General Commentary (May be military related) email: Kudzuacres1@juno.com

Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Surprise, surprise, surprise! Someone knows what a Mini Cooper is. I bought mine in a blinding snowstorm in Colorado Springs sometime last century. It is a Mark I with a 1500 cc engine, a five-speed transmission, way too much power and not very good brakes. Thus the seven miles in seven years. I calculate the per-mile cost at somewhere north of $1000 per mile. Every year I tell my wife that it will be ready to drive in April. I just don’t know what year or century. Her plans are to have me cremated, mix the ashes with body filler and have me smeared on a fender just before she sells the Mini so I can always be with it. That will probably be right after I tell her about the really special new suspension system.

I tend to be an early riser. I have spent many mornings staring out the window waiting for the newspaper to be delivered. For years my routine was an early morning workout followed by breakfast with friends and discussions of the current news. These days I work from a home office and have little occasion to meet other people early in the day. Fortunately, I discovered weblogs. Each morning I look forward to reading what is going on with my friends around the country and the world. Much like my breakfast conversations of old, these early morning talks on the web cover everything from what is going on with the family to solving the world’s most pressing problems.

This week, two of my morning mates are missing. Glenn Reynolds and James Lileks are off on vacation and work respectively, and darn it I miss them. Fortunately, there are more people coming to the table everyday so the discussion goes on. Each day someone brings up a new subject or idea I had never thought of that is stimulating and wakes me up so I can get on with the day’s breadwinning work.

Are Blogs going to replace big media? Probably not, but some of my old breakfast friends have moved on to jobs where they influence national security decisions and I am sure that some of my new morning friends will too. If none of you do, then no big deal. It is still a pleasure talking to you.

Monday, July 15, 2002
I am a big admirer of Mr. Possumblog mostly because he stroked my ego and got me involved in blogging. And I enjoy his writing a bunch. Since he always tells us about his weekends, I as a faithful follower will provide a quick rundown of mine. Saturday: went to Home Depot, went to Sam’s to buy salmon, Got rained on. Sunday: went to Church, went to a Chinese Buffet, ate salmon at the buffet. Worked on Mini Cooper project (If you don’t know, I can’t explain it other than it is a car and a sickness. I have had it for 9 years, have driven it seven miles and towed it 2600.) Watched “Eraser”. Arnold is my hero. Got rained on. My bermuda seed and a good bit of my topsoil are down around Florence on their way to New Orleans. My front yard takes better vacations than I do.

Why worry with sentences?

Last week I became involved in a discussion on Christian Pacifism through an email I sent to Chris Johnson at the “Midwest Conservative Journal” mcj@blogspot.com. The genesis of the discussion at MCJ was an article on Stanley Hauerwas who was recently named the Theologian of the Year by “Time”. As a retired military officer, I obviously cannot say that I am a Christian Pacifist although I do consider myself a Christian. In fact, I teach an adult Sunday school class in which we try to cover difficult issues affecting the Church today. Generally, we are discussing the universal Church not just our denomination. It so happens that we are now studying Church history. A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the vision of Constantine and talked about whether or not he had a vision or was merely an opportunist. Since we had not discussed Constantinian Christianity vs. Christian Pacifism we backed up and tried again. (I long ago found that being the one what is in charge has its advantages) Anyway, my class turned out to not be very Pacifist. The best appraisal of the Hauerwas position I got was that its followers were at best ivory tower freeloaders.

Although most of the class thinks (We don’t allow “feeling”) that the Pacifist ideal is very appealing, we cannot see how it can work in the real world. How can I let others commit violence if it benefits me? The Hauerwas position, if I understand it correctly, is that Christians should not even hold a civil office such as policeman where violence against others may be required. Thoreau said in “On The Duty Of Civil Disobedience” that citizens in a democracy were responsible corporately and individually for the actions of the government. Can I receive the benefits of civil society and opt out of the unpleasant things required to make it remain civil? My class doesn’t think so.

