Sad, but true

Many students from other nations come to study in the United States — a robust tradition that helps bridge cultural divides.  One would hope that coming here would leave a good impression.  Sadly, that’s far from the case.  When comparing their experience here to the expectations they face back home, the U.S. frequently comes up short:

Students from abroad are even more likely today to describe U.S. classes as easier than they were in 2001. The combined “much easier” and “a little easier” responses grew from 85.2% in 2001 to 90.0% in 2016. The change in the “much easier” rating, increasing from 55.9% to 66.4%, is statistically significant.

I currently teach in a private high school.  This year, I have two Vietnamese exchange students (one male, one female).  Not only are they consistently at or near the top of their class standings, they sometimes visibly react to their fellow students’ occasional whine (my words, not theirs) about things being “too hard.”  Frankly, it’s embarrassing. Whereas these guests don’t hesitate to ask well-thought questions or double-check their understanding, my local students’ questions are often a variation of “is this something we have to know for the test?”  (My standard answer is to ask them: “is it in the reading?”  After they respond “yes,” I remind them any such material is fair game.  No, I’m not the most popular teacher among the seniors.)

Surprisingly, as my US History class recently began the Vietnam War era, the exchange student in that class seemed reluctant when I approached him privately to encourage him to share his nation’s perspective on that time.   Only after communicating with his host family did I learn that not much at all is taught about that period in Vietnam.  Perhaps they’re consciously putting it behind them.  Regardless, it’s somewhat interesting to know my exchange student is learning about that era for the first time, alongside his American classmates.

That said, I have no doubt he’ll ace the exam, or come close to it.

The main difference I can see between public and private schools is that discipline is much better maintained in the latter.  But while there are some standout exceptions, most students aren’t interested in doing any more than the bare minimum, the same as their public school counterparts.  Like many teachers, I try to use gimmicks and games to increase interest, but the sad fact is that we simply don’t expect as much of ourselves as we once did.  When I look at what was expected of eighth graders just over a century ago, I marvel at how far we, as a nation, have fallen.

And I wonder sometimes if our current public educational systems are designed to produce historically illiterate, logically challenged graduates who’ll take the word of “experts” at face value because they don’t know any better.

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.” – Thomas Jefferson

Goofy: putting agenda ahead of revenue

About a week ago, I noted how Disney was using its new live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast” to add a “gay moment,” in the words of the director.  At the time, I pointed out that Disney has become so committed to this agenda that they will accept a ratings plunge just to add it to children’s shows.

And now it appears Disney would rather lose part of the lucrative overseas box office than remove the objectionable scene:

Walt Disney has shelved the release of its new movie “Beauty and the Beast” in mainly Muslim Malaysia, even though film censors said Tuesday it had been approved with a minor cut involving a “gay moment.”

The country’s two main cinema chains said the movie, due to begin screening Thursday, has been postponed indefinitely. No reason was given…

“We have approved it but there is a minor cut involving a gay moment. It is only one short scene but it is inappropriate because many children will be watching this movie,” Abdul Halim told The Associated Press.

He said there was no appeal from Disney about the decision to cut the gay scene.

There can be no doubt that the gay agenda has become more important to Disney than its own revenue.  All I can ask is, “where are the stockholders?”  It would seem time to shake up the leadership of the company, if one is going to invest there to try to make a profit.

One other note: many Hollywood productions travel the globe, where they essentially represent America to foreign audiences.  Shortly after 9/11, one pundit pointed out how Americans might be able to discern reality vs. fantasy in films like “Natural Born Killers,” but foreign audiences could conclude this represents actual American society. Given decisions like Disney’s latest, is there any question as to whether that is helping or harming our image around the world, in a war of ideas where image is critical?

Meanwhile, I hope anyone reading this will make the commitment my family has to avoid Disney or any of its properties.  No trips to Disneyworld (which is vastly overpriced anyway).   No movies in the theater, including Star Wars and Pixar, both of which are sure to be subverted to this agenda at some point.  If we think they’ve produced something worth watching, we’ll catch it on Netflix so they don’t get ticket receipts.  Our days of buying any Disney merchandise are over, too.

Companies like Disney and the tech industry can afford to be “social justice warriors” because they have good cash reserves to make up for temporary hits to the bottom line.

That can’t last forever.   (H/T: Vox Day)

 

If all men are equal…

…then all bear close watching when given authority.  I say this because I see in some Trump supporters the same “man-on-a-white-horse” aspirations as Obama’s believers in the “Lightbringer” showed eight years ago.

