Uncommon Sense

politics and society are, unfortunately, much the same thing

A closer look at how education funding REALLY works

original article: I’m an Educator Who Disagrees with Teacher Walkouts
January 18, 2020 by Ajalon J. Stapley

This is a post from my blog that I wrote back in 2018 when the “Red for Ed” frenzy, to increase Arizona’s education funding, was happening.

I’m an educator with a different perspective from what you probably see in the media regarding Red for Ed protests. I worked in public schools for 12 years, as an afterschool provider, teacher, administrator and more. I’ve taught in three states and don’t claim to be an expert in everything education, but I have my experiences, and don’t agree with what’s happening. Let me explain.

1. We chose to be teachers and knew it didn’t pay much. Most of us don’t pick this field for the money, but we are accountable for our choices. You can easily research pay scales, benefits, etc. for districts and states. We do our searching, make our choice and sign the contract. I had a professor spend an entire class explaining how he supported his family on a meager teacher’s salary, with sacrifices, but he made it work, and encouraged us to really ponder this before moving on in the program.

But, some argue, the hours, all the hours and little pay don’t balance out. I know the hours dedicated teachers put into their jobs, I’ve been there. We do what’s expected, then more because we care. I cried when I got my first paycheck, after deductions, it wasn’t much more than what I made in college. In time though, I came to appreciate the other benefits of my job, like healthcare, retirement plan, and days off.

Yes, days off. I enjoyed the flexibility of choosing to relax, travel, catch up on work, or find ways to earn extra money. Teachers are nine, maybe ten-month employees. I know they take work home, often go in on weekends and holidays, and prep during the summer, but ask your friends in the private sector, I’m sure they don’t get the time off you do. Also, I’ve seen the breakdown of teacher salaries into $/hour. It’s low, but we’re not alone. My husband is active-duty infantry in the army; you want to compare little pay per hour spent at the job? It’s no contest, he wins. Or rather–he loses.

2. Have you done your due diligence? Outdated supplies and grotesque conditions in schools are understandably frustrating and should be fixed. But are administrators always making the right decisions? I worked at a high school of 1,100 students with a principal and three assistant principals — three! Their combined salaries were almost $500,000. In another district, schools hadn’t seen updates in years, but administrators were able to get brand new tablets. Is this the wisest use of district funds?

According to the Auditor General Report in Arizona, “…between fiscal years 2004 and 2016, the percentage of resources spent on instruction declined…. At the same time, the percentages spent on administration, plant operations, food service, transportation, student support, and instruction support have all increased.” In this chart, you see Arizona falls below the national average for dollars going towards instruction, yet they spend the same or more in other areas. Why isn’t the money going directly to the classroom? Can every person who is protesting say, with 100-percent assurance, that their district uses every dollar wisely and there’s nothing that can be done better?

But my administrators are wonderful, they’re not the bad guys! Them — the legislature! They’re the bad guys!

This isn’t a good guy, bad guy thing. It’s about honestly assessing if any improvements can be made. So before marching off to the capital, try scrutinizing your district’s budget reports. Sure it’s not as exciting — and doesn’t make for good selfies — but give it a go.

3. Demands on teachers increase every year. This — I wholeheartedly agree with — 100 percent! New federal and state requirements, district policies, the work keeps piling up and never stops. But why? My mentor teacher said something that’s always stuck. She said when she was younger, schools were responsible to teach reading, writing, math, science, and social studies–go figure? Now add in character education, health, hygiene, sex ed, food programs, psychological services, the list never ends; for decades schools have implemented programs to fill the gaps from home and they are overstretched. Schools are failing because parents are failing. Why are we not having this conversation? Of course, quality teaching is important to student learning, but so is quality parenting. As one veteran teacher remarked, “They don’t make parents like they used to.” And that is the truth.

Teachers and schools are not miracle workers. What can they do about the student who can barely read, but falls asleep in class every day because he’s up till 10 playing video games? Or the 5th-grade boy who cusses, gets in the face and verbally threatens his teacher, and when dad gets to school, all blame goes to the 5’3″ woman. Or the girl caught blatantly cheating on a test, but still gets her birthday bash that weekend. Or the boy suspended for drawing violent pictures about teachers from school, and his mom takes him to Disneyland the next week. (Yes, you read that correctly.) This is just a smidgen in my slew of personal stories; ask anyone who’s worked with kids, they have their own. What has happened in our culture?! Let’s start that conversation! As educators, we are some of the leading experts on how a child’s home life impacts their success at school, why are we so mum about it?

Because it’s out of our control, we might offend people, there’s no easy solution.

True, true, and true, but what’s the alternative? You put all your frustration on a small group of people — point finger, blame, dehumanize, yell, and hate. Such is the pattern in our society these days.

4. Make realistic requests.

Have you read the demands of the Oklahoma Education Association? The state boosted the average teacher pay 16 percent by proposing the state’s first tax increase in 28 years. This would bump the average OK teacher salary to $51,376, slightly higher than the state’s median household income of $50,943. But this didn’t meet all their demands, so on strike they went. For nine days. What were the demands? Included in the expensive list was a cost of living increase for retirees — sooo more money for people who don’t work with kids anymore, and a $5,000 raise for school-support staff. I know it sounds nice but giving people money, just because, is not realistic. Is bus driving now a highly skilled, highly trained job? As wonderful as the crossing guard is, does she impact student achievement? Giving employees money as a thank you for being great is a privilege the private sector has, not the public sector, whose pay is funded by taxpayers.

When I taught in Washington, there was an initiative on the state ballot, and more on local ballots, to decrease class sizes. Also, that year districts were picketing and striking for more funding, specifically higher pay. Taxpayers heard, “make my job easier and pay me more money.” Pick one! In a teacher’s lounge discussion about this, one staff member snickered, “We really just want to get paid more.” And you know, I’m ok with that! Who doesn’t?! But when you are at the mercy of the taxpayers, be reasonable and realistic. I know the protesting states have seen funding cuts, years without raises, and more. Most people wouldn’t argue with some change, but be careful what you ask for, or rather what you demand. Talk to your friends in the private sector, how often have they dealt with years of stagnant pay, pay cuts, and layoffs? Can they demand a 20 percent raise and walk out of the job if they don’t get it?

5. You’re either with us or against us in the fight to fund education.

Really? So either I completely agree with your movement or I hate teachers and kids? What if I am a teacher, what if I have kids, in the public schools? Why do things have to be so polarized? This is neither fair or realistic as life is not so black and white. I know many people who appreciate teachers and don’t’ like to see schools struggle but they simply don’t want to get taxed more. They’re struggling too, your parents, the voters, they want to keep money in their paychecks like you want to see more. Both are fair. I know small business owners who, between the recession, Obamacare, and minimum wage spikes, are strapped. You can’t nickel-and-dime people because you think you have the moral high ground.

Then tax the big corporations! Remember things are not just black and white. Take my home state, Arizona. Many businesses have been relocating to AZ because of low corporate taxes, especially from their highly taxed neighbor to the West. Businesses bring jobs, growth, and money, do you want that to leave? And the “us against you” mentality isn’t reserved only for the public. In Washington, I heard stories of past strikes where teachers, who had the nerve to show up to work, had rocks thrown at their cars. Speaking of strikes…

6. A strike will hurt the people you claim to love. It’s difficult to make-up curriculum missed from an assembly let alone days of striking. Kids will lose out on learning, period. And their parents? They are left scrambling to find a place to send them. You care so much, what about a parent who has to miss work and lose pay to watch their kid? In Arizona, there was talk of graduation dates being pushed back due to the strike. Think about the implications and how this makes you look. I respect other tactics, but I don’t agree with going on strike. In the words of Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt:

[…a] strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to obstruct the operations of government until their demands are satisfied. Such action looking toward the paralysis of government by those who have sworn to support it is unthinkable and intolerable.

7. Playing the martyr. I had a professor warn us not to eat lunch in the teacher’s lounge because of the negative cesspool that sucks you in like a poison. He was right; many teachers have a “woe is me” attitude. I know disrespectful students, crazy parents, and piled-up demands can suck the soul out of you … just suck it right out! But all the complaining, coupled with the chip on some’s shoulder that what they do is so important, and soo unappreciated, and they are sooo superior to their peers, who (gasp) work only for the money, irks me. I didn’t go into teaching for the praise of my peers or accolades from society; if you did, you chose the wrong profession. When I was a teacher I knew what I did mattered and that it made a difference, I knew it was unappreciated and hard, but I had my reasons for choosing it; I didn’t need a bumper sticker or t-shirt telling the world that cared about kids and therefore was amazing for all my sacrificing. Plenty of people sacrifice for their jobs and many jobs help our communities; we’re not the only ones.

