bookbanner
CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, February 28, 2014

RIGHT WING DOES NOT MEAN BAD GUY

“I have put into practice what these peddlers and pen pushers have timidly begun,” [Hitler] boasted, adding that “the whole of National Socialism” was “based on Marx”.

One of the more depressing and pervasive lies that has spread around the world is that the Nazis and other 20th century fascists were right wing extremists.  I've written about this several times, and each time I take pains to show how that is not just false, but ridiculously so.
Well someone in England is trying to teach the same lesson to a very unwilling public.  His name is Daniel Hannan and he's writing in the Daily Telegraph, and making a lot of people mad.  Hannan writes:
The idea that Nazism is a more extreme form of conservatism has insinuated its way into popular culture. You hear it, not only when spotty students yell “fascist” at Tories, but when pundits talk of revolutionary anti-capitalist parties, such as the BNP and Golden Dawn, as “far Right”.

What is it based on, this connection? Little beyond a jejune sense that Left-wing means compassionate and Right-wing means nasty and fascists are nasty. When written down like that, the notion sounds idiotic, but think of the groups around the world that the BBC, for example, calls “Right-wing”: the Taliban, who want communal ownership of goods; the Iranian revolutionaries, who abolished the monarchy, seized industries and destroyed the middle class; Vladimir Zhirinovsky, who pined for Stalinism. The “Nazis-were-far-Right” shtick is a symptom of the wider notion that “Right-wing” is a synonym for “baddie”.
At least, that's where it comes from now.  Back in the 50s, they knew better but had a very clever group of folks in Soviet Russia working around the clock to manipulate information and ideas in the west toward their point of view and boy were they successful.  These days most people just don't know any better, but they did back then.
Hannan includes a lot of quotes and quite a few propaganda posters such as this one:

What does that say? "The National Socialist German worker stands against capitalism."  For the Nazis, capitalism was the ideology of the Jew, the rich bolshevik who oppressed the working man.  That's why when the Germans took over, they instituted a long list of leftist dream projects and programs such as free health care, make-work jobs, free housing (and even clothing) for the poor, equal work and pay for women, mandatory government-run schooling (closing down religious schools and home schooling), national socialized medicine, a labor corps all young people had to join and work at for one year, and so on. And, of couse, they raised taxes.  To 80% of income.
As I point out in my Common Knowledge bit, there was some from the right in Nazi ideology as well; the fascists rejected both socialism and capitalism as failures and believed they could come up with a third way that was superior.  So there was a love of country, a strong military, and great honor for tradition in the Fascist countries as well.
But the culture and economic system: Socialism with cronyism thrown in for good measure.  But boy, does the left hate to hear that.  This guy is getting a lot of grief now, and what's interesting is how some of the responses try so earnestly to define any economy with a strong military as right wing, or any country that enriches big corporations with government cronyism as capitalism.
The claim that cronyism and corporatism cannot be socialist is not born up in history, as many of the failed socialist ash heaps of the past had exactly that system.  There's nothing anti-socialist about big rich companies working hand in hand with government, but its certainly anti-capitalist.
Another of the big arguments that always gets trotted out is that Hitler shut down all the unions and killed Socialists and Communists.  He can't have been left wing!  The problem is that he also started up new unions, under government control, and in addition to repeatedly saying he was socialist, ran the economy as a socialist system.  And, as Jonah Goldberg points out:
Sure, Hitler’s effort to destroy competing socialists and Communists “doesn’t explain” all those other things. But it doesn’t have to. Nor does Stalin’s wholesale slaughter (or Lenin’s retail slaughter) of competing Communists and socialists explain the Molotov–Ribbentrop pact or the infield-fly rule. Other considerations — economic, cultural, diplomatic — come into play. But when people say Hitler can’t be a socialist because he crushed independent labor unions and killed socialists, they need to explain why Stalin gets to be a socialist even though he did likewise.
One of the key features of a tyrant is to wipe out all competition, no matter what side they are on.  Just ask Trotksy.  Killing off socialists doesn't make you not a socialist yourself, something that shouldn't even need to be said.
And then there's the other side of the mistaken equation, like this Salon piece all about how nice Communism is and how everyone has it all wrong.  Oh, and how capitalism is nasty and bad.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

THE VIRTUE OF FAILURE

"And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up."

Google has a funny hiring policy.  They've spent millions of dollars and years of study trying to find the best and brightest employees, and from that they think they've learned an important key to good employees.  Max Nisen writes at Quartz:
Google looks for the ability to step back and embrace other people’s ideas when they’re better. “It’s ‘intellectual humility.’ Without humility, you are unable to learn,” Bock says. “Successful bright people rarely experience failure, and so they don’t learn how to learn from that failure.”
Google doesn't want to hire the top of the graduating class, because they've found that these people most often don't respond well to failure or being wrong.  A Google exec puts it this way:
“They, instead, commit the fundamental attribution error, which is if something good happens, it’s because I’m a genius. If something bad happens, it’s because someone’s an idiot or I didn’t get the resources or the market moved.

What we’ve seen is that the people who are the most successful here, who we want to hire, will have a fierce position. They’ll argue like hell. They’ll be zealots about their point of view. But then you say, ‘here’s a new fact,’ and they’ll go, ‘Oh, well, that changes things; you’re right.’”
Now, that response to new input doesn't necessarily come from success or being bright, but if you're always right and always successful, you will never learn an important skill that life teaches all of us, in time.  And that skill is being wrong.
Failure isn't just a question of misery and crushing defeat, it is a tool which teaches us effectively - sometimes more effectively than anything else.  As Thomas Edison said, he hadn't failed 99 times to create the light bulb (or, rather, his workers) but that he'd found 99 ways that didn't work.
When we fail, we learn something about ourselves and the task at hand.  If we do not fail, we never learn those lessons.  We can learn to do things by succeeding, but we learn other things by failing.  When a child falls down, they learn about gravity, their limits, what the ground is like, and how to better use their legs and feet so they don't fall next time. If you prevent them from ever falling, they do not and cannot learn that lesson.
As someone who was fairly bright in school and was able to comfortably skate through classes paying minimal attention, I can attest that Google is right about this sort of person.  Life and work has been so easy and linear that we become frustrated, angry, and blame all of the outside world for our woes rather than recognizing we failed and getting back up.
Nobody likes to fail; everybody hates to be wrong.  But we all need to, in order to grow and learn as human beings.  Yes, it hurts our feelings, and yes its humiliating at times.  Yes, it is frustrating and sometimes it even hurts physically, like the little boy skinning his knee when he falls.
But he gets back up and runs more after a short while, knowing better how to run and what to avoid.
And that's the ultimate evil of the modern attitude toward education and children.  Bubble-wrapped children not allowed to fail and treated as winners and successful no matter what they do do not and cannot learn these lessons.  When finally faced with the hard cold reality of life, they rebel by blaming the world for their woes in tear-blurred fury.
So we get the Occupy movement in the streets defecating on police cars and blaming Wall Street for their lack of a job.  Its all everyone elses' fault that life isn't easy.  Its wrong and evil that they have to pay their debts.  Its wicked that someone expects them to make their own way and pay for what they have.
When you protect people from failure, ultimately all you are doing is setting them up for it.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

OUR MODERN TIMES

"Holding the view that Obama had when he was elected in 2008 is now hateful and bigoted."

