Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. . . . One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but City Journal’s stories abideth for ever.
City Journal is perhaps the best magazine that nobody reads. There seems to be a certain pattern to the stories they run, and if people were actually reading the magazine, perhaps the editors would run new stories instead of the same tragedies which end the same way. In the past (2004), one could read Theodore Dalrymple discuss the Frivolity of Evil:
The father of her first child had, of course, recognized her vulnerability. A girl of 16 living on her own is easy prey. He beat her from the first, being drunken, possessive, and jealous, as well as flagrantly unfaithful. She thought that a child would make him more responsible—sober him up and calm him down. It had the reverse effect. She left him.
The father of her second child was a career criminal, already imprisoned several times. A drug addict who took whatever drugs he could get, he died under the influence. She had known all about his past before she had his child.
The father of her third child was much older than she. It was he who suggested that they have a child—in fact he demanded it as a condition of staying with her. He had five children already by three different women, none of whom he supported in any way whatever.
The conditions for the perpetuation of evil were now complete. She was a young woman who would not want to remain alone, without a man, for very long; but with three children already, she would attract precisely the kind of man, like the father of her first child—of whom there are now many—looking for vulnerable, exploitable women. More than likely, at least one of them (for there would undoubtedly be a succession of them) would abuse her children sexually, physically, or both.
Or one could read (2005) Kay Hymowitz on the Black Family 40 years after the Moynihan Report:
More than most social scientists, Moynihan, steeped in history and anthropology, understood what families do. They “shape their children’s character and ability,” he wrote. “By and large, adult conduct in society is learned as a child.” What children learned in the “disorganized home[s]” of the ghetto, as he described through his forest of graphs, was that adults do not finish school, get jobs, or, in the case of men, take care of their children or obey the law. Marriage, on the other hand, provides a “stable home” for children to learn common virtues. Implicit in Moynihan’s analysis was that marriage orients men and women toward the future, asking them not just to commit to each other but to plan, to earn, to save, and to devote themselves to advancing their children’s prospects. Single mothers in the ghetto, on the other hand, tended to drift into pregnancy, often more than once and by more than one man, and to float through the chaos around them. Such mothers are unlikely to “shape their children’s character and ability” in ways that lead to upward mobility. Separate and unequal families, in other words, meant that blacks would have their liberty, but that they would be strangers to equality. Hence Moynihan’s conclusion: “a national effort towards the problems of Negro Americans must be directed towards the question of family structure.”
Or perhaps even you could (2000) read Joshua Kaplowitz about the counterproductive school bureaucracy:
I had read that successful schools have chief executives who immerse themselves in the everyday operations of the institution, set clear expectations for the student body, recognize and support energetic and creative teachers, and foster constructive relationships with parents. Successful principals usually are mavericks, too, who skirt stupid bureaucracy to do what is best for the children. Emery’s Principal Savoy sure didn’t fit this model.
To start with, from all that I could see, she seemed mostly to stay in her office, instead of mingling with students and observing classes, most of which were up at least one flight of stairs, perhaps a disincentive for so heavy a woman. Furthermore, I saw from the first month that she generally gave delinquents no more than a stern talking-to, followed by a pat on the back, rather than suspensions, detentions, or any other meaningful punishment. The threat of sending a student to the office was thus rendered toothless.
Worse, Ms. Savoy effectively undermined my classroom-management efforts. She forbade me from sending students to other teachers—the one tactic that had any noticeable effect. Exiling my four worst students had produced a vast improvement in the conduct of the remainder of my class. But Ms. Savoy was adamant, insisting that the school district required me to teach all my children, all the time, in the “least restrictive” environment. This was just the first instance of Ms. Savoy blocking me with a litany of D.C. Public Schools regulations, as she regularly frustrated my colleagues on disciplinary issues.
