It’s Impossible to Teach Without Books

My wife has been a teacher in Oklahoma for five years and has never had the benefit of working with a new textbook. If she had been working in education longer, then that number would be higher. This is a major problem for Oklahoma teachers that sadly, needs to be spelled out. Textbooks are necessary as they give teachers a guided framework to teach students, useful resource material, a means of assessment, and a shared source all in one holistic package.

At least, they used to. Now teachers don’t get even that much. I’ll get to the reasons why, but first you need to realize what life is like for a teacher without classroom books for her kids.

If you’re lucky, you at least get consumables. Consumables are classroom materials that usually include a book, as well as a workbook with tearaway assessment materials (worksheets) that the kids use as their practice and to take grades. While these are better than nothing, they don’t meet the rigor and quality of real textbooks where the assessments are made from ruled paper. The big problem with them, however, isn’t that they don’t provide as much as the texts. It’s that they are very expensive solutions to only this year’s problem. Because they are consumed every year, there is little to nothing to use again next year. While we can complain that we have textbooks in classrooms for ten to 15 years… they’ve done the job for 15 years. Imagine ripping out all the portions of the text that provided activities for the kids to practice what they learned or for the teacher to know if they are getting it. That’s what a consumable solution looks like year two. Of course, this is usually how it works — with a giant pile of garbage created every year and a new set of consumables being purchased each and every year. Did I also mention that the sets are rarely the same requiring the teacher to completely redo her program to accommodate this new solution?

While this isn’t ideal, it makes the job of teaching at least possible. Without at least this solution, your life looks very similar to my wife’s for a few years, which was an abject nightmare.

Imagine that you’ve worked all day, from 7:30 AM to around 5PM herding 80 lbs malcontented chickens. Then you finally get home. Ah, the glories of rest and the comforts of family. But no, now work starts.

If you don’t have a system of integrated resources that align to your lesson plan then you have the happy duty of making one… from scratch… every week. You learn to respect the writers of textbooks when you get to do it yourself. That means all the lessons, the assessments, the testing, the lecture material, and it has to be colorful and entertaining or else it won’t compare to Call of Zombies VI. I’m a professional writer now, so trust me when I say books don’t write themselves. To do that on top of being a full-time teacher… with a family? You must be joking. Obviously, no teacher has the ability to literally write a textbook for her class every year. So for four years, my wife spent hours, upon hours, upon hours searching the internet either on Pinterest or TeachersPayTeachers (like Etsy but teachers sharing assignments they created) for assignments and modules to allow her to teach her required subjects. Note that this means she has to spend her own money for assignments that aren’t integrated into the state-mandated curriculum in any way. But this is what happens when the state doesn’t provide your school with the resources to buy materials for you.

Maybe you’re thinking that this is a good thing, that if they create the curriculum then they are better able to do their jobs — teach kids. You’d be incorrect, as this robs them of how they teach. Think about when I went to Iraq with the Marines. That job is hard enough, right? We can agree there. Now imagine if I had to also buy my own gun and equipment. Worse, how well do you think our warfighters would be if they also had to build their own equipment? The job is designed to push people to their limits already in challenging and dynamic environments. Adding, “gunsmith” to the billet shouldn’t be necessary too. The same is true for teachers, yet we are basically sending them to war without weapons, armor, or a strategy, and telling to make do with what they personally buy from the internet.

But wait, there’s more! No matter what option she takes, she is still going to have no books to work from other than what she prints out herself. Did I mention paper rationing? Yes, on top of having no books, no consumables, and basically making the teachers invent their own curriculum this year, and when all teachers are doing what my wife is doing… that means they have literally nothing to teach their kids with! Frankly, that paper rationing started a minor revolt this year and the superintendent buckled.

But you want to know what is even crazier? It isn’t even a matter of not having the money to buy textbooks. The textbook companies are literally not even printing them. This is due to the chaotic nature of Oklahoma education standards placed on schools by the state. The standards determine what is and isn’t taught by Oklahoma teachers (You thought it was teachers, huh? Yeah right.) What happens when something doesn’t align with the current standards? It’s no good. It has to be thrown out. A brand new classroom set literally has no place in the classroom because of all the things it doesn’t teach decided upon by some committee in Oklahoma city because parents and activists threatened to say mean things on Facebook. Yeah, that’s how the system works. So textbook companies can’t do that. It takes years to create a new edition and they can’t keep up with states as fickle with their standards as ours. That’s why they threw up their hands and said “fooey with the Okies!” and stopped printing books we could use.

I’ll talk about the problems with Oklahoma’s standards later, but next, I want to illuminate you on something you’ve probably been asking yourself ever since this started, “Why not just use updated technology?”

