Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Student debt -- an mere extravagance, or a crippling waste of American lives?

So, Tam is on, a bit, about folk falling for the corporate/government/Depr of Ed line about "you need a college degree". And ending up with a degree, some fancy debts, and colorful protests on YouTube. I threw in my two bits:

On the one hand, check out Seth Godin's "Stop Stealing Dreams", a free ebook about why we have the education system we have today, and why it serves only vested interests anymore. Students and communities are mere fodder -- notice the success stories of homeschooling, and "unschooling".

On the other hand, I think the blame goes back to President John F. Kennedy. JFK posed the "race to space" and a need for thousands and thousands of scientists, millions of engineers, and industry worker bees by the scads -- not to improve life for Americans, but to further government agendas.  When the big money started flowing, the message "your country needs your engineering skill" became "You need college, because it makes money for Big Money", and then the current sick cycle of colleges engaged in marketing propaganda, and government lobbying, creating a artificial demand, based on government spending.

Communities need their best and brightest. Then need some few of those cycling through their (?!) schools to return with an advanced degree. Instead, the Department of Education enables a wealth generator -- for the wealthy. Colleges make out like bandits. Corporations reap benefits. And communities are stripped of the bright, capable, creative people that should have been enriching their community, their family, and their nation.

Start with your local board of education, and figure out if they count success as how many students graduate to serve in the military (the origin of organized sports), how many make stable families, how many remain, and mature to benefit their community -- or how many federal dollars they suck in.


Our schools should serve the needs of their community -- whether commerce, family, industrial, engineering, science, whatever -- and stop siphoning off so many students merely to continue generating paper wealth for company owners and politicians.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Can we make new farmers from city folk?

So, there I was, reading along, and someone mentions the New Deal program to relocate unemployed city people to farms. Huh. That has been my thought for a while. The American farmer is aged, an average of 65 years old, and most have lost their children to the Department of Education and mass media -- farm children were put into a school system that defines success as college directed to a lucrative corporate career, or a lucrative factory job. Or flipping burgers.

So we need farm kids. Which I figure means we need farm families. But we have to make farm families, because we don't have enough (and for the next generation or three we have to assume mass media and the corporate powers that be will still siphon off the people we need to grow the food our grandchildren will eat) families living on the farm.

Since it takes time, and I don't want the government getting into the practice of "making" families (mostly), my thought is to find families willing to accept a small subsistence farm with reasonable (minimal) housing and facilities.

And I wrote Senator Dr. Coburn today.


Dr. Coburn,

I am a sad student of history. I recall classes that coverd a "New Deal", back before the Beatles (which I do remember!). But, fifty years ago, the problems of the New Deal seemed both solved and irrelevant to modern day, and unlikely to provide more than a warning about trying to do too much by the government (which lesson seems, well, still needed).

Then I noticed an interesting part of the New Deal, the Resettlement Administration. It seems my notion of moving people toward farm life, to improve food source diversification, to improve community engagement, and to improve self esteem, was tried, and turned out to be one of the more successful of the New Deal ventures. According to the OKState web site (http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/R/RE032.html):

"Subsistence Homesteads Division (SHD) of the Department of the Interior. The SHD created model communities, moving urban poor to small plots of land where they would live in safe, clean houses and learn to produce enough food to become self-sustaining.

. . .

"Under the guidance of Rexford G. Tugwell, the RA absorbed the programs of its predecessors and embarked on an ambitious plan to solve the rural economic crisis.

"The RA consisted of three divisions: the Land Utilization Division, the Resettlement Division, and the Rehabilitation Division. The Rehabilitation Division provided training for farm families and administered the farm credit and debt adjustment activities of the RA. The Land Utilization Division was authorized to purchase ten million acres of submarginal land to convert to pasture, forest, game preserves, or parks. Utilizing FERA and later Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds, people taken off of the land were put to work planting trees, building roads, and making other land improvements. These individuals also became clients of the Resettlement Division.

"The Resettlement Division absorbed the SHD and a number of FERA projects. The division was authorized to purchase land for resettlement as well as to undertake rehabilitation of submarginal land. The larger projects totaled 151, with numerous small-scale projects scattered across the country. The Resettlement Division embarked on a building program, constructing new houses and sanitary facilities for its clients in either rural communities developed by the RA, or on scattered farms, or even in some suburban/industrial communities inherited from the SHD. "

I also ran across a University of Arizona reference (http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/R/RE032.html, a review of the book, Urban Farming in the West - A New Deal Experiment in Subsistence Homesteads By Robert M. Carriker.):

"Although overshadowed by the larger undertakings of the New Deal, some of these western communities remain thriving neighborhoods—living legacies to FDR's efforts that show how the country once chose to deal with economic hardship. Too often the DSH (Division of Subsistence Homesteads) is noted for its failures; Carriker's study shows that its western homesteads were instead qualified accomplishments. "

I feel that immediate action is needed to motivate and support families needing a change in life, and would benefit from contact with gardening and subsistence (food grown for personal use) farming.

I realize my vision of states programs leasing long term, on a lease-to-own basis, up to 25% of a given farm or ranch, of ground taxed as farm ground, and subsequently sub-leased to clients in 5-10 acre parcels with an expectation that the family(!) accepting the invitation/sub lease, would grow 50% of the food they ate by the third year, and occupy their leasehold for a minimum of 10 years. Any breaking of the subleases would be used to invite new applicants. At the end of twenty years, if all sub-leases in the original lease are all still tenanted, then the land would be assumed by the government, and all taxes paid by the former owner on the leased land would be refunded at that time. (An incentive "balloon" payment, if you will.)