That’s not to say there isn’t reason for optimism.  There have been some interesting aspects to this transition period, and it’s entirely possible Trump may meet or exceed some of the expectations people have for him to disrupt what has clearly become a government run by globalists with little concern for their own constituents.

But to be successful in the change many Americans voted for, they must make sure we don’t trade the cult of Obama for the cult of Trump.  In some respects, they are mirror images of each other.  Both have serious character flaws.  Both promised a lot of things in their campaigns.  Obama delivered on the “transformation” he promised, but many people now realize the changes were not in a positive direction.  We’ve yet to see how successful Trump will be in undoing his predecessor’s damage.

The bottom line, however, is this: a healthy republic does not run on the whims of any single person.  It requires the constant engagement of the citizenry… which is why it’s so hard to maintain.  As the quip goes: “most people don’t really want to be free… they just hope for a good master who takes care of them.”

These thoughts were already running through my head when I read this article:

The idea that a large, complex society enjoying English liberty could long endure without the guiding hand of a priest-king was, in 1776, radical. A few decades later, it became ordinary — Americans could not imagine living any other way. …

As American society grows less literate and the state of its moral education declines, the American people grow less able to engage their government as intellectually and morally prepared citizens. We are in the process — late in the process, I’m afraid — of reverting from citizens to subjects. Subjects are led by their emotions, mainly terror and greed…

For more than two centuries, we Americans have been working to make government subject to us rather than the other way around, to make it our instrument rather than our master. But that requires a republican culture, which is necessarily a culture of responsibility. Citizenship, which means a great deal more than showing up at the polls every two years to pull a lever for Team R or Team D, is exhausting. On the other hand, monarchy is amusing, a splendid spectacle and a wonderful form of public theater.

But the price of admission is submission.

We’ll know we’re succeeding in returning to the Founders’ vision of a limited federal government when it doesn’t matter as much who occupies the White House or Congress.  For now, though, the Executive has become quite monarchical (“I have a pen and a phone” sounds a lot like something George III would have said, had he access to either).  Congress, meanwhile, dutifully plays the roles of courtiers, many of whom have aspirations of eventually occupying the Cherry Blossom Throne themselves (HT: Vox).

I sincerely hope our people didn’t go through two centuries of hard work fighting for, debating, pushing, shoving and reforming representative government just so it could devolve back into an authoritarian regime.  Expect and hope for improvement under Trump, yes.  But let’s also redevelop that culture of responsibility that recognizes “the price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

That goes no matter whether Team Elephant or Team Donkey is at the levers of power.  Remember that, in the end, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  The more  powerful Uncle Sam has grown, the more corrupt his institutions.

Return  power to the States and the people!

Treasures should be guarded

I’ve noted before that we have greatly cheapened the value of U.S. citizenship.  If anyone from anywhere can sneak into our country with a reasonable expectation that if they “hide in the shadows” long enough for another amnesty, then our birthright citizenship means nothing — or nada, if you must.  That should be completely unacceptable to any citizen already here.

One particular aspect of that citizenship that is clearly neglected is our voting process.  There should be absolutely no opposition to requiring photo I.D. to cast a vote — but the soft bigotry of low expectations (plus a desire for a fraud-conducive system) in the Democratic Party keeps claiming there’s no need, and that it’s an undue burden on minorities.

That’s a load of Donkey manure.  One already needs a photo ID to do all sorts of everyday things.  But the Left says there’s no indication enough fraud exists to require such documentation.

Well, how about this:

Voting machines in more than one-third of all Detroit precincts registered more votes than they should have during last month’s presidential election, according to Wayne County records prepared at the request of The Detroit News…

“There’s always going to be small problems to some degree, but we didn’t expect the degree of problem we saw in Detroit. This isn’t normal,” said Krista Haroutunian, chairwoman of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers…  (emphasis added)

Republican state senators last week called for an investigation in Wayne County, including one precinct where a Detroit ballot box contained only 50 of the 306 ballots listed in a poll book, according to an observer for Trump.

Detroit has not had a Republican mayor since 1962.  It’s safe to say there’s a well-oiled Democratic political machine in that city now, and that the Democrats have run everything as Detroit went from being a high-flying manufacturing center to a broken shell of its former self.  As for the comment above “this isn’t normal,” I’d say it applies more to getting caught than to having such irregularities.  What’s amusing is that this came to light because Jill Stein and her Green Party demanded a recount that spent a boatload of money in Michigan and Wisconsin only to find Trump had 131 more votes in Wisconsin than originally recorded on election day.