Why not indeed…

 Next Article: The Myth of Classroom Tablets or Start at the Beginning

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It’s Not a Teacher Crisis – It’s a Tax Crisis

Oklahoma isn’t facing a teacher crisis, but a tax crisis. Simply, Oklahoma can’t give what it doesn’t have. You can see this in by looking at our Highway Patrol and Prisons are dangerously underfunded. This is not to mention other government organizations like the Department of Human Services, or often overlooked state jobs like court reporters, who have gone for more than a decade without a pay raise.

Could some reshuffling be done, cannibalize other state programs to support the monolithic budgetary needs of public education? Sure, but which parks do you want to close? What infrastructure do you want to cancel? What welfare do you want to cut? Who do you want to lay-off? We could do that, in some places we should, but this is not just a teacher crisis. Oklahoma just doesn’t have money.

So the other option, raise taxes.

Many of the current demands on Oklahoma legislatures are to raise the oil excise taxes, the tax on a good once it is drawn out of its original source, back to 7% from its current around 3% with other subsidies paid out to oil and energy companies. That’s certainly one option. I’m not discounting it. But like cutting programs, that will come with consequences too. While increasing the excise tax will relieve current pressures a few things need to be understood about the oil industry. First off, most of the oil which comes from a new well is drilled in the first three years. After that, it trickles for the next twenty. Many of the new wells are already beyond their three-year mark, but many other wells remain yet to be dug. We still have to account for international tampering in the oil industry, but eventually, that will end too. If Oklahoma makes reactionary decisions today to solve near problems, they miss the greatest industry boom in world history when foreign states can no longer artificially hold the price per barrel of oil so low.

So while I agree with many that raising the excise tax today could relieve many of  Oklahoma’s numerous hardships, we do so at the cost of many future opportunities. I’m not going pretend it’s an easy decision for lawmakers because they are literally choosing between our children’s education today, or risking those same children’s future employment tomorrow.

That said, taxes don’t just come from energy. The state is already taxed with high property, income, and even a grocery tax, but we also have on the table so-called vice taxes, such as raising sales taxes on alcohol, tobacco, as well as lottery and casino winnings. We also need to talk about a referendum which took place for a 1% sales tax increase that would have translated to a $5,000 pay raise directly to Oklahoma teachers. The voters in Oklahoma have spoken with directly with that one.

They voted “No.”

You can say that this reflects the culture of Oklahoma, which it may, but Oklahoma teachers need to accept it also says something about a state that no longer has faith in the industry. Yes, we aren’t paid well, but few in the state are. But even if Oklahoma teachers are paid better, can educators honestly say that there aren’t still massive roadblocks in the system preventing them from being the best teachers they could be? Here, I’m talking about the endless parade of benchmark testing to ensure that schools pass the test, technology grants with no quality training for its usage and implementation, the high cost of administrative oversight, students missing 10% of their school days for activity absences, and the lavish amounts of money spent on sports facilities when other teachers don’t have classroom book sets. Oklahoma education needs to grapple the reality that major changes are needed within the education system and not just at the state level.

I want to be fair, teaching in Oklahoma has challenges other industries don’t. The hours are murder and the conditions are impossible, especially for new teachers. I’m saying that as someone who has worked in Oklahoma education for three years, and who was deployed twice to Iraq with the US Marines. The resources aren’t there, and the struggle is mostly invisible to parents and the community. But the reason that it is called a teacher crisis and not a statewide budget crisis is because teachers are the largest and most organized publicly paid collective in the state. So it’s much easier for them to make demands upon the state than others. 

But Oklahoma isn’t hearing them anymore. As evidenced by the failure of Oklahoma voters to fund their own education system, they aren’t moved by arguments centered around, “for the kids”. This isn’t because they don’t love their kids. It’s because they don’t have faith in Oklahoma schools. They view that whatever funds raised through new taxes levied or programs cut are simply not going to make it to their children, but instead be absorbed by an inefficient education system unwilling to adapt to current needs. And I know the teachers. I was one. My wife is one. Many of the best people I know are still in the industry. But teachers need to deal with the fact that there exists a trust issue between educators and people of the state. Teachers are mobilizing and will probably be making many demands over the next few months; many they will get. However, if some hard conversations don’t begin at the state and local level which demand hard reforms to Oklahoma education, I fear the gap between Oklahoma and her teachers is only going to widen.

Next Article: The Problem with Shale or Start at the Beginning

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Oklahoma’s Big Oil Problem

Oklahoma education is tied to an overall funding crisis. You can’t talk about Oklahoma finances without talking about the oil industry and specifically, shale oil.

Shale oil production is a process of accessing oil that has previously been locked away within the rock deep underground. Not long ago, the only profitable way to drill for oil involved horizontal wells that dug into large pockets. Eventually, those pockets became difficult to find and the old “bobbing donkey” wells stopped pumping. In the last decade, however, new technologies like horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracking have opened up new avenues for the black stuff.

