Florida’s 8th congressional district is currently represented by Bill Posey, a Republican with a 67 percent Conservative Action Score on the That’s My Congress legislative scorecard system. For the Tea Party, that’s not conservative enough. So, under the name of the Tea Party, a man named Karl Balone is challenging Representative Posey in the 2014 election.
Why should voters in the 8th district vote for Balone instead of Posey? Because, according to Balone’s campaign Facebook page, the “United States Postal Service—- Has Taken Lord Jesus Christ and Merry Christmas………………………………..OUT OF CHRISTMAS.”
Is it true? Has the Postal Service taken Jesus and Christmas out of Christmas? Does the Postal Service even have the authority to do that?
Balone didn’t come up with this issue on his own. He’s referring to a conspiracy theory that’s made the rounds of right wing activists this autumn, claiming that the US Postal Service is refusing to print stamps that celebrate Christmas or show Jesus. The conspiracy theory is based upon a poster that promotes the three most recent additions to the Postal Service’s holiday stamp collection. That poster shows a stamp for Hanukkah, a stamp for Kwanzaa, and a stamp with gingerbread houses on it – but no stamp for Christmas, and no stamp showing the baby Jesus.
Right wing activists has looked at this single poster and concluded that the US Postal Service has declared a war on Christmas. Other, more patient, Americans have noted that the Postal Service is a great deal more than just one poster.
In fact, the Postal Service prints, promotes and sells more stamps celebrating Christmas than it does for any other winter holiday. What’s more, many of the Postal Service’s Christmas stamps specifically show the baby Jesus, as well as his mother and father. The Postal Service has heavily publicized these stamps, including one featuring a painting by Jan Gossaert, which, as the Postal Service notes, has explicitly Christian religious imagery: “Draped in purple and blue, the Virgin Mary supports her own head by leaning on one of her hands. According to art historians, this pose was an unusual way to depict the Virgin Mary in Gossaert’s time and may have been meant to evoke both sadness and contemplation by reminding viewers of earlier artistic depictions of ancient scholars, St. Joseph in Nativity scenes, and mourners at the Crucifixion. Supported by the Virgin Mary’s other hand, a curly-haired infant Jesus loosely draped in a white cloth looks to the viewer’s right and holds a bunch of red currants, which scholars have interpreted as foreshadowing Christ’s future suffering.”
Karl Balone could have met the baby Jesus simply by taking a short trip to his local post office himself, but like most Tea Party members, he refused to go through the work of checking the facts.
It’s five days to KrampusNacht, that traditional European holiday on which the Krampus beast roams the streets patting the two well-behaved children on the head and running after the remainder with birch switches.
How can you encourage respect for that Old-Time Religion (it’s good enough for you!) among the youth of today?
Make them a Krampus treat out of marzipan, that’s how:
It’s six short days to KrampusNacht, the night when St. Nicholas’ predecessor and occasional companion roams through the streets of town, looking for naughty children to punish.
Krampus and the mumming tradition from which he stems predate modern Christmas folklore by many, many years, making Krampus a much more real “Reason for the Season.” In Rochester New York, they’re bringing the Reason back to the Season by asking grownups to celebrate a drunken Krampyhour on December 6, followed by Breakfast with Krampus on the morning of Dec. 7:
Breakfast with Krampus will include:
A Germanic bake sale
Crafts with Krampus (make your own birchen beating rod!)
Games and prizes
Educational displays on Krampus and other disturbing, archaic holiday icons
Professional photos with Krampus
A visit with Krampus
Live performances and surprise guests
As for the “breakfast” part, if you bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to disadvantaged children, and Krampus approves of your offering, you’ll get a complimentary breakfast treat and some coffee. If Krampus DOESN’T like your gift, you’ll be harassed, possibly beaten, and in extreme cases dragged straight to Hell.