Once I was waiting for a staff meeting to start, it was the usual gripe session: unruly kids, apathetic parents, late nights for conferences, data reports, etc. Don’t get me wrong … I was right there with them. This job is taxing. But as I looked around at our library, humble but nice, the pleasant view out the windows, the tasty pot luck my wonderful principal organized, my thoughts turned to my husband. Weeks away in the hot desert for job training with almost no communication, where he slept on the ground, ate MREs, and used a wet wipe for a bath, I thought to myself, Gosh, we are such whiners. Can’t we just look at the positive, be grateful for what we have, and do our jobs. And maybe try to find joy in it.

“But I have done my job!” shouts the menopausal teacher as she bangs her fists on the desk. “I’m done looking for the positive, it’s time to show my wrath!” She’s met with a roar of applauds, cheers, likes, and shares.

Ooo-kay, you’re entitled to your feelings. So am I. Can we please stop with the self-righteous indignation? Maybe it’s just me, but when people go fishing for sympathy — or scream for it in my face — I just get annoyed.

“But it’s justified because teachers have the most important job in society!”

Mmmm…

Parents do. And they’re failing.

8. Money isn’t a magical fix. Yes, increased funds and higher teacher pay can make some difference, but it will not solve everything. Here are two articles that say increased spending improves student achievement.

And here are two that say it doesn’t.

In my ever, ever humble opinion, it’s not the answer. Families are. Education is already the number one expenditure in most states. In 2015, New York ranked first in per-pupil spending ($19,818), Utah ranked last ($6,555), yet Utah’s students consistently outperformed New York’s.

I lived in western Washington where they just love to vote themselves into higher taxes. I think they confuse taxation with charity; they’re not the same thing. The result was a very expensive place to live with average schools. The teachers I worked with were dedicated, the district had program after program to help students, yet they ran across the same problems I’ve seen elsewhere. We can give our hearts and souls to our students and make some impact, but what happens in the walls of their own homes (or doesn’t happen) has the greatest impact.

In conclusion: I understand the frustration. However, I would like to see more personal research and less bandwagon jumping, more facts and responsible spending by all, and mostly, let’s start the conversation — the campaign — to advocate for stronger families. I’ll wear those shirts every day. “Stronger families, stronger schools, stronger communities.” Or, “Where have all the fathers gone?” Or, “That device will never replace you as their parent.”

If we truly care about kids, we need to advocate for what most matters to them: safe, stable, caring, responsible families. That is the bedrock of a society.

________________________
children, crisis, culture, education, family, funding, public policy, tragedy, unintended consequences

Filed under: children, crisis, culture, education, family, funding, public policy, tragedy, unintended consequences

What the NYT used to say about the minimum wage

original article: The Right Minimum Wage: $0.00
January 14, 1987

 

The Federal minimum wage has been frozen at $3.35 an hour for six years. In some states, it now compares unfavorably even with welfare benefits available without working. It’s no wonder then that Edward Kennedy, the new chairman of the Senate Labor Committee, is being pressed by organized labor to battle for an increase.

No wonder, but still a mistake. Anyone working in America surely deserves a better living standard than can be managed on $3.35 an hour. But there’s a virtual consensus among economists that the minimum wage is an idea whose time has passed. Raising the minimum wage by a substantial amount would price working poor people out of the job market. A far better way to help them would be to subsidize their wages or – better yet – help them acquire the skills needed to earn more on their own.

An increase in the minimum wage to, say, $4.35 would restore the purchasing power of bottom-tier wages. It would also permit a minimum-wage breadwinner to earn almost enough to keep a family of three above the official poverty line. There are catches, however. It would increase employers’ incentives to evade the law, expanding the underground economy. More important, it would increase unemployment: Raise the legal minimum price of labor above the productivity of the least skilled workers and fewer will be hired.

If a higher minimum means fewer jobs, why does it remain on the agenda of some liberals? A higher minimum would undoubtedly raise the living standard of the majority of low-wage workers who could keep their jobs. That gain, it is argued, would justify the sacrifice of the minority who became unemployable. The argument isn’t convincing. Those at greatest risk from a higher minimum would be young, poor workers, who already face formidable barriers to getting and keeping jobs. Indeed, President Reagan has proposed a lower minimum wage just to improve their chances of finding work.

Perhaps the mistake here is to accept the limited terms of the debate. The working poor obviously deserve a better shake. But it should not surpass our ingenuity or generosity to help some of them without hurting others. Here are two means toward that end: Wage supplements. Government might subsidize low wages with cash or payments for medical insurance, pensions or Social Security taxes. Alternatively, Washington could enlarge the existing earned income tax credit, a ”negative” income tax paying up to $800 a year to working poor families. This would permit better targeting, since minimum-wage workers in affluent families would not be eligible. Training and education. The alternative to supplementing income for the least skilled workers is to raise their earning power in a free labor market. In the last two decades, dozens of programs to do that have produced mixed results at a very high cost. But the concept isn’t necessarily at fault; nurturing the potential of individuals raised in poverty is very difficult. A humane society would learn from its mistakes and keep trying.

The idea of using a minimum wage to overcome poverty is old, honorable – and fundamentally flawed. It’s time to put this hoary debate behind us, and find a better way to improve the lives of people who work very hard for very little.

————–
capitalism, economics, government, poverty, public policy, reform, unintended consequences

Filed under: capitalism, economics, government, poverty, public policy, reform, unintended consequences

Does AFP’s sloppy reporting reveal bias?

On Monday, November 18, the AFP published a “Breaking” news story about more than 100,000 migrant children being detained by US immigration services. By Wednesday, the story has been deleted. Why would the AFP scrap a story after two days? It turns out a vital piece of information was neglected in the original story: the main premise was wrong.

AFP deleted a story incorrectly accusing the Trump administration of detaining over 100,000 migrant children

Searching online for an extant copy of the original AFP story (authored by Ben Simon and Nina Larson) shows the initial story highlighted a recent UN report on migrant children detained in over 80 countries across the world. But the AFP story focused on how the US handles these children, and more specifically, it blamed the sad situation on president Trump.

One syndicated copy of the story (from Vaal weekblad) shows quite clearly the current US administration is blamed for the situation.

AFP syndicated story blames the Trump administration for detention of migrant children

The story’s opening paragraph tells us a recent study was published in which responsibility was assigned to the Trump administration (emphasis added):

Lead author of the United Nations Global Study on Children Deprived of Liberty, Manfred Nowak, said the figure refers to migrants children currently in custody who reached a US border unaccompanied, as well as those detained with relatives and minors separated from their parents prior to detention.

President Trump is even named in the AFP story (emphasis added):

The US is the only UN member state that has not ratified the convention which took effect in 1990.

But Nowak said that did not absolve President Donald Trump’s administration of wrongdoing with respect to the detention of migrant children at the southern border with Mexico.

But AFP’s notification that it’s story is being withdrawn makes a substantial correction:

AFP is withdrawing this story.

The author of the report has clarified that his figures do not represent the number of children currently in migration-related US detention, but the total number of children in migration-related US detention in 2015.

We will delete the story.

So a fuller perspective on the story actually places responsibility for the situation at the foot of the Obama administration. Yet, rather than issue a correction, as is common practice in the news industry, the AFP has instead opted to withdraw the story. The desire to cast blame is already out of the bag, given the story was clearly worthy of being reported on Monday. Is the story no longer news worthy simply because the AFP was forced to admit president Obama should be the object of ridicule?

When the detention and caging of migrant children became a coast to coast outrage in 2018, the US main stream media was sure to cover the story ad nauseam. The first articles critical of the Trump administration inconveniently used 2014 photos of caged migrant children, photos taken when the Obama administration was detaining them. Conservatives responded to the 2018 bombshell with skepticism about the leftwing outrage, given the complete absence of outrage when the Obama administration built those cages and detained tens of thousands of migrant children.

Many people question the sincerity of leftwing outrage given its highly selective application – even on the same issue. If separating migrant children from their parents and detaining them in cages is a moral outrage today in the Trump era, it was equally outrageous in the Obama era. The lack of public outrage of this matter in the Obama years, and the AFP’s initial interest in it this week yet sudden disinterest in the same matter after discovering president Obama should have been blamed in their own story, makes the outrage look less moral and more political.

—————————–
bias, children, hypocrisy, immigration, left wing, liberalism, news media, president, progressive, propaganda, public policy, relativism, separation

Filed under: bias, children, hypocrisy, immigration, left wing, liberalism, news media, president, progressive, propaganda, public policy, relativism, separation

Obama supported the same racist policies Trump supports

original article: Video surfaces of Obama supporting asylum restrictions that Democrats now slam Trump over
July 17, 2019 by Chris Enloe

Democrats blasted President Donald Trump this week over new asylum regulations enacted in response to the growing humanitarian crisis at the southern border.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) called the regulations — which require migrants to claim asylum in the first safe country to which they arrive, not the country of their preference — “illegal” and “cruel.”

However, new video of former President Barack Obama from five years ago shows just how far Democrats’ goal posts have moved.