How does this affect Oklahoma’s economy? It’s much more than just selling the oil. Images such as the one above are misleading, namely because there is never just one pipe. In reality, there would be dozens of pipes jutting in all directions. This was beautiful for the Oklahoma economy because someone had to build all that. Manufacturers built the pipes, the pumps, and the thousands of other support jobs created to support the drilling. People also had to truck all that, and local communities also began investing in infrastructure. The wells were only a part of it. The process was extremely labor intensive, which meant jobs and enough taxes in 2013 that Oklahoma’s problems included figuring out how to spend the surplus.

This economic boom didn’t happen by accident. Oklahoma used to have a high excise tax on oil. Excise taxes are taxes paid when a resource is exited from the soil. Oklahoma excise taxes were around 7% prior to the oil boom. But Oklahoma legislatures knew enough about the oil industry to know a horizontal well at the time cost around 5 times as much to build than vertical wells, though they had much more potential. They also knew that Oklahoma wasn’t the only place in the nation this technology could be used. So Oklahoma made the choice to lower excise taxes and offer other subsidies to oil companies to choose Oklahoma over other states. It paid off. Because of that choice, Oklahoma experienced an oil boom, and the US is currently experiencing the products of that wealth today.

In fact, the success of shale oil was so monumental that it had worldwide effects and put the United States to be a net oil exporter by 2020. Some people weren’t happy about that, like Saudi Arabia, who have long enjoyed the wealth gained from a profitable relationship with the United States and exporting its vast oil wealth around the world. In an attempt to kill the burgeoning American shale oil industry, Saudi Arabia did what only they can do: they slashed prices. They could afford this because the Saudis have enough oil that they could live off a loss in oil production for some 30 years without feeling the effects of their own luxurious lifestyle. The rest of the world, however, shuttered and stumbled, few places as much as Oklahoma and its still infant shale oil industry.

So shale responded by getting smarter by drilling down to one central location, which served as a hub for all the pipes that would be built, and also greatly improved the life of a well.

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By becoming far more efficient two things happened: the United States is currently experiencing an energy boom, but… the market for all industries supporting the actual drilling up the oil collapsed. The jobs Oklahoma expected to still be there have withered as we’re seeing those jobs disappear due to simple better business practices and the still artificially low cost of Saudi oil. Then consider the natural process of oil drilling. Once the ground is mapped, the pipes are drilled, the infrastructure built, and the pumping started, there isn’t much left to do from a manufacturing perspective. If it isn’t profitable to drill more platforms, then the jobs aren’t going to be replaced elsewhere. Once the work is done, the drilling starts and there is no new job creation anywhere. Fewer jobs being created by the shale industry shook up the Oklahoma economy. As Oklahoma’s strategy hinged on the continued growth of the industry, and to live off taxes from incomes on all the industries that supported the oil, international maneuvering and the necessary response from local business left Oklahoma in a hard place. This is where Oklahoma has been for a few years. As the nation benefits from massive volumes of cheap and readily available energy, Oklahoma is in a recession.

I say this a former Oklahoma teacher. Speaking rationally, I can’t blame my principal or the school board for problems that are happening a mile under our feet and all over the state. I also can’t blame Oklahoma City for decisions that weren’t even made in the Western Hemisphere specifically targetting our way of life. I want to be angry, but there is just no one to blame on this one and realities we have which we need to accept and understand. Blaming won’t solve this one. Well, maybe there is someone to blame – Scientists and Saudis.

Next Article: It’s Impossible to Teach Without Books or Start at the Beginning

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What’s With the Oklahoma Teacher Crisis?

Educators in Oklahoma are preparing to strike. This is following years of worsening work conditions and the recent news that Oklahoma is now the lowest ranked state in the country in teacher pay.

So how did we get to this point?

Teachers are asking for explanations from Oklahoma leaders why the state seems to have failed so deeply with education, and many are looking for partisan answers. Some blame conservative tax policies while many others advocate that the structure of Oklahoma schools is too rigid and fails to adapt. Others acknowledge most issues aren’t partisan at all. Most of the real problems for Oklahoma have little to nothing to do with politics, but the economy.

I’m a former Oklahoma school teacher married to a current Oklahoma school teacher. I’ve seen the debates from several angles, both as an educator, and now as a researcher. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be working to unpack all the problems of Oklahoma education, by diving into causes of teacher burnout and the politics of Oklahoma education. Make sure to follow The War Elephant on Facebook to get more daily updates.

Next Article: It’s Not a Teacher Crisis – It’s a Tax Crisis or Start at the Beginning

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Does the white working class really vote against its interests?

