Saturday, December 31, 2022

Not a Slow News Day

Today is not what you would call a slow news day.

Pope Benedict XVI passed away. Idem for Barbara Walters. Authorities in Idaho have seemingly rounded up the vegan lunatic who murdered four college students in Moscow, Idaho. Apparently, he wanted to see how it felt to murder and to see whether he could get away with it.

His name will now live in infamy. To some people it beats anonymity.

As though that were not bad enough, the world stock markets saw some $30 trillion evaporate. Pouff. Now you see it. Now you don't.

NYU Professor Jonathan Haidt sounds yet another tocsin of alarm about the mental health challenges that are currently overwhelming the forming minds of Gen Z-- that is, the cohort born after 1997.

All indications are that Gen Z is going to be the most dysfunctional generation around. Where Bernie Marcus, he of Home Depot fame, has declared that this group has become lazy and indolent because it was fed a bunch of socialist ideas, Haidt blames it on apps and gadgets.

Of course, it could be more correlation than causation, because someone somewhere seems to have decided that young people should have unfettered access to gadgets, even at the cost of not getting along with other young people.

One might call this a dereliction of parental duty, because that is what it is. But, when all is said and done, it’s easier to blame it on an app. 

Friday, December 30, 2022

Where's Joe Biden?

Crises arise. It’s in the very nature of things. Within an organization the worse the crisis the more you will crane your neck to follow the leader. In a crisis leaders get a chance to take charge. If they seem to have a firm grasp of the situation, others down the hierarchy will manifest a similar degree of confidence.

They will understand, at times without having to say so, that the situation is under control, firmly in someone’s hand. If the leader chooses not to lead, then everyone lower down feels that he is on his own.

Chaos will reign.

I have said much of the way that Ron DeSantis led Florida through Hurricane Ian. Surely, his firm hand, his command of his brief, told the people of Florida that he was in charge and that he would lead them through the storm. Which is what happened. Nowadays more and more Americans are looking for just such leadership for America. Not a bad idea, overall.

In time of trouble a leader has only one obligation-- to be the steady hand steering the ship of state. If an airplane goes down in the Pacific, the CEO will be out front; he will make manifest his responsibility for the accident and for the cleanup. He will not call in and say that he had already scheduled a vacation. 

In itself, that form of dereliction is unworthy of anyone who even wants to pretend to be in charge.

Unless his name is Joe Biden. We all know now that Biden is an empty suit. We all know that he does not have the cognitive capacity to provide leadership in time of trouble. After all, no matter how incompetent he is, the press will cover for him.

At a time when he should have been manning the battle stations, Biden was in St. Croix, on the beach. Why? Because Dr. Jill likes the beach. Our tough, aviator-wearing president is completely whipped, as the saying goes.

Better yet, the people President hired to man and to woman his cabinet are a motley crew of complete incompetents. After all, Biden hired a small city mayor who could not deal with potholes in his city to run the transportation department. 

That Pete Buttigieg has consistently  been AWOL during times of crisis-- think the supply chain backups, the invasion across our Southern border, the Southwest Airline implosion-- preferring to shift the blame to corporate incompetence or even malfeasance or climate change, tells you all you need to know about how the rot at the top infiltrates the rest of the system. 

Again, with the Biden presidency, the impression we glean is that no one is really in charge. It is, as they say, the optics. No one thinks that Joe Biden was going to ride to the rescue. But I doubt that too many observers thought that senile Joe would continue with his vacation plans.

It is the first lesson in any management course. The leader takes charge. He coordinates the efforts of others. He sets priorities. He becomes the public face of the operation. He instills confidence in others, making them feel like they are part of a larger coordinated effort. 

In today’s America, regrettably, our culture rot makes it that 

Biden does not have to lead. 

Newsweek gave him plaudits for taking a vacation while the country seemed to be imploding. CNN pronounced him a great success-- what with the massive crime wave in blue cities, with the chaos on the border, with the breakdown of the transportation system. 

