They trusted their welfare to the Government

I am standing Hwy 2, passing through the Blackfoot “Res” in Montana. What I see before me doesn’t look like much, a scrubby field under low hills and Montana’s incredibly beautiful big sky.

Where I am standing is the former site of the Badger Creek Indian Agency, where the Blackfeet Indians gathered after their buffalo had been slaughtered and the government promised them food and support in exchange for having given up their independence and self reliance.

By the winter of 1883-1884, however, the government had really, really screwed up. The Indians’ own source of meat (buffalo, deer, elk) had been destroyed. Their limited crops had failed. Their limited livestock was depleted. They were running out of food.

Since 1881, Indian agent John Young’s repeated requests to the government for more food aid had been met with bureaucratic indifference. Frankly, the “government” didn’t care very much and there were budget constraints that had to be met.

Then, in the winter of 1883-1884, the inevitable happened: starvation came. By the time the world outside the reservation heard about it, one quarter of the population (600 Indians) had already starved to death. The surrounding Montana communities responded immediately, sending relief trains of emergency food, livestock and blankets to the Blackfeet survivors. The government, by contrast, did nothing. After the fact, they held hearings, absolved themselves of responsibility and, finally, blamed Indian Agent John Young for gross negligence.

This is a story to keep in mind for all those that believe that it is somehow a good idea to surrender their independence and self-reliance to a faceless entity called “government”. Whether it is welfare, social security, Medicare or Obamacare, I can guarantee this: the government will screw up through indifference and people will die. Not because government is “bad” or that the people in government are “bad”, but because people are people and government can never be better than our collective human nature. And, once stripped of our independence and self-reliance, there will be no recourse. We will not be able to rely upon surrounding communities to rush to our aid.

Education for the 21st Century

The world is changing rapidly, but our educational system has not kept pace.  Oh, it’s become politically correct.  And it now teaches kids how to use condoms and such.  But I don’t get the feeling that there has been a lot of overarching analysis as to how kids should be educated in the modern world.  Let me ask a few of questions to get things started.

First, what role should the classics play in education today?  Are the writings of dead white men, written hundreds of years ago relevant to the modern world?  Certainly, classic political and mathematical texts will always be relevant.  But what about works of fiction?  The works of Shakespeare, for example, are lovely but they are so old, and their humor so based in his own time, that they need translation to even be understandable.  Should the precious (and, it seems, ever-shrinking) class time be spent on such works.

Second, what role should standardized test play in education?  In thinking about this, I’m reminded of Churchill’s comment that democracy is the worst form of government ever except for all the others.  Standardized tests give a very limited view of what a student actually knows.  Yet, for many purposes, they are better that any other alternative I can think of.   I’m especially fond of the term “teach to the test.”  If what is on the test is what we want our kids to know, what better way to encourage teachers to actually impart that knowledge to the kids than to require them to teach what will be on the test?  Sure, teaching to the test is only effective if the test actually contains what we want our kids to learn, but can’t we define that body of knowledge well enough to give the tests value?

Third, in an earlier thread, someone commented on how teachers still have problems even though class sizes have shrunk.  I must defend the teachers on this one.  In many schools, the students are much more diverse than they were in my day. Many of them don’t speak English as their first language.  A growing number have behavioral problems.  And the most fundamental disciplinary tools have been taken away from the teachers.  My teachers could handle a large number of students because (a) we all spoke English as a first language, (b) most of us came from families that valued education, and (c) if we did get up out of line, the teacher would put us back in line again with a paddling that would get today’s teachers fired, and (d) when we got home, most of us would have gotten paddled again if our teachers reported our problems to our parent.  Even the best teachers have a much tougher job today than my teachers did.

What do you folks think of all of this?  What ideas do you have for K-12 education in the 21st century?

Sadie points out Harry Reid showing off his class

From Sadie:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has launched a blistering verbal assault against William Magwood, a Democratic member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission nominated by President Obama, calling him a “liar,” a “first-class rat,” and a “s**t-stirrer.”
a “tool of the nuclear industry” and says he’s “unethical” and “incompetent.” The rest of the actual story here at The Hill Via E2 Wire
From DQ:  I admit I am ignorant as to this controversy.  I gather from the article it has to do with a planned nuclear waste storage facility.  What is Reid’s alternative proposal?  What do you folks know about Magwood?  What do you make of this story?

