Sunday, January 05, 2020

buy the war stocks

Let me be honest: I think it's all about money. Somebody is making a killing selling the likelihood of war, and that creates the likelihood of war. Raytheon stocks went up, what, twelve percent, and somebody knew that would happen, and bought low, and sold high.

It's an insult to our boys, who are on their way over there, thinking they're fighting for our freedom. But hey wait a minute; did they really think this was about freedom? In fact, what was it about, anyway? Did anyone give us a reason? I can't see that it's about nuclear capability, because it was us that broke that deal first. I also can't see that it's about "influence" in Iraq. Iraq, if you let the people decide how to run it, is going to go Shi'ite by simple majority. And Shi'ite means Iranian influence. It's that simple: when we toppled Saddam, we made a Shi'ite state. To come in later and say we want to keep telling you how to run the place, is kind of a hopeless bargain.

I actually have very little faith that it was done in good faith. Sure there's a war. We're supposed to hate Iran. I don't really hate Iran. I think they've been taken over by a bunch of misguided religious fanatics, but the same can be said for us. I have no quarrel with the Iranian people. I'm absolutely against the war.

So you have these people that are making big money from this situation. They sell a lot of bombers, and warheads, and armament, and individual soldier outfits. They make the money from the shipping of this stuff overseas where they'll use it and where it is costing us now, what, a few billion a day to have them over there? What bothers me really, is that it's done in my name. That someone would maintain that it's good for us, or that it promotes our freedom, or that Iraq is our ally so we should get Iran out of there.

I'm with Iraq, which told both of us (USA and Iran) to get out, and which should hold us to it, and just make us play out our million-dollar destruction game somewhere else.

As for the people who are making money hand over fist, I say they should go to jail, or at the very least get a job where they can make money that doesn't result in the killing of boys. Kind of like drug dealers - you can make an honest living, but the first step is to see very clearly that what you're doing is wrong. Stop it. Stop killing people. It isn't worth the money.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

truth in the age of trump

Somebody recently pointed out a few things about the propaganda war that really disturbed me, so I thought I would write about it. It was mainly just a plain old guy in a red state pointing out what he saw, but it struck home to me because, though I am technically in a blue state, I also am surrounded by this situation.

What he said basically was that the right's propaganda machine had eight years to hone itself into perfection, as it basically tried things that worked and got people to believe fundamental lies. One of these was that Obama was a Muslim, and that he wasn't born in the US. But a more general one was that Obama represented a foreign takeover of our government, that the deep state was involved, that Clinton was responsible for a number of murders and suicides, and that immigrants use up millions of dollars of entitlement revenue.

We can examine each of these in terms of its truth value, and mainstream media (MSM) has been pretty good about getting to the bottom of them whenever possible (which is their job). When you ask, how come 40 or 50 percent of people believe Obama is a Muslim, that should be our first clue that this propaganda machine is pretty effective and that people are no longer relying on objective truth. But the problem has obviously gotten more serious. Back in the Obama days, I figured (and so did most of us, I presume), what difference does it make if 40% of people believe some obvious untruth about Obama's religion or birth?

Well, the problem is, now 40-50% believe that 1) it's ok for Republicans to throw elections, 2) nothing Trump did even compares to what Hunter Biden has done, 3) that Hillary's emails were the real problem; and 4) that Trump shouldn't have to respect Congress or respond to their subpoenas etc. It's a kind of systematic, all-encompassing propaganda that basically takes apart our democracy and our system. And underlying it is the fundamental distortion that what MSM says itself is a kind of propaganda.

But it's not just two different opinions here. On the one side we have almost all the mainstream news outlets reporting the facts, which are, that after all those years, there really wasn't much scandal to Hillary's emails, outside of perhaps putting a few of them on the wrong server. On the other side, we have a relentless and ubiquitous propaganda machine that has resulted in the belief that Hillary killed Epstein, and that a president shouldn't have to follow the law.

We are deluded if we think the majority of us simply care about the truth and will finally go to the side of the truth. If the machine represents the dems as evil, brown, murderous, etc., then those who follow the machine will never go that way.

And remember, we're talking every doctor's office, 50% of living rooms, most mainstream churches (a major source of this Obama-is-a-Muslim crap), and most of talk radio. I see the two biggest perpetrators as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, but they aren't the only ones. It's a kind of collective effort that has stepped up its efforts as they feel more and more cornered by the facts (demographic, for example: they can clearly see that, even without immigration, the tide is turning against white numbers in the US). Racism is an underlying current and motivating force, but, because they can't say things like "Make America White Again," they say things like "Obama is a Muslim." Eight years of this gave them a chance to figure out what worked but Trump gave them a leader, willing to use their code to rally the racist vote and do things that the propaganda machine would support.

It's dangerous, it's evil, and it's fundamentally opposed to the truth.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

general report

I was chugging along peacefully, somewhat burnt out on ESL, when our family decided not to go back to Texas in the summer of 2016 and stayed up here high in the mountains of southeast New Mexico. It's a slightly isolated environment, but we have a community, and though our online connection is spotty, we each get to use the internet when the others are asleep.

I have kept my online jobs: tutoring at the writing center at Texas Tech, and teaching Chinese children online, and pretty much let go of substitute teaching in the public schools, which I was doing in Alamogordo. I was getting older (65) and the kids were getting younger, and when we moved way out to the country, it became too far to drive for too little reward. Also, we have a situation at home that requires much more of our attention; our youngest adopted children have grown and require a unique kind of attention now. So, I'm down to two jobs.

In my writing, I've become somewhat absorbed in my ancestry; this happens sometimes when you are my age. In my case the line of Leverett descent is a little foggy, especially around the American Revolution (1760-1780) and the witch trials (1692). Those times were especially intense for those who lived in Boston (as most of the Leveretts still did) and they got caught up in things, rather than writing it all down carefully. There are two wild things about that: one is that much more is online now than ever before. In other words, I can find stuff that previous genealogists in the family had no access to, and I can find it without leaving my chair; most of the ones who did anything about it, including my parents, actually made trips to Boston or Salt Lake or wherever, and still didn't find any more than I have.

But second, there are really fascinating things that were happening back then, and it just gets thicker as I go. There was a movement among many of these relatives to go to Windsor, Vermont, a small village on the Connecticut River, as apparently there was land there and a fine old mansion not far from the village. This one guy had fourteen kids, but he was a gentleman farmer, apparently because his father had made enough money that he didn't have to worry too much about income. But the father, who had sold British goods in a warehouse on the Town Dock in Boston, lost everything in the occupation of Boston by British troops, when suddenly selling British goods was the wrong trade to be in. And somewhere in there, an ancestor is lost. Somebody ended up out on a farm in Needham, Mass., and the guy in Vermont, though he had fourteen, none of them seem to be ours at all. One of them started an axe factory, though.

So you see where my passions have gone. I'm not finished yet. I'll update this blog and put some of this stuff up here, for, as long as I have a professional side of me, I'll keep this going. I still have a personal blog that collects the personal side of me and where I will archive what's going on with my family. What happens there is that I like to have family pictures, but I don't like the labels to make it easier for them to show up on google images. So I put the labels on other pages, and it's a little more tedious. But my genealogy work has convinced me that it's important to let future people sort out what happened and how. Somebody will tell my story, and when that happens, I want them to have some decent material.

Friday, November 01, 2019

trick or treat

Since I post so rarely on this blog these days, I'm afraid this post will last way too long, with the small-town rural world lurching toward Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year. But I have something to say about trick-or-treating before it's too late.

One aspect of trick-or-treating is way too much candy for all the children, though that's true of Easter and Christmas also, and often comes at the expense of a real meal or two, at least in my family. I wouldn't be sad to see that part go, but instead, that part is still here: kids are sick the next day; everyone's had too much; mom is hiding the candy, you know the drill.

I live way out in the country now and there is a lot less trick-or-treating out here than in town. In fact I would venture a guess that trick-or-treating is down to about 25% of what it used to be, and disappearing fast. There are neighborhoods in towns where it is alive and well, but there are whole swaths of towns, big or small, where it's all but gone. And I'll be the first to say, I'll miss it.

It's not the costumes, really. Those got worse over the years; they used to be homemade, and very clever, but over the years they became more likely store-bought, One year one of my kids was laughed at in the mall because his costume was homemade, not store-bought. What, I said, does everyone have to go out and spend $30 a kid now? But just the other day, I found one at the Family Dollar for five. I think they got onto the fact that, since they are only being worn once, or twice at most, they don't have to last forever.

What I will miss about trick-or-treating is the neighbor interchange. A set of parents answers the door, admires a kid, says he's cute, or clever, and gives him a piece of candy. All year long, the kid has been stepping in their garden; now, they look at him or her with recognition, and both relate as neighbors. In the modern world, if you are in a neighborhood that has trick-or-treating, you get maybe hundreds of kids who aren't even neighbors. If you live elsewhere, you have to take your car out to find that place. It's already not the same. The neighbor exchange is strongly diminished.

Out here in the country, you have to walk quite a bit just to find a neighbor. So, I don't think we were expected at most of these houses, although we have about the only kids. But we did have a little adventure about three weeks ago. A phone was supposed to arrive from UPS; it didn't, but UPS, upon being called, claimed that it had been delivered. This phone was important to us, so we went around, trying to see if, by chance, it had been delivered to neighbors.

Some neighbors were a little nervous, since they are approached by strangers so rarely, and we, being new to the neighborhood, were essentially strangers. They were friendly, though, and denied receiving a phone. One said, don't worry, we don't shoot anyone on sight, unless we already know them. But basically, it turned out to be a UPS error; they didn't know what their driver knew, and it hadn't arrived yet, and wouldn't, until about midnight.

What I remember about that day was the October weather. Leaves changing, air fresh and beautiful, dozens of deer out on the grass. October is beautiful everywhere, but especially in the mountains. And I do love our neighbors, though I can't blame them for being a little wary. You are generally left alone way out in these parts, and that's how people prefer it, or they wouldn't move out here. In town, I think, lots of people would love trick-or-treaters, and are disappointed at the silence every year, left alone with a large bowl of candy. The neighborhood is not what it used to be. Trick-or-treating, victim of a false razor-blade tale, victim of being appropriated by churches, which by and large didn't like some of those evil caricatures anyway, has gone by the wayside. And I'll miss it, at least part of it.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

El Paso

Since El Paso is just down the road from here, and the Cielo Vista WalMart is one I might go to at any time, I thought I'd weigh in on the shooting there even before I know all the facts.

One reality today is that we are armed to the teeth. Some angry young white guy on a racial rampage has no trouble getting the arms he needs to attack an entire store full of Hispanic Americans whom he considers the "enemy." And this is entirely for racial reasons. He's white; they're not; they are happy and prosperous; he's not. Shooting up a place is how you do it these days.

One way to see this is that some people are itching for a race war, quick while the white folks are still better armed than the rest (you don't see black folks, or Mexican-Americans, advocating for race wars). A random killing of twenty people will stir things up, for sure. It will probably make people vote, and then Trump will lose, and then the excretory material will really hit the ventilating device.

We go to El Paso to use the airport, and the Costco, which is halfway between the airport road and the Patriot Freeway back to Alamogordo. To us, El Paso is the big city: it has busy freeways, with new cars going eighty or ninety; it has a lot to see even as you try to keep your eyes on the road. It's sun-baked, compared to the mountains, always twenty or thirty degrees hotter. You can't leave your windows up when you park your car.

It is, in fact, prosperous, positive, and maybe 85% Mexican American. University of Texas at El Paso is only 7% white. Almost everyone knows Spanish and uses it for at least part of their day. But I, a white person, almost never hear it (and this is too bad, because I'd actually like to try mine out, though it is the Spanish of a viejo, fifty years ago). It seems to be comfortable with its bicultural nature.

We went to a Chihuahuas (minor league baseball) game one weekend a while ago. I'd gone down to Costco for my hearing aids adjustment but we made a weekend of it. To my sons it was all about food, motel, city. To me, it was about the possibility of walking across the bridge to Mexico. Across the bridge is Juarez, perhaps the most dangerous city in the Americas, sprawling, bigger possibly than El Paso and definitely one of the biggest of the border cities.

People around here all remember the days when people walked across all the time. They'd go over for dinner, or to get drunk, or for whatever, and they'd go back and forth easily. Those days are over. People are afraid to go over these days, and don't. The drug wars have torn the place up, and made it so people who are drunk or just having a good time might be targets. I was afraid to put my boys in that position; I would consider it impossible. Yet I also want them to see another country; it's important to me. To just set foot in another country, speak another language, look back at the USA, I value all of those things, and wanted to do it.

But I woke up the morning we would have done it, and there it was on the news: an incident on the bridge. The Border Patrol was out there rounding people up and arresting them. Not today, I said to the boys; I loaded them up, and brought them home, the hundred ten miles or so of searing desert, back to the base of the mountains.

In isolation, I think of Spanish puns. Namely this one: We all know that "El Paso" refers to "the pass," the place at the mountains, where the mountains leave a place to cross, a place between the mountains where it's easy to travel. But, with the accent on the final o, El Paso' means "it happened," or "he passed;" actually, it could mean a number of things. Couldn't it? Something to think about, I guess.

So this kid was alt-right, fascist, whatever. I have a problem with this. One is that we, New Mexicans, El Pasoans, locals, have known and worked with Mexican-Americans every day for many years. They are our neighbors, our environment, our friends, our colleagues. We can't go anywhere without doing business with friendly, polite, Mexican-Americans who have been here in some cases for generations. It is their city too, as it was held out to them as a promise: you move up here, you live here, you pay your taxes, you join the army, you fight overseas, you become a citizen with all the rights we all have. The idea that this was a white nation was never true out here, as the Spanish were here long before we were, and agreed to be part of the US with the understanding that they could keep their culture and language indefinitely. And it was going fine in that respect, except in Arizona, where whites started acting like they owned the place and started putting people in 110-degree tent camps. In New Mexico, whites were all the minority, and they always knew it. We were the minority, we still are, and the governmental and cultural things we imposed on the area were in some cases well accepted, and in some, well, life went on as usual.

I taught in the Alamogordo schools for a while. Alamogordo is a town about 100 miles north of El Paso, where a lot of people are related to people from El Paso. Among my students were scores of Hispanic names; maybe eighty or ninety percent. But there were people with Anglo names that clearly looked Hispanic, and people with Hispanic names that looked very Anglo. There were was one very white kid who didn't have a word of English; he was from Juarez. There were people who had been in that town for four, five, six generations, with lots of mixing. Anglos had married Hispanics, and then their kids had married each other, and it went on, so that racially they were totally mixed, or in any case I couldn't tell. There were a good twenty or thirty percent of them that I wouldn't want to identify as one race or another; I simply couldn't tell.

And now you want to have a race war? And split up these families, and force them onto one side or another? And why, because white folks are feeling outnumbered, like the other races are gaining ground? Or because some people feel like this country should be white?

I get the idea that it's all about white uprising. There is no doubt, white anxiety is what made it possible for a shill man, a rapist thief, to win the presidency. He represents to them, in his code, the anger that has been building up over the loss of white dominance and privilege. So he activates the mentally unstable forces that play this out. This young kid plays out the role that the race-baiters want him to play, and goes out and kills twenty of my neighbors. It's not easy for a country to keep its cool, and keep from falling apart into racial division and hatred as these people would like. To them, instability leads to war, and war is good. To me, war is never good. And, these are my neighbors.

Enough. I am staying off the highways, staying out of the city. It happened, that's all I can say. It's like 9-11; it's possible for nineteen boys to bring down the empire. How? By spreading permanent racial hatred and making people feel that our tribe is permanently threatened by some other tribe. And in the race to waste all our resources fighting, and increasing security, we all lose. Yes, we're secure. We're locked in, to a hateful country, with the culture that our race has assigned us to. I thought we were better than that, but, I was wrong.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Annals of Public Education, part II

I am ready to admit defeat in my pursuit of full-time teaching in Middle School or High School, as I have now had two instances of failure. True, in both cases students knew I was a sub, and behaved accordingly, refusing to do work or take me seriously. It would perhaps be different if they'd known I was a permanent teacher, with real power over their lives, and the ability to start them off on my own conditions.

Nevertheless, the problem was, in a nutshell, that I was unable to be mean enough to set them on the right course, and, sensing the ability to take advantage of me, they did. There were 25 of them, and one of me, or in some cases, an assistant who was of no value in this regard. If as many as eight students, one-third, of a class like this chooses to make a racket, get out of their seat, throw a paper airplane, or whatever, the teacher's main choice is discipline. Send them to the office. Yell. Plead with them to shut up and do something they really don't want to do. I found myself spending too much time making everyone miserable, most of all myself.

I have two observations to make in order to keep myself from dwelling on my own failure (I may not be finished yet, but I AM 65 now, with social security, etc., and less and less motivation to start over or go full time). First is that class size is by itself the single most determinant factor I have noticed. In a class of 12, it's much easier to make people care; in a class of 25, I've found it virtually impossible. The school district would do better by and large to spend those assistants, by giving them their own group of about eight, and let them teach whatever they can, than by sticking them in there with some teacher who is doing his/her best to manage 25. Anything they could do to lower that number would help greatly.

Second is that by and large, "gifted" and "honors" do the same thing - separating out the better students - but this leaves the other classes weighed down with those who don't care. In my class I found, as I've said, maybe 8 or 9 out of 25 who truly didn't care. Another 5 or 6 were easily swayed if they thought they could get away with not caring, and that's where having a sub was crucial (with a sub, they were more likely to get away with not caring). But the absence of students who did care, I though, made a huge difference. In 6th grade math, we had no honors, and gifted was only a small percentage, so it wasn't a huge numerical balance issue in this last particular case. Earlier, though, I had a similar experience with a 9th grade algebra class, that also broke down into anarchy. Why? Many reasons. Classes should be orderly, with productive learning going on, and I couldn't sustain that. I thought they would just respond to the basic coolness of math; how wrong I was.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Annals of Public Education

This particular sixth grade math class has had three, maybe four teachers, and they know I'm a sub. They're out for blood. They're drunk with power, knowing that if twenty two of them talk at once, what can I do? Keep them all in for lunch detention? Write all their parents?

The district has trouble finding math teachers, and it's not just subs when things fall apart early in the semester. It's right at the beginning, when someone is supposed to sign up for nine months of teaching these little monsters. The kids are actually quite innocent when they arrive, but they work themselves up into a frenzy of hormones when they sense weakness or lack of authority. And, they don't like math. They've had poor math education in the elementaries, and they know it's their weakness. They don't necessarily buy our pleas that it's important for their future. Or, they just get caught up in the fun of beating a sub.

"They're good kids," some people say, but the side I've seen of them hasn't been good. I've seen them using lotion as a weapon; taking little blocks out of a game and throwing them; crumpling up paper and throwing it at each other; leaving so much marker on a seat that other kids get their clothes marked; having to go to the restroom because their face is marked up, or their clothes, or there's lotion in their hair or hands, or any of various problems. They are certainly not doing their math homework. They don't know from averages. They can't answer simple questions. One can't read their handwriting. Their numbers don't make any sense, or, are copied from their friends, or both.

You may think all this is my fault, that perhaps I'm not stern enough for them. Yes, I guess that's true. I've been as mean as I could be, and it wasn't mean enough. I yelled and screamed, but they threw a little block at me when I turned my back. They stood on tables, and wrote on all the boards. They took whole boxes of kleenex out of the cupboards when I turned my back.

I'm too old for this, I might say. They don't think I'll make it, so they haven't given me the keys to the Synergy, or grading program. Without power over their grades, I'm just a sub - why should they listen? And, I have jury duty on Tuesday. Maybe I'll get a break from the whole ordeal.

Sixth grade math is not that hard. It forces them to think, though, and they've developed a resistance to that. They're too busy talking to think. They might be able to think at home, or maybe in a room with another teacher. At the moment, though, it's all-out war.