This is such a profoundly arrogant statement for anyone who actually believes it. I’m really glad that liberals like Jay Wacker and Ian McCullough answered, providing good, nuanced viewpoints from the liberal side. It’s been important to see good examples such as theirs for displacing the anger many people living in this situation may experience when liberal outlets and individuals speak from such a profoundly wrong and disrespectful point of view. The only thing wrong with their answers is that they don’t address the question specifically from our viewpoints. So with thanks to those gentlemen, I’ll offer that.

I remember the first time I heard “you’re voting against your interests”, immediately after the election by yet another person who was just so sure that he knew the conditions of my life better than me. Yet this same person was shocked, shocked I tell you, that Clinton didn’t win with the New York Time’s predicted 90% chance of victory a few weeks before. What does that tell you? It told me that a bunch of people who had absolutely no understanding of me and my life days ago suddenly became experts on my condition, as well as suddenly being able to view every policy proposal on the books from my perspective — better than me!

I want to be honest, every single time I have seen this levied in earnest, it has been by someone bitter about the election wanting to mock us and not from genuine concern. If it had been a concern, they would understand that mostly, they are wrong. They rationalize policies they wanted and then argue how that would have been better for us than what we wanted. This is positively asinine since, right up until about a year ago, our needs, concerns, wishes, and grievances were being mocked by the people making these plans, so to say that they in any way would solve our problems is laughable. I’m sorry, but no one who calls me and people like me part of a “basket of deplorables” has my best interests at heart.

Okay, at this point, it just sounds like I’m angry. I am, but let’s look at some real arguments to give substance to the outrage.

I really love that my good friend Ian McCullough brought up the What’s the Matter with Kansas? book. I’m a conservative, he’s a liberal, and we have a lot of respect for each other so I would recommend him to anyone. But here, I’ll offer the other side of the story.

Much of the ideas behind What’s the Matter with Kansas stems around the fact that Kansas, like many red states, takes up more in government aid and welfare than they contribute, specifically when compared to wealthy blue states like California and New York. This phenomenon of people who soak up government aid in spite of their conservative voting patterns appear in places with namely two things in common:

  1. They once were solid Democrat and are now solid Republican
  2. Their main source of income was from agriculture or some other displaced industry.

Those points are important because you need to understand how amazingly rich my community used to be. I live in a small town in Oklahoma. For all intents and purposes, they could have written that book about us, but they chose Kansas. First of all, there is a reason that we want to “Make America Great Again.”

We look to the 1950’s with nostalgia because of how truly wonderful it was for us. First of all, if you look out to the open fields, everything was farmland. People were working and providing well for their families making cotton that made American clothing as well food for Americans. Fortunes were made as small towns like mine were looked at as great places to raise a family with lots of opportunity and wealth to go around for those willing to work and live peacefully.

Then it all went away. Price controls on labor and government subsidies for some made it impossible for agriculture to be profitable for the average farmer. My grandfather actually ran the last cotton gin in the 1970’s before it went under because there were no more growers. Furthermore, the jobs around cotton disappeared, such as the pants factory, one of only two factories in my town, that is not just a cement slab, as it has been… also, since the 70’s. After that, a few mega-growers overtook all industries and the region was gutted. Many of these mega-growers, now maintain their prices through illegal immigrant labor, but that is a whole other story. You don’t hear much from this because both the Republicans and Democrats are guilty of supporting the subsidies and supporting the mega-growers, so neither are ever going to say a word about. The collapse of the labor market for agriculture was much of the same as the story of the Rust Belt, but instead of seeing withered factories, I sit surrounded by some of the most fertile farmland in the country that hasn’t seen a plow for more than 40 years.

But then the government came to save us.

After the collapse of agriculture from the viewpoint of farm labor in the 1960s, millions developed a dependence on government aid to save themselves from the decline which was ironically brought on by government intervention into the market. This was actually the second time they did this.

I want you to understand what the world is like for us as a unique culture in the US. Long after slavery had ended, most of us, as in my very white, very poor ancestors were still picking cotton in the fields. Both mine and my wife’s grandmothers told stories in visceral detail about what picking bowls of cotton, the weight of hauling that heavy bag through the fields, and the scorching summer heat of a West Texas farm in the 1920’s and 30’s. For perspective, this image is one taken about 30 miles from my home at about the time people when people were desperate for “someone to do something”.

After that, the New Deal did those things. It brought out huge government works programs and told people it would take care of them. Work hard and Social Security would be there for you. What actually brought us out of poverty were millions of men returning from World War II with saved up money, a massive industrial base that built up from the war, and the relaxing of war-era rationing. All this combined was an explosion in economic growth the likes of which that generation had never known. However, many believed that the promises of the New Deal would be enough to get them through retirement. There was no need to save because Social Security would be enough for them. While the region was growing immensely wealthy, my grandparent’s generation was making choices they had no idea would straddle their children’s generation with hardships they never foresaw because they thought the good times would continue on forever.

