A Lesson Idea…

Here I talk about a story John Taylor Gatto tells about a little lesson he learned in 3rd grade, back in the 1930s. Not sure if my high school kids would get it. Here’s another approach:

Kid’s drawing, borrowed from an NPR article. My tax dollars at work.

You all are taking drawing, and this is a very good thing, but maybe not for the reasons you think. When you ask a little kid to draw Mommy, what the little kid does is draw a circle for the face, add a couple little circles for eyes, a red curve for smiling lips, and some squiggles for hair.

The kid is happy and satisfied. Mommy sees the drawing, is informed that it’s her, and is also happy.

So it is a picture of mommy. But what did the little kid actually draw? The mommy in front of him? Or rather, his idea of his mommy?

All of you, taking drawing lessons now, and no longer little kids, would not draw mommy this. No, you’ve learned not to simply draw your idea of your mom, but rather to look carefully at you mom (or whatever you are drawing).

Rather than simply drawing something you ‘know’ inside, you want to look at the world outside and try to draw what’s actually there.

It’s a lot more work than just drawing what you think. You have to be prepared to study and absorb the lines, shading, and colors of real physical objects, and then work hard and practice to render those elements into a beautiful drawing.

It’s worth it, I hope. Some of you already draw fairly well, and all of you are already better than when you started a few short weeks ago. If you just stop at your idea of mommy or a horse or whatever, you’re stuck in your own head. The real world is unable to get through.

Now let’s look at an expression in English: to draw a conclusion. I propose that drawing a conclusion is very much like drawing your mommy. It’s easy, and childish, to simply reach a conclusion based on what’s already in your own head. Such conclusions might be satisfying to you; maybe even make your mommy happy – but they’re lazy and immature. You can do better. It is the business of this school to help you do better.

It’s a lot of work to try to understand an argument from outside your own head. You have to listen, puzzle it out, ask questions, think some more, maybe run a few ideas past your friends and family to see how others think. It might take a long time; sometimes, you may never reach a very firm conclusion at all! But the process of trying to understand, of exercising your mind, is how you grow outside your own head.

Here’s the big question: how do those ideas inside your own head, the ones we all tend to use to answer almost every question we face, get there in the first place? Magic? A miracle? Or something else? How do you know these ideas are true?

And here’s the hard lesson:

There are many reasons to lie to children, the Jesuit said, and these seem to be good reasons to older men. Some truth you will know by divine intuition, he told us, but for the rest you must learn what tests to apply. Even then be cautious. It is not hard to fool human intelligence.

John Taylor Gatto

Some people lie; many more people, for many different reasons, repeat lies without consciously lying themselves. And you – young people who naturally trust your friends and teachers – are the target of a LOT of lies.

The world is full of peoples who do not love you, but certainly want to use you for their own purposes. They know how to tell a lie such that children, whose defenses have not yet fully developed, are likely to absorb it without even being aware of having come to believe. The easiest way: get other children to parrot the lies, and then level criticism at anyone who dares say anything against it. You don’t believe X? Then you’re a hater, a bigot, a Nazi! And worse!

Nobody wants to be called names by their friends! So we take the easy way out, and just follow along. Pretty soon, we’re the ones calling our friends and family foul names – names we’re unlikely to even understand! We’re the ones parroting ideas we don’t understand. This is not an accident. A lot of evil intelligence has been devoted to convincing kids they believe things that they don’t even understand. Then those kids grow up to be adults who have never learned how to really work at thinking, and parrot the lie to yet more children.

This is the source of a lot of the misery in the modern world: lies told to children, who grow up into mobs willing to shout down, insult, and ostracize any who dare disagree. All over ideas they don’t really understand.

It is critically important for you, our beloved students, to learn how to examine ideas on your own. We are going to teach you how. Do not just accept what you are told, even from me! I will do my best not to tell lies, but even I – especially I! – am easy to fool!

The Report of the Committee of 10

(Obviously, neglected the blog to do, you know, actual work. I’ll try to post a little over the Christmas Break.)

I was on hold for about 70 minutes, trying to get through to a government bureaucrat, and so I started reading what was handy – the 1893 Report of the Committee of 10, established by the National Education Association to investigate and make recommendations about high school education in America.

Yet again, I read this stuff so you don’t have to.

(Aside: I had purchased for 99 cents the Kindle version of some best selling SciFi adventure novel by some guy who has sold millions of books, who I’d never heard of. I got maybe 4 chapters in, during which we have an epic event, a dangerous negotiation, a romantic conflict, and a helicopter landing on the balcony of a Third-World dictator’s palace during the middle of a formal state dinner to sweep our protagonist away for a super secret government mission – and I couldn’t take it, opened the Report mentioned above, and – yep, I actually enjoy reading the bureaucratic effluvia of late 19th century ‘educators’ more than popular, over the top, thrill a minute SciFi. But I’m guessing YOU wouldn’t.)

in 1892, the NEA proposed to determine how best to standardize high school education, and set up a Committee to look into it. I’m next putting up some lists – it pays to think about the people involved (and not involved), the subjects they were interested in (and those they weren’t) and the questions they asked.

