Sunday, October 30, 2011

School as the First Circle of Hell

"The fact that no one made demands of her knowledge in her special field was lucky for Simochka.  Not only she but many of her girl friends had graduated from the institute without any such knowledge.  There were many reasons for this.  The young girls had come from high schools with very little grounding in mathematics and physics.  They had learned in the upper grades that at faculty council meetings the school director had scolded the teachers for giving out failing marks, and that even if a pupil didn't study at all he received a diploma...Besides, when their students failed, the examiners were reprimanded as if the failures were spoiled goods in a production process--according to the well-known theory that there are no bad pupils, only bad teachers.  Therefore the examiners did not try to trip the students up but, in fact, attempted to get them through the examination with as good results as possible." 

A novel about America's failure to educate its children?  Nope.  That's from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle and describes Soviet education. 

Fun fact: teacher performance is not only not the sole factor being measured by test scores; it is not even the predominate one.  If you pretend otherwise, teachers (out of self preservation) will see to it that test scores are high, even if those tests have no connection whatsoever to actual student performance.  If you actually want students to learn, they have to be held accountable for their results, mostly by parents.  Those same parents, I might add, should know what teachers are doing in the classroom.  That's the way to hold teachers accountable.  Abandoning that role to the state and their "quantifiable measures" is irresponsible but easy.  Sure enough, that's the path we're moving down.  

Some folks might take offense at the idea of "tripping up" students.  Let me reword that for you: challenge the students.  Find out which students can really think by letting them stand on their own two feet and run through a mental obstacle course. Of course, to do this means those kids that can't tie their own shoes (figuratively and, I'm afraid, often literally) won't be in the classroom anymore. 

Sadly, this is all about equality.  If you can't get the kids who don't do well to pick up their pace, you focus all of your energy on rising them up an inch at the expense of the talented and motivated who could climb mountaintops if there was any motivation for teachers to focus on them instead. 

"There are no bad pupils, only bad teachers."  

If you believe that, you must be the product of a Soviet style educational system. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

You Mess With The (Wall Street) Bull, You Get The Horns

It's about time.   (Also, I don't think any corporation had anything to do with this, I just put that in to spite some folks). 

For all of the media's rhetoric about the "violent" nature of the Tea Party, I cannot recall a single time the riot police had to use flash bang grenades to clear granny and her tricorne hat off of the barricades.  Perhaps my favorite part is the screams of "medic!"  You are not in the military; there are no medics here.  Why there wasn't some noble minded protester there to help without charging a fee, well, I don't know. 

The police and locals are pretty much fed up with this.  If Occupy Wall Street movements in the nation do not start following health and permit laws, they can expect more.  And it is not police brutality.  You were in violation of the law and warned to leave.  Cops don't take well to people being belligerent. 

And right at the end, with the "we are the 99%" cheer, I really was hoping another flash bang would go off. 

Come up with a message and a plan so we can talk.  In the meantime, leave the parks and let sanitation crews (not to mention the freaking police and EMT folk) do their jobs. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cicero Speaks on OWS

"But many claims in his speech were those of the demagogue, and especially reprehensible was the statement that less than two thousand persons in the state owned property.  This was a pernicious speech, promoting as it did the equalization of property; what could be more baneful than that?  Why, the chief motivation behind the establishment of states and city structures was to ensure the maintenance of private property; for though nature guided men to form communities, it was in the hope of guarding their possessions that they sought protection in cities."
"So those who seek to pose as populares, and with this in mind raise the agrarian issue to have owners shifted from their properties, or think that money owed by debtors should be remitted, are undermining the foundations of the state, which depends first and foremost on the harmony between classes (and this cannot continue to exist when some citizens are robbed of their money and others have their debts remitted), and secondly on fair dealing, which is totally abrogated if the individual cannot keep what belongs to him.  For, as I remarked earlier, the distinguishing feature of the community and the city is that every individual should maintain free and undisturbed control of his possessions."