As the crops disappeared in the 1960’s and 70’s, however, they had a horrific wake-up call… right about the time of the War on Poverty and the Great Society began to take effect. These programs gave out exceedingly more benefits based on need, particularly to those who weren’t working or who had children born outside of marriage, not to mention numerous housing decisions that were terrible for the neighborhoods they were affected.

Following that, what we saw wasn’t a world where the government helped us or where people were mostly lifting themselves out of poverty. Quite the opposite. Funds were distributed, but here, there are people who live in poverty as a career. They are able to maintain a minimum lifestyle off government funding. Since that point, what we are seeing nationally is that the poverty line has mostly flatlined, while handouts continue to rise. This is most prominent in the areas like mine, where welfare is already normalized and where the tax base is having a harder and harder time keeping up with its rise.

I’m not talking about some distant statistical scarecrow. I am talking about real people I see daily. I mean the parents of many of the students at the school where my wife and I work and the people who live next door to me. This lifestyle is not conducive toward raising healthy homes or giving their kids a good foundation, let alone a future. It certainly isn’t capable of creating the types of wealth that people can safely retire on, nor does it produce the sorts investment into future growth in their community. Instead, it drives down the tax base while increasing the amounts infrastructure requirements by way of city utilities to schooling. You wonder why education is so low here? It isn’t because no one thought to pay teachers more. It’s because we have too many kids and not enough of a tax base. Multiply that by everything we’d like to give our people. This is what small-town conservatives fear when we talk about the welfare state.

If you’d really like to understand how the welfare state has affected the family in culture, as well as what life is like for millions of Americans who absolutely no one is listening to, I would strongly recommend reading Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis: J. D. Vance. It outlines far better than I could how culture has declined in the rural areas most likely to be the topic of this question.

Secondly, a very good juxtaposition of What’s the Matter with Kansas? would be something like What’s Going on in Texas?

Texas is the best embodiment of what many want to see happening, as far as the white working class. Granted, they didn’t suffer from the destruction of the agricultural labor market, or at least they were able to transfer their economy over into oil, shipping, and finance. But they’ve also made some very good choices and have a particular culture that has made them very wealthy, serving as to disprove much of narratives surrounding what left-leaning advocates believe should happen in states like theirs. They have wealth, they have investment, they have manufacturing and industry. They also have greater protection of property rights, not to mention being the anchor of job recovery during the massive recession over the last decade for the entire nation.

This is particularly true against far more left-leaning states like California. I couldn’t find a more current one, but it is worth noting that this graph ended almost immediately before the graph above started.

Furthermore, it has a lower cost of living with higher living standards and even manages to have better income inequality than most other states. Particularly egregious is comparisons to states like California, where Texas’ saw growth for both its wealthiest 1% and the bottom 99% over the period of 2009 to 2012, while California saw similar growth for its top 1% but a -3% decline in income for their 99% over the same period.[1]

Are there problems? Sure. But they are sitting pretty by most people’s standards, particularly the states which have suffered the long-term effects of collectivist policy, such that Democrats are currently suggesting, as well as those who had no major industry to replace agriculture after the state intervened into it. So this is where we are now. People say that states like mine vote against their interests because we wholeheartedly reject modern collectivist measures to “raise us out of poverty”. We, however, are already straddled with the financial and culture burden of exactly these same kinds of measures from generations past.

The worst part, when we say these things, we are completely ignored. In the best cases, we are dismissed as not knowing what is best for us because we are just the working class, more commonly known as rednecks, white trash, and hillbillies, and mostly by people who have never set foot in our towns. In the worst cases, we all suddenly became racists for pointing out images like the family of poor whites picking cotton or for mentioning that according to the US census in 2010, the number of poor whites outnumbers the number of poor blacks by about 12:1. If I say that, you hear me saying that “there is no problem with black poverty” instead of hearing what I am actually saying that the problems of poverty are not due to racism, but are rooted in exactly the same kind of bad governance. But mostly, you just don’t hear from us at all. That’s because the same sorts of metrics that gave The New York Times and virtually every other major news media outlet absolute certainty that Clinton was going to win, can only come to such an unfathomably wrong conclusion because they completely and totally don’t reach out to more than a third of the nation who don’t live in easy to reach, mostly urban, mostly rich, liberal cities.

Yet these people are the ones who want to tell us what our interests are? Pure arrogance

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Can Trump’s Wall Really Work?

