Sisu

Fans of underdogs should observe today as an international holiday.

It’s the 70th anniversary of the beginning of the Winter War.  It was 70 years ago today that Stalin’s Red Army invaded sprawling, cold, thinly-populated Finland.  His army of well over 200,000 troops, with hundreds of tanks and hundreds more artillery pieces, slammed into the Finnish defenses up and down the entire border – especially in the key strip of land, the Karelian Isthmus, betwen the eastern reaches of the Baltic and huge Lake Ladoga.  Karelia was the key to taking Helsinki and the rest of Finland’s small political and industrial base – although Finland was very predominantly rural and agricultural for another generation after the Winter War.

The attack ran into trouble right away.  Part of the Soviets’ problem was self-inflicted; Stalin had purged most of the best, most competent officers from the military in the three previous years, afraid that good officers would become big coup risks.  He”d also undercut the prestige and authority of the officer class – at one point even erasing the difference between officers’ and enlisted mens’ uniforms.  The surviving officers were largely toadies, selected for their political reliability more than their caliber as leaders.  Between the purges and the other turmoil facing the Red Army of the era, their troops – mostly conscripts – were badly led and badly equipped for any kind of fight in the sub-arctic wastes of Finland, even against an indifferent foe.

Finland was not an indifferent foe.  They had secured their freedom from Russia less than a generation before, and they guarded it jealously.  While their standing military was very small, most of the male population served in the “reserve”.  On the one hand, the reserve was less formal than we’d recognize; many didn’t have uniforms – only troops on active service got them - and so they provided their own winter clothing.  On the other, they knew the terrain – a maze of forests, swamps and lakes not terribly different from northern Minnesota, but much, much colder – like the backs of their hands.

Finnish infantry, stalking the enemy

Finnish infantry, stalking the enemy

Finnish snipers in particular distinguished themselves, with one – Simo Häyhä – becoming the single greatest sniper that ever lived.  More on him in a few weeks.

The Soviets attacked wearing their brown uniforms against the white snow, making easy targets in the bitter cold. They kept to the roads, ceding the woods to the Finns…

…who, on their skis and knowing the territory, opted to fight a guerrilla-style war in the snow.  Russian columns, led by tanks, stalled on roads through forests and swamps that were impenetrable to vehicles. The Finns attacked Soviet field kitchens – the Russians’ only source of hot food in the bitter, -40 cold – crushing the enemy’s morale before picking off the infantry protecting the tanks, who were then sitting ducks for a molotov cocktail.

Finns with knocked out Soviet tank

Finns with knocked out Soviet tank

This style of war was christened “Motti” tactics by non-Finnish military historians, unaware that “Motti” is nothing but a colloquialism for swamp; Finnish officers after the war expressed puzzlement at the term; paraphrasing one officer I read years ago,  it wasn’t as if the Finnish military academy offered a course in swamp warfare in the arctic.  They improvised.

The improvisation peaked at the epic battle of Suomussalmi, for a week in mid-December.  A Soviet column of two divisions – close to 35,000 men, with attached units – advanced across the border to the village of Suomussalmi, attempting a tank assault through the forests; the Finns cut the column up into many, isolated small detachments that the Finns destroyed piecemeal.  The Finns destroyed the two divisions, killing as many as 25,000 Soviet soldiers and capturing 2,000 more, as well as dozens of tanks and artillery pieces and thousands of rifles, machine guns and horses – all of which they turned against the invaders in short order.

There were dozens of such repulses; the Soviets suffered grievous casualties; .  The initial attack was repulsed in what was not only an upset, but one of the bloodiest upsets in military history.  The Soviets admitted to 126,000 dead (post-Soviet academics put the figure closer to 134,000), twice as many wounded, and the loss of over 3,000 tanks and as many as 500 aircraft.  This to a nation that started the war with 13 tanks, few serious antitank weapons, and an air force of maybe 100 planes against a Soviet air force with 20 times as many aircraft.

Stalin responded to the intital stalemate by mobilizing 600,000 men, lanching them into meatgrinder frontal attacks in immense force across the Karelian Ithsmus, which finally ground the Finns – who never had more than 250,000 troops to cover the whole country, and who started the war short on ammunition – down  enough to eke out a treaty at the cost of immense Soviet casualties.  In exchange for horrific losses, the Soviets gained a little territory and not a whole lot else.

The Winter War teaches us many lessons useful today.  Individuals with firearms and local knowledge can have a disproportionate impact on their enemies.  International diplomacy is fairly useless against an aggressor who has no interest in peace under any terms (the Winter War was one of the last nails in the coffin of the League of Nations).

At any rate, three cheers for those inscrutable Finns.

I Don’t Have to Outrun the Bear. Just You.

While Democrats and Republicans battle it out, most Americans have lost no love for either party and may be lining up behind…neither.

Main Street America has entered an era of populism that embraces neither party. People are tired of government bailouts, spending and unchecked corruption, as well as the media’s perceived lack of curiosity or investigation into all three.

They are really tired of being told their values and way of life are not politically correct.

America is pissed off. Unless an independent candidate can connect with enough Americans to garner a majority, Republicans probably have a chance to end Obama’s Reign of Pain. But, thanks to George W. Bush’s invention of the modern liberal Republican, there are no guarantees.

Americans lost faith in Republicans as evidenced by their willingness to vote a charismatic, well-spoken but otherwise completely unqualified decoy into the White House.

While President Obama enjoyed a brief honeymoon, since about June more Americans think we’re moving in the wrong direction; less Americans believe we are moving in the right direction. Obama’s popularity is sinking like a lead zeppelin. Clearly the honeymoon is over for the Democrats.

But Republican’s don’t have to outrun the bear as the saying goes, they just have to outrun the other guy the bear is chasing. Thanks to Obama, Reid, Pelosi and their ilk, Democrats have a lot more ground to cover when it comes to the issues America will soon hold most high.

“Elites like President Obama see government as a force for protecting the little guy,” explains University of Arkansas political scientist Robert Maranto. “But regular folks on Main Street see government as incomprehensible and unpredictable.”

Even with the best of intentions, government almost always does more harm than good.

When President Obama orders corporate bailouts, a stimulus plan that costs a quarter-million-dollars a job, or talks more about expanding government than reducing unemployment, folks are naturally skeptical, Maranto says.

Most Americans are Jeffersonians: They want limited government – totally at odds with Obama, who wants government without limits.

Let the footrace begin. The first party to fiscal sanity wins. Unfortunately for them, the Democrats don’t even know where the starting line is, and with unemployment above ten, a series of failed bailouts and stimuli, dithering on defense, and foreign policy gaffes, they’re wearing concrete boots.