Obama meets with leaders of Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador at the White HouseAlex Wong/WHITE HOUSE POOL (ISP POOL IMAGES)/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images

Speaking in 2014, Obama said that poverty and crime are not sufficient legal reasons for granting asylum.

“Under U.S. law, we admit a certain number of refugees from all around the world based on some fairly narrow criteria. And, typically, refugees status is not granted just based on economic need or because a family lives in a bad neighborhood, or poverty,” Obama said.

“It’s typically defined fairly narrowly,” he explained. “You have a state, for example, that was targeting a political activist and they need to get out of the country, for fear of prosecution or even death.”

“There may be some narrow circumstances in which there is a humanitarian or refugee status that a family might be eligible for,” Obama went on to say. “If that were the case, it would be better for them to be able to apply in country, rather than take a very dangerous journey all the way up to Texas to make those same claims.”

However, Obama was clear that the American asylum-request pipeline is not suited to handle a large-scale humanitarian asylum crisis.

“I think it’s important to recognize that would not necessarily accommodate a large number of additional migrants,” Obama emphasized.

Obama’s comments followed a meeting at the White House with Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, then-Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, and then-El Salvadorian President Salvador Sanchez Ceren.

Obama had met with his three counterparts to discuss what was at the time an ongoing migrant crisis impacting Central America, Mexico, and the U.S. That crisis is most notable for the surge of unaccompanied migrant children that overwhelmed U.S. immigration resources.

Democrats, government, immigration, politics, president, public policy, relativism

Filed under: Democrats, government, immigration, politics, president, public policy, relativism

Black people lost ground under Obama

Host Tavis Smiley argues black people have lost ground in every major economic category over the last ten years.
April 6, 2016

https://video.foxnews.com/v/embed.js?id=4834072253001&w=466&h=263

Democrats, economy, government, politics, president, public policy, reform, tragedy, unintended consequences

Filed under: Democrats, economy, government, politics, president, public policy, reform, tragedy, unintended consequences

Euphemising language to sanitize killing

original article: My visit to Auschwitz reminded me why I oppose abortion
June 1, 2014 by Rebecca Frazer

“When I learn about this mass killing process and see the tools and the remains and the pictures…I block the humanity…My heart still is not accepting that each one of them was an individual, intricate, valuable, hand-crafted human being.  But my head knows.  …If I accept the humanity in my heart, what have we done?”

I journaled those words in March of this year, crouched in a bottom bunk in a hostel in Krakow, Poland.  I was not writing about abortion.  I was writing about the Holocaust—writing out of stunned pain and confusion—having spent the day touring the sprawling, well-preserved complex known as Auschwitz concentration camp, a killing machine unlike any other.  Over one million people died at Auschwitz during its five years of operation, the vast majority of them Jewish.  Ninety percent of prisoners who entered Auschwitz died, most by immediate execution in one of the camp’s five gas chambers.

I had walked through an original gas chamber, where 2,000 people could be killed in 30 minutes.  I had gazed at piles of thousands and thousands of shoes—shoes that Jewish men, women, and tiny children had removed just before entering the “showers” to be gassed to death.  I had stood three feet from black ovens with special chutes for shoving in bodies—ovens that created endless heaps of human ash.  The harsh reality—that 1.1 million people had been sanitarily, systematically, efficiently “exterminated” in the very place I had stood was literally beyond my comprehension.    I concentrated on the statistics and blocked the human faces; it was simply too painful.

I visited two other concentration camps the same week: Sachsenhausen and Dachau, both in Germany.   Sachsenhausen (located just outside of Berlin), left me equally reeling with horror.  Perhaps the most horrific part of the camp was the pathology building, where bodies had been stacked high in the basement’s white-plastered holding rooms before being hauled upstairs to be examined by doctors on white-tiled “autopsy” tables.  Each of the thousands of bodies of Sachsenhausen victims was processed through the pathology building before being cremated.  For me, standing in those deathly rooms where everything was bright and shiny white was absolutely surreal.  I was overcome by the stark realization that during the Holocaust, these killings were government-sanctioned; they were overseen by physicians; they were sanitized, euphemized, and standardized.

I gave a speech years ago when I was in middle school that made a comparison between the Holocaust and abortion (not an equivocation, a comparison).  I wrote it after a field trip to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (in D.C.) that left me terrified of being apathetic to evil.  A woman who heard the speech told me that any such comparison was very disrespectful to Holocaust victims.  Her words always concerned me, and they kept me from presenting abortion as a modern-day Holocaust with the frequency or vigor I otherwise would have employed.  But after visiting three concentration camps in the span of a week, I am convinced that my listener was totally wrong.  The greatest disrespect I could possibly lend to the victims of the Holocaust is the refusal to apply the lessons of that horrific history to the horrors of today, thus repeating the deadly mistakes of the past.

So, if you haven’t already made the connections, let me be perfectly clear: the parallels between the mass murder of the Holocaust and the over fifty million unborn children legally killed in abortion clinics all across our nation should horrify you.  What are those parallels?  The first is the failure of Americans (even the nominally pro-life) to truly, internally, accept and embrace that the unborn are human, with fingers, toes, smiles, and heartbeats.  The second parallel is the presence of an efficient, perfected, now even legal system of mass murder that exists in the backyards of America’s neighborhoods, with the vast majority of Americans living their daily lives as if this system of killing simply did not exist.  As I journaled the night after visiting Sachsenhausen, between the Holocaust and abortion exist “parallels of sanitized killing, standardized body disposal, euphemized language, government sanctioning, and lack of public outcry.”

Think I’m exaggerating?  The efficient standardization of the abortion industry can best be described in the words of the industry workers themselves:

“I refused to reassemble the body parts after a late-term abortion…tissue was the code word for bodies in our clinic.  We stored them in plastic bags, which were kept in a freezer until they were picked up weekly…The Parts Room, as we called it, was narrow, with washbasins on one side and medical supplies on the other.  Against one wall was a white freezer with the lock broken off… At the beginning of each week, a service truck would come by and pick up the body parts, which were taken to a lab.”

–Norma McCorvey (former abortion worker and “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade), from her auto-biography, Won by Love

“they would still have to put it [referring to a 23-week gestation baby] in, like, a jar, a container, with solution… all of our specimen have to go out to the lab.”

–abortion counselor, Dr. Emily’s Woman’s Clinic (abortion clinic), New York

“so the fetus and everything that goes along with it…they’re cremated, and then the ashes we spread out in the desert…”

–Dr. Laura Mercer, Family Planning Associates Medical Group (abortion clinic), Arizona

And yet, perhaps third parallel between the Holocaust and abortion stands most clearly: public apathy.  The final camp I visited was Dachau, near Munich, Germany.  Dachau was the first concentration camp built by the Germans and was the model camp and experimenting grounds for the hundreds of other camps that followed.  When one method of execution proved too slow, too dirty, or too expensive, the leaders at Dachau would devise new, improved methods to exterminate prisoners and would pass their ideas to the other camps.  Of Dachau, I journaled, “Here, death is a science, a process, something to be perfected and honed.”  But another essential piece of Dachau’s history bears repeating.  Dachau was located quite literally in the backyard of local civilians, most of whom ignored its existence completely.  When the allied troops liberated Dachau at the end of the war, they forced the local German civilians to tour the camp—to walk past the piles of bodies waiting to be cremated—to see the tortures and smell the death that they had ignored.  The civilians were shocked, horrified, and traumatized.

Almost 1800 abortion providers exist in our backyards here in the United States.   One day, I am absolutely convinced you and I will be those Dachau civilians.  In one fashion or another, we will come face to face with the horrors we have ignored.  And just as the civilians of Dachau wept, you and I will weep for our apathy.

Unless we take a stand—now and forever–against the greatest horror of our generation…

…that they may have life.

Shoes of Gas Chamber Victims at Auschwitz (Poland)

Shoes of Gas Chamber Victims at Auschwitz (Poland)

Sachsenhausen Pathology Building—“Autopsy” Tables (Germany)

Sachsenhausen Pathology Building—“Autopsy” Tables (Germany)

abortion, culture, ethics, extremism, history, ideology, oppression, propaganda, public policy, relativism, tragedy

Filed under: abortion, culture, ethics, extremism, history, ideology, oppression, propaganda, public policy, relativism, tragedy

The left seems to prefer demonizing the right to confronting the facts

original article: Why The Left Smears Conservatives Instead Of Engaging Their Ideas
May 8, 2019 by David Weinberger

Get your facts firstand then you can distort them as much as you please.”—Mark Twain

The left routinely distorts conservative ideas, but it is not always clear whether their misrepresentations are deliberate or simply due to unfamiliarity with conservative thought.

Consider, for example, the left’s characterization of supply-side economics as “trickle-down economics” or “tax cuts for the rich.” Despite having been shown to utterly defy the facts, politicians and media continue arming themselves against these caricatures with invincible ignorance.