The way people look at things and react today is just absurd.  I've commented on this a few times, and it always bears repeating.


Black pride is always laudable and heroic. White pride is always horrific and racist.  Celebrating black culture is diverse and cool. Celebrating white culture is lame, pathetic, suspicious. Whiteness is portrayed as a sign of shame: he's so white. White influences and culture are thought of as at best dull and probably destructive, oppressive, and awful.

Homosexuality is heroic, noble, good, and fun. Gay people are smarter, better dressed, wiser, and funnier. You didn't know that? Watch some TV and a few movies, and you'll get your head on straight. That's the lesson we're taught. Straight people are neurotic, silly, confused, slovenly, and need their magic homo mentor to straighten them out. Being glad you are not homosexual means you're probably secretly queer
Maetenloch recently wrote a bit about this on the Ace of Spades HQ where he pointed out:
These days agreeing completely with Hillary circa-1997 on gay issues would be enough to get you boycotted and hounded out of polite society.
Indeed, two years ago, President Obama wasn't fond of homosexual "marriage" and today you're a monster if you aren't in full support. Remember when just a few years ago the idea of "civil unions" was considered very nuanced and cultured, and today its an evil thing. You haven't changed at all, but you've gone from hero to villain in just a few short years. Its ridiculous.
 

Women are better than men. They can do everything men can do, but less stupidly because they don't have so much evil testosterone. Being a man means you have reason to apologize merely for being male. Being proud of being a man means you're an evil oppressor.
This isn't just academia or the radical left. This is what everyone, everywhere in the West is being taught to think and unless they are someone with a bit more self-reflection and discernment than most, is what they immediately react with. White, male, straight pride = suspicious, evil, shameful. Being a man is innately problematic and something you should probably try to avoid bringing up much. These images exaggerate for effect, but they aren't far off. Think about it, if you're a white guy, would you dare say you're proud of being a white man in any public place? If you're not, what would your reaction be if you heard any guy do that? Would you not immediately wonder if he doesn't have a picture of hitler in his closet with a few candles around it?
People warn about backlash and the coming change, but I don't see that happening.  There will probably be a cultural shift at some point, but if anything like that happens, I suspect the cause of that will likely be so devastating that people won't have time to be lashing back.

Monday, February 24, 2014

COLLARED PREACHERS

"It is a poor sermon that gives no offense; that neither makes the hearer displeased with himself nor with the preacher."
-George Whitefield

If you base your knowledge of Christianity on what you see on TV and in movies, you're going to come away with a lot of crazy and utterly false ideas.  Even shows that propose to be Christian often get it fundamentally wrong (such as the old program Touched By An Angel).
There is one aspect of secular portrayal of Christianity that is sort of amusing to Christians though, and that's how people seem to think Christian = Roman Catholic.  The Catholic Priest is everywhere, as if they represent all of the faith.
Yet I understand why.  Its an iconic image, one that people can recognize and understand without needing any sort of explanation.  He's the guy with the collar and the black coat, got it.  Priest.  And there's something to that idea.
I know modern preachers want to be as ordinary and approachable and buddy buddy as possible.  I know their desire is to be someone that anyone can talk to comfortably and not feel awkward or restrained.  That's not a bad goal, in its self.
But at the same time, there's something about wearing a distinctive outfit that sets you apart from the crowd which is useful as well. In fact, I'd argue that pastors should always stand out and be distinct in their dress for several reasons.
There's a reason police wear uniforms.  Its not because they are a quasi-military organization, although they used to be.  Its not because it creates solidarity.  Its because that way everyone knows who the cop is.  When you need help, you know who to turn to.  That's part of the reason superheroes wear costumes: they are set apart and distinct.  Superman is obvious, when I need help I can talk to him.  Clark Kent is just a guy, who knows how much help he'll be?
In the same way, ministers of the gospel should stand out so that everyone knows they are around  and who to turn to.  Its true that in small groups and communities, a minister is known by their character and by sight, but almost nobody lives in this sort of situation.  Most people live in large urban areas where everyone is anonymous, unless they stand out in some way.  Like a policeman.
Its not just that everybody behaves differently around a cop - or preacher.  That's a valuable thing, it helps keep people in line when they otherwise might not.  When that police car is in sight, people actually tend to drive under the speed limit.  When a minister is around, people tend to be more careful about their language and topics they speak about.
And the uniform helps regulate the behavior of the person wearing it.  Cops know that when they are wearing that blue outfit, they are under scrutiny and have to behave more carefully than when they are not in it.  In the same way, a minister can blend in without that distinctive look, and with it, they know they are being more carefully watched.
Yet there is another aspect to this.  To illustrate, I'll let J D Bridges from Tabletalk Magazine explain:
Standing on a busy street corner in the Bronx, I was approached by a petite woman wearing dark-rimmed glasses. She startled me by giving my arm a small tug, and then she whispered something I didn’t hear. I leaned over and asked her to repeat her words. This time I heard her whisper: “Could you pray for me? I’m HIV-positive, and I don’t know if God loves me.”

In that moment, I believe God gave me great clarity in explaining the gospel to her as she listened closely. Yet she neither said, “I believe!” or “Thanks, but no thanks.” Instead, she began to ask me more questions about the Bible. As she contemplated each answer, it seemed to ignite a new series of questions. I could see her collecting, analyzing, and categorizing her thoughts as she struggled to make sense of the gospel and her suffering. For forty-five minutes we stood there on that cold street corner: two strangers conversing about the story of God.
Now, its possible she just walked up to some random guy on the street and begged them to pray for her.  But I think it unlikely.  Somehow Mr Bridges stood out, he was distinctive in a way that drew this woman to approach him and give her request.
And that's an aspect that ministers of the gospel should be able to take advantage of.  Their job, and delight, perhaps, is to be ready to help all in spiritual areas, and be there to give the good news.  They have a special task which calls for a special look, I believe.
So that collar, which has been all but abandoned but used to be more common, is a good thing.  Its not enough to just dress nice, you want to be distinctly a preacher, not just a well dressed clean cut guy.
All Christians should stand out in their behavior, we should be distinctive in an increasingly troubled and damaged culture.  All Christians should be someone who seems different.  But a preacher has a special and specific calling beyond being a Christian, and its not enough to just be Christian in a crowd.
Whether that means robes or a collar or something else, Christian ministers should be different looking, not just different seeming or acting. For their good, and for the good of the community and the opportunities it provides them.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

BLAST FROM THE PAST

This is a poem from 1949 printed in a newspaper (bias is not new, they just used to be more up front and honest about it).  And it rings true today even more than back then.


