow man or even about your own self? Same answer: little or nothing at all.]
More evidence of this can be found in what it was that Chagnon considered to be such a noteworthy discovery: finding that in his observations of the stone age Yanomamö, and soon afterwards with the technologically advanced tribes of Academia, that,
“I discovered that maximizing political and personal security was the overwhelming driving force in human, social and cultural evolution. My observation is based not only on what we have thus far learned from political science and anthropological field reports, but also on a lifetime of experience living with native Amazonian tribesmen who chronically live in what Hobbes called in his major treatise, Leviathan (1651), a condition of war. He likened war to foul weather - not just a shower or two, but a persistent condition for extended periods of time, something chronic. The Yanomamo among whom I lived were constantly worried about attacks from their neighbors and constantly live in fear of this possibility.

Neither Hobbes nor Rousseau ever saw people like Yanomamo tribesmen living in a "state of nature." Their philosophical positions about Man in a state of nature were derived entirely from speculation. It is therefore astonishing that some cultural anthropologists cling to the Nobel Savage view of human nature when ours is the profession that collected almost all of the empirical data on tribesmen and what social life was like under "pristine" or "Stone Age" conditions. Thus anthropologists should be the most likely people to arrive at a highly informed, empirically defensible view of human nature using the evidence from generations of anthropological research. ”
While it's good that he realized that Hobbes missed a few points and Rousseau was whacked, he shouldn't have needed to take such a long, dangerous expedition to discover what he could have, should have, learned from a basic study of Herodotus, Thucydides, Livy & Tacitus in the comforts of a classroom under a teacher who already understood both them and the common errors students make, before ever having graduated from college. That he didn't, that should tell you something of the historical wasteland of wacademia, and that was from back before the storm of the 1960's broke upon us.

Not too surprisingly, at least for those who aren't delusional enough to expect to find a 'Noble Savage' in a society where the rulers rule because they're strong and others follow because they have to, the strong become the emblems of political security, and personal security depends upon your not being seen as threats to the strong. Savagery without nobility is going to be the norm in such a place.

But also note that his own tribe of anthropologists, although not only thoroughly exposed, in many cases first hand, to the evidence of savagery without nobility, they still refused to acknowledge the evidence of their own experience. Instead they abide by, unquestioningly, parroting, chanting, that which the tribe identifies its security with, and as 'the strong' always do, they say it is for 'the greater good'.

Translation: In the absence of any higher aspirations, maximizing political and personal security is the overwhelming driving force in human affairs.

Question: Where do those higher aspirations come from?

Both of Chagnon's tribes, in the Amazon and Academe, IMHO, demonstrated many of the essentials of the societal baseline we're looking for, and whatever the superficial appearances might be, if understood, then we can use it to identify a life which bears more than a passing resemblance to Hobbes' image of life living red in tooth and claw, and in one way or another, of being nasty, brutish and short.

However, the picture of 'living red in tooth and claw' which Hobbes painted (and Rousseau romanticized and painted over), makes it appear that such societies must be a place where people are wandering about in loin clothes or grass skirts in solitary brutishness, lone wolves hunting a kill in nature; but the fact is that the people of the baseline, more than any other, tend to congregate together with the like minded, as the good political animals they are, within the societies that have developed around them. The only real relevance Rousseau's idea of a 'Noble Savage' still has, is the near talismanic powers it assumes in the hands of the wacademic left. There it's useful primarily for defending the security of those political structures they've built within their academic departments, for utilizing their own hunter-gatherer approach to reaping govt grants of non-taxable income from our public colleges. And you'd better believe that they'll defend their tribal gains every bit as savagely - though without visible bloodshed - as the Yanomamö would.

At this point we should be getting a better picture of what the absence of progress looks like, but little yet about what makes Progress possible. Patience, we'll get there within a few more posts.

