28 July 2009

Rewriting History

Barak Obama has, once again, shown himself to be devoid of any sense of American history. A few days ago I saw him in an interview proclaiming that victory in Afghanistan would evoke the scene of Emperor Hirohito coming on board the USS Missouri to surrender to General Douglas McArthur at the end of World War II. You can watch a short clip of that interview here.

Obama's claim notwithstanding, Hirohito did not come aboard the USS Missouri that day in September, 1945, and he signed nothing in the presence of McArthur or any other westerner. His emissaries did the signing. This is just one more example of Obama's grasp of history in general and American history in particular. Not many weeks back Obama put words into the mouth of Winston Churchill, claiming that the British did not torture -- even as civilian targets in London were being reduced to rubble. Churchill said nothing of the kind. However, the Colonel Robin "Tin Eye" Stephens, commander of Camp 020, did have such a policy. The story of "Tin Eye" Stephens is an interesting one in its own right and can be read here. Winston Churchill did not dictate, or even adopt, "Tin Eye" Stephens's policy. That was a convenient bit of political fabrication by Barak Obama. The author of the article that inspired Obama's fabrication can be found here. By the way, The Times of London is one of the few British newspapers I'm inclined to trust.

In a larger sense, Obama's weak grasp of history, if that is what it really is, is a reflection of the public education system in the United States. While the Obama administration makes daily headlines by grabbing power and property from the private sector, his plans for public education are more opaque but much more disturbing, if you are paying attention. The public education system has been failing for years; it shows in test scores over a span of thirty years and more. And who hasn't seen a segment out of Jay Leno's "Jaywalking?" If the claims I have read are correct, the show's producer never had to do much culling to get what you saw on TV.

In my own experience, the quality of public school teachers, at least, is declining. I taught in the College of Business Administration at a university for about ten years, starting around 1991. The courses I taught were cross-listed; that means that students with majors other than the business majors could enroll. We weren't doing any mathematical analysis beyond high school algebra -- and we were doing it on a financial calculator. Over the decade I taught those courses I noticed a trend. The engineering majors, actuarial science majors, and some business majors, tended to cluster in the higher levels of achievement for the courses. The majority of the business majors clustered in the middle. The education majors, journalism majors, and psychology majors tended toward the lowest levels of achievement. Since it happened over some ten years I don't think it was a statistical fluke. From what I have seen since, the trend continues. Science teachers that don't know science; history teachers that don't know history; the list goes on.

As I see it, a large problem is that the education system is no longer focused on education; it is for indoctrination. You see that with the doctrine of Political Correctness that appears almost everywhere nowadays, especially in public schools. One proponent of indoctrination over education is Bill Ayers. Yes, it's the very same Bill Ayers who was in a lead position in the domestic terror group the Weathermen. Yes, it's the same terrorists group who planted bombs at various government and university sites, mainly in the early 1970s. Here's a list of some of their mayhem. Sol Stern has the goods on Ayers and his ilk. Stern reports on the activities of Professor Bill Ayers and the American Educational Research Association (AERA) here. My own experience and observations tell me that Sol Stern knows of what he speaks. The insiders in the "education system" are intent on subverting it with their "social justice" agenda. It is indoctrination rather than education and it is being taught in teachers colleges throughout the United States. An example of that flared up last October when it became known that Bill Ayers was invited to speak to the Teachers College at University of Nebraska - Lincoln.

Editor's Note: it used to be called the Teachers College, but now they have inflated their claim to fame by calling it the College of Education and Human Sciences. Yeah, right.

A strong outcry over the speaking invitation to Bill Ayers ensued and the heat just became too intense; the college had to "disinvite" him. The apologists for the college claimed that it was an honest error in judgement to invite Ayers. Much more likely is that the error in judgement was expecting that no one would notice or care who was speaking and what his agenda is. I suspect that the faculty of the "College of Education and Human Sciences" is already largely in the Ayers camp and this was going to be a friendly exchange of ideas. In any case, Ayers did get a final say last November in the Omaha World-Herald; they printed his claims that "it is the duty of scholars to challenge dogma." Unfortunately, a link the the World-Herald piece no longer exists, but you can read a copy of the op-ed piece here. In fact, it is Ayers who is the dogmatist and his dogma is the leftist-communist dogma that many were subjected to for decades and ultimately rejected.

Which brings us back around to the issue of rewriting history. The young are gullible by nature; some never outgrow the tendency. I saw it in myself; I saw it in my children and grandchildren; I saw it when I taught at UNL. Even college students will faithfully write down whatever the professor is saying, almost always without a word of challenge, regardless of whether what the professor is saying is factual or not. It is easy to corrupt the young with a false history that the likes of AERA put forth with their "social justice" agenda and more. Once the real history of America is lost to its citizens it will be easy to corrupt all of society and turn it away from the freedoms we have enjoyed for over two hundred years.

If we don't stop the corruption of the education system in general, and the public education system in particular, it will be too late. When those with a false history grow up and become a majority the battle will pretty much be lost. The revisionists will have won because once people have been indoctrinated with a false history it is hard to undo it. After all, they learned it in school and a president of the United States said it. It must be true.