Again, these are not pretty solutions, and won’t stop a determined anything from scaling it. No one is reasonably expecting it to cut off 100% of either crime related to the south of the border sources or illegal immigration. There will still be novel solutions to ever-growing problems, however, like the Great Wall of China, the main source of exploitation for both crime and illegal immigration en masse, being a largely unchecked and unenforceable border between the US and Mexico will be removed from the options for those attempting to break US laws of entry. In some places, tunnels will be dug, but for the 170,000 people who entered the US illegally in 2015 to try to pop out of a single hole in the ground… it’s going to be noticed. Across more than 2,000 miles of open border? Not so much. A person with enough desire and motivation can scale a line of Hescos just as easily as anything else. Whether we’re talking about a massive wall taking years, or a few piles of really elaborate sandbags, it serves as a very strong barrier to slow people down and prevent the movement of much larger goods, such as large amounts of drugs, weapons, or vehicles carrying even more. While you might be able to get over such a wall, the time it took to get a huge backpack filled with this sort of contraband is enough that someone watching a camera feed will probably say, “Hey Joe, you see that down at mile marker 87?”

Some will even be able to overcome the massive walls planned out, but the vast majority will be turned away, attempting to try their luck through some fraudulent means at border checkpoints. Given that we will then have the manpower to check these resources, that too will become tougher to execute. So it won’t work for 100%, but we have every reason to believe that a 95% reduction in illegal border crossing and south of the border originated international crime is completely possible. That’s great news. That’s the point of this wall, and by all evidence we have, there’s nothing to say it couldn’t do the job.

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It Doesn’t Need to be Pretty

There are also numerous avenues on how to approach the building of such a wall beyond just the extreme assumptions of building the most expensive variant of proposed walls across the entire border. We can even look to implementation set up in Iraq and Afghanistan for such examples. If you’ll look at my profile picture, you’ll see what are called T-barriers.

Also called Bremer Walls and Jersey Barriers, these are large and freestanding concrete slabs are cheap to build, transport, and install. They essentially fit together like massive Lego bricks with a notch fitting two together that is mirrored on the opposite side so that an infinitely long chain can be created able to bend around objects or buildings and adjust with the terrain that is impossible to destroy without heavy machinery. They’re like legos for big boys.

In Iraq, we used them for two reasons. You can see behind me, that they were lined around our prefabricated living units. This was because the walls were able to absorb the blast of an incoming mortar, small missile, or random rocket-propelled grenade, which might come our way and endanger the thousands of Marines inside. The second way we used them was during the “Surge”, a change in tactics to our counter-insurgency efforts where, overnight, entire city blocks could be quarantined off with these units. This allowed Marines and soldiers to wall off whole neighborhoods within hours, allowing few points of entry and exit that could be manned and checked while teams searched house to house for weapons, contraband, or other signs of enemy activity. Just as quickly, the walls could be moved or removed to clear other parts of the city.

I want to be clear, that like the Great Wall of China example, there is nothing stopping someone determined from getting over one of these walls. A ladder could do it. What they do, however, is prevent the free flow of large numbers of people, and more importantly, a large amount of cargo to pass freely. You might be able to sneak over the wall yourself, and you might even be able to get over with a rifle, but there is no way you are going to be able to sneak an entire team with heavy weapons, rocket and bomb parts, and other logistical considerations over the wall clandestinely. That’s what the T-barriers did. They broke up the enemy’s ability to move and, in my mind, had a major part in the story of how the United States successfully quelled the insurgency around 2007… not that anyone heard about that.

All that to say… I’m a big fan of these simple impediments. They saved a lot of lives.

Even more humble is the HESCO barrier. These ingenious little devices are little more than 21st-century sandbags, literally. They are large canvas bags supported by a metal frame which be broken down and stacked by the hundreds when unused, taken out and unfolded where they will be installed, and then just have sand, dirt, rocks, or anything dumped in them.

Installation of these barriers is even easier than that of the T-barriers requiring little more than two unskilled technicians, a truck, and a lot of dirt.

Importantly, I’ve seen these things stacked four high, making a wall of about twenty feet. Interestingly, it can be filled with dirt excavated in other areas of the construction project. These “insta-forts” are able to be installed, and just as importantly, taken down, in a matter of days, rather than weeks, months, or even years and at a fraction of the cost of what most are assuming such a wall would cost. Granted, this is not a solution that will last a thousand years, but it will get the job done in many of the areas where a massive wall isn’t required, but some impediment is.

This is why the same technology (yes giant bags of sand and dirt still count as technology) is used in the United States civilian side to protect against the sudden threat of flooding.

Continue to the next section.

The Wall

We’re Not the Only Ones Doing It…

So now let’s ask, can it be done?

The best places to look for that answer is where others are attempting similar feats. Case in point, Saudi Arabia.

Along the Northern border of Saudi Arabia, bordering Iraq, the Saudis began plans to build a series of walls and fence works in 2006. Construction was expedited after the invasion of Iraq’s Al Anbar and Nineveh provinces in 2014 by Islamic State forces, where construction began around September of that year. The project calls for some 1000 km long stretch of varying degrees of fortified walls, fencing, and some areas manned with remotely operated UAV surveillance.

From the Independent Journal Review

“…consists of 78 monitoring towers, eight command centers, 10 mobile surveillance vehicles, 32 rapid-response centers, and three rapid intervention squads, all linked by a fiber-optic communications network.” [3]

Also is Israel’s southern border which, in the words of Israel’s Prime Minister, worked out pretty well.

 In fact, looking across the world, we see that the concept of building border walls is not a new idea propagated by the Americans, but one in which more and more countries are attempting to take advantage.

Continue to next section…

Google Employees Blacklisting Conservative Peers

Image result for Goolag

The context of this is an Inc article which states that Google is not specifically blacklisting conservatives as much as there are a documented number of Google employees and managers who are internally blacklisting fellow employees from working as part of teams with them.

From the article Google’s Other Ugly Secret: Some Managers Keep Blacklists

… An unknown number of Google managers maintain blacklists of fellow employees, evidently refusing to work with those people. The blacklists are based on personal experiences of others’ behavior, including views expressed on politics, social justice issues, and Google’s diversity efforts.

Inc. reviewed screenshots documenting several managers attesting to this practice, both in the past and currently, explicitly using the term “blacklist.”

It also states, to reiterate, that this isn’t condoned by Google officially.

A Google spokesperson told Inc. that the practice of keeping blacklists is not condoned by upper management, and that Google employees who discriminate against members of protected classes will be terminated. It’s not clear whether that principle applies in Damore’s case. Although political affiliation is a protected class according to California labor law, the views expressed in the manifesto and echoed by others who oppose political correctness do not seem to merit legal protection.

That should be enough information to place this in a proper frame of reference, as the question itself is a little misleading.

The question with what most of the Right usually thinks comes down to whether or not we agree that a business has a right to do whatever it wants. I would fall into that camp, however, I believe in the law that is already set forth and that companies have an obligation to follow that law. California law treats political affiliation as a protected class, therefore, being that we’re now seeing employees fired for “views that are inconsistent with the mainstream”, as the article puts it, then we are dealing with a question of if Google need to rethink its internal positions before it starts suffering some major legal problems. We also need to contend with the fact that Google itself isn’t the one acting in a partisan discriminatory manner by refusing to hire based on partisan lines, but rather, it’s employees coordinating internally to discriminate other employees by way of denying them access to projects or future promotion opportunities.

So I have to ask where the line is. The law is the law, and while most Conservatives or Libertarians might argue whether a law should exist, they agree that a law that is in the books is to be honored. This is especially true of the Conservatives as a major vein of Conservatism is respect for the law as without it, society descends into anarchy. The question comes in whether the employees have crossed the line in blacklisting people for holding Conservative views and more so than this, if Google itself is to be held as complicit with this discrimination on grounds of being unresponsive to the continued behavior of their employees to systematically limit the potential of its employees who have dissenting opinions.

As far as what do Conservatives think, obviously it sucks. There is a growing body of evidence that Silicon Valley culture has an intolerance to anything which fails to fall in-line with it’s Progressive Technocratic culture. While rarely do we see explicit intolerance stated by the companies, we do see numerous times where individual employees or even teams have the ability to exercise their intolerance over crucial elements of various products, such as manipulating Google’s pagerank, the Facebook feed, or Twitter’s trending topics. Given the overwhelming power these companies have over daily life, and the dominance of what appears to be a monocultural atmosphere with expressed amity with the rest of the country, I’m wondering if the tech bubble is going to burst when words like “anti-trust” start being raised more seriously. Companies who don’t take this form of expressed ideological intolerance seriously, such as Google with their blacklists, may see a day where they meet the fate of companies like Standard Oil.

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Is the USA in the middle of a cold civil war?

Ha. Cold Civil War. That’s actually pretty good.

What we have right now boils down to a regime change. It happens on average every eight years. What was different this time was that one side had an overwhelming amount of control of the media by way of activist intervention from a young population and technocrats with leverage. This caused the news feed to radically alter the way that most people in the country were portrayed (which angered them a lot) and disconnected many on that side with an accurate picture of what was really going on in the country. Of course, it didn’t er on the side of reason, but cast millions of people as illiterate radical racist fascists. Splendid.

Now the situation is that those people, who spent years stirring themselves up into a tizzy about how evil, evil, evil those other guys were, are slowing coming to grips with the reality that they aren’t getting what they want because they were fighting an army of scarecrows. It doesn’t help that they are still constantly spurred on by a news media industry that is struggling to realign to the fact that they have been disconnected from telling the truth and a lot of young people with more energy than understanding, and that people are angry with them for that.