The lesson to take away from this post is NOT that undeveloped societies behave savagely, but that,
  • Firstly, that savagery is normal - or at least easy - for human beings,
  • Secondly, that it is not only natural, but deeply tempting for people seek to use, and to excuse, the use of power to maximize their political and personal security,
  • Thirdly, that neither primitive mud huts, modern campuses nor royal palaces are reliable indicators of whether or not the people living within them are savages themselves. 
  • and Fourth, that there is something which some societies do develop, which lifts them above that baseline; What that is should be a constant question for anyone who doesn't wish to remain a savage
Just because a society develops more efficient technologies and stylized habits of dress, shelter and customs, that does not prevent them from behaving just as savagely as the Yanomamö; technology, social norms and a modern fashion sense, aren't key to what makes the difference between nobility and savagery, and if you do make the mistake of thinking that tweed jackets & mahogany libraries either make someone noble or rid one them of their savagery, then you too will be in for a surprise every bit as large as Chagnon's was, when he found the behaviors of the Yanomamö reflected in his fellows of Academe.

The other lesson to learn from this, is that that surprise Chagnon received, is the sort of surprise which is the very thing that a decent Education - which you should have had by High School, let alone by College - is supposed to inure you against.

His didn't. Has yours? Will the education your children are, or will likely receive, prepare them better than Chagnon's did? Does that education even recognize the Fourth point, let alone focus upon it? If your education installs illusions, rather than strives to rid you of them, you might want to question what value it really has.

We'll begin to take a closer look at what separates the appearances of, from the reality of, Progress, in the next post, tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gwyneth Paltrow & Moral Mondays: The Recognition of Progress begins with its absence - Progress or Regress pt.4a

Movement is only progress if it moves in the right direction. That's a fairly non-controversial remark to make, right? I can't imagine that there'd be too many who would argue with that, saying "Nah, it doesn't matter which way you move, forwards or backwards, it's all progress, right?!" Right?
Vis consili expers mole ruit sua.
Power without wisdom falls by its own weight:

Horace - Odes Book III, ode iv, line 65.

Yet many people blithely, even enthusiastically, promote those political actions they find superficially pleasing, without bothering to consider whether or not those actions are good, or even can be good. And forgive me if my bias is showing, but yes Gwenyth Paltrow, I'm looking at you, for saying this:
“It would be wonderful if we are able to give this man all the power he needs to accomplish the things he needs to,”
, because I do take it as uncontroversial - I pray that it is - that wanting to give an already powerful head of state even more power, and with fewer restraints upon that power to do as they please, is an exceedingly poorly thought out... thought.

Any arguments with that? No? Good.

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but if you don’t know whether or not the actions you are taking are good, if you haven’t carefully considered what those actions mean, what premises they rely upon, and what they are likely to lead to, and yet you advocate for them because of the fond feelings you have for them (whether Left, Right or Center matters not), can you really be said to be for ‘Progress’? You might be Pro-Furthering your personal agenda of the Left, Right or Center, but that cannot legitimately be called Pro-> Progress. True?

Can any of you tell me how taking any action at all, differs from taking an action you find pleasing but don't understand? Anyone? Personally I find it difficult to see the difference between the two. And unfortunately many of our leaders, intellectuals, business leaders, reporters, legal counsels, members of congress and legislators, are more of Paltrow's mind, than mine.

How could such a thing possibly be Progress? And the answer of course, is that it can't. A further answer is that when people speak of Progress... they don't know what they are talking about - and worse - they don't know that they don't know what Progress is, or what it could not be.

That's a problem. Especially since everyone is running around urging us to make progress, could anything come of that but Regress? No. Which means that what such people are actually advocating for is Pro-Regressive. That's disturbing. Isn't it?

This is not simply a political matter, it is far greater than that, and I'm continually amazed that the question of Progress vs Pro-Regress is not seen as a bi-partisan, tri-partisan, if not entirely non-partisan affair. But too many otherwise intelligent people that I know are oblivious to the fact that the positions they are advancing, have far more to do with ideas that are entirely regressive, rather than progressive - and it is their ignorance which has enabled the dangerous state of foolishness we have today, where people laugh at 'brainless' starlets, yet nod at 'deep thinkers' who say the very same things, but with more words.

