Thursday, April 26, 2018

More On The Skilled Trades Gap

Following up my previous post about the need for skilled labor in the Midwest comes a story from NPR, High-Paying Trade Jobs Sit Empty, While High School Grads Line Up For University. NPR isn't exactly the radio station of choice for skilled tradespeople so it is kind of an interesting choice for them to run an article which seems to run counter to what you would expect from the highly education class of people that make up public radio's audience.

While a shortage of workers is pushing wages higher in the skilled trades, the financial return from a bachelor's degree is softening, even as the price — and the average debt into which it plunges students — keeps going up.

But high school graduates have been so effectively encouraged to get a bachelor's that high-paid jobs requiring shorter and less expensive training are going unfilled. This affects those students and also poses a real threat to the economy.

The article interviews several young skilled tradespeople, including a 20 year old steel worker, making $50,000 or more annually. In fact as the article points out there are millions of these jobs:

In all, some 30 million jobs in the United States that pay an average of $55,000 per year don't require bachelor's degrees, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce.

Making $55,000 or more while not carrying about $55,000 or more in student debt is a pretty good deal. Sure these jobs can be physically difficult and you get dirty but there isn't much glamor to be found sitting in a cubicle watching yourself slowly die.

Of course, this being NPR, there has to be an obligatory nod to the specter of "racism" or what they refer to as "tracking":

These perceptions fuel the worry that, if students are urged as early as the seventh grade to consider the trades, then low-income, first-generation and ethnic and racial minority high school students will be channeled into blue-collar jobs while wealthier and white classmates are pushed by their parents to get bachelor's degrees.

"When CTE was vocational education, part of the reason we had a real disinvestment from the system was because we were tracking low-income and minority kids into these pathways," Kreamer said. "There is this tension between, do you want to focus on the people who would get the most benefit from these programs, and — is that tracking?"

What utter nonsense. "Tracking" sounds to me like "helping kids assess the best career path", something high schools should be doing instead of just shoving kids into the college path. By any measure minorities, especially blacks, struggle mightily in four-year schools. Look at this chart on improvements in graduation rates for blacks and whites in college from the Education Trust posted by U.S. News & World Report, The College Graduation Gap Is Still Growing:
So as of 2013, after six years only 40% of black students at public colleges and universities have gotten their degree. It is highly probable that the 60% who haven't completed college after six years never will.

Which is worse: a) pushing minority kids into college where they are much more likely to fail and come away with nothing but debt or discouragement or b) running a risk of "tracking", which in this case means encouraging minority kids to get job skills that lead to high paying, worthwhile employment? It seems to me that the greater disservice by far is to discourage or at least withhold encouragement from them to attend trade school to learn a skill than it is to not sufficiently encourage them to go to college where only 2 in 5 actually graduates. Are we doing a service to black kids by sending them to college to make white liberals feel better about themselves?

A partial college degree doesn't do anything for you in the workforce. In fact if I was interviewing someone who said they went to college for 5-6 years and still didn't graduate, I would wonder about their ability to meet deadlines and complete tasks. As for "first generation", i.e. children of immigrants I assume, what better way to integrate them into America than for them to learn a skilled trade?

It is a pretty good article, linked to on Facebook by America's number one advocate for skilled trades, Mike Rowe. Given all the resources for people to get into the trades, it should be an easy choice for kids who just aren't interested in college.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Do We Need A Lynching Memorial And Is It Helpful?

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, taken from
https://eji.org/national-lynching-memorial
I saw a news story that proclaimed the opening of a new memorial  this week in Alabama called the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. The memorial will commemorate the lynching of some 4000 blacks in America from shortly after the Civil War until 1950.

Visitors to the new National Memorial for Peace and Justice first glimpse them, eerily, in the distance: Brown rectangular slabs, 800 in all, inscribed with the names of more than 4,000 souls who lost their lives in lynchings between 1877 and 1950.

The period covered here is 73 years. 4000 lynchings in 73 years works out to 54 per year.

I want to treat carefully here because a clumsy reading of what comes next could be misinterpreted, intentionally or unintentionally, as suggesting that lynching was not a big deal.

It was. 

Most lynchings were murder, pure and simple, and the use of hanging to murder black men carried a clear message of racial hatred to black men: step out of line and you can find yourself at the end of a rope. It was a form of domestic terrorism and it is a stain on the history of the United States.

So why even bring it up?

I bring it up because much of the black community is stuck in the world of 50 years ago. Blacks deal with disproportionate levels of crime, poverty, family breakdown and other social ills compared to other races but no one wants to talk about that, instead we always end up talking about the past.

For example, Chicago alone has seen more murders in the last decade than the total number of recorded lynchings and most of those were black men killed by other black men. In cities around the country it is not unusual for there to be as many black men killed in a year by other black men as were lynched on average more than half a century ago. According to this report,

FACT 1. Over 1,400 more black Americans murdered other blacks in two years than were lynched from 1882 to 1968.

According to FBI data, 4,906 black people murdered other blacks in 2010 and 2011. That is 1,460 more black Americans killed by other blacks in two years than were lynched from 1882 to 1968, according to the Tuskegee Institute.

Not only are black men murdered at a staggering rate, it is important to recognize that black men are committing murder at an equally staggering rate. At less than 7% of the population, black men commit over half of all murders in this country and most of those are black men murdering other black men. There are a lot of reasons for this but I wouldn't think that insufficient awareness of lynchings in the South from half a century ago is a significant factor.

A young black man is under no serious, credible threat of being lynched in 2018. Nor was he in 2008 or 1998 or 1988. He really isn't in much danger statistically-speaking from  the cops either, in spite of the hysterical rhetoric, especially if he is not committing a crime. However a young black man is in a great deal of danger of being murdered in 2018 by another young black man.

That is a REAL problem and it is happening NOW, not more than 50 years ago.

Here is another real number. On average nearly a thousand black babies are aborted every day. In a week more black babies are killed in the womb than the total of blacks lynched throughout the ugly 73 year period when lynchings were taking place in this country but few advocates of "Peace and Justice" seem to care about that. From the article linked above, you can see how devastating abortion has been to the black community.

From 1973 to 2012, abortion reduced the black population by 30%, and that doesn't even factor in all the children that would have been born to those aborted a generation ago. To put it bluntly, abortion has thinned the black community in ways the Ku Klux Klan could have only dreamed of.

The Klan is not a threat to blacks today. Nor are lynch mobs. "Doctors" in an sterile, professional abortion clinic? That is where the genocide is happening and it is happening with the tacit approval of the United States government and the tax dollars of working Americans.