So, the media that ought to hold leaders to account has failed its primary task. It no longer reports news; it spins propaganda, especially the kind that makes Democrats look good and Republicans look bad.

Such are the wages of hate. The American left has become so consumed with its hatred of  certain president that it reflexively cheers any politician who represents the contrary. The Biden policy agenda is simply the opposite of what President Trump had proposed. That the Trump approach seemed to be working while the Biden approach is failing-- the media will never forgive Donald Trump for the indignity.

Monday, December 26, 2022

The Ukraine Endgame

In principle, and not just in principle, wars are about occupying territory. 

And yet, one suspects that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine surpasses territorial acquisition.  This war is being fought in the media; it can properly be considered a propaganda war.

Now, what with the appearance of Winston Churchill’s reincarnation before the American Congress, we are being led to believe that the brave Ukrainians have mostly defeated the invading Russian hordes. No matter what else, the message coming from President Velensky and the American media is that the war is just about over and that we have won. 

When we say we, we do not just mean the cause of liberal democracy or even the Western alliance. We also mean, as David Brooks so eloquently put it, that the Biden administration has emerged triumphant. So much of the renewed esteem people are being told to feel for senile old Joe depends on a certain outcome in Ukraine that we can be forgiven if we believe that perhaps the news is being spun to make them look good-- better yet, to shut down naysayers and critics.

The simple fact that dissent is not tolerated tells us something. It feels like the flip side of the new woke culture, the one that cancels any opposing political opinion.

The Biden performance has been so miserable that media cheerleaders are stepping forth to mount their defense of our enfeebled president. Why Washington Post columnist Jonathan Capehart even wrote a column extolling the greatness of Kamala Harris today.

War games are one thing. Mind games are quite another. Inflating the ego of a rather small man from Kyiv will have consequences. Given the state of the Valensky ego, one does not see how the man can compromise. One does not see how he can sue for peace or open a negotiation where he would be obliged to compromise. The larger his ego the more likely is to go for broke, as he in fact is ruling a broken country, a country largely reduced to rubble.

The spectacle before the United States Congress was not a step toward peace. It was another step toward further war. 

The situation, as much as we know anything about it, looks good for the Ukrainians today. Their victories are celebrated in the press-- as a vindication of the Biden presidency.

And yet, be careful what you wish for. Like it or not, Putin cannot lose the war. And he and his allies have many other fronts to engage-- as in Asia. So we end up with two opponents, neither of whom can be seen to be losing, which gives us a series of rather dire prospects going forward.

Have a nice day!

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Smash and Grab

It is not pervasive, thankfully, but organized retail theft, a rash of smash and grab robberies has broken out at larger numbers of local retail establishments. If you live in midtown Manhattan or San Francisco or Los Angeles, you see it when you go to the drug store and discover that most of the products are under lock and key.

At the least,, it feels like something of an armed insurrection against big business. Or else, it might feel like reparations. Those who engage in it have found an Achilles heel to retailing and are happily exploiting it.

Obviously, no one wants to say so, but the fact that the crimes are not being committed by white supremacists leads community leaders to a frightening degree of nonchalance. If it merely corrects an injustice, then, perhaps it is not even worth the trouble.

And  yet, things are getting out of hand and this is going to start costing everyone. Like a tax, a value added tax. Or else, the wages of guilt, over slavery and segregation. It is not yet a national crisis, but it is fast becoming one.

The Epoch Times reports:

Organized looting and retail theft gangs have caused shortfalls for the retail industry amid supply chain problems and years of COVID-19-related disturbances, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

“Retail theft is becoming a national crisis, hurting businesses in every state and the communities they serve. We call on policymakers to tackle this problem head-on before it gets further out of control. No store should have to close because of theft,” the organization stated. “These crimes are not victimless.

“In addition to the growing number of thefts that turn violent, innocent consumers, employees, local communities, and business owners and shareholders bear the costs of rising retail theft. 