For those who may be riled up by that, can you explain why? Can you base your explanation upon anything other than a reference to what some party, politician or other such person said or did? And can you explain in your own words, why? If you can, please do, I've been waiting a very long time to hear from you. Otherwise, I'll continue.

Looking for a marker to mark Progress from
To help with clarifying where we are, to be able to recognize Progress when we see it, we need to know what its absence looks like. And to do that, it seems to me that we need to define a marker for recognizing where the lowest societal baseline is. We need to be able to see that point which, if not lifted up from, societies (and the individuals who comprise them) will naturally fall back down to, and even below, perhaps without even knowing it. The benefit of this of course, being that once identified, that marker can be seen in relation to your own life, giving you the conscious opportunity to transform yourself from being yet another useful cog in the efficient error repeating machinery of history, into being someone who is able to help with writing and righting history.

With that power in hand, we can begin to calibrate the zero point on our Progress meter, we can begin to see whether or not those movements that a society, any society, has made, or is making, have even a hope of making real progress - or not.

One of the reasons I see this as being so important to do now, is because of statements such as the following, which show just how badly we need to be aware of where we are in relation to just such a baseline, so that we might avoid becoming yet another set of useful cogs in history's machinery.

First there's this bit from Jonathan Alter, is calling for 'Loyalty Oaths' to support President Obama's 'Economic Patriotism',
"...Even if comprehensive tax reform miraculously passes, it wouldn't reduce the corporate tax rate enough to stop the desertions. That’s because other countries have slashed their corporate taxes or eliminated them altogether.

So it’s time for red-blooded Americans to take matters into our own hands. My answer is to make every corporation sign something.

Sign what? If Republicans cared about this issue, which most don’t, they would revive McCarthy-era loyalty oaths, where people were forced to swear that they weren’t communists....."
[emphasis mine]
There's another fine example of those who know best, deciding what others will, or won't, be permitted to think, RFK jr. on those who have not been convinced of Al Gore's wisdom:
""I think it's treason. Do I think the Koch Brothers are treasonous, yes I do," Kennedy explained.

"They are enjoying making themselves billionaires by impoverishing the rest of us. Do I think they should be in jail, I think they should be enjoying three hots and a cot at the Hague with all the other war criminals," Kennedy declared."
, and then there's the 'No Justice, no peace!" crowd, where one of the many wannabe spokesgroups for the rioters, calling themselves 'Ferguson October', is promoting something it calls "Moral Monday",.. and to help with that they invited Cornell West to attend, and while attending, he said "I didn't come to speak, I came to get arrested!". Also on hand, was a key organizer of the 1999 Seattle WTO Riots, Lisa Fithian, and large numbers of other like-minded protesters (aka:rioters) who spent 'Moral Monday', and the days leading up to it, busily marching about, breaking things, burning stolen flags, threatening police, testing the limits of sedition and treason and shutting down Quik Trip stores, upscale malls and WalMarts. Some even engaged in some cheerful rounds of chanting:
"Who do you want? #DarrenWilson ! How do you want him? Dead!"
Doesn't that sound Moral to you? Can't you just feel the reverence for Justice in that? I heard on NPR the next morning the comments of one exuberant student, who, I kid you not, after attending a seminar on race relations, said:
"I feel very empowered! There's an overall sense that this movement is too big to fail!"
Does that sound to you as if the 'Progress' such activities might lead to, will be a place that any sane person would want to bother progressing to? But that is where it is leading to. Are you going to follow?

Do none of these people detect even the nose of a contradiction peaking out from under the big tent of their good intentions?

No, they do not. One reason why, is because whatever it is that they are using to measure their progress from, has no existence in the real world that either they, or we, could point to or agree upon. One way we can know this, is that they aren't bothering to make any reasoned arguments, they are making demands instead, which means that they do not intend to get what they want by reasoning, but by exerting power. Upon you.