That is a REAL problem and it is happening NOW, not more than 50 years ago.

My concern is simple. By endlessly revisiting the past and assigning all blame for current problems on events from more than half a century ago, it becomes very easy to ignore contemporary problems and to spend all of our time looking over our shoulders. As someone who is a very amateur historian I think history is critically important but not at the expense of looking around at where we are today.

The mere sight of a noose can send people into a panic even though no one has been lynched in this country since before I was born. Last June a noose was allegedly discovered at the National Museum of African American History and Culture and the whole place was shut down. No suspect was ever identified and no one was ever arrested as far as I can tell, which makes one suspect the whole thing was a hoax, as so many "hate crimes" turn out to be.

Meanwhile former mediocre NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is still invoking the spectre of lynching in completely unrelated events, like in his acceptance speech of an award from Amnesty International.

“Racialized oppression and dehumanization is woven into the very fabric of our nation — the effects of which can be seen in the lawful lynching of black and brown people by the police, and the mass incarceration of black and brown lives in the prison industrial complex,” Kaepernick said.

Wow, it is amazing that no NFL team has grabbed this prize, a guy who can't or won't distinguish between the complicated issue of police using lethal force while carrying out their duties versus a lynch mob hanging a black man for looking at a white woman.

Keeping people terrified of the bogeymen of the past is big business. The ironically named Southern Poverty Law Center, a group that ostensibly tracks “hate groups”, has amassed a massive endowment of nearly half a billion dollars while having top executives that look pretty white to me, all making rather nice salaries from an organization that talks so much about poverty and justice. Like I said, big business indeed.

As long as blacks, and the liberal whites that profit from enabling and encouraging this endless rear-view mirror mindset, focus only on the past and never on the future, the plight of black Americans will never get any better. Even after two terms of a black President, can anyone argue race relations and the situation for blacks is improving? Ironically it is under a man many call a racist, Donald Trump, that black unemployment is finally going down. We are as divided as we have been in my lifetime.

I am not telling blacks that they should just get over lynching but I certainly am suggesting that the issues that plague blacks today have little to nothing to do with the domestic terrorism of the early 20th century and that their focus would be better placed on what is going on now that black women are aborting their children by the thousands a week and black men are murdering each other by the thousands each year.

Lynching was an evil practice that went on for far too long in this country. It deserves to be remembered for the evil that it was but remembering lynching and creating a memorial isn't going to do anything to solve the modern day problems of blacks in America in 2018 and beyond.

Friday, April 20, 2018

The Gap Between Branch Davidians And Baptists Isn't As Wide As You Think

The left-wing site Vox published a fairly even-handed examination of the Waco/Branch Davidian massacre in response to the 25th anniversary, The Waco tragedy, explained. Waco, along with the Ruby Ridge siege a year earlier, were important milestones for me, taking place while I was in college and starting to form my own political beliefs. What they taught me is that the Federal government has no problem with using lethal force against those it considers far enough outside of the mainstream to kill with impunity. Certainly there were serious issues with the Branch Davidians and Randy Weaver was set-up by the government but nothing was going on in Waco that warranted the wholesale slaughter of 80 people.


What I found critical in the article is the way that a designation of "cult" can make it easier for the government to get away with actions that would be unthinkable in more mainstream settings:

The media tended to legitimized the FBI’s raid on Mount Carmel — despite its disastrous outcome for many innocent members of the Branch Davidians, including children — because Waco was a “cult.”

But all too often, notes Dr. Megan Goodwin, a visiting fellow at Northeastern University specializing in American minority religions, the term “cult” is used to delegitimize and diminish religious practices that don’t fit neatly into the American (Christian, often Protestant) mainstream, and justify violence that would not be used against more established religious groups. 
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“When journalists and law enforcement agents use the term ‘cult’ to describe a religious group,” Wessinger writes, “it’s problematic. In fact, studies have shown that once the ‘cult’ label is applied, the group is more likely to be deemed illegitimate and dangerous. It’s then easier for law enforcement agents to target the group with excessive, militarized actions, and it’s easier for the public to place all blame on the supposed cult leader for any deaths.”

The fact that it was so easy to diminish Koresh and his followers as “unworthy victims,” she adds, made it that much easier for the public to accept their deaths. “Religion is a constitutionally protected category. ... And the identification of Waco’s Branch Davidians as a cult places them outside the protections of the state.”

A lot of people look at the Branch Davidians and believe that they got what they had coming to them. They were kooks who didn't fit into our acceptable religious boundaries and so whatever happened to them was no big deal, even though a lot of kids died. It sort of reminds me of the way we collectively shrug our shoulders when a drone strike goes awry and kids get killed. The parents were probably bad people so those kids are just "collateral damage" in our endless meddling war on terror in the Middle East. You gotta break a few eggs if you want to make an omelet and all that.

What a lot of people seem to not understand is that the gap between the government's perspective on the Branch Davidians and your run-of-the-mill Baptists is shrinking. There are already far too many people, especially younger people, who seem to think that not being offended trumps the First Amendment and the precious protections of our natural rights are in more danger than at anytime in recent history. Belief in traditional marriage and opposition to homosexual behavior is, for now, protected speech but all it takes is one court ruling saying otherwise and devout, conservative religious groups can find themselves out in the wilderness pretty quickly. If you think it couldn't happen here because "Muh First Amendment!", just look at the creation of the "right" to homosexual "marriage" whipped up out of thin air. These days the Constitution only means what the courts say it means.

I don't believe what the Branch Davidians believe and I don't agree with Randy Weaver about a lot of things but I also don't want the government burning little kids alive and shooting a woman holding a baby in her arms because the government doesn't like what someone believes. When the government and the media decide you are part of a cult, your rights seem to go out the door. Can we be too far away from a day when teaching kids that homosexuality is sinful and a literal interpretation of Revelation will get you labeled a cultist and invite cops in body armor and automatic weapons to kick down your door? Don't ever let yourself believe the lie that it can't happen here. It already is.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Two Noteworthy Articles

I have had these two articles queued up to share for a while and just haven't gotten around to sharing them but they are too good not to bring to your attention.

The first is from the New York Times (see, I read stuff from the left!) and deals with a relatively unknown side-effect of the now almost ubiquitous antidepressent medications: once you start on them it is hard to stop. The article title says it all Many People Taking Antidepressants Discover They Cannot Quit. Some of the statistics are pretty staggering and it often seems as if the cure is worse than the disease and what it says about our society is troubling:

Antidepressants are not harmless; they commonly cause emotional numbing, sexual problems like a lack of desire or erectile dysfunction and weight gain. Long-term users report in interviews a creeping unease that is hard to measure: Daily pill-popping leaves them doubting their own resilience, they say.