16 July 2009

Apollo 11

Most people of a certain age recall where they were and what they were doing when especially memorable events took place, for example, the attack on Pearl Harbor, V-E Day, V-J Day, JFK's assassination, the launch of Apollo 11.

The where and what of the Apollo 11 launch remains clear to me because on that day I finished a three month tour of duty in Thailand supporting fighter strikes against North Vietnam. Our flight and ground crew, plus some passengers, departed U-Tapao Royal Thai Air Base, which is south-southeast of Bangkok about 80 miles, as the KC-135 flies. We were headed for Kadena Air Base, Okinawa on the first leg of our trip back to Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico. While we launched in the early morning darkness on 17 July it was still daylight on 16 July at the Kennedy Space Center, where Apollo 11 had already launched. We didn't know that though. When we arrived at Kadena that morning we were able to see replays of the Apollo 11 launch from just a few hours before. We knew that the astronauts were on their way to a moon landing.

Two days later we launched on the second leg of our journey back to Ramey AFB; this time our destination was Hickam AFB, Hawai'i. According to my flight log, it took us ten hours and six minutes to make the flight. It was late on 19 July, Honolulu time, when we landed.

Apollo 11 was in lunar orbit. In the time it had taken us to fly from Thailand to Hawai'i Apollo 11 had flown to the moon.

The next day was a layover day at Hickam for us; it was also the day that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin first set foot on the moon. It was a Sunday, and not much was going on at Hickam, in fact, everyone who could do so was sitting in front of a TV set someplace. The lounge of the transient aircrew quarters we were assigned to was full; every seat was taken and everyone was glued to the TV set. Since everything was being reported in real time it seemed like it took forever for Armstrong and Aldrin to get in the LEM, make the descent to the lunar surface, and make a successful landing. Then there was another forever until Armstrong stepped out of the LEM and put the first human footprint on the lunar soil. When that happened there was jubilation all around.

The tension was broken when both astronauts stepped onto the lunar surface, but there was still a lot that had to happen before they would safely return to Earth. Unfortunately, after the moment Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface I don't recall a thing.

15 July 2009

The Distinguished Senator from Minnesota, Part II

Senator Al Franken (D) Minnesota, is now addressing Judge Sonia Sotomayor at her confirmation hearing for a seat on the US Supreme Court. What can a profane clown add to the proceedings? Apparently not much more than another windy speech.

Good choice, Minnesotans.

H/T: Theo Spark

04 July 2009

Fiery Fourth

The year must have been around 1953. I had two younger brothers and one younger sister. My father made it a tradition to have a large box of fireworks for the July 4th holiday and celebration. Since he was a local businessman I think he got some of the leftovers from one of the local fireworks vendors. Most years there was a family picnic in the back yard with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins attending the festivities. At twilight the sparklers started sputtering, followed by the fountains, pinwheels, and small star shells. Anything bigger was illegal in Illinois. At some point the big municipal display started going off several block away so our local display was punctuated by the big stuff being supervised and set off courtesy of the local American Legion post.

Twilight brought out the sparklers and a few fusees (a flare on a stick) that were in box of fireworks Dad had brought home. My six-year old sister was bored with the sparklers and wanted to hold a fusee. How she got the fusee I don't know, but it was not a master stroke of parenting to give a six-year old kid a hot, sputtering fusee. What could go wrong? Fusees burn with a bright light (this one happened to be green) and molten combustion products fly off the burning end. They are something you want to be careful with. In any case, my sister was holding a burning fusee and getting dangerously close to the box of fireworks Dad would soon be lighting. Big brother that I was (about age 12) I told little Sis to move away from the box of fireworks. Of course little Sis refused to move. Once or twice more I tried to get her to move away from the fireworks box with her sputtering fusee. At some point she swung the hand holding the fusee away from me and toward the fireworks box. As she swung her hand a glob of molten stuff came off the fusee and arced toward the open fireworks box. I watched, literally in horror, as the molten stuff dropped into the box and landed squarely on the fuse of one of the fireworks. The fuse lit immediately; my only reaction was to run like hell.

In a few seconds the ignited firework began doing its thing; that set off a chain reaction and seconds after that the whole box of fireworks was going off all at once. Everyone, young and old, was trying to clear out of the back yard and get as far away from the fiery shower that was coming out of the fireworks box. There were red and green fireballs flying; a pinwheel went sailing into the air; sparks were flying everywhere; a neighborhood friend who was stand next to me watching the spectacle was hit by a fireball.

After watching for a few stunning seconds, I decided to try to put the fire out. Being twelve I grabbed a pan of water and tried to approach the now fiercely burning box from behind. Fortunately for me, our neighbor was a member of the local fire department and he had a much better plan than I did. He grabbed a garden hose that was still connected to the outdoor tap; even better, the hose had a circular lawn sprinkler attached to it. The fireman turned on the water full force and approached the flaming box from behind the lawn sprinkler's water spray. The fireworks were beginning to burn themselves out, but still burned brightly. The fireman put a quick end to that bit of excitement and doused the box thoroughly until the whole thing was a black sodden mess and no smoke could be seen.