These quotes, which come from De Officiis by Marcus Tullius Cicero, are worth pondering.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Organizers vs. the Organized points out what I already knew: the Occupy Wall Street movement is, in fact, hierarchical.  "Consensus" democracy runs into the same flaw every other type of democracy (or government, for that matter) hits: there are dissenters who have rights, and they won't just shut up and go along with the majority. 

This all has such a French Revolution without the balls feeling to it. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

You Are The 1%

From Economix Blog at the NYT.

I got bad news for everyone down protesting Wall Street: you are the 1%.  You are the most privileged people on Earth.  Even if you are downright poor by American standards, you are freaking rich compared even to the rich in many other places.  India, China, and Brazil are not exactly the most backward nations on the planet, either.  Hell, they are often tossed about as our competitors and maybe even future superpowers.  More than half of Americans live in that top 10% percentile of wealthiest people in the world. 

Every time you point a finger up and demand those above you in life pay more, remember that there are billions under you also point a finger upwards.  To them, you are the rich. 

Also, by this standard, inequality is pretty freaking flat in the United States.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Obviously Not a Tea Party

I somehow do not believe 99% of Americans support political violence and injuring police officers.  Somebody needs to bring these people back within the rule of law.  If the organizers of Occupy Wall Street won't do it, then the police need to crack down on these mobs. 

And yes, that's an accurate term.  Once you stop obeying the law and turn to violence, you are a mob.  The Tea Party never did that, despite the wet dreams of the media. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Atlas Didn't Shrug, He Was Shot

Government requires corporations to do a lot of dumb economic things (massive regulations, minimum wage laws, requiring hefty amounts of money be lent to those who can never pay it back, etc.).  

Shit hits the fan due to bad policies.  Government then bails out corporations to stem the disaster.  

Progressives use the disaster to "prove" that corporations (not the government) are responsible.  More power is forked to the government for things like "economic justice" rather than anything fitting economic reality.  

Shit continues to get worse.  Again, blame corporations, give government more power.  Repeat.  

The biggest problem with Atlas Shrugged (though I love it, there are a few) is that Rand ended it on a happy note.  In reality, when this vicious circle begins, it ends in bloodshed and starvation.  See Revolutions in France, Russia, China, Cambodia, Zimbabwe, etc.  The scariest and most frustrating part is that the people have their scapegoat and so little understanding of economics or morality that rational discussion is almost impossible with them. That very lack of understanding causes them to be supremely confident in their gut feelings about what is "right and wrong" in economics and that surely their ideas of economic justice would be feasible.  Nevermind that time and again, reality has proven this wrong.  These are the same idiots who bought into "Hope and Change" in 2008; they have had power for three years and things have become even worse.  Rather than talk about actual policy changes, in particular their own policy failures, they want to talk about wishy washy terms and blame corporations. 

If there is any consolation in any of this, it is that the many people in this country who do not deserve liberty may not have it for long. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Directive 10-289 Has Been Expanded and Amended

You just can't make this stuff up.  It reads like a law created in an early draft of Atlas Shrugged that Rand struck out because it was too unbelievable.  I can't go through 50 something pages of nonsense point by point, but some of the more entertaining things include:

"Truth in Journalism" law.  Why, we all know the government will make sure the truth is told! 

Compulsory voting.  Yes, we need more people who are not informed to vote.  They'll be thrilled about it, too.  Only good things can come of this.

Ban short selling.  Yes, when things are overpriced, we need to make sure nobody knows it until the shit hits the fan so that everyone suffers rather than those paying attention!

Hold out government accountable for a Gross Happiness Index.  Like Bhutan.  No, seriously, they are advocating that position, even the Bhutan part. 

Everyone supporting Occupy Wall Street should be required to read pages 41 and 42 of this trainwreck. For starters, oil is outlawed; you need to turn in your car.  How you will be getting to and from anywhere is left unstated.  Free education for all, provided by God knows whom.  Free healthcare for all, again provided presumably by God via manna from the sky. 

