Replacing Trump isn’t gonna fix “the problem”

In this great article in the Atlantic, on How the Government Lost its Mind, author Deborah Pearlstein describes how we’ve built a government unable to cope with a pandemic, and suggests how we can fix it. Core to her observations is the point that over time, we’ve failed to preserve the “tools essential to enlightened governance”. In my own words, the government has gotten stupid. Tellingly, she claims that this problem preceded Trump, and “cannot be fixed solely by his removal”. Ouch; that got my attention.

A major assertion is that, over time, “Congress has delegated increasing amounts of regulatory authority to expert executive-branch agencies”, and it’s become easier for those agencies to get packed with unqualified political-appointees. She also points to the sharp politicization of the federal courts, where extremist organizations “have become influential players in championing alternative channels of legal professionalization, up to and including the selection of judges to the federal bench”. So you have hacks and chumps running the business of governing.

In the article, the author suggests several concrete steps to re-establishing a working government, and it’s well worth a read. But as a “final step”, she points out that a fundamental problem is that the electorate itself is tragically ignorant. For example, recent surveys reveal nearly “75 percent of respondents could not name the three branches of the federal government at all. As long as ours is a representative government, this staggering degree of basic incapacity will be represented among our elected officials and their staff. Part of the correction here will require improved civic education in elementary and secondary schools; one in five states, for example, currently has no civics requirement for graduation at all.”

Complete list of electives for middle and high school

If you are looking for ideas for electives for your middle or high-schooler, I’m compiling a complete list of electives here. If you know of other electives, and/or where they are available, leave a comment and I’ll update this list. Kids enjoy school more when they can study things that interest them. I hope it becomes a useful resource to parents, teachers, administrators and students. Suggestions welcome.

 

Recovering from Santa Cruz Mountains fire

We were evacuated on 8/19/20 and spent 10+ days with friends and in hotels, before returning on 8/30. It was terrifying to think we might lose our home, but we were lucky. To-date, over 900 families in Santa Cruz county have lost their homes. Here are a couple of local agencies who can help and who would appreciate donations. Thank you.

Valley Churches United

Community Foundation’s Fire Response Fund

Remains of house in Boulder Creek, CA

Newsom goes for PC cred, at cost of lives

Commiefornia Governor Gavin Newsom bans people singing in churches, but not thousands of people screaming at protests.  Why?  Churches aren’t Politically-Correct enough, therefore aren’t protected by the First Amendment, but protests are, and it’s all about PC cred for him. The churches SHOULD sue him.  Or better yet, he should grow a pair and ban all large gatherings.  But that’s not gonna happen; better to make the lefties happy and kill a few people.

White antagonists continue to infiltrate BLM protests - TheGrio ...

Resentment – is this what drives politics today?

In this article by Roberto Stefan and Jonathan Wilmot in Foreign Policy, the case is made that resentment of rural populations vs urban “elite” is what creates the tribalism that drives today’s politics, and populism. And they claim that if we simply vote Trump or other populists out of office, those we vote out will be replaced by others. Others who give voice to the growing economic divide.

Us vs Them

By itself, there’s nothing new about the concept of us vs. them politics, with the differences being economic well-being. And it’s not new that “progressive” America forms an archipelago of cities, scattered across the East and the West coasts. You can drive from NYC to LA and not leave Trump country. But explaining this with “liberal vs. “conservative” misses the mark.

They write that while much attention has focused on differences in values between progressive cosmopolitanism and provincial conservativism, the fact remains that conservative values, at least on matters of lifestyle and religion, are either stable or in decline. This makes the populist insurgency an anomaly, for a constant cannot explain a change. What has changed is the level of economic and wealth inequality between regions. This creates resentment and that drives the populist movement.

The combination of rising urban wealth with government neglect for peripheral regions has fueled populist resentment by combining material hardship with a sense of injustice. While prosperous cities were bailed out, poorer regions have been subject to death by a thousand cuts as government belt-tightening has slashed local budgets and starved regions of capital investment. Rural citizens are expected to pay for things like repairing burned out cities, like the recent request from Minneapolis for $500M to repair damage done by looters who were enabled by the incompetent Minneapolis government. Trump denied the request; I wonder how many rural votes he won around the country with that?

One solution is obvious, the government should reinvest in rural American infrastructure and develop policies which do more than make urban Americans rich.

Netgear WIFI extender review

We had trouble running a Zoom session at the other end of our house from our router. The video and audio failed constantly. Clearly a bandwidth issue; it was unusable. So we tried a WIFI extender. I purchased a “renewed” version of the Netgear AC1200 from Amazon. It was simple to install; the directions were clear, and I was up and running in 20 minutes. It’s not as easy as falling off a log and I would not ask a complete networking newbie to install it, but it’s pretty easy. As expected, it halves the download performance, so in my case, a 200 Mbps link turned into a 100 Mbps link, which I tested with Zoom and Google Hangouts. It was plenty fast with no performance issues at all.

Netgear AC1200

Cell signal booster review

Our Verizon cell signal varies between barely acceptable and not acceptable at our house. With all the time being spent at home, good service has become more important, so I took a chance and purchased the Samsung 4G LTE Network Extender 2. It’s $250 through Verizon, which seems like a steep price until I considered the aggravation of dropped calls, no calls, missed calls, etc. So, I’m able to report that it was a snap to install … probably 15 minutes including stringing the GPS antenna, and it works like a champ. We’re getting 4 – 5 bars anywhere in the house. Verizon lists the compatible phones (doesn’t have to be a Samsung) and even though mine wasn’t on the list, it works, because it supports HD Voice.

Samsung LTE Network Extender 2

36 Alien Civilizations?

This is a pretty interesting article on the likelihood of contactable, intelligent life. The article, a summary from the full report in the Astrophysical Journal, suggests that there are 36 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy capable of communicating with others, today. And the likely furthest distance to the nearest one is 17,000 light years away. By comparison, the Orion Nebula is 1,300 light years away, Alpha Centauri is the nearest star to our Sun at 4 light years, the Andromeda galaxy is 2.5 million light years away, and our entire galaxy is 100,000 light years from end-to-end. Note that this estimate of 36 is just for our galaxy and there are an estimated 100 – 200 billion galaxies in the universe.

One of the keys is the word “today”. Civilizations come and go, and there’s plenty of time for more of them to have existed previously. The report also asserts that, while it is a speculative theory, alien life would have similarities in appearance to life on Earth and that we wouldn’t be super shocked by seeing them.

One Big Trend in K-12 Education with Nexbooks

A few years ago, I wrote a glowing review of a book called “In Defense of the American Teen” by Ryan Teves.  Fast forward to today, and Ryan has started a company, Nexbooks, dedicated to fixing at least ONE of the issues he brought up: kids do better when allowed to learn things that interest them.

We all remember the choices of electives we were given … choir, band, shop, a language, and maybe a couple more.  A little has changed, but school districts, already under fiscal pressure, still do not offer a wide range of electives.  In the meantime, kids are spending countless hours learning what they WANT to learn via YouTube.  Martial arts, drums, wealth-building, fixing a car … the options are nearly limitless.

What if kids could follow their passions, but as part of a school curriculum, following standardized methodologies, but in a format they prefer?  Well, Nexbooks is building a library of video-based, self-paced, internet-enabled courses, complete with a self-grading capability.  So those school districts don’t have to hire a hundred specialists to offer a hundred electives.  Or those home-school parents can offer things they themselves have no expertise in.  When I talk about this with my friends, they all slap their foreheads and say “why didn’t I think of that”?  Well Ryan and his team at Nexbooks are doing it.  Bravo.

nb2