For example, Charles William Eliot, the Chairman of the Committee of 10, was responsible for turning Harvard into a modern research university, after the model developed by Fichte and von Humboldt and embodied in the University of Berlin. To recap: Harvard was founded by Puritan fanatics who came to America explicitly to establish a Calvinist theocracy. Harvard was their seminary, expected to churn out both religious and political leaders, insofar as those two roles were distinct. By around 1800, Unitarians had taken over. Over the course of the 19th century, even a Unitarian’s feeble grasp of religion had failed, and Harvard was effectively run by the then-current version of ‘spiritual but not religious’ crowd.

The original purpose of Harvard, however, never faltered: to produce righteous leaders, presumed to superior to all others, to enforce their theocracy upon the land. Fichte certainly believed this as well, with his program to simply seize all children so that they could be educated properly by the state outside the baleful influence of family, community, and church. So he can be assumed, I think, to have bought what the Prussians were selling.

My man William Torey Harris is there. As the US Commissioner of Education and the publisher and editor of the Journal of Speculative Philosophy, he pushed Hegelianism as the only proper philosophy. “Its contributors promoted Hegel’s concept of time and events as part of a universal plan, a working out of an eternal historical dialectic.” He has elsewhere expressed his ideas of what constitutes an ideal high school education:

The secondary education takes up human learning and continues it along the same lines, namely : 1, inorganic nature; 2, organic nature; 3, literature (the heart); 4, grammar and logic (the intellect); and 5, history (the will). Algebra deals with general numbers, while Arithmetic has definite numbers to operate with. Geometry and physics continue inorganic nature, while natural history continues the study already commenced in geography. Then come Greek and Latin, and here is opened up a great field of study into the embryology of our civilization. In the dead language* we have the three great threads running through the history of human progress. The Greek, with its literature and aesthetic art and its philosophy, showing the higher forms of human freedom in contrast with the Egyptian, which showed only the struggle for freedom and never the man separated from the animal and the inorganic world. The Roman, with the continual gaze upon the will of man, seeks the true forms of contracts and treaties and corporations, whereby one man may combine with another, and it essays the conquering of men and reducing them to obedience to civil law, not only external conquest but internal conquest as well. The Hebrew thread is the religious one, which we recognize in the celebration of worship one day each week and in the various holy days. We acknowledge this the most essential thread of our civilization. So, with the secondary education we begin to get the embryology of our forms of life.

Harris, the Philosophy of Education

Harris championed both a blank slate theory of education and confidence that the traditional approach unconsciously reflects the will of the Spirit as it unfolds itself in History. Thus, every single child gets the same education at the the same speed, with the goal that, while their individuality is subsumed in the synthesis of their interests and the community’s interests, they regain some agency as properly trained Hegelians moving the world forward on the right side of History. Something like that.

And so on.

Here is that Committee, per Wikipedia:

The committee was largely composed of representatives of higher education.

These people then set up 9 subcommittees, called Conferences, to look into each of the 9 subjects or areas that the Committee of 10 thought important:

  1. Latin;
  2. Greek;
  3. English;
  4. Other Modern Languages;
  5. Mathematics
  6. Physics, Astronomy, and Chemistry;
  7. Natural History (Biology, including Botany, Zoology, and Physiology)
  8. History, Civil Government, and Political Economy;
  9. Geography (Physical Geography, Geology, and Meteorology) .

The councils were to answer 11 questions:

  1. In the school course of study extending approximately from the age of six years to eighteen years —a course including the periods of both elementary and secondary instruction —at what age should the study which is the subject of the Conference be first introduced?
  2. After it is introduced, how many hours a week for how many years should be devoted to it?
  3. How many hours a week for how many years should be devoted to it during the last four years of the complete course ; that is, during the ordinary high school period ?
  4. What topics, or parts, of the subject may reasonably be covered during the whole course?
  5. What topics, or parts, of the subject may best be reserved for the last four years?
  6. In what form and to what extent should the subject enter into college requirements for admission ? Such questions as the sufficiency of translation at sight as a test of knowledge of a language, or the superiority of a laboratory examination in a scientific subject to a written examination on a text-book, are intended to be suggested under this head by the phrase “in what form.”
  7. Should the subject be treated differently for pupils who are going to college, for those who are going to a scientific school, and for those who, presumably, are going to neither?
  8. At what stage should this differentiation begin, if any be recommended ?
  9. Can any description be given of the best method of teaching this subject throughout the school course ?
  10. Can any description be given of the best mode of testing attainments in this subject at college admission examinations
  11. For those cases in which colleges and universities permit a division of the admission examination into a preliminary and a final examination, separated by at least a year, can the best limit between the preliminary and final examinations be approximately defined?