That said, a cold war isn’t really cold war unless that distinction is relative to a war that is hot. In this case, let’s think about what a hot war looks like.

One side has control of the United States government, the military, and the ability to govern the economic strength of the United States. It also has the hearts of the vast majority of conservatives and gun rights advocates, most of whom aren’t in any sort of militia organizations currently, but who would probably be the first to give it a shot if need be. Food for thought, there are nearly as many guns in the United States as there are people, and the NRA consists of only 18% Democrats. Which side of the civil war would you want to fall — the nice guys, or the winners?

The other team, which fancies itself “The Resistance” had a strong “ban-all-guns” agenda only a few months ago. It’s fascinating how no one is laughing at me anymore when I said that the 2nd Amendment was about safeguarding our rights against future tyrants. I bet that’s a tough pill to swallow! Secondly, this group has no unified structure, just a list of things that are “unjust” from the environment to fighting fascism with groups like AntiFa, which in case you don’t know, is short of Anti-Fascists. They’re neat because they fight fascism— by violently beating anyone with different ideas… kind of like actual fascists. The best thing these people have is also their worst enemy, a news media that can’t get its act together, and university social “sciences” departments that are actively teaching them how to resist the legally elected President of the United States (Butler University is now offering a full-on anti-Trump course). Perhaps it would be better if these people focused on actually telling people about pressing events in the world from an unbiased perspective, the value of critical thinking over dogmatic allegiance to Progressive ideology, and maybe decided it was better to prepare young people for the workplace, rather than giving them college credits for participating in anti-Trump marches. Just sayin’, every day more of them are waking up and getting angrier at you than they ever were at me. Oh, and let’s try and figure out who the heroes of “Resistance movement” are: 1) the single greatest sore loser in modern history, 2) an old totes-not-really-a-communist, 3) the world’s most successful con-artist, 4) and a legit traitor with severe mental problems leveraged to con social justice warriors into keeping him from a life in federal prison.

I will say this, though jokingly, but there is extremist activity going on that should concern people. First you have AntiFa, the anti-”fascist” group that literally uses violence to suppress ideas it doesn’t like. They march around in their masks and threatening violence for now, while really just losing debates with much smarter people who can get one to rant to a camera, but it isn’t outside of the historical record to say that they could become actually radicalized by fundamentalist leftism very soon. A very similar climate existed only a few decades ago when the Weathermen Underground created a terror spree lasting some two decades that ended with the bombing of dozens of police stations and attempting to literally start a Neo-Communist revolution.

Ancient history right? Not if you include the firebombing of a North Carolina GOP Office in October.

In October of 2016, this was what the inside of the GOP office in Hillsborough, North Carolina looked like. Outside, a swastika was spray painted with the words “Nazi Republicans leave town or else”. I want to be clear. This is terrorism. This was the violent and premeditated destruction of property in an attempt to to threaten innocent peaceful voters out of the democratic process by politically motivated actors. Terrorism.

I am a veteran of the Iraq War and have written extensively on the effects of terrorism and what it looks like. I was appalled that, in a country so deeply affected by terrorism, that it would become victim to the kinds of violent partisan terror activities which defined the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. And by other Americans no less. It disgusts me that that sort of violence could happen in the United States, and it disgusts me just as much that it could so easily be dismissed and fall out of the public conversation so easily when it, in fact, represented one of the greatest miscarriages of democracy and points of shame in modern American history.

That said, while I take a great amount of pleasure in mocking the actions and even ideals of these momma’s basement dwelling malcontents unfortunate enough to stumble upon a copy of “A People’s History of the United States” or any one of the other works of historical revisions that forget to mention how Marxism always leads to Totalitarianism, they are exactly the type of social rejects stupid enough to become terrorists.

Look, most of the people we were fighting in Iraq were complete morons — “illiterate goat herders” to quote my Iraqi translator. But a few very, very smart real jihadis said the magic words go organize and mobilize these morons to keep that nation in a state of violence long, long after Saddam Hussein’s regime was utterly destroyed. No, we aren’t in a state of “Cold Civil War”. We have a bunch of idiots in “the Resistance” throwing the world’s most publicized and glorified hissyfit, but whenever these morons actually muster up the courage to start committing real violence in the name of their utterly stupid ideals acquired from within a mile wide bubble of self-created ignorance, you can bet I’m going to point the finger of blame on all the rational good Democrats who just looked the other way because, “I don’t believe in how they’re going about it, but they have a point.” They don’t have a point. They have no clue at all what they’re talking about, but they are radicalizing your party far more than Trump’s following is radicalizing mine, so unless you want this answer to not be about jokes… do something about it.

Is the USA in the middle of a cold civil war?