The remainder of the evening was spent recovering from that bit of unplanned excitement, including personal accounts of what people did to save themselves. Little Sis took the brunt of the recriminations for ruining the entire day (at least that's what we kids thought). Fortunately no one was seriously hurt, although a few people were singed by sparks and fireballs. We all were lucky.

For years afterward a July 4th celebration couldn't pass without someone recounting at least once how little Sis had blown up the backyard fireworks box. As best I recall, after that year there were no more backyard fireworks displays at our house.


A brother remembers.
"I will never forget that evening. I remember being behind the bushes where our yard was separated from Arendt's (where the garage stood) I was on the ground and watching the fireballs flying everywhere. I think the pin wheel you mentioned landed on Tilden's roof down the street, or at least one of them did. Our back yard reminded me of scenes from the Three Stooges movies, I saw later in life. The whole event seemed like it lasted an eternity, but it was probably a couple of minutes in total time. I remember Marvin Steege getting hit with a fireball going horizontal over the ground. Years after that event, I asked Dad where he use to get the fireworks. He told me he bought them at Reid's Sporting Goods there in downtown Bloomington. Dad went in the day before the 4th, and Mr. Reid would give him a deal on them because he did not want to carry them over, for obvious reasons."

...And a cousin remembers too.
"Ahhh yes I remember that day. I was about 5 at the time. I think I was standing there watching Martha having fun with the flare, wishing I had one too. If I recall the only thing that didn't get torched was a few spinners that had been set up earlier in the back yard. I watched them as I recall and that was it.

I made the mistake of mentioning this story to Martha at my Mothers funeral. The look she gave me was, well, intense."

01 July 2009

The Bernie Madoff Ponzi Scheme

The Evil Bernie Madoff got 150 years in prison for running the greatest Ponzi scheme of all time. Actually, it's the second greatest Ponzi scheme of all time. The greatest Ponzi scheme is the Social Security System.

Like all Ponzi schemes Social Security worked pretty well as long as there were a lot of people putting money into the system. All those "contributors," i.e., workers, from CEOs to packing plant employees -- that's 95% of the work force -- have put a Congress-decreed part of their earnings into the system. Most of the money collected goes right back out again in payments to "earlier investors," i.e., people who managed to live until age 65, along with permanently disabled workers, and the survivors of workers who had died. Along the way, politicians promoted the illusion that workers had a pension fund building up in the system, but that was never true.

Fortunately for the politicians the proportion of workers to Social Security recipients was large -- around 40 workers per recipient at the end of WW II. In 2006 that ratio had dropped to 3.3 workers per recipient. Two things happened: advancing medical technology gradually extended life spans, and after the post-war baby boom faded people began having smaller families. The net result is that many fewer workers are having to pay into a system that immediately redistributes their tax payments to a growing number of recipients. Uh-oh.

Of course, Lyndon Johnson wanted to have his shot at a presidential legacy so in 1965 he persuaded Congress to exacerbate the problem by adding Medicare into the Social Security System. Bad idea. Medicare is simply adding to the funding problem. The Ponzi scheme is getting nearer to collapse because the number of people putting money into the system can't keep up with the number of people getting money out of the system. Now that's a legacy.

Some politicians actually have a conscience and have tried to fix -- or propose a fix to -- the funding problem our government-sponsored Ponzi scheme faces: adequate funding. Former Senator Bob Kerrey (D) Nebraska was one. It has been about twelve years ago now, that Kerrey and his RINO compatriot, Chuck Hagel, periodically would come back to Nebraska to pitch his fix for Social Security. Of course, he was only talking about "fixing" the old age benefits, but at least he was on the right track. He wanted to privatize at least a part of Social Security so that workers would have more control over the amount of cash they would have at retirement. It was pretty clear that Kerrey and his aides had at least looked at the problem in proposing partial privatization. Hagel clearly didn't have a clue and was just mouthing politi-speak as a warm up act to Kerrey's ideas. Of course, the idea never took off among Democrats, and when Republicans started proposing privatizing Social Security the Democrats fell on them like a mob of screeching seagulls.

So the problem remains and the Obama administration wants to do more of what Social Security already does: spread the wealth. We already are getting a preview of how well an expanded income redistribution system works: it's running out of funds. Taxation is a dead weight on the economy and smothers economic growth so adding more taxes to pay for more income redistribution is going to be a killer for growth and the jobs growth creates. Most of the "green jobs" we hear about don't really exist, and when they do they are in some other country where specialized knowledge and lower labor costs already exist. Most of the "green jobs" I've heard about are in the administrative bureaucracy, i.e., the unproductive overhead, that will monitor, regulate, and ultimately stifle whatever innovation comes from this move toward a "green economy."

So. Who will take the fall when this, the biggest of all Ponzi schemes collapses? It won't be the politicians, unless voters finally learn the truth about this long-running scam. In truth, the generation now growing up will be taking the fall because, as Margaret Thatcher once said, "The problem with Socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other peoples' money."

The Distinguished Senator from Minnesota

Caligula sent his horse to the Roman Senate. Minnesota sends Al Franken to the US Senate. A horse's ass or a profane clown, take your pick.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds