Terrorism and Indoctrination vs. Education

Althouse touched off a vortex with her post on Obama and his association with terrorist Bill Ayers, about which she is rather blasé. I suppose I am, too, though Ayers is appalling, and even worse is the idea that he has a job that’s normally associated with some prestige. He escaped persecution on a technicality and continues to operate while being completely unrepentant. It’d be like ESPN hiring O.J. Simpson, even as Simpson confirms periodically on the air that not only did he kill his wife, she deserved it and he wishes he could’ve finished off her family.

But it’s a fact of life that such people run around the far left and far right extremes of society, and a fact that leftists are not punished for their associations with such people the way rightists would be (and are for much less). One effect of that fact is that left-leaning politicians are going to have connections with them without thinking much about it.

But it brings up an interesting point that comes up a lot, and which is illustrated by a clip that Hector posted on his site a while back (and references in the comments at Althouse): We are still fighting the USSR. Joe McCarthy may have been a paranoid freak, but he was right about a lot of stuff. In particular, the Soviets ran an anti-America campaign that poisons thought against the US even as we approach 20th anniversary of their fall.

The areas that the KGB infiltrated most successfully were education, politics and entertainment. This is why you see so much anti-American stuff in these corners. The last two issues are interesting in and of themselves, but the education issue came up a lot in this thread. In particular, education versus indoctrination.

There can be no doubt that US schools indoctrinate. And that they indoctrinate in environmentalism is no more coincidental than Earth Day being on Lenin’s birthday.

But does education have to be indoctrination?

I had a fight once with a friend over this. (I thought I had blogged about it here but I can’t find the previous entry.) My argument was that you give kids the facts and let them come to their own conclusions. She was outraged because, well, What if they come to the wrong conclusions?

Yes. What if? I love this argument because it presupposes that you know what the wrong conclusions are. But we’re never aware of our own blind spots.

It’s been a blast teaching the boy history because, well, I don’t really teach him history. I tell him to research certain topics and write about them. This pays off pretty well, and has the advantage that I can ask him what he thinks about the topic, and he’s willing to defend his point-of-view because it’s his point-of-view and not mine!

Do I find it a little disturbing that he’s a gun-totin’, hippie-hatin’, America-lovin’ right winger? Sure, sometimes.

I’ll be more disturbed if The Flower stays with her flower-lovin’, earth-saving left wing ways–which are pretty normal for a 6-7 year-old girl–if she keeps them into her teens and they continue to be based on what the Disney channel tells her. (It’s fine with me if she turns out to be The Boy’s polar opposite, but I want that to be a result of her own reason.)

Now, what about manners, morals and other social matters? Don’t they need to be indoctrinated into children? Not at all. It’s very much like any other form of education. Let me elaborate:

The boy studies US History, math, literature and grammar, penmanship, various sciences, music and computer programming. That’s apart from more hobby-ish subjects like chess and karate.

Why these subjects? Well, he wants to program games, so that’s why he does that. Science holds some interest him, so that’s his motivation here. And he’s begun to find history compelling. But the rest? Well, for one thing he doesn’t want to look like a moron.

Educational pressure is totally inverted in school. To be cool is to not care about learning things. The student is ostracized for doing well in many cases. The Boy looks around and sees his peers and is somewhat embarrassed. I think this is probably a healthy reaction: Most of us have a combination of naive energy and ignorance as teens, and we’re not smart enough to be embarrassed about it until we’re older.

But part and parcel of not looking like a moron is simply recognizing what our culture considers important. And the same thing goes for manners, morals, ethics, traditions, etc.

That’s why, when you eat, you don’t make a pig of yourself, why you don’t fart in polite company, why you’re polite, and so on. It’s a mistake to put this in as indoctrination: As education it becomes a tool for success, something you can adapt if your circumstances change without being offended.

Oddly enough, while we never much dwelled on it, the children are startlingly polite in public. It’s startling because in the relaxed atmosphere of home, flouting manners or even rational conversation is a game they occasionally play. But out in the world, they’re all “please” and “thank you” and “you’re welcome”, and have been since they first learned to speak.