This week, I’ve provided examples of how Libertarian politicians, though they seek the support of liberal voters, promote policies that are in stark opposition to liberal values. Education has turned out to be a particularly weak spot in Libertarian ideology. Libertarian politicians are promoting the idea of eliminating public schools. We don’t need to worry about the consequences, the Libertarians say, because children can sit at home on computers or go to work instead of being at school or join militias before they are replaced by killer robots.
Libertarians’ disdain for education seems to have roots in the Libertarian affection for abstract logical reasoning as a basis for political policy. Libertarians love to tell people who disagree with them that they are being irrational. Libertarian philosophy is the only rational basis for political policy, they tell us.
In an example of this prideful rationalism, Andrew Horning, Libertarian candidate for Congress in Indiana’s 8th congressional district, lectures us that, “Politics’ only rational role is to use its inherent violence for the defense of liberties and contracts; and against fraud, real crime, and in general, to oppose aggression or abuse of persons, property, or shared (unownable) resources.”
One of the weaknesses inherent in a political movement that is based upon abstract logical reasoning is that it tends to lead its followers into categorical positions like this one. Horning tells us that rational thinking leads to the inevitable conclusion that politics is good for nothing at all except for protection of liberty and contractual arrangements against aggression, crime and abuse. Every other project in politics, Horning suggests, is irrational.
Once again, education is a weak spot for Libertarians. All we have to do to test the validity of Andrew Horning’s broad claims is to find just one rational purpose for politics other than the one he listed. If we do find one, Horning’s argument falls apart. So, we can ask: Isn’t it rational for people to organize politically in order to establish systems of support for science and education?
We all benefit from a society that is scientifically literate and active, and well-educated in general. We can only reach a limited level of scientific and educational achievement, however, as individuals. For that reason, it makes sense for people to come together, forming political movements to support funding of scientific and educational institutions. Libertarians like Andrew Horning, however, would remove eliminate support for science and education, without any reasonable plan for an alternative.
Libertarians’ repeated political failures largely stem from their inability to come up with reasonable alternatives to political solutions. All they can offer is an abstract political philosophy that fails to deal with the reality of how people actually live. It’s this disembodied nature of Libertarian ideology that makes it so irrational. Logical reasoning only works if it is founded in reliable premises. The Libertarians, having failed to educate themselves broadly, leap to faulty conclusions on the basis of their ignorance.
As they blabber on with ridiculous ideas such as the elimination of public schools, Libertarians unintentionally become living examples of how important politically mustered public support of education is.
To keep Irregular Times going up on the web, we sell t-shirts with political messages we believe in. We refuse, however, to sell shirts made in sweatshops that profit off the exploitation of third-world people, which is why we only offer made-in-the-USA shirts. An indirect consequence of this, however, is that capital investment remains within the United States, furthering the concentration of resources within our own relatively rich nation. The solution to disinvestment in the third world is not to exploit more third-world workers with jobs that involve poisoning, sexual harassment and scandalously low pay; the continued success of the no-sweat Alta Gracia shirt shows that there are workable, ethical alternatives. Our own alternative approach is to set aside a dollar from every shirt we sell and dedicate it to people-affirming efforts in third world nations.
In this round, we are sending our donation to the Foundation Beyond Belief, a secular humanist organization funneling its contributions to international efforts that don’t engage in religious proselytizing or conversion. Our donation this month goes particularly toward relief efforts in the Philippines in the wake of Super Typhoon Haiyan.
Yesterday, I wrote about the kooky ideas of Jon Roland, a Libertarian candidate for Senate in Texas who wants to replace schools with militias of children, and then make those militarized kids obsolete with killer robots. In response to that article, some people have suggested that I was being unfair, using just one Libertarian to suggest that Libertarians in general ascribe to bizarre, irrational ideas.
It’s worth pointing out that I am not the only person who has observed that Libertarians tend to be a wee bit out of balance. Just a few days ago, the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Nevada resigned, declaring in disgust that the Libertarian Party is “infested with idiots”.