We don't need to examine their premises too deeply at the moment - we will in later posts - but for now, just mull it over yourself. Have things such as these worked in the past?
  • Demanding loyalty oaths?
  • Imprisoning people within their own country?
  • Punishing ideas that don't comport with what is politically popular?
  • Threatening mob violence?
  • Letting the passions of the mob supersede the wheels of Justice?
  • Promoting an ungrounded youthful zeal for political change?
Have such things ever turned out well? Have they ever failed? More than once? Do you care? If not, then you've already transformed yourself into one of history’s many and oh so useful cogs, helping us to repeat the errors of the past. Ten years from now, is that a memory you'll want to look back upon?

So what I'm proposing here, is taking a trip into the not so distant past, to more clearly see the troubles of our present, and by examining what it looks like when Progress is entirely absent, enabling us to recognize Progress when it is proposed to us, or perhaps even present. Keep in mind that what we inquire into the past for, is not to find the particular origins of one society or another, or to measure the efficiency of their social & political structures and technologies, but to identify and familiarize ourselves with the tendencies that are common to men in society everywhere, past, present and future, so that we really can distinguish between Regress and Progress.

Continued tomorrow....

Thursday, October 02, 2014

DESE: Facilitating the control of your education

Show Me MO Shame!
I spent two days last week in our state capital of Jefferson City, becoming a member of one of the work groups tasked with rewriting our states educational curriculum standards over the course of the next year. While I was there I learned a nice lesson in self governance, and the consequences of its abandonment, a lesson that was willingly taught by DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education). Their lesson was very instructive, in one part teaching how to use chaos to control the sale, and in the other part how it is just as important what you do not to do, and not allow to be done, as is what you offer to and intend to do.

If you want to understand this lesson yourself, as well as how you and your children's education is being sold down the river by it, then there are five key issues that need to be addressed:
  1. Why do we have work groups to write our curriculum standards.
  2. Were the work groups convened with an eye towards success.
  3. If not, why.
  4. What does DESE need for a win.
  5. What does Missouri need for a win.
1) The issue here is that the state of Missouri recently passed a law, HB1490, to undertake the significant task of rewriting our educational curriculum standards.The sole reason why this law was passed, was because of DESE's ham-fisted and incompetent attempts over the last several years to roll-out their pet Common Core standards by steam rolling them over any and all questions, debates, and opposition. That behavior infuriated both parents and teachers alike and caused the Missouri Legislature, Left and Right, to pass HB1490 into law, stating that our curriculum standards will be written by representatives from across the state of Missouri, selected from experienced teaching professionals and parents selected by Missouri's Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House and Senate Pro Tempore.

2) To successfully lead large numbers of people, departments, divisions and other entities who may have either no history of working together, or worse, a history of working poorly together, there's a common practice to follow. To getting all members working towards a unified goal, the formula would be to,
  • Kick it off by gathering all parties together in one place for a launch meeting,
  • giving leaders from the various stake holders involved an opportunity to set the general tone and key points for the project;
  • clarify your project's purpose and getting understanding and buy in from the various departments and people involved.
  • let participants know who they'll be working with and making them aware of any slots yet to be filled,
  • establish clear channels for coordinating efforts and preserving communication between the several groups,
  • informing all of who will be attending meetings, who to contact with questions,
, and so forth.

It's not rocket science, it's just common sense. So much so that when such a project does not start off in that way, or when major pieces of it are ignored or misunderstandings are spread or even inflamed, people don't just suspect incompetence upon the part of those organizing the project, but a hidden agenda and even deliberate sabotage of the project.

