America will Die for the College Experience

Great article in the Atlantic about the value of college. In it, the author makes the case that many people don’t value college for education as much as the “college experience“. He claims, and I agree, that we’ve built a large part of our society around the experience of college, but precious little around the education it provides. It’s so ingrained that we’ve knowingly put lives at risk by repopulating campuses around the country, with the motto “Gotta keep those keggers going”.

John Warner, a higher-ed critic, argues that colleges are under threat because “they are not oriented around the mission of teaching and learning, but instead exist to recruit students, enroll students, collect tuition, and hold class.”

I don’t think this is a criticism of everyone involved in traditional brick-and-mortar colleges, any more than I’d criticize a house cat for catching a bird. They are not evil; they just don’t understand the harm they are doing.

I do think some good will come from the pandemic. Many students, professors, administrators, and parents, will come to realize that there are other, sometimes better ways of learning than what we invented in the 11th century. But not before we kill a few thousand people.

California is the Poorest State

Most people don’t realize it, but California has the highest poverty rate of any US state, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  (see SPM column on page 28).  That’s right, CA has worse poverty than Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, and W. Virginia.

Since 2011, the Bureau has measured poverty using the Supplemental Poverty Measure, which most people agree is a better tool than the one invented in 1963.  Others have picked this up and have reported on it:
SD Tribune
USA Today
CALMatters
and dozens of others.

Back in 2005, I was trying to be funny.  It’s not funny anymore.

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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