Everything today revolves around convenience, which is why the arguments against voter I.D. have traction.  Simply put, a lot of people don’t care if a lot of their neighbors are too lazy to take the few required steps to participate in what should be a secure voting process.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: in order to vote, you should have to pass a basic civics exam on how the Constitution sets up our government, you should have to have photo I.D. to vote, and your finger should be dipped in a Red, White or Blue ink (your choice) that doesn’t wash/rub out for a couple days. (I also believe that if you’re on public assistance, your voting rights should be temporarily suspended.  Make sure you can take care of yourself before you start impacting others.)

I was in Iraq when they held their first post-Saddam election.  From what I saw, they took their process and its security much more seriously than we do.  That should shame us into action.  Iraqis went to polling stations even with the threat of terrorist activity across the country (something that, thankfully, we only know a little about… for now).  And we can’t be bothered to get an I.D.?  Give me a break.

Clean up the voter rolls, pass the photo I.D. requirement nationally, and start making people demonstrate knowledge of the system and its history before letting them participate in it.  Compared to how many have died or been wounded over the decades to give us the space and freedom to even hold elections, is that really too much to ask?  Some things worth having are not convenient to maintain…

“What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”

— Thomas Paine, from “The American Crisis,” written when protecting freedom (during the American Revolution) was a lot more inconvenient than it is today.

The false prophets of Earth Day

While I fully understand and seek to fulfill the God-given responsibility of being stewards of His creation, I cannot stand the annual ritual of Earth Day and its barrage of associated enviro-fascist propaganda.  The entire event smacks of fulfillment of scripture:

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen   – Romans 1:25

This “love your mother (earth)” effort to meet our inborn spiritual needs with an alternate faith apart from God has all the trappings of its own religion: holidays (like today and Earth Hour), rituals, and most important of all: prophets.  But since we’re always bombarded with cries “the science is settled,” it’s worth noting these apocalyptic prophets’ predictions around 1970 (the start of ‘Earth Day’):

“The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”
• Kenneth Watt, Ecologist

“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.”
• Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist

There’s plenty more at the link above.  Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad our society became more cognizant of how industrialization impacted our ecology, and that we took steps to mitigate that.  What I don’t appreciate is the constant Chicken Little “The Sky Is Falling” doomsaying that always points to the same solution set: more collectivist action, government empowerment and the curtailment of individual freedoms.  Nor do I appreciate the fact that many of the loudest, most obnoxious voices on this issue seem to have no qualm with living lifestyles with far larger “carbon footprints” than most people will ever be able to achieve.  Or that there are always more calls for America to live a more primitive, monastic life in order to save the world, while countries like China and India — with far more dire conditions — are much more rarely mentioned.

As for the “prophets” themselves, God’s word had a very specific penalty for those in ancient Israel whose prophecies failed to bear out.  Good thing for their modern counterparts we live in the age of Grace.

That doesn’t mean we can’t still shun and mock them, while quietly going about our own lives in the most responsible way we can.

Who is creating the problem?

With the meteoric rise of Bernie Sanders, we’re seeing an accompanying increase in class warfare rhetoric (part and parcel of the Marxist worldview, which relies on creating envy to generate much of its appeal).  One side effect of this “soak the rich” battlecry is that it presumes most, if not all material success in life is achieved through undeserved and ill-gotten gains.

The problem with this approach is that being wealthy is no more a reliable sign of insidious living than being poor automatically confers virtue.  Below is a much better perspective:

CLASSWARFARE

There are many who have worked hard, been creative, stayed “in bounds” of the law, and still achieved material success and social status.  Then there are those who have lobbied and bought influence to bend the system to their ends, using government force to exclude potential rivals, or to hire cheaper foreign labor to displace hardworking Americans… all to squeeze a few more cents per share of profit from their corporate cash cow.  But despite Bernie’s bellowing, those CEOs are the minority.

At the same time, there are those Americans who make use of a publicly provided “hand up” to get their life back on course after a disaster (loss of job or spousal support, or a bout with substance abuse or crime).  But there are also those who make public assistance a way of life, seeing no incentive to become self-supporting instead of living off the goodwill of others.

The problem we have is not one of “rich versus poor.”  It’s one of “workers versus looters” that crosses the spectrum of income.  It’s one of people at all levels of society who use government to take from others what they would not otherwise give.  CEOs and their companies who spend each day making themselves more profitable by providing better value for society should be applauded, not demonized.  The same is true for those who are saved by the “social safety net” but show the determination to climb back off of that net and start moving upward on their own power again.  These are the ‘workers.’