I would like to see principles of permaculture and sustainable small farming, including oxen, mule, and horse drawn agriculture equipment, be emphasized. I would like to see small farm-support craft businesses used to support tenants, including welding, blacksmithing, wood crafts from carpentry to lumbering and carving, feed milling and preparation, etc.

What I see the greatest need for, is to establish the next generation, or at least the generation after that, of people aware of the soil, of growing food -- that could reverse the trend of America's dwindling rank of rapidly aging farmers.

The Amish have long held that the proper place to raise children is the farm -- meaningful work, from gathering eggs to putting up hay, can easily be increased to build character. Working with parents on the farm increases knowledge that children's efforts contribute substantially, that they are needed as a person, and they they are valued. These are things desperately needed today. I don't see Oklahoma's needs, or the needs of any other state, as being that different from what the Amish have taken to heart.

My slant to small farms and gardening is in line with my concern that today's industrial style of farming becomes increasingly fragile at the same time operators require increasingly stringent backgrounds and experiences -- backgrounds and experiences of growing up on the family farm that are less available today. Increasingly fragile and interlinked currency and energy streams feeding the American economy threaten to fluctuate -- which could impact supplies of fertilizers, of fuels, of seeds. Current predatory regulations protecting patented seed and other agricultural products risk single-point failures that could destroy a planting or harvest season for a region or the nation.

And so I see a need to plant the seeds of a new generation of Americans accustomed to planting by times of frost, of watching the weather to decide what tasks are in line for the day, of planning this year's planting to support next year's planting needs. When I see a farmer on a tractor, I see a skilled equipment operator. The farmer part is about planning, scheduling, and accommodating changes into the plans. That particular skill takes lifetimes, and family farms, to carry Oklahoma, and America, safely into the future.

Thank you,



Term limits -- for politicians, or for spending and bureaucrats?

I had a thought last night. It seems one of my Senators for Oklahoma, has self-imposed a limit on the numbers of terms he will serve, 12 years or two (2) terms, and he is not seeking re-election to the Senate.

And I got to thinking about that. So I wrote Senator Dr. Coburn:

Dr. Coburn, Instead of the warm fuzzy (and deceptive) banner of term limits for elective officials, please consider -- limiting the terms of Federal expenditures. Of every Federal program and expenditure. Require the dispersal, without continuation, of every Federal program. Perhaps a term limit of ten years for everything but the Uniformed Services, the Coast Guard, and the few other actions explicitly and specifically called out in the Constitution as direct responsibilities of the United States government.

Term limits impose a censorship on a people's rights to representation.

California, and indeed the Federal Executive Administration, show that term limits absolutely and completely fail to accomplish the stated goal, of avoiding accumulation of power in ways subject to corruption and tyrannical self-preservation.

Term limits push the accumulation of tenure, of gathering of sycophants, of establishing spans of control, down to lower, election-proof, bureaucratic levels. Meaning that term limits remove the possibility of an election righting a wrong. We see it in how bureaucracy in California, since embracing term limits in their state legislature, has lost control of the legislative process to union civil servants and tenured staff.

In the Administration, it has long been observed that Federal Bureaucracy has a lethargic inertia quite resistant to mere Presidential elections.

President B. Hussein Obama has used bureaucratic tactics to subvert Congress' role in checking and balancing the accumulation, and moderation, of power and control in the US government. From recess appointments to stacking the National Labor Relations Board, to his infamous "we don't have time" to let Congress perform it's required duties -- we see, blatantly, what term limits do, and must, accomplish. We see it in testimonies before Congress when Administration members fail to answer questions, when subpoenas are not answered, when records are not provided, when deception against Congress happens -- unchallenged in the public eye.

We don't need a change to the Department of Homeland Security, or the Department of Education. We need a new, fresh statement and establishment of need of today, for whatever role the government and nation intend and need for today, without regard to legacy.

We need term limits on bureaucratic staff, with a maximum Federal service of six years in any office within 100 miles of current, or any previous, position held in the Government by that individual. We need the skills, as nation, we need the experience -- but we cannot allow the accumulation of power networks and spans of control growing outside the control of the electorate citizenry.

Thank you,


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

FBI -- Law enforcement, or national security -- are they confused?

Billll's Idle Mind reminds us that government is in the business to be in business. Expanding budgets are the mark of an ambitious bureaucrat and hungry politician. So I wrote Senator Dr. Coburn of Oklahoma.

There is a trope circulating around the internet, concerning the morphing of the role of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). It seems that the mission of the FBI has changed from investigating violations of the law, to "national security".

This seems wrong, and deflects resources needed to solve crimes, into activities that might or might not bear fruit, and certainly intrude into the lives of law abiding citizens because of the *possibility* that one or more might not be law abiding, or might intend to break the law.

This confusion of mission must be curbed. America still needs an FBI that is intent on, and focused on, acts of criminals. An FBI perceived as invasive and that self-defines it's roles, interpreting ad hoc what national security means at the time, not just dilutes that roll of law enforcement -- it perverts it.

Please, act to curb the perversion of creeping missions in this, and any, administration.