Meanwhile, the bear smells blood. Blue blood.

Now, This Would Spike The Ball

I think it’s unlikely, but far from impossible, that the GOP will take the US House back in 2010; beyond the historical tradition of the president losing seats at midterm, I think that there’s a lot of generalized dissatisfaction with the Administration out there.  It’s easy and tempting to fall into Pauline Kael Syndrome – none of my friends voted for him! – but I think that at least among “independents”, Obama has a lot more in common with Jesse Ventura than Bill Clinton.  And while that may or may not mean a change in administration in 2012, it could very well mean that a lot of Representatives who got in on Obama’s coattails last year will wind up short of fabric next year.

And if that happens, what?

Center-left site “HillBuzz’ ” ponders what is, for local lefties, the unthinkable: Speaker of the House Michele Bachmann:

The Tea Parties could install Bachmann as Speaker, we believe, if the Tea Party Movement itself grows, buckles down, and becomes a larger force to be reckoned with going into 2010.

Palin herself could help deliver Bachmann unto the Speaker’s chair, if the candidate Palin campaigns for next year mostly win, and the next Congressional majority owes a lot to Palin.  It appears Palin and Bachmann are friendly, if not already allies.  Palin would be well-served with one of her own as Speaker.  That could help Palin’s groundgame in 2012 immensely.

Of course, that’d get an awful lot of local lefties to glaze over and start muttering incomprehensibly to themselves; Bachmann inspires among the local and regional left the most lumpen groupthink in American politics; like Sarah Palin, Laura Ingraham, Katherine Kersten and indeed pretty much every “out” female conservative, she is “teh crazee” to her detractors.  “Bachmann Derangement Syndrome”, as practiced by the Representative’s many online stalkers, creates a dissociative state where fact and ratonionality lose meaning; indeed, it’s ironic, given the hatred that so many of her stalkers feel for her fairly fundamenalist Christianity, the amount of garbage her detractors are willing to take on nothing more than faith.

While the writer correctly notes that the GOP base hates labels, there’s a case to be made for just a little bit…:

Whoever replaces Nancy Pelosi needs to be a firecracker.  We also think the GOP needs to put a woman in that Speaker’s chair.  Because of the misogyny the Democrats have wallowed in for the last two years, many women are open to voting Republican for the first time in their lives.  Republicans, thus, have the once-in-our-lifetime chance to be seen as “the party for women”.  Some of you might not like identity politics, but a great deal of independents sure do.

I’ll get back to ‘em on that.

So is there something to the idea of a couple of female conservative firebrands with a shared history of sparking unreasoning derangementi in their foes, leading an insurgency?

Someone seems to think so.

Indefinite Detention

Last week, I wrote about the U of M Department of Education’s plan to screen Education majors – aka “future teachers” – for political purity.

I was going to write a detailed fisking last week, but as expected, FIRE – America’s foremost academic freedom group – beat me to it.

I’m excerpting pretty lightly – it’s a big article, but an excellent read:

The college promises that it will begin using “predictive criteria” to make sure that future teachers will be able to develop an acceptable level of “cultural competence”-apparently, those who do not pass the political litmus test and seem too set in their beliefs will never get admitted. This is far worse than what Columbia Teachers College does with its own “dispositions” requirement, and far in excess of what the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) has ever mandated.

Fortunately, there is still time for the college to change course. A new set of “Phase II” task groups was established in October 2009 for the purpose of “moving forward on structural dimensions” of the plan. This year’s applicants are already being warned about the possible changes, but the new “[d]ispositions assessment” is not scheduled to occur until next summer.

It gets better:

Here’s the kicker: The college even realizes that its efforts to impose such a severe ideological litmus test may be unconstitutional. Here’s the plan for summer 2010:

Dispositions assessment for new candidates approved (includes consultation with UMN general council) [sic]

Indeed, the university’s general counsel ought to be weighing in really soon. If the Race, Culture, Class, and Gender Task Group gets what it wants, the result will be political and ideological screening of applicants, remedial re-education for those with the wrong views and values, and withholding of degrees from those who fail to comply.

FIRE is sending a letter to the U’s administration.

FIRE is deeply concerned about new policies at University of Minnesota-Twin Cities proposed by the College of Education and Human Development. According to documents published by the college (see http://blog.lib.umn.edu/cehd/teri), it intends to mandate certain beliefs and values-”dispositions”-for future teachers. The college also intends to redesign its admissions process so that it screens out people with the “wrong” beliefs and values-those who either do not have sufficient “cultural competence” or those who the college judges will not be able to be converted to the “correct” beliefs and values even after remedial re-education. These intentions violate the freedom of conscience of the university’s students. As a public university bound by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, the university is both legally and morally obligated to uphold this fundamental right.

This is going to get interesting.

It’s All Coming Back To Me Now

Y’know, I have to confess – two weeks ago, when I ribbed the local “Minnesota Netroots Conference” – the last thing I’d have expected was that any of them would actually be reading me.  Partly because, I’ll be honest, my readership among local leftyboggers is pretty darn minimal, and partly because I don’t think a lot of them read outside their own little circle.

But a reader forwarded me this photo here, apparently taken from a local leftyblogger’s photostream:

14259_610855324329_45801136_36085916_8283331_n

Hm.

On the one hand, I do feel just a little bit younger, fielding “attacks” that I first fielded in second grade – which was the first of the several times in my life I’ve been smarter than all of my critics.

And it is both a more flattering rendition of me than any recent photo, and also nicer than anything my family or friends have called me in twenty years.

But I have to apologize; when I said that the local leftyblog community didn’t have a better cartoonist than Ken Weiner, I see I was, again, mistaken.

We can all learn, I guess.

Cheers, local leftybloggers!

(I’m no handwriting analyst – but in my mind’s eye, that looks like I’d imagine Robin “Rew” Marty’s flip-sheet scrawl looks).

UPDATE:  Robin submitted a sample of her flipchart writing (or…did she?) and it didn’t appear to be the same author (or…was it?)

Radio Dazed

By the way – posting’s been zephyr-light over this holiday weekend (although I see Roosh and Doug have contributed – bully, lads!), and I’ll confess I needed a bit of a break.

And the show’s off today, too – we’re taking our traditional Thanksgiving day off.  I hope you’re enjoying the “Best Of…” NARNs going on today.

But boy, do we have some fun coming up!

