Questing for infinite good brings bad

OK, it’s a little thing, so a short post. I’ve several “longer harder to finish” posts that I ought to finish up, but this one just got to me.

I’m at a weekly dinner with friends. These folks are generally a mixed lot, about even 1/3 rds of conservative, progressive, and libertarian. Nor is there a particular shortage of intelligence. Of the 7 folks there, 2 are in Mensa now (one runs some of the operations), I qualify (if I ever get around to doing that application thing – my scores are significantly over the bar), 2 more have college degrees (and are probably close to the Mensa line one way or the other) and 2 are presently working on degrees. (One of them, my daughter, the other her boyfriend).

So it’s a pretty good bundle of thinking ability.

Discussion turns to ‘things of interest’ to the two who are teachers (my wife and her sister). Turns out there’s a new law in California. It mandates that school districts must provide a sort of ‘preschool’ for some students. Not full on preschool. No, they could not mandate that (as the voters had rejected a proposal to mandate preschool as not being a great idea to put on the tax payer dime…) But the usual ‘1/2 a loaf’ salami technique of pushing for ever more Government Programs one tiny slice at a time if you can’t get the whole thing swallowed at once, public vote be damned.

Realize that the sample IS a bit biased. Two of them are teachers, and one of them works in a commercial day care center. So these are folks who are “into kids and teaching”. But still, one might expect just a bit more depth of thought…

What surprised me was this: NOBODY brought up the issue of cost. Not a one. Even though the school districts are already doing ‘furlough days’ as there is not enough money to fund present operations. Even though the State of California is somewhere between $14 Billion and $40 Billion in the hole (depending on which funny numbers you use). Even though we are presently putting on hold ANOTHER mandate, for a smaller class size. Even though we are for all intents and purposes The Greece of the USA.

No, the discussion was entirely about how GOOD this was. How some kids need it and it was just great to have the state requiring this. There was also bit of mildly dismayed nattering about how it was a bit wrong that parents were not REQUIRED to send their kids to kindergarten, and some talk about the silliness of having mandatory testing standards for Kindergarten when not all students were mandated to attend…

Everything was focused on one POV: “It is good, so ought to be a mandatory government program”. Not a peep about cost, money, logistics, propriety of the State mandating how Local School Districts MUST spend “their” money.

I finally couldn’t stand it and made one snide remark about the sanity of having a State Mandatory Prison Attendance for the first 18 years of your life, which got me looks like I’d opened a beer can during church service…

At any rate, at that point I just let it drop and let everyone else go on with the self congratulatory “Oooohhhh it’s good ‘for the children’ discussion” all the while thinking just how much this was a microcosm of what’s wrong with our system.


The simple fact is that the whole ‘positive thinking’ and ‘self actualizing’ generation just want’s a “feel good story”. If it’s a feel good story and can be done in a 30 second sound bite, we are “all for it”. Extra help for kinders? Go for it. Free food for hungry? Yeah! More police? Why not? Clear drug users off the street? (and out of their homes…) Sure, sounds good. Go for it.

Negative issues, like “how to pay for it”, and complicated issues, like “is it the responsibility of the State?”, and really complicated ones like “Ought the State be mandating how local money is spent? Ought not the money come with the mandate?”; those are just not “feel good” enough, and they have those ‘negative vibes’ issues tied up in them. Besides, it takes more than 30 seconds to discuss and it causes some folks to feel bad as they already said they were for “the good thing” and now you are being mean by making them think about bad things…

So that, IMHO, is the ‘nutshell’ version of what is wrong with our States, our Countries, and why the world is marching to a Debt Doom full bore. Because NOBODY is welcome at the party if they bring up negative issues and don’t endorse the happy talk soundbites.

Free Healthcare? Sounds good, count everyone in. “Be Green”? Green must be good, so just slap “Green” on a topic and it sails into law. Freebees and Gimmes all around, with plenty of feel good too. Oh, and send the bill to the “other guys”… Maybe the rich folks, or somebody. Just have the Government pay for it, they are “someone else”….

So government grows, without bounds, ether on size, or scope, or increasingly on the power of the beast.

It is, in essence, a “Feel Good Cancer” and will only stop when we run out of Money Drug to feed it.

The Particulars

For anyone who might not have a clue about the particular law, here’s a link to a Silicon Valley newspaper article about it. It is state wide, though. It also was signed into law about a year ago by Arnold R.I.N.O so this is a Republican Feel Good Spend More law.

Oh, and realize, I’m not an evil heartless bastard who wants to deny folks an education. I’d be all for the program if it were something that was a local school district OPTION and even more in favor if it were “parents can pay for it”. Kind of like the private preschool they all can buy today, just offered by the local school district. It would seem that many folks have forgotten that Kindergarten started as EXACTLY that, a totally OPTIONAL preschool to prepare those who needed a little extra for their FIRST grade of school… So now we are getting a slow recursion into pre-pre-preparation… ALL on the public taxpayer dime. Because it feels good “for the children”…

California school districts prepare for a new grade level: transitional kindergarten

By Katy Murphy
Oakland Tribune
Posted: 11/28/2011 06:56:42 AM PST

We voted down ‘preschool’ so now it’s relabeled as “transitional kindergarten”…

Soon, many children in California will have two years to learn how to share, count and sound out words before they move on to first grade.

A new state law, the Kindergarten Readiness Act, gradually will move the birthday cutoff date for new kindergartners from December to September. The law also requires districts — beginning next year — to offer a new grade level for children with fall birthdays who are too young to start kindergarten. Researchers and advocates say transitional kindergarten, as it’s called, will better prepare children to be successful in school.

In California, where education cutbacks have become the norm, some marvel that the state is creating something new for kids.

“It’s one of those little bright lights in an otherwise dark scene,” said Stanford University education professor Deborah Stipek, an expert on early education.

Unlike universal preschool, a ballot measure rejected by California voters in 2006, not all children will have access to the two-year kindergarten program. Only children with birthdays between Sept. 2 and Dec. 2 — those who would have been eligible for kindergarten under the old system — will be guaranteed a slot once the program is fully implemented in 2014.

Surly Curmudgeon

I’m sure I’m now going to be cast as a Surly Curmudgeon. What could possibly be more evil that wanting to deny little children the help they NEED? What could be more heartless than leaving them ignorant and abandoned?


What I’ve observed is that kids learn. Everything, and all the time. Often they learn more out of school than they do IN school. Especially the younger they are. In many cases, being institutionalized just kills their learning, exploring, and developing. That, btw, is the whole idea behind the move toward the Montessori method.

So it’s not like I’m going out on a limb here and saying something made up from thin air… I’ve seen kids in Montessori schools, and they often progress very fast indeed. IIRC, we had our kids in a Montessori preschool (paid for from MY pocket) and it worked well. (Or maybe the school was only a ‘semi-Montessori”… it’s been 20 years now and I’ve not thought about it in a while ;-)

I’ve also noticed, over the years, many stories of folks from the Frontier Days who had no formal school at all as a kid, then when plunked into a school at about 12 or so, would complete the first few grades in a single year. We all learn academic things faster as we get older (much of the earliest years being spent soaking up language and culture; so later, when those cycles are available, we can go faster on the more abstract stuff) up to about age 10. So, IMHO, it would be quite reasonable to just let kids be kids until about 10. THEN hit them with the academic track. As it is now, we are just truncating their ability to explore, create, invent, be independent, develop their own sense of interests, etc. (BTW, my High School Chemistry teacher held this opinion so that’s where I first ran into it. Spent many years trying to refute it. I’m now pretty sure he was right.)

For some of us, school was largely just a forced labor camp prison anyway. Can’t say that I learned much at school until about middle of high school. My mother taught me to read (before 1st grade) and most of history I learned on my own. I did get some math exposure of interest in about 5th grade… When we learned number bases, factoring, and ‘new math’ … and I realized that I’d been doing factoring when in 2nd or 3rd grade where we were required to memorize the ‘times table’ and I’d noticed it had patterns.

I did 9x as 3x3x and I did 10x as a decimal point shift. 8x was 2x4x. The elevens were a 10x and add. It was the 12x that was my downfall… Doing verbal ‘times tables’ exams with the teacher I was in the middle of a particularly long one when she called “time” on me. I think it was 12 x 9 and I’d hit 3 x 3 x 3 x 4 and was pondering that in any case I ended up with some combination of 12 and 9 or 27 x 4 and had decided to go for 27 x 4…. So, two weeks later I’d memorized a few sparse entries of the table (the ones with long factoring strings) and passed. It was gratifying to find out there was a theory behind what I was doing and it was “good”… as I’d been told it was “bad” to not memorize my ‘times tables’… but it just seemed more ‘compact’ to do it via factors… Having a name for them was a comfort.

Then another long gap until about my Sophomore or Junior Year of high school. Chemistry, physics, advanced math and calculus were all interesting. Biology I’d already pretty much learned on my own at the library. Radio Class was fun (we built radios) but I’d also been doing that on my own… I had a better grasp of the sweep of history than most (from movies and books), so class was mostly the mind numbing memorize dead politicians and dates crap. Freshman English was largely an exercise in learning to hate a language I loved (and could use better than most in the class, including the ‘teacher’ of my first year… my second teacher was a gem, though). She saved me from hating the topic via being a decent human being and actually caring about communications more than sentence diagrams …. How can you learn to love a thing by killing it and dissecting it?…

All told, probably about 2 years worth of my internment were of benefit… But it kept a bunch of teachers employed…

No, I’m not special. There were a fairly large number of “dumb as a post” kids who would have been better off learning a trade (and most of them did, just not in school). We DID have a large shop in high school where most of them learned to fix cars, tractors, pumps, and we had a couple of lathes they learned. Oh, and we had ‘home economics’ (which is rather redundant as ‘economics’ means ‘home laws’ so it’s “home home laws”) that was largely ‘how to cook’. I wanted to take it, but as I’d been cooking since I was 6 anyway and as it was an ‘all girls’ class, decided to spare myself the “embarrassment”. Oh, and I DID take the typing class. Me and almost all girls. They went on to be secretaries. I went on to college. Probably the most valuable class I had in high school. (But now kids learn to type before they can write… all on their own…) For most of those kids, the time spent in things like “Civics” and “Geography” class were pointless, only being slightly more useful than their time in geometry and physics…

( I know, I tutored many of them. Just enough to get done, then they would flush it from their minds). BTW, the “shop” and home economics are now gone, along with band. Not academic enough (and too useful to life skills… )

So maybe I’m biased…

But if I had it to do over again, I’d have skipped most of my school years; spent a lot more time in the library, and likely picked it up in about the middle of High School – at about age 12… I know that many of my classmates would have been better off skipping a lot of it and just taking “shop” along with ‘remedial english’ and ‘remedial math’ in high school (which they took anyway).

But for whatever reasons, our society has decided to send Every Child off to Kinder Reeducation Kamp; now to begin even earlier…

Oh well, it’s not like the State is so broke they have no idea how broke they are, like Vallejo has gone bankrupt and serves as roll model for other cities in queue, or that the local counties are largely bankrupt just trying to avoid the actual filing.

No, none of that matters.

I can only speculate that it is because we don’t have a Mandated Economics Class at any point in the curriculum…

You know, we ought to add a year to high school, just so we can fit in a complete Economics education too… ;-)

Subscribe to feed


About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Human Interest, Political Current Events and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Questing for infinite good brings bad

  1. kuhnkat says:

    With the quality of the current educational system we would need to add several years to teach what USED to be taught!!

  2. I suspect that we would not like the economics being taught: “Breaking windows is good for the economy! It keeps people busy!”

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  3. There will be no peace on Earth this holiday season unless world leaders awaken to reality and accept their total powerlessness over the forces of nature.

    World leaders were frightened by the powerful nuclear force that vaporized Hiroshima in 1945 and threatened to destroy the world in a final act of mutual nuclear destruction in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

    They apparently made agreements in 1971 to “save the world” by uniting nations against an imaginary “common enemy” – global climate warming – and thereafter tried to hide, manipulate or ignore experimental data that showed the same nuclear force that destroyed Hiroshima [1]:

    a.) Produced our chemical elements and gave birth to the Earth and the rest of the solar system five billion years (5 Gyr) ago in a powerful supernova explosion [2-5];

    b.) Powers the entire cosmos in its current expansive phase [6]; and

    c.) Powers the Sun and sustains life today [7].

    BBC news from the climate change summit in Durban illustrate the irrational fears that grip the public today.

    1. “Deep roots of the global climate scandal (1971-2011)”

    Click to access 20110722_Climategate_Roots.pdf

    2. “Elemental and isotopic inhomogeneities in noble gases: The case for local synthesis of the chemical elements”, Transactions Missouri Academy Sciences 9, 104-122 (1975)

    3. “Strange xenon, extinct super-heavy elements, and the solar neutrino puzzle”, Science 195, 208-209 (1977)

    4. “Isotopes of tellurium, xenon and krypton in the Allende meteorite retain record of nucleosynthesis”, Nature 277, 615-620 (1979)

    5. “Noble gas anomalies and synthesis of the chemical elements”, Meteoritics 15, 117-138 (1980)

    6. “Is the Universe Expanding?”, The Journal of Cosmology 13, 4187-4190 (2011)

    7. “Neutron Repulsion”, The APEIRON Journal, in press (2011)

    With kind regards,
    Oliver K. Manuel
    Former NASA Principal
    Investigator for Apollo

  4. david says:

    kuhnkat (09:26:00) :

    “With the quality of the current educational system we would need to add several years to teach what USED to be taught!!” And many more years to unteach what is now taught, that should not be.

    E.M., your discussion is logical, but much to nuanced for the leftist mind set. For them it is always about what feels good, what sounds right, and mindlessly they wish the Govt to do what is “right”. What the world really needs is involved caring parents, not more state educators teaching little children that a gay person was a hero in the civil war.

    BTW, does anyone remember the title of the post E.M. did on the economic crisis where the causes were extensively discussed?

  5. david says:

    If you want children to be mindless robots parroting the state, then by all means, the sooner you remove them from their parents the better. Sooner then one thinks they will be willing to imprison and torture for authority.

  6. John says:

    How about a post on ‘what is your first thought when a discussions begins with how smart we are?’

  7. Jason Calley says:

    I do not remember where I saw this quote: “Public school — twelve years of prison for the crime of being a child.”

  8. Pascvaks says:

    You have to be poor to really appreciate the value of money. I think that one day all Americans will again really appreciate the value of money. It just takes time, but the way we’re so hell bent on learning everything there is to learn, I have a feeling it won’t be long a’tall.

    Sometimes, I guess, it’s possible to be too rich. Like too fat. Or too drunk. Or too stupid to realize you’re caught up in a mob of idiots running full speed off a high rocky, wind swept cliff into a heaving, storm tossed ocean below. Sometimes, I guess, people are capable of every imagined weakness and self-deception. Don’t you just wish that people truly understood the value and cost of things? Nothing in life is free. Everything has a price. And just about everything is too damn expensive too.

    Some great mind once said, “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”

    Another great mind once said, “If it can go wrong, it will.”

    It was probably one very old poor woman who once told some guy named Johnson that “The path to hell is paved with good intentions.” Of course, Johnson was a little drunk and said, “Hell is paved with good intentions.” (Well, I guess he wasn’t all that drunk;-)

    California ‘n Bust! Hee haa!!!

    “Go East Young Man! Go East!”

  9. Chuckles says:

    others prefer to present a different narrative.

    I think the conclusions I draw from the anecdote are different to the ones the author would have us draw.

  10. Jason Calley says:

    @ Chuckles “I think the conclusions I draw from the anecdote are different to the ones the author would have us draw.”

    I suspect that you and I both drew the same conclusion. Here is an adult taking a 10th Grade standardized test. This adult claims to have a BS, two Masters and working toward a Doctorate who says “The math section had 60 questions. I knew the answers to none of them, but managed to guess ten out of the 60 correctly. On the reading test, I got 62% . In our system, that’s a “D”, and would get me a mandatory assignment to a double block of reading instruction.”

    Something is seriously wrong with this picture, and I have a hard time blaming all of it on the difficulty of the test!

  11. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jason Calley and Chuckles:

    My spouse has a story that I can not completely share, but can hint at…

    The Tests came to her school. Seems some of the teachers needed help understanding the math section that they were to assure the kids could pass…

    IIRC, these were 4th and 5th grade teachers…

    There was a bit of a ‘cascade around the room’ as the first one to ask turned to another who turned to another… until it ended on a teacher who thought maybe they could explain it…

    The teachers hate ‘teaching to the test’ both because it’s a lousy way to teach and because it’s a lousy test to which to teach. Ever less time spent on the kids and what they need; ever more on the test and how to game pass it.

  12. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. “There was a bit of a ‘cascade around the room’ as the first one to ask turned to another who turned to another… until it ended on a teacher who thought maybe they could explain it… ”

    I try to never underestimate the amount of…uh…O.K., I’ll say it! …”stupidity” at loose in the world. I really don’t know what word to use; I keep thinking “waking sleepwalking”, and maybe that is kinder and actually a little more accurate. However… here is a quick true story. About fifteen years ago I was sent to a Big Box Store whose lay-away department had been struck by lightning. The department computer was fried and I had to get it running as quickly as possible. (Sales! We are missing sales!). Anyway, I am hunkered over an ancient PC with an old 8080 processor and running DOS. Not looking hopeful… The department head says, “OK, staff! We are going to do this manually! Write down the names, contacts, etc., to file with the law away, and we will do it the old way!” OK, I think, you folk go to and let me work on this PC! Trouble soon develops. The first customer is almost finished doing the paperwork dance when the cashier discovers that she does not know how much of a deposit to hold. The total for the goods was roughly $216 or some such, and she cannot figure what 10% of that should be. Cashier calls Head Cashier. She cannot figure out 10% either. She leaves, comes back with a calculator. Still no conclusion. Head cashier pages Department Manager over. There are now three of them – cashier, Head Cashier, Department manager and a calculator and they have no idea what 10% of $216 is. No idea. They are throwing out figures. Tap tap tap on the calculator – $61.59? $12.60? They are lost, lost, lost. I finally cannot stand it anymore and say “$21.60!” All three stare at me like I have just recited the first page of Finnegan’s Wake. Department Manager yells, “That sounds right!”

    Luckily, I did get their system back up…

    Anyway, God bless the teachers. They have been stuck on the front line of the battle against ignorance and have no way of getting rid of the superiors who are sabotaging the war effort.

  13. Judy F. says:

    Don’t even get me started on mandates. I am on the Town Council of our small town, and we are dealing with a sewer issue. Our little sewer system just perks along, doing what a sewer system is supposed to do. However, the EPA has made some new rules, so we are having to revamp our sewer system, to the tune of one and a half million dollars. We told them that we would test the surrounding wells to see if there is contamination. “That won’t make any difference” we were told. There is no contamination as far as we can tell, there is no surface water pollution, there is no smell, there have been no complaints. But we are out of compliance. The per capita cost of the new system is over $6,000. One half of the town residences are senior citizens or single parents. We only have two businesses, so a sales tax wouldn’t raise enough money to make any difference. But by golly, we are mandated to fix a non problem. This is my curmudgeony rant for the day.

    Now for the education rant. :) I have a set of the old “McGuffey Readers” that so many of our forebearers used in school. The first reader starts out with the simple words Cat, Sat, Rat. The fifth book has works of Charles Dickens and Louisa May Alcott. The sixth book has essays from General Lee and works from William Shakespeare. The books include stories that teach morals as well as stories from the Classics of Greece and Rome.

    Students now aren’t exposed to literature, that until very recently, comprised what an educated person should know. What is even worse, is that some textbooks don’t teach facts. When my younger daughter was taking a high school history class, her textbook didn’t even have the answers to questions that were asked at the end of the chapters. You had to infer from what was written, what the answer might be. When I complained to the teacher, her answer was that the book wanted the students to think about what was written and come up with an appropriate answer. Had the textbook been asking “What was your understanding of this story?” I could have accepted the teacher’s reply. Since it was a history textbook, I think we should have been able to find the answer to “who settled in this area?”

    So we have State mandated programs that merely throw children into learning at the lowest common denominator level, and textbooks that don’t teach. Throw in all the organized after school activities ( sports, dance, karate etc) and when do most kids have time to play as well as learn life lessons?

    I am so glad that my kids grew up on the farm, where they learned responsibility; they learned how to entertain themselves; they learned how to build and make things ( as well as how NOT to build and make things). They saw life and death up close. In other words, they also learned some common sense. Unfortunately, that can’t be mandated, which is too bad, because it surely is in short supply.

  14. H.R. says:

    E.M.!! My kind of guy! The very 1st thing in my mind whenever any government proposal is made at any level is “How much is this going to cost me?”

    The only place government gets money is from a tax or “fee” (which = tax anyhow). Government is NOT a profit center.

    If there’s going to be a tax, I prefer it be enacted at the lowest level possible and that it be a “user fee” whenever possible.

    I actually have a favorite tax that I gladly pay; my fishing license. In my state, all the money taken in from fishing, hunting, and boating licensing goes straigght to the Department of Natural Resources agency that uses the money. We have great fishing areas, well stocked lakes and reservoirs, plenty of game with legacy species (eg wild turkey) being raised and managed to a huntable population, great boat ramps and campgrounds, and a fair amount of clean loos scattered about.

    The politicians have been trying for as long as I can remember (40+ years being aware of the issue) to get that revenue to go to the general fund first. They have yet to succeed. We even had a one-term governor precisely because of that issue.

    So maybe pre-preschool should only be paid for by the users. Oh wait! We already have private education available.

    For the record, I didn’t start school until I was 7 due to the birthday cut-off date, and I did poorly in school; too busy reading during class – read the text the first week or two and then spent the rest of the time on books that interested me. I’d average about 2 books a day at school.

  15. Pascvaks says:

    Sometime after college I learned that the old saying that “there’s no such thing as a stupid question” was actually true in most cases and I’ve been trying my best to test it whenever possible. “Stretching (or ‘pushing’) the envelope”, as they say. How did it happen, you ask? Well, this four-star asked me a “Stupid Question” and I was dumbfounded and stuck at the podium with my mouth agape and looking kind’a like a Caveman without a rock. I had just finished briefing him and asked if he had any questions. Well, on some very “obvious-to-a-3rd-grader” issue he just asked one question: “Why?”. That evening, with drinks in our hands, he came up to me and said, “I wasn’t trying to stump you, sometimes the obvious isn’t really that obvious, sometimes we assume much that we shouldn’t.” He was absolutely right. He was a very good teacher.

    Sometimes ‘polite company’ will assume things that they shouldn’t and find themselves out on a thin little limb without a paddle. You know what I mean;-)

  16. Mark says:

    We are beset with the same thing where I live, in Boulder, CO. We have to vote on tax measures, because of an amendment to our state’s constitution in 1992. It doesn’t matter in Boulder, though. Any do-goodery is passed almost without exception by the voters. It’s pointless to argue costs. What matters is that “we’re doing something.” It doesn’t matter if it’s effective. The doing is what matters, and believing.

    I see a lot of people, both in real life and on television who, by my own judgment, exist in a dream state. I see this particularly with wealthy people. People who are middle class or poor tend to have less of this from my experience, since reality smacks them in the face more. The thing is, most of them are pretty clueless when it comes to policy and budget matters. I was disappointed to learn that most Tea Party members wanted a smaller government “that worked according to the Constitution,” but no cuts to Medicare…

    The people I’m talking about try to set up their lives so that they flit and hop from one pleasant, or exciting experience to another. If they can’t get it in their daily life, they resort to drugs to try to get it. You have a problem with them, and try to confront them, YOU’RE the problem! Why? Because you’re ruining their positive vibes, you #%^hole!

    They try to keep themselves in a state of constant positivity, never understanding much of anything. They bob on a sea of emotion. What matters to them is that everyone’s psychology is “okay.” Personally I think they’ve got “issues” going on, but they think the same of me. It seems to work out pretty well for them, because most other people they know are doing the same thing. They try to reinforce their positive vibes. You try to argue reality with them…well, now you’re asking them to think. POP! Immediately they think, “Oh, you’re a conservative. You’re part of the problem.” They try to get back in that “bubble” as fast as they can. You’re not contributing to their positive vibes. Everything good comes from positive vibes. Haven’t you watched “The Secret?” They have a religious faith about them that if they just believe hard enough, and do what the people they believe in (rather like their priesthood) tell them to do, it will all work out.

    When it doesn’t work out, well it must’ve been people you who caused the problem, because you weren’t joining them in their dream. Everyone has to join in, you see, for it to work… It’s magic. Next thing you know, it’s, “Oh!…Look over there! That looks good! Let’s go there!” You ask, “What about this piece of @#$^ you left behind?…Hello???…Hello!!!…” No response. It doesn’t matter. They’re onto the next thing that sends a quiver up their leg. Most of them never learn.

    It seems to me this behavior is commercially induced. Everything about marketing is geared towards engendering this sort of response: Don’t think. Feel. Government and the public employee unions have just reacquired how to tap into that psychology the marketers created. If you haven’t watched it, check out the BBC documentary “The Century of the Self” sometime. It was a real eye-opener for me. You can probably find it on Google Video. It’s enough to make you almost believe that most academics are passe, and a waste of time. The real action in economics, politics, and power takes place in the realm of psychoanalysis and Public Relations. Clinton didn’t understand how to use it properly. Obama does. Some pundits are already thinking Obama is a one-term president, because his poll numbers are so low. I don’t buy it. The Republican challengers against him are no great shakes, and people still want to believe.

  17. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Obama is Good at only one thing. His own words, “Just tell those that you are talking to what they want to hear.” The Great Deceiver. Some people just want to be fooled all of the time. He will be replaced by a wise old man.
    Such is the prophecies for this period. “When the net covers the world”. pg

  18. E.M.Smith says:


    Oh dear… there was a great youtube video on that I just watched a day or two ago (and can’t find now…). The ones where an artist on a white board illustrates while a lecture / talk happens… AVB? something like that…

    Folks getting emotionally squashed for the near criminal act of telling other folks the truth and being a ‘buzz kill’…

    Yes, the ‘social play’ is where it’s at, but I don’t think it’s new nor needs TV. Hitler had it. Got folks all wound up on the soup de jure (it’s a pun, honest…)

    And The French Revolution came about due to a generation of those in power busy ‘flitting’ while the peasants got grumpy… “Let Them Eat Cake!” meets “Off With Her Head!!”… (Sound advice for our present crop of aristocracy: Make sure the “bread and circuses” keep working…)

    Which also brings up the list of Roman Emperors that didn’t seem all that much in touch with reality (in the later years – during the Republic years Rome grew and expanded rather well…)

    So we’ve changed the props on the stage; it’s the same play.

    People get rich. Politicians get greedy and uncaring about “limits”, take eye off growth drivers and raise taxes. People get poor. Politicians and Aristocracy don’t notice … People get rid of politicians and aristocracy and start to rebuild after collapse. Repeat…

    My only complaint, really, is that it takes a few hundred years in a Republic. (Democracies can be below 100, and Fascist and Communist forms of Socialists can range down to a half dozen years up to about 50, for Nazi and USSR respectively). Empires can take a bit longer as long as the boots on the throats stay paid.

    Now that we are a “Lange Type Socialism”, we’ve got under 50 years. I’d place it at over 10, then again, we’re already into it about 5 … (dating from when Baby Bush started the bailout negotiations). Call it about 15 from “now” as most probable. 2025 or so?

    @P.G. Sharrow:

    One can only hope. It is possible to pull back from the abyss by just going back to a distributed Republic. It’s the doing it that’s hard…

  19. P.G. Sharrow says:

    WE need a constitutional amendment to create a Constitutional tribunal that can override any branch of government and prosecute with teeth any politician or bureaucrat that is in violation of the word of this sacred contract. Any good ideas on how to make it idiot (or lawyer)proof? pg

  20. E.M.Smith says:


    FOUND IT: You just must watch this… it’s exactly your point…

    It kind of drifts off track at the end (into the idea that markets are just positive thinking, not seeing actual market forces as real) but the social/psychology part of it prior to getting lost in market economics is pretty good.

  21. P.G. Sharrow says:

    That was intense! pg

  22. @E. M. Smith:

    I hope you’ll forgive me, but I did not care for the video at all. The speaker’s self-asserted “realism” manages to get a great deal of information wrong, and ignores how much the learned skill of controlling your own attitude and mindset CAN help. She’s so essentially wrong that the useful aspects, which struck me as somewhere around 20%, get lost.

    She does not understand the economic meltdown — and so blames it on Countrywide. She does not understand the … well, she gets a lot wrong.

    The artist was good, but was wasted on this material … in my opinion.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  23. E.M.Smith says:

    @Keith DeHavelle:

    I’ve added a note about ‘getting lost in the economics’ (as I’d been bothered by that bit too). What really did “connect” for me was a lifetime of having various bosses and other folks get grumpy at me for being honest and correct about things (and not having enough positive attitude…)

    I’ve watched a couple of companies go down in flames on things that could have been fixed from just such “positive attitudes” and IMHO just left my last contract for the same reason. Unwillingness to do “happy talk” and make folks feel good despite knowing it was a lie…

    I do think that the overdone use of ‘positive attitude’ IS real and IS a negative think to the world. (I also recognize that without some of it no great thing ever would get done… it’s the balance that’s needed. If I’d not had some amount of ‘positive thinking’ I’d have never gone on TV saying that global warming had their process wrong… )

    So I’m sorry you got hung up on the bothersome bits and didn’t see the good bits… There WERE a lot of “don’t worry, think positive” issues in the financial crisis. I attended a “learn to sell mortgages” seminar that was full of it and my neighbor (who was selling mortgages then and since lost his home to a short sale…) wanted me to leverage my home to put cash into the stock market (just pre-crash)… and didn’t think my negative attitude about this great idea was helping me… And, in fact, it was the Countrywides and Lehmans of the world who peddled the product “with a positive attitude” and if you spoke of economic prudence to them you were poo-pooed… for negative attitude. (It is just the ‘root cause’ that was government meddling, the CRA, Fanny, Freddy, and The Fed creating money bubbles…)

    In short, I think there is a lot more “good” in the video than you picked up, and if you allow for the speaker being a bit off on some of the economic examples and listen more to the substance about how our Power Of Positive Thinking culture has gone overboard on suppressing valid concerns and emotional state, may well find some more insight hiding in there…

  24. E.M.Smith says:

    @Keith DeHavelle:

    Or, perhaps I ought to say: Hey, you need a more positive attitude about the video!! How can you ever expect to see what’s good in it with such a negative attitude? But I’m not trying to ‘quell dissent’ with optimism…

    ;-) of course…

  25. Well, I am a realist who has survived events (that may yet become a movie) by keeping a positive attitude.

    There a a confusion inherent in the animation (really the speech) between being able to maintain your own attitude in a positive, productive place despite the events of life and a sort of Pollyannaish ignoring of problems. These things not only are very different, they often don’t even look alike. The Pollyannas are often anxious, nervous sorts whistling past the graveyard. They know the problems are there, but don’t want to look and don’t want you to look.

    But if you’ve already been fired and need another job (the first example she works through), it is “realist” to be depressed, and it will not help you in the slightest. By confusing these two different issues, she does her audience a disservice, I think.

    I sampled a few other videos from the same people, and randomly fell on various different ways of promoting socialism — or “21st century enlightenment” as they prefer to call it. But this one, on the “pace of life,” was interesting and thought-provoking and not a call (as in several other RSA videos) to abandon the “myth” that freedom and individualism are good things. This one has a different focus:

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  26. E.M.Smith says:

    Yes, I do find their frequent Socialist Utopian leanings a bit daft… then again, on one ‘collapse economy’ one where they are all anti-Hayek and Pro-Keynes they have a rebuttal by another person on another video…

    I get the impression that the artist picks up other folks speeches, does the animation, and publishes; so doesn’t know any better and just picks stuff he tends to agree with… and being an artist that is more likely collectivism than individualism.

    But the bias isn’t always there, there are others without it, or with different biases. (But that’s the trouble with indoctrination, folks often don’t realize they have it. Like all the papers with the obligatory ‘CO2 warming angle’, it’s just part of the wall paper now…)

    I may be more receptive to the oppression of mandated positive attitude angle as at Disney it IS mandated. A stated requirement to “put on a face” and make sure no experience is ever negative, reality be damned. Fine in the parks, not so fine in an infrastructure department back room trying to make things work that are just not going to work unless someone hears something negative… A bit of web search time will turn up all sorts of stories from folks there. It isn’t just me.

  27. Chuckles says:

    Update blog post on the WP article I posted a couple of days ago –

  28. Jason Calley says:

    @ Chuckles
    re the link above and the low scoring educators, one of the comments had it right:

    A guy notarizes a document with an two X’s.
    The notary says,
    “I’ve never seen someone sign with two X’s before.”
    The guy says,
    “Oh, one is for my name and the other is for my PhD.”

  29. E.M.Smith says:

    @ Jason Calley:

    X XxX… ;-)

  30. At least he had an X-it strategy.

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

Comments are closed.