The thing is, there are plenty of other Libertarian candidates out there who are proposing programs of abandonment of education that are quite similar to Jon Roland’s ideas – and they aren’t all from kooky Texas either.
Ken Krawchuk, for example, who is running with the Libertarian Party for the position of Governor of Pennsylvania, proposes doing away with public schools entirely, having parents pay for private schools instead. Krawchuk’s idea ignores one important piece of reality: There aren’t enough private schools to teach all of America’s children. In many places in Pennsylvania, public schools are the only schools in existence. In other places, the only private schools are weird Creationist academies run by religious extremists. Close the public schools in these communities, and all the kids will be forced into science classes where they teach that the earth is only six thousand years old.
Besides that, Krawchuk’s educational plan would exacerbate economic inequality by converting what is now a universal level of education into a luxury affordable only to some families. If parents are forced to pay directly for their children’s education, what would happen when their parents became unemployed? The children in such families would be forced to stay home, unschooled, at the very same time their parents would be trying to look for work.
What about the working poor, those families who, under Libertarian abolition of the minimum wage, have parents working full time, but earning only enough for food and shelter, with nothing left over to pay for private school fees? Krawchuk suggests “non-traditional alternatives, such as homeschooling, apprentice programs, cyber schooling”.
In other words, Krawchuk’s Libertarian education plan is to offer the very best education to the children of well-off families, while other people’s children…
1. Become child laborers
2. Try to learn by sitting alone all day, surfing the Internet instead of going to school
or 3. Sit at home all day, or roam the streets, obtaining whatever “education” they can from parents or peers who are themselves struggling for survival
It’s true that Ken Krawchuk’s educational proposal does not include Jon Roland’s details of children’s militias and robot armies, but fundamentally, the two Libertarian plans are the same: Destroy schools and let American children fend for themselves.
Krawchuk’s policy of societal abandonment isn’t limited to children, though. Krawchuk also wants to eliminate the legal protections that prevent corporations from killing consumers in order to make a profit. Krawchuk would replace environmental and workplace protections with “voluntary regulations”. Deadly implements in the workplace, and toxins like mercury and arsenic in our food would become legal under Krawchuk’s Libertarian plan, with corporations simply asked to please try not to be so nasty, unless they really want to be.
Libertarians who are wondering why their political party has failed to gain widespread support don’t need to resort to conspiracy theories about the New World Order, or old complaints about ballot access. There’s a more simple explanation: Americans love their children, and want to survive.
While you’re waiting to tuck into crescent rolls, a challenge:
Relate a mundane event that happened to you today.
Add “Isn’t Life Like That?” or “Isn’t Jesus Like That?” or “Isn’t Love Like That?”
See if you’ve got an instant Vinyl Cafe story, Sermon, or basis for a hit song.
Libertarians keep trying to convince disgruntled liberals to join with them, saying that Libertarians and liberals really want the same thing, just through different means. If only liberals could think rationally, and abandon their attachment to the idea that progress can be achieved through a government elected by the people, then we could become happy libertarians, they say. They grow exasperated with our refusal to take the Libertarian Party seriously.
Before these Libertarians dismiss us as hopelessly irrational, however, they would benefit from an examination of the kind of candidates for public office that their political party brings forth, and consider how these candidates look from a liberal perspective.
Libertarian politician Jon Roland is a useful example. Roland is currently campaigning to become the Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate from Texas in 2014.
As much as Libertarians like to say that they’re against centralized government decisions, Jon Roland would like to get the federal government involved in a radical, top-down reorganization of education in the United States. He wants the U.S. Senate to pass legislation to change education to “repurpose toward militia training for defense, law enforcement, and disaster response.”
Instead of learning history, science, mathematics, art, writing, reading, and all the other traditional school subjects, under Jon Roland’s Libertarian plan for education American children would, be assembled into armed militias.