Two weeks from today, on 12/12, we have a whammajamma double-feature:

  • Amy Alkon, the Advicegoddess and author of I See Rude People, will join us for what promises to be fun and impeccably-mannered interview.  We’ll talk about the seeming paradox that a blogger who writes about manners would have a comment section full of so very much ire.  But we know how that works, don’t we?
  • Also – Miss Minnesota 2009, Brooke Kilgarriff, will join us on 12/12, just a few weeks before she jets away to Vegas to take her shot at being Miss America, 2010.  We talked with her at the fair, and everyone decided it was so much fun we had to do it again.  I may have to get Bogus Doug to brief me on her appearance on American Idol back in ’05 (Sorry, all – I’ve never watched it), or maybe we’ll just get her to sing again (she is good).  And hopefully we’ll help sell some of her albums; it’s for the Children’s Miracle Network, which a great cause, natch.

What could possibly top this show?  Well, maybe nothing on our watch.

And then again, maybe not…

Here We Are Again…

…living in the midst of a burdensome if not oppressive government, gorging itself on the citizens it was created to serve.

We may find ourselves in the very same predicament the pilgrims of Plimoth risked their lives to flee.

The pilgrims were deeply focused on the Old Testament narrative of Moses leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. William Bradford called King James “the pharaoh.” On The Mayflower the pilgrims said their journey was as important as that of Moses. And the first thing they did upon reaching Cape Cod was get down on their knees and thank God for allowing them to cross their own Red Sea.

How disappointed these reverent, hearty souls would be if they could see us today: millions convinced of their victimhood by and willfully living off the government. As many unborn snuffed in the interest of “privacy” and convenience. Full-time career politicians drawing salaries and pensions from the taxpayers. The press, once vigilant, now schilling for a leftist government. A federal agency confiscating the wealth of those who created it; dolling it out to legions of  grovelers, groupies and bootlickers. Their Native-American friends? Running casinos; enslaving ranks of the white man.

And what of God? The God they feared and offered gratitude to for the harvest and their hard-fought and nascent freedoms? That same God now beholds a government hell-bent on removing his word from the public square in the interest of a newfangled concept: political correctness.

And possibly the greatest offense? Tofu.

Had these crusaders, to whom we owe so much, had the ability to see the future, they may have stayed home.

Radio Silence

The Northern Alliance Radio Network – King, John, Brian, Ed and I – are all taking the day off today to observe the Thanksgiving holiday.

Tune in to a “Best Of” broadcast, and join us next weekend!

Things Newt Gingrich (Maybe) Never Said

I came across this quotation allegedly by Newt Gingrich today:

“I am not so shocked that Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize without any accomplishments to his name, but that America gave him the White House based on the same credentials.”

Hah, hah. It’s funny cuz it’s true, etc. etc. That’s not really my point.

My point is that I cannot for the life of me find any source cited for the quotation, even though it’s easy to find it repeated all over the Internet. It’s always attributed to Newt, but never linked to any source. This lack of sourcing is pretty unusual for a modern quotation in Internetland. And that bugs me.

So I’ve done a little more digging and it looks like I may have found the original source of the quote. Emphasis on the “may” here.

Continue reading

SITD Redux: How To Save Public Schools

This is a piece I originally published in April of 2005.  Some minor updates and copy-edits have been added.

———-

When I hear blowhards like Nick Coleman ranting about how Republicans want to “abolish the public school system”, I get a chuckle. I grew up in the public schools – Dad was a high school teacher, and a great one. As far as conservatives go, I was long in the “we can fix the public schools” camp.

Of course, a huge percentage of the biggest proponents of mandatory public school for all – Coleman, Jay Benanav, Clinton, and on, and on – are either private school products or have their children in private schools.

As my kids wended through the school system – and, finally, are getting toward the end of it all - I got more depressed every year with the way schools in general – but especially the public schools – do their job.

In Saint Paul, the budget breaks down to over $17,000 per student – but there’s never enough money.  The graduation rates are lower than Chris Coleman’s tax increases, but there’s still not a crisis.  The achievement gap is the worst in the nation, but the schools still noodle around with unfunded PC mandates more than they actually bother with teaching.  Parents are leaving the public school system faster than a Vanilla Ice Fan Club reunion, but the only solution the ruling Democrats can think of is to gut school choice options.

And at the end of the day, our kids aren’t getting an education.

There’s an obvious, and I suspect workable, solution out there. It’s inexpensive, and, best of all, tens of thousands of years of human experience shows that it works.

Let’s abolish elementary school.

The more I watch schools, and the more I read about the history of the public schools and the assumptions on which they are built, the more convinced I am that elementary school in particular does more harm than good. I’m talking specifically about the “Sit your little butt in the chair for six hours a day and learn what we grownups tell you to learn” model of education.

Let’s be blunt; Elementary School is a bad idea for several reasons.

  • It’s unnatural
  • It turns everything about human psychology on its head.
  • It’s unamerican.

Let’s start at the top.

———-

Let me throw out a couple of parallel ideas here:

  • Language is one of the most complex functions of the human brain. It involves a level of logic that the most powerful computers are only able to ape in the most comical fashion. Next to learning language, things like the scientific method, critical thinking and logic are child’s play, so to speak. And yet nearly every child in the world is functionally fluent in at least one language by age five, with no more help than mere untrained, uncredentialled parents, family members and friends to help. Indeed, when my son was in Kindergarten I sat, agog, as I watched a five year old H’mong classmate of his at a parent-teacher conference, interpreting the conversation between his parents and his teacher.  Fluently.  Without the aid of a “H’mong as a first language” class of any kind. 
  • Barring profound mental and physical problems, it’s nearly impossible to keep a kid from learning languages, to say nothing of every other thing that they can get their little fingers on. Reading? Pffft. Nothing to it, in comparison; it’s just assigning symbols to the sounds that the child has already learned to associate with the ideas that their little brains have been busy compiling since shortly after birth. You have to wonder – if kids do that well with something as wondrously, gloriously, impenetrably complex as language with mere parents, siblings, extended family and playmates to help them, imagine how well they would do if they had experts with PhDs in cognitive development to help them…!
  • …like they do with reading, for example. How is it that the same kids who learn one of the most complex cognitive processes known to mankind with almost no difficulty then toddle off to school and spend the next six, even twelve, years struggling and often failing the relatively simple tasks of reading, writing, adding, subtracting and simple arithmetic?