Or we could read—now, in 2011—about the effect of teen pregnancy in Gerry Garibaldi’s offering:
At my school, we pay five teachers to tutor kids after school and on Saturdays. They sit in classrooms waiting for kids who never show up. We don’t want for books—or for any of the cutting-edge gizmos that non–Title I schools can’t afford: computerized whiteboards, Elmo projectors, the works. Our facility is state-of-the-art, thanks to a recent $40 million face-lift, with gleaming new hallways and bathrooms and a fully computerized library.Here’s my prediction: the money, the reforms, the gleaming porcelain, the hopeful rhetoric about saving our children—all of it will have a limited impact, at best, on most city schoolchildren. Urban teachers face an intractable problem, one that we cannot spend or even teach our way out of: teen pregnancy. This year, all of my favorite girls are pregnant, four in all, future unwed mothers every one. There will be no innovation in this quarter, no race to the top. Personal moral accountability is the electrified rail that no politician wants to touch.
Getting these stories more exposure is important, certainly. But it’s the same terrible story, over and over and over again. Surely, if people were reading about this, we’d attempt different public policies, rather than the ones that give us single mother after single mother after damned single mother. But stories still come.
If they hear not Moynihan and City Journal, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.
Hubbard posted this at 3:37 PM CDT on Monday, January 31st, 2011 as Evil
No Comments »
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, arguing that the proximate cause of the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt is a spike in food prices:
The immediate cause of this food spike was the worst drought in Russia and the Black Sea region for 130 years, lasting long enough to damage winter planting as well as the summer harvest. Russia imposed an export ban on grains. This was compounded by late rains in Canada, Nina disruptions in Argentina, and a series of acreage downgrades in the US. The world’s stocks-to-use ratio for corn is nearing a 30-year low of 12.8pc, according to Rabobank.
The deeper causes are well-known: an annual rise in global population by 73m; the “exhaustion” of the Green Revolution as the gains in crop yields fade, to cite the World Bank; diet shifts in Asia as the rising middle class switch to animal-protein diets, requiring 3-5 kilos of grain feed for every kilo of meat produced; the biofuel mandates that have diverted a third of the US corn crop into ethanol for cars.
Ethanol, you say? I’m as opposed to ethanol as the next guy, mostly because it’s an inferior fuel that reduces the lifespan of my car’s magnificent engine. It is also weird, I grant, that we’re turning food into fuel. This seems like an odd thing to do.
But let’s look at this expansion of ethanol production in the US. We produce 40% of the world’s corn, and if we’re pumping 1/3 of our corn into our cars that’s 13% of the world’s corn making me go vroom. Reading Evans-Pritchard’s story, this amount of corn (cultural food preferences being equal) would be more than enough to satisfy all the people left hungry (or priced out of food) by the Russian drought.
Why, then, are we engaged in such an evil policy? Why do global food prices rise while the wealthiest country on earth goes on joy rides using food for fuel?
Oh, yeah, it’s because OPEC, led by Arab countries, has been effing with the price of oil for the last decade. You want $100 oil? And you don’t like food riots overthrowing your neighbors? Tough-frickin-toenails. We’ll let you starve before we go broke to your monopolistic behavior. We’ll take food that your people could be eating, and we’ll put it in our vee-eights. And if your people don’t like it, well, I’m sure they know where to find rope and a lamppost.
Apollo posted this at 11:34 PM CDT on Sunday, January 30th, 2011 as It's Economics - Stupid!, Sic Semper Tyrannus
4 Comments »
Back in the day, before MSNBC decided to be all left-wing all-the-time, I thought Chris Matthews ran a pretty good show. He was always a liberal, but he wasn’t far to the left, he wasn’t a partisan hack for the Democrats, and he seemed to believe that there were multiple good-faith answers to the question “What is best for America?”
If you would have told me that in a decade he would turn into a shrill, left-wing Democrat hack, I might not have believed it. But if I had believed it, I would have thought that he was smart enough to be a good shrill, left-wing Democrat hack. That doesn’t seem to be the case.