“We’ve come to a place, at least in the West, where it seems every other person is depressed and on medication,” said Edward Shorter, a historian of psychiatry at the University of Toronto. “You do have to wonder what that says about our culture.”

Something has happened in our culture that people are so depressed and anxious. This has been going on for some time but it shows no signs of letting up. That is a bigger topic for a different day.

I have more personal experience with this problem than I would like and I can attest that the toll it takes on you physically and mentally is almost worse than not taking anything at all. This is a disturbing article but the sort of thing journalists should be investigating instead of worrying about strippers and fake news about Russian collusion.

The second article is about something near and dear to my heart, the need for skilled tradespeople. It is from the Wall Street Journal so you may have a paywall issue but I can open it using Opera, my preferred browser, and I hear you can often circumvent the paywall by opening it in a private/incognito tab. The article looks at the worker shortage in the Midwest and especially in Iowa: Iowa’s Employment Problem: Too Many Jobs, Not Enough People. Here in Indiana I know that manufacturers and skilled trades businesses are desperate for people with the right skills, that are not on drugs and that will actually show up to work. In most places of the country I respond to the complaints of open jobs with the fact that we are subsidizing people to not show up to work but in the Midwest that is only part of the problem:

If every unemployed person in the Midwest was placed into an open job, there would still be more than 180,000 unfilled positions, according to the most recent Labor Department data. The 12-state region is the only area of the country where job openings outnumber out-of-work job seekers.

So getting people off of unemployment is a good step but not the total solution. The bigger issue is that the Midwest has seen an outflow of workers, over a million people in this decade alone:

The Midwest has seen an outflow of people. A net 1.3 million people living in the Midwest in 2010 had left by the middle of last year, according to census data.

That makes it hard to fill jobs. The problem is two-fold. First, Americans are just not having enough children. Culturally we need to get back to a place where having a family and raising kids is seen as something noble and worthwhile. The WSJ and people like Bill Kristol would be happy to replace Americans with immigrants who depress wages but that is not a long-term solution, just a short-term band-aid to boost profits. The other problem is that we do subsidize workers to stay out of the workforce. I can understand why it might be more appealing to live on welfare and/or unemployment somewhere warm like California instead of working hard in a less appealing climate like Iowa but there is no reason to have people paid to sit on the sidelines when there are millions of good paying jobs sitting unfilled right now. Americans used to be a very mobile workforce but why move when you can get paid to stay where you are and not work?

It will take a little time but stop paying people to stay unemployed and start encouraging people to have children and the labor shortage in places like Iowa will solve itself.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

The Neocon Tail Wags The Dog Once Again

I woke up this morning to the news I dreaded but knew was coming sooner or later: President Trump ordered cruise missile strikes on targets in Syria in "retaliation" for the rather shaky claims of a chemical weapon attack by Assad.

Like I said, I was fully expecting Trump to do something. He had painted himself into a corner with his bellicose tweets and to not do anything would have made him look weak. Or at least that is probably what Grima Wormtongue/John Bolton was whispering in his ear. Pre-Presidency Trump was very critical of this sort of thing but something happens to men when they realize they can send in the military on a whim. It happened to Nobel Peace Prize winning Obama who developed a near obsession with drone strikes that occasionally hit weddings. We never outgrow playing with plastic army men, as adults some of us play video games and some of us become President.

If there is a bright spot in the whole thing it is that Trump chose a largely face-saving and symbolic attack on facilities that I have to assume had any useful material, if there was some there in the first place, already removed. It was neocon theater, right down to Trump channeling W. Bush with his ironic tweet of "Mission Accomplished" this morning. As far as we can tell no one got hurt, especially no Russians, and the Russians so far haven't done anything about it. It will make the rounds on the talk shows tomorrow morning, John Bolton and the other chickenhawk neocons can enjoy a postcoital cigarette and life goes on. It was a meaningless strike that served only to let Trump say he did something. That doesn't change the fact that it was an act of war against a nation that poses no national security threat to us.

The cruise missiles launched so Trump could save face cost over a million bucks each and over 100 were launched. I wonder how many miles of a border wall you could pay for with a hundred million dollars?

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Book Review: Secret Empires


Peter Schweizer does it again with his newest book Secret Empires. In previous books like Clinton Cash (my review) and Extortion (my review), Schweizer detailed how the Clintons used Hillary's position in the Obama administration to garner massive wealth through their fraudulent "family foundation" as well as how politicians extort money from the very special interests we are supposed to blame for Washington corruption. In his latest book he takes aim at how family members of the powerful political elite use their family influence to gain wealth from foreign powers, a type of influence selling that is not technically illegal because Federal disclosure laws don't cover the family members of Federal employees and elected representatives.

The examples are equal parts stunning and infuriating, nowhere more so than in the massive business deals landed by Hunter Biden and Christopher Heinz, the son of then Vice-President Joe Biden and the stepson of then Secretary of State John Kerry respectively, with the Chinese government, among other equally dubious sources. Often traveling in tandem with their elders, these two young men inked major deals with foreign government affiliated firms, often almost simultaneously with high level diplomatic talks between that government and the United States. For details check out this report from the New York Post.

The Obama administration came out looking pretty bad as well. The Obama administration touts itself as the most transparent and scandal free administration in modern history, an opinion the fawning media was more than happy to reinforce. The reality as Schweizer uncovers is far less positive. Buddies of Barack Obama profited handsomely from "smash and grab" actions in industries targeted by President Obama, industries like coal, oil, for-profit colleges and "payday lenders". In case after case, friends of Obama made out like bandits thanks to heavy-handed regulations from their pal's administration.

Schweizer didn't leave Republicans alone. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife Elaine Chao were exposed as having very questionable dealings, again with high ranking and connected Chinese officials. Other Republicans also were exposed but there is a distinct Democrat flavor to the charges of corruption, perhaps due to the recent 8 year Obama administration and perhaps due to other factors. Schweizer also takes time to point out possible vulnerabilities with the Trump administration and especially Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who seems to have a knack for poor financial decisions. Given the scale and scope of the Trump holdings, especially in foreign nations, it is clear that great discretion and transparency is called for.

