Some Thoughts on Books


I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. I went to a normal county school. Bond issues always passed. Our schools were modern and clean. The books were up-to-date and in good repair. We had a lab and a gym, a football field, a cafeteria. All the normal accouterments. Our parents were mostly factory workers, many probably hadn’t graduated high school, but most probably had. What did they know? What did I know?

How does one judge one’s school when one has never known another?

So I matriculated through, and thought I got the normal A- education, not quite the private school, but wasn’t I one of those American students who set the bar for the rest of the world? I thought so.

Looking back, I remember reading Silas Marner, The Scarlet Letter, and some farcical redo of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar (the remaining memory is “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears [a bag of ears lands at Antony’s feet]). That’s all I remember.

I remember as I prepared to go to college having a pamphlet entitled something to the effect: “The one hundred books every college freshman should have read.” I had read almost none. I set up rectifying that, but I don’t think I read more than about six.

I majored in political science and dabbled in philosophy and whatever else fancied me. I took a writing course, but never a formal literature class as I recall.

At some point I realized that I was not well versed in literature per se. It comes from reading books which explain an emotion or an event with reference to another well-known classic and, well, I seemed never to have read it or understood the comparison therefore. A lot of fairly heavy academic subjects often reference the hero or heroine of a fictional account to explain someone else. I usually missed those too.

It was then that I began to suspect that perhaps I had not been well taught in high school.

That’s an easy explanation and serves to put the blame squarely on another set of shoulders.

In part it might be true. I don’t know, but surely no English teacher I had in my youth ever managed to find the right button with me. I read a ton of fiction as a child, but most all of it was cheap trash that was not notable either by title or author. I got most of it from the school library. An only child has to fill some hours every week doing something and reading was my escape when  the time of day or situation presented no friend to wile away the hours with.

In part it was probably due to parents who were not readers. To my knowledge my mother never read a book, at least that I ever saw. My father confined his reading to the 25¢ paperback novel about the west or about the war. There were no “great novels” in our home. It’s little wonder I had no idea what one was.

Along came law school, and there was no time for fiction. I read day and night of course but not fiction. And then there were other interests over the years. I read deeply into paleontology, the origins of man, and astronomy, the origins of the universe. That later turned into a deep interest in Christianity which blossomed into a return to academia. Have you picked up the theme here? Origins. I read tons of science fiction for several years.

So reading was never the issue, but fiction fell by the way side, and I found in my fifties that gosh, I was pretty illiterate when it came to American authors and most of Europe’s best. I had read most of Twain, most of Dickens. I’d read Moby Dick,  and a few others. I’d read a fair number of more popular authors like Leon Uris. I read all of Shakespeare. I read Homer. I read Thucydides and parts of Tacitus. I’d read parts of Aristotle, and all of Plato, and most of the Greek playwrights.

I had not read Chaucer or Flaubert, Proust, Cervantes, Hemingway or Fitzgerald, Salinger, or Hesse, or Conrad, Vonnegut, Plath or Dreiser, Sinclair, Cather. Oh the list was and is quite long. I’ve read most of these now, at least one of their novels, and a host of others. I’ve seen so brilliantly what real writing is all about.

The list remains long  in this late attempt to catch up to where I think I should be. And in the end, it falls upon me, only me. I can push off some blame for not being directed as a child, but surely I decided as an adult to spend my time on this rather than that. And perhaps that was not wrong, so much as it led me to these beliefs and not some others.

Who is to say which would be better? I’m convinced in some real sense that reading some of these authors at 20 is not profitable. It takes a lot of living to extract the value of say a Salinger or a Plath don’t you think?

If we can think beyond the tip of our nose, then it is on each of us how much we will decide to benefit from the wisdom of those that have walked before us. Hermann Hesse says that wisdom cannot be taught. One can convey knowledge but wisdom? No. And he is right. We do not learn wisdom from these greats, but we gain insight and perspective, and these are, to me, some of the building blocks of wisdom.

At my age there is little else to strive for, except to be known as wise. Today a nice enough fellow suggested that I wrote long replies to appear brilliant and cover up the bullshit of what I was saying. I think that not true actually, I speak in carefully constructed sentences to be properly understood. But of course, flowery prose does have a way of making shit smell better. So there was a point to his statement if alas he only meant to dismiss my remarks with mean-pointed barb.