That hidden agenda was not so hidden, even weeks before it was to begin, and when a number of us complained that the upcoming meetings were clearly being organized for DESE's benefit, rather than for the success of the project and compliance with the law, the Speaker's office, and that of the Senate Pro Tem President, reminded DESE of their position and of the intent of the law, and the Thursday prior, they agreed to revise their plans so as to proceed more as above; to include a plenary kickoff meeting, and to arrange for all the work groups to meet in the capital building. However, by Monday morning they'd reneged on their deal and reverted to scattering us around the capital with no meetings or communications established.

IOW, not only did DESE not approach the start of this project in such a way that was likely to lead to success, but they did quite the opposite:
  1. they refused to have a plenary 'kick off' meeting,
  2. they refused to allow the meetings to be convened in a manner conducive to unity and success,
  3. most of those involved were given last minute notification - if at all - that they were being called together from across the state of Missouri to attend two days of meetings in Jefferson City (The MO House & Senate leadership deserves heavy criticism for their lack of leadership in this area as well).
  4. there were no clarifying speeches or discussions,
  5. there were no introductions of the different teams to each other,
  6. there were no clear explanations of what it was we were to accomplish,
  7. the posted meeting places were in multiple buildings around the capital and were even moved, without notice or note, at the last minute, leaving the members to track down the correct meeting room after having been directed to the wrong one.
3) We don't need to turn the clock back very far to figure out why they might not want HB1490 to proceed according to the intent of the law. Try looking at the 'talking tour' they conducted across the state last year, this format of 'permitting' people to speak under very controlled circumstances, and breaking people up into groups without allowing the comparing of notes or receiving direct answers to questions, was and is standard fare for DESE: to divide, to take control of communication and so conquer, which is the same strategy they employed last week, and show every sign of intending to continue.

4) DESE has made clear what standards they would like for Missouri, and that's Common Core, and they've invested a great deal of time, money (yours) and prestige into imposing them. Is it likely then that DESE will see it to be in their interest to have independent work groups successfully writing their own standards?


As one of the legislative assistants sent round during our 1st day of contentious meetings pointed out, if these work groups fail, then Missouri's curriculum standards will fall to DESE to choose what will be used and implement. Is it ever seen as being in the interests of a political body to have others revise or rewrite their core material? No! So why would the legislative leadership permit DESE to have any involvement in re-writing what they have a stake in remaining unchanged? Who's governing who?

What does DESE need to do for a win? Nothing. And they need as much of nothing as they can possibly get. They don't even have to 'get a sale' - they've already purchased their preferred product - Common Core - they only need to be able to retain it. So what do they need from these work group meetings? They only need to:
  • control the narrative,
  • minimize objections,
  • make the objections and those objecting seem unreasonable,
  • control the presentation of how the standards are discussed, enabling them to retain as much of the Common Core standards as possible,
  • If the standards work groups fail, DESE will implement the standards they choose - Common Core.
To accomplish that, and subvert HB1490, DESE took immediate control of the narrative with their first 'press release' for the upcoming work groups, securing a controlling role for themselves, while minimizing the perception of the power those in the work groups would have, in relation to DESE. This line in particular sums it up:
"The meetings are open to the public; however, seating is very limited. Spectators will be provided comment cards if they wish to leave feedback. Only members of the work groups will be given the opportunity to speak during the meetings."[emphasis mine]
Members of the work groups were to be 'Given', the opportunity to speak?In our own meetings? So you tell me, reading that, does it seem to you that DESE's intention is to see to it that autonomous work groups will be convened so as to define the standards that DESE would then have the job of implementing? Or does it seem more as if DESE intends to see these groups as working under the control and guidance of DESE? Add to that the fact that they scheduled the eight work groups in different buildings around the capital, keeping the members as far apart as possible and with as little awareness of each other and those they would be working with, of who and what to expect, and who best to ask questions of, other than DESE themselves, and it's clear that they mean to be the only ones in control of the process.