Ultimately in my opinion the problem is not a lack of rules and regulations, although more could be done in that respect. The real problem that Schweizer doesn't really touch on is that our Federal government handles far too much money and power, and that kind of money and power is bound to attract people who will use any means necessary to get their hands on it. To eliminate corruption in Washington, take away the Federal stranglehold on so much of our economy. When the money dries up, the corrupt will seek greener pastures. As long as the government allocates trillions of dollars every year, people like Hunter Biden will be drawn to it like moths to a flame. Snuff out that flame and the moths will go away.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Contact Congress Today And Say No To An Attack On Syria

President Trump has been using increasingly bellicose language in response to the reports of an alleged poison gas attack in Syria. His latest tweets amount to a direct military challenge to the Russians, essentially daring them to try to shoot down our cruise missiles, and a conflict with Russia over a deeply dubious claim of a strategically nonsensical poison gas attack could lead to a real World War III. It is crystal clear that the United States has no national security interest in the Syrian civil war. Syria has not attacked us, and poses no threat to do so. The civil war is winding down as ISIS has been defeated, one of the alleged reasons for our involvement there in the first place. The stability of the Middle East is not going to be improved by further destabilizing yet another nation. We have spilled too much blood for no valid reason in the Middle East. No more of our blood and treasure to tinker in conflicts that we have no business being involved in. If you agree that we don't need a new war in the Middle East, I would encourage you to contact your Congressional representative and urge them to oppose a widening of the current U.S. involvement in Syria.

Below is the text of an email sent by me to my Congressman, Jim Banks of Indiana's 3rd Congressional District. Feel free to use my comments as an outline but the most important thing you can do is let your voice be heard.

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Dear Representative Banks

We are writing to you today to urge your opposition to an escalation of the U.S. military intervention in Syria. Based on a very dubious claim that the Syrian government used poison gas against her own civilians, a claim that makes little strategic sense, President Trump appears to be on the verge of a massive escalation of U.S. involvement in the ongoing Syrian civil war. The United States has no national security interest in doing so and any escalation of military intervention in this conflict would possibly put the United States in direct engagement with the Russian military. Pursuant to Article I, Section 8, Clause 11 of the United States Constitution, only the Congress has the power to declare war and an attack on a sovereign state that has not and continues to pose no threat to attack us would be a clear act of war. As your constituents and fellow Hoosiers our belief is that the focus of the United States government should be on the United States, not in endless foreign wars based on the same sort of claims that involved us in regime change in Iraq. We therefore encourage you to oppose any escalation of our involvement in Syria and instead seek the withdrawal of what forces we do have from that nation. Furthermore we encourage you to insist that President Trump seek approval from Congress via a formal declaration of war before undertaking any new military strikes on Syria. With our economy on the rebound the last thing the United States needs now is a new war in the Middle-East.

Thank you for your time and consideration

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For more on why this attack by Assad make absolutely no sense and is therefore extremely suspect, check out this brief video from Black Pigeon Speaks.


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Dissolving The Union

On my old blog I had a sporadically running series of articles that dealt with the issue of dissolving the United States. Since the 2016 election and the resulting aftermath, I have been convinced of something I once would have thought unthinkable: we need to start the process now to peacefully dissolve the United States into several autonomous nations and if we don't the hostility and violence will eventually lead to civil war. I have already written several posts on the topic and plan on reproducing them here. These are just thought exercises but I do think that the trajectory we are on and the world we live in demand we rethink at a fundamental level our relationship with one another as Americans.

Here is my original post on this question from February 7, 2017, just weeks after the inauguration of Trump: Is It Time To Once Again Dissolve The Political Bands That Connect Us?
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When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

- The Declaration of Independence

The United States is at our most fundamental level a union of free people who have banded together for our common good. That has been the central truth that has held us together. It was allegedly one of the prime motivators for the North to go to war with the South to preserve the Union. Whichever state we lived, whether we were in New England or the Deep South or the Midwest or the Pacific West, we were united by being Americans. We lived different lives, went to different churches or none at all, some called it pop and others soda but when push came to shove we were united as one people.

I am seriously questioning if that union can survive and more to the point if it should survive.

Ours is a nation of well over 300,000,000 people. With each passing day it becomes clear to me that we lack even a basic unity across many of the most critical ideas that should unite our people. What is America? Why do we exist? What is our obligation to the nation and to each other?

It can be argued that we have always had conflicts. Protestant vs. Catholic, Northern/Western Europe vs Southern/Eastern Europe. agrarian vs. urban. All very true but it still seems to me that when I was a child we still held to certain core beliefs about the value of work, the cherishing of our nation and our admittedly tarnished history, our common faith in having faith in the first place, our love of country even if we didn't always agree about what we loved about her.

When I was younger, growing up in the late 70's and the 80's, there was obviously racial turmoil and economic uncertainty but nothing on the level we have today. We were still Americans whereas today we are more and more splintered into exclusionary and usually hostile identity groups constantly at war with one another. Let me be even more blunt than usual and ask some pointed and discomforting questions.

What in common do I have with a black man in inner city Baltimore or a Hispanic woman in L.A.? What does my family have in common with a Muslim family in Dearborn, Michigan? What does my wife, a stay at home mom who homeschools a very large family on a small farm in the country, have in common with a childless "career" single women in her 40's who lives in San Francisco and works in an office downtown?

Well, we are all Americans, right? By virtue of citizenship yes, but even that concept is rapidly falling apart. The idea that many people are here in violation of the laws of this land to some people is not only not a problem but a great boon for our quest for "diversity". For many other people, like the more than 60,000,000 who voted to elect Donald Trump, it absolutely is a problem. For many or most of the people mentioned above that voted for Trump, America is a beacon of freedom and a unique nation in the world, that for her faults and mistakes past (slavery, the Indians, Japanese internment camps) and present (abortion above all) is still the Tom Brady of the world, the greatest nation of all time. For many of the people in the preceding paragraph America is not that at all. They look to foreign nations with envy for their social welfare states and "free" healthcare, they emphasize our faults both real and imagined, they see the once dominate European based culture of America as oppressive and welcome seeing it diminished and replaced. I am not saying that they hate America but they seem to hate more about it than they love and they also seem to despise many of the people who they share citizenship with.

The feeling is largely mutual. In the heartland we speak with disdain about those who live on the coasts and in the big cities. If something is going on in the city you can bet it is bad for the rest of us. Having New York or San Francisco values is the same as being a communist. Many of us suspect or assume that cities are full of a combination of rich liberals and criminals.