Imagine if your children were taught (by force of law, mind you!) to speak by professionals, rather than the way they’ve learned to speak for all of human time; imagine, further, that they were taught speech the same way they’re taught reading, math and history, by being herded into a room, plunked at a table, told to LEARN SPEECH NOW and don’t you dare go to the bathroom without raising your hand and getting a travel slip first. What’d happen? We’d have a boom market in speech pathology professionals, national concern about “why Johnny can’t speak”, academic programs dedicated to special speech problems, and demands for more money to solve our nation’s speech education crisis.

 Absurd, right? And yet that’s exactly where we are now.

Kids below age 12 would be better off out of school than in it. Note that this has nothing to do with the classic “school problems”, or with “problem schools”.  Even if you leave drugs, crime, and all the other highly-publicized dangers of our time out of the picture (and if you live in the inner city, you know that you can’t), and assume that all teachers are literate, caring, inspired practicioners of a noble craft, and that all administrators are boundlessly capable and unfettered by the pinheaded impedimenta of a system that, like all systems, is more concerned with self-perpetuation than mission.

Question: Where is the scientifically-valid evidence that a child who sits through six years in a classroom is any better “educated” than a child who spends six years just being a kid, learning what he or she needs, learning responsibility and reading and manners and math the way kids always have – by doing?

Start looking. I’ll help you out. There really is none.

I have a few friends and acquaintances who are involved in various alternative school systems; Sudbury, Waldorf, Montessori – and more that homeschool their kids. The literature on the Sudbury system – which, essentially, lets kids learn whatever their curiosity drives them to learn, coupled with a strong dose of individual responsibility for maintaining their obligations to others – is fascinating. Nobody tells the children at a Sudbury school “now is the time we learn to read” – and yet they all do. Nobody says “You will all learn math” – but when they decide they want to learn it, they frequently learn the math that takes kids six years in a classroom, in a matter of weeks.

My homeschooling friends tell the same story; if they leave the door open for their kids’ own fascination to drive them to learn…whatever, it will not only get learned, but learned at a pace that dazzles the parents, most of whom came up through the traditional public system.

———-

So what’s wrong with school?

What could be wrong with an institution that:

  • Strictly breaks up the day into learning time and play time, conditioning a child to know, forevermore, that learning is drudgery. The message to the kids is crystal clear; unlike all the learning they’d done so far in life – learning how to talk with Mom and Dad, learning how to stack blocks with big sister, learning how to walk and throw and joke and climb, this sucks!
  • Imposing an external schedule on learning. Rather than letting them follow their own rhythms and attention spans – which happen to be the ones they actually learn by – we force kids to cut short the stuff that actually benefits them, and then jam their little butts into seats, pretty much arbitrarily, to shift gears and do something completely different. We try to set student’s mental agendas for them, telling them the subjects they “should” care about, regardless of what interests them, and when, and where.  And for some students, that works, to be sure; some naturally take to that kind of education; others learn to go along and get along.  Others never do.
  • Setting arbitrary standards that mean nothing to students (and, judged empirically, mean even less to grownups). 
  • Plop a kid into a system where they’re at the bottom of a complex, arbitrary hierarchy – teacher’s aide, teacher, principal, union, superintendant, school board – with them, all pretty talk aside, way down at the bottom of the pile. If you have to go to the bathroom, you have to ask permission. You stand in long lines for food, water, the rest room, recess, field trips, to see the nurse, the principal, to get out of the f*****g building after the whole miserable day is over! You move when the bell tells you to move; you sit when the bell tells you to sit; you repeat the process for twelve years, like an assembly line – only you’re the product, with the unionized factory workers bolting on little bits of knowledge at pre-programmed points on the line, regardless of whether that’s where your brain is at the moment.   And if you, the child, don’t feel like keeping your twitchy seven-year-old butt in that hard friggin’ chair, you get labelled “ADHD” or “special ed”. And you’d damn well better show up, or have an excuse that’s acceptable to that arbitrary and unreasoning authority, or you will be shunted into the “bad kid” track, and even into the fascistic, niggling cousin of the criminal justice system, which will make damn sure you keep your ass in that chair, at the risk of criminalizing yourself and your parents. If such a system were applied to adults, they’d call it prison. If it were a nation, it’d be North Korea. If it were an employer, every TV station in town would be bum-rushing the place with hidden cameras. And yet that’s where we send our kids.
  • You are a part of a group; you travel with the group, stand on line with the group whenever you leave your chair, are punished and rewarded as a part of the group, until such time as you learn to play the paper chase game well enough for the system to reward you – not so much for your learning, as for learning to play the system to your benefit. Those kids will go far. For the rest? Labels, concerned shrugs, and eventually a resigned sigh; “they fell through the cracks, even though they had so much potential.  If only they’d have colored inside the lines”.
  • Your education is separated from your “real life”. Even some of your crustier elders, in unguarded moments, will say it in as many words; “Wait’ll you get out in the real world”. School is totally unreal; the experiences and knowledge are all diluted through external filters; textbooks, teachers, state-approved curricula. The economics are diluted; it’s “Free”, so the children get no sense of the opportunity cost that goes into their education, nor of their responsibility toward those paying the cost (qualifying them to be DFL legislators, anyway).
  • Worse, the kids’ lives – and the lives of their families – are geared toward the rhythm the institution demands; up at 6:30, to school by 8, keep your hyperactive little ass in the chair until 3 with a couple of dingy, pre-approved breaks (if you behave, and if your school hasn’t been swept up in the “no recess” bandwagon), get dinner eaten by 6, do two hours of homework, be in bed by 9AM to repeat the process the next day, ad infinitum, for 12 years. There’s a meteor shower or an Aurora Borealis late at night? Don’t wake the kids, for crying out loud, they’ll be tired for their spelling test!
  • Which might be worthwhile, if there were any validity to the idea that it does kids any more good than the alternative – no school at all.

The question shouldn’t be “what’s wrong with the system”. It ought to be “what’s right?”

———-

Let’s go back to the “North Korea” bit.

When De Tocqueville came to the US in the early part of the 19th century, he found a population that was staggeringly literate by world standards. What was the “system?” There was none. People learned to read, write, do math, and function in society by any means necessary – at church, at community schools, from neighbors or siblings, or any way they could. They did it because, to participate in our democracy, they had to. And they did.

It’s useful to note that the current model for public schools – the government monopoly with the professional teacher caste and a huge, self-feeding academy – is a product of the past 100 years or so, when people realized that in a nation awash in immigrants, we’d damned well better make sure that all our children are learning the same things. Exactly the same things, lest those filthy immigrants corrupt our society…

And so we have a system of elementary education better suited to the Department of Corrections, or the Prussian military (indeed, Horace Mann modeled many of his ideas upon the Prussian state education system, which introduced the magic element, compulsion, to the mix).