Apollo posted this at 3:46 PM CDT on Sunday, January 30th, 2011 as Journalism
No Comments »
I cannot properly express how happy I am to see the hand of George W. Bush at work in Egypt, and I hope that post-revolution revelations show much, more more. In public, President Bush always offered some level of support for Mubarak, but this sort of behind-the-scenes activity is exactly what I expected and wanted the American government to be doing. I hope we’re doing it in every thugocracy on Earth.
For many of us who supported the invasion of Iraq, one of the biggest advantages to regime change was the chance to plant a seed of freedom in the Arab world. In Lebanon, Tunisia, and now in Egypt, what we planted is evolving in ways we cannot accurately predict, but which we can confidently state are better than the indigenous species.
The great virtue of democracy is that it is the only form of government that is consistently just: Everywhere and always, the citizens of a democracy have exactly the government they deserve.
I don’t know enough about Egypt, nor am I judgmental enough, to proclaim what sort of government the Egyptians deserve. But I look forward to welcoming them into the community of peoples who have accepted the honor, burden, and torment of self-government. And I hope that freedom, that most invasive of species, sinks its roots deep and soon spreads its branches from Rabat to Tehran.
Apollo posted this at 11:39 PM CDT on Saturday, January 29th, 2011 as George Bush Rules!
No Comments »
That’s from Reason, where Tim Cavanaugh tells us about about a Pennsylvania school that’s giving segregation a shot as it tries to raise black students’ performance.
Once the verdict of History has come in, it’s always easy to tell Good from Evil. We look back at the Jim Crow era, and it’s obvious who the good guys were (those in the north who opposed segregation) and who the bad guys were (virtually all southerners, as well as the large number of northern segregationists).
At the time, though, things weren’t as, well, black and white. There was a strain of liberal segregationists who actually believed that segregation was positive for blacks. Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of vile racists who used this excuse to back policies they might have otherwise backed. But there were some who seem to have legitimately believed in it.
Strom Thurmond fell into this category. His speeches from his days in state politics read as though he genuinely believed in the virtues of segregation for all South Carlolinians. While governor, he engaged in a large building project of schools and hospitals for black people, because he thought the existing facilities were inadequate. His words and actions – especially when seen in light of his later ability to come to terms with the civil rights movement, and the child he had with a black woman – seem to have been sincere.
Of course, all that subtlety has been lost in history, and all segregationists are, rightly, tossed together and categorized as Evil. It was an evil system to begin with, it was evil throughout its lifetime, and those facts are completely unmitigated by the fact that some thought it wasn’t evil.
I say that as an introduction to the following statement: I look forward every single day to the time when history finally casts its judgment on the neo-segregationists of our age, every college president who thinks the color of students matters more than the content of the classes, every race-hustling politician who tries to win set-asides for “his” people, every guilt-ridden white person who tries to apologize for his wealth by depriving others of the right to be judged as individuals, every condescending bureaucrat who thinks he’s doing black people a favor by unjustly elevating the mediocre among them, every HR hack who tries to arrange the demographics of the workplace to get the best publicity, and this Pennsylvania principle who thinks that “separate but equal” is still good policy if you mean well. Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.
Apollo posted this at 9:54 PM CDT on Saturday, January 29th, 2011 as Race
No Comments »
For lawyers in this recession.
Apollo posted this at 11:17 AM CDT on Saturday, January 29th, 2011 as Amer-I-Can!
No Comments »
Jay Nordlinger here reminisces about meeting an immigrant cab driver in Dallas. Which reminded me of a ride I took with an immigrant cab driver in Houston.
He was a large black gentlemen with an accent I couldn’t place. He asked me what I did and I foolishly said that I was a law student in town to interview for a job. I need to come up with a boring alternate persona, because when you say you’re a law student or a lawyer, everyone wants to talk about their legal issues.