I got through the abstract or summary and am now working on the reports from the individual Conferences. Interesting stuff so far:

  • The summary goes to great length to emphasize their surprise and delight at the near-unanimity of the Conferences in their recommendations. The lady doth protest too much – you mean, your hand-selected Committee’s hand-selected Conferences are all singing from the same hymnal? Shocking!
  • The Conferences unanimously agreed that no consideration should be given to whether a student intended to go on to college or a ‘scientific’ school – train them all the same. Blank slate thinking. Specialty schools, such as law, medicine, and engineering schools, are weirdly dismissed in the sense that it seems it was beneath the dignity of the Committee to show any interest in what such schools might want in high school graduates.
  • The Committee sent out a questionnaire to 200 high schools, asking about curriculum. They got 40 responses. Think about that – the NEA sets up a committee headed by the President of Harvard. This committee selects 200 high schools to survey – out of how many thousands of high schools in America? And 80% of those selected high schools blow them off. So, in 1892, how much weight did the NEA and the president of Harvard actually carry among ‘educators’?
  • The Committee proposed not one, but 4 courses of study: The Classical Model, the Latin-Scientific, the Modern Languages, and the English.
  • In order to do any of this, a lot more needed to be expected of grade schools. Latin, for example, should ideally start around 6th grade, and Greek one grade later. The Committee ends up recommending reform of the entire K-12 enterprise.
  • To pull any of this off, the Committee recognizes the need for many more, and much better trained, teachers. Huh, imagine that. This is an implicit criticism of and an attack on Catholic schools and one-room schools, none of which had the resources to do this sort of education even if they wanted to. But starting with this report, some diocese tried, leading to elite Catholic high schools in several cities. But the model of religious sisters from the Old Country sacrificing to teach immigrant children – the foundation of all parish schools – meant that kids were being trained by the wrong teachers: ones who had not been processed through the Normal Schools beloved by the NEA and the US Commission of Education.

And a bunch more stuff! The Committee noted that while work remained to be done, there were plenty of high schools in America that achieved, or nearly achieved, the goals the Committee laid out. Think about that, and weep: these schools turned out high school grads who were competent in AT LEAST Latin and Greek, had AT LEAST a good start in German and French, were well read in the Classics, and knew how to write decent English. AND colleges expected their applicants to demonstrate competence in these areas to gain admittance. How many of our current Masters and PhD holders have this level of education? Dumbing us down hardly covers it.

I’ll try to do a more thorough analysis once I get through all the individual Conferences reports. The Committee of 10 was hugely influential, and its ideas on a uniform, super-high quality education for every kid were used to beat down the opposition – until Dewey’s kinder, gentler, commie-revolutionary- producing model took over, producing the angry, ignorant mediocracies with which we are all familiar.

On Wealth

For the last post of June, and the beginning of the new semi-official post every once in a while policy, let’s talk wealth. Not willing to devote the time needed to find the articles among the 1500+ posts here on this blog, but I have long pointed out that the one thing without which the current insanity could not function is sheer, massive, overflowing wealth. Plenty. Stuff.

Public domain. Darn birds! Nice illustration of medieval technology: the heavy wheeled plow pulled by a haltered team of horses, which would require a lot of high-tech blacksmithing – e.g., horseshoes and iron plow blades. Pigs in the woods, a church in the background – and a road, which is required to get that ‘surplus’ food into nearby towns, to keep the 5%-20% of the population that wasn’t farming alive.

Being shot at without effect is not the only thing that focuses the mind wonderfully – the real threat of starvation and death seems to have a similar effect. We can get all technical about how time preferences are honed to a dangerous point in farmers, especially farmers in areas with a strongly defined growing season, such that European, Chinese, and Japanese cultures, for example, all traditionally value the willingness to delay gratification. The farmer knows with painful certainty that eating the seed corn or the breeding stock is near certainly a fatal move, even if it isn’t immediately fatal right now. A certain sanity, of the horse sense variety, was enforced by Reality.

Being a single mom, non-widow division, for example, was not looked down upon because – or just because – the woman likely had had a moment or two of moral failing. Rather, the careful social structure, built in the face of a frequently fragile prosperity, simply had few places for single moms. Put in brutal economic terms, there wasn’t enough consistent excess capacity to keep very many single moms and their kids alive. A Heloise, orphan daughter raised by a rich uncle, didn’t die as a result of conceiving Abelard’s baby outside of marriage. But she was now unmarriageable – who, among her social class, would want her, given her history? So the child is given up, Abelard is castrated, and Heloise consigned to a convent – and that’s a GOOD outcome, available only to the rich! A poorer woman would have abandoned her child, been forced into something like prostitution, and would be looking at a life expectancy in low single digit years.

Of course there were exceptions. But the number of exceptions could not stand in the face of the number of cautionary tales. Not so, in the modern world. Outside of war zones and targeted political actions (insofar as those two things are distinguishable in practice), it’s been half a century since any very large number of people have starved anywhere in the world. Cultures don’t change that fast, but in America, where we reached the nobody needs to starve level of food production a century or more ago, not only is mere survival all but guaranteed no matter how little one contributes to the upkeep and passing on of the culture, but the sorts of behaviors that would have placed you under dire threat of starvation are enshrined and protected. It’s unheard of to criticize an unwed mother or caddish Don Juan; the feces-enriched camps of the homeless are welcomed and protected in most major cities.