And so, in a system that purports to value individual responsibility, we send our children to “learn” in a system that systematically strips responsibility away (as long as you stay in line, you’re fine!). In a system that purports to value critical thinking, we entrust our children to a system that regards the very discipline as forbidden fruit. In a nation that claims to value the integrity, choice and value of the individual, we send our kids to schools that destroy all three.

“But what about universal literacy?” It’s worth noting that our society is little more functionally literate, in a practical sense, than it was 100 years ago; the ability of adults to read, write and figure has remained nearly static among adults for the past century, unbudged by changing educational theories, vast increases in education funding, and national fretting on the subject.

“But hey”, comes the next response, “I came up through the system. It’s not that bad”. That’s called “Stockholm Syndrome”. You owe it to your kids to do better. Saying you “survived” six years of elementary school is hardly a recommendation; saying “I survived it, my kid sure as hell will” isn’t education, it’s ritualized abuse.

———-

So what exactly do we lose if we abolish elementary school? Say, start kids in school at age 12?

We gain, instantly, a generation of kids who haven’t learned to equate “learning” with “misery”.

We gain, over time, children who grow through their most formative years free of the distortions to their identity and self-respect that are a part of the canonical tradition of elementary school, undivided into “jocks” and “geeks” and “brains”.  They could get to the brink of puberty – the most awful time in life – without piling all that awful baggage on top.  They could spend six or seven years as humans, rather than as parts on an assembly line.

As part of that, they would be free to develop the skills that children develop more or less naturally; to think, to analyze, to tear things apart, on their own terms, without having an adult tell them “you’re wrong, do it my way” at every turn.

It goes without saying that they’d be free of the suffocating idiocy of too much of the educational/industrial complex – the rotating theories and methods and ideals that at best are just more turd-polishing, and at worst (see Carol Gilligan and the gender theorists) actively, and after a certain point maliciously, harmful. They’d grow up regarding learning as both an opportunity and, most importantly, their own responsibility. Which is, we’re told, the American way.

Inevitable response: “What about kids in lousy situations? Or where both parents work?”

So we take the $10-15K per student that we currently spend in the metro, and spend it on community centers, or daycare, or anything but elementary school. I don’t care if the idea saves not a nickel over what we’re already spending (although it inevitably will, in direct spending to say nothing of the social costs of our failing system); it’ll be better than what we have now, even for the vulnerable kids, the poor kids from the lousy neighborhoods. What could be worse than being a poor kid from a lousy neighborhood? Being all that, and having any possible love of the learning you’ll need to get out out of that rut beaten out of you by age eight.

It’s not just about the survival of our educational system.  It’s about the survival of our nation, our culture, and most importantly our children.

Abolish it.

Twin Cities Leftybloggers: Verdict – Guilty! Sentence – Ridicule!

Here’s one for the Hall of Shame.

A few months ago, US Census worker Bill Sparkman was found dead.  The death was suspicious – he was found hanging, with anti-government graffiti scrawled on his chest.

This happened not long after Rep. Michele Bachmann spoke about her ambivalence about cooperating with a census that, at the time, the Obama Administration was overtly politicizing.

The Sorosphere leapt into action.  To pick three examples:

  • The direly-misnamed “Thinkprogress” took all of a day to conjure up a mythical right-wing terror movement  based on the death.
  • City Pages generic angst-filled hYpStR Matt Hoffman went all CSI on us before the police were even done at the crime scene:  “Now a census worker has been found in what appears to be an anti-government lynching. Does Bachmann own some responsibility?
  • Dusty “The Michael Brodkorb Of Snark” Trice delivered a verdict before they’d actually cut Sparkman’s body down: “I’m going to say it again because sadly I feel it bears repeating. I strongly believe that the inflammatory rhetoric Rep. Michele Bachmann thinks passes for policy debate is going to end in violence. 

“Inflammatory rhetoric”.  Heh. 

Heh.  Heh.

Oh, yeah.  It’s official; they were full of s**t (emphases added by me):

A part-time U.S. Census worker found dead near a secluded Clay County cemetery killed himself but tried to make the death look like a murder, authorities have concluded.

Bill Sparkman, 51, of London, apparently was trying to preserve payments under life insurance policies he had taken out, one as recently as May, which paid benefits if he died as a result of murder or accident, but not suicide or natural causes, police said.

Sparkman had survived a bout with cancer a few years ago, but he told a friend he believed the cancer had returned and that he would die, police said.

In a two-month investigation, police marshaled a number of reasons to conclude Sparkman ended his own life. Among other things, only Sparkman’s DNA was found on evidence at the scene, and he had told a friend details of his plan that matched what happened, police said at a news conference Tuesday.

And when, not if, some leftyblogging hamster tries to equivocate on this result, let it be repeated:

Police interviewed potential homicide suspects but ruled them out and found no evidence pointing to any conclusion except that Sparkman killed himself.

Matt?  Dusty?  “Think?” 

All of you leftyblog hamsters?

Do you have something to tell all the sane, responsible people?

Followup question:  Sparkman could have chosen many, many ways to cover up his suicide.  But as his last act on this earth, Sparkman apparently chose to go out in a way that, he would seem to have known, would implicate in his death a whole lot of peaceable, law-abiding people whose only “crime” is distrusting government; people like Rep. Bachmann and, incidentally, me (in addition to committing fraud).  Question:  Whose rhetoric is really doing the harm, here?

It Just Occurred To Me

I ask people on the left, constantly, “so what, precisely, is the problem you have with Katherine Kersten – besides the fact that she’s a conservative?”

The closest thing I’ve seen to an answer that wasn’t solely fueled by politics was “she was never a reporter; she’s nothing but a think tank writer”.  In this story – one you usually hear from people in the media – the idea that spending years becoming a hard-drinking, dyspeptic “ink-stained wretch” is the bit of seasoning in the human stew that makes a columnist a columnist.  It’s sort of an echo of Nick Coleman’s  classic explanation of why he’s better than bloggers,  “I Know  Stuff”, where “stuff” equals “reporter” stuff – as if the life experience we all bring to the table doesn’t really give one a useful perspective on anything.  To these people, knowing the double-dog secret ace reporter handshake is the only real qualification.

Enh.

Another one – and this one is overtly partisan – is that “Kersten is closely linked to Power Line“.  I’ve heard it from any number of Twin Cities’ lefty writers, although Brian Lambert actually wrote it.

