Uncommon Sense

June 9, 2019

There Is Just One Way Out

Filed under: Sports — Steve Ruis @ 1:34 pm
Tags: , ,

Welcome to the Sunday Baseball Sermon! It is baseball season and I just can’t help myself, but I will hold in my enthusiasm to just one or two posts.

A Crisis in Popularity
You are probably aware that baseball used to be called “America’s Pastime” because it was by far the most popular sport in the land. Not any more. In fact, baseball’s TV ratings have been dropping for a number of years now. A major problem identified by Major League Baseball (MLB) as a cause of this is that games are longer than ever before. I remember games in my youth which involved pitchers who worked fast and pitched the whole game that lasted an hour and a half. An average game back then involved two hours and a bit. Now an average game lasts almost four hours.

MLB is considering a number of innovations to deal with this. One is a pitch clock, with a restrictions on how many seconds a pitcher has to make a pitch. (Damned dawdling pitchers.) One is to require batters to stay in the batters box. (Damned hitters are stepping out after each pitch and fiddle with their batting gloves. ban the damned gloves!) Another involves extra inning games with one suggestion being to have each team be given a runner on second base in each half inning, to act as an icebreaker.

The problem with all of these “innovations” is that they disrupt the basic structure of the game. Baseball is an intellectual spectator sport tat has been around for over a century and there are records (oh, my there are records) that are discussed ad nauseum. I can wax poetic about all of the things going on defensively in any inning. There are nuances galore, like first basemen who chat up base runners in the hope that it will disrupt their concentration, and various forms of trash talk. There is a great deal of things to focus on between pitches, there are just too many damned pitches.

Here is What I Think has Happened
The bloated games we see today are a result of the number of pitches thrown, in effect the length of any game seems directly proportional to the number of pitches thrown. (Technically, if a pitcher through a single pitch to each batter that they hit a feeble popup or ground ball on, they could get the 27 outs need to make an ordinary game in just 27 pitches. Don’t hold your breath waiting for that to happen.) Batters are walking and striking out at unprecedented rates and walks and strikeouts require a great many pitches to be thrown. In the old days, pitchers threw the ball over the plate (or close enough) and if the batter didn’t swing at those pitches he would be “grabbing some pine” very quickly (baseball slang for returning to the bench, even though they are no longer made of wood). So, why don’t pitchers throw more strikes?

It all started to come apart with the Steroid Era. Granted the home run title competition between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa in 1998 saved baseball from a self-imposed perdition (strikes/lockouts/lost seasons aka labor disputes) but we now know that many of these performers were performing under the influence of anabolic steroids, a performance enhance drug not banned by baseball but illegal to self-administer. No pitcher likes to see his pitches crushed out of the ball park, so pitchers got cautious and a number of them started taking steroids themselves. When this issue was eventually sleuthed out and dealt with there was a bit of a power vacuum for a while. Not as many home runs were being hit and not as many pitchers were “unhittable.”

The next phase involved “swing path” changes by the hitters. Seeing a salary premium placed upon power hitting, hitters did a few things. First they changed the angles of their swings to a more upward path. (We were taught in my youth to swing “level.”) The other part was to swing for the fences, no matter the situation. (We were taught to swing away, but when you got two strikes, you were to choke up on the bat and try to put the ball “in play.”) The problem with this approach was that swinging really hard all of the time resulted in more home runs, yes, but more swings and misses, too. So, strikeouts, which used to be problematic (too many of which shamed a batter) became more frequent. Home runs became more frequent, so pitchers became more cautious and walks, aka “bases on balls,” became more frequent, too.

Pitchers didn’t stand pat in the post Steroid Era, however, they actually upped the ante and threw harder. There are more pitchers now capable of throwing 100 mph pitches than ever before. But if you are going to throw that fast, accuracy suffers and walks increase again.

Managers wouldn’t be left out of this, either. Since every damned batter in the lineup was capable of hitting the ball out of the park, starting pitches got pulled earlier and earlier. The constraints are that a pitcher has to complete five innings to qualify as a winning pitcher (and few would want to play for a manager who would not allow them to win games by pulling them earlier in the games) and by about the sixth inning, pitchers will have pitched to each batter at least twice. (At three outs per inning, batters are guaranteed one “at bat” through the first three innings and two at bats through the sixth. But, the effectiveness of most pitchers dips significantly the “third time through the batting order,” so managers are inclined to forestall any problems by bringing in a new pitcher for the seventh inning. We now have specialist pitchers for the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, for Pete’s sake. (The first specialist “relief pitcher” was in 1948 if I remember right. Prior to that point, all pitchers were “starters,” and if one faltered, they were replaced by one of the others, one not scheduled to start for the next three days any way.)

Specialist relief pitchers have become beasts. Unlike starting pitchers who have to be able to throw pitches for five innings (more is better, of course). These relievers are out there for just one inning, and sometimes just for one batter. This means they can hump up and use all of their energy on just a few pitches. In the old days, pitchers got tired in the later innings and you might be able to “get to them” if you hadn’t before. Pitchers often threw 150-200 pitches in a game, but now when they hit the 100 pitch mark, the manager’s hook comes out and they are soon to exit the game. (Have I mentioned that pitching changes take time?)

So, what to do about this? There have been various “tweaks” made. When the pitchers got the upper hand in the 1960’s, they lowered the pitchers mound. They had “adjusted” the size of the strike zone a number of times, etc. These things worked, somewhat, but obviously not enough.

There is One Way out of this Mess, However

Deaden the ball.

If the ball was just a bit harder to hit far, there would be fewer home runs hit, pitchers would throw over the plate more, etc.

Now some purists will argue that it would change the game, invalidate records, etc. I remind them there is something in MLB called the “Dead Ball Era.” Baseballs were “livened up” considerably, thus changing the game and making Babe Ruth possible. Also, what about all of the records set in the Steroid Era? Are those valid?

I think deadening the baseball . . . just a bit . . . makes more sense than reducing the number of strikes need for a strike out to two (and balls for a walk to three) or having a pitch clock (Baseball is the only major sport with no game clock!), or requiring relief pitchers to throw to at least three batters, or any of the other “innovations” that have been proposed.

And . . . for those you who think I have beaten this subject to death, consider that the upper part of the strike zone had ceased being called for strikes, causing batters to become low ball hitters, which requires an upward swing path and . . . this is now bringing back the high strike. . . .  Oh, and did I mention how modern sports technology is helping batters and pitchers to do these things with video analysis, bat speed indicators, radar guns for pitchers, etc?

October 30, 2018

Sometimes You Don’t Have to Even Read the Book!

The Amazon posting for the book College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students by Jeffrey J. Selingo supplies the blurb below. Reading just the blurb tells me that reading the book is unnecessary as I already know the arguments are, well, mistaken.

* * *

What is the value of a college degree?

The four-year college experience is as American as apple pie. So is the belief that higher education offers a ticket to a better life. But with student-loan debt surpassing the $1 trillion mark and unemployment of college graduates at historic highs, people are beginning to question that value. 

In College (Un)bound, Jeffrey J. Selingo, editor at large of the Chronicle of Higher Education, argues that America’s higher education system is broken. The great credential race has turned universities into big business and fostered an environment where middle-tier colleges can command elite university-level tuition while concealing staggeringly low graduation rates, churning out graduates with few of the skills needed for a rapidly evolving job market.

Selingo not only turns a critical eye on the current state of higher education but also predicts how technology will transform it for the better. Free massive online open courses (MOOCs) and hybrid classes, adaptive learning software, and the unbundling of traditional degree credits will increase access to high-quality education regardless of budget or location and tailor lesson plans to individual needs. One thing is certain—the Class of 2020 will have a radically different college experience than their parents.

Incisive, urgent, and controversial, College (Un)bound is a must-read for prospective students, parents, and anyone concerned with the future of American higher education.

* * *

This book is only five years old but is out-of-date already. The reason it is is not because of advances in technology, but because research has already showing some of the darlings of that time (MOOCs, for instance) are not what we hoped they might become.

The mistake made by all who argue “technology will transform education” is one of perspective. There have been transformative technologies in the past that have had massive impacts on education, for instance the invention of the moveable-type printing press, the prior invention of paper, etc. But if you look at the history of such innovations you will find them littered with mistaken claims for “technological transformations.”

Think about motion pictures and how they have transformed education.

Think about filmed animations and how they have transformed education.

Think about the telephone and how it has transformed education.

Think about television and how it has transformed education.

Think about computers and how they have transformed education.

Think about cell phones and how they have transformed education.

Actually none of these things have transformed education, although all have had some small impact. I currently operate a small business via email and the Internet. That business existed before email and the Internet were invented, but while those inventions make my job a great deal easier, they still result in a product consumed by a bunch of people. I can generate my product more cheaply this way and that has allowed us to stay in business, but we aren’t exactly getting rich. Big impact for us, not a whole lot of change in output.

The same is true for education. Email and programs like Skype allow me to have conversations with people all over the world. If I had needed to do that back in the day of physical mail being my only option, it would have taken far longer, but it still could have been done. Many of these technologies are similar, they speed things, e.g. like communication, up but don’t fundamentally change what is done, e.g. communicated.

Technology will have an impact on education, but there will be nothing particularly earth shaking for the simple reason that education is a social process. The whole reason for bringing people together on a “campus” is to facilitate the social interaction between students and students, students and teachers, and teachers and teachers. Sure, you could do it all using a messaging app, but a great deal would be lost. Communication is a small percentage about just the words, there are many other things to be considered, a more important part being the emotional affect of the communicators. And, yes, I am aware of emojis and their use. But emojis are chosen by the person madly typing away and they may or may not be accurate or may even be flat-out lies. If someone directly in front of you is claiming to be satisfied but is clearly not so, you can tell this. Every one of us has the ability to read the mental state of other people. We suspect when we are being lied to. We can detect uncertainty in the speech of another. We can tell duplicity and myriad other things, like when a conversant is disdainful.

Education is not just about accumulating facts and skills. One is also learning how to communicate with others, to reason effectively, to learn the tools of a trade. Photographers know that learning how to use their cameras and lighting accessories, etc. is fundamentally important but that is not what photographers learn about in most photography courses. They learn about leading lines in compositions, balance, tonality, all kinds of things that can make a photograph into a work of art or a brilliant illustration of a concept. Similarly when people become educated, they are not just learning facts, techniques, and skills. They are developing attitudes, the ability to speak in front of others, even groups, to convince, to describe, etc. To do this requires social interaction and anything that gets between two human beings engaged in this diminishes the communication.

So, if you are waiting for technology to transform education, don’t hold your breath. The critical factors are still social interaction, inspiration of individuals to work hard on a topic and then come together to defend and attack ideas flowing through those communication channels.

And, if you prefer to think of me as a modern day Luddite, a hater/fearer of technology, you couldn’t be more wrong. What I fear is bullshit artists who make claims for tech and people that are misleading and lead young people astray. There is no app for that.

Addendum Oh, btw, there is plenty wrong with higher education, but the use of “ed tech” isn’t a solution for any of those things.

December 24, 2013

Wow, Smell that Highway!

Filed under: Science,Technology — Steve Ruis @ 10:42 am
Tags: , ,

According to the NY Times, “this month, Milwaukee began a pilot program to repurpose cheese brine for use in keeping city roads from freezing, mixing the dairy waste with traditional rock salt as a way to trim costs and ease pollution.”

All I could think was “Whey cool!”

December 11, 2013

Will We Ever Learn . . .

I have written before about Massive Open Online Courses having been touted as a major innovation in how we educate college students. I argued that there is a long history of such innovations and they have all failed. I argued, and continue to argue, that education is a social activity and any barrier put between the human beings involved will diminish success. I do not mean that under extraordinary circumstances, a few students can’t succeed fabulously using some form of distance learning, just that such things make the process much harder for the bulk of students.

Consider the following from today’s New York Times:
A study of a million users of massive open online courses, known as MOOCs, released this month by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education found that, on average, only about half of those who registered for a course ever viewed a lecture, and only about 4 percent completed the courses.

Four percent! Wow, what a success rate! Now consider what students and other adults do with “social media.” There is frantic activity to share what the participants are doing socially. Huge amounts of time and effort are spent sharing social activities, but not face-to-face. How effective do you think those actions are in improving the social lives of the participants? Do you think those efforts are worthwhile or closer to what I call a GWOT or a Giant Waste of Time?

So, my question is, why take an intense social activity like education and insert the same barriers to success that social media do?

September 11, 2013

Does This Blog Need a New Name?

The love of my life has subtly indicated that the title of this blog “The Class Warfare Blog” is divisive and is unlikely to bring people together. I completely understand that sentiment and told her that I chose that title over “The Scum Sucking Pigs Are Ruining Our Country Blog.”

I agree with her that we need a “change of heart” to be able to truly address the real problems in front of us. I am a trained meeting facilitator. I know how to bring people together, people who do not trust each other, who do not want to be in the same room together, to address common problems. I know and have used techiques to do this that have been successful at even the highest levels of international diplomacy. But they can’t be used until people come together with the intent of addressing those problems and solving them.

And I recall a story (the details of which may be foggy at this point) but it involves a Southern Californian man who attended a workshop with an Indian guru who preached a doctrine of universal love. Skeptical at first, after several days of the workship, a convert was born. On the trip home after the close of the workshop, the man, feeling filled with love for one and all, was confronted by a neighbor’s dog which clearly did not like him and which he had feared in the past. To embrace this new way to look at the world, the man approached the dog and was attacked, severely damaging his face. After an extended stay in the hospital, the man noticed the guru was holding another workshop in town so he went and confronted him.

“Look at my face!” he said after telling his story. “That dog has disfigured me and my life is ruined and it is all because of your stupid workshop!”

The guru laughed and laughed and said, “Silly man, the dog didn’t take the course.”

The monied interests in this country are solving their problems at our expense. They do not see that we have mutual problems. They think we need to address our own problems ourselves. The fact that they have drained away or subverted many of the resources we need to do this is not their problem.

They are individualists.

Until we can bring them to the table, we can’t even possibly engage in an effort that will change their hearts. We can’t do that until we are strong enough.

We are collectivists . . . by necessity. If we do not learn to work together they will continue to solve their problems, their ways, and even a cursory examination of the outcomes so far indicate that those solutions will not be good for us and our children.

July 28, 2013

Everyone is an Education Reformer

Everyone has an opinion about public education. Not only that, everyone has an idea of how to fix “the problem.” Consider as an example Mr. Francis Clifford’s idea of starting over from scratch. The problems, according to Mr. Clifford, with this sure-fire solution to our public school problem are the unions and the teachers:

“I don’t see this ever happening because the vested interests – unions – would not consent to de-certification, which to me and many other existing and former parents proves that public school teachers in general truly are interested in their own welfare FIRST, not the kids’ learning.

“They (teachers) only continue to seek as culprits outside causes, such as “poverty,” over which they have no control for why some kids from certain homes can’t learn. The analysis always seem to end with teachers blaming these outside forces while nothing is done systemically to eliminate or work around those forces.”

Mr. Clifford doesn’t say why the unions would be required to decertify themselves as opposed to simply agreeing to try an experiment of the nature he supposes. In fact it is hard to see that the unions are a problem at all. If teacher’s unions are such a problem, then they should retard progress in states where they are strong, like California, and increase it in states where they are weak, like Nevada and Georgia. In fact, states where unions are weakest often have the worst educational outcomes. Conversely, some of the states with the highest outcomes, like Massachusetts, are places where the unions have been the strongest. If unions were such a crippling factor, shouldn’t this be the other way around?

With regard to the teacher’s just sitting around doing nothing to solve the problem, that’s a little like saying lawyers are sitting around and not solving the problem of crime. Or doctors sitting around and not solving the problem of disease. Just how are the teachers to act in concert? Through a union? That is indeed what is going on in the strongest unions; they are advocating for effective changes (not fads), but I suspect that that is not acceptable to the anti-union Mr. Clifford.

In this debate, there are two really large problems. One is the amount of debate that is based on magical thinking, you know, “the schools would just be fine if we made the students wear uniforms” kind of thinking. These are opinions that have no basis in reality. If you think the unions are the problem, present your evidence, make an argument, don’t just say “if we didn’t have teacher’s unions protecting incompetent teachers, everything would be fine.” Why would that be so? Prior to the advent of collective bargaining in the State of California, there were many, many stories of administrators “finding” jobs for relatives by “letting go” teachers who “weren’t needed.” It was abuses of this kind that lead to the collective bargaining laws in the first place. Just as the civil service came about because of employer abuses of employees. If an employee hasn’t broken any laws or been proven ineffective, why should they lose their job? Realize that the person doing the “firing” doesn’t own the business, they are just another school district employee, like the teacher.

The other problem with the debate literally shouts at me in that in the past, I trained meeting facilitators to lead groups of people to make decisions (and did that work as well). When a decision regarding “what to do” about any problem is needed, what is the key factor? Do you know? It is quite simple. What you absolutely need to know is what the problem really is. So, what is the problem with public education?

Really. What’s the problem? Describe it in detail. Don’t describe your solution, describe the problem.

If you want to bandy about phrases like “it has failed our children,” as the facilitator I have to ask you how has it failed? I have to encourage you to provide evidence (data) supporting your opinion, because we don’t want to spend a lot of effort trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. We need is a description of the problem . . . in detail.

Do you know what the problem is? If so, prove it and share it with us. What I am hearing from a great many debaters of this issue are hidden agendas, not descriptions of the problem.


June 5, 2013

The New Face of Higher Education?

Filed under: Education,History — Steve Ruis @ 10:25 am
Tags: , , , ,

The embedded graphic below (thanks to Allison Morris) shows what is happening with Massive Open Online Courses or “MOOCs.” The question here is “is this the future of higher education?” (More text below.)

Courtesy of Allison Morris (www.onlinecollegecourses.com)

While I will not play the role of a modern Luddite and say there is no role for online learning in the future, but there are any number of questions that need to be addressed before these things “grow like Topsy” and become a force in and of themselves before we have considered those questions. The foremost is: are these courses “loss leaders” and, if not, how do they get paid for? (A “loss leader” is an item advertised at a ridiculously low price to get you into a store where you will buy other stuff.)

In effect these are free college level courses and a number of states, including my home state of California, are considering whether to give normal college credit for them. Please realize that I basically had a free college education growing up in California. I went to a community college for two years and then finished my undergraduate degree at a state college. My fees and books were under $250 per semester (under $100 at the CC), which compared to the current situation was practically free. But that was government-supported education. The state and county of my residence paid for my education (I certainly did not) but then I paid those entities back through higher tax receipts based upon my higher earnings as a college graduate. This was a good deal for both the governmental agencies and for me.

But these MOOC’s aren’t a product of a government program. So, who is paying for them? Good question! A better question is who will be paying for them? Ask yourself: what other businesses (yes, higher education is a business) gets the grand idea “Hey, let’s give away our product!” And this in a business which has been raising prices about as fast as the health care sector, so inclined to give anything away . . . not.

In order to make good online instruction, it takes several hundred hours of work to make a one hour online presentation. Of course, that hour can then be “duplicated” a zillion times. But here’s the rub. All of the research shows that such courses cannot be given in isolation: they need to be accompanied by chat rooms, Q&A sites, actual physical meetings with tutors and/or professors, etc.. And, these courses grow stale in short order. (There is nothing funnier than watching old movies made for school audiences, e.g. Gosh, Mr. Wizard, that’s complicated!). So, including the server costs, the site building and maintenance costs, the production costs, the monitoring and customer servicing costs, these courses are not “free” to create and offer. So, who is creating them and why?

A major study of online courses in Colorado a while ago showed that a large chunk of online courses were being taken by students already in residence at the colleges (almost half). The reason those students were taking those courses was primarily convenience. Instead of getting out of bed and to an 8 o’clock class, they could sleep in and take their lessons at 2 AM. In other words, a large number of course takers had the option of taking the courses in a physical classroom but chose not to. Now, for colleges severely cramped for classroom space this may be a boon. For others it may be a gigantic waste of money (creating duplicate versions of courses for no reason other than student convenience).

One aspect I have raised over and over is that education is a social phenomenon. Interaction with others is needed to help process information and generate understanding and skills in argumentation, logic, presentation, etc. The history of education is replete with all kinds of “distance learning” efforts. Courses were delivered by mail (Correspondence Courses), by television, by audio tape, by radio, and self study, and now via computer. The results have been disappointing by any measure, certainly disappointing with regard to the hopes and dreams of the instructional creators.

The primary reason there has been disappointment in the distance learning biz is because such systems require the student to not only take the course, but also to manage their own progress, time, effort, etc. While “distance lessons” can include instructions like “read Chapter 3” and “do all of the problems in Section 4B,” the program simply waits for the student to come back to the material; there is no time pressure. (Our waggish comment when we did this kind of work was “Self-paced is a euphemism for slow.”) Traditional classes have tests on specific dates, homework due in a specific period, readings to be finished by certain dates, due dates for papers, etc. It is basically peer pressure and the structural support provided by course structures that sweep students along.

It is a valid question as to whether the students should adjust their tempo to the tempo of the courses or the courses adjust to the tempo of the students. Consider the “old structure:” a baccalaureate degree was considered a “four year degree.” In my tenure in higher ed that was the “norm.” My degree took four and a half years, which was the norm for a BS degree which had higher requirements than a BA degree. But many students would take as long as six years to get this degree and “reformers” pointed out this “flaw” in the system. Of course, it was not a flaw, but a feature. The system was set up so that a student could take 15 credit hours per semester, resulting in 30 credit hours per year and after four years could have 120 credit hours on the books. The typical number of credit hours for most baccalaureate degrees was 120 or so, so this could be accomplished in four years.

But this was also predicated on the fact that you took all of the right courses, that you didn’t change your major after two years, that you passed all of your classes, that you took the classes in the right order. In my case I could not get into trigonometry in high school, so I wasn’t ready for calculus as a first semester freshmen. So, I took trigonometry and then tried to sign up for calculus in the spring semester, but that wasn’t allowed, so I didn’t get into calculus until my sophomore year and some of my major courses required that as a math prerequisite, so I had to postpone certain of my major’s classes. Getting a four year degree done in the nominal four years requires a good deal of good fortune and some management skill. Then you find out that some of the courses you were told would transfer from your community college to the university didn’t, so you just lost some credits, and . . . etc.

The biggest problem for students is that that 15 credit hour load equates to a 45 hour per week study load (1 hour in class + 2 hours of study outside = 1 credit hour). But many students have to work to support themselves. A consequence is they can’t handle a “full load” of 15 credit hours. (The system was set up so that that 45 per week study load was for the average student taking courses of average difficulty and resulting in average grades. If your courses were of above average difficulty and you wanted above average grades, even if you were an above average student, you might still need 50-60 hours per week for your studies.)

A student working half time and going to school half time will need eight years to complete a four year degree and that is with no mistakes being made managing their programs. Currently, even if the cost of going to classes is low, one still has to cover living expenses while being tied down getting an education. This is why I am for heavily subsidized college educations through state institutions. To pay for a top tier university education plus living expenses while not being able to work results in the situation we have now: students buried under mountains of debt.

So, MOOC’s … who is going to pay for them. Right now, it looks like students, either through an inferior educational experience, or an educational experience that doesn’t drive them toward completion of the goals, or through costs that will somehow magically appear once the students are “hooked.” Drug dealers are known to give away free samples, at least at first.

April 8, 2013

Gun Laws, Take 5

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 7:01 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Regular readers of this blog know that I have railed against various governments for not doing what they ought to solve the problems facing us. Recognizing that asking the lunatics to run a better asylum may just be a fool’s errand, more and more of late I have been looking for ways to take our own fates into our own hands. One of those jumped out at me regarding gun laws enacted by states.

Most of you are probably aware that quite a few states have enacted stricter gun laws: most notably Colorado and Connecticut have done this. This is more than understandable as each of these states has suffered a particularly egregious massacre at the hands of a well-armed citizen with a statement to make. New York and Maryland have also done this.

But there are states that are passing laws to make to make access to guns harder to restrict; in fact this year at least 36 states have introduced legislation to nullify federal restrictions on gun rights. Ignoring the illegality of state nullification of federal law, three states have passed significant restriction easing laws: Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee. (If you are surprised these are southern states I must ask . . . why?)

In addition to this situation science marches on. In a first ever national level study it has been convincing shown that gun homicides rates are higher in states with looser gun laws. (This is contrary to NRA assertion but I suspect almost all parts of reality are contrary to NRA assertions.)

This provides a venue for individual action regarding these actions. If you do not approve of what Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee have done, do not go there. Spend your business and tourism dollars elsewhere. Maybe if these see their tourism income decline significantly they may rise up and ask “WTF?” Besides it is not safe there. You wouldn’t vacation in Syria would you? So why would you want to go to states which have the same attitude towards guns?

March 30, 2013

Oh Where, Oh Where Have the True Conservatives Gone, Oh Where, Oh Where Can They Be?

Conservatives, real ones, not the milquetoast ones we have today, were supportive of society’s institutions as bulwarks against chaos and the animal natures of the people. Where, oh where, have they gone?

Today’s conservatives are for just one thing: making money for their wealthy paymasters. Societal institutions be damned. For example, the police are for policies taking military style weapons (and high capacity magazines full of “cop killer” cartridges) out of the hands of criminals. Conservatives are against this and for the NRA, front man for the $6 billion annual sales firearms industry.

Here’s another: conservatives used to strongly support public schools as a mechanism to socialize immigrants (turn ’em into ’Mericans). Now, corporations want to make profits teaching our school children, so teachers are pigs at the public trough with their greedy little fingers and overly generous pensions.

Conservatives (Our Country: Love It or Leave It!) used to be supportive of government, at least in its role of keeping the unwashed hordes in their place. Not any more. They have their armed closed communities now, so government has outlived its usefulness. (“I want to shrink its size until I can drown it in a bathtub!”)

Conservatives used to support our military, but now they would rather gain campaign contributions from military weapons systems manufacturers than accede to what the Pentagon says they want. (“You say you don’t want this weapon system, but trust us, you really do.”)

If we can’t bring the old, the true conservatives back, it is time to just do without them. They aren’t serving our institutions. They aren’t serving the people. They are serving corporations to lower their taxes. (Corporate taxes are now only 9% of federal tax receipts where they used to be about 50% in the not too distant past. Yet, conservatives are still whinging about corporate taxes being too high.) They are serving wealthy people to be able to declare their yachts as vacation homes to save on their property taxes and to declare their stock market income as “special” so it only gets taxed at a 15% rate.

I want the old conservatives, the useful ones, back. This current crop isn’t worth the powder to blow them to Pittsburg.

Free School Breakfasts and Lunches, Part 2

Hot on the heels of a national report emphasizing that the meals served in fast food restaurants are nutritiously poor for today’s youths, I want to follow-up on my recommendation that all minor school children get free breakfasts and lunches.

Since I don’t want to get involved in a “ketchup is a vegetable . . . it is not!” debate I want to suggest that each state form a committee of experts to design a large number of menus for schools. If the state is in the Southwest, such menus will reflect tastes there (I love Chili Verde!). If in the North there would be menus with specialty foods for Poles, Jews, and Irish folks. And there would be plenty of Jell-O salads for those of you in the Bible Belt. These menus then could be shared via a national school menu database so that all schools would never suffer from a lack of variety should they desire that. The only requirement for these recipes is that they should all start with fresh ingredients to the greatest extent possible.

The experts selected for these Menu Commissions need to have just one qualification: they need to be the Mom or Dad of a current school age child. It would help if they also had no ties to the food industry. Committee tyro’s would need to learn how to scale up recipes to the sizes appropriate for their school kitchens and then only need a modest budget to test out a few recipes. Maybe these commission need to be convened once a decade, because tastes just don’t change that fast. (Anybody hate Mac and Cheese? Didn’t think so.)

If you don’t like that idea famed chef Jaime Oliver of England talked parliament out of a considerable sum of money to upgrade school lunches over the pond. That could work here, too.

Stand back; I don’t know how big this thing gets!

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