When you look at the county by county electoral map you see in stark relief what we all instinctively know. There are two "Americas", one populated by people in big cities and on university campuses and the other populated by the people not in those places, covering a much larger swath of land but in correspondingly less densely populated territory.

I don't like what people in D.C. or L.A. like and they don't like what I like. We are not entertained by the same things, we don't read the same books, we don't believe the same way, we don't define America in an even remotely similar fashion, we disagree on the role of the government in our lives. To me and to many others places like Los Angeles are as much a foreign mission field as Bangladesh.

Some 68 million Americans (including here most Libertarian voters who accounted for 4.4 million votes as well as voters for conservative independents Evan McMullin and Darrel Castle of the Constitution party) voted for Trump or Johnson and presumably voted for smaller government, less regulation, limited immigration and stricter border controls, "originalist" jurists like Neil Gorsuch to fill Supreme Court and other vacancies, judges we assume would rule to permit laws that restrict abortion. Another 67 million (including here all of Green Party Jill Stein's voters) voted for more government, more regulation, less restriction on immigration, more "activist" judges, an expanded social safety net and the continuance and even expansion of abortion on demand. We are pretty evenly split in this nation.

These are not subtle nuances. The differences between what people on either side want versus the other are gaping chasms. That gap is not simply a difference of opinion or even a vigorous disagreement. It often devolves into hate and not just the garden variety online sort. Today it all too often manifests as street violence and thuggery dressed up as "protest". Perhaps I am overly partisan here but the violence is almost entirely one-sided. Throughout the campaign we were warned about the potential violence and the incipient hate crimes that Trump and his followers would cause but it wasn't Trumpistas who were spitting on people and attacking them at Trump campaign events. The gang of cowardly thugs chasing a lone guy down in a parking garage to hit him and rip his pants off weren't wearing "Make America Great Again" hats but you can bet if that guy had pulled a pistol and defended himself against a dozen or more punks attacking him, the news would have been all over it. It wasn't Trump supporters who made people falsify claims of hate crimes that they actually committed on their own. It wasn't a Trump supporter who burned a black church and sprayed it with pro-Trump graffiti, it was actually a member of that church but even as obvious as it was to many of us that it was a hoax from the very beginning, that didn't stop the media from reporting it as clear proof that all Trump supporters were violent "racists" in order to sway the election (musta been da Russkies!). Those weren't Trump supporters sucker punching alt-right leader Richard Spencer while he was peaceably being interviewed or setting a woman's hair on fire at the "Women's March" for being the wrong kind of woman or pepper spraying a woman or beating a man unconscious and burning their own campus at Berkeley. It isn't Trump supporters publicly fantasizing about the assassination of the duly elected President of the United States or calling for a military coup. In a non-physically violent but still ridiculous overreaction it mostly is not Trump supporters who cut off family and break friendships because of their support for one political candidate over another.

The attacks keep escalating and someone is going to get killed. Either a "protester" will get carried away and kill someone by hitting them in the head or someone being attacked by one of these gangs of criminals will pull a gun and defend themselves but someone is going to get seriously injured or killed and then who knows what will happen. People are not content to be cowed into hiding at home while their country burns down around them anymore and if they don't feel the police will protect them while they peaceably make their voices heard, what other option do they have but to protest while armed? We are in a time when a lot of people, even supposedly "mainstream" voices, are advocating political violence or at least tacitly approving of it by laughing about it. For millions of Americans it is completely unacceptable to hold a contrary political view and those that do hold that view should be shouted at, shamed, threatened and even attacked until they relent or at least until they agree to go quietly into political seclusion.

When street violence is commonplace and common ground is virtually non-existent, when people literally hate one another and friendships and family bonds are broken over political disagreements, when people don't even agree on even the most basic level about what it means to be a united people or that there should even be a sense of people-ness, can a people remain united? Should they remain united?

Before the election many Texans were talking secession and it was scoffed at by liberals who assumed that of course Hillary Clinton would win. Who wouldn't want a thoroughly corrupt and completely untrustworthy person to be President? Now that the election is (supposed to be) over, California is making a lot of noise about not sending tax money to the Feds and there is even some serious talk of Calexit, or secession of California from the union entirely. As for me I would be happy to see them leave, at least the coastal urban corridor from San Diego through L.A. to San Francisco.

I have been of the opinion for a while, an opinion that I see echoed more and more often, that this nation is on a trajectory that is going to lead to massive upheaval. The catalyst might be political or it might be economic, such as a general default on U.S. debt obligations or it might be over something as simple as a major disruption in our food supply, which would be far easier than you might think. What I am talking about is widespread violence, the sort where the police are overwhelmed and the National Guard gets involved. There are violent extremists all across the political spectrum, some already in action on the Left, but others ready to jump in on the Right.

The other option is to dissolve the bands that unite us, to recognize and admit that a nation the size of ours with the number of people we have is just too unwieldy to be one people that can live peaceably together. Many people in this country in places like the area we live feel like their lives are out of their own control. Decisions on my behalf are made for me without my permission by people who have never met me, never been to my town and probably never been to my state other than to drive across it as fast as they can. How can it be otherwise? We long ago ceded control of virtually every aspect of our lives to bureaucrats and politicians who have absolutely no connection to us. To be under the control, in virtually every aspect of our lives, of people who do not and indeed cannot have my best interest first and foremost is a recipe for resentment and division and the greater the distance, the greater the disconnect. On the other side the resentment over the Electoral College giving voice to people in Indiana and Arkansas which counteracts the big states like California was just infuriating to many Clinton supporters.

More specifically, can we truly dwell together as one people when so many people believe that abortion is a societal good and indeed a sacred necessity, and that think that government should control as much of the economic activity between people as possible when a similarly sized group of people believe just the opposite? Can we be "The United States" when the inhabitants of some states have a radically different idea of what "America" is than the inhabitants of other states? I am kind of rambling on with these random question but the point I am trying to make is this, we are not functionally in union with one another to any real extent and I fear that the end result of our progressively worsening relationship with one another is going to be violent.

My proposal is pretty simple but it is also incredibly complex. We should have a serious conversation about a political division of the United States into smaller, more manageable sovereign nations. I am not sure what that looks like in practice. Four countries, a Southern States of America, a Western States of America, a Northeastern States of America and a Northern States of America (the current Midwest)? How would trade and commerce and the free movement of people work? What would we do about the military, who gets the nukes and the aircraft carriers?

Obviously there is a lot to think about but if we cannot find common ground as a people and if violence continues to spiral, is there any other choice? An amiable separation would certainly be better than a violent civil war. The United States has stood for more than 200 years, surviving a terrible civil war once. I don't think we could survive another.