This guy was no different. He’d been ripped off by a defense lawyer, says he. He and his wives (!) were from Ghana, and he didn’t really understand the American system, says he. He’d been charged with beating his wife, which, he says, is not illegal in Ghana. How was he supposed to keep his wives in line if he wasn’t allowed to beat them? I said that I had no advice for him on this front, but that I’m sure his lawyer did what he thought was best, and his lawyer probably knew the local system. How could that be, says my cabby. He charged $5,000, which is, evidently, more than the fine the cabby had to pay as a result of getting arrested for beating his wife. Well, says I, not enjoying my cabby’s rising tone of voice, I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy your experience with the legal profession. Not all lawyer win all the time. Well, says he, now if I get charged with beating my wife again I’ll go to jail. Well, says I, I guess some people in America just don’t appreciate the full diversity of our immigrant population. Isn’t that my hotel on the left? Why yes it was, says he. That’s $23.50. Here’s some money, says I, and keep the change.
Apollo posted this at 3:59 PM CDT on Friday, January 28th, 2011 as Amer-I-Can!, Vignettes
No Comments »
In todays’ Morning Jolt, Jim Geraghty has a discussion of the recently released CBO numbers , arguing, persuasively to me, that the deficit and the restructuring of government it will require is the defining issues of our day. I think he’s correct on this. The CBO numbers forecasting 13-digit deficits for at least the next two years really ought to be treated like an emergency situation. When people start quoting Job, it’s never a good sign.
Geraghty is also correct that Obama is effectively voting “present” on this matter, refusing to propose any serious solution to what is obviously a dire problem. Or, for that matter, refusing to stop adding on to the problem. Sure, some of you might say, but I don’t see Republicans proposing specific solutions either. Okay, maybe, maybe not. But Obama’s not in Congress; he spent about a billion dollars getting out of Congress and becoming president. Which is the office where the hard decisions must be made.
Here, I’ll quote Geraghty somewhat out of order, but I think this is a worthwhile analogy:
[N]o matter how dire the numbers get, Obama remains convinced we’re just one high-speed rail system away from winning the future and qualifying for the Temporal Playoffs or something…. It’s as if 9/11 occurred and President George W. Bush had responded, “yes, stopping the terrorists is important, but I was elected to enact education reform and that remains my top priority.”
Apollo posted this at 11:15 AM CDT on Friday, January 28th, 2011 as An Insult to Drunken Sailors, Barack Obama Couldn't Persuade a Bear to Crap in the Woods, CHANGE!
3 Comments »
During Wednesday’s episode of The Daily Show, Obama biographer Jonathan Alter said the following (begins at 2:09):
Alter: If you look at social legislation, the health care bill is the biggest piece of social legislation since Medicare and Medicaid in 1965.
Stewart (joking): Well, It’s a government take over of healthcare. It’s socialism.
Alter: (laughing): That’s right. We’ve been told. But, you know, insuring 30 million Americans and ending discrimination against sick people is not a minor thing. I think we will look back and say “Can you believe that we used to live in a country where if you got cancer, you used to have to sell your house?“ We’re not going to live in that country anymore and that’s a good thing.
[Cheers from the audience]
What barbarians we must have been.
Tom posted this at 10:54 PM CDT on Thursday, January 27th, 2011 as Barack Obama Couldn't Persuade a Bear to Crap in the Woods, Buffoon Watch, Health Care
1 Comment »
While the scientifically-minded among us might be a bunch of Mopy Matildas who insist that, ultimately, the future is probably unwinnable, I was pleased to learn the other night that the president is not a member of that particular reality-based community. I’m glad we have a leader who isn’t such a Glum Gretchen as to think that winning the future will require altering the laws of physics or developing time travel; rather, we’ll win it by reorganizing the government. When you look at your calendar one day, and it says “The Future,” you’ll be happy we had B.H. Obama Jr. in the White House back when it said “The Past.”
But if I might be a Presumptuious Percy, I think I might have a better idea. While reorganizing stuff is, in a word, AWESOME, it’s just reslicing a finite pie. What we need is an infinite pie. And how to do we get an infinite pie? With infinite dollars.
Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “But Apollo,” says you. “But Apollo, if we print infinite dollars, won’t they actually fill up the entire universe and crush all other forms of matter with their infinite gravity?” But you know who thinks that way? Loser Lou, that’s who. When the future gets here, do you want to be Loser Lou, or do you want to have an infinite pie? Sputnik, people. Sputnik.