Hillary Makes A Joke

Hillary Clinton challenged Barack Obama to a bowling match after his disastrous (but it was only eight frames!) 37-point game.

I thought it was sort of amusing, if you set aside the fact that I’d have my lab-mutt lead the country rather than any of the three candidates currently in the public eye.

But strategically, I think it was a mistake, especially with offering a two frame handicap to the 46-year old man. I’m guessing HRC hasn’t been hitting lanes much–ever, most likely. It’s going to be much easier for him to boost his game into the 100+ score than it will be for her look not uncomfortable on the lanes. We won’t even go into the dangers to her hips.

Just sayin’.

The Post Racial candidate…

…is Rosario Dawson.

Seriously. Think about it.

She played Valerie Brown in Josie and the Pussycats. So. Black, right?

Then she was Will Smith’s love interest in Men In Black II, which again would lead toward the “black” theory. Hollywood doesn’t usually like to complicate its romances with mixed races–but wait, she was actually an alien. So, that doesn’t count. Can’t really be “black” if you’re from a different planet, any more than you can be “white”.

In The Rundown she was Brazilian. In Sin City, it doesn’t come up–but I think the comic book character she was playing was white. Hard to tell, though, since it’s basically a black-and-white comic book.

Now, Clerks II had her in a heated situation with Wanda Sykes, who was offended that Jeff Anderson used the term “porch monkey” (ignorantly but insistently). At no time was there any indication that Becky would or should take the term personally! So, clearly either not black or post-racial.

Lately, in the Death Proof half of “Grindhouse”, probable rapist Jasper says to Abernathy (Rosasrio’s character), “Who’s Kim? The colored girl?” As imprecise and crude as Jasper most assuredly is, can we assume that he’d say that to a girl who was also–in his words–“colored”? I think not.

Granted, if faces are not my forté, races are even less so. I spent the first half of Grindhouse wondering if why Rosario Dawson had changed her looks so drastically, only to realize I had mistaken her for Vanessa Ferlito.

Some might wonder why I don’t figure He’s Got Game into my calculus, given that Ms. Dawson even appears topless in it briefly. I don’t, because it’s unfair to hold against an actress things that she’s done early in her career to gain exposure, like star in Spike Lee films.

Good…Bad…Conservative…Liberal…I’m the guy with the gun….

Ace is in a bit of a–well, I don’t know. It’s not exactly a tizzy or a dither. He’s agitated though. Highly agitated in a positive way because David Mamet has come out as a not-liberal. Now, like Mamet, I’m actually not particularly interested in politics; I do consider them a gross waste of time and resources. But between Ace and Mamet, and a few Althouse commenters, I see things that are familiar to me and encourage me to reflect a bit.

The Mamet piece is interesting. It refers to “brain-dead liberalism,” which I read as “I am leftist because I am leftist and what I believe is beyond scrutiny.” Indeed, it seems to be Mamet’s willingness to challenge previously held beliefs on the subject of the government, corporations, the military, and the nature of Man.

Notice I switched out “liberal” for “leftist” there. The word “liberal” comes from the Latin “free” and it is the philosophy that makes the USA great. Let me borrow this from Answers.com:

A political theory founded on the natural goodness of humans and the autonomy of the individual and favoring civil and political liberties, government by law with the consent of the governed, and protection from arbitrary authority.

This is important because both Mamet–and to a far greater degree, Ace–are sort of rejecting the “natural goodness of humans” part. But you’ll notice that this definition has nothing to do with today’s self-identified “liberals”, who are statists (courtesy of an incredible PR campaign by the USSR that actually outlived the nation itself). They may believe in the “natural goodness of humans” but they sure don’t care for them being autonomous, when autonomy includes things like making money, buying stuff, or turning sacred cows into double-bacon secular cheeseburgers (with a super-sized side of shibboleth fries or something). I cannot, in good conscience, associate those people with, say, John Locke (and the probably wouldn’t want to be associated with him either).

On the contrary, the left today operates pretty clearly with the notion that there is evil in the world. And the world is happy to provide them with examples of such at the ranks of various top corporations. But they’re not interested in the evil at the UN, for example, and apparently actively disinterested in the evil America opposes (fanatical jihadists). What’s more, since disagreement is not allowed, leftists are pretty much convinced that a solid one-third of the US population is evil, or at least so stupid as to be indistinguishable from evil. Those people are called “Republicans”–on a nice day, anyway.