Still, words are the tools of my craft, and I admit to being a bit in love with the playing with them. Yet, in reading so many marvelous for-the-ages authors, I’m reminded at how much wisdom is offered if not always received. And I’m the worse for it for taking as long as I have to discover what I have missed.

Nothing to do now, save to read on. Read on, my captain.

PS: there are enumerable lists of “The 100 books everyone should read”. They are probably all equally good and bad. But they do offer a guideline. I’d stick with newer models if I were you, since the older one’s are decidedly western-centric.

We Educate Rats Too!

dunceSometimes it takes a long time for the coffee to work its way through the grounds.

Or if you will, one day you open your eyes like any normal day, and see something that was there all the time.

The point is, I’ve always known this in one manner or another.

What you ask?

That our education system just sucks.

I knew it in undergraduate school. It was obvious, but I of course was way into my, “damn I’m smart” phase so I figured that the awful truths I was learning about Merika, and Western Civilized?zation, and all that was just cuz, only smart folks like me were capable of internalizing this shit and not declaring open war against the government. I was “big enough to take it.” The big secret of what a dirty little nation we really were was given to me, one of the small legion of people who would smile at the masses, all the while becoming part of  the new engine of democracy. Or some such blather. It was never spelled out, nor was it ever thought out.

We regaled our friends and family at “home” in middle or as we were wont to say, the middles who were really the worker class, with tales of elite power holders mostly unknown to the masses of semi-literate drones like themselves. They of course sucked air and murmured to themselves the question, “what is going on in our colleges to produce such talk?”

It all got confounded in our hippie/anti-war/feminist/ rhetoric and colleges mostly dodged the bullet in terms of responsibility. Drugs would do ever so much better as causation to our nasty smart-ass talk.

I maintained that I was still of that elite I-know-better group even when I was shocked to learn that my decision to enter law school with the professed desire to “work in Washington for some committee or other” was never gonna happen. I learned that there were lawyers and then there were lawyers. I was not one of the latter. Those lawyers, were graduating from Princeton and Harvard and Yale and Stanford and had parents who were RICH, as in Freakin’ Rich. I was a lawyer meant for county prosecuting/defense, and handling peoples wills and small claims. That’s what people who went to your average state law schools got.

I started to get it. A little.

Since I had no desire to be “rich” or any of that rot anyway, I went my way, did my time, and emerged with a decent life style, and time to pursue hobbies of an intellectual nature.

Sure from time to time, I wished I had had it to do all over again. Paleontology was more my style. Theology and biblical studies later. I grumped as to why some people got exposed to that and others didn’t until it was “too late”. Did some schools give it’s kids a heads up on subjects like anthropology, archaeology, cosmology? I suppose they do if you are in Groton, Cranbrook or other prep type schools. maybe?

In the back of my head I realized that most of us are steered elsewhere. For our “own good” as it were. Not too many good jobs revolving around archaeology. Or philosophy. Gosh I loved that, but what to do with it? So I moved to a “practical” discipline. Law. It could have easily have been medicine I suppose. Neither requires more than an average head upon one’s shoulders.

The point is, I vaguely saw that most of us were ushered “elsewhere”, to those places where “we” were needed.

This is no indictment per se on education as we know it, nor upon teachers, most of whom are or were nearly as clueless as I. A few were frankly well above smart and did that one thing that makes them ripe for pedestal worship–they inspired a kid to follow a dream.

When I located old classmates a few years ago, I was admittedly quite shocked at what I found. I guess I wasn’t so surprised that most had not gone on to college. Pretty much I figured that a few would start and then bail when they found that they were no longer the center of attention. Jocks and cheerleaders often find their celebrity status missing in undergrad and because they never were students in high school anyway, they bore quickly in academia, leave and get cheap white-collar jobs and get on with life.

What surprised me were the number who lauded (to some old teachers who also joined the group) those teachers for being so “good” and teaching them so much. Seriously?

Let’s get real.

Basic education in this country for the vast majority, consists in learning to read at a basic level (8th grade), write a simple sentence that can be understood, and to behave. Behaving consists of learning that it’s good to be lawful, bad to be a crook, and that citizenship consists of paying your taxes and voting every four years. You learn a small amount of “correct” American history such that you are reasonably patriotic, i.e., willing to go to war and die for rich men’s greed.

That’s about it.

That gets you workers who sew the clothes, build the cars and planes, man the office machines, put out the fires, work the fields, nurse the sick, teach the next generation, and settle petty disputes over property rights. A few split off to hear your confessions and bury your dead.