The argument from the Christian Pacifists is that Jesus sent us into the world to spread the Gospel. In order to do so, we must be willing to die.
So far no disagreement.
We are to turn the other cheek. If asked for our coat, give also our shirt.
Still ok.
We must not commit violence even to protect innocent third parties.
Lost me there.
Telford Work at westmont.edu/~work/clutter provided most of the Christian Pacifist arguments. He has answers for any argument I could raise regarding New Testament soldiers from Jesus and the Centurion to Peter and Cornelius. Go there and read what he has to say. MCJ links to several of his posts.

What my class says regarding Christian Pacifists is that they should drop completely out of the worldly society. Jesus told the young rich man that he should sell all his goods, give the proceeds to the poor and follow him. Don’t enjoy the benefits of the society gained through the sacrifices of the military and civil law enforcement personnel while denying that they are true Christians. Also don’t pick and choose from scripture to support your high-minded principles while ignoring scripture which might force you from you ivory colored academic towers. I am sure there are no real “Ivory” Towers left in the Academic Community, such a thing being highly un-PC.

I said the next post would be on zero sum economics, a subject about which I know nothing. Since I told you I would write about something I know next to nothing about, I may as well write on school vouchers. Lee Ann over at Spinsters.com tipped me to a Thomas Sowell column on vouchers and I see this morning that he has again written on vouchers this time in response to a column by Cynthia Tucker. It seems the battle lines have been drawn.

Now for the disclosure part: I am not now employed by a school nor has a public or private school ever employed me. I have no children in secondary education. I do have a cousin who is an elementary school teacher in a public school. My daughter attends Regis University, a fine Jesuit school in Denver. If anyone knows of a voucher program for graduate school, please let me know.

As I said in a previous post, I am not in favor of vouchers, although I could make an exception for areas where the public schools are really failing. I do not believe that to be the case in most areas of the country. My children attended public schools in four states. In that mix were Alabama and Colorado, states at opposite ends of the good school-bad school spectrum. Both are now graduates of good state colleges in Colorado and well-informed, productive citizens.

As I said in an earlier post on this subject, I could have sent my children to private schools. In fact, the Church we attended when they were in HS had its own school. My children were the only ones in the Church who did not attend the Church’s school. The Church school was a good one as far as I could tell from the outside. It had students from over two-dozen denominations, Protestant and Catholic, good teachers and good facilities. But from what I could see, the public schools were just as good. Maybe I copped out on the private vs. public question since there were good public schools available and I am nothing if not cheap, but we never considered private schools even when living where the public schools were not so good. The reason was our belief that the whole community must have the possibility of success if we, the middle class, are to have continues success.

During the time we were living in Colorado, there was a referendum on vouchers that failed to pass. As I remember it, one of the core arguments against vouchers was that they would take money from the public schools. That argument seems to be to be nonsense. As I recall it, the per-student public school expenditures were on the order of $6000 and the vouchers were proposed to be $2000 per year. I understand that there are fixed costs in operating any business, but unless all the school funding is based on student headcount, that is gain in margin since the voucher is less that the public school cost of educating the child. In fact, local funding for the schools was based on a fixed tax levy and only a portion of the state funding was based on headcount. Our local public schools are overcrowded and the school board has asked for an increased mil levy to build new schools and classrooms. They failed to pass. There are several private schools in the county, mostly operated by Churches. They cannot take up the slack.

It seems to me the real question is not vouchers, but are we as a people going to continue to support education. As older Boomer approaching retirement, I can take the position I often hear which is: “I don’t have any children in school, so why should I pay for schools at all?” Why should I even be interested in the schools since my children live in another state and even any grandchildren will not attend school in Alabama? Why do I care if the public schools become totally non-functional? The usual answer is PROPERTY VALUES, but the real answer is life style values. I like living where people are competent to do their jobs. I like having my utilities work. Unless there is a good education system, those things will not continue.

The public schools must be fixed, but abandoning them is not a fix. I agree with Mr. Sowell that the teacher’s unions need to be reeled in and if you talk to the average public school teacher, they agree. Laws requiring mainstreaming of severely handicapped children need to be modified. Idiot school boards and administrators must be replaced.

Does anyone think that public schools will be replaced by private or by for-profit schools? If you do, then you need to take a few business courses and put together a business plan. You wouldn’t want to miss out on the next big thing.