What kind of future would these children have, with that sort of education? Not a very prosperous one, if Jon Roland’s Libertarian plan for military reform is enacted. Roland proposes the accelerated replacement of soldiers with military “technology”.
Note to Libertarians: Children in militias instead of schools, made obsolete by killer robots, is not a political goal that liberals share in common with you.
This month, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board issued its second semi-annual public report on its investigations of the activities of the United States government and the extent to which those activities violate the constitutional rights of everyday people. A juicy tidbit in that report seems to have escaped notice. Let’s cover it.
Focus your attention on pages 12 and 13 of the report, which cover the requirement under law that “the Attorney General, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency” all “shall periodically, but not less than quarterly, submit a report” to Congress and the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board regarding “the number and nature of the complaints received by the department, agency, or element concerned for alleged violations” of civil liberties and “a summary of the disposition of such complaints, the reviews and inquiries conducted,” and changes made to policy as a result.
Boil down the legalese and this amounts to a legal requirement that the information and intelligence agencies of the Obama administration submit quarterly reports to the PCLOB indicating the number of civil liberties complaints received, the kinds of civil liberties complaints received, and the status of responses to these complaints.
How well have the various wings of the Obama administration complied? According to the PCLOB, not very well at all:
- The Central Intelligence Agency, Department of State and Department of Health and Human Services haven’t bothered to send any such reports at all, despite being legally required to do so.
- The remainder of the Obama administration information and intelligence agencies listed above have sent on information that is, as the PCLOB puts it politely, “for the most part not informative.” These agencies have sent on counts of complaints, but (again despite the law) have not described the nature of the complaints or any description of the way in which the agencies have responded to those complaints.
The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board concluded that it had received no useful information to share, which is why you can’t find that information in this most recent report.
The bottom line: agencies of the Obama administration are blowing off the law, failing to report complaints about and responses to violations of your constitutional rights. Spread the word.
This morning, Fast Company sponsored a question and answer event with Jose Ferreira, the founder of Knewton, a company that wants to place education online. In a tweet promoting the event, Fast Company brags that, in the future, 25% of educational time in Kindergarten through 12th grade will be spent purely online.
If students spend 7 hours per day, 5 days per week, in school, that’s 35 hours spent in school each week for K-12 students. 25 percent of that is 8 hours and 45 minutes per week spent online, with students learning by interacting with a screen.
This proposal for future commitment to on-screen time in education for children ought to be understood in terms of the results of a scientific study that were released today. The study examined the relationship between the amount of “screen time” activities engaged in by children and Body Mass Index, a measurement of obesity. The research concludes that amount of screen time is positively associated with degree of obesity.
It isn’t surprising news. People have long suspected that the more time kids sit in front of screens, the fatter they get. However, the research is important in documenting the association, especially given that people’s knowledge of the health risks of screen time is not leading to behavioral change. New methods of increasing habits that contribute to physical fitness are called for – education isn’t enough.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recently issued a recommendation that parents limit their children to just 2 hours per day in front of electronic screens. That’s a total of 14 hours per week.
If Knewton has its way, and 25 percent of in-school time for children is spent on screens, then that leaves only 5 hours and 15 minutes left for at-home on-screen time for kids, if they are to follow pediatricians’ recommendations. That’s just 45 minutes per day.
Given that childhood obesity is already a serious problem, and most parents are unlikely to limit their children to just 45 minutes of screen time at home per day, it’s fair to conclude that Knewton’s proposals of increasing screen-based learning in schools will contribute to an increase in childhood obesity and the crippling and deadly diseases that result from it.
It’s telling that Knewton’s web site doesn’t mention obesity very often, except in study materials for the GMAT that warn, “Obesity is the most urgent nutrition-related health problem in America today.” Premed student, heal thyself.
All this leaves me wondering just what the 3 trillion dollar industry that FastCompany refers to might be. I can see many possibilities:
- Diabetes counseling
- Amputation clinics
- Plus size furniture
- Bariatric surgery