I’ve written all this before. The basic lack of any time preferences that favor long-term survival is a feature, not a bug, of modern culture. You be you, after all, and right now! If you are an obnoxious, mindless blight on society, so what? What is that compared to the Sacred You? We are so insulated from the consequences of real failure that many people who would have straved or died of exposure not that long ago can live quite comfortably within a complete fantasy world contained in their own heads…

… but they are far from the only people fully insulated from their own bad decisions. See here. The time preferences of the very rich run, perhaps, somewhat longer than your homeless person or gender studies grad, but not very much longer, and not for more than a generation or two. Typically, the grandchildren of the very rich are spending the fumes of the family fortune. It takes three generations, in other words, for Reality to catch up with the fantasy worlds of the very rich.

Aaaand – then there’s us. Let’s say you, a member of the middle class as traditionally understood, make a mistake, and wrap your $40K automobile around a tree. You escape serious injury, but now – oh, the horror! – need to deal with the insurance companies and shopping for a new car – oh, bother!

That’s not insulated from reality? In a dozen little ways, even we who choose to work and save and spend time with our loved ones are thus insulated. I’m reminded of the term ‘grillers’ – people who don’t want to hear about the problems in the world, they just want to grill. So long as they can grill, everything is OK enough. Well? How long can that attitude – and I admit I’ve not been far from it most of my life – survive?

As of right now, a preference for reality in the Aristotelian/Thomistic sense of an objective world accessible to the mind through the senses, a world within which we live but that doesn’t care what we think, with rules we can’t will away, is just that – a preference. There are few if any short-term costs to simply living in our own fantasy worlds. The gods of the copy book headings are on vacation, and will remain so for as long as the general level of Stuff/Wealth/Plenty remains anywhere near as absurdly high as it is now, AND Our Self-Appointed Betters decide to keep using some of that wealth on bread and circuses. Already, Sri Lanka and Ecuador have sunk into chaos, with real famine rearing its head (but caused by war/political acts, not weather or blight as in the old days). Other states are sure to follow.

The world can only play act for so long.

Which, frankly, is too bad. I’m very fond of indoor plumbing, electricity delivered right to your wall outlets, and gas stove cooking at the turn of a nob. I hope we can work this all out without destroying all the wonderful infrastructure our ancestors built over the last 250 years. I hope and pray that the gods of the copybook heading are not loosed, but especially that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob will remember His promise of mercy. Wealth in itself isn’t evil, but we’re seeing that, like power in any form, it is easily used for evil. I’d like to see the miracle where the evil is destroyed without the destruction of all the wealth. But Thy Will be Done.

Too funny to omit: Looking for a picture to illustrate the realities of pre-modern agriculture, and came across this gem, explaining the history and science of the picture of a medieval couple harvesting grain. A tidy summary of the modern view, even if a hopelessly useless description of medieval farm economy:

Farming was the most popular occupation of the Medieval Ages as it was an essential element to survival. A local lord or master would grant portions of his land to commoners and serfs and in exchange the people would till, cultivate and maintain the property to produce crops. What was grown was eventually sold at local markets at which the peasants were allowed to keep a share. Most revenue went to the local lord however through taxes and levies. In the society of the Middle Ages, a man’s status was based on how much land and livestock he owned. As both of these elements were critical for revenue, a private farmer who owned his own land could become quite rich. Crops were varied and depended greatly on how fertile the plot of farmed land was.

Yep – not starving, always a “popular occupation.” I can just see the youngsters, at Career Day at their medieval high school, talking to the guy at the Careers in Peasant Farming booth, and thinking: “farming sounds OK. I was thinking about that crusader gig – sounds sweet! – except I need to go ask the guy at the Squires and Baggage Train booth how it is that so few of them ever come back home. Monk and priest – nice stable careers, but I want a family, and that’s only an option for the Lay Investiture rich boys. The dude at the Blacksmithing booth made it sound like getting an apprenticeship is a trick – you got to know the right people. Scholars? No money or respect. Besides, all my friends are going into serfdom – it a popular occupation. I guess peasant farmer it is. Hope mom and dad are OK with me going vo-tech.”

The Academic Royal We: The Death of Science

Quick thought: I HATE it when people say things like “we used to think X, but now we know Y” when what they mean is “experts used to tout X with an unconscionable level of presumed certainty, but now they’ve switched to touting Y in the same manner – and I want to identify with these experts, and you are an outgroup member if you don’t instantly acquiesce.”

Another form: “People (not we, heavens no!) used to think the earth was the center of the Universe, but we (certainly not those people!) now know that the earth is but one tiny, unimportant planet in a vast Universe of planets and stars and stuff.”

Pro tip: speak for yourself. Just because some genius or poser somewhere has spoken ex cathedra about some issue, doesn’t mean ‘we’ know anything about it. ‘We’ would do well to remember that ‘we’ are ignorant sheep about almost everything, and that few of us have any business even having an opinion on most questions. ‘I don’t know’ is the humble and honest answer to almost all questions almost all the time for ALL OF US.

When someone claims that now ‘we’ know something that requires your acquiescence, hold on to your wallet and plot a few possible escape vectors.