By far and away, my favorite part is the mandated salaries.  Here they are:

Concepts of Economic Sustainability and Right Livelihood

Bankers $20,000
Lawyers $27,500
Realtors $25,000
Doctors $28,000
Nurses $27,500
Teachers/Librarians/Train Engineers/Bridge Maintenance/Ship Pilots, etc. $35,000
Police $36,000
Public Servants $28,500
Laborers $20,000
Other public sector $30,000
Other private sector $29,000
Technical/Research/Academic $36,000
Entrepreneurs/Business Owners $10,000 (i.e., tax breaks for corps)
Congress $30,000
President 40,000
Soldiers N/A
Defense workers $25,000

All jobs include full health benefit for worker and family, full retirement benefits, full free
education for children.

Taxation - to run the government. The only tax will be a sales tax for all goods and services, which will be fixed at: 4%.
As a teacher, I will be among the richest Americans!  We're sure to have new businesses making new products with entrepreneurs being the least paid individuals in the nation.  It is good to know that people will put in the work and sacrifice to become doctors, even though they will be paid less than teachers who will make more than almost anyone for 180 days of work. As we all know, running a bank is child's play, especially when compared to being a realtor or a librarian!

This is what I've wanted from hardcore Leftists for some time, a detailed outline of their world.  And it is everything I expected it to be. My favorite part may be that this document begins with this requirement:
Actions should not interfere with the efficient functioning of a market economy, the allocation of capital, and incentives for innovators, entrepreneurs, investors, and consumers as long as basic welfare and genuine opportunity for the entire American people are served.

Between this and the abject failure of consensus democracy put on show in Atlanta, I can only hope Occupy Wall Street is highlighted more in the news.  The looks on the faces of those shouted down is priceless, especially since those people are fans of Representative John Lewis, a civil rights activitist and liberal Congressman.  They sure aren't Tea Parties is my point.  This "consensus democracy" doesn't actually remove dissent, it just silences it, much to the chagrin of those not in the majority.  Funny thing about democracy, there always seem to be a minority who wants to voice its point of view.  Jazz hands and shouting "mic check" makes those folks feel ostracized. 

Remember Tahrir Square

In all honesty, I doubt very much that the interim government will make significant changes. I have been much less enthusiastic about these protests than many others for this reason (though I have to admit I thought Mubarak would play his hand better than this). The fun, romantic revolution is over, but the revolution is not complete until liberty has been secured under a functioning government that respects the rights of all people. Creating such a government is among the most difficult tasks mankind has ever faced. I hope, by the grace of God, that the Egyptians will manage it, but I would not bet on it.
That would be me, back in February.   Now, Egypt is seeing sectarian violence and the very real possibility of starvation, in no small part due to a lack of government.  Occupy Wall Street people who use Tahrir Square as an example, take note. 

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Update on Occupy Wall Street

So this morning, it appears the Occupy Wall Street people continue to mill about in their park. 

Um...hmm.  This is making a very short blog post.  So...yeah, I don't know.  Reading Caesar's account of the Roman Civil War, so far I liked the Gallic War more but I haven't quite gotten to the conflict in Greece yet. 

Some football today.  Haven't seen any yet this year, what with the working and whatnot.  In fact, today is my first straight up day off in a solid month. 

Ok, seriously, do something Occupy Wall Street!  Give me something to talk about.  I freaking read Aristotle and Plato and Caesar for funsies, if you are boring me that's not a good thing.  The Tahrir Square protests were exciting because those people were putting their lives on the line, rallying against an authoritarian power who made it clear the protesters did not have the government's blessing to assemble.  Downtown New York isn't exactly the same thing.  Can't even follow on twitter anymore because it is always the same nonsense about you being the 99%, which I might add isn't exactly (or even remotely) true.   

A lot of wishy washy calls for "real democracy" and "change the world" without ever actually doing anything.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Not 99% of Locals

The Occupy Wall Street protests are entering their third week at Zuccotti Park.  It appears that the General Assembly, which is praised by many in the movement for being a competent governing, broad based democratic body, has failed to include a place for everyone to go to the bathroom.  Local stores are closing their restrooms due to property damage, which apparently makes the protesters mad.  Local residents are also tired of having their lives disrupted; parents of newborns have a pretty legitimate gripe against protesters banging drums throughout the night.  