Apollo posted this at 10:02 PM CDT on Thursday, January 27th, 2011 as Barack Obama Couldn't Persuade a Bear to Crap in the Woods, I have seen the future. . .
No Comments »
Apollo, in the comments:
My ultimate problem with the Palin Haters is that they claim to base their hatred of her on things that may or may not be true about her, but are at least as true about others whom they do not hate. She’s held to a different standard, and I utterly do not understand it.
It certainly is interesting. I’m not surprised by her negatives, but I would have guessed her positives would be higher, considering how most movement conservatives can’t bring themselves to say a single word against her.*
My guess is that it’s a combination of a number of factors (see below), but the simplest response is that 1) there’s never been a woman as wildly successful, beautiful, and well-known in politics as Palin, 2) The things that anger one group are the ones that make her loved by others, and 3) That makes the lovers and the haters love her and hate her even more.
Timing: Palin entered the national stage at a Republican nadir: they were sick of defending George Bush, disappointed by McCain, and sensed they were about to get creamed by some guy nobody had even heard of five years before. In short, Republicans were desperate to fall in love at the moment when Palin showed up.
Beauty: People always feel strongly about attractive women and — by any rubric, but particularly by a political one — Palin is gorgeous.
The Lady Factor: Palin embodies a number of hot-button gender issues, but the most interesting to my mind is Work-Family. Palin’s had an enormously successful career (utterly independent of her husband’s) while also raising a large, adorable family.† My sense is that a lot of women either strongly identified her either as an aspirational figure who’d successfully had it all (“Hey, that’s awesome! You go, girl!”) or as an object of jealousy (That bitch! I went to a much better college than her, don’t sound like a total hick, and she gets to be the one…).
Trigg: Speaking of which, there’s no button hotter in American politics than abortion and Palin did the one thing an ambitious, over-worked, career woman with a large family cannot be expected to do: keep an unplanned pregnancy with serious birth defects. An entirely private decision had just set off a public firestorm.
Identity politics: Though Palin was originally pitched as an outside-the-system, good-ol’-boy-network-busting can-do-type, it’s the culture-warrior-anti-elitist persona that caught on, and what Palin has since become. What’s more, there’s a huge number of republican voters — blue-collar whites without a college degree — who’ve felt neglected. Palin not only knows exactly how to appeal to this demographic, but also how to infuriate those who hold them in contempt.
Even Bristol’s pregnancy played into this. Though I haven’t read it yet — it’s on my list! — I’ve heard two interviews with the authors of Red Families v. Blue Families. The thesis is that there are two family models in the United States and that these (roughly) correlate to political Red and Blue. Red families are characterized by early marriage, large size, higher divorce rates, put little stigma on illegitimacy, less formal education, and greater likelihood that grandparents or other close relations will play significant roles in child-rearing. Blue families, on the other hand, get started later, are small, have lower divorce rates, and put little stigma on abortion, higher levels of formal education, and are very nuclear . The Palins embody a (super-) successful Red family.
Media Savviness (of a kind): Speaking of Douthat columns on Sarah Palin, his metaphor in this one is brilliant:
The whole business [of the Tuscon murders and the subsequent blaming of Palin] felt less like an episode in American political history than a scene from a particularly toxic marriage — more “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” than “The Making of the President.” The press and Palin have been at war with each other almost from the first, but their mutual antipathy looks increasingly like co-dependency: they can’t get along, but they can’t live without each other either.
For their part, the media manage to be consistently unfair to the former Alaska governor — gossipy and hostile in their reportage, hysterical and condescending in their commentary — even as they follow her every move with a fascination bordering on obsession. (MSNBC, in particular, should just change its name to “Palin 24/7” and get it over with.) When commentators aren’t denouncing her, they’re busy building up her legend — exaggerating her political acumen, overpraising her communications strategy, covering her every tweet as if she were the Viceroy of Red America, and spinning out outlandish scenarios in which she captures the White House in 2012.