Life in Auburn, CA (a little Coof Update)

While I have been too busy to follow the news much, we have been, as the Canadians would say, oot and aboot. Two things:

  • We had lunch at an alehouse in Auburn. Turns out that they refused to comply with any of the Coof restrictions and remained open the entire last 2+ years with no restrictions. They even posted signs to the effect that they saw no obligation to obey rules issued by unelected bureaucrats. And their beer is good. So, apart from the calorific and cash leakage issues, I’m going back there as much as I can.
  • On the flip side, there are still people masked up herein the Sierra foothills. Not many, but some. I’m torn between wanting to point and laugh, and feeling sorry for them. Note: it’s in the 80s during the day, nice healthy mountain air to breath – and I still see the occasional solo driver masked up in his car. Masks truly are magic talismans.
  • Had a nice talk with a lady at church, who alternated between mask fully up, nose exposed, and chin mask, without seeming to notice. After years of training, most people simply can’t or won’t make the distinction between what is reasonable and what they are told to do. What they are told to do IS reasonable, end of story, crimestop, you are evil to point out the idiocy.

Our explorations of the area:

  • There are many areas of utterly beautiful small farms. Some are clearly trophies, such as Italianate villas with vineyards and horses (not knocking that – if money were no object…) with others that look more humble, but still beautiful. Green pastures in the rolling hills, with Sierra streams flowing through them, are simply lovely.
  • There are also McMansions, but mostly in the places you probably wouldn’t want to farm anyway – 3-4 acres on rocky hillsides. People with money seem to want upscale suburbia with better scenery (and rattlesnakes, cougars, and bears, oh my!)
  • The most jarring are the more basic tract homes just sort of stuck here. The place we are staying is very nice, very modern. To get to it, one turns off Highway 49, drives past gas stations and strip mall businesses, and reaches a signal where, straight ahead, it’s beautiful country, but turn left, and it’s generic modern suburbia.
  • Out in the country parts, there are the occasional run down places with 8 cars and trucks parked out front and waist high weeds. Not too many, though.
Dog Bar Crossing Bridge over the Bear River. Crossed this narrow bridge following GPS ‘shortcut’ to one of the houses we wanted to look at.

Further updates as events warrant.

Musings on Losing Money

                I happened to see your consolidated 
                statement yesterday, Charles.  
                Could I not suggest to you that it 
                is unwise for you to continue this 
                philanthropic enterprise -
                this Enquirer - that is costing 
                you one million dollars a year?

                You're right.  We did lose a million 
                dollars last year.

  Thatcher thinks maybe the point has registered.

                We expect to lost a million next
                year, too.  You know, Mr. Thatcher -
                       (starts tapping 
                at the rate of a million a year -
                we'll have to close this place in 
                sixty years.

Citizen Kane, discussing the financial losses in his media empire.

In 537, under the Emperor Justinian I, the Hagia Sophia was completed after 5 years of work. Notre Dame du Paris was completed in 1260, after 97 years under construction. Two gigantic churches, each pushing the envelope of the construction techniques of their times. One took 5 years to build, the other almost a century. While I’m sure other factors were at play, the most obvious reason for this difference in construction time is that Hagia Sophia was built with the resources of an Empire under the direction of one man, while Notre Dame was not. Further, if Justinian had wanted another Hagia Sophia or 10, he had merely to say so, and within a few years, he would have had them. The 6th century Byzantine empire had the resources to do it. Unfortunately, we get to see what happens when Notre Dame gets destroyed, but had it been destroyed in 1261, at best it would have taken a couple of decades to rebuild, based on the construction timelines typical of Gothic cathedrals. And funding would have been a real issue.

There are costs, and then there are costs. For a subsistence farmer, having wasted effort over a day or two is likely to have real costs, measured in terms of reduced food supply for him and his family. For middle class 21st century Americans, having to replace a $40K car carelessly destroyed is generally an annoyance – chagrin, insurance, shopping, such a pain! To a billionaire, its a shame if one of his pet companies loses millions. To Justinian, a billion-dollar construction project is just one among several, and all in a day’s work.

John D. Rockefeller is said to have become the modern world’s first billionaire in 1916. Excluding heads of state, Forbes says that there are about 2,700 billionaires in the world. Forbes’ list is generated from public sources and reasonable guesses. Maybe there are 3,000 billionaire-level fortunes, once you add in the heads of state/royal family types? Your guess is as good as mine.

Now add in the wiley old coots with ‘only’ 500 million or so – are they materially less rich and influential than some punk tech billionaire? Now you’re up to – WAG, of course – 10,000 super-rich people? 100,000? Who knows? Why not use $100M as the floor? It’s all guesswork at this point.

These thoughts were generated by viewing Jon Del Arroz’s latest little video. Netflix has been hemorrhaging cash for a while now, and just recently announced that it laid off a bunch of people. While I agree with Del Arroz that these are good things, I doubt it means even as much as the million dollars a year loss did to William Randolph Hearst Charles Foster Kane. What Kane fails to mention: if he’s making as little as 2% a year on the remainder of his money, he can keep on losing a million a year forever. (Really, if he’s making anything at all, say 1%, his loses will be sustainable for centuries.)