Politics is like soccer for the lazy, though, in that identification with a side is what makes the game possible. From far enough away, the two sides are indistinguishable, at which the game loses its meaning. (Althouse used to refer to an aversion to politics in her tag line and I have that in spades. I think she discovered it was a useful to generate vortex art.) This is how Reps and Dems can oppose something they supported only a few years, months, weeks, days, hours or even minutes before, and argue with a straight face that “No, this is different”. It’s also how penalties become greater or lesser based on the color of the player’s jersey. (The play scales well, too: Political bloggers replicate the “gotcha” moments of their big league idols by catching each other in typos, misstatements, blunders, etc.)

Anyway, liberalism–the idea that people are basically good, and therefore the most capable of governing themselves–is the basis on which this country is founded and that which makes the country great. The conservatives of the 1800s at the time would be suspicious of such a notion, surely believing that certain men are more worthy than others to govern. Hell, the liberals of the 1800s surely believed the same thing. Landowning free-men were all created equal–and we’ll see about the poor, the non-white, hell, the non-English, and don’t get us started on women.

So, how do we reconcile this notion on the one hand this idea of inherent goodness with the badness in the world. Well, the left obviously does it by accusing the state of creating inequity, particularly by favoring the business world. And the state obliges happily by doing just that. But again, they ignore the fact that the state can only favor certain classes when it has been given the power to do exactly that–and having that power will inevitably be corrupted toward an unhappy result.

James Madison is famously quoted as saying in Federalist 51 that “if men were angels, there’d be no need for government”. So, here is one of the most liberal men of the time admitted that government is only necessary because men are flawed. What gives?

I think it’s obvious that the point of liberalism is not that men are perfect, but that they are better suited to controlling their lives than any government, and that everyone wins (on balance) when they’re not interfered with beyond some basic rules of civility (such as not murdering and stealing from each other). It’s actually a negative statement: Men are unscrupulous, unworthy, opportunistic, short-sighted, narrow-minded, self-serving and predictable, but that’s peanuts compared to government.

Notice that the opposite of this is not “conservatism”. Conservatism is muddled in its own quagmire of historical baggage and modern revisionism. Modern conservatism is much closer to classical liberalism than modern liberalism is. In this Althouse entry on McCain, commenter Paul describes conservatism this way:

Conservatives believe that there is a vast repository of knowledge in tradition and culture accumulated through millenia of trial and error, and that most of that knowledge is unconscious and transmitted from generation to generation through customs and behavior so ingrained and automatic as to be second nature.

They believe that no man or council of men can even begin to approach that vast body of wisdom through conscious thought or design and are thus very cautious in implementing radical social experiments, as the laws of unintended consequences will surely dictate disastrous results.

Note that this has little to do per se with government except insofar as it expresses resistance to change. America is, itself, a radical social experiment. You can love it and still entertain the notion that there might be better experiments to make out there. This was one of the principles of Federalism, right?

Federalism unfortunately sacrificed itself on the altar of slavery, first in the 1860s, then again in the 1960s, because there was no way (in this country in the 18th century) we were going to be able to start from first principles: All men are created equal.

A persistent human flaw bedeviling philosophers devising governments is an inability to separate a good idea from a bad execution. Like war, nation-building is done with the populous you have, not the population you wish you had.

But a lot of modern conservatism is actually pretty radical. “Conservatives” preach the notion of restructuring the tax system, for example. Ending the broad social programs we have. Using the power of the government to limit very private activities. Some of these–hell, maybe all of them–are good ideas (though I doubt it). But conservative they ain’t.

Well, this has gone on a lot longer than I expected and it lacks the sort of focus I was hoping to bring to the topic, and I didn’t even talk about where I was (philosophically) versus where I am now.

Basically, I’m for freedom. Free markets. Free people. Which sounds a lot like libertarianism. But everyone knows, those guys are freaks.