It seems so compassionate and caring to just give more to people you define as "in need," but that definition keeps getting broader and eventually that money will run out.  And then the people "in need" are not only lacking, but the entire society collapses so nobody has any means to help them out, and they are utterly without the skills or worldview to help themselves.
So which is more compassionate?  To give people room and opportunity to get on their own feet when they fall... or keep them down until there's nothing left to help them with?
I know.  I'm doing too damn much thinking.
This post courtesy American Digest.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

FAITH AND SCIENCE

"Scientists make bad philosophers."
-Albert Einstein

There was another study done recently which surveyed a few thousand people and proposes that this represents a nation of over 350 million souls.  This one is getting more attention than many because it claims several things about scientific understanding.
  1. it says that about a quarter of Americans are unaware that the earth rotates the sun, and takes about a year to do so.
  2. it says that about a third of Americans believe that astrology is scientifically valid.
  3. it shows that in these two questions, people who identify as Democrats or liberals tend to be more likely to own these scientific fallacies than those who do not.  In fact, the more conservative you self-identified as in the survey, the less likely you were to be unscientific in these areas.
Now, I'm always skeptical of this kind of thing because they smack of confirmation bias and I never trust a small group of people to accurately represent a gigantic one.  I don't care how careful your methodology is, asking just over 2000 people is not going to tell you what hundreds of millions think.
And I suspect that at least some of the answers mistook "astrology" for "astronomy" a word confusion I've heard actual professional astronomers make.  Its only one letter off and when you're tired or distracted it can happen.
And finally, the age breakdown tells a more specific story: the younger you are, the more likely you are to get these things wrong.  Teenagers and college age more so than older.  And that helps explain the political skew: younger people tend to be more leftist, older more conservative.
That doesn't say good things about the American education system, but young people are more likely to believe dumb crap like astrology than older, too often. Or at least give it a try.
What I'm reading from conservatives isn't so much "see, you're all stupid!!!1!" but rather "uh, what was that about the party of science again?  Because as the paper intimates, the stereotype is that conservatives are dumb and anti-scientific but those on the left are super rational and all sciencey.
This is based not so much on any particular scientific acumen but rather a pair of litmus tests, one of which is getting a bit tattered: evolution and global warming.  Leftists are more likely to go all in on both, and conservatives less likely.
Now, instead of attacking these beliefs or political aspects, I'd like to approach this from a different angle.  I want to assert something that people might find unlikely or absurd:
Both religion and science are inductive and share much more than most realize.
Before I start to explain that, I need to define some terms.  First off, faith.  Most people view faith in terms of Kierkegaard's concept where you abandon reason, close your eyes, and believe without thinking.  The "leap of faith" he called it.
YOU GOTTA HAVE FAITH 
Faith is not an abandonment of reason, it is a transcending of reason.  Something people do in error is draw a line then put faith and reason on opposite ends, like a dichotomy or a spectrum.  To the extent you have more of one, you necessarily have less of the other:
FAITH<---------------------------->REASON
This presumes that the opposite of faith is reason, and the opposite of reason is faith.  That's utterly false and absurd.  The opposite of faith is lack of faith, and the opposite of reason is irrationality.  Faith is not another word for irrationality, and reason is not another word for lack of faith.
To understand this, it helps to understand that everyone, everywhere, has faith.  I don't mean everyone is religious - although that's true - I mean that people hold faith in things all around their lives, every day.
Faith is simply put "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  It is trust in something you have no empirical evidence for.  For example, you have faith your car will start when you turn the key.  You have faith your house will be there when you get home.  You have faith your spouse isn't cheating on you as you read this.
You may argue that this faith is based on experience and science and so on, but the truth is, when you turn that key, you don't have a shred of scientific or physical evidence it will start your car.  You trust it will, based on past experience, but you have no actual proof when you do it.  You only have faith.
It is not irrational to hold that faith, it is not devoid of reason.  It is, in fact, based on reason: its worked in the past, and keys start up an electronic sequence designed to start your car.
Other aspects of faith are less scientifically founded.  Faith your house will still be there is simply based on odds: its unlikely that something has happened in the time since you last saw the house that will have destroyed it.  It certainly isn't impossible, a sink hole or a fire or a meteor or something could have demolished the house.  But it probably will be there; probability states that it will likely be present.
And your spouse not cheating on you?  You trust them because of their statements of love and affection and their behavior.  You might fear their could be cheating, simply out of jealousy and a lack of confidence in yourself, or they might even be giving you some reason to fear, but you have faith that they are not, without a shred of scientific proof.  That's part of what makes a relationship work, the trust and confidence in each other, among many other things.
None of these beliefs are irrational, simply because they are faith-based.
And the truth is, faith is acting upon a reasonable belief in each case.  And it always is acting on a reasonable belief.  People believe things, from the Easter bunny to astrology to cars starting based on reason, even if it is flawed.  They construct a series of plausible arguments and evidences and then structure their faith around those.
Nobody simply closes their eyes and says "I'm just going to believe this!" without a shred of reason behind it.  The reason might be more rationalization, it might be specious, and it might be based on nonsense or psychological handwaving, but they offer reason and evidence for what they believe nevertheless.
In other words, Kierkegaard was wrong, at least as he's being interpreted and quoted.  There's no blind leap of faith, it is an informed, rational decision that takes you somewhere you cannot prove empirically.  In other words, its extra-rational, not irrational, to have faith.  It is based on reason, which takes a person to a place reason cannot support scientifically.
You go from "the key turns a device which sends a signal to the motor to start" to "it will work this time."  That doesn't make it irrational or wrong, simply something beyond which reason and empirical (use of the senses) measurement can define.
SCIENCE
Now, with that in mind, lets look at science.  Science is, properly defined, the systematic examination of empirical phenomena.  That is, using system and careful examination, science attempts to understand things we can measure and sense.  It isn't supposed to deal with truth or philosophy, it doesn't deal with concepts that cannot be measured or examined by tools and senses.
To do this, scientists will propose hypotheses and through that develop a method of examining evidence to test that hypothesis.  Often, they will develop theories, which are systems of examining the evidence to determine facts.
What science does not do, at any point, when properly exercised, is declare anything absolutely.  No good scientist makes absolute total 100% certain statements.  They make statements of high probability and likelihood, but never certainty.  Good science is very well-tested and reproducible, so you can test it yourself and have a very high chance of getting the same results.
When you put a piece of copper in a flame, it will tend to burn green.  When you break down water to its basic parts, you'll tend to get hydrogen and oxygen.  When you drop two objects in a vacuum in an area with gravity, they fall at the same speed regardless of shape and weight.
Now, sometimes these results vary (the water has other stuff in it, the fuel for the flame is changing the color, etc) but when properly done the results are very predictable.
When science is done correctly, this is what you get.  High degree of reliability.
Of course, there are those who do bad science and produce poor results which cannot be reproduced in this manner, but that's a topic for another post.  This is happening more and more lately, it seems.
The reason scientists do not speak in absolute terms is that they are only reporting what they have discovered.  They cannot report The Way Things Are Absolutely because that's not what science is about.  That's the realm of philosophy or theology.
Science reports what they have found to be very likely to be true, based on their experimental work, but always leaves some small room for new information and better understanding.  For example, it was presumed for along time that atoms were the smallest itty pieces of reality, but good scientists always left room for more to be discovered, as the tools did not allow for closer examination.  Later even smaller bits making up atoms appeared to be the smallest bits, until even smaller bits were believed to exist, and so on.