One other consideration: while the man on the back of a horse has only a small fraction of the strength of the horse, as long as he keeps reins in hand, he’s effectively as strong as the horse and himself combined. There are some limitations that need skill to work around, but a skilled horseman and his horse act as one – and that one is the horseman. In the same way, a billionaire who has large interests in companies may control them without having their assets show up on his Forbes wealth calculations. A skillful billionaire can even manipulate things such that others agree to lose money – as long as the cost of the losses doesn’t exceed the financial and personal costs of crossing the billionaire.

In this context, keep in mind that the hands at the reins of almost all giant corporations are not playing with their own money. The CEO or Chairman is likely a millionaire or even a billionaire, but his fortune is likely worth a tiny fraction of the corporate money he manages, and only partially tied to the fortunes of the company. Let’s say a billionaire with 10% ownership of the company wants something to happen – say, he’s in favor of the diversity programming over at Netflix. Now you, as a member of the board or CEO, have got to ask yourself: how long will I have a job if I defy the billionaire? It’s not my money, after all. Sure, theoretically, I’m beholden to the shareholders – but that billionaire is the largest shareholder! Far better to do what he wants (and quietly divest myself of my shares in the company, as much as possible).

Then, if worst comes to worst and the company folds or is bought by somebody who wants to make money, the billionaire and I will share a nice Just So story about how evil white supremacists in their evilness ruined our efforts to enlighten the masses and Move Forward on the Right Side of History ™.

And he’ll give me another job.

And that’s just one layer of the onion. Wealthy people either play by the rules of the Athenians in Melos, or they stop being wealthy people. There’s a lot of jockeying going on, pecking orders and loyalties to establish, and backs to stab. I don’t imagine the tech billionaire’s fortunes will long outlive them – these callow youths from hippy boomer households are not winning long-term against modern Medicis and Rothchilds.

Henry Ford is estimated to have been worth about $35B in his heyday. Less than a century later, and the entire Ford family is said to worth about a $1B. Give it another couple generations, and a Ford is as likely to be washing your car as selling you one. Very few fortunes in America last more than a generation or two; very few children of billionaires have whatever gifts it took to make that first billion. Money to them is like water to a fish – it is just the medium they live in, hardly ever noticed. Most children of the rich start right off burning through the family fortune and leave dregs to the grandkids.

There are exceptions, of course. The Medici fortune reached its peak within the first century of the Medici bank in the 13th century, but persisted for about 500 years before finally vanishing. (Another wildcard that some real historian should enlighten us all on: when the fortunes of others depend on or at least benefit from your fortune, you may be propped up indefinitely. The Medici married into many prominent and noble families – how much did this contribute to their riding out some incompetent and occasionally literally insane heirs? Were the family to fail, however, political turmoil would result. How often over those 5 centuries did other players decide they would rather that didn’t happen? But in the end, it did, but only through lack of male heirs.)

But in the meantime, they ape Kane. They all can throw around a billion here, a billion there, without feeling any pain; they can have the companies they control burn billions on idiot programs and policies and propaganda, and hardly notice except to blame others.

So rejoice when the mighty are brough low. But right now, these superficial loses are not hurting the real money. They can afford to keep up the idiocy indefinitely, if the want.

The End of the Middle Ages

Prepping for the last lecture class before we start reviews and head into finals. Looking at the stuff I prepared last year, I can barely remember doing it. Probably something to do with the physical and emotional exhaustion from moving, and the continued attention demanded by the endless steps needed to get our house finally on the market. (target date: 5/26.)

Here’s a brief snippet.

Edward Peters, Britannica online

This, from Britannica, a source I use cautiously if at all. Here, the writer, describes the triumphal revisionism of the Renaissance writers, who so badly wanted to tout themselves as the best and the brightest that they ignored reality when needed. I’ve long wondered how scholars writing sometimes literally in the shadows of the great medieval churches, could not see how preposterous their claims of *obvious* superiority were. Example:

A nice church. I’d take it, Buuuut….
Clearly better than this? I think not. And I’m not even going with the High Gothic stuff here, which is the greatest architecture the world has ever seen.

Reports of the death of the Middle Ages have been somewhat exaggerated. What’s really been overblown are the achievements of the Renaissance:

The next (and, as it proved, final), steps taken in this direction (physics of motion – ed)  were the accomplishments of the last and greatest of the medieval scientists, Nicole Oresme (1325 – 1382). …devoted much of his effort to science and mathematics. He invented graphs, one of the few mathematical discoveries since antiquity which are familiar to every reader of the newspapers. He was the first to perform calculations involving probability. He had a good grasp of the relativity of motion, and argued correctly that there was no way to distinguish by observation between the theory then held that the heavens revolve around the earth once a day, and the theory that the heavens are at rest and the earth spins once a day. 

Then everything came to a stop. Given the scientific and mathematical works of Descartes and Galileo, but no chronological information, one might suppose the authors were students of Oresme. Galileo’s work on moving bodies is the next step after Oresme’s physics; Cartesian geometry follows immediately on Oresme’s work on graphs. But we know that the actual chronological gap was 250 years, during which nothing whatever happened in these fields. Nor did any thing of importance occur in any other branches of science in the two centuries between Oresme and Copernicus. 

James Franklin, Honorary Professor, School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of New South Wales

Then, yea, there’s that.

There’s a bunch more, but now I’ve gotta go do class. Yes, I inflict this stuff on 15 year olds. Toughens them up.

Holy Saturday: My Ass is in a Ditch (Luke 14:5-6)

Being a little flippant on this, the day of the Great Silence, but that’s the truth. I’ve got 6 days to finish packing up and moving out of this house, and so hope to keep a prayer on my lips as I work like a dog to get it done. My beloved and our beloved son, as well as our daughters and son in law and one very dear friend have also put in some serious work, but we’ve run hard into the 80-20 (or is it 90-10?) Rule: packing up the last 20% is 80% of the work. This post will be brief, rushed, or both.

First up, Dante: in Canto IV of the Inferno, as they leave the Limbo of souls who earned no punishment but gained not Heaven, he asks Virgil one of the enduring questions of Christianity. Is there no hope for souls separated from Christ through no fault of their own? Unbaptized infants, virtuous pagans (like Virgil himself) and those to whom the Word has never been preached? Specifically, has no one from Limbo ever been saved?

Here there was no sound to be heard, except the sighing, that made the eternal air tremble, and it came from the sorrow of the vast and varied crowds of children, of women, and of men, free of torment. The good Master said to me: ‘You do not demand to know who these spirits are that you see. I want you to learn, before you go further, that they had no sin, yet, though they have worth, it is not sufficient, because they were not baptised, and baptism is the gateway to the faith that you believe in. Since they lived before Christianity, they did not worship God correctly, and I myself am one of them. For this defect, and for no other fault, we are lost, and we are only tormented, in that without hope we live in desire.’

When I heard this, great sadness gripped my heart, because I knew of people of great value, who must be suspended in that Limbo. Wishing to be certain in that faith that overcomes every error, I began: ‘Tell me my Master, tell me, sir, did anyone ever go from here, through his own merit or because of others’ merit, who afterwards was blessed?’

Dante, Inferno, Canto IV, From Poetry in Translation, translated by A. S. Kline

Virgil answers straight out of medieval mystery plays:

And he, understanding my veiled question, replied: ‘I was new to this state, when I saw a great one come here crowned with the sign of victory. He took from us the shade of Adam, our first parent, of his son Abel, and that of Noah, of Moses the lawgiver, and Abraham, the obedient Patriarch, King DavidJacob with his father Isaac, and his children, and Rachel, for whom he laboured so long, and many others, and made them blessed, and I wish you to know that no human souls were saved before these.


Elsewhere in the Inferno, features of Hell are described as ruins: bridges over ditches, walls, the Gates of Hell itself has been blown off its hinges. This seems odd, given the inscription over the Gates:











“…and eternal I endure.” One might expect, after Plato, that eternal things are unchanging and unchangeable, pretty much by definition. But no – in an Incarnational universe, even the Eternal is shown to change – out of love. Virgil explains that a great earthquake shook Hell on the day One came to save some souls out of Limbo, and damaged even Hell. Even in the wreckage of Hell, or perhaps especially in the wreckage of Hell, the God Who so Loved the world is revealed. He has entered time for our sake.

The Gates of Hell not prevailing.

Today is often referred to as the Great Silence, for here on earth we recall the lull in Incarnational activity: The world slept in darkness until Christ came, then was riled, enraged, and murderous until Christ had been entombed, then fell silent while Christ descended into Hell. Now, all the noise and insanity of the world is caused by the Prince of this world again fighting vainly against the New Heaven and the New Earth. The battle rages even though the outcome is known. We are the lowliest foot soldiers in this battle of Principalities and Powers, but we all have our parts to play. About as weak and small a person imaginable, a peasant Jewish teenage mother, in her holy humility has crushed the serpent’s head, after all. We also must do our parts.

Now, back to packing up.

Brief Chin-mask Update

This morning, attended a morning mass also attended by most of the school children in the parish school. In the sample I could see, the percentage of kids masked has fallen to maybe a little over 50%. Saw any number of below-the-nose masking kids, and one admirable little boy going full chin-mask.

This among the minority of kids I could see, as we sit toward the front.

If it weren’t for the tragedy and child abuse involved in terrifying/cajoling children into making this otherwise pointless act of compliance, it would be funny.

Flying at Half-mask & Other Oddities; Updates

So, despite the numbers – cases, deaths, hospitalizations – being as bad or worse than they were this time last year or, indeed, at the end of April of 2020, it has been decreed that we can stop with the COVID nonsense, for the most part. Simply dropping all the MANIFESTLY USELESS restrictions and mandates would invite people to point and laugh, so we must phase them out, making sure all the little people know that Our Betters can reinstate them without notice at any time in the future.