Twenty-five percent of small businesses report raising prices as a result of shoplifting. Some retailers have been forced to shutter locations in response to rampant theft.”

Notably, drugstore Walgreens has closed several locations in San Francisco amid a rise of thefts and shoplifting that had been blamed on policies implemented under District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who was recalled earlier this year.

Friday, December 23, 2022

A Nation of Cheerleaders

From time to time New York Times columnist David Brooks reminds us of why we no longer read David Brooks. 

Let’s see. The American Republic has seen better days. Inflation is running rampant. We are being invaded by hordes of people, running through our porous border. Half of the country despises the other half of the country. The markets have seen better days. We are entering a recession. Our educational establishment considers it more important to teach critical race theory than algebra and calculus. And Stanford University has decided that we should not call ourselves Americans-- for reasons I do not need to explain.

Oh, and let us not ignore the fact that we are being led by brain-damaged fools, who can barely make it through script reading without embarrassing themselves and us.

And then along came Volodymir Zelenskyy, to save the day. The other night the conquering hero of the Ukraine addressed a pep rally at a joint session of Congress. Brooks was inspired; he was almost as giddy as he was when he espied the well pressed trouser crease of one Barack Obama some fifteen years ago.

If you do not have national unity in America, if you do not have unity based on internal coherence, you can find unity by worshiping the same demi-god, the man who is standing up against the great Russian bully.

We are as one with the Ukrainian cause. We are rooting for the underdog and are happy to see Vladimir Putin get what he so richly deserves:

The cameras mostly focused on Volodymyr Zelensky during his address to Congress on Wednesday night, but I focused my attention as much as I could on the audience in the room. There was fervor, admiration, yelling and whooping. In a divided nation, we don’t often get to see the Congress rise up, virtually as one, with ovations, applause, many in blue dresses and yellow ties.

Sure, there were dissenters in the room, but they were not what mattered. Words surged into my consciousness that I haven’t considered for a while — compatriots, comrades, co-believers in a common creed.

For Brooks this means everything, so it probably means nothing. The war in Ukraine is not yet over, and the tide might well shift in favor of Russia.

Zelensky and his fellow Ukrainians have reminded Americans of the values and causes we used to admire in ourselves — the ardent hunger for freedom, the deep-rooted respect for equality and human dignity, the willingness to fight against brutal authoritarians who would crush the human face under the heel of their muddy boots. It is as if Ukraine and Zelensky have rekindled a forgotten song, and suddenly everybody has remembered how to sing it.

Zelensky was not subtle about making this point. He said that what Ukraine is fighting for today has echoes in what so many Americans fought for over centuries. I thought of John Adams, Frederick Douglass, Theodore Roosevelt, George Marshall, Fannie Lou Hamer, the many unsung heroes of the Cold War. His words reminded us that America supports Ukraine not only out of national interest — to preserve a stable liberal world order — but also to live out a faith that is essential to this country’s being and identity. The thing that really holds America together is this fervent idea.

Of course, Zelensky has largely exceeded expectations. And yet, he was here to beg, not to be a great ally. He did not even bother to respect his audience by donning a suit and tie.

In the end, the Zelensky visit turned us into a nation of cheerleaders. We were cheering for our principles, even our ideals, but were the assembled representatives called upon to cheer for America, warts and all, the reaction would sadly have been quite different.

After all, Joe Biden might have rallied the world against Putin, but he has also proved to be divisive to an extreme. Remember him railing about Maga Republicans. Remember him calling Republicans semi-fascists.

True enough, the West has rallied against the Russian bear, but that might just mean that Vladimir Putin miscalculated, grievously. Counting on your enemy’s stupidity is not a winning strategy in the long term.

Thursday, December 22, 2022

The Great Polar Bear Panic

You probably don’t remember the Great Polar Bear Panic. Led by someone named Al Gore-- remember Al Gore?-- climate change activists insisted that if we did not do something, anything, about global warming, there would be no more polar bears. I trust that it kