Saturday, July 31, 2021

Can New York City Be Saved?

What happened to New York City?

As you know I take a special and self-interested concern for the state of my home city. As I have been reporting, things are not very good in the Big Apple. If I were prone to lame metaphors, I would say that the core is rotting.

Now, John Podhoretz offers an excellent comprehensive analysis of the decline and fall of New York City. By his reasoning, with which we cannot take exception, the fault lies with our political leaders, beginning with Mayor and comrade Bill de Blasio.

Podhoretz explains:

And what of the decade dominated by Bill de Blasio’s eight years as mayor? When he leaves office in January 2022, the population of New York City will likely be around 8.25 million. He will not only leave office with the city in far worse shape than it was when he became its chief executive in 2014; he is the key cause of its renewed depopulation.

As for crime, the numbers are damning:

By almost every conceivable benchmark, even his own, de Blasio has failed. Take crime. Critics predicted that under his leader­ship, crime would skyrocket, and for a while it looked like we would have to eat our words as the crime rate continued to fall. In July 2019, de Blasio announced with great fanfare that the city had booked 40,000 fewer miscreants into jails that year than in the year he took office.

“The safest big city in America is ending the era of mass incarceration,” he said proudly. “For decades, we’ve been told we can only arrest and imprison our way to a safer city. Under my administration, New York City has proven that’s not true. Instead, we can keep fathers at home and kids in school and get even safer.”

By the end of 2019, the murder rate had risen by 7 percent, with other violent crimes also increasing at a comparably modest rate. Then, in 2020, everything went south. Shootings increased by 97 percent (that is not a typo), the homicide rate by 44 percent, the burglary rate by 42 percent, and the number of car thefts by 67 percent.

And then there is homelessness:

A year into his mayoralty, the city found itself awash in street dwellers, many of the newer indigents apparent opioid addicts who had moved into the city because it was an easy place to panhandle and because word had gone out that vagrancy would be tolerated. De Blasio accused the everyday New Yorkers who complained about the piles of garbage on Broadway and elsewhere of “fearmongering,” even as he increased spending on homelessness.

As usual, when you subsidize something, you get more of it — and in 2020, nearly 21,000 individuals were sleeping nightly in public shelters, an all-time high. When the vagrants are not in the shelters, they’re on the streets, sleeping or raging or rampaging, degrading the daily life of the city’s working residents and their children.

You were wondering about the state of the city’s educational system. Wonder no more; it’s a calamity:

Education is de Blasio’s greatest shame. He has spent his mayoralty consumed with the notion of making “equity” the signature issue in the city’s public schools. He began by waging a war on charter schools, a war that was in part personal — he had had a long-running feud while serving on the city council with Eva Moskowitz, who left politics to start and run the stunningly successful Success Academy system, and wanted to destroy her. But he also loathes the notion that competition is the only way to improve public schools and is offended by the results that charters like Success Academy have shown.

He was prevented from running the Success Academy charters out of business by Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose psychopathic rage against any politician near his ambit who gets press attention led him to go for de Blasio’s jugular on this issue. But de Blasio has continued to do everything in his power to assert the primacy of equity over excellence and leveling over achievement. Though he poses as a tribune of the poor, his efforts to destroy both the city’s gifted-and-talented programs and the existence of eight selective high schools to which students gain entry by taking a single test have been a poisoned dagger aimed at the heart of one of the city’s least affluent groups: working-class Asian immigrants who push their children hard to excel in school so they can rise out of their struggling circumstances.

Perhaps we should blame it on the pandemic? Not so fast, Podhoretz explains:

Whatever the damage done to the city by the pandemic, and it was substantial, it was nothing next to the depredations of Bill de Blasio.

That we would reach the end of de Blasio’s years in office this way was sadly predictable from the way he began his tenure in 2014. From the outset we were told, by de Blasio and by his fans on the left, that this was to be no ordinary mayoralty. There were ecstatic levels of expectation that de Blasio could, should, and would transform American politics at the national level. Bob Master, a union official, put it this way in the pages of The Nation just days before the mayor took office: “De Blasio will have an opportunity to chart an entirely new direction for municipal social and economic policy — forging policies explicitly designed to intervene in the economy and make it work better for the millions left behind during forty years of trickle-down.”

So, the unions and The Nation magazine were all in for Bill:

The Nation’s excited anticipation of de Blasio’s regime was understandable, since he had already begun to speak about himself and his goals for his office in ways designed to make any good American leftist think he had died and gone to Cuba....

Befitting The Nation’s hopes, de Blasio’s inaugural speech set an astonishingly grandiose tone. “We recognize a city government’s first responsibilities: to keep our neighborhoods safe; to keep our streets clean,” he said. “But we know that our mission reaches deeper. We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love.”

And, also:

And not only that. “Today,” he boomed, “we commit to a new progressive direction in New York. And that same progressive impulse has written our city’s history. It’s in our DNA.” De Blasio loves to speak about New York City in this way. “New York has always been the center of progressive America,” he said on his hundredth day in office. “We weren’t sent to City Hall to change New York’s character. You sent us here to restore New York’s proud legacy as the progressive city.”

New York has never been the “center of progressive America” and has no “proud legacy as the progressive city.” It was Chicago in the late 19th century that pioneered the kind of early union activism that de Blasio likes to lionize. Later, in the opening decades of the 20th century, it was the state of Wisconsin, not New York City, that offered itself up as the working model for progressive governance. And for good measure, most leftist thinking since World War II has been a product and by-product of universities and university towns.

Strangely, de Blasio does not even like New York City. All previous mayors have loved the city. They happily embraced the ad campaign that announced: I Love NY. Not so with Bill:

And he is the first mayor of New York City who seems to dislike New York City. It’s not just that he believes the city is a font of injustices, from what is (in his view) the unfair distribution of private incomes to the supposedly brutish behavior of its police (at least when he wasn’t running the joint) to the putatively money-grubbing conduct of its landlords to the mulish determination of local parents to seek a better education for their children by whatever means are at hand — whether that’s a gifted-and-talented program, or a charter school, or a selective high school where placement is determined entirely by the score on a test administered to whoever wants to take it. I mean, when you look at Gotham in this way, what’s there to like, really?

The most notable thing about de Blasio as a public figure is that he evinces almost no interest in the city’s traditions, quirks, and folkways. He plays no role in the life of the city, is never to be seen at local restaurants or attending the billion cultural events that take place on an hourly basis, or much of anywhere outside the unremarkable Park Slope gym to which he seems so fetishistically attached that he had his security detail drive him eleven miles every day to and from Gracie Mansion to work out on its machines.

He does not root for the city’s teams; indeed, he has stubbornly insisted on remaining a Boston Red Sox fan, which is a little like marrying into the Hatfield clan and then revealing that you’re a McCoy. Then there’s his bizarre discomfort with the civic rituals that have always been a special feature of the city’s public life. He has spent his mayoralty skipping out on them — the Columbus Day parade in the Bronx (2014), the Puerto Rican Day parade (2019), and, of course, the St. Patrick’s Day parade. He claims he avoids the latter owing to its supposed homo­phobia, but his habit of playing parade hooky in general seems more of a piece with his disdain for the city’s century-long embrace of ethnic particularism….

Most mayors are cheerleaders for their cities; it’s part of the job description. But there’s nothing like a New York City mayor’s drinking deep of the myriad pleasures offered up by the five boroughs to give you a sense of New Yorkers’ local-patriotic fervor and passionate attachment to their city — why they cram into vastly smaller spaces than they might be able to live in elsewhere and put up with the inconveniences that come with living cheek by jowl with twice as many people as the next-largest city in America….

De Blasio does not identify as New Yorker. He is a child of the Revolution, a leftist ideologue whose commitment is to the great cause:

New York is not in de Blasio’s blood, and he doesn’t want it to be. He came to the city at 27, fresh from his visit to Nicaragua, and his apparent determination not to drink deep of New York’s pleasures seems driven by the same ideological fervor that undergirded his not so youthful love of communism. He is driven instead by a conviction that the city itself is unjust and in need of moral and spiritual repair only he and his ilk can provide. No bread and circuses for Bill de Blasio — at least, not in public.

In practice, the policies told a grim story. Under de Blasio New York City was governed by community organizers:

De Blasio and the progressives need the “communities of color” alliance to give them strength in numbers. This is how they advance their case for redistributionist economics and a rebalancing of political power in ways that truly favor not the communities themselves but rather the broad ideological goals of so-called community organizers who leverage the self-proclaimed leadership of their subgroups. He has brought many of these organizers into city government, where they have acted more than a little bit like inmates running the asylum.

And so have de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray. He “empowered” her campaign to put mental-health issues at the forefront of the city’s social-justice efforts with a program called ThriveNYC. All in all, more than $800 million has gone into ThriveNYC, an astonishing total for a single initiative. And it has been an abject failure, so much so that the program has been quietly rebranded and shoved inside another city department in preparation for de Blasio’s departure from office.

In the words of Stephen Eide in City Journal, “Instead of hiring more social workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists, the initiative focuses on drawing non-mental-health providers into the behavioral-health system. Examples include cops (CIT training), ‘School Consultants’ (who instruct parents and kids where they can find services in the community), and the public (Mental Health First Aid training). It’s still not clear how many separate programs make up ThriveNYC, but the original count was 54, which the administration touted, as though an initiative with dozens of programs is better than one with just a few.”

The Thrive initiative is symptomatic of the de Blasio governing philosophy:

What you see in Thrive is what you see in de Blasio entire. He throws money at things. The money rains down on the city’s activist sector. He claims he has achieved revolutionary change and glorious results — but there are no credible statistics to back up his claims. That’s because he doesn’t need statistics. He has achieved a different set of results, the ones he really wanted: He has created a new class of government veterans — progressives with experience, who can leverage their time in the de Blasio administration in pursuit of their transcendent aims. He has helped build a new kind of machine, a leftist ruling class.

Today, the great hope is one Eric Adams, the man who will surely be elected mayor in around three months:

His likely successor, Eric Adams, is giving interviews in which he is all but guaranteeing he will follow not in de Blasio’s footsteps but rather in those of Bloomberg, Giuliani, and Koch — resolutely anti-ideological and focused on achieving results that will convince New Yorkers there will be a second renaissance. But the next mayor will have to contend not only with de Blasio’s legacy but with the army of progressives he empowered over his eight years in office. That army will be at the ready to fight back on behalf of the noxious ideas that are causing New Yorkers to vote with their feet and get the hell out of Dodge once again.

As you see, Podhoretz is not at all optimistic about New York’s future. Everyone wants Adams to turn it around, but cleaning up the Augean stables is a Herculean task. It is not as simple as replacing an inept mayor with a competent mayor. Hopefully, Adams will make it clear, off the top, that a new sheriff is in charge.

Friday, July 30, 2021

The Teachers' Unions and Their Crimes against Children

Throughout America’s dark night of Covid school lockdowns, we have paid special attention to their impact on children. Many countries understood that children were not at risk for contracting the infection. They kept their schools open.

America-- or should we say blue America, the parts of the country that are run by Democrats, shut down their school systems. 

Whatever damage has been done to American children, the fault lies squarely with Democratic politicians and the teachers’ unions. Someone once suggested that the leaders of these unions should be jailed for child abuse. Clearly, that would be a step in the right direction.

Throughout the debate we have collected what evidence has been available in the media. It has been coming in, in bits and pieces. Now, however, we have received a comprehensive study, performed by consultants at McKinsey & Company. The conclusions are about as bad as we expected, and we report them because objective evidence is always better than speculation.

The Daily Mail offers a comprehensive summary. Dare we say, to the best we can ascertain, precious few other media outlets have reported it.

The results are grim. School shutdowns have hurt children. For a culture that is constantly obsessing over the horrors of child abuse, these data should have set off some serious alarms:

COVID-19 school shutdowns have left K-12 students five months behind in math and four months behind in reading by the end of academic year, damning research has revealed.

A new report from McKinsey & Company has shone a light on the toll pandemic-related school closures have taken on children across America as many spent the best part of a year with no in-person teaching. 

As we knew and expected, minority and disadvantaged children suffered the most:

Disadvantaged students faced the hardest setbacks, with children in the lowest household income groups finishing the year seven months behind in math and six months in reading.

The shutdowns also exacerbated opportunity gaps among ethnic and racial minorities with students in predominantly black and Hispanic schools falling six months behind in math compared to students in majority white schools falling four months behind.  

In reading, the gap by racial group was greater with majority black schools falling six months, Hispanic five months and white three months from where students would be expected to be in a pre-pandemic world.

And of course, the fault lies with the teachers’ unions.

School shutdowns and reopening plans have been a source of tension for months as parents and lawmakers pushed for a return to classroom learning, while many teachers and teachers' unions tried to halt in-person comebacks. 

Some parents were essential workers. They could not supervise their children’s remote learning. Some parents had jobs. They could only offer part time supervision of their children’s Zoom lessons:

Parents argued that both the grades and mental health of their children suffered from at-home learning, as students had to contend with virtual lessons over Zoom or working alone for hours on end. 

Meanwhile, parents also felt the toll with white collar workers speaking of their own struggles trying to help with their children's education while juggling their own shift to working from home.

For parents deemed essential workers during the pandemic, many were forced to leave their children at home to do their schoolwork alone as they headed out to work. 

But teachers' unions delayed welcoming kids back to classrooms, arguing staff members would be at risk of contracting COVID-19 through in-person learning. 

Yes, indeed. Measure the last paragraph. The teachers’ unions were on a crusade to hurt children and to damage their parents' career prospects.

Eventually, more children did gain access to remote learning. But, ominously, the McKinsey report tells us that the damage had already been done-- keep in mind, we are talking about children’s minds, and, by extension, their mental health:

At the start of the 2020–21 school year in the fall, only around 40 percent of K–12 students had access to any in-person learning.  

By the end of the school year, 98 percent of students had access to at least some in-person teaching.

However, McKinsey's research shows the damage to students' learning had already been done.

The research compared Curriculum Associates' i-Ready in-school assessment results of more than 1.6 million elementary school students across more than 40 states in the spring of 2021 and prior to the pandemic.

It found that students this year were around ten points behind in math and nine points behind in reading, compared to where similar students were in previous years.

This equates to students being around five months behind in math and four months behind in reading to where they should be.

Students learned almost no new math content over the last few months of the 2019-2020 school year, the report found, as the pandemic shuttered schools entirely before preparations were put in place for remote learning.  

The research shows that schools managed to claw back some of the lost learning over the following school year as remote and hybrid learning was rolled out, resulting in five months of unfinished learning overall.

The trend for reading was different, with the initial shutdowns impacting abilities far less and learning falling just one month behind between March and September 2020.

It was worse for minority schools. 

This trend for a sharper shock to overall learning at the start of the pandemic was amplified among students in majority black schools.

Between March and September 2020, students in these schools fell three months behind, before closing out the 2020-2021 school year six months behind overall.  

Children in rural districts did better than their counterparts in urban and suburban schools:

Students in rural areas were less badly impacted by shutdowns falling three months behind in both math and reading.

This compared to students in city and suburban schools who fell five months behind in math and four months in reading. 

As we have noted, the shutdowns have also severely impacted children’s mental health:

Aside from academic prowess, McKinsey's report found that pandemic-related shutdowns have had other negative impacts on US students. 

Its survey of 16,370 parents across every state in America found that more than 35 percent of parents were very or extremely concerned about their children's mental health. 

Overall, 80 percent of parents said they had at least some level of concern about their child's mental, or social and emotional health and development since the start of the pandemic.  

Separate research has also shown that the mental health of students suffered from at-home learning, particularly among already vulnerable children. 


An October article by the American Psychological Association cited concerns about 'how kids will cope psychologically with the ongoing loss of access to the friends, teachers, and routines associated with going to a physical campus'.  

Howard University professor and psychologist Celeste Malone warned that children of color and less well-off backgrounds were at the greatest risk of facing mental health challenges by missing out on classroom learning. 

It was not just about the learning. It was the socialization, the interactions with other children, the chances to play school sports and to participate in school clubs.

And then there is the question of the long term damage inflicted by the teachers’ unions:

McKinsey's report also found that shutdowns could have a long-term economic impact on the students impacted and the wider national economy. 

More students are dropping out of school altogether with a 4.6 percentage point increase in chronic absenteeism, it shows. 


The knock-on effects of lower grades and higher dropouts could leave students earning $49,000 to $61,000 less over their lifetime.

The impact is worse among black and Hispanic children who could see their lifetime earnings plunge 2.4 percent and 2.1 percent respectively, compared to 1.4 percent for white children. 

Dare we say that this will damage the American economy:

Nationwide, this could cost the US economy up to $188 billion every year, the report found.

The next time you start thinking about how we are going to compete with the rest of the world economically, keep in mind that America’s future has been seriously damaged, if not sabotaged, by the teachers’ unions and their Democratic Party satraps-- to say nothing of their enablers in the media.

If this is not a crime against children, the words do not mean anything any more.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Biden Quits Afghanistan

No one is crying for Afghanistan. America tried for two decades to bring order and stability, even democracy, to that godforsaken country, to little avail. Most Americans are thinking that if the Afghans cannot step up and fight the Taliban, why should America spend blood and treasure doing the job.

Thus, few people have made much of an issue about Joe Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Politicians are engaged in their usual showboating. Policy analysis seems largely to have escaped their ken. 

Today, we have two fascinating articles, one by a liberal, one by a conservative, about Joe Biden’s cowardly retreat from Afghanistan. In one case, the important point is not so much what was said, though the analysis was certainly cogent, but who was saying it. The author, the liberal foreign affairs columnist for the Financial Times, one Gideon Rachman. As you know, we cannot link to FT articles.

The second article, complementing the first, was by Bryan Preston, for Pajamas Media.

In any case, Rachman opens by saying that Biden’s surrender of Afghanistan was a major policy failure

On his recent trip to Europe, Joe Biden lost no opportunity to proclaim “America is back”. But actions speak louder than words. In Afghanistan, America is out. The consequences could be tragic for the country and dangerous for the US and the wider world.

The US president is not even pretending that America is leaving behind a stable and successful Afghanistan. Talking to the press earlier this month, Biden conceded that the Taliban is “at its strongest militarily since 2001” — when US and allied forces invaded Afghanistan and ejected the Taliban government from Kabul.

Yes, indeed, hand the country over to a resurgent Taliban. 

Of course, Biden tried to spin the story, knowing full well that most of our idiot media would happily repeat his talking points.

Biden insists that it is “highly unlikely” that the Taliban will now reconquer the whole country. But Mark Milley, America’s most senior general, sounds less confident. His verdict last week was simply that “a Taliban automatic takeover is not a foregone conclusion”.

Of course, a Taliban takeover would be disastrous for women, but it would, Rachman continues, be a humiliation for America. He continues to explain a policy alternative.

If the Taliban were to reconquer Afghanistan, it would be a disaster for the people of the country, in particular women, and a humiliation for the US. The baffling thing is the Biden administration could have avoided this risk, at a relatively low cost….

…  no American has been killed in Afghanistan for 17 months. Biden argues that this low level of casualties is a consequence of the fact that the US has been engaged in peace talks with the Taliban — posited on American withdrawal from the country. He believes that if the US announced that it intended to stay after all, the Taliban would resume assaults on US troops and casualties would rise again.

But direct talks between the US and the Taliban only really got under way in 2018 — and US casualties have been relatively low since 2015, with fewer than 100 US troops killed over the past five years.

The reality is that the few thousand US and Nato troops left in Afghanistan have not been engaged in direct combat for some years. The real fighting has been left to the Afghan army. However, the withdrawal of American and other Nato troops has had a disastrous effect on the morale of the Afghan government and military. Western experts speak of a surge of contacts from prominent Afghans, looking for any opportunity to get out of the country.

The Taliban, by contrast, sound triumphant and are making rapid gains on the battlefield. The Islamist militants have seized control of vital border crossings and now control roughly half of Afghanistan’s 419 districts. 

They have not captured any provincial capitals yet. But attacks on major towns could occur within weeks — with the capture of the capital, Kabul, the Taliban’s ultimate goal. Even if the Taliban prove incapable of holding major cities, Afghanistan is clearly in for a period of intensified civil war.

So, we surrendered a situation we did not have to surrender. As for the consequences of our retreat, Rachman continues:

The human rights consequences of the Taliban’s advance are likely to be appalling. There are already reports that the organisation is carrying out summary executions and forcing girls into sex slavery in areas that it has recaptured. Prominent Afghan women have often been targeted in Taliban attacks.

In the 20 years since the fall of the Taliban, millions of Afghan girls have been able to go to school. Women make up over a quarter of the members of the Afghan parliament. If the Taliban retake power, all of these gains will be lost. This unfolding tragedy makes a mockery of the Biden team’s proclamation that it will be a “champion for women and girls around the world”.

A useful point. Biden is selling Afghanistan’s women into slavery at the same time that he is proclaiming himself a champion of women around the world. Of course, he is happily negotiating with the homophobic misogynists in Tehran while proclaiming himself a champion of gays and women. Happily for him, no one in the brain dead media cares.

But the US president believes that he cannot ask American soldiers to keep fighting and dying for the rights of people on the other side of the world.

It is true that Biden’s first moral duty is to the American people. But that does not mean that, after a 20-year presence, the US has no continuing moral obligation to the people of Afghanistan. And, with troop losses at low levels, there was no real domestic pressure to pull out of the country completely.

There are also direct American national interests still at stake. The terrorist threat that drew the US into Afghanistan has not disappeared. If the Taliban once again controlled the country, it might well become a safe haven for the likes of al-Qaeda and Islamic State. Jihadis all over the world will also draw heart from the spectacle of the defeat of Nato in Afghanistan.

The last sentence stings. Jihadis watching the Biden surrender and retreat will conclude that history is on their side.

The resurgence of the Taliban is also likely to cause a new refugee crisis, as millions of Afghans seek to leave the country. European governments now fear that 500,000 or more Afghans may arrive at the borders of the EU within months.

Biden may believe that drawing a line under the Afghan war will allow the US to concentrate on more urgent problems. Sadly, he may just have created a new Afghan crisis that will come back to haunt him.

As if that is not bad enough, China is now moving to fill the power vacuum in Afghanistan. As Bryan Preston points out, this matters because Afghanistan has large deposits of rare earth minerals, the kind that are used in high technology production, including defense technology. As of now, China produces most of the world’s rare earth minerals. Without such substances we have a problem.

Obviously, the Biden administration does not much care about such things. 

So, Preston outlines the problem. 

The United States government is very aware of the value of rare-earth minerals. In a 2014 paper, the U.S. Geological Survey noted that rare earths are vital, and our modern world cannot function without them. 

“Rare-earth elements (REEs) are used in the components of many devices used daily in our modern society, such as: the screens of smart phones, computers, and flat panel televisions; the motors of computer drives; batteries of hybrid and electric cars; and new generation light bulbs. Lanthanum-based catalysts are employed in petroleum refining. Large wind turbines use generators that contain strong permanent magnets composed of neodymium-iron-boron,” the U.S.G.S. paper says in a photo caption, summing up the value of these metals.

Afghanistan has an estimated trillion dollars worth of rare-earth minerals under its soil. Thanks in no small part to the country’s endemic instability, those rare-earth minerals are still there. The United States could have used its 20 years battling to stabilize the country as cover to extract those minerals but chose not to.

But why, pray tell did the United States, in twenty years, and under three, now four presidents fail to extract those minerals. Perhaps they were only interested in selling democracy to people who do not want it. Perhaps their environmentally sensitive souls did not want to sully their hands with dirt:

China controls an estimated 85-95% of the world’s rare-earth mineral extraction right now. Or more — up to 97%, according to the Foreign Policy Research Institute. It isn’t the rarity of the rare earths that give China so much control. They’re not actually all that rare. It’s a combination of factors playing directly into China’s hands.

Of course, we have these minerals in the United States, perhaps not as abundantly as the Chinese and he Afghans have them, but we also have environmental regulations that have stifled mining operations:

Environmental regulations in the U.S. make it even more difficult to extract them despite the fact that we generally know where they are. West Texas and several Western states are known to have rare-earth deposits. There are efforts to build firms and extract them, but regulatory red tape slows everything down.

How does Afghanistan’s future look now, with China replacing America as the major foreign influence:

The American presence over two decades ended up doing little to stabilize Afghanistan itself. That country is, as our Stephen Green likes to put it, where the map ends. A rare-earth mineral gold rush may change that. China might brutally impose a stability, working with the Taliban, that the U.S. couldn’t and the Soviets failed to establish before that.

It’s in no one’s interests but China’s for that country’s dictatorship to grab even more control of the vital rare-minerals industry. China could effectively control what defense technology the United States and our allies can build. Our most advanced systems all depend on rare-earth minerals to function. The push to electric vehicles depends on rare-earth minerals. Solar panels and other so-called renewable energy sources depend on rare earths. The national security agenda of the right and the green agenda of the left both depend on rare-earth minerals. China has a monopoly on them now.

One way we could solve our problem would be to deregulate mining operations in America. Fat chance, that:

The smart thing for the U.S. to do would be to free up regulations and capital to open up domestic development of rare earths and development in friendly countries. But the Biden administration won’t do that, as it would run afoul of the “keep it in the ground” left in its own party. They refuse to accept that there is no free lunch when it comes to energy or technology. They love their smartphones, blissfully unaware of their origins and geopolitical implications or what it takes to power them.

Of course, Biden is a Democrat and today’s Democrats do not believe in America. They think our country is an organized criminal conspiracy, one that can only bring harm to the world. Ergo, time to free Afghanistan from Yankee imperialism.

In this, Preston sounds very much like Rachman:

It all makes one wonder, did Biden take any larger strategic concerns into account when announcing the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan? The obvious answer seems to be no. He wanted a date to leave Afghanistan no matter the consequences. One consequence is the humiliation of watching the Taliban gobble up the country and destroy our allies before our forces are even gone. Another is the appearance that the U.S. is losing the great power game, whether by design or incompetence. With Biden, it’s difficult to tell the difference.

Here’s one more potential consequence: Four nuclear-armed regional rivals may battle overtly and covertly for control of that hole in the map which happens to be rich in vital minerals that the whole modern economy and way of life depend on, and which will soon be controlled by a ruthless terrorist army.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

What Will Happen When We Kill Meritocracy?

Let’s say that you want to destroy a house. And that you want to do so without the owner noticing what is happening. If you set about destroying it from the roof down, the owner will notice and will surely try to stop you. But, if you find a way to eat away the foundation, by the time the owner notices what is happening, it will be too late. The foundationless house will inevitably collapse. And you will have decamped to nicer climes.

In today’s America, as I and many others have been reporting, the best way to destroy the country, to diminish if not erase its economic future, is to render schoolchildren stupid. Take their young minds and fill them full with nonsense. Ensure that they do not know how to think or to count, or, God forbid, to do calculus. Lo and behold, America’s future as a great nation will collapse.

If you are really clever, you institute this program with a flurry of grandiose ideals, like democracy, equity, inclusion, whatever. You eliminate competition; you eliminate standardized test scores; you cease teaching anything that would divide students according to ability. In short, you dumb down the curriculum so that no one will feel badly about not being able to do the work. And you do it by punishing the most able children, because their success rate defies the arguments for proportional representation in test results and in economic achievement. 

Its proponents rationalize this process because they imagine that white people are disproportionally represented among the best scoring children. In truth, Asian students, Indian and Chinese, are really doing the best. But, the proponents of these remedies are functional imbeciles, so what did you expect?

Of course, dumbing down the best children makes it nearly impossible for the worst children to advance. After all, they are being told that their test answers are correct, regardless. And they are told not to emulate the study habits of those who do better. The reason-- they are told that the Asian children who did better were exercising their white privilege, and that they are criminals who did not earn what they have.

Now, American leftists, people who have complete control over the American educational system, have gone on a rampage. Their goal, to eliminate merit and to make American children stupid and dysfunctional.

Joel Kotkin takes the measure of the problem in The American Mind (via Maggie’s Farm.)

We are, he opens, suffering a severe educational deficit. In truth, this should not be news. And yet, even though it is not news to say that our educrats are ignoring it. In truth, they are trying to make it worse:

Over time, our educational deficit with other countries, notably China, particularly in the acquisition of practical skills in mathematics, engineering medical technology, and management, has grown, threatening our economic and political pre-eminence. Our competitors, whatever their shortcomings, are focused on economic competition and technological supremacy. In math, the OECD’s 2018 Program for International Student Assessment found the United States was outperformed by 36 countries, not only by China, but also Russia, Italy, France, Finland, Poland, and Canada.

We can make it worse by dispensing with math and science, replacing it with Critical Race Theory. America’s foundation has been eaten away by leftist academics for decades now. CRT is the latest and most flagrant effort to pull away the remaining bricks and mortar:

Critical Race Theory and its growing chorus of implementers—from the highest reaches of academia down to the grade school level—have little use for such practical skills acquisition and brook little dissent from teachers and researchers who raise objections to the new curriculum of racial grievance. Woke educators, like San Francisco’s School board member Alison Collins, claim that “merit, meritocracy and especially meritocracy based on standardized testing” are essentially “racist systems.” Some among the new racial cadres even denounce habits such as punctuality, rationality, and hard work as reflective of “racism” and “white privilege”.

Kotkin explains that what he calls “habits of mind” are being degraded and diminished and denigrated. Corporate executives, he adds, know all about this. But they are powerless or simply too weak to do anything but acquiesce.

In a world where brainpower pushes the economy, the denigration of habits of mind can only further weaken our economic future and undermine republican institutions. Even though the vast majority of corporate executives perceive a growing skills gap, they have failed to stop educators from abandoning skills in favor of ever greater emphasis on ephemera of race and gender.

How bad is it? Here are a few statistics:

Only 5 percent of American college students major in engineering, compared with 33 percent in China; as of 2016, China graduated 4.7 million STEM students versus 568,000 in the United States, as well as six times as many students with engineering and computer science bachelor’s degrees. “In the U.S., you could have a meeting of tooling engineers and I’m not sure we could fill the room. In China, you could fill multiple football fields,” Apple CEO Tim Cook has observed, revealing one rationale for keeping virtually all the company’s production in the Middle Kingdom.

It’s not just about high tech engineers. The problem extends to manufacturing and industry. Skills shortages will surely hurt these. Again, our politicians keep telling us that we are going to onshore manufacturing. What makes them think that the products of America’s educational system can do the jobs:

The skills shortage may be even more profound on the factory floor. Due to an aging workforce, as many as 600,000 new manufacturing jobs expected to be generated this decade cannot be filled. The percentage of the skilled manufacturing work force over the age of 55 has doubled in the last 10 years to 20 percent of active workers. And there is no deep bench of talent waiting to replace retirees—50 percent of the active workers are above the age of 45. The current shortage of welders, now 240,000, could grow to 340,000 by 2024.Manufacturing employment is expanding more rapidly than in almost four decades but there are an estimated 500,000 manufacturing jobs unfilled right now.

To maintain our factories, offices, and laboratories, America needs more rigorous training, not less, and greater emphasis on skills and the ethic of work. Although certainly not the cause of decline over the past few decades, CRT is re-enforcing, and enhancing, a long-developing pattern of educational failure ever more evident, particularly for working class youths.

Ah yes, it is not just skills. It is about a work ethic, a competitive atmosphere where people have the chance to excel. That is, to do better than others, to gain promotions and raises.

Kotkin offers a brief glance into the California side of this story. We are not surprised to find that California schools are making students unemployable. Dare we mention that this is a very good way to repeal the Industrial Revolution and to save the environment?

As is all too common the case, California provides a useful roadmap to dystopia. In recent decades, California has lagged in providing worker-training programs. Rather than bolster training that may make young people more employable, California public schools seem determined to make them less so. The San Diego Unified School District, for example, will no longer count such scruples as turning in work on time in grading and evaluation, and may reduce the penalties for cheating. This is justified as a way of redressing racial issues, as many of the malefactors (like most California students) are from disadvantaged minority groups.

Obviously, ethnic studies courses are designed to promote an oppression narrative, one that will make one group feel guilty while making other groups feel terminally oppressed. They will learn that they should not bother to work hard. They should be out fighting the revolution, just as they were doing last spring and summer across America. After all, destroying what others have build is what they know how to do.

The ongoing implementation of the “ethnic studies” curricula may make some California students more racially aware, even turning them into progressive cadres, but won’t make them more skilled for the economy. The state’s model curriculum focuses instead on how to “build new possibilities for post-imperial life that promotes collective narratives of transformative resistance.” In contrast, hard work and aptitude are far less valued: California’s woke educators are rejecting even the idea of “genius” and calling for the elimination of advanced math classes as a way to achieve greater racial equity.

How is California doing? Very very bad, awful. And this is especially the case for minority children:

Since 1998, California has ranked, on average, 46th in 8th-grade reading and mathematics subject-area performance on the National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP), the only nationwide assessment among the states that measures comparable relative performance.This includes comparisons with demographically similar states like Texas, which spends less money per student. Almost three of five California high schoolers are not prepared for either college or a career; the percentages are far higher for Latinos, African Americans, and the economically disadvantaged. Among the 50 states, California ranked 49th in the performance of poor, largely minority, students. San Francisco, the epicenter of California’s woke culture, has the worst scores for African-Americans of any county in the state.

The result, Kotkin suggests, will be very bad indeed:

In the future, California businesses will face a severe shortage of skilled graduates, as baby boomers retire and the new generation moves elsewhere.According to a 2017 Association of General Contractors study, 75 percent of contractors in western states are finding it hard to hire skilled crafts people, and 24 percent say it will get even harder in the future. According to the Public Policy Institute (PPI), as boomers age and retire, California is going to need approximately 1.1 million more college graduates by 2030. PPI projects that the demand will then exceed the supply of college graduates by 5.4 percent, making it even more essential that K-12 institutions do a better job of preparing students for college and careers.

Among the reasons why California could not build a high speed train from San Francisco to Los Angeles might be this-- it does not have the skilled personnel able to do the job.

No one is teaching science. Critical Race Theory and Anti-racism training are religions, "revealed religion," as Kotkin calls it.

Rather than science based on evidence and argument, we now get something closer to Science as revealed religion whether on issues like the pandemic or climate change. Government and their allies in the oligarchy, the media, and academia, as former Obama advisor physicist Steve Koonin notes, have transformed “science” into “fallacies” that turn even the most unsupported assertions into “accepted truths”.

Of course, our international competitors are not following us off the cliff. For now our great tech companies have given up on hiring Americans. They have been filling their ranks with Asians, people who learned science and engineering, but who missed out on the anti-racist training. And of course, if the best engineers at Facebook are all speaking Mandarin, it is devilishly difficult to police their speech.

This diminishment of merit is not something people at the Indian Institute of Technology, the Tokyo Institute of Technology, or Tsinghua University have to contend with. Companies there are not likely to issue gender or racial quotas over proficiency. Instead, our companies can tap this workforce, if not overseas, here at home. In 2018, three-quarters of the tech workforce in the Bay Area was foreign-born, a majority on short-term visas, dubbed as “technocoolies” by some in India, “non-visa immigrants” unable to qualify for a green card, unless their employers allow it.