Now, I’ve seen a few leftymedia types jump from that to “Kersten and Powerline have the same opinions”, as if it’s unthinkable that four conservatives would have some occasional synchronicity, and ignoring that they, the critic, was usually in completely sync with “The Daily Kos” at any rate…

…but that’s not really the point.

I’m curious:  the leftymedia says that Kersten having the occasional episode of synchronicity with Power Line is a bad thing…

…while Nick Coleman  – the columnist against whom Kersten is constantly unfavorably compared because his decades as a reporter and columnist and just-plain observer – can get a complete pass for writing an uncritical, incurious, note-by-note regurgitation of a liberal think-tank piece to which Coleman added not a whiff of his vaunted no-nonsense reportorial curiosity or experience or world-weary inquisitiveness.  Indeed, Coleman added nothing but a little brow-beating prejudice.

So let me ask, again – what is the comparison, here?  Other than politics, of course?

The Schizo Pages

Getting a job at the City Pages is apparently like getting a “diary” on Minnesota “Progressive” Project.

Otherwise, how would “Hart Van Denburg” have gotten to get this bit here published?

Last week, MinnPost gave controversial conservative scribe Katherine Kersten a free megaphone for her oft-repeated views on everything from gay marriage to liberal rage.

Ah.  So it’s a critique of “objective” (I slay me) publications allowing conservatives onto their pages.  Especially one that has drawn so much utterly deranged ire as Kersten.

…or – is it?

On Sunday, the St. Cloud Times did something similar for District 6 conservative Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann.

Er…right?  She represents the district the Saint Cloud Times is in.  Worth an interview – right?  Especially given that it wasn’t two years ago that the lefty “alternative” media was in a lather because Bachmann purportedly didn’t do non-conservative media anymore. (Although as we found in the series I wrote, she does a lot more liberal media than Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum or Al Franken do conservative media).

Both interviews were published in a question-and-answer format in which the interviewers pitched softball questions and then never challenged their subjects on any of their assertions.

Ah.  I get it.  Now it critiques the interview style.  Because any time one interviews a conservative, one is supposed to bellow “You Are Teh Crazee!” until one loses bladder control.

St. Cloud Times Washington correspondent Larry Bivens penned the Bachmann interview. Here’s a sample exchange:

(Passage of interview in which Larry Bivens apparently did not jump on his desk and below “You are teh crazee” excised for brevity’s sake).

Just a month ago, Pawlenty joined forces with the likes of radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to endorse the Conservative Party’s Doug Hoffman in a campaign to unseat Republican Dede Scozzafava in New York’s District 23 congressional race.

Scozzafava was deemed not sufficiently conservative. She dropped out of the race.
Well, no, “Hart”.  She was deemed actually running a bit to the left of the Democrat.

Democrat Bill Owens won the election.

(Running against a third-party candidate who’d had weeks to mount a campaign on no budget, against not only Owens but against Scozzafava, who dumped a million into an election where she spent more time bagging on Hoffman than Owens, before bowing out).

But what is this piece trying to say?  “Bad Twin Cities media for talking to Kersten and Bachmann because Pawlenty joined with Limbaugh to endorse someone who didn’t win yet?”

Did I sit next to Hart Van Denburg on the bus the other day?

Don’t Blame Geithner…It’s All of ‘Em

Last quarter’s “numbers” confirm that the stimulus didn’t stimulate, clunkers was one, the unemployed are still growing in ranks and the consumer is still cowering at home. Democrats are looking for someone to take the fall when in fact they are all making exactly the wrong moves economically, and soon time will show, politically.

One big difference between Washington and private markets is that politicians think everything they do is free-standing. Markets, however, combine all the potential costs of Washington’s policies and then decide whether to invest, or not. Consider what private decision-makers [read job-creators; employers-JR] see in their future:

A 2,074-page, trillion-dollar health-care bill to redesign 17% of the U.S. economy. A carbon tax—cap and trade—that remains an Obama priority ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit next month. A falling dollar and gyrating commodity prices, with no idea where those prices will go next.

Democratic liberals are talking about an income tax surcharge to pay for any commitment in Afghanistan. Card check, to expand unionization of the private economy, remains a priority. Domestic discretionary spending in fiscal 2010 is set to rise at 12.1%, with inflation near zero.

Nurturing a fragile economic recovery into a durable expansion requires policies that restore public confidence and reassure investors, risk-takers and employers. The Democratic agenda is doing precisely the opposite, which is how you get subpar growth and fewer new jobs. [emph. mine-JR]

High unemployment will progressively weigh more heavily on a Congress and Administration that has shown how ill-equipped and out of touch they have become they have been all along. They remain without a clue as it regards restoring our economy in a way that is meaningful for their constituents: jobs growth.

At the same time, they have failed to capitalize politically on the crisis (they themselves created), revealing how utterly failed and irrelevant their policies and leadership have become. How effectively they have shown once again that they are the wrong party at the wrong time, or at any time.

Their Master’s Voice

Robin “Rew” Marty is leaving the Center for “Independent” Media – the “non-profit” that controls and bankrolls a whole slew of “independent” political propaganda sites like the Minnesoros “Independent“:

Over my years with the CIM my job became more and more operational based, and now that they are larger, they have hired enough people to move all operations into the DC office itself, and now having an operations person outside of DC just doesn’t make a lot of sense functionally. I’ll be wrapping up some advertising projects for them in the next two weeks, and then I’ll be moving on altogether.

In other words, any pretense of “independence” on the part of the Mindy would seem to be null and void; the national office has assumed control.

And is there a memory hole of some kind?  Remember – Robin was the Mindy’s first editor, back when they were still the Minnesoros Monitor.

But as I began to spend more time helping the CIM set up other state based networks, I moved internally to the CIM and Paul Schmelzer took over MinMon, probably the best thing to ever happen to that site.

I’ll agree that Schmelzer is a capable journalist, writer and editor – one of the best in the local leftyblogger market.

But – isn’t Robin forgetting someone?

Someone who bridged the time between Robin’s leaving and Paul’s accession?  Steve Perry, one of the more renowned muckraking journalists in the Twin Cities, who spent a year bringing over his pals from the City Pages to try to turn it into a real news organization…

…only to be rebuffed, as they found out after the election, when the CIM whacked most of the staff – because the mission (electing Obama) was accomplished?:

Robson became a casualty when MnIndy’s parent, the D.C.-based Center for Independent Media (CIM), eliminated the freelance budget entirely…However, Robson — who writes about arts for MinnPost and sports for The Rake — was caustic in his view [of] MnIndy’s Capitol overlords. He says CIM’s national staff was less interested in the organization’s professed mission — “a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that operates an independent online news network in the public interest” — than boosting the party of Barack Obama.