INDUCTION
Which brings us to the similarities.  Here I have to define a couple of other things: deduction and induction.  
Deduction is familiar to most people through Sherlock Holmes: its what makes him seem so very smart.  Deductive reasoning is when you systematically reduce all information you have by eliminating the things which are not true until you reach a final conclusion which in all probability is true. 
Deduction is like having a pile of beads of two colors: blue and yellow.  You remove each blue bead, leaving only the yellow ones, until you are presented only with true things.  From these true things you then assemble a pattern that tells you what you want to know.  Here is an example of a deductive argument:
  1. All men are mortal.
  2. Socrates is a man.
  3. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.
It takes two true statements which agree in context and produces a true conclusion out of them.
Inductive reasoning is different, and is rejected by Holmes as insufficiently systematic and rational.  However, he did engage in it from time to time.  Inductive reasoning seeks to find an answer that in high probability is true, but is not certainly true.  Here is an example of an inductive argument:
  1. Almost all people are taller than 26 inches
  2. Gareth is a person
  3. Therefore, Gareth is almost certainly taller than 26 inches
Notice that the inductive argument does not attempt to assert the conclusion as certain or absolute, but rather very likely.  Deduction tries to find certainty, Induction tries to find high probability.  Are you still with me?  Deduction is the science of reducing things to a single truth, while Induction is the science of developing conclusions that are very likely but might be false.   Strangely enough these are usually portrayed as being in conflict or opposites, but they are simply two different ways of trying to achieve two different goals.  Both are useful tools.
One of my favorite teachers had a bit he used where he told people who had lost their way or weren't following him to cross their eyes.  That way he would know when he had to explain more without them having to be embarrassed by raising a hand or drawing attention to themselves.
I hope nobody's eyes are crossed at this point.
RELIGIOUS SCIENCE and SCIENCEY RELIGION
So now we come to the assertion above: religion and science are more alike than people understand, and both are inductive.  That is, both use inductive methods to reach conclusions.
Neither religion or science use deduction, neither use logical systems to weed out untruths to find an absolute truth, but instead use logical systems to examine information and come to a conclusion of high probability.
Faith in God is based not on a blind leap, but on examined information and revelation which leads to a conclusion of high probability.  If you want part of that examination, you can read all about it in a post in which I use an old method to prove a theistic creator must exist.
Similarly, science uses examined information and revelation to lead to a conclusion of high probability.   This is the basic bare bones fact of how science is supposed to be done, again, properly.  
This is not to say that faith and science are identical or interchangeable, only that each shares very much in the way of methodology, conclusion, and system - far more than most are aware of.
The fact that some abuse or confuse either doesn't make the conclusion less true.  Some misuse science to come to conclusions that they claim are absolute truth.  Some misuse religion by ignoring evidence and reason entirely, rejecting them as intellectual and "not spiritual."
Both science and religion deal with what seems to be true based on the best evidence to the person involved.  both science and religion respond to information.  Neither involve a blind leap of faith or absolute certainty based on systematic argument.
The difference here is not in methodology or effort, but in realm.  Science deals with the empirical and measurable, while religion deals with the metaphysical and supernatural. They are not in conflict at any point, they are rather two trains passing side by side, often supporting the other.
WHAT CONFLICT
In other words, there's no real conflict between religion and faith.  Science displays faith (this will turn out the same this time) and religion displays science (we examined the facts, and here's the most likely conclusion).
Science is treated as anti- or in the place of religion, and religion the opposite.  But they are not.  Not only are there religious scientists and scientific faithful, but the two movements are doing very similar things.
There's no conflict, because they aren't even dealing with the same issues.  They can seem like it at times, but almost always that's because they are being abused.  For example; science cannot explain how everything got here.  Science does not give us origins of reality, it cannot.  That's beyond the ability of science to gather information on and test.  By definition, it cannot be examined scientifically.
And religion by definition cannot tell us the chemical composition of water or what the smallest particle is, or what light is made up of.  That's not what religion deals with.  Religion is about meaning and ethics and truth.  Science is about existence, and measurement, and facts.  If you confuse these two things, you get into trouble.
Its not that science cannot support or inform faith, or that faith cannot shape and inform science.  For example, the theory of Intelligent Design (ID) relies on faith that there is a theistic creator.  That can be used to interpret data in just a valid a method as evolutionary theory, both are supported by evidence and inductive reasoning.  There's a high degree of inductive probability for each, based on the work of each group.
And in the contrary, you can have a misuse of either cause problems for your present work, which can create a conflict, such as the fight against ID by evolutionists.
Where the conflict here occurs is when science starts slouching into metaphysics and philosophy.  If you presume as a scientist that there cannot be a creator, then you're not engaging in science any longer, you're engaging in religious activity.  You are making a statement about matters which have nothing to do with science and by that violating your efforts.  Your faith is causing conflicts with your science.
RELIGION TODAY
Strangely enough, some people (perhaps many today) treat science as a religion without even being aware of it.  In a post-Christian culture, most people's comprehension of what religion consists of is shaped around a series of slanders and misconceptions.
Thinking religion is mindless, anti-scientific stupidity and strange ritualistic nonsense, they don't recognize the religion in what they do with science.  When a scientist says something, such people do not exercise scientific skepticism or examine the evidence, but trust it because it was stated by a scientist.  This is an example of faith.  They don't know, nor do they have evidence, they simply have faith it must be true because a scientist said so.
Further, they become defensive and abusive to people who question this dogma, asserting it with zeal and faithful certainty.  They build their life around their understanding of science, finding in it answers to philosophical questions such as "why do we fall in love" and "where does evil come from?" in what they believe to be science.  
This is where hypotheses and presuppositions constructed around a presumption of evolution come from.  The inductive chain goes like this: 
  1. We evolved
  2. We have emotions
  3. Therefore we evolved emotions (for [insert theory here] reason)
The problem is it is constructed as an inductive argument, but presented as deductive.  That is, it is set up to argue something of high probability but stated as one of absolute certainty.  The TV show CSI got bad this way in the last years of William Peterson's run on the program.
And finally, such people become so enamored of their status as being so very scientific that they become evangelists, proselytizing for their understanding of reality to everyone.  They try to convince people of their worldview in the manner of a street preacher.  They identify themselves by their Darwin fish on the car and SCIENCE!  "memes" on Facebook.  They shape their self esteem and identity group by who they attack and how, usually "those stupid Christers and their sky-god!"
On the other hand, there are those who confuse their faith with science, and try to answer all manner of scientific questions not in the context of understanding principles or philosophy but absolute factual answers.  This is where the hard core creationists come from, who reject the best present scientific likelihood of the age of the earth and assert a time frame based on an interpretation of scripture.
Ken Hamm is a good example of this; he makes very good arguments based on his presuppositions and constructs interesting inductive sequences, but then he insists these are absolutely certain and true - so much so that he casts doubt on your faith if you question them.
Both of these are irrational, and both are violating basic system they are using to come to their conclusions.
But in the end, science and religion blend quite well.  Science tends to support Biblical narrative, and religion tends to support science - when both are done properly.
And the "conservatives are non scientific" argument is absurd because it is based not on scientific acumen or understanding, but on adherence to two articles of faith disguised as science.  Belief in man-caused global warming is an example of an inductive argument insisted on as a deductive conclusion: THIS IS TRUE AND YOU ARE A PLANET RAPING MORON IF YOU QUESTION IT!!  The same thing is true about evolutionary theory.
And in the end that's where the conflict comes, not science vs religion... but religion vs religion, one masquerading as science.

Monday, February 17, 2014

COMMON CONFUSION

"we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to their communities"
-Melissa Harris-Perry

It seems like each president looks at the American public schools, rightly seems they are in terrible shape, and tries to fix it.  Each time, they fail, and often things get worse.  President Bush's idea was the "No Child Left Behind" act, which he got help to design from Ted Kennedy.  The theory was that this would make it a bi partisan effort to help it get passed and be supported by everyone.
Teachers largely hate the NCLB system, complain that it forces them to teach students to take a test rather than just educate, and most of its provisions to cut off federal funding, allow students to move between schools if their school consistently tests too low etc have been largely ignored.  There have been dozens of cases of school districts and teachers cheating blatantly to get better test scores.  After all its easier to cheat than to educate.
So President Obama's version is "Common Core" education.  And the reaction to this is largely, well, confusion.  I remember growing up hearing people laugh and boggle over the "new math" that was attempted in the 70s, nobody ever pushed that on me in school though.  It was the old 2+2 math for me, and it worked fine.
Common Core math, however, is just... weird.  As in nearly incomprehensible.  Here are a few examples, you've probably seen some at least:



Now, if you have the info that comes behind this, it at least makes sense in terms of what they're trying to do, even if it still looks like hieroglyphics.Its an alternate system of math that tries to avoid left-brain rational analysis for pattern recognition and right-brain intuition.
See, here's what they are thinking: they believe there are all these different sorts of "intelligence" and that the old rational traditional system of math is targeted at a single sort of intelligence, and that hurts people who aren't part of that.
And since the theory is that women and minorities tend to be more right-brain thinkers and less left-brain (I'm not saying I believe this, just that the educational thinkers say so), this helps out preferred groups.  I've written about this before, but in the 90s a push for girls in school began out of... honestly I cannot understand where, claiming that girls were overlooked in school and passed over for more boisterous and noticable boys.
Now, I recall boys being veerrry quiet in class when the teacher asked a question, while the girls were all up like Hermione practically hopping in their seats with a hand up.  But this caught on and the huge push was to get girls more in school.  And its worked, boys have been pushed to the fringes.
This is also driven by minorities consistently testing very low for years and a concern about how to reach out to kids who get virtually no educational background or parental support in many very poor parts of the country.
So the Common Core math system is an attempt to reach out to these students and help them learn math in a way that works with their way of thinking. 
The problem is that this only reverses the problem; it makes the left-brained rational students struggle and if you've learned math the old way, its absolute nonsense.  And in the end, you're left with students when they reach the non-school ("real") world, the systems you learned will cripple you with your off the wall picture way of solving problems.
And, in the end, I think there really is one best way to teach things, regardless of how people learn or their "intelligence" is aligned.  I'm pretty skeptical of modern learning theory, and would like to humbly suggest that part of a teacher's job is to teach students to think.  Making your students stretch and do what they don't know how is actually what a teacher is all about.
And this leaves out the presumptions hardwired into the curriculum about the role of government and how people should respond to governmental authority.  The same people who said "question authority" are the ones writing "do what the president says" these days, and that's just weird.
When Common Core was produced, it was first marketed to states as part of a "Race to the Top" program which offered nearly five billion dollars to states who would adopt it.  Common Core had not been finished yet, nobody knew what it was going to be like, but cash-starved states jumped on it like a frog in Calabasas, California.  Here's part of the deal when a stated signed up for the money:
C. Adopt Common Standards including those for Pre-K and Science and Social Studies; Take a Lead Role in Consortium to Design Common Assessments.  Louisiana will utilize R2T funding to implement a high-quality plan for the adoption and rollout of 100 percent of the common core standards, of which we have been an active participant with CCSSO on the design and adoption.
You want the cash?  You have to agree to implement the Common Core system.  Without knowing what it is or seeing it.  Where did that money come from?  Why the "stimulus" package which stimulated nothing but programs like this.
Something that comes up often is the fact that common sense isn't all that common.  And that always struck me as funny until I thought about it a while recently.  And I realized that "common" sense isn't using that word in the context of "prevalent and widely shared."  Common in this context is as opposed to elite or highly advanced.
Common sense is not sense most people have, but sense that does not require academic achievement and study to grasp.  Its something that is so basic and practical, so obvious and natural that the common man can easily embrace and understand it without specialized teaching.  It's "common" in the sense of "commoners" in an old feudal system.
And Common Core is not common sense.  
Thankfully it appears that there's a general low-level rebellion against the curriculum by a big cross section of the country, left and right.  When you put the man who oversaw Chicago's school system going from bad to atrocious in his oversight in charge of the department of education, this is what you get.  And people don't seem to care for it, no matter who they are.
Maybe what's best is for the federal government to stop meddling with education entirely and let the states handle it instead.  I know this interferes with a top-down single controlled system of education that pushes one viewpoint on all children, but really who wants that aside from a few glassy-eyed zealots?

Friday, February 14, 2014

A VALENTINE FOR MY LADY READERS

And now, something special for the ladies who read Word Around the Net.


Yes, that's a young John Wayne.

THE TYRANNY OF STANDING

"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of Constitutional power."
-Thomas Jefferson

One of the principles by which the legal system works in America, and likely other nations with their background in English Common Law, is the idea of "standing."  Basically Standing is a legal concept that argues you cannot bring a suit against someone unless you are personally affected in some negative way by their actions.
In other words, if I see someone cutting the limbs off my neighbor's tree, I can't sue them for it, because I have no Standing, I have no legal basis for a lawsuit.  My neighbor does, as it is his tree.  You can look at the Wikipedia entry for more information on the topic, as the site is pretty good on that kind of thing.
The reason this principle exists is so that it cuts down on nuisance lawsuits, people using the system to either punish people they don't like, search for things to get rich off of, or bog down the system with absurd claims.  It is a functional device from an organizational or bureaucratic standpoint.
Several major cases in my memory have been thrown out for lack of standing.  A few years ago, some guy named Michael Newdow sued California to make them stop having the words "under God" in the pledge of allegiance because his daughter is forced to say it.
The 10th circuit court predictably agreed and ruled the statement an unconstitutional violation of the separation of church and state doctrine (which isn't actually in the constitution).  The Supreme Court saw the case and threw it out, because while the man was technically the girl's father, he was separated and had nothing to do with her.
Newdow has been trying over and over in courts to get this phrase removed, its sort of an obsession with the man.  As an aside, I happen to agree it should be removed, since while everything is under God, the US is not especially or notably so in practice, so the pledge is a lie as it is intended.
So this concept is used by courts to throw out cases which the plaintiff has no stake in the outcome, a lawsuit brought because of desire not actual impact on the person's life.  Its useful to keep the load of cases down and prevent some lawsuit predation, where people look for targets to sue and make money off of (or as in Newdow's case, to promote a personal vendetta).
Some are wondering why on earth the president is repeatedly violating the constitution and there never seems to be any sort of legal challenge.  After all if its really illegal, why doesn't someone do something?  There are those who argue, in fact, that it must not be illegal, since there's no legal challenge (which is sort of like arguing it wasn't really murder if nobody tries to arrest you).
So what's going on, why no challenge?  Well it comes down largely to standing.  Courts won't allow a lawsuit against the president in most cases just on general principle (suing the president is really bad for the country), but in this case specifically because most people have no standing.
See, its not enough to argue that you're negatively impacted by the decision or law, it has to be a legal damage, something that the law supports or recognizes.  Being upset or psychologically damaged isn't sufficient.  A general loss of liberty or violation of the constitution isn't even enough.  You have to be able to demonstrate direct physical damage, financial impact, or personal, direct loss of rights.  The Wikipedia entry puts it this way:
In the United States, the current doctrine is that a person cannot bring a suit challenging the constitutionality of a law unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that he/she/it is or will 'imminently' be harmed by the law.
So the mere fact that the president is violating the constitution is not sufficient standing for you or I to sue over.  Again, this is partly to reduce the nuisance lawsuits, just suits because you don't like someone or are trying to cause trouble.
Now, congress could sue because the president is poaching on their constitutional authority, but who'd expect Democrats who control most of congress (all of one house and nearly half of another) to sue the president to stop doing what they like him to do?
Now I'd argue that any American citizen has standing to sue to stop any constitutional violation on the principle that this is destructive to their liberty and the founding fathers meant for the people to be the final arbiters on constitutional authority, but that's not how the courts see it.  If something is wrong or illegal, everyone is harmed by it even if there's no direct, "imminent" and easily identified personal injury.
I get that the principle of standing protects the courts and others from "lawfare" where you target people and attack them through the courts using lawsuits and injunctions.  I get that it reduces the number of crackpots just attacking someone in authority or wealth.  But there's a certain point at which its taken too far.
And its hard to avoid the impression that standing is used for another purpose.  See, the courts really don't like getting involved in issues like the president's signing orders.  They hate that kind of thing for several reasons.
  1. They are worried that reversing an executive order over constitutionality sets up a cascade effect going back decades through wrong orders and that's a huge headache
  2. They don't like to cause a constitutional crisis by nailing either of the other two branches
  3. The president would likely just ignore them anyway and that makes them look bad, something of supreme importance, apparently, to Chief Justice Roberts
So they fall back on standing.  Nope, can't see this case, no standing.
And it seems like this principle is, as a commenter said at Ace of Spades HQ, "...a way for a feckless and impotent court to weasel out of having to make a tough decision."
As I wrote a couple days back, the United States was founded on the principle that all men are created equal.  Not that everyone is identical or that no one has advantages or drawbacks relative to others, but that all are equal in class and status.  No man is innately superior as a human being.  That means no one of us is any less or more than others legally as well.
So I guess the principle of standing has its value and is an important concept, but there are some areas which it shouldn't apply to - or, rather, that it should always apply to: violations of the constitution immediately give all citizens standing to take action upon.
Interestingly enough in the 80s, the concept of standing was all but eliminated in England, and the result has not been legal chaos.  That's probably because the courts soon after came up with the idea of "legal interest" to replace it which was virtually identical.
The problem is, this would require courts to show greater discernment in terms of why and what the cases were brought upon rather than just taking the easy way out and ignoring them for lack of legal standing.  And while it seems rare to have a higher court overrule a lower court's decision on standing, they will overrule on a decision on merit.  
And if there's one thing a judge hates more than anything else, its having their decision overruled by a higher court.  Standing is the easy way out, and we all suffer for it.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

REMEMBER WHEN

bow down before the one you serve. you're going to get what you deserve.
-Nine Inch Nails, "Head Like A Hole"

It wasn't all that long ago that we were told continually by a worshipful press that Michelle Obama was the most beautiful woman ever and that she was a cutting edge leader in style and class for her outfits.  Barely a day went by without a piece in a major news source about this topic, trying to shape her into the next Jackie Kennedy.  For this:
You don't hear that so much any more these days.  The glow has worn off, the halo has fallen.  She's occasionally dressed better these days, but the ridiculous praise is just not there any longer.  They'll praise an outfit once in a while, and that's pretty much it.
And you don't see this kind of thing any more about President Obama either:

Neither should have ever happened.  It was transparently false and faked, like a desperate child trying to be liked or get in the front of the line by getting attention for their praise.
I just wonder if the people who did any of this have the slightest sense of shame or humiliation for it all.  I mean, to fall that badly for a stuffed shirt arrogant politician deeply in over his head, and all.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A PRIVATE CITIZEN

"Yea but his executive use of power is to better American family's not to start wars!"
-Actual leftist comment

There's no small amount of internet commentary over President Obama's latest Executive Order delaying implementation of yet another portion of the ACA ("Obamacare") until 2016.  The act specifically requires each section to be implemented at given times, but the president wants to wait on small business implementation.
Putting aside other concerns, such as how this impacts individuals, what it means about the law and its perceved damage to the economy and Democrat electoral chances, and what it means to be employee #100, there's a deeper concern.  Eugene Kontorovich writes at the Volokh Conspiracy:
Manipulating large-scale legislative policies, duly enacted, around election schedules goes beyond the parameters of executive discretion. Nor can this be justified by the dubious claim of “transition relief” from tax obligations. The employers are not being relieved just from taxes, but from direct primary legal obligations to provide insurance. Every year the administration delays large portions of ObamaCare, it says it is no big deal, because it is “temporary.” But a few temporary fixes in a row becomes a new permanent form of executive lawmaking.
Freeing us from the tyranny of lawmaking, Charles C. W. Cooke jokes.  Making matters worse for many is the president's recent joke at Monticello: "I can do anything I want, I'm the president."  He didn't mean it seriously as some tooth-gnashing conservative pundits are acting, but it does betray a certain leaning in the man, given his actions in office.
This would be the same man who in 2008 criticized President Bush for his much less common and significant uses of executive orders, claiming "that's what I intend to reverse when I'm president of the United States of America."
The thing is, this overreach is not unique to President Obama - or Bush for that matter.  Its been a concern for many years, as presidents have used executive orders to shape, redirect, or even rewrite portions of laws sent him by the legislative branch.  Its been a problem for a long time, and has gotten steadily worse especially since Clinton cabinet official Paul Begala quipped "Stroke of the pen. Law of the Land. Kinda cool."
THE AMERICAN WAY
Congress makes laws, the president executes them.  That's the basic system.  In his job of executing laws, the president has to come up with ways that is going to be done, and agencies are given the task of making the theoretical (law) practical (execution).  In that task, there's going to be adjustments to how the law is carried out, and there has to be.  That's where executive orders came from.
For example, if Congress passes a law banning My Little Pony, then the executive department has to work out how they are going to go about enforcing that law, with what agencies, in what capacity, and where they will focus to get the job done.
What the executive branch cannot do in the American system is change the law, add to it, or take things away from it.  The president cannot write an executive order adding Go-Bots to this ban, or excluding a particularly cute pony, or delaying implementation of the law for ponies with wings because they are special.
There is one exception to this: the president not only can, but must ignore or refuse to enforce a law if it is unconstitutional.  Because, as the founders noted, an unconstitutional law is no law at all; it has no power or meaning in the US.
So there's a basic problem here, and a lot of people are noticing it.  I suspect everyone in the Democratic Party notices it, but they don't really care.  Major Garrett at CBS admitted “in a midterm election year, the WH simply did not need any more healthcare headaches,” noting the basic reason for the delay: its going to hurt the chances of Democrats getting into power.
Here's the thing.  The problem here isn't the outcome, its the means.  I'm fine with the ACA not being implemented, that's my preference.  "Delay" it until the year 5672.  Its why and how this delay is being imposed that is the problem.
THE LIMITS OF POWER
In the United States, Each branch of government - executive, judicial, legislative - has power only over what it has been given by the constitution and no more.  The US Constitution is essentially a document limiting what the government can actually do, not a list of what it can't do.  The presumption in the American system of government is that those in power can do absolutely nothing... except what they are allowed by law.  All power is presumed to be in the hands of the people, who then grant a small and specific portion of this power, temporarily, to representatives who work in their place and for them.
So when a branch of the government tries to overstep its boundaries, say the legislative telling the executive how to carry out enforcing law, for instance, then it has no constitutional or legal meaning.  To put it another way, the president has no more power than the average citizen to write or change laws.  I can't decide the law against nudity in public places is too restrictive and write a piece of paper that says it doesn't apply temporarily or against me.  I don't have that power; only government does, as declared by the constitution and given it by the people.
The Supreme Court cannot decide to set up a paramilitary band to execute its decisions.  The legislative department cannot interpret its own laws and declare them proper.  The executive department cannot on the fly change or invent new laws, not any more than you or I can.
In America we govern through representatives, and Congress is just as much President Obama's representative in writing federal law as they are for you and me.
The problem is that people have lost all perspective on what people in government are.  They are not, as Valerie Jarett said about President Obama "rulers" nor do they have as Geraldo Rivera recently said about President Obama, "majesty."  They are citizens who temporarily set aside their other work and serve the people as representatives.
EQUALITY
Both those in power and those who vote have lost all perspective on this.  Its a matter of not comprehending the preamble of the Declaration of Independence.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal..."
This is generally misunderstood today by people who (accurately) note we are not all created the same.  Some are born richer, some are born stupider, some are born more attractive, or clumsier, or what have you.  The misunderstanding comes from not knowing the context and meaning of that statement.
Thomas Jefferson started that way not because he thought everyone was identical, but because he was justifying the declaration he was about to make to those who were in power.  Jefferson, like the rest of the founding fathers, utterly rejected the principle that some were born better than others.
See, at the time, and before this, the concept of nobility being innately superior as human beings was generally held.  There were the common people, and the gentle folk.  The nobility were gentle and they were better by nature and birth, superior human beings.  Jefferson rejected that, stating without any argument that it was self evident that all men were created not as different classes, but equal before God.  
All people are just people.  There is no superior nature of those in power, they are not more, they are not better, they are not wiser, greater, or more noble in any way by nature.  They can be, but they aren't necessarily, and it is their actions and heart that defines this, not their mere existence.
I usually focus on respecting office and authority here, because we're in a culture that is so anti-authority and so mocking of the very concept.  The idea that you should respect someone's office because of what it represents and means is mocked and discarded by culture, so I believe it is an important emphasis.
The problem is, the reverse is also true: we don't respect the people in that office merely because of their position.  Being a judge doesn't make you an inherently superior or wise individual.  Being president is just a job temporarily held by a private citizen.
Losing this concept is odd in a culture that rips down all barriers and insists that nobody is any better than anyone else.  But even as people insist that, they act differently. Celebrities are just better people, they know more and we should heed their words.  Politicians are scum we don't trust, but they're more powerful and hence better by nature.
And of course there's the leftist hierarchy of nature by birth and ancestry as well: white people are worse and less than non-whites, and white males are worse still.  The smaller the minority and the more oppressed they are perceived to be, the more noble and better their nature is presumed.
ETHICAL PRAGMATISM
So when the president signs an executive order changing the law, he's not just violating the constitution, he's violating the very basic American principle of all created equal and none better than the other.  He's no different than you or I, so why is he able to do this when we cannot?
The answer is quite simple: because it achieves the goals that the mainstream, the establishment, want achieved.  The ends justify the means; this is bad and wrong, but the purity of his intent and the nobility of his goals make it okay.
This is the thing.  They know its bad, they know its wrong, and they know that it is dangerous.  They just don't care because it is getting done what those stupid teabagger radical throwbacks in the Republican Party won't let him do.  And besides, he's an oppressed minority so we can't criticize him or its racist.
And let me be clear; there are those on the right who did exactly the same thing when President Bush was using executive orders to get his will implemented in questionable ways.  And before him, Democrats who did the same thing defending Clinton, and so on.
Now, there are those who claim this is especially bad because the next president can be a Republican and there'll be hell to pay using the same tactics.  There are those who say the pendulum always swings the other way and so this is doubly bad for the future.
Those people are, I believe, inexcusably ignorant.  Not only do I doubt we'll see another Republican president in my lifetime, but even if this did somehow take place, here's how it would play out:
  • President Palin takes office and immediately begins a flurry of executive orders, utterly ignoring congress, using Obama's precedent.
  • Congress immediately begins passing laws to override these executive orders, and Palin ignores them, claiming the will of the people and all that.
  • Every democrat that has ever walked the earth meanwhile rushes to every microphone nearby and sets up a continuous wail of horror over how President Palin is trampling over the constitution and violating everything the country stands for, and rightly so.  
  • Many Republicans join them as well, hoping to be invited to the cool parties and get their legislation through easier (and some on principle).
  • The press, eager to tear down a Republican president spends every possible waking second reminding people how evil this act is, how its tyrannical, dictatorial, and (hinted at) Hitlerian.  
  • Popular entertainment picks up the beat, making continuous jokes, adding it into popular culture, crafting clever memes and so on all about how Unpresident Palin is a horrific Nazi for doing this.
  • Activists begin having drum circles, marches, huge rallies, effigy burnings and so on as a "people's revolt" against the dictatorial president.  Media and pundits warmly praise this as "this is how Democracy looks" and cheering the popular uprising from the grassroots.
  • Popular opinion decides that Palin in specific and Republicans in general are horrific evil tyrants who must never be given power again. Palin is hurled out of office after one term, and all of congress is under absolute Democrat control again.
  • The next Democrat president reverses everything Palin did using exactly the same kind of executive orders, and the press and Democrats are silent about it, along with most Republicans.
And if you think about it a moment, you'll see this is exactly how it would play out.  The fact that President Obama is doing exactly the same thing is irrelevant.  The media is mostly shrugging at it, the pundits are not particularly alarmed and are even defending it.  Popular media and the usual activist suspects are silent about it.  And the general public, the non political junkie not only doesn't understand what an executive order is, but what the constitution says about any of this.
CULTURED CHANGE
The only solution to this is a culture which recaptures the principle of all being created equal as it was intended and meant to be.  A cultures that sees those in office as servants and representatives, not those in power.  A culture that views limitations on government as what keeps us free, wealthy, and safe, not excesses.
And electing people or pounding the table doesn't change that.  People have to learn what the truth is, and through that the culture changes.  From a changed culture, we get changed representatives both in nature and through election.  Because the culture produces our representatives, and it produces our voting tendencies.
Government doesn't lead or produce culture, it follows culture, particularly in a democracy.  So its a long-term battle to change one child, one family, one neighborhood at a time.  No other method will bring about these changes.
I hope that effort has already begun, and maybe by the next generation's end we'll see a real difference.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

DEPRESSION SURVIVAL KIT: Washing Dishes

Get in the kitchen, make some noise with them pots and pans
-Shake, Rattle, and Roll


Its tiring for me, mostly because of standing up for that long, but I like to wash dishes.  I think its part of the "things which have a tangible, absolute effect" category that I like which includes things like mowing the lawn.  Its a task I can tell when its finished and the results are clear.  They were dirty and jumbled, now they are clean and organized.
This may seem like a silly, petty sort of thing to write about, but its actually important to wash dishes well, and while I would have thought its such an obvious task it wouldn't need any examination, its been my experience that it is not.
I visited a girl once and helped her daughter do dishes.  She was only 10 years old, so she was just a girl still, but her mama didn't teach her to do dishes at all.  And to make matters worse, the washcloth was an awful reeking bacteria culture that had obviously been reused for months without cleaning.
This might sound like I'm turning into Howard Hughes, but think about it a moment.  When you eat or cook, even make toast or soup, unless you use disposable dishes for everything, you are using dishes.  That means you're putting food on top of this stuff, then shoving it into your mouth.
And that means if the dishes aren't clean, they are covered with a film of mold spores, bacteria, and even potentially parasites and other nasties that you're scooping into your mouth.
Now, the human body is amazing at dealing with foreign intruders, but there comes a point at which it becomes overwhelmed.  And the more crap you shovel in, the harder your body has to fight just to stay healthy.
We've managed in the 20th century to defeat most of the really terrible diseases that plagued humanity like dysentery and tuberculosis but part of that defeat involved cleanliness and careful use of household detergents. If your body is constantly fighting germs and nasties, that means its using up energy it needs for other things on staying healthy, and you tire out easier.
Further it means you're more vulnerable to other ailments as they come along, since resources needed to fight off the latest flu are being used to just deal with what you're eating.  And in keeping with the theme of surviving economic depression, as I noted in part five of the Economic Depression Survival Kit, you can't afford to get sick:
According to some studies, as much as 20% of the average household's expenses are health care costs. Even in good economic times that's a serious bite out of most people's paycheck, but when times get tight, that can be the difference between having a house and living out of a box.
So what can be done?  Its actually quite simple, but it takes a bit more time and focus than some, perhaps many, care to put into the job.
The first thing to do is have a clean workspace.  That means wash your sponge, washrag, scrubber, etc.  It sits there with bits of food caught in it and slowly begins to grow disease.  that needs to be regularly washed.  Make sure your drying towels are clean and fresh as well, because wet surfaces grow bacteria and mold, and towels hang there damp after being used.
Also, wash the sink, because its not going to help you get dishes clean if the sink has a film of disease and filth on it in the water.  Washing out the surface and the drying rack will make a big difference in keeping your dishes clean.  And that means the drain plug as well.
You need water so hot your hands can barely stand it.  Hot water not only helps clean and kill germs, it also makes the soap come off easier and will melt fats and grease that are collected on the food.  You want all that stuff coming off, every time. 
And, I'm sorry Bill Engvall, but you cannot wash things with just hot water.  Even if you could, your hands can't stand water hot enough to do that job.  Water hot enough to clean dishes in, say, an industrial dish washer is so hot it would boil the meat off your hands.  It has to be that hot to clean dishes.  So that means dish soap.  Put it in the water, and a dab in your washcloth/sponge.
You'll need good tools, too.  A washcloth works great for many jobs, but some will need a bit more scrubbing power.  There are a lot of great products out there such as sponges with an abrasive side on them, scrub brushes, and bottle cleaners, and you'll want a good spread of them.  The reason for this is the same reason you have more than a hammer in your toolkit: each job is a lot easier with the right tools.
Cooked on or dried stuff needs to be scrubbed off, and cloth won't do it.  You can't get your hand inside every bottle or glass, so you need something to scrub in there as well.  And I recommend using an old toothbrush as well for small details.  Its stiff enough to scrub but not so hard  it will damage dishes.
That means using the same tool for every dish won't get them all clean.  Just using a scrubber will not work, or just a sponge or whatever.  And you probably will need several for many dishes, one pass with the scrubber, one pass with something softer.  The scrubber will not clean all of the surface, and the sponge will not clean all of the tough bits stuck on the dish.
Now stop.  How much did you wash?  Yes, only the top of the plate seems to have anything obvious stuck to it, but think about this a bit.  What are you touching with each dish, just the parts with the food in them?  And what are you doing with your hands?  Eating. Rubbing fingers on unwashed parts of dishes then picking up food and putting it in your mouth is the same as licking those dishes.
Wash inside and out, all of the surfaces.  Everything should be clean when it hits that rack, or the dirty bits will rub on the clean bits of other dishes and you wasted your time.  Slow down and do the job completely.
After you've done a few dishes, you'll notice something.  There are bits of things in the dishwater, even if you can't see them under the foam from the soap.  That's the stuff that was on the dishes, now suspended in the water and stirred up from the bottom when you move it around.
In other words, you are slowly making soup in the sink out of all the stuff on the dishes.  That's okay for a while, but when the water starts to get cool and the soap is being overwhelmed by dirt, its time to drain that out and fill the sink again with fresh water.  Otherwise, you're not really washing anything.
And when you get a dish really clean, you can feel it. Some surfaces will even squeak when you rub them with a clean finger.  You'll be able to tell if something is all the way clean or not.  Take the time to get it there, its your health and money on the line.  And it will affect how food tastes.  You want the food to be on a clean neutral surface, not picking up the last meal's remnants.
Rinse thoroughly.  This is important because nobody wants to taste soap in their food.  There's a reason parents used to (still do?) threaten to wash the mouth out of kids with soap as a punishment: its awful tasting. Get those dishes all the way rinsed and let them dry out or dry with a towel completely before putting them away.
This is going to take some time.  Its worth it, and the time you take doing this actually gives you a chance to do other things.  With both hands and your eyes busy, you don't have time to watch TV or check your phone or go on the internet on your computer.  Good.  Not only is this a valuable break, but it helps you diversify your mental activity.
Take the time to think through things, to meditate on something wise, to talk to your family, to look out at the beauty around you.  I recommend radio for this time as well.  Music is good, but so are shows with talking in them.  I don't mean news or talk radio necessarily, although that can be fine.  You can use this time to listen to some old time radio shows.  
Almost everything from the golden age of radio is actually online and available to listen to for free.  Get some comedy with the Jack Benny show.  Listen to a western, a mystery, a drama.  All those Mercury Theater shows that Orson Wells put on - War of the Worlds was one of them - are available to listen to.  The British are still doing radio adaptations of books and stories.  There are dozens of Sherlock Holmes versions out there to listen to.
And in the end, you're better off for the time away from your gadgets and engaging your mind with something different.  By the time you get the dishes done you'll not only have learned something but you will have a fresh set of clean, sanitized dishes to eat off of.
And who knows, that could mean more energy for other things you like to do, and less cost in the long run.