MANIFESTLY USELESS, I say, if we’re talking about reducing the spread and the severity of this particular disease. Follow the logic, please, and note that we’re using the numbers generated by the people behind the panic mongering: IF steps taken WORKED, THEN there would be FEWER cases, hospitalizations, and deaths ONCE THOSE STEPS WERE TAKEN. Do not pass go unless you understand this! Sure, any number of Just So stories can be and were generated as needed to explain WHY the damn virus just kept spreading and coming back and killing people despite all the absolutely essential and effective steps that were taken, but there comes a point – summer, 2020 was that point, if you’re taking notes – when, if any of these steps worked at all, we should have seen the spread of the virus crawl to a halt. But ‘we’ didn’t. So, Our Betters kept layering on the restrictions and requirements. We had to wait for a ‘vaccine’ before allowing people to take the horrible risk of going to church, say, or attending a class. So, we got ‘vaccines’ – never mind that the CDC had to change the definition of what a vaccine is in order to shoehorn in the experimental gene therapy Pfizer and Moderna were pushing; never mind that none, as in zero, therapies using this gene therapy had ever gotten past the testing phase in over a decade of testing and billions spent trying to get them approved. Never mind that all the safeguards and testing requirements – you know, the steps and procedures that take typically about 10 years to perform? – were waived. Never mind that – logic, again! – if you test anything for 3 months, all you can possibly know is that what you’re testing is safe and effective for 3 months! Anything that happens after 3 months is simply unknown. Never mind that these ‘vaccines’ were introduced as the solution to COVID in an atmosphere of total panic and fear, then quickly walked back with another bunch of Just So stories when they failed to perform. Your ‘vaccines’ didn’t work for you, because somebody else didn’t get the jab. Then boosters became required, then boosters to the boosters, the concept of ‘fully vaccinated’ became current to shift blame for the fact that the vaccinated were still getting sick and dying away from the makers of the ‘vaccine’ and onto those who were not ‘fully vaccinated’.

As one wag put it: if I got my dog vaccinated against rabies three times in one year, and he still caught rabies, I’d have some questions.

Now, we’re having a little war in Ukraine to distract us from all this – and Hunter’s laptop, assorted election fraud court cases, the farce of the January 6 ‘insurrection’, and an inconvenient number of younger, healthier people dropping dead after getting jabbed. (Note: confirmation bias works both ways, but if every 90 year old nursing home patient and overdose druggie death can be counted as Coof Doom, then by what reasoning do we dismiss all post-jab deaths as just one of those things? How about a real study of both sets of claims?)

Here, for example, is a chart of deaths attributed to COVID in Israel, one of the most heavily jabbed nations of earth, with almost every adult jabbed, double-jabbed, boosted, and boosted again:

After they started jabbing people, deaths went up. Then, we have the Just So story valley in April 2021 – see, it’s Just So that it took a few months for enough people to get jabbed for the wonderful, wonderful vax to be effective on the population! Never mind that airborne viral infections fall every damn spring and have for as long as they’ve been tracked – no! This fall is due to our wonder drugs and the sheeplike compliance of all good citizens!

Then, when the end of summer uptick happens, another story is generated. Pandemic of the unvaxxed! Then finally, once the winter flu season kicks in, and deaths are worse than ever, worse than they are anywhere that remained unvaxxed, we say – ?

It’s crazy-making. On a small local scale, I’ve been noting two phenomena. First, the number of ‘voluntarily’ masked people has fallen, but there is a persistent minority that still wears a mask outside in the sun or alone in their cars. We may be nearing some sort of sanity minimum, where the hard core of those still masked up are certifiably insane. At the sparsely-attended 6:30 morning mass I go to in Lent, there are maybe 3 or 4 masked up people out of 14-20 mass-goers; out shopping, the percentage seems a little higher.

I occasionally see the school children at mass. They are still majority masked up, although many take the liberties I’ll describe next. The damage has been done; logic and evidence, never a strong suit for your average American, are dead and buried under an avalanche of panic and group-think.

The second phenomenon is more amusing: chin masking. We’ve all seen, I suppose, the skip-the-nose masking, common from the start of the masking fiasco. You wear a mask, but below your nose. You want to comply, maybe, but you’d also like to breath, so you go with the totally irrational and ineffective even in theory mask below the nose.

Now, I’m seeing an even more amusing use of masks – the chin mask. This is a mask worn in such a way as to cover neither the nose nor the mouth. It covers the chin. Those schoolkids mentioned above, when they aren’t fiddling with their masks, tend to do something like chin masking or skip the nose masking. Since mom isn’t around to panic, and the rule is that you don’t have to mask, so the teachers aren’t enforcing it, kids, especially the younger ones, tend to take it as the game it is. This would be a healthy challenge to authority and testing of limit, if it weren’t for the guilt-tripping and fear mongering these kids are no doubt routinely subjected to, often by their moms.

So the damage has been done. A generation has been tortured, lied to, forced to comply, taught to fear and dismiss any counterarguments. May God have mercy on us!

Next, MIL is back in the hospital – 3rd time in 2022. This time, she woke up with pain and reduced strength in her right side. While these are typical stroke symptoms, they also, as in this case, sometimes result for seizures. I didn’t know that. Preliminary tests show no stroke; MRIs are to be run today, which supposedly are more sensitive to these sorts of things. She’s 84, very demented, weak but otherwise physically doing OK – until now.

Of course, this is happening as we’re packing up to move and getting the house fixed up. The Eternal Brick Project of Doom is almost done – pics as events warrant.

Prayers for both my MIL and for our move would be appreciated.

Do something today! Practice agency! You are not a helpless cog!