…after which Perry decamped?

Ah, well.  The left wrote the book on memory holes.

Anyway, Robin’s got big plans:

For now, I am going to be working on freelance and consulting projects, my first being a contract to work part time with one of my favorite advocacy groups

All the best, Robin!

(Via Luke Hellier on Twitter)

CORRECTION:  Apparently I’m the one who forgot:

[Schmelzer] took over MNindy in June of 2007 as editor, when [Marty] moved to the CIM itself.  Steve Perry came in as a senior editor in March of 2008, and then left in November of 2008.  Paul has been the editor all throughout that time.

In my defense, I’m a critic, not an HR person.

But duly noted.

Tyranny For Ye, But Not For We

The word “hypocrite” gets tossed around with excessive abandon in grassroots political arguments; leftybloggers throw it about like monkeys flinging poo over every perceived inconsistency or imperfection they can dredge up.

“Hypocricy” is when someone completely contradicts a moral, ethical, philosophical or other stance.

Like, say, when a Legislative body tries to inflict a socialized healthcare system on the rest of society – but carefully writes itself out of it so it can keep its own current health plan, which actually works.

Or, say, when an entire politcal class bans the human right of self-defense for most of the society it governs, but writes itself a special loophole to allow itself to carry guns.  Because, y’know, someone’s gotta govern the peasants.

Lady Logician – a Chicago native now living in Utah – writes:

Chicago not only has one of the strictist gun control laws in the country, it’s Mayor is talking all out war (in light of the Supreme Courts Heller decision) to make sure that they law is not repealed. Yet it seems that in Mayor Daley’s Chicago, gun control adnerence is only for the proletariat and not for the ruling classes.

Amazingly enough, he was not the first local public official to take the view that firearms restrictions are something for other, ordinary people to observe. Chicago politicians are zealously committed to gun control in law, but fairly relaxed about it in practice.

In 1994, state Sen. Rickey Hendon, D-Chicago, had an unregistered handgun stolen from his home in a burglary, and he didn’t feign contrition about his disregard of the ordinance.

“I have a right to protect myself,” he declared, noting that he had been burglarized before — and forgetting that the state legislature of which he is a member allows Illinois cities to deprive their citizens of that right. Asked if he would replace the lost piece, Hendon said, “No comment.” The police were kind enough not to charge him.

Nice of those Chicago cops.  D’ya suppose a regular citizen would get the same forebearance?

U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, another Chicagoan, has endorsed a nationwide ban on handguns and, in 1993, organized Chicago’s first Gun Turn-in Day. But the following year, while running unsuccessfully for governor, he admitted he owned a handgun — “for protection,” he explained — and hadn’t seen fit to turn it in along with those other firearms. Lesser mortals apparently can protect themselves with forks and spoons.

And it’s here LL is wrong.  As we’ve seen in the UK, defending oneself with kitchen utensils, or even your fists and fingernails, can be banned as easily as guns can.

But how is this – words fail – hypocrisy possible?

In the early nineties, at the near-nadir of Second Amendment human rights, Dianne Feinstein – today a Senator, back then the mayor of San Francisco – famously obtained a handgun.  And then tried to revoke all civilian carry permits in the city – but only after having herself issued a police carry permit.  It didn’t end well for Feinstein – indeed, her hypocrisy was a huge moral lift to the Second Amendment human rights movement fifteen years ago.

But San Francisco is a piker a pouring on perks for pols (emphasis added by me):

But wait, you say, State law classifies aldermen as designated “peace” officers and as such share the same rights and responsibilities as Chicago police officers. That also assumes that these aldermen are “law-abiding” as police officers are supposed to be and yet….

…and yet Chicago alderman, who actively repress the civil rights of law-abiding Chicagoans as they preside over an epic meltdown of law-and-order in the streets, give themselves the right to carry a firearm for self-defense.

Because peasants need lords, dammit.

C’mon, February!

Aim

Since the Civil Rights movement’s epic victory in the Heller case two years ago, the eyes of civil-rights-loving Americans of all parties have been trained on Chicago.

The City of Chicago, and many of its suburbs, have gun control laws scarcely less onerous than those in North Korea – while the crime wave in Chicago itself remains among the worst in America, and grows ever worse as the government of Richard Daley (Orc, La-La-Land) tries to disarm the law-abiding citizen even more.

But the legislative and legal battlefield has changed in the past 25 years; indeed, it’s almost unrecognizable to this Human Rights activist, who was feeling incredibly depressed about the state of Second Amendment human rights as recently as 1994.

And we are approaching what may be perhaps the most epic battle of them all.

The National Rifle Association – perhaps America’s foremost Human Rights group  – - – filed amicus (“friend of the court”) briefs  yesterday in support of the plaintiff in McDonald Vs. Chicago.

And just to show what an “extremist” position this is, the filing was joined by a bipartisan selection of over 3/4 of this nation’s state attorneys-general:

Last week, the NRA filed its brief with the Supreme Court as Respondent in Support of Petitioner in the McDonald case. The NRA brief asks the Court to hold that the Second Amendment applies to state and local governments through the Fourteenth Amendment.

“We are pleased that more than 75 percent of America’s state attorneys general have joined this historic effort in support of our Second Amendment freedoms. The NRA and gun owners everywhere are grateful for their participation in ensuring that the Second Amendment applies across the nation, not just in federal enclaves,” said Chris W. Cox, NRA chief lobbyist. “I would especially like to acknowledge the outstanding work of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in authoring this historic amicus brief, as well Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray, Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker for their leadership in this important effort.”

Minnesota’s Lori Swanson was joined by the Attorneys-General of North and South Dakota in supporting Human Rights.  Iowa and Wisconsin’s AGs apparently sided with the orcs, on behalf of slavery and repression.  It should go without saying that electoral vengeance should rain down on those vapid petty tyrants like vomit from the cheap seats at Lambeau Field.

The case should go to the SCOTUS in the next three months.  It should go without saying I’ll be on it.

A Roof Over My Head

…and a hole in the ground.

But an investment? …not so sure any more.

Another advisor and I were just talking about this over lunch on Friday: is one’s home an investment or just a place to live?

The former is only true to the extent that paying off the mortgage and residing in a home long-term is at best a forced-savings plan.