Fun Kevin Bacon footnote: Mamet’s piece mentions Mary Ann Madden who was my first “chat buddy” and one of my favorite people in the whole world.


You know, if those nerds had guns in the beginning of Revenge of the Nerds, they could’ve shot the jocks when they kicked them out of the freshman dorm.

Of course, then they never would have experienced the journey that allowed them to ultimately conquer their poor self-esteem.

So I guess I’d have to come down against guns on campus.

Two Evils

Neither party represents me. Neither deserves my vote. Am I really supposed to vote for a guy who has no respect for the First Amendment because his opponent doesn’t respect the Second?

Do I make a list of which one will erode which of my rights, and decide which ones I can live without more easily? Meanwhile, both candidates pick my pockets, and the pockets of my progeny, to the point where my rights exist only on paper anyway.

I don’t see how it’s “adult” to be complicit in your own enslavement.

(Posted in the Althouse thread on why McCain has a better chance of winning than Romney, which segued into a debate on why–and whether–“adults” should vote for the lesser of two evils.)

Raw Deal

Here’s a story from Pajama Momma on raw milk that would be funny if it weren’t such a blatant example of how the government protects established interests to not only the detriment of would-be competitors but to society as a whole.

We used to get raw milk delivered, but it periodically would be stopped due to, essentially, political reasons. As PJM outlines, those who try to compete are also dealt with through Congressional fiat. Of course, the justification is protecting our health.

In fact, raw milk was a problem (particularly in France) because the cows were so poorly cared for, and in such unhygienic conditions, that bacteria ran rampant, and people got sick. Pasteurization, in that context made sense. However, if you’re willing to pay the extra bucks, and get your milk from well-cared-for bovines, raw milk is vastly more nutritious. And it’s better tasting.

I’m pretty sure that none of this is in serious dispute. Pasteurized milk offers economy at the cost of nutrition. These days, the health risks are about the same.

Now, if you were to browse the Internet looking for information on vaccines, it would fall into three camps: the official story, the anti-vaccine crowd, and the aren’t-the-anti-vaccine-crowd-stupid-crowd. That’s not a quagmire I’m going to step in here, but I will point out this:

The more the authorities abuse their power to protect commercial interests with falsely inflated health issues, the more their credibility will be assailed on other fronts.

A Little More On Fred

Another grating thing about that Fred book was that it was all about how Fred could be Reagan.

That, in my opinion, is a loser. Fred should win not by trying to be Reagan but by being Fred.

Lincoln was not Washington. Adams, Jefferson and Madison were also not Washington. Neither Roosevelt was Lincoln. Truman wasn’t FDR.

You gotta be like The Dude.

I only mention it ‘cause some-times there’s a man–I won’t say a hero, ’cause what’s a hero?–but sometimes there’s a man. And I’m talkin’ about the Dude here–
sometimes there’s a man who, why, he’s the man for his time’n place, he fits right in there!

The Fred Factor

I just got through reading The Fred Factor: How Fred Thompson May Change The Face Of The ‘08 Campaign by Steve Gill.

I’m a Fred guy. If he runs for Pres, I’ll vote for him. None of the other candidates (either party) turn me on, and I usually vote Libertarian. (Not because I necessarily want Libertarians to win, I just think the first question we need to task when faced with a problem is not “How should the government handle this?” but “Should the government handle this?” And I think the answer should usually be no. The Libs, such as they are, are as close I can get to that.)

Anyway, I got this book months ago, when it was more relevant, and put off reading it till now. I can’t say I was hugely impressed. It’s a thin book that is about 1/3rd stuff that only a wonk could love (if this state goes that way and this candidate veers to the center, then Fred! could save the day). It’s funny to read now because not a lot of what the author describes has come to pass, reminding you that fortune tellers are all pretty much scams no matter what their job titles are.

Another 1/3rd is light background stuff. Interesting for what it is, but not presented in any extraordinary way.

The remaining parts are bits of actual Fred. Platform positions, etc.

All in all, it’s about on a par what you could get on the web, only the web would be free, more interesting and more relevant.

I hate to give it a bad review because maybe the target audience really is hardcore political wonks and since I’m not one, I can’t really judge its merits on that basis. But it was less than thrilling.