They've been masterful at minimizing objections and at making those with objections seem unreasonable, and by the end of the first day of meetings it became apparent just how well they'd done so. By convincing some of the legislative leadership to 'be fair' in appointing members (how could it be 'fair' to place people on committees that are opposed to the intent and spirit of the committees and the law which formed them, is something only a politician comfortable with losing, could comprehend), those interested in rewriting our curriculum standards were out numbered on their own work groups - most of which were only half filled (shame on you Missouri!) - and on top of that, DESE took it upon themselves to install their own facilitators to run the meetings, hamper dissent, and limit unwanted discussion from taking place.

But don't let my wording conjure up images of frothing Drill Sargent's shouting down and riding rough shod over their work groups, if you do, you'll not only miss what they're doing, and risk being controlled yourself.

For example, on hearing how they had their objections cast aside. I, and a few of those from our work group, History grades 6-12, which had a somewhat better go of it, assuming that this group hadn't been forceful enough, we offered up our oh-so wise words of wisdom:
"Well you should have done what we did, we said ___"
, and they stared at us in annoyance and answered "We did!". And to each additional
"Oh, well then did you ___?"
of ours, they answered "We did!"

How could this be? How could they not have succeeded if they'd done the same thing? What made the difference? I found the answer on reviewing the recordings from the morning sessions of the other work groups. They did indeed make most of the same points that we did in our meeting, and in some cases they made them better than we did. The only real difference between what we did, and what they did, was what happened in the first few seconds of the meeting. They politely waited for the meeting to get underway before making their points, while we, somewhat rudely, refused to allow the DESE facilitators to begin their presentation, and we refused to allow them the position of recognizing who would speak and when.

This is key: they raised their objections after the meeting began and we did so before it could get started.

That might seem a small point, but small and subtle are two very different things, and very often the more subtle trumps the more bold & brazen. Those who know how to manipulate a group are able to take nearly complete control of that group, if they be allowed to begin speaking from a position of power and control.

Because we refused the DESE facilitators the opportunity to even begin their presentations, or to ask for introductions, or to even finish a sentence, because we asserted from the start that non-work group members would be granted permission to speak only when the business of our work group was at a suitable point for listening to them, DESE's facilitators never had a position of power from which to control the session from.

The videos from the other sessions bear this point out. Where the DESE facilitator was allowed to begin the meeting, to ask for introductions, to lay the 'norms' for the meeting, to direct that questions be written down, and define how they they as oh-so helpful facilitators would politely recognize who would speak and for how long... they accomplished in the first few seconds, and solidified in just a few minutes, their complete control over the meeting for the rest of that day and the next.

Take a look at these two videos. The first lays it out the points you should be looking for, and in the second video, the second shows it in real time action, how difficult it is to prevent their taking control, even though you know what to look for.

Watch the Social Studies K-5, 9/22/14 AM session, and I'll bet that you won't see what's being done to the participants until it's already been done - it was decided in the first minute of their meeting, by letting the DESE facilitator start their meeting. They assumed the sale, took possession of the floor, and having taken the floor, it became theirs.
They began their presentation, nicely, politely, asking for introductions, walking participants through their slides... and so assumed and kept control of the meeting from that point on. Despite the valiant efforts of the two members who had no other connection to MO Ed than being parents - indeed, because of their opposition - the nice facilitators gained more power with every objection they made, seeming more and more reasonable, while the objections, and those making them, seemed more and more small and unreasonable.

It happens that easily.

At one point in the second video, one of the other participants, tsk-tsk'ing the objectors, states that
"The DESE facilitator cannot control this meeting, we of this work group will do that..."
, but that is in fact exactly what happened. Having been able to start the K-5 session, the DESE facilitator didn't just take control, they were assumed to have it, and those who work in one aspect or another of the state schooling industry, felt themselves to have the upper hand along with them, and they never let it go.

It is incredibly easy for that position to be taken and held! That technique, whether you attribute it to Delphi Technique or any number of others, is one that is familiar in office politics, sales and elsewhere, and it really amounts to simple power dynamics and manipulation, which enables one party to take and keep control over another.