Indeed, never has a major marginal income tax rate reduction over the last 100 years slashed tax burdens for merely “the rich.” Every major tax cut—whether during the 1920s, the 1960s, the 1980s, the 2000s, or most recently under President Trump—has benefited all income groups. Furthermore, these cuts have made the tax code more progressive.

Following the tax cuts of the 1920s, for instance, historian John Steele Gordon writesthat: “The distribution of the tax burden became radically more progressive, not less. In 1921 those earning less than $10,000 had paid $155 million in taxes, 21 percent of person income tax revenues. In 1926 they paid only $33 million, or 5 percent. Mellon himself boasted in 1928 that a bachelor with a $4,000 income in 1920—enough to make him comfortably middle class—would have paid $120 in tax that year, but in 1928 would owe only $5.63.”

NBC News has concluded that the same pattern followed the cuts of the 1960s, 80s and 2000s:

The income tax burden is being carried to a greater extent today by upper-income people than it was 30 years ago, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office which tracks data going back to 1979.

In 1979, the top 10 percent of households, as measured by income, paid 40.6 percent of all federal taxes; other ninety percent paid 59.4 percent.

But by 2005, the top 10 percent accounted for nearly 55 percent of all federal tax revenues, while the rest of the population paid about 45 percent.

Part of the reason for the increased burden at the top is that many lower- and middle-income groups have been removed from the tax rolls entirely. So, how does the left justify its “tax cuts for the rich” canard? Here’s how.

Imagine that under a supply-side tax cut proposal $500,000 earners have their tax burden cut by 10 percent and that $100,000 earners have their tax burden lowered by 20 percent. While the larger cut in fact applies to lower earners, those on the left typically choose to ignore that, twist language, and frame tax cuts in raw dollar terms.

First, the left describes tax cuts as “giving” or “redistributing” money—as if income first belongs to government rather than the income earner. Second, they disregard the steeper percentage cut for lower earners and instead hype that $50,000 is “given” to high earners (10 percent of $500,000). According to this rationale, since less money is “given” to middle-income earners (20 percent of $100,000, or $20,000), tax cuts are for “the rich.”

That this may be the most superficially reasoned argument since the memory of man runneth not to the contrary. First, describing tax cuts as “giving money” is an abuse of language. Income first belongs to the income earner, not government. Tax cuts therefore “give” nothing, but merely allow people to keep more of their own earnings.

Second, a smaller tax cut on higher incomes tends to yield more dollars than a larger tax cut on lower incomes, even though lower earners are in fact benefiting from a deeper cut. Under President George W. Bush, for example, the top income tax rate was lowered from 39.6 percent to 35 percent—a 13 percent reduction—while the lowest rate was reduced from 15 percent to 10 percent—a 33 percent reduction.

Even though a smaller tax cut translated into more dollars for those with higher incomes and tax burdens, in fact the steepest cuts applied to the lowest earners. But to acknowledge these facts would mean confronting supply-side policy on its own terms, not demonizing straw men for political gain.

The same misrepresentation applies to the left’s usual depiction of entitlement reform. One distinguished left-wing politician thundered that conservatives want to “take an axe to public assistance, Medicare and Social Security. We can’t let them get away with this blatant theft from working families,” she railed. Influential left-wing websites have also bemoaned the right’s alleged desire to “gut entitlements,” while House Speaker Nancy Pelosi peevishly warned of the right’s “devastating cuts.”

Here again these characterizations have no basis in reality. No major right-leaning entitlement reform proposal has called for cuts to entitlements, much less for “gutting” them. Reforms put forth from Paul Ryan, the Heritage Foundation, the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, and others called for cutting not a single dollar, but for slowing their rate of growth.

But that didn’t prevent New York Times writer Paul Krugman from demagogically writingthat “the usual suspects like Paul Ryan were talking about the need for ‘entitlement reform’ — meaning cuts in Medicare and Medicaid — to reduce deficits” (emphasis added). How could a supposedly well-informed commentator at arguably the most influential left-wing outlet in the country get away with such deceit?

The answer may be provided by Krugman himself, who admitted he doesn’t read conservatives:

Some have asked if there aren’t conservative sites I read regularly. Well, no. I will read anything I’ve been informed about that’s either interesting or revealing; but I don’t know of any economics or politics sites on that side that regularly provide analysis or information I need to take seriously.

When those paid to be well-informed are uninformed, small wonder mischaracterizations of conservative ideas pervade public discourse. But perhaps nowhere is distortion of conservative thought more pronounced than with regard to social issues, where conservatives are routinely disparaged as bigotedhatefulracist, or otherwise morally repugnant human beings.

Take, for instance, the left’s caricature of a rule President Trump recently passed, which empowers the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to protect health care providers from being forced to perform services that may violate their religious convictions, such as abortion or transgender surgery. The Democratic National Committee maligned supporters of the rule as “want[ing] to allow health care workers to discriminate and rip away access to medical care.”

A local left-wing politician fulminated that “this is hateful,” adding that the “rule would protect a doctor who refused to treat a trans person in the ER for appendicitis or a broken leg simply because the patient is trans.” Not to be outdone, Slate depicted it as an “insidious form of bigotry.”

These charges, however, are unsubstantiated by the facts. According to HHS, “Conscience protections apply to health care providers who refuse to perform, accommodate, or assist with certain health care services on religious or moral grounds” (emphasis added). Nowhere does language allow for doctors to refuse to treat “appendicitis” or a “broken leg,” or for health care workers to arbitrarily “discriminate.”

Rather, the issue concerns whether medical professionals who have objections to performing optional procedures like abortions or transgender surgeries must be forcedto do so, as they have been in the past. This rule protects their choice to opt out. But to recognize that fact requires reading and engaging conservative ideas.

The left, however, seems to prefer demonizing the right to confronting the facts. That may be because, as Margaret Thatcher once famously observed, the facts of life are conservative. Little wonder the left is loathe to point them out.

abortion, bias, economics, health care, hypocrisy, ideology, indoctrination, intolerance, left wing, liberalism, lies, progressive, propaganda, public policy, taxes

Filed under: abortion, bias, economics, health care, hypocrisy, ideology, indoctrination, intolerance, left wing, liberalism, lies, progressive, propaganda, public policy, taxes

Displacing girls, the (hopefully) unintended consequences of the transgender moment

original article: 8th Place: A High School Girl’s Life After Transgender Students Join Her Sport
May 6, 2019 by Kelsey Bolar

When two high school athletes who were born male but identify as female tookfirst and second place at Connecticut’s girls indoor track championship this year, it wasn’t just a local news story.

To some, it was a story of triumph and courage. The winner, a junior from Bloomfield High School, set a girls state indoor record of 6.95 seconds in the 55-meter dash, and went on to win the New England titles in both the 55-meter dash and the 300-meter dash.

To others, it was a story of shock and disappointment: Is this the end of women’s sports?

To Selina Soule, a 16-year-old runner from Glastonbury, it was personal.

A junior, Selina missed qualifying for the 55-meter in the New England regionals by two spots. Two spots, she said, that were taken by biological boys.

Had the boys who identify as girls not been allowed to compete, Selina would have placed sixth, qualifying to run the 55 in front of college coaches at the New England regionals.

Instead, she placed eighth, watching the 55 from the sidelines after qualifying in only the long jump, an event in which the transgender athletes didn’t compete.

“It’s very frustrating and heartbreaking when us girls are at the start of the race and we already know that these athletes are going to come out and win no matter how hard you try,” Selina told The Daily Signal. “They took away the spots of deserving girls, athletes … me being included.”F

While the debate over transgender athletes and fairness is complex, the situation in Connecticut has brought forth another complicating layer: Plenty of parents and high school girls appear to object to the participation of biological boys in girls sports, but fearing public bullying and backlash, they’re not speaking out.

Publicly, at least.

The stakes of remaining silent are high: Policies are being formed in real time at the local, state, and federal levels regarding transgender individuals, student athletes, and sports.

Most prominently, on March 13, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi introduced HR 5, the Equality Act, a bill that would add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes under federal civil rights law.

The legislation would create a civil right for male athletes to self-identify as females at any time, critics say, without any evidence of physical changes to their bodies.

A Voice for the Voiceless

Selina Soule, a 16-year-old runner from Glastonbury, Connecticut, shares what it’s like being forced to compete against biological boys. (Photo: The Daily Signal)

When the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, or CIAC, said biological boys who identify as girls can compete as girls in sports, most track athletes remained mum.

Connecticut is one of 17 states that allow transgender high school athletes to compete without restrictions, according to Transathlete.com, a website that tracks state policies in high school sports across the country.

Encouraged by her mother, Bianca Stanescu, who has been in the forefront in challenging the state policy, Selina is one of the few students, if not the only one, giving a voice to countless others who appear to feel the same way.

“Everyone is afraid of retaliation from the media, from the kids around their school, from other athletes, coaches, schools, administrators,” Selina explained. “They don’t want to drag attention to themselves, and they don’t want to be seen as a target for potential bullying and threats.”