Where is the General Assembly to keep order and provide bathrooms without freeloading on businesses?  Have there been no working committees on this?  Will they repay for damages done to small business owners?

This movement absolutely must transform itself into something productive with at least somewhat clear aims and plans if it is to be seen as anything other than petulant children having a month long hissy fit while free loading off of the backs of locals.  Even if the gripes of this group are legitimate (a good debate for another time I would love to have), this movement does nothing to make Wall Street or Washington care.  Angering locals by shutting down bridges and making residential areas intolerable may get you in the news, but it's also going to make you a lot of enemies out of people who are unquestionably not the "1%." Costing citizens another $2,000,000 in overtime for cops isn't helping things.  

The last thing this group can afford is confirming images that these people are dirty, stinky, freeloading hippies without a message.  Not having bathrooms or a message but being loaded with random topless women won't confirm the seriousness of this movement to 99% of Americans. 

UPDATE:  Just to drive the point home.  Nothing says clean, safe, and mature like crapping on a police cruiser. 

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

And God Said, "Keepest Thou the Iron Law"

In my last post, I asked if anyone could describe the leadership or goals of the Occupy Wall Street, New York City General Assembly. My concern, and a question every supporter should have asked of themselves, is that we have no idea who is leading this movement.  Yes, for the most part is lacks clarity and much leadership at all, but there is clearly somebody organizing things like when and where to protest as well as putting out "official statements" on the group's website. 

No matter how democratic any group may wish to be, the larger the group gets, the less truly equal participation and leadership can be.  Somebody has to be making decisions with a decently long view into the future if it wishes to accomplish anything at all.  This is known as the Iron Law of Oligarchy. Think of trying to make a movie.  Which would be better, if the script were written by one writer, a small team of four to five, or collectively by a stadium of 100,000?  The last is completely impracticable.  There will be no consistency to the story, no pattern.  How do you get the input from that many people, how do you integrate it?  That's why classical direct democracies worked through smaller committees, to determine what issues were to be discussed, when discussion would end, voting, etc.  The General Assembly has taken a similar course with its committee system. 

The New Republic has done a little research into this group and unsurprisingly has found a small core leadership attempting to maintain some level of control over apparently rather transient "committees" formed by who knows who. In many ways, this explains why the group really lacks any coherent message or the ability to perform actions to further those goals.  This is a spasm more than a movement.  Movements go somewhere, spasm's are just violent shaking in all directions. 

Anyway, unless this group resorts to violence and attacking property, they won't last long.  Fits of anger might be fun for a while, but as this goes on with no resolution to the undefined goals, people will eventually get bored.  Perhaps worse, everyone else in the world will get bored, too.  Amorphous blobs are fun to look at for a while but they make horrible pets.  Come up with something definite and we'll talk.  Assuming, that is, anyone actually wishes to discuss the motivations and goals of Occupy Wall Street. 

I officially declare myself bored of this protest, subject to change should they actually do something. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Questions for the General Assembly

I've followed this Occupy Wall Street movement about as closely as I could over the last few weeks.  Despite it's apparent popularity with some of the denizens of Twitter, I have yet to find any real substance to the movement.  To clarify, both for my own interest and for those who may consider themselves followers, what exactly Occupy Wall Street is about, I would like to ask a few questions which hopefully somebody representing the movement can answer:

  1. Who composes the "General Assembly?"  The website has statements in the name of the General Assembly dating back to August 19th.  Who is putting out these statements? 
  2. What, exactly, is the "General Assembly?"  Does it claim to be, or aspire to be, a legislative or executive organization?  Is it merely the currently anonymous mouthpiece of the movement?  How does it relate to government authorities?
  3. Your group recently released your Declaration of the Occupation of New York City.    What do you mean by "occupation?"  Generally, that term is associated with the concept of control over the police powers in an area, i.e. the American occupation of Iraq.  Are you claiming authority and if so, is this not an act of treason?  
  4. That same document is effectively a litany of complaints against corporations.  How do you intend to have any of them addressed?  Who, exactly, are you expecting to take an action here?  
  5. Your working draft claims you are a "direct democracy."  How, exactly, does that work?  I've heard claims that thousands of people attend your rally.  Do they all get to put ideas up before this General Assembly and be heard?  If so, how do you manage that?  My concern here is that there may be only a few people directing this movement and website, while most of the people in the crowd merely chant back whatever it is you spoon feed them. 
I guess what I really want to know is, who are you and what do you want?  No, don't tell me you are "the 99%" because you are not, and "justice/fairness/your favorite squishy term here" doesn't really tell me anything, either.  

As you can guess by the content on this blog, I'm the libertarian type and don't exactly agree with your goals or philosophy, but I am doing my best to be open minded and understand your methods and goals.  Answers to these questions beyond accusing me of being a corporate shrill would greatly further that objective.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hipsters of the World, Unite!

This...this just hurts my head

I'm trying to form a coherent response to an incoherent call for...well, what?  Hey, you evil corporations that provide hundreds of millions of people with jobs and benefits, not to mention nearly all of the goods we consume, this world would be so much better if you didn't exist!  Those goods and jobs?  Well, they'll still exist, somehow. 

For Christ sake, people:

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

I'm assuming "they" are corporations.  All of that education apparently didn't help the NYCGA clarify pronouns.  Seriously, how do you pack that much stupid into 21 words?  Students are not "hostages" if they voluntarily sign onto a loan.  The government, not corporations, hold a huge portion of those loans.  Education has to be earned and is not a right we are innately born with. 

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

"They" as in the same "they" from before.  So corporations are launching wars and taking over territory?  Really?

"corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth"

*blink blink*

Do they force people into the stores at gunpoint?  I mean, seriously, what the hell does that statement mean?

This isn't their first protest.  The first, held on the 17th of September, was a monumental flop noticed only by conservatives who relentlessly mocked them on Twitter (thank you, Iowahawk!).  This one was basically a joke, too, with only a 1,000 protesters showing up, many bused in by local unions.  Compared to Tea Party rallies in the hundreds of thousands, this makes the progressive movement look pretty pathetic compared to the grass roots libertarian movement.  Have to get some notice from somebody other than conservative Twitter comedians...I got it!  Resort to shutting down important roadways and making people's lives miserable! 

Occupy Wall Street is one of the best examples I can think of for reducing direct democracy and reinforcing the protective barriers of a republic.  Go pick up Cicero's De Re Publica, you might learn something.

To this asinine group: If you obey the law, we will ignore you.  If you turn to violence, we'll crush you.  And no, I'm not a corporation, I'm a middle class guy who works two jobs.  Don't even think about responding that I should be on your side; my side is that which protects the rights of people, of all people, even those who have done better than me.  Also, I only join causes that have something resembling a plan.  You say you emulate the Tahrir Square protesters.  Perhaps you do; where is their democracy?  What is their plan?  Been over half a year and their military is still in charge.  That's how most revolutions end up.  Learn your history.

Lacking Consistency

When George W. Bush held Al Qaeda agents that were not American citizens in Gitmo, people had a fit about how the President was violating their constitutional rights. 

When Barack Obama zaps an American citizen (Anwar al-Awlaki) without so much as a trial, no such objections are raised. 

Logically, those who criticized Bush's actions but not Obama's must believe that killing people without trial is a worse violation than holding people alive (in a Caribbean island, no less!) and that people without American citizenship deserve higher protections than those that are American citizens. 

Yes, I am glad the bastard is dead.  No, I don't believe the President broke the law.  But then, I don't think Bush did, either.  My position is consistent: those who conduct war upon us have no protections in law.  I would like to know how anyone on the Left squares their situation, though.