But those of any income who increase their worth primarily at the calculated expense of others — looters — should be rightfully condemned, whether they live in Manhattan, New York, or Manhattan, Kanasas.  This is yet another issue where Democrats and Republicans each decry a selected part of the problem, while both make it worse.  Republicans complain (rightfully) about those who purposefully live off the welfare system, while simultaneously supporting H1B visas, offshoring and other corporate goodies that force vulnerable workers onto unemployment and other forms of public assistance.  Democrats rightfully attack Uncle Sam’s “corporate handouts” (of which there are many), but then promise to hand out so many “goodies” to the citizenry that they promote individual dependency and an entitlement mentality.

Here’s a radical thought: how about EVERYBODY stop looking at government as Santa Claus?  How about we stop empowering government to pick the winners and losers at all levels of living?  This is supposed to be the land of opportunity, not the land of who-has-the-most-organized-lobby.  (By the way, if you truly want to study and go to college, the opportunities exist.  Stop waiting for government to make it “free.”)  Government should be a referee, not a retailer of tax loot.

Solving any issue effectively means first defining the problem accurately.  That is one reason why socialism ultimately fails.  It substitutes blind jealousy for incentives and a work ethic.  I suspect its growing appeal to the current generation is based in no small part on the failure of America to prevent the corruption of what was once a successful attempt at free market capitalism into a blatant and corrupt system of cronyism based on an alliance of Big Business, Big Government and a Bi-factional ruling party.

Neither of these is the answer to the problem.  Where are the candidates promoting individual freedom and personal opportunity?

Qualified to be president?

It appears that a Marine officer may be:

A senior Navy Department official decided Monday to force a Marine Corps officer out of the service for his handling of classified information, three years after he was first investigated after sending a warning to deployed colleagues about an Afghan police chief whose servant later killed three Marines.

(Major Jason) Brezler’s case first came to light after he sent an e-mail with a couple classified documents attached to Marines in Afghanistan about Jan. Brezler was deployed to Afghanistan from 2009 to 2010, and had worked successfully to have Jan removed from power in another district, Now Zad. Brezler self-reported his spillage of classified information afterward, and the service found that he had been keeping it on an unsecured hard drive.

Clearly, Brezler violated the rules for handling classified info.  His storage and transmission of such information via non-secure means appears at least in part to have been a good-faith effort to warn others of a very real threat that later materialized.  If the linked story is to be believed, he at least had the integrity both to take that action and then report his own breach of procedure.

As a nation, we have become far too lax in dealing with those who violate the trust placed in them for handling classified and sensitive information.  Because of this, I would ordinarily support the Navy Department’s decision to force out this Marine, despite whatever good intentions he may have had.

But not when General David Petraeus was only given a $40,000 fine and no jail time at all for allowing inappropriate access to eight notebooks of highly classified information.  While $40,000 sounds like a lot, it’s a little more than two months’ retirement pay for a 4-star general, and Petraeus’ net worth overall is estimated at more than $2 million.  Major Brezler, on the other hand, will not receive a retirement, and will likely be barred from the kind of lucrative post-military career options Petraeus has enjoyed.

Not when Hillary Clinton is still a free woman, campaigning for the presidency.  Her willful circumvention of the normal government information systems (which only make sense if she was trying to avoid normal archiving, and thus public accountability) was as reckless as simply handing every hacker and foreign government on the planet a back door view into our nation’s most sensitive conversations.  She cannot plead ignorance to the gravity of her decision, either.  While the State Department has been as slow as it can get away with in releasing what should already be matters of public record, the steady drip of revelations clearly shows utter disregard for safeguarding American secrets.

Considering her disregard for safeguarding American lives in Libya, I suppose that should come as no surprise.

What absolutely infuriates me about the juxtaposition of these stories is that it confirms once again there is no “equality before the law” in our land.  There is one measure of token accountability for show applied to those in positions of power.  Then there is the “full weight of the law,” reserved for the mid-grade officers and enlisted members of the military, or the small family business owner suddenly afoul of the IRS or EPA, or  victims of government theft ‘civil asset forfeiture.’  In other words, the average citizen without political connections who, in the words of George Bailey, “do most of the working and paying and living and dying” in this country.  They’re never considered “too big to fail,” or “too big to jail” — phrases that should say all that’s needed about how skewed our jurisprudence is today.

So while a Marine major is losing his job for breaking the rules to warn his comrades of danger, Hillary is an election away from the highest office in the land.  If we had a free press worthy of the name, somebody would ask Her Hillariness to comment on the Brezler case.  Don’t worry: I’m not holding my breath.

It boggles my mind that anybody still thinks the Hildabeast is worthy of the Oval Office.  But maybe they’re right.  Given how far the rule of law, accountability and common sense has degenerated in this once-great nation, in the words of the candidate herself: “what difference, at this point, does it make?”