In a visit to the Nutmeg State, The Daily Signal spoke with four other track athletes from two high schools in Connecticut. Echoing Selina’s sentiments, they asked to remain anonymous.

“I think it’s a very important thing for people to really understand where we’re coming from, instead of just immediately going to, ‘We’re transphobic,’” one said. “Just the way that our society is built, it snaps on people so quickly.”

“We live in such a cruel world, and society is just so hard to figure out sometimes,” another girl told The Daily Signal. “You never know what the reaction is going to be. It’s so hard because you want your voice to be heard … but, how can you know what to say that will affect things positively, instead of people twisting what you’re saying and turning it against you?”

‘An Equality Issue’

The girls’ parents, too, expressed a high level of concern for protecting their daughters’ identities, not even wanting to identify them by high school.

Connecticut is made up of small towns, the parents explained, and given the relatively small number of athletes affected, people can connect the dots.

“There’s really nothing else you can do except get super frustrated and roll your eyes,” the first girl said, “because it’s really hard to even come out and talk in public just because of the way with the far left, and how just immediately you’ll just be shut down.”

“It’s not like we’re saying that we don’t like transgender people,” she added. “It’s just an equality issue where these girls are trying their absolute hardest to try and get those good things on their college resumes, and then it just gets completely taken away from them because there’s a biological male racing against them.”

The athletes say they don’t fear only being bullied or portrayed as a bigot. They also hope to attend college, and are afraid their politically incorrect views could hurt their prospects.

“I personally want a future in athletics in college,” a third girl told The Daily Signal, “but I feel like if there’s a coach that disagrees with my personal opinion, or a board that disagrees with it, then they’ll already have a predisposition with me and then it’ll affect maybe playing time or my ability to get into that college.”

“We have college down the road—I’m scared that that could get impacted,” a fourth girl said. “Sometimes the coaches will just like look at the lists … and if you’re not No. 1 then they won’t choose you.”

“I have heard opinions where coaches are just going to look at your times, and that they don’t really care where you place,” the first girl added. “But college coaches are going to these bigger meets, and when they don’t see you there, they’re not necessarily focusing on you. They’re focusing on the people that are there.”

“It kept Selina from getting to New Englands, where she had the opportunity to be running in front of college coaches, which is just unfair,” she added.

Uncomfortable Opinions

The athletes’ hesitation to speak out publicly begs the question:

How did society get to the point where high school girls now fear their uncomfortable opinions could prevent them from being admitted to the very institutions where uncomfortable opinions are supposed to be explored?

Whatever the answer, few could blame them, given the vitriol on display in today’s public square.

Business Insider removed a writer’s article defending the casting of Scarlett Johansson to play a transgender man in an upcoming film, for example. The publication said the article violated its “editorial standards,” and the writer later quit.

Authorities in Canada allegedly threatened to arrest a father if he refers to his biological daughter as a female in private or in public because she identifies as a boy.

And in schools, The Daily Signal has documented multiple cases of biological girls being forced to share locker rooms or bathrooms with boys, despite their safety concerns and discomfort.

But again and again, those on the “wrong side” of this conversation are too afraid to speak out.

‘Door Is Open for Any Other Sport’

A junior in high school, Selina Soule is asking for fairness to be returned to her sport.

Selina’s mother, Stanescu, told The Daily Signal that she has done “everything that I thought would be possible to help this and just open a conversation” about what’s happened in Connecticut and what could happen should Congress pass the Equality Act.

“The doors have been shut over and over again,” Stanescu said. “People are afraid to speak.”

In addition to potentially instating a nationwide bathroom requirement, health care mandate, and a “preferred pronoun” law based on gender identity, the Equality Act would enshrine in federal law the right of biological boys to compete as girls in all sports.

If the measure passes, Stanescu warned, “women will be completely eradicated from sports.”

What’s happening in Connecticut, she added, will happen across the country—and not just in track and field.

“Yes, it has been affecting track and field in Connecticut, but the door is open there for any sport, and that is something that could become also a safety issue,” Stanescu said. “It’s taking away the opportunity to win for the girls, but in sports that have physical contact, [it] could become a serious safety issue.”

“It could be potentially very dangerous if you have a transgender female that’s competing in basketball, soccer, lacrosse, field hockey because they are so physically superior to females,” her daughter Selina added.

Selina says all this while making clear she supports athletes “being true to themselves.”

“I have friends in school who are transgender and I know when they are struggling to come out or deciding to come out, I was there supporting them,” she said. “And when they were freshly out, I was caring towards them. I was never rude or disrespectful.”

But the situation in sports has “nothing to do with their gender identity and how they feel,” Selina said. “It has to do with what is right and what is fair in athletics.”

Looking forward to her senior year, Selina said she hopes to run track in college. She referred to the long jump event as her “safe haven” where “the results were fair no matter what, because it was girls competing against girls.”

“But now, unfortunately,” she said with a disappointed look on her face, “one of those athletes has started to compete in long jump. So now none of my events are safe.”

children, culture, diversity, extremism, ideology, liberalism, political correctness, progressive, public policy, relativism, unintended consequences

Filed under: children, culture, diversity, extremism, ideology, liberalism, political correctness, progressive, public policy, relativism, unintended consequences

How a committed socialist gave up the faith

original article: The Bolivarian God That Failed
February 1, 2019 by Clifton Ross

The day after Venezuela’s National Assembly voted to declare its president, Juan Guaidó, interim President of the Republic, I received a text from a former friend. “If the U.S. topples Vz [Venezuela],” he wrote, “I will hold you responsible.” I would have been happy to accept this responsibility had I done anything important enough to deserve it. But the idea was absurd and he knew it. If the Venezuelan regime falls—and I hope that it does—it won’t even be possible to credit (or blame) the United States. It is the Venezuelan people who finally are taking their destiny in hand and rejecting an intolerable status quo.

The message was not a serious attempt to apportion responsibility for Venezuela’s current upheaval; it was an attempt to shame me for my treacherous betrayal of the Bolivarian cause. An early supporter of the Revolution, I had traveled to Venezuela in 2013 to cover the April presidential elections. By the time I returned to the US, I was disillusioned and depressed. I decided I needed to start writing and speaking about what I had seen there. In an article I wrote for the radical magazine Counterpunch around that time, I argued that “the so-called ‘Bolivarian Revolution’ is bankrupt: morally, ideologically, and economically,” and I asked what we, as leftist solidarity activists, should do in response. “Should we continue to make excuses for incompetence, corruption, and irresponsibility and thereby make ourselves accomplices?” I asked. “Or should we tell the truth?”

I had resolved to tell the truth. Having been so wrong about something so consequential, I felt it was the least I could do. By then, Venezuela was already in a terrible mess. Many of those I had helped to convince of the possibilities offered by Bolivarian socialism were deeply suspicious of the mainstream media and deserved to hear what was going on from a writer they trusted. But, as it turned out, the people I wanted to reach didn’t want to hear such things. And the people I asked to publish my articles didn’t much want me to write about them either. As a result of my voltafaccia, former comrades and friends contacted my editors and publishers in (occasionally successful) attempts to have my articles spiked. I was denounced and slandered online and in print. Phone calls and emails to people I had thought of as friends now went unanswered. On those occasions when I encountered one of them in public, they looked the other way. Abruptly, I found myself excommunicated, and people I’d known for 30 or 40 years made it clear that they no longer wanted to be part of my life.

*     *     *

I’d originally come to California from the Bible Belt in the mid-’70s in search of enlightened neighbors. I knew what it was to live an isolated life. It had been lonely on my father’s farm in Southern Oklahoma. I had endured farm life for five years but, having grown up in the military, I longed for the company of diverse, worldly-wise people one often found among military brats. Having become a Christian a few years before, I hoped Berkeley would offer a deeper faith than I’d found in fundamentalist churches.

I hitchhiked west and in Berkeley I joined the “radical Christian” community of the House Church of Berkeley that had grown out of Christian World Liberation Front (CWLF). From the margins of that community I gradually found my way, through liberation theology, into the secular Left. For nearly a decade I did solidarity work with the Sandinista Revolution until that process came to a halt when its “vanguard” Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) was removed from power in the elections of 1990.

Following the collapse of communism, I ended up with the other “dead-enders” in Berkeley, scratching around in the depleted soil of radical politics for any worm of hope that might emerge. Those were desperate years. I soon hitched a ride on the Redwood Summer bandwagon, the joint IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, “Wobblies”) and Earth First! project to protect the last stands of old growth redwoods in Northern California from logging companies. I played a very minor role in that campaign, printing the flyers announcing the actions, but I was quickly drawn into working in the IWW. I was briefly an editor for the Bay Area Branch Bulletin and a co-editor of the Industrial Worker, and then I spent ten years in an IWW union job shop (New Earth Press) where my partner and I did a lot of ecological printing for local community organizations.

After we sold the business, I went to graduate school at San Francisco State University for a couple of very dismal years in academia. Then, after graduation, I spent the summer of 2004 in Nicaragua interviewing ex-Sandinistas who were now in opposition to the FSLN, the “glorious revolutionary vanguard,” which had been reduced over time to the status of a populist party serving the caudillo (strongman) Daniel Ortega. During the years of the Nicaraguan Revolution (1979-1990), I had translated and published the revolutionary poetry and writings of Sandinista militants—mostly farmers, low-ranking militia members, and even young children. As I was a poet, it seemed appropriate work to help spread the word about a process I found hopeful, and endangered by the hostile policies of the Reagan administration. I knew very little at the time of the Sandinistas’ responsibility for generating the war that would eventually tear their country apart. Most of us on the radical Left distrusted the media, and it was only recently that I returned to that period (in Chapter 11 of my 2016 memoir) to uncover details I had ignored during the years of that brutal civil conflict.

Foremost among the poets I’d translated during the years of the Sandinista Revolution was Ernesto Cardenal, a revolutionary priest and the Sandinista Minister of Culture. Cardenal and other “liberation theologians” were preaching a synthesis of Marxist revolutionary ideology and Christian theology, and they were my inspiration back then. By 2004, I no longer identified with Christianity, and my faith in Marxism was also in doubt. Nevertheless, I still considered myself some kind of socialist, and I thought Cardenal might be able to reassure me that there were embers of socialism still burning somewhere in Latin America. He duly obliged. Towards the end of our interview, when I asked him to name the projects in Latin America today which gave him hope, he didn’t mention (as I thought he would) the Zapatistas. “The Bolivarian Revolution,” he announced. President Hugo Chávez was doing some very interesting things down in Venezuela, he thought, and he encouraged me to visit and see for myself.

So, that December, eager to learn more, I flew down to Venezuela on Christmas break from Berkeley City College where I had been working as an adjunct English instructor. I immediately fell in with like-minded leftists in the small Andrean city of Mérida, who introduced me to a good part of the Bolivarian community there. I was so inspired by what I found that I decided to take a year off from teaching so I could follow the Bolivarian process first-hand.

It is as difficult as it is uncomfortable to enter into a previous state of mind from a later, more “evolved” or developed state. I don’t like to admit that I once believed Jesus rose from the dead, but I did. I also believed that socialism would make everyone brothers and sisters and end what my comrades and I called “capitalist oppression.”1 The available scientific and statistical evidence (not to mention common sense) weighs strongly against belief in bodily resurrection from the dead. History has delivered a verdict of comparable finality about socialism. This verdict is routinely dismissed on the grounds that only corrupted iterations of socialism have been tried; if socialism is designed to unite mankind, but all previous versions of socialism have failed to do so, then it follows that true socialism has yet to be successfully attempted.

Rarely do true believers stop to consider that there may be something wrong with the logic of socialism itself. In his 1993 book Post-Liberalism: Studies in Political Thought, the English philosopher John Gray wrote that Soviet socialism forced its subjects into a “vast Prisoner’s Dilemma, with each being constrained to act against his own interest and, thereby, directly or indirectly, to reproduce the order (or chaos) in which he is imprisoned. Thus Soviet subjects are compelled to compete with each other in climbing the rungs of the nomenklatura, pursuing the ordinary goods of life by party activism or, in extremis, by informing or denouncing one another, and so renewing daily the system that keeps them all captive.” These are not exactly optimal conditions for building community.

By 2004, I was already well aware of what Marxist-Leninist socialism had done to the twentieth century. So why did I fall for the socialism that Hugo Chávez proposed in Venezuela? The reasons were part push, part pull. The push came from the American invasion of Iraq less than two years earlier. After a rapid battlefield victory, the news from the Middle East seemed to be growing more dire by the day. A little over a month before I left for Venezuela, allegations began to emerge that the US military were committing war crimes in Fallujah. Surely a better way than this remained possible? As I wandered around Venezuela that December I was desperate for an alternative I could believe in, no matter how fragile.

The pull was what Hugo Chávez was proposing. He acknowledged the problems of  twentieth century socialism, and claimed to be offering something different—the Bolivarian version of “twenty-first century socialism.” This would be the “socialism with a human face” and quite unlike the repressive, totalitarian bureaucratic behemoth of Marxist-Leninism. As Chavista Gregory Wilpert insisted in his 2007 book Changing Venezuela by Taking Power, under Bolivarian socialism “ownership and control of the means of production must be collective and democratic.” Cooperatives were to play a large part in this and, after 2006, so would the local communal councils.

The money from the 2004 oil boom had saved Chávez from a recall referendum as he distributed the revenue flooding into the country among his followers. In this way, Chávez was able to fund his “revolution” from 2005 onwards. He ensured that the oil wealth would bypass the government, which he characterized as “corrupt” and (naturally) “counter-revolutionary.” Instead, money would be funnelled directly into a non-state-controlled corporate entity known as Fonden, the National Development Fund, over which, of course, Chávez personally presided. Fonden then parceled money out to cooperatives and the so-called “Missions” to the poor. During the oil boom, petroleum prices went from $10 a barrel to $100 and peaked at around $150 over the course of a decade. Given the astonishing amount of wealth generated, Chávez had a lot of money to throw at his pet projects. And, predictably, as the wealth trickled down, corruption increased since everyone had to get his or her piece of the patronage.

The cooperatives and community councils were among the many promising and inspiring initiatives dreamed up by Chávez in the early years of the boom. I witnessed these developments and documented them in my feature film, Venezuela: Revolution from the Inside Out. There really did appear to be great enthusiasm for these initiatives at the grassroots, especially as Hugo Chávez pushed them forward with massive funding. I quickly joined the chorus of supporters, first as invited poet to the Second World Poetry Festival of Venezuela in July 2005, then as a freelance (that is, unpaid) journalist for various left-leaning websites. When Chávez appeared on the scene, there were under 2000 cooperatives in the country. Once he came to power, that number skyrocketed to nearly 200,000, and I was there to document their ups and downs. I attended a few community council meetings and “political formation” training sessions, as well as a number of oil-funded projects like community kitchens, cultural events, and community development programs. It felt like something was really happening and that a fairer society was being built.

After the year I spent living in Venezuela (2005-2006), I returned as frequently as my schedule would allow, sometimes twice a year. Between 2008 and 2011, however, I became preoccupied with traveling across Latin America and conducting interviews with social movement activists for a book entitled Until the Rulers Obey that would be published in 2014. During that time, I was forced to become a “generalist” and didn’t have much time available to keep a close eye on what was happening in Venezuela. Nevertheless, from people who were watching, and from what I saw on my two visits there in 2011, I gathered that the situation was taking a bad turn. As even supporters were pointing out a few years later, by 2007 only about 15 percent of the 184,000 remaining cooperatives were active. If the distinction between earlier socialism and the Bolivarian version was that in the latter the “ownership and control of the means of production must be collective and democratic,” the new version wasn’t faring well at all.

Big questions began to arise about the financing of the community councils. Critics charged that these organizations were simply instruments that Chávez (and then Maduro) used to fund their supporters while denying access to the opposition. It was classic populism in the style of the Mexican PRI, which Mario Vargas Llosa once called “the perfect dictatorship.” By 2008, Chávez had suffered his first electoral defeat in a referendum that he had hoped would drive his socialist agenda forward. In response, he adopted a new approach to building twenty-first century socialism, and it looked very much like the twentieth century variety: nationalization of industries followed by the expropriation and redistribution of wealth and property. The “Bolivarian Revolution” was starting to look like any other rentier or petro-state—burgeoning corruption, a politics of clientelism, and a growing gap between the elite in control of the state (and, of course, the oil revenues) and the increasingly desperate mass of people at the bottom.

When the Arab Spring swept Gaddafi from power, I argued with my Venezuelan friends and felt the beginnings of a great divide opening up between us. I didn’t like the company Chávez was keeping—Gaddafi, Putin, Hezbollah, etc.—but neither was I ready to denounce him and his project as a fraud. Meanwhile, as my wife and I compiled the interviews with the social movement activists in Latin America, we began to notice themes and threads that confirmed what Raul Zibechi had told us when we visited him in Montevideo, Uruguay in the spring of 2012.

Zibechi was an astute analyst of Latin American politics with a focus on social movements. He explained that the so-called “Pink Tide” of leftwing governments that had risen to power on the wave of the commodities boom were in fact following the prescription of Robert McNamara, the former president of the World Bank and architect of the Vietnam War under Lyndon Johnson. In this scenario, moderately progressive governments were far more useful than their rightwing homologues to the world elite, because they provided a buffer between the transnational corporations and the social movements protesting the impact of resource extraction on communities and the environment. The testimony of our interviewees seemed to bear out Zibechi’s thesis. But surely this couldn’t be true of the more “radical” processes, like the one unfolding in Venezuela?