Possible fraud warning!

I received the following e-mail yesterday:



We received a request from to reset your password for your Bank Account at Chase. Your account has been suspended after too many failed login attempts have been made.
You may click on the link below to reactivate your account:

[I’ve redacted the link]

We appreciate your business and look forward to serving you again in the future.

Best regards,

2012 JPMorgan Chase & Co.

I called Chase, who said that this e-mail was not from them. I’d suggest that if you receive something similar you not click on the link. If anyone knows any more about this, please comment below.

Who should Romney pick for Vice-President?

So, Dick Cheney thinks Palin was a bad choice because she wasn’t qualified to be President.  Well, she was more qualified than Obama, having at least served as head of an executive branch before.  In any case, the time is almost upon us for Romney to pick his VP candidate.

Who should he pick?  Who will he pick?  Cheney also said that there were two lists, a long list of people who need to be on the list for political reasons and a much shorter list of seriously considered candidates.  Do you think your favorite candidate is on the long list or the short list?

A ray of hope — Democrats less enthusiastic, Republicans more so

According to Gallup, Democrats are less enthusiastic about the upcoming election than they were in 2004 or 2008 and Republicans are more enthusiastic than in 2008 and equal to 2004. Not surprising, I guess, but a cause for hope, not just in presidential race but in the Congressional races as well.  Sure doesn’t sound like Obama will have much in the way of coattails at least.

How interested are you in the Olympics?

Leaving aside the politics, how interested are you in the Olympics as a sporting event?  How much of it are you going to watch?

I’m completely hooked.  One of the great joys of being retired is having the time to watch as much as I want.  But, then, I love sports generally.  It’s one of the few things which political correctness has not been able to completely destroy.  The best must prove they’re the best; no government can hand them the championship or the gold medal.

The Olympics is the ultimate sports event, in which thousands of athletes from around the world come together to compete in dozens of sports.  I love it.  Well, okay, the judges (in events that are judged) and the officials (in events that are officiated) can ruin everything.  But in 95% of the events, the team or individual who wins will have fully earned the victory.

So, are you hooked, too?  Or could you care less?

Mark Steyn on d

Mark Steyn takes on the Democrat political machine’s outrage over Chick-fil-A, starting with certain mayors trying to run the company out of their cities because the company’s owner believes in traditional marriage (including no divorces), and then moves on from there:

Mayor Menino [Boston’s mayor] subsequently backed down and claimed the severed rooster’s head left in Mr. Cathy’s bed was all just a misunderstanding. Yet, when it comes to fighting homophobia on Boston’s Freedom Trail, His Honor is highly selective. As the Boston Herald’s Michael Graham pointed out, Menino is happy to hand out municipal licenses to groups whose most prominent figures call for gays to be put to death. The mayor couldn’t have been more accommodating (including giving them $1.8 million of municipal land) of the new mosque of the Islamic Society of Boston, whose IRS returns listed as one of their seven trustees Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Like President Obama, Imam Qaradawi’s position on gays is in a state of “evolution”: He can’t decide whether to burn them or toss ’em off a cliff. “Some say we should throw them from a high place,” he told Al Jazeera. “Some say we should burn them, and so on. There is disagreement. . . . The important thing is to treat this act as a crime.” Unlike the deplorable Mr. Cathy, Imam Qaradawi is admirably open-minded: There are so many ways to kill homosexuals, why restrict yourself to just one? In Mayor Menino’s Boston, if you take the same view of marriage as President Obama did from 2009 to 2012, he’ll run your homophobic ass out of town. But, if you want to toss those godless sodomites off the John Hancock Tower, he’ll officiate at your ribbon-cutting ceremony.

If you haven’t yet read it, you must.

More random observations from Japan

We’ve all said it at one time or another — “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.” In Kyoto, though, it’s very much both the heat and the humidity. When temperatures are around 100 and humidity is around 85 or 90%, it feels as if one is moving through a giant, heated sponge. One perspires, but doesn’t cool, because the humidity, combined with the fact that not a breath of wind stirs the air, means that one simply gets wet.

Kyoto is lovely, but the heat is off-putting. I know many consider it the most beautiful and interesting city in Japan, but I won’t be sorry to leave it tomorrow for cooler, mountainous climes.