If the United States are no longer united in any meaningful way, what is to be gained by pretending otherwise?

Save The Tariff Panic

While many on the conservative spectrum were wailing and rending their garments over the announced tariffs on Chinese goods (Smoot-Hawley!), it sort of seems to me that the entire thing might have been a negotiating tactic. For example today Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a cut to Chinese tariffs on imported automobiles:

Xi said Beijing will "significantly lower" tariffs on auto imports this year and ease restrictions on foreign ownership in the auto industry as soon as possible.

China charges total duties of 25 percent on most imported cars -- a 10 percent customs tariff plus a 15 percent auto tax. Since December 2016, Beijing also has charged an additional 10 percent on "super-luxury" vehicles priced above $200,000.

So the Chinese already levy a tariff on imported cars, which of course includes American cars built with cheap Chinese steel. Weird how that works. The problem with a lot of "free trade" rhetoric is that it is based in theory and examples from 100 years ago. The reality is that many of the nations we trade with are already engaged in one-sided trade restrictions so "free trade" really means we buy their often subsidized goods at regular price, which employs workers in other countries and clerks in American Wal-Marts, and they in turn levy duties and tariffs on our goods making them less competitive for their consumers to buy. Factor in the disparate standard of living in the U.S. and you get the $65,000,000,000 trade deficit with China through February of this year. On average we import $300 billion more than we export to China, a nation with the world's most numerous population of 1.3 billion people.

I don't think Trump is really all that interested in tariffs for the sake of tariffs but is using them instead for leverage with China, to renegotiate NAFTA, etc. So instead of passing the smelling salts because of panic over "trade wars", let's see what is really happening behind the scenes. It sort of seems like there is a method to the madness after all.

Monday, April 9, 2018

On The Nightstand: Why Liberalism Failed And Secret Empires

Having finished a couple of books, I am moving onto a couple of new works to keep me busy.



The first book, one I am about halfway through, is Secret Empires by Peter Schweizer. Schweizer is the author of Clinton Cash, a book that very likely helped derail the anointed Presidential run of Hillary Clinton, leading to the election of Donald Trump and a year and a half (and counting) of Hillary Clinton screeching to anyone who will listen the myriad reasons other than being a terrible person why she lost. You can read my review of Clinton Cash here but suffice it to say that Schweizer made a compelling case that Hillary used her influence as Secretary of State to enrich her own family through the use of her "family foundation" and speaking gigs for her "husband". Secret Empires looks at how politicians get around ethics rules by making their relatives rich by leveraging their influence with foreign governments and even the U.S. government. From Mitch McConnell to Joe Biden to Barack Obama, chapter after chapter reveals the utter corruption of many of our elected leaders.



The second book I just started is Why Liberalism Failed by Patrick Deneen. Rather than a Rush Limbaugh-esque attack on "liberalism" defined as the leftist American political philosophy, Deneen is speaking in the more classical sense of the word liberalism and contrasts liberalism with fascism and communism and the problems that are coming to light in the political philosophy that survived while communism and fascism did not. I am hoping he looks at some alternatives for the future to replace liberalism because it seems to me that the great Western liberal experiment is coming to a crashing halt and what might replace it seems uncertain at best.

Book Review: Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism


George Hawley’s Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism, hereafter RWC, is a look at the various and disparate groups on the political right that are in some or many ways opposed to the general “conservatism” of the American political scene. Based on the language Hawley used I was assuming he was a more typical liberal-leaning academic but I since discovered that he occasionally writes for The American Conservative and I have read several of his pieces without registering that he is the same author. I still would classify Hawley as somewhere to my left but with some reasonable conservative credentials.

It can be easy, especially as of the publication of this book, to see conservatism and the right-wing as synonymous but Hawley does a good job of unpacking the way right-wing thought has evolved into the current uneasy and unequal alliance in the Republican party of social conservatives, neocon war hawks and business interests. Of special interest are the various purges Hawley details and the role of National Review in deciding who won and who lost in the ideological battles of the right. I was especially interested in the war between the paleoconservatives and the neoconservatives as someone who finds himself far more in line with paleo positions than neocon positions, even though neocons completely control the conservative movement and the Republican party.

One of the jarring aspects of RWC is that it makes no mention of Donald Trump. It is a testament to just how powerfully Trump has changed the landscape politically that a book published in March of 2016, seven months before his election, makes no mention of him and yet in the year and a half since his election there has hardly been a political story that doesn’t blare his name from the headlines. Another notable absence that seems hard to believe is the lack of mention of the “alt-right”, a sizable right-wing group that helped, at least for a short time, to coalesce much of what Hawley labeled the radical right in his books. Several leading voices of the alt-right appear in RWC without the label. It is incredible how much the right-wing landscape shifted in the two years that have passed since RWC was published in March of 2016. Hawley has subsequently written a book on the alt-right specifically.

For me one of the most useful features of the book was introducing me to right-wing figures that I hadn’t heard of before, coming as I do from a fairly generic conservative background. It was not unusual for me to stop every few pages and look up a right-wing author that I hadn’t heard of before and several books Hawley mentioned are sitting on my desk to be read next, and many more are flagged to read on Goodreads.

Hawley does stretch a bit with his inclusion of the European New Right, as I don't think that outside of the alt-right there is much influence at all on American conservatism from that movement, primarily for the reasons Hawley details including a strong bias from the European New Right to be anti-American and anti-religious. I think the main three movements that stand in contrast to the dominate conservative thought (paleoconservatism, libertarianism and the radical right) are far more influential than the European New Right or the localist, "crunch con" movements but I appreciated reading about them all the same.

Hawley’s  Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism is mostly a look back at the recent history of right-wing thought in America but it is useful for those who are looking to the future of right-wing thought as the uneasy and rather fragile alliance between the social conservatives, neocon war hawks and business interests is badly fractured and getting worse. For me personally I think that paleoconservatism, relegated to the pasture for some time now, has the potential to unite the social conservative right and the working/middle class vote in the coalition Trump won with in 2016. With Republican voters becoming uneasy with “free trade” and venues like CPAC welcoming speakers like French nationalist Marion Marechal-Le Pen, coupled with the platform of “America First” that Trump ran on (even if he is not governing that way consistently), there might be an opening for a more populist, nationalist expression that can make permanent the on-again, off-again alliance that helped Trump win and that has existed since the era of “Reagan Democrats” in the 80’s. RWC is a solid reference guide to anyone that wants to learn more about the right-wing in America beyond National Review and AM talk radio and knowing more of our history has helped open my eyes to the potential future of the right-wing in America in the years to come.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Don't Blame Discrimination

I really loved this quote from Walter E. Williams in his review of Thomas Sowell's new book Discrimination and Disparities regarding the myths Sowell busts:

"One of those myths is that but for the fact of discrimination, we'd all be proportionately represented in socio-economic characteristics, such as career, income, education and incarceration. The fact of business is that there is no evidence anywhere on earth, at any time in human history, that demonstrates that but for discrimination, there would be proportionate representation in anything by race, sex, nationality or any other human characteristic. Sowell shows that socio-economic outcomes differ vastly among individuals, groups and nations in ways that cannot be explained by any one factor, whether it's genetics, discrimination or some kind of exploitation."