If these tactics seem remote to you, I'll bet that you've had more experience with them than you might imagine. Have you ever allowed a salesmen into your home, and found yourself being shown to your own kitchen table, to listen to their presentation? Do you know why? Because that is the way a strong (not pushy) salesmen goes about 'taking control of the sale'. They not only take over your own kitchen, but walk you through their presentation, not answering your questions right off but suggesting that you hold them till the 'appropriate' time, they nicely refuse to give you a price: "Well I can't give you a price until I know the features you're interested in", and it just so happens that know the features you're interested in is what they need to manipulate you into buying what they want to sell you.

Whether you call it 'Delphi Technique', or simply using power to control groups, DESE was serving their own interests, not those of Missouri. They 'took the kitchen table', by selecting the meeting places, and staffing the work groups with their own 'facilitators', who were there to direct and shape the meetings, their context and their content and progress, in a manner that led to what DESE had chosen to sell - something that could not be accomplished if there had been a kick off meeting explaining the purpose of HB1490, DESE's lack of authority in the process, and the forbidden nature of Common Core in rewriting our standards.

There came a joint statement from the Lieutenant Governor, Legislative leaders Issue Statement Clarifying HB1490 Work Groups, and it was welcome when it came the next day, here it is,
“HB1490 was designed to vest in the Education Work Groups the power to shape recommendations for academic standards absent influence from bureaucrats and politicians. Under the law, after DESE convened the initial meeting, the power shifts to the groups alone to guide themselves each month with the goal of delivering their best academic standards recommendations by Oct. 1, 2015. There exists no authority in the statute for DESE to dictate the deliberations of these work groups, nor even to guide their deliberations after the initial organizing meetings held yesterday, unless invited to do so by individual work groups.”
, but really, it was no more helpful than the work group participants questions and statements.

5) As long as DESE is allowed to maintain control over the work groups, which were created to undo what DESE has been so intent on doing, then our work groups will not be able to do what they were convened to do.

Call, write, email your representatives, and let them know that DESE needs to be barred from the proceedings of the work groups, not because they are obstructing our efforts, but because they are leading them, oh so sweetly and firmly, to exactly where DESE wants them to go. And as DESE's poor judgment and proven disrespect for the opinions and rights of those they were established for and hired to serve, they should have no further part in these work group proceedings.

The work of the work groups, while it will be hard work, and it will take time, it is good work, and it doesn't require partisan efforts. Despite DESE's claims, this is not a politically Left/Right issue, or a parent vs. teacher issue - there are many people working to roll back Common Core who are politically on the left, right and center, and many teachers as well. Our work group, the 'Social Studies, 6-12' group, is, I think, split 50/50 politically, but once the manipulators were moved out of the way, we were able to discuss the actual issues of standards, listening to and thinking upon what each had to say, and so were able to make good progress.

We just needed to get DESE out of the way.

If Missouri is to have worthwhile Curriculum Standards for the education of its citizens and future voters, then the Legislature and the Governor need to remove DESE from participating in the process in any way, shape or form. They are the reason why the current process is in disarray, having paid millions for something we do not want, need or have any reason to believe will be successful for any one other than assessment companies.

And perhaps more important than anything else, is that you, if you live in Missouri, then you must insist to your state legislators, and to yourselves, your neighbors, and your teachers, that the remaining number of seats on the work groups - nearly half are unfilled - must be filled as soon as possible. Self Government is but a joke, of no one in a state is willing to take some responsibility and action for governing themselves! There's no pay in this, there's no thanks in this; I'm not getting either money or time off granted for this, it is coming, very painfully, out of my time and our already depleted bank account, and it hurts. But if I, and you, are not willing to do such things... then shame on us for the mockery we've made of 'We The People', and if that is okay-dokey with you, then you can rest assured that you will be getting even more of what you deserve in the coming years, as yet another generation is raised up knowing little or nothing about what self governance is or means.

You will learn the lesson. The only choice you've got is whether you learn it the 'easy way' or the hard way.