Between 1975 and 2008, the price for houses of comparable quality and size appreciated an average of about 1 percent per year after inflation. You would have earned well over 2 percent per year after inflation had you invested in Treasury bills over the same period. And you would have earned even more on riskier investments: After inflation, Moody’s corporate bond index rose an average of 6 percent per year between 1975 and 2008, while the S&P 500 stock index rose an average of 8 percent per year. Most of the return from owning your home comes not in financial gains but in the benefits you enjoy by living there.

One percent – now figure in the new roof every twenty years, interest, property taxes and other maintenance factors and renting starts looking real good about now.

Short term, home values may stabilize but they are unlikely to grow in value, at least in a sustainable fashion, any time soon. Any bump in values may very well be met by house-poor baby-boomers taking the first opportunity to dump homes larger than they need as their progeny jet off to university and their advisors tell them to take the equity and run.

Economists and real estate experts are grasping for any indication of how much “hidden supply” is out there waiting to come to market. First, there are home buyers who would like to sell but are waiting for better market conditions.

Moreover, the government allows a once-every-five-year opportunity to harvest a half million in equity tax free (for married couples; a quarter million for singles) for your primary residence.

Both of these factors will apply downward pressure to home values for the foreseeable future. The message? It’s all about your time horizon.

If you are young and plan to own a home for twenty years or more, owning will probably still make sense. If you are a late fifties executive living in a home better suited to a family of five, three of which are long gone, you’re probably waiting for the market to pop up so you can sell and invest the proceeds for retirement.

…and rent a nice condo from now on. There isn’t enough time to outgrow the opportunity cost of the down payment or transactional friction of  closing a mortgage and real estate commissions on both ends.

It’s true that if you own, you don’t have to write a check to a landlord. However, you have to cover all the costs of maintaining the house. It is the same house with the same operating costs, whether you pay them directly or whether you pay rent to cover them. By covering these costs as the owner-occupier, what you spend (including your mortgage payment) comes very close to what you would have spent if you rented your house.

Many of us own because it is a way to commit to saving by building equity over time, but we should not expect to make large profits. Housing is an expensive durable good, and durable goods are costly to maintain. The main reason to own is because you really like your home, not because you think it makes you money. It doesn’t.

The Great Recession is proof that the government’s (and especially Barney Frank’s) reach exceeds it’s grasp as it regards converting The American Dream of home ownership into The American Entitlement. So if you are in the market for a home for the first time, don’t let Obama’s tax credit sway you.

Just because you got an $8,000 tax credit toward the purchase of a home doesn’t mean that you actually saved $8,000. In areas where there is strong demand for housing and the supply of new housing is limited — including the Washington metro region — tax credits may result in the bidding up of home prices. In other words, the program has probably led to higher prices in these areas than we would be seeing without it. This means that some of the benefit of the tax credit is being passed on from homebuyers to home sellers.

Plus, anyone that jumped on this deal in 2008 has to pay it back.

As a result of ill-advised liberal intervention, a sea change is afoot as homeowners shaken by the economic carnage of late are questioning any and all assumptions they held dear just a short eighteen months ago.

Ironically, the virtue of home ownership may be one of them.

Going Un-Framed?

Via Andrew Malcolm; Sarah Palin’s numbers are rising as fast as The One’s are dropping:

Not that it matters politically because obviously she’s a female Republican dunce and he’s a male Democrat genius.

But Sarah Palin’s poll numbers are strengthening.

And Barack Obama’s are sliding.

Guess what? They’re about to meet in the 40′s.

A very wide variet of polls are showing Palin’s numbers are moving up:

Riding the wave of immense publicity and symbiotic media interest over her new book, “Going Rogue,” and the accompanying promotional tour, Palin’s favorable ratings are now at 43%, according to ABC. That’s up from 40% in July.

One poll even gives her a 47% favorable.

And this includes the big one…:

Most recent media attention has focused on the 60% who say she’s unqualified to become president. Her unfavorable rating is 52%, down from 53%, which still doesn’t ignite a lot of optimism for Palin-lovers.

On the other hand, 35 months before the 2008 election, that Illinois state senator was such a nobody that no one even thought to ask such a question about him. Things seem to change much more quickly these days.

So we have a candidate who was swept into office on a wave of uncritical – dare I say, “know-nothing” – media adulation, versus a candidate whom the media framed from the word “go”; every move the media made with regard to Palin was intended to show her as “dumb”, a “hick”, a scatterbrain, in way over her depth, who is having to earn approval one vote at a time.

And she’s approaching those voters, one at a time and in big crowds as well…

Everybody thinks 2012 when they think of Palin, who last week pushed Oprah’s show to….

… its highest ratings in nearly three years. Remember, though, in 2012 the first hurdles a rehabbed candidate Palin would face are her own party’s primaries, where diligent conservatives conscientiously come out to play.

…and all of a sudden, leaving the Alaska governor’s office is making more and more sense.

Indeed, something jumped out as me as I was writing this:

That same ABC poll finds Palin’s GOP approval right around 76%, 45% among independents and a surprisingly substantial 21% among Democrats. Among self-described liberals she’s seen favorably by a slightly larger 22%, among moderates 38% and among conservatives 60%.

This past year has seen an epic resurgence in bottom-up conservative – not necessarily Republican – sentiment around the country.  You can tell it’s working, because it’s being met with top-down media condescenscion intended to, again, frame the discussion as one of “smart people” versus “teh dum ReThugLiCons” in the media’s mind’s eye. 

The phenomenon is so organic and grass-roots that it doesn’t have a leader yet; there is momentum, but nobody to ride it.

Palin’s campaign book tour might change that.

Why, It’s Almost Like He’s Crazy Or Something

Hugo Chavez doesn’t think Idi Amin was all that bad:

“We thought he was a cannibal,” the Venezuelan leader said, referring to Amin, whose regime was notorious for torturing and killing suspected opponents in the 1970s. “I have doubts. … I don’t know, maybe he was a great nationalist, a patriot.”

Most despotic rulers are!

Mary Karoro Okurut, spokeswoman for the ruling National Resistance Movement, said Amin was not worthy of such consideration.

“Anybody who says that Amin was good has something wrong with him,” she said on Sunday. “Amin was brutal. He killed many Ugandans and made many run into exile. There is something wrong with whoever praises Amin.”

He praises Castro, Obama and Amin.  Hm.

This is becoming a situation so complex only President Obama can handle it.  He’ll need to apologize to the people of Uganda for Chavez (because after all, he was trained by the US, during his Army career – just like Al Quaeda!), and then to the people of Venezuela for the patronizing act of apologizing for them and their ruler.

Perhaps if he threw in a nice deep bow to Chavez, it’d all go away.