Palin, meanwhile, officially despises the “lamestream” media. But press coverage — good, bad, whatever — is clearly the oxygen she craves. She supposedly hates having her privacy invaded, yet her family keeps showing up on reality TV. She thinks the political class is clueless and out-of-touch, but she can’t resist responding to its every provocation. Her public rhetoric, from “death panels” to “blood libel,” is obviously crafted to maximize coverage and controversy, and generate more heat than light. And her Twitter account reads like a constant plea for the most superficial sort of media attention.
She Doesn’t Retreat; She Reloads: Palin never backs down from anything. Anything. When confronted her response is always — whether the attacks are fair or unjustified — to double-down when and, in the words of Nick Naylor, Attack, attack, attack! David Letterman make a totally inappropriate joke about one of your kids? Call him a pedophile.
Lack of Competition: Conservatives have been leaderless since 2008 and Palin’s the closest thing there is. It’s been an exciting few years, and she’s the only face — pretty or otherwise — that people identify with it.
* That’s always bugged me; the moment you say something unkind about St. Sarah, hordes of her disciples descend to burn the RINO heretic out.
† The Palins are adorable. Admit it!
Tom posted this at 12:04 PM CDT on Wednesday, January 26th, 2011 as The Passion of St. Sarah of Wasilla
8 Comments »
What happens when a coach forces his team to pursue excellence in the face of a decidedly unexcellent opponent? 108-3, that’s what.
The coach said he refuses to force his players to back down just because they have all but assured a victory, citing a desire to promote values that he feels are limited by contemporary culture.
“Too many people in the world right now allow the youth to not be as good as they can be, allow them to be lazy,” said McGill. “Here, I’m giving them an opportunity to live up to the best of their abilities and be proud of what they’re able to accomplish. If that’s what I’m being blamed for, then OK, I accept it.”
The best bit from this story:
While Christian Heritage has already apologized for the lopsided scoreline and administrators at West Ridge have said the school harbors no ill will and has moved on from the incident, there are still lingering concerns about what could happen when the teams play again.
Well I doubt those concerns revolve around who will win.
P.S. The Christian Heritage High School Crusaders? I love Utah.
Apollo posted this at 10:07 PM CDT on Monday, January 24th, 2011 as Kulturkampf
No Comments »
Marriott’s decision also comes after years of discussing whether the availability of adult entertainment in guest rooms – for years, a money maker for hotels – is appropriate and whether secure safeguards exist to keep it away from children. It also comes as business travelers, especially, check into hotels carrying their own entertainment, whether Netflix DVDs, an iPod Touch or a laptop.
Apollo posted this at 9:54 PM CDT on Monday, January 24th, 2011 as Kulturkampf
No Comments »
Hah! Ha ha ha hah! Ha ha ha ha ha ha hah!
And now a question for your first-year law school Criminal Law exam: Is it fraud if you solicit donations to fund a campaign for an office for which you are inelligible?
Apollo posted this at 1:28 PM CDT on Monday, January 24th, 2011 as Denizens of DC, Humor
No Comments »
I’m a couple of days late to this, but I think Ross Douthat here is excellent in pointing out what is, ultimately, so creepy about coverage of Sarahpalin:
. . . Palin’s “very positive” numbers, while high, are not staggeringly so: Using this (admittedly) crude metric, she inspires slightly less devotion than George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton, and slightly more than Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. It’s her negative numbers that are off the charts: No politician, from Bush to Barack Obama to Nancy Pelosi, is hated so intensely by so many Americans.
And this is what’s so problematic, to my mind, about much of the Palin coverage: The media often acts as though they’re covering her because her conservative fan base is so large (hence the endless talk about her 2012 prospects), when they’re really covering her because so many liberals are eager to hear about, read about and then freak about whatever that awful, terrifying woman is up to now.
If Sarahpalin didn’t exist, it would be necessary for the left to invent her.
Apollo posted this at 8:16 AM CDT on Monday, January 24th, 2011 as Journalism, The Passion of St. Sarah of Wasilla
14 Comments »