As I was writing the introductions to the Nicaraguan and Venezuelan chapters of our book, I investigated further, and what I discovered in the academic literature and reports by investigative journalists on both countries confirmed my doubts. By the mid-1990s, I’d already given up on the FSLN reforming itself. When I met Ernesto Cardenal again in 2004, he argued that there was no hope of any positive change from the “Ortega dictatorship.” My introduction to the Nicaragua chapter of our book was therefore fairly easy to write, since the direction the country was going under the Ortega mafia seemed clear. I quoted Dennis Rogers’s description of the Somoza dictatorship the FSLN had overthrown and remarked that it also described the present Ortega regime quite well: “A venal oligarchy run by a small elite satisfied to promote a form of what might be termed ‘hacienda feudalism.’” But Venezuela? Chávez? I had grown more critical, but I still believed in Chávez. As so many Chavistas in Venezuela had reassured me, “Chávez is clean, but all those surrounding him are corrupt.” This was a cult of personality—a One Man faith.

*     *     *

On the afternoon of March 5, 2013, I’d just finished another draft of my introduction to the Venezuela chapter when the phone rang and a friend told me that Hugo Chávez had died. I wrote a eulogy for Counterpunch that now, nearly six years later, I find embarrassing. I then decided to go back down to Venezuela for the elections. On the flight I caught up on my reading, including a fascinating biography of Hugo Chávez written by two well-known Venezuelan journalists, and some analyses of the massive problems in the Venezuelan economy, including the missing $29 billion dollars from the Fonden budget over which Chávez had presided.

Chávez, in the style of Latin American autocrats from time immemorial, had hand-picked his successor, Nicolás Maduro. Maduro was a fairly hard-core Leninist with a soft spot in his heart for Sai Baba, the Hindu guru-huckster accused of child molestation before he died in 2011. Compared to Chávez, Maduro is wooden and utterly lacking in the warmth and charm of his political “father.” But he had close relations with Cuba and was part of Chávez’s trusted inner circle and, most importantly, he was Chávez’s choice. Y punto, end of discussion.

Of the difficulties I faced over the next few days attempting to enter the country and cover the April 2013 presidential election between Maduro and Henrique Capriles, I have written elsewhere. Suffice it to say that I wasn’t granted entry until the day after the elections. Even then, due to the massive nationwide protests, I only managed to get to Mérida thanks to the generosity of oppositionists who gave me a ride. Over the course of the trip, they filled me in on the details of why Maduro had only won the elections by only slightly more than a single percentage point. This was despite using all the state resources at his disposal to (illegally) pay for and promote his campaign, including the state oil company PDVSA’s buses which drove state employees to the polls to vote for him. Chavistas simply hadn’t come out in large numbers to vote for him, and clearly many of the faithful had already gone over to the opposition.

Over the next few days and weeks, as I traveled through Venezuela, I began talking to the “counter-revolutionaries” and they offered evidence of their country’s deep problems to which my Chavista friends could only respond with rhetoric. In the industrial region of Guayana in the state of Bolívar, I interviewed union workers in the nationalized industries about the collapse of those industries. I was able to confirm their claims with secret footage shot for me by a worker using my own video camera, which showed the ruined interior of an enormous state factory where not a soul was to be seen on this particular work day.

In Caracas, I met with opposition human rights activists, union leaders, and leftwing academics for interviews. As the missing pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place, the reality of the Bolivarian catastrophe overwhelmed my resistance. Emilio Campos, then Secretary General of Carbonorca, the nationalized industrial coke plant, described the Bolivarian Revolution as nothing more than “a media show.” He called himself “a revolutionary for a plurality of ideas where a country seeks balance, not just for a party, or one sector of society. I believe in freedom of thought, in a diversity of ideas. But the hegemony of power makes you narrow-minded.”

The real turning point for me, however, was the interview I conducted with labor journalist Damian Prat, whose extraordinary book Guayana: El milagro al revés (Guayana: The Reversed Miracle) I had read over the two or three days it took me to get to Guayana from Merida by bus. The interview took place within a day or two of the shocking beatings of several prominent opposition National Assembly deputies by Chavista deputies during an official session. The state television cameras were turned off during the violence and afterwards, as the wounded were taken to the hospital. I was still shaken by the footage some brave parliamentarians had captured on their cell phones and leaked to the press.

I met Prat at his office at the Correo del Caroní, the Guayanesa daily paper. As I turned on my video camera, Prat smiled wryly. “Some of you in the critical, intellectual circles of Europe and the United States seem to think it’s fine that in the countries of our Latin America there are arbitrary governments and processes full of abuses that in your countries you wouldn’t consider allowing for a minute. No, in your own country you’d militantly reject the same things you seem to feel are perfectly fine to take place down here, so far away, where it’s exotic and interesting…” I felt my face redden with shame, and I suddenly felt my whole world capsize.

It would be months before I was able to return to Guayana to interview Rubén González, the former Chavista and Secretary General of Iron Mine Workers Union of the Orinoco (Sintra Ferrominera del Orinoco) about his own experience of imprisonment without trial “just for doing my job in the union and defending the rights of workers.” Referring to the claims of “sabotage” as the reason the industries were failing in the country, González told me that those in government “never thought of governing, but rather of enriching their little group in power. They never invested in these businesses, but totally bled them dry. They themselves are the saboteurs.” At the time of this writing, González is back in jail for organizing on behalf of workers in the state ironworks.

*     *     *

All of a sudden, I found myself in a strange world. I had drifted—at first gradually, but then definitively—into the camp of my former “enemies,” persuaded by their narrative and by the evidence before my own eyes. And, as I did so, I discovered that the editors of the news sites where I’d published my passionate defenses of the Bolivarian project for the past few years no longer responded to my pitches or my queries or my emails. As Venezuela disintegrated, I was lost and confused and alone.

And then, while I was grieving the loss of my innocent old life and its many friendships, something curious and unexpected began to happen. I discovered a great sense of excitement as I investigated “new” ideas for which I’d previously had nothing but contempt. I found myself reminded of Herbert Spencer’s quote at the end of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book: “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance—that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

For the next two years, I delved into the literature on Venezuela with renewed interest. Javier Corrales and Michael Penfold’s book, A Dragon in the Tropics, it turned out, was particularly well-researched and compelling. Since I could no longer get my writing published in any of the outlets for which I’d previously written, I redirected my energies into making a new film entitled In the Shadow of the Revolution with the help of a Venezuelan filmmaker and friend, Arturo Albarrán, and I wrote my political memoir for an adventurous anarchist publisher. But what preoccupied me more and more were the larger questions of socialism versus capitalism, and the meaning of liberalism.

I’d visited Cuba twice—in 1994 and again in 2010—and now, with my experience of Venezuela, I felt I’d seen the best socialism could offer. Not only was that offering pathetically meagre, but it had been disastrously destructive. It became increasingly clear to me that nothing that went under that rubric functioned nearly as well on any level as the system under which I had been fortunate enough to live in the US. Why then, did so many decent people, whose ethics and intelligence and good intentions I greatly respected, continue to insist that the capitalist system needed to be eliminated and replaced with what had historically proven to be the inferior system of socialism?

The strongest argument against state control of the means of production and distribution is that it simply didn’t—and doesn’t—work. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding—and in this case, there was no pudding at all. In my own lifetime, I’ve seen socialism fail in China, fail in the Soviet Union, fail in Eastern Europe, fail on the island of Cuba, and fail in Nicaragua under the Sandinistas. And now the world is watching it fail in Venezuela, where it burned through billions of petro-dollars of financing, only to leave the nation worse off than it was before. And still people like me had insisted on this supposed alternative to capitalism, stubbornly refusing to recognize that it is based on a faulty premise and a false epistemology.

As long ago as the early 1940s, F.A. Hayek had identified the impossibility of centralized social planning and its catastrophic consequences in his classic The Road to Serfdom. Hayek’s writings convinced the Hungarian economist, János Kornai, to dedicate an entire volume entitled The Socialist System to demonstrating the validity of his claims. The “synoptic delusion”—the belief that any small group of people could hold and manage all the information spread out over millions of actors in a market economy—Kornai argued, leads the nomenklatura to make disastrous decisions that disrupt production and distribution. Attempts to “correct” these errors only exacerbate the problems for the same reasons, leading to a whole series of disasters that result, at last, in a completely dysfunctional economy, and then gulags, torture chambers, and mass executions as the nomenklatura hunt for “saboteurs” and scapegoats.

The synoptic delusion—compounded by immense waste, runaway corruption, and populist authoritarianism—is what led to the mayhem engulfing Venezuela today, just as it explains why socialism is no longer a viable ideology to anyone but the kind of true believer I used to be. For such people, utopian ideologies might bring happiness into their own lives, and even into the lives of those around them who also delight in their dreams and fantasies. But when they gain control over nations and peoples, their harmless dreams become the nightmares of multitudes.

Capitalism, meanwhile, has dramatically raised the standard of living wherever it has been allowed to arise over the past two centuries. It is not, however, anything like a perfect or flawless system. Globalization has left many behind, even if their lives are far better than those of their ancestors just two hundred years ago, and vast wealth creation has produced vast inequalities which have, in turn, bred resentment. Here in California, the city of Los Angeles, “with a population of four million, has 53,000 homeless.” Foreign policy misadventures and the economic crash of 2008 opened the door to demagogues of the Left and the Right eager to exploit people’s hopes and fears so that they could offer themselves as the solution their troubled nations sought to the dystopian woe into which liberal societies had fallen. In his fascinating recent jeremiad Why Liberalism Failed, Patrick Deneen itemizes liberal democracy’s many shortcomings and, whether or not one accepts his stark prognosis, his criticisms merit careful thought and attention.

Nevertheless, markets do work for the majority, and so does liberal democracy, as dysfunctional as it often is. That is because capitalism provides the space for ingenuity and innovation, while liberal democracy provides room for free inquiry and self-correction. Progress and reform can seem maddeningly sluggish under such circumstances, particularly when attempting to redress grave injustice or to meet slow-moving existential threats like climate change. But I have learned to be wary of those who insist that the perfect must be the enemy of the good, and who appeal to our impatience with extravagant promises of utopia. If, as Deneen contends, liberalism has become a victim of its own success, it should be noted that socialism has no successes to which it can fall victim. Liberalism’s foundations may be capable of being shored up, but socialism is built on sand, and from sand. Failures, most sensible people realize, should be abandoned.

That is probably why Karl Popper advocated cautious, piecemeal reform of markets and societies because, like any other experiment, one can only accurately isolate problems and make corrections by changing one variable at a time. As Popper observed in his essay “Utopia and Violence”:

The appeal of Utopianism arises from the failure to realize that we cannot make heaven on earth. What I believe we can do instead is to make life a little less terrible and a little less unjust in each generation. A good deal can be achieved in this way. Much has been achieved in the last hundred years. More could be achieved by our own generation. There are many pressing problems which we might solve, at least partially, such as helping the weak and the sick, and those who suffer under oppression and injustice; stamping out unemployment; equalizing opportunities; and preventing international crime, such as blackmail and war instigated by men like gods, by omnipotent and omniscient leaders. All this we might achieve if only we could give up dreaming about distant ideals and fighting over our Utopian blueprints for a new world and a new man.

Losing faith in a belief system that once gave my life meaning was extremely painful. But the experience also reawakened my dormant intellectual curiosity and allowed me to think about the world anew, unencumbered by the circumscriptions of doctrine. I have met new people, read new writers and thinkers, and explored new ideas I had previously taken care to avoid. After reading an interview I had given to one of my publishers a year ago, I was forwarded an email by the poet David Chorlton. What I’d said in that interview, he wrote, “goes beyond our current disease of taking sides and inflexible non-thinking. I’m reading Havel speeches again, all in the light of the collective failure to live up to the post-communist opportunities. We’re suffering from a lack of objectivity—is that because everyone wants an identity more than a solution to problems?”

 

economics, foreign affairs, government, history, ideology, liberalism, poverty, public policy, reform, socialism

Filed under: economics, foreign affairs, government, history, ideology, liberalism, poverty, public policy, reform, socialism

Public education and hyper speed sex ed

original article: Sex Ed and Stalinism at the Local School Board
February 13, 2018 by AUSTIN RUSE

I usually avoid really sick, appalling spectacles. I skip movies like Saw. But last Thursday I saw something worse. I went to the sex-education committee meeting of the Fairfax County School Board. I have never seen anything as shocking.

Understand, that I have sat through years of shocking meetings. My day job is monitoring and lobbying the United Nations. But, I have never seen or heard anything like this. This meeting was a horror show. And a Soviet one at that.

The Family Life Education Curriculum Advisory Committee (FLECAC, pronounced flea-cack) advises the Fairfax County School Board for the content of the sex-education lessons taught to students from kindergarten through 12th grade.

This group has come up with over 80 hours of sex-education for these poor kids. And some of it is straight-up pornography.

Rich, Leftist, and Libertine

This school district in Northern Virginia, one of the largest and richest in the country, is among the most leftist in the country. No big surprise there. Twenty-five years ago, they were already promoting “Two Mommies” to the little tots.

But the sexual revolution ideology kicked into hyper speed a few years ago. Fairfax leftists put transgender ideology into schools a full year before Barack Obama’s Department of Education mandated it for the rest of the schools in the country. Last year the Trump administration cancelled the mandate, though Fairfax County is clinging onto it.

This committee has long embraced the rest of the LGBT program. “Oral sex” is introduced to kids as young as 12.  Thirteen year olds are told about “anal sex” 18 separate times in one year’s lessons.

The FLECAC committee is made up of about two dozen people. They’re appointed by the overwhelmingly leftist Fairfax County School Board. Four voting members are students, chosen no doubt because they’re members of student LGBT clubs, and most other members appear to be teachers and administrators.

If the idea behind the committee is to get community input, why stack it with people on the county payroll?

The School Board’s Supreme Soviet

Last Thursday night, two regular citizen members of the committee tried to offer amendments to the curriculum. What happened to them is right out of the Politburo of the Supreme Soviet.

The subject was the phrase “sex assigned at birth,” which appears numerous times in the lessons. This is a politically-charged slogan that teaches that it’s wrong for a delivery room doctor to say a penis means boy or a vagina means girl. A child should be left to his own gender choice later in life.

One citizen member made a motion to remove this phrase from the lessons and to simply use the word “sex” instead. Through parliamentary maneuvers, other members of the committee made sure the amendment was put off indefinitely without debate. The vote to cut off debate and never speak about it again passed 23-3.

The member who offered the amendment asked for a roll call, so that those voting to keep in “sex assigned at birth” would have their names associated with their votes. The motion for a roll call was killed by voice vote.

No debate, no accountability.

Another citizen member made a motion that, somewhere in the numerous lessons about various contraceptive methods taught beginning in eighth grade, there ought to be something about the possible health risks of certain contraceptives.

This, too, was shut down without debate, by a vote of 23-3. A roll call of the vote was shouted down by voice vote.

Hush, Adults Are Listening

The first citizen member made a motion to include a discussion in the lessons about the health risks associated with hormonal and surgical “transitioning.” This, too, was not allowed.

One county employee member asked why there was no lesson on anal sex for the seventh graders. There was oral sex, but why was anal sex missing? The chairman of the committee assured her that the anal sex begins with lessons in the eighth grade.

This revealing moment was followed by another: The chairman actually apologized, with a nervous laugh, for using those graphic terms.

Did it not occur to her, or anyone else on the committee, that she was apologizing to the adults in the room for using words that are scripted into the lessons they have created for children?

It was clear to me that much of the reaction to these motions was a kind of animus toward traditional morality. The glee with which the majority cut off the legitimate concerns of the minority was breathtaking.

Christians as the Taliban

One new member of the committee is a democratic activist named Daniel Press. He was the one who was most vociferous that these motions not only be trashed, but that they not even be discussed. On his Facebook page he calls Christians the Taliban and has an image of Christ on the cross over the mocking words: “Total Winner.”

The other thing that struck me was the sheep-like attitude of most of the members of the committee. There were a few loudmouth ideologues, to be sure.  One student member treated us to an anti-American diatribe ending with the charge that transphobia stems from white supremacy. For the most part the members were silent. But they were lickety-split to raise their hands whenever called upon to vote against debate, discussion, and accountability. That they could not allow.

Finally, it’s remarkable how fast such new and fantastical notions have entered the leftist mindset. The notion of “sex assigned at birth” was itself born just a few years ago. And yet, these people are so certain of its truth, they clap hands on their ears to avoid hearing anything contradictory. Even more, they clap their hands on the mouths of anyone who might want to question this new tenet of faith.

Blind Faith, False Faith

This brings to mind two things: brainwashing, and bad religion. The committee members may not know it, but they have been brainwashed to believe things that are simply not supported by either science or reason. Theirs is faith plain and simple, and the worst kind of faith, the kind that contradicts reason, the kind that can only be imposed. Theirs is a blind faith, taking as gospel whatever the sexual zeitgeist vomits forth.

And so what are parents to do? Opt their kids out of Family Life Education and take over the school board. One is easy, but both are necessary. Sexual Stalinism, of the kind I witnessed a few nights ago, has no place in the education of our children.

———————————-
anti-religion, bias, bigotry, bureaucracy, children, corruption, cover up, culture, education, elitism, ethics, extremism, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, public policy, reform, scandal

Filed under: anti-religion, bias, bigotry, bureaucracy, children, corruption, cover up, culture, education, elitism, ethics, extremism, ideology, indoctrination, left wing, liberalism, nanny state, political correctness, progressive, propaganda, public policy, reform, scandal

Pages

Categories

January 2020
M T W T F S S
« Dec    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031