Walter Williams is a PhD and teaches economics at George Mason University. He is also one of the rare black conservatives with a wide audience. He is on the money here. People are never going to be completely equal, for a whole bunch of reasons. Blaming everything on discrimination is not only a lie, it is a lie that traps people in a sense of inferiority and helplessness. Discrimination, especially in past eras, is one factor. So is genetics. So is culture and of course personal choices. So are a lot of other factors. Telling people that they are helpless and incapable of improving their lot in life is the worst sort of actual racism. It is something I am going to be writing a lot about in this space because I think it is one of the most pernicious and crippling lies that is also widely accepted in our society and the source of a great deal of the social ills of America.

Repost: What My White Privilege Looked Like

From time to time I plan on pulling posts from my old blog over and republishing them if I think they were noteworthy or of interest. The first is a look at the nonsensical notion of "white privilege" and how the privileges I had growing up were very real but had nothing to do with my skin color.

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If you know much about me you could be forgiven for seeing me as a poster child for "white privilege". I grew up in a fairly large house in the suburbs on an acre plus lot on a road lined with trees and nice homes. I went to pretty good schools. My parents are married and have been for over fifty years. They both went to college and my dad is a doctor. It wasn't a question of if I would go to college, it was really only a question of where and thanks to my exceptional standardized test taking abilities I had very good schools around the country lined up to accept me (ironically I spent my first year at Ohio State where being able to write my own name was sufficient to get accepted).

On the other hand, going back just to my dad's upbringing unravels the "white privilege" narrative. This is the home he grew up in....


It is a tiny little place, around 1100 square feet, that was home to my dad, his parents and a ton of siblings as would be expected from a Polish Catholic family in those days. My grandparents never owned a car. Lest you think this is a little house in a nice suburb, this is an aerial view of the neighborhood.


As you can see it is surrounded by industry and in the middle of a triangle of three of the busiest roads in Toledo, Ohio: Detroit (aka U.S. 24), Lagrange and Sylvania. The street is a dead-end and where the recycling place is now used to be Feeley Box Company that made shipping crates for Jeeps in World War II. It is the sort of street that many people in Toledo grew up on, row after row of little houses packed on streets in neighborhoods surrounded by factories. This is where we came from, Polish and Hungarian, Irish and Italian. Like my dad who worked his way through college and medical school in an era when going to college was often seen as a waste of time, many people of his generation and later mine broke into the middle-class. They did so by virtue of hard work and struggle. No one gave them anything. There is not a secret fund that white people can tap into or hidden answer keys for tests that we can access at will to give us an unfair advantage in school. Sure there is a small, mostly white, aristocratic class in America, mostly back East, that sends their kids to the best prep schools and gives them a built in network to help them succeed but most of us don't have anything at all like that. We got where we are the old fashioned way, by hard work and sacrifice.

So which is it? Am I the product of an above average privileged upbringing or the result of an ethnic working class family in Toledo that lived the American dream?

Both.

Did I have a "privileged" upbringing? Sure I did. My parents have been married for more than 50 years. They read to me and encouraged a lifelong love of reading in me at an early age so I got to kindergarten an already pretty decent reader which put me way ahead of my classmates. They instilled in me certain moral standards that have kept me mostly out of trouble with the law in my life. They both went to college and expected me to do the same. I believe in the promise of America because I have seen it lived out in my own family. I had every advantage a middle class kid in Ohio could have had.

But what is really important to note is that none of the privileges I grew up with are racially specific or racially restricted. There is nothing that stops black couples from getting married before having children but only around a quarter of black children are born to married parents. There is nothing that stops black parents from reading to their children. There is nothing to stop black parents from instilling in their children a respect for the law and law enforcement and teaching them that breaking the law has serious consequences so don't do it. Of course many black parents do these things and many black kids grow up with the same privileges I did and are successful in life. On the other hand, you can be white and end right back up in poverty if you don't remember how you got where you were.

Sure my dad was a doctor and could afford the best for us but he grew up in a tiny home on a dead-end street in Toledo. He had no greater opportunities to succeed in life as a Polish kid in Toledo than any black kid has in the U.S. today. Given the scholarships, grants, student loans, etc. available today I would argue that the average black high schooler today has more opportunity to seize control of their own future than my father did in the early 1950's.

But what about institutionalized racism? What about white supremacy?

Meaningless buzzwords. Terms designed to obfuscate rather than enlighten.

Too many of us in the church adopt the bigotry of low expectations when it comes to blacks and other racial and ethnic minorities. They are loathe to point out the role of personal responsibility and consequences of choices and all too ready to parrot back the liberal talking points to explain why blacks continue to lag far behind whites. It isn't their fault because whites benefit from white privilege. It isn't their fault because they live in a system of "white supremacy", a term that is in the top five most overused and incorrectly defined in our current "discourse". Those who adopt without question the language used by the political Left, which in no way is a friend of the Gospel, on matters of race do minorities no favors.

I am sure there were plenty of people that laughed at my dad, some polack kid wanting to go to college and be a doctor. Who did he think he was? But he did it anyway. He worked hard and sacrificed so his kids could have every advantage in life. Doing that used to be something praiseworthy. Now it is seen as cheating to try to give your kids the best possible foundation. I grew up with a lot of privileges. I try to give my kids the all of the privileges I can. Every parent should and no parent should feel bad or guilty for that and any parent can choose to do that because the basics of being a good parent are not restricted by race. If you are black you can be a good parent. You can go to college or trade school. You can be as successful was you want to be. Yes you will face some challenges but we all do. Very few people go to prep school in Andover, the vast majority of us have to fight and scrape for what we get. Don't let anyone tell you what you can't do but also don't let anyone tell you nothing is your fault. We are all responsible for ourselves.

Did I benefit from a privileged upbringing? I sure did but it had nothing to do with being white.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Book Review: The Case Against Education



Recent years have seen the start of a backlash against the American article of faith that demands you accept that our educational system is the most important function of government and that a four-year degree is the one and only golden ticket that grants the holder admittance to the middle- and upper- class of American society. More and more people are questioning the wisdom and truth of this insistence on a singular path to prosperity as more and more of us have anecdotal evidence of the four year degree holder working as a Starbucks barista and the exploding cost of college that has saddled tens of millions of young adults (and parents) with almost $1.5 trillion in student loan debt. We owe far more to student loan lenders than we do to credit card lenders and a lot of people are starting to question the entire system. We seem to have a glut of overeducated service industry workers and a serious lack of employees with actual job skills.

Into this conversation comes Bryan Caplan with a highly anticipated new book bearing an intentionally provocative title: The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money.

Bryan Caplan is a self-admitted odd choice to write a book claiming that the education system is a waste of time and money. He holds a PhD from Princeton and teaches economics at George Mason. He is someone who has spent most of his life in the education system and has no doubt  made a very nice living from that same system. So why would someone who is a very successful product and a current beneficiary of the education system claim that it is, as the subtitle of his book claims, a waste of time and money?

Caplan’s basic premise is that education is vastly overrated and a poor investment. Employers demand that potential employees have a four year degree and will pay a premium for that degree even though by any measure that degree does little to prepare the average potential employee for most non-technical jobs in the workforce. Even worse, most of what you learn in school is quickly forgotten. One of the most powerful sections of the book was a look at surveys of what adults actually know after graduating from school and it is painful how little was retained from over a decade of drudgery.

"The overrating is starkest from the social point of view. Students forget most of what they learn after the final exam because they’ll never need to know it in real life. The heralded social dividends of education are largely illusory: rising education’s main fruit is not broad-based prosperity, but credential inflation."

The Case Against Education, pg. 285

My own experience is confirms what Caplan asserts. I spent most of my adult working life to this point in the financial services industry, often managing client portfolios with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets. I have a college degree of course but my degree is from a state school, Bowling Green State University, that is close to where I grew up and had so many of my high school classmates that it was unusual to not see several people I went to high school with in a given week. My degree is not in finance or economics or even general business. I majored in Political Science and I minored in history. I did take several economics classes including one on banking but, and this is crucial, that class never came up in interviews. In fact my college education never really was mentioned at all. It was a  signal to employers. Does the applicant have a degree? Yes he does, so that moves him into the next category of being called for an interview. What I know about financial services, the securities industry regulations, rules for defined contribution plans, etc., I learned on the job. I could have had a degree in something even more useless than Political Science, like Gender Studies, and it wouldn’t have mattered. What mattered to get me an interview was having a degree, any degree, and having some relevant experience. I am sure when I was being interviewed for more senior, highly paid positions later on in my career, the staffing person reviewing my resume mentally noted that I had a degree but didn’t care where it was from or what I studied.

Now at some places where I worked, like large mutual fund or insurance companies, many of the mutual fund analysts had highly technical degrees. These jobs were staffed by people with masters and PhDs from prestigious universities in technical fields but they were the exception rather than the rule. My own job experiences also included working as a bank manager and a couple of short stints in retail management. Out of my entire educational experience the most useful skills I learned, real skills that helped me do my job, came from my time in high school in the Future Farmers of America where I learned skills like public speaking and job interviewing (along with soil and livestock judging, and of course to not weld while wearing no socks). The rest of my education mostly signaled my ability and willingness to submit to rules and drudgery.

Probably my favorite chapter was late in the book and is titled ‘1>0’. In this chapter Caplan speaks to the need for more vocational training, a topic that I wholeheartedly agree with. The cryptic chapter title comes down to this, it is better to teach students how to do one job than it is to teach them to do zero jobs, and most education gives the student essentially zero training to do a specific job. In other words one job trained is better than no jobs trained, or 1>0. Caplan even advocates for school aged kids getting “on the job” training, something that some people see as exploitative even though they don’t see forcing kids to sit in boring classrooms being taught stuff that doesn’t help them and that they won’t remember as likewise being exploitative. Anyone who has been through public schools knows that there are a lot of kids that are just not academically gifted and that are not interested in academics but the entire public school system is geared to forcing them into a four year degree program. Likewise anyone who has attended an average college or university knows that there are a ton of students that are there just for the sake of being in college and who, if we are being honest, have no business being there. Forcing kids who don’t have the interest or aptitude into a four year degree program that won’t provide them with any marketable skills is a disservice to them. For many if not most high school/college aged kids they would be far better served by giving them vocational training leading to decent employment than to drive them into a degree program that gives them no marketable skills. I wish Caplan would have spent more time on this topic but it wasn’t the focus of his book and others have done solid treatments of this issue.

Unfortunately, as Caplan himself admits, this book is unlikely to generate real change. The education-industrial complex in our nation is far too powerful and has the advantage of all the best rhetoric. If you suggest any substantive changes to the education system you will run afoul of the education establishment and the teacher's unions and that usually is that. A deluge of "what about the children?!?!" and teachers complaining about how overworked and underpaid they are and the typical politician will whip out the public checkbook and write in whatever figure they are told. Perhaps someday we will see an economic calamity that will force us to reform education but short of a dystopian novel scenario it is likely that we will keep throwing money down  the sinkhole of "education" and getting worse and worse results.

Kudos to Bryan Caplan for having the courage to write this book. I will close with another great quote, one that should have employers rethinking how they screen applicants:

"We have to admit academic success is a great way to get a good job, but a poor way to learn how to do a great job."

The Case Against Education, pg 289

Welcome!

Greetings to my guests and visitors!

Welcome to my new online home. After more than fourteen years of posting at The Voice Of One Crying Out In Suburbia, generating 4,292 posts which gathered over 835,000 pageviews, I am starting a new blog with some familiar themes: politics, culture, education, entertainment, books. My interests and passions have shifted of late and I am looking for a fresh start. For those who read my old blog, expect to see some of the same stuff like book reviews but also look for more numerous and shorter pieces. There are always lots of things I want to share but in the past I have always felt like I needed to write a book length post to accompany anything.

I plan to flesh out what I hope to accomplish with this new venture in the coming days but suffice it to say that I am hoping to use my blog as a change agent rather than just a place for me to muse out loud and work out issues in public. I still will do some of that but I also plan on doing a lot more than just that. Plus more memes and gifs.

So again, welcome one and all!