We’ve been watching the Olympics on Japanese television. Or perhaps I should say, we’ve been watching the Japanese Olympics on television. As far as we can tell, Japanese TV shows only those events in which the Japanese are competing — never mind that it’s the fourth heat in a swimming race, without any possibity of a winning swimmer appearing on the television screen. Medal ceremonies, too, show only the Japanese competitor. If the Japanese competitor won only a bronze, you’ll never find out who won gold or silver. It’s a very narrow, parochial approach to a world-wide athletic event.

Japanese trains and subways are lovely. Because we’re not in Tokyo now, and because we’re not traveling at peak commuter times, we’ve seldom encountered oppressive crowds. Mostly, we’ve experienced insanely punctual, obsessively clean trains.

Speaking of obsessive, when it comes to respecting possessions, the Japanese put everyone to shame. On a crowded train, someone discovered a wallet. A general outcry went up, as everyone sought to find the owner. Opening the wallet revealed that it held no identification, but only about 500 yen (less than ten dollars). In America, someone might have pocketed it, or maybe just left it on the seat. In Japan, several teenagers had a quick discussion, and then opened a window to summon an employee who spirited the treasure away to Lost and Found. I think those kids would have had some sort of emotional breakdown if they hadn’t been able to turn it in.

We read about it before we left for Japan, of course, but nothing prepared us for the microscopically small hotel rooms. They’re immaculately clean, of course, but so tiny one person feels quite crowded in the bathroom. Thankfully, all of our hotels have offered “Western” toilets, rather than the “squatting” toilets popular outside of Tokyo:

One of the great pleasures we’ve had in Japan is reading t-shirts. The Japanese love having English words and sentences on their shirts. They don’t care that they make no sense; they just like having them. We’ve tried stealthily taking photos of a few, but it’s very hard to get the words to come out clearly when you’re sneaking up on someone. Today’s silly shirt boasted about the wonders of “State of California, City of Sacrament [sic].”

Department stores here are HUGE. They’re several stories tall and, as with every other place we’ve seen in Japan, they have about twice as many employees as a similarly situated American business would. It’s quite intimidating, really. What’s also different is the floor plans. In America, department stores tend to have open floor plans, with one department flowing into another. In Japan, the stores are broken down into myriad cubby holes, each dedicated, not just to a single type of merchandise, but to a single brand of that specific merchandise. I don’t like shopping at the best of times, and I was not enticed by the busy, claustrophic approach.

By the way, everything you’ve heard about Japanese packaging, wrapping, and presentation is true. Every product is exquisitely displayed, with a symphony of colors and textures. Part of me is gratified by the beauty and part of me is shocked by the waste. This is a culture that places a high premium on appearances. It’s not a shallow or superficial culture, although one could be forgiven for thinking that given the focus on the superficial, both in terms of how things look and how people behave.

On the subject of behavior, I commented on how polite the Japanese have been to us. I know some readers wrote back about the horrible behavior the Japanese have shown foreigners. I can see that we’ve been lucky. Also, there’s a difference between manners, on the one hand, which are formulaic and kindness, on the other hand, which comes from the heart. Not that long ago, someone told me that Americans are the most polite people of all, because they cut through meaningless gesture and go right to true kindness. (Having said that, we have been on the receiving end of genuine kindness while in Japan, as well as ritual politeness.)

I’m pooping out here, so I’ll wrap this up. My Internet access is random, at best, so no promises as to when I’ll next post. I can see, though that DQ is keeping things lively, so I can sign off with a clear conscience.

Quite a gathering of real Americans

My Dad sends this link along:


P.S.  I’m not computer savvy enough to figure out how to make this slide show play the way it did when Dad sent it, but after it loads (and it takes a while to load) you can see all the slides, anyway.

P.P.S.  I’m told the link doesn’t work for others because you have to have the slides available to load onto your computer.  I have the slides.  Anybody know how I can upload them to someplace where you can view them?  I used to program computers and design computer systems for a living.  But that was 25 years ago.  Now, I’m not even minimally competent.  I’d appreciate any help you can give.

P.P.P.S.  Cheesestick found a way to link that at least loads the slides.  Thank you! They still don’t play as a slideshow, but the slides are great anyway.  Check out the link on his comment and have a look.