The rich white dudes send their kids elsewhere where they learn to run armies, run industries, and run governments.

I do not need to know that Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492, nor do I need to know that Hawaii was the last state admitted to the union. I don’t need to know that Moby Dick is a classic about man’s struggle over the existence of God, and good and evil. What do I learn from dissecting a frog for god’s sake? What did I learn from all that Civil War crap? To be holier than thou regarding the South, while Southern kids were learning the opposite?

All that crap is available to be found by anyone who can use a card catalog back “in the day” or a computer today. That is simply factual DATA.


What constitutes a rational, well supported argument? What code words suggest fluff rather than substance? What sources are reliable, and how do I discern that? What does it mean that every writer comes with a set of biases, known or otherwise? What is logic? What is charismatic bullshit and how do I tell the difference? What is just well written but basically crap? What is poorly written but true?

How do all those “things” that happened since the dawn of the written word and before, stack up into patterns that tell me something about who I am, who WE are? What can we be? What can we never be? What did WWII have to do with megalomaniacal men, and what had it to do with greed, industrialization, resources, and democracy?

We are not taught this stuff. And I’m very sure it’s intentional. They simply can’t have too many out there who are on to them. Oh, no, I’m not getting all conspiratorial here. But extremely rich people do exist. They live in a world that is divorced from us. They think they are the natural “kind” to decide things. And they do. They decide almost all the important things.

We think we matter, with our democracy and our voting. There are differences between Republicans and Democrats. The GOP figures that things were going pretty nicely when most people were poor, busy just scratching out a living, consumed by putting food on the table. The Democrats are just Republicans with a heart–let them have a life that is decent enough to enjoy a bit. They will still not interfere with us as long as they have a few toys and a couple of weeks vacation at their cabin and some fishing.  But on the big stuff, both parties are agreed–they will decide what’s best. Our kids will do the dying.

Almost all our high school educational system are designed to produce law-abiding workers who don’t raise a ruckus. Most of our colleges simply prepare MOST for those slightly more complicated necessary service professions.

Only a teacher or professor here or there, has a glimmer of truth, and imparts it. Suggests that the mind is meant for so much more. It’s meant to see the big picture, and once it has, it knows that solutions are so much beyond that of a  farm bill, or a fair trade treaty, or some utility regulation.

It’s about how we see each other as a species. How we view other species. How we see the universe.

Truth is a powerful thing. And almost nobody knows it.

I’m just starting to see.



Items to Make You Queen of the Watercooler Next Week

large_overworkedSee that’s me. I mean, imagine a woman instead of a man, and that’s me. I’m spend hours reading just so that you don’t have to. I mean you can if you want to of course. God forbid that fine education goes to waste, but I have burned up the Intertubes in an effort to find all the news that you missed.

And I read it all. And some of it was crap upon further inspection, and so I ditched it. And the rest, well you gotta know this stuff. Especially if you want all your friends and aunt Tilde to think you are just a real smart ass. (meant in the kindest way of course)

So, let’s get to it, in no particular order.

Paul Krugman has a fine op-ed in the NYTimes detailing the crazy party, AKA, the GOP. What he says is very true. The GOP argument for deliberately toying with the very health of our economy goes something like this: I have put a gun to your head and demanded your money or your life. If you refuse to give me your money, it’s your fault that you’re dead. I gave you the option to live after all!

On the other hand, this may all go to prove that one can actually get admitted to Harvard and get through it with flying colors and still be utterly and profoundly stupid. Ted Cruz may be set to be one of the most spectacular blazing super nova that sputtered out in record time in the history of horses asses, err, super novae.

If it is true that humans have an individualized predisposition to violence, is it equally true that humans in community have a predisposition to violence in the form of war? It seems many assume this to be true. But evolutionary biologist, David P. Barash argues that this may in fact not be true. The latter may be only a capacity rather than an adaptation. Want to learn more? If you don’t think it matters, think again. We base our defense systems on assumptions of what other groups are likely to do. If we assume all people are driven to war to achieve ends, we build a different defense system than if we do not. And we’ve sure got the tax bills to reflect that.

I know that most of you are just thrilled every time you get a chance to read about quantum mechanics, I mean what self-respecting grease monkey or grocery check out lady  isn’t obsessed with the working of the universe at the extra-tiny scale? Ever heard of an aplituhedron? I bet not. It all means that all the complicated mathematical twists and turns are eliminated as well as the super computer to do the computations. Now little Bobby can explain the most complicated sub-particle interaction with nothing more than a pencil and paper again!

If you are going, uhh, okay so what? Well, you all know that physicists have been since the beginning of time, trying to join the big universe with the small universe (macro and micro forces?) and it has just never fit well, and well, the don’t call it the elegant universe for nothing. Everybody who knows this stuff figured the answer would eventually be simple. This might be it. I’m not a physicist as you might have guessed by now.

I mean this is simply delicious early fall reading. Get to it.  :)

Now I know you will love this one. There is a new book out there that you probably will want to get. I can imagine about half a dozen of you will be on Amazon in moments. It’s called Holy Shit: A Brief History of Swearing, by Melissa Mohr. Colin Burrows review of the book is worth the reading. Now read it your grouthead gnat snapper!

Steven Pinker from Harvard has written a book that details how we are becoming less violent as societies over time. He also argues that the world would be better led by science than by the humanities. Some beg to differ. A great essay from The Berlin Review of Books, and Gloria Origgi, A Reply to Steven Picker’s Scientific Manifesto.

overworked4111Love words? Lots of words? Okay.

The American Scholar has a fun essay called Is There a Word for That? Words are being made up all the time, but you knew that. Want to know who created some words we now take for granted? Who is responsible for katydid? Or neologize ? Or Anglophobia? Blurb? Gerrymander? Bromide? Oh I bet I got your attention now.

Similarly, if you have ever remembered the quote but not the quoter, and the more you looked the harder it got? Who Really Sad That? You would be surprised at how often we get the attribution wrong. Amaze your friends by correcting their quotes!

“Whoever is not a socialist when he is 20 has no heart; whoever is not a conservative when he is 30 has no brain.” Usually attributed to Churchill. Actually? Nobody knows.

Enter the fine world of WAS–Wrongly Attributed Statements.

I betcha thought that the human mind created the gear, that round thingie that has “teeth” and meshes with other objects similarly constructed? That together makes things turn and other things go up and down and maybe side to side? You would be wrong. Scientists have found a gear in nature for the very first time. And YOU are some of the first non-specialists to know that, so don’t you feel so very proud?

A cute little guy called a planthopper (he has a very important scientific name you need not memorize) has a couple of gears in his back legs that mesh together and then when he calls on them to, spin backward sending him off on a leap across the earth that looks pretty fun. I’m sure it made sense to him too in terms of escaping predators or getting up as high as he wanted to feed. It’s called evolution folks. There is a little embedded video so you can watch him go!

Must a life be meaningful in order to be happy? Do we prefer meaningfulness over happiness if we can’t have both? They are not the same by the way. Happiness in part is getting what you want or need in life. Meaningfulness can have zero to do with this. Similarly happy people report that health is essential, yet health has nothing to do with meaningful lives. Happiness is apparent in the now, while meaningfulness tends to be a future assessment. This is a long article but one that raises lots of questions to think about. Well worth your time.

Nautilus brings us the ever-beloved essay on dinosaurs. The discovery and explanation of our bird predecessors have had a varied history as scientists working from small numbers of bones, continually revised their thinking of these creatures over time. As is usual, it is the unsung tiny dinosaurs that have done the most to correct our understanding over time of what these cuties looked like and how they lived. For the kid in all of us, this article will satisfy. I still wish there had been Brontosaurus, they were so neat!

With the advent of all the cute devices we have now from phones to tablets to readers to computers, all with calendars and reminders of one sort or another, there is less and less reason to have to memorize things. Nobody has to write down a phone number or address. The call is registered, switch it to contacts and it’s saved forever. Enter an address in your Google maps app, and you don’t need to record that address again. And maybe, just maybe that’s a good thing. Memorization may be a much over-rated thing. Curious? Read on.

How many late night gab fests have lingered long into the night over the ever-present question– Why was Spinoza excommunicated anyway? I mean this guy was ostracized with a big O, like in members of the congregation being order to be no closer that four cubits to the man. That’s some serious excommunication! Worse, payment of a fine served to dissolve most bans. Spinoza’s was life long. Spinoza himself never spoke of the harem, most of his works and fame came long after it. What is as interesting as why is by whom: Jews who had escaped forced Catholicism in Spain and Portugal and once free in Amsterdam, practiced a form of Judaism that was anything but normative. All in all, quite fascinating.

Happy reading everyone, and to all a good day!


The Chronically Stupid Aways Find an Obtuse Angle

JohnWayneSo much stupid, so little time to expose it all.

First there is the Daily Caller. The Daily Caller is a piece of stupid run by Tucker Carlson, from Fox Noise. The Daily Collection of Stupid leaves no stone unturned in its attempt to be irrelevant, stupidly funny, and masterful in its invention of new ways to be stupid every day.

You no doubt have always known that the Reactionary Right, of which the Daily Curd attempts to be the voice for, is a huge supporter of gay rights? You’re not aware of that? Well, slap yourself silly dumb person and listen up.

pink gunYou see, it’s a crying shame, that compromise bill worked out by Senators Manchin and Toomey. Those darn Democrats, always seeking to betray and abuse their gay brothers and sisters.

The bill, Daily Crap points out, will discriminate against gay gun owners. See if you can figure out why?

Figured it out yet?

Well, you see, in states that don’t recognize gay marriage, said gay gun owner will be forced to submit his or her partner to a background check before selling them or giving them a gun for Christmas. That’s because the “family exception” to the proposed new law would not be recognized in non-same-sex marriage recognizing states.

Yes, indeed. I kid you not as they say.

I guess they forgot the provision about neighbor-to-neighbor transfers. I mean what can be more neighborly than actually living in the same house? Seems about as friendly as neighbors can get doncha think?

I gave you the link, lest you think I was pulling your leg, or attempting a frontal lobotomy with a rusty butter knife.

Next on our hit parade of stupid is the ever growing legend of another of those Texas wonders, Steve Stockman.

babybumperYou remember Steve right? The Texan Representative who decided it was a great idea to invite Ted Nugent, aging rocker with like two old hits over 30 years old, who loves guns more than he loves his kids, and all around crazy conspiracy-laden anti-Obama screamer, to the State of the Union speech? THAT Steve Stockman?

Well this is his new way of attracting the marvelous people who contribute to his campaign to continue being a public nuisance.

This is his newly designed bumper sticker which you can attach to the bumper of your car, horse, or forehead, proclaiming you too are stupid as hell.

Is there anything left to say here? Stockman is offensive on just about all of Dante’s levels of hell.

But my favorite this week? Oh that was easy. You probably heard about the kerfuffle about Melissa Harris Perry’s promo for her show on MSNBC? Where she talks about the education of our children and suggests that children just don’t belong to their parents, but in fact belong to the entire community?

The Really Really Ridiculous Right started fainting and running for smelling salts on that one. One heard the immediate refrain, “COMMUNISM” expounded by the likes of Rush, the Drudge, Daily Caller, and Newsbusters.

Newsbusters said this: “. . .the notion of collective responsibility for children was a philosophy that undergirded the Cultural Revolution in Communist China under Chairman Mao. I bring that up because, as you may recall, another Harris-Perry “Lean Forward” spot contains a reference to a “great leap forward,” which calls to mind the disastrous agricultural reform plan which starved millions of Chinese to death in the 1950s.”

Sarah, “HEY, remember me?” Palin tweeted: Apparently MSNBC doesn’t think your children belong to you. Unflippingbelievable.

Rush ME MORE DRUGS Limbaugh said: So how does this manifest itself? So you need your yard mowed, what do you do?” he continued. “You go knock on the door down the street — your kid that you don’t own. I do today. For the next hour, your kid is going to mow my yard. And then after that, my trash needs taking out and after that I need somebody to go to the grocery store for me and my kid’s tied up, so I’m claiming your kid. How does this work?”

From the Lonely Conservative (who decries a new promo declaring that people have basic human rights to education, food, housing and so forth): Maybe in her next promo she can just come out and quote directly from the Communist Manifesto.

Okay folks, settle down. Let’s recall a few things. There is a rather famous saying, “it takes a village to raise a child.” That is in fact the title of one of Hillary Clinton’s books. Let’s not forget that we all pay property taxes wherever we live, and part of that money goes directly to support local school systems. Guess what? Those who are not parents pay them as well, on the theory that EVERYONE  has a stake in children being educated.

Has everyone on the Right forgotten the “good old days”? You remember when extended families lived together and everyone thought that all children were so much better off having more people busy raising them? Remember the Waltons? Remember when we were children and the teacher as “loco parentis” was considered “always right” if we were disciplined? Remember when any neighbor had a perfect right to correct your behavior if not physically, at least verbally?

Do we not all have a stake in the future of our next generation of teachers, lawyers, doctors, soldiers, and seamstresses? These are the folks who will govern the country when we are using our walkers in the hallways of senior facilities.

I mean how stupid can you be to see something sinister in what Ms Harris-Perry said? How much must you twist and distort it to make it look dangerous and “otherly”?

Do you not see that it is exactly this utterly over-the-top reaction to something so innocent and benign and TRUE, that makes even the fairly non-interested middle of America think the far Right has more than a few screws loose? The GOP and it’s cadre of stupid are swirling into the sinkhole of oblivion and pretty much nobody cares.

Next: RED Jello is a Commie plot with nanobots invading your body and indoctrination in each red sugary gelatin grain.

monkey play


What a Difference a Mind Makes

witchcraftYou know it’s really funny. Prepare you face for it. To laugh that is.

When I talk about faith or religion here, it brings out the new atheists and their smarmy yak-yak about believing in fairy tales. When I talk about faith or religion on my actual religion blog, Walking in the Shadows, I sometimes get folks who deign to explain to me that I’m not practicing the right kind of Christianity from their point of view.

Yesterday, I was asked, after making a number of statements regarding various fairly technical aspects of Christian theology (atonement theory, faith/works), the sort of things that some of us love to discuss, whether I was a “follower” of Jesus.

I guess it caught me oddly since I can’t imagine why anyone would spend all that much time on a subject of which they had no interest. But then I thought of a few rather well-known scholars who had started their studies in faith, and then lost it, and remained in the discipline. So I guess it wasn’t so odd.

Which brought me to the well-known principle that on just about every subject known to man and woman, people see things very differently. To this person’s mind at least, because I didn’t believe as she did, I must not be a follower of Jesus as she was. There was one way to follow Jesus, and I wasn’t doing it.

Similarly, whether it be economics or climate change, or any of a host of human and worldly problems, you discover that people have views that seem idiotic to you. Yet, when you talk to them, they have the same passion as you do. They are just as sure. Well, I guess that’s not totally true. I always figure that I’m never totally sure about much of anything. Doubt to me is part of the package. Those who are diametrically opposed to what I think, they seem to be very sure.

Therein lies the rub as Shakespeare was wont to say. The “follower of Jesus” if asked, would assure me that her belief is absolute, without question. That seems to me to be the total opposite of faith. For to me, faith is such in the face of doubt. It’s a choosing to believe even when there is no proof that you are right, just no proof that you are wrong.

It led me to conclude that that is probably true about most people who are given to being “absolutely sure”.  I’m also engaged with a very reactionary type who is “very sure” there is no such thing as global warming. Even though logically he can’t be, since he has no training in any science even remotely related to the subject. He is adamant that he is right, because the people he aligns himself with say what he wants to be true.

A scientist will tell you that you can’t be absolutely sure that the sun will rise tomorrow. Something catastrophic could always happen. Is it true that only the reactionary right are “sure” about things? I wonder.

I’m not completely sure where this comes from. One can refer to the fundamentalist mind. People think it refers to super conservative church people, but it actually is a mindset. It refers to a person who likes things in neat little boxes, all tidy and a whole world gets constructed of rights and wrongs. Once they have established this nice world, they can finally relax, they have all the answers. Nobody is allowed to jeopardize that with actual facts to the contrary. They must be defeated, and they are, by naming them as suspect. They are “purveyors of lies”, they are “Marxists” or “socialists” or “one-world government” nuts. They are hucksters conspiring  to obtain grants based on known falsehoods, for the “money”. (of course nobody explains how tens of thousands are all in on this conspiracy and waste their careers getting grants to do things they know already are false). Nobody explains the lack of logic of it all.

One can refer to self-interest, and that explains a lot too. When you poke at the angry all too sure person, they generally erupt in a retort of “we’re going to be taxed to death, and all for nothing!” That is the crux of the issue when you puncture the pus-filled wound they carry around with them. They hate taxes, hate everything they perceive is keeping them from retaining every dime they make.

That is why the GOP mantra is so attractive. They not only support the angry right and it’s desire to pay less taxes, they give them all the reasoning as to why they need not feel guilty about it either. If you show them statistics that prove that raising the minimum wages doesn’t result in an uptick in the unemployment numbers and that it results in raising up the wages of all workers, they retort with a firm “no it doesn’t, all it does it deny poor black kids a chance at a job, and perpetuate poverty, which is all Democrats want because then they have a ready-made electorate who want those handouts.”

It’s so nice when people tell you aren’t racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or wrong period. It’s nice to be told that you are right in denying full rights to gay couples because “God wants it that way.” Nice to deny SNAP to women and children because it just “encourages laziness and relying on the government”. It’s nice to  leave the planet in a mess to the next generation because a few opportunists are willing to assure you that it’s really okay and you shouldn’t be scammed by and forced to pay more taxes to encourage green technology.

So, add another point to how to determine when you are hearing the truth, or when you are hearing what somebody wants you to believe for their own purposes. Are they sure? If they are, and they don’t have the background to make that determination, look for something else at play, and tread carefully when you make your decision of what you believe.

Belief and surety are not the same.

The Future of Education: From Elitist to Essential

Beaumont Tower MSU

As most of you know, we are getting ready to move to Las Cruces, New Mexico. The pod was delivered yesterday so we are starting the final push to pack and make final arrangements. Blogging will become sporadic and then I’ll be on hiatus for as long as need be. Hotels with Internet access determine how often I can post of course.

Meanwhile, I and you are lucky to have a guest writer for today.

Her article is on education in the US and I hope you found it as enlightening as I did.

The photo is of a landmark at MSU in East Lansing, Michigan, which is my alma mater and my prerogative to include with the article as the chief of the chiefs here.

So without further ado, I give you Sofia Rasmussen and her article:

We’ve all heard it: “Why should I spend tens of thousands of dollars for a piece of paper?”

Far too many young people are convinced that the cost of higher education, both in terms of money and commitment, exceeds its value. For many, the desire to make money, no matter the wage, is more appealing an option after high school than enrolling in college. Many figure that they can do distance learning, maybe someday earning a top online PhD and earning all the prestige for less money. For families to whom university tuition is financially prohibitive, two-year community colleges offer lower expenditures at the cost of a stronger curriculum.

The decrease in university enrollment for high school graduates is somewhat analogous to the rise of college tuition over the past decade. That the annual increase in tuition has exceeded the rate of inflation in recent years is a legitimate concern for would-be undergrads. But the problem, which is partially addressed by funding for grants in President Obama’s budget, is merely the final straw for students and families already heeding negative portrayals of American universities and the educational loan system.

Right-wing factions that portray education as an elite rite of passage for the rich and powerful have waged war on higher education in the media with accusations of bad science, particularly in the realm of global warming, and a focus on potential corruption in education lending. For people who entertain such rhetoric, the crisis of American education is a battle of perception rather than facts.

Perhaps most importantly, students coming from families where college education is not honored simply don’t understand the positive outcome of committing to university. These issues must be the foundation of a discourse on education in America today—one that engages young people and their families.

The National Center for Education Statistics establishes significant gains in earnings for college graduates over high school grads. In 2009, those aged 25 to 35 with a four-year college degree earned an average of $40,100 per year. High school graduates in the same age range earned an average of just $25,000. The gap is exacerbated later in life, when those whose education is limited to a high school diploma are looked over for promotion opportunities in favor of candidates that hold degrees.

Wage versus salary isn’t the only argument for attaining a college education. High school graduates who fail to matriculate at a university have a much more difficult time finding any work at all. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 9.2% of high school grads with no college credits were unemployed in February of 2012. Comparatively, 4.3% of those holding bachelor’s degrees or higher were unemployed in the same month.

Aside from the measurable, practical benefits of a college education, studying at a university exposes young adults to experiences, people and concepts they might not otherwise encounter. This often results in an expanded worldview, a sense of personal fulfillment and even a happier marriage.

A 2011 study by the Pew Research Center confirms the widespread sentiment that American college education costs more than it’s worth, with 57% agreeing to that statement. According to 75%, tuition is too expensive for most Americans to afford. However, 86% of college graduates reported that higher education was a good investment for them, personally. That is definitely a statistic worth noting – those who have actually gone through the system see its value.

America’s fastest growing job markets—computer science, medicine, engineering, and biological science—demand higher education. At the present time, America’s best PhD candidates in these fields often come from other countries. For the benefit of America’s future, we need to stress the importance of education for our own. We need to make scientists, software developers and engineers the rock stars of the 21st century. To do that, the price of education must come down.


“Sofia Rasmussen is a freelance writer and aspiring graduate student looking to study education and communications. Feel free to drop her a line if you ever have a question about an article or think she said something silly.”

Go On, Read About it!

Or don’t. As it turns out you really can’t teach a love of reading. It seems something that you either do or don’t. And it has little to do with opportunity either. Over time, the number of “readers” hasn’t changed a great deal. And readers lament the same problem (so much to read, so little time) over the centuries. A great little read over at The Chronicle, called “We can’t teach students to love reading.” Go see where you fall.


All roads seem to lead to the financial crisis these days. With Standard & Poors lowering the rating of the US, everybody is wondering what ensue.

Whatever you position (and plenty of folks don’t credit S&P with much savvy), their report was pretty clear in laying the blame. Although they spoke about the gridlock in Washington in general, their greatest finger-pointing went to the GOP’s delinquency-prone child–the TeaNutz®. While the National Journal report didn’t explicitly say Republicans, there was little doubt that they felt that the political brinksmanship of holding the country hostage and failure to consider revenue increases as “possible” were largely to blame. This link has a link to the full S&P report as well as some other good links.

Meanwhile Michele (I make it up as I go along) Bachmann was at it again. She just days ago, was a no vote on the debt ceiling bill. She of course went much further, claiming that the threats of the credit agencies to downgrade the US’s  rating were nonsense and of no consequence. Now that that has happened, she spins on the proverbial GOP plug nickel and screams that Obama is responsible, and he must return to Washington “immediately” and address the American people with a plan to pay down our debt by “trillions”, and this too immediately. Oh if wishes could come true, Ms. Idiothead will be the candidate and as Governor Rendell suggested, the “no slaughter” rule would be invoked at the Obama-Bachmann debate ten minutes in.

Speakin’ of the Palin replacement, there is a great article at the New Yorker Magazine written by Ryan Lizza called Leap of Faith. Lizza traveled with Bachmann for some time as she moved between Iowa and New Hampshire and has done a good job of peeling off the whitewash that masks a lot of uncomfortable truths. Bachmann’s background is just chock full of extremists whom she has embraced and taken as her personal gurus. Her dominionist beliefs cause her to take extremist views on subjects such as gay, abortion, and even slavery. She’s going to have a very difficult time distancing herself from all this now. And it’s full of more of her twisting and contorting facts and outright lying to present herself as something she very much is not. Do read it.

Drew Weston has written an important opinion piece in the NYTimes. It blasts Obama pretty badly frankly. I tend to feel like a pinball when it comes to the President. I am constantly disappointed and hopeful, careening between those two points. He’s more conservative in reality that I want, and less a master of the message that I expected. Weston points out how he failed miserably in this debt ceiling crisis, and frankly, I can’t disagree. “What Happened to Obama?”

Weston calls it ” his deep-seated aversion to conflict and his profound failure to understand bully dynamics — in which conciliation is always the wrong course of action, because bullies perceive it as weakness and just punch harder the next time. . . .” It’s hard to not agree.

Don’t forget your late night humor from Political Irony. Always a lovely way to relax and enjoy some political truths tongue-in-cheek. And if you humor runs religious, here’s a mighty cute little story that we found from our new friend, LOLgod.

When will it get through the American psyche that the debt is only a symptom of the problem and not the problem itself as the ignorant TeaNutz® erroneously believe? Robert Reich once again tries in very plain English to straighten out the issues. Reich always is clear. We are heading toward another recession. Will we act in time? Bets are definitely divided.

Oh and did ya hear this one? Mikey (I like money more than my country) Huckabee has called for the appointment of Donald Trump as a new Secretary of the Treasury. I guess this should come as no surprise. If you’ve seen Huck’s shameless lying and misleading innuendo commercial about “Obamacare” then you know this dude is simply another huckster ala Newt “how long will you support me” Gingrich. Just another grifter. Huck has pretty much given up any pretense of being a “Christian” leader. Any idea Mikey how many times the Trumpster has declared bankruptcy?  . . .I thought not.

Herman Cain is getting more lessons on how to be a good house Negro. The teaNutz® have made it clear that Cain will be back to being “part of the problem” along with all other darker than lily-white citizens, if he keeps going around apologizing to Muslims for his racist remarks about them. After posting his apology on Facebook, he got some really unfriendly responses from his “peeps”: (H/T to The Grio for the link)

“it’s all or nothing with the muslim religion…no means no…please stand firm Mr Cain please or run on the democrat ticket”

“what in heaven’s name are you doing? Don’t you know you can’t trust ONE WORD that comes from their mouth? they’re lying to get on your good side, Mr. Cain! :/”

So, listen up Mr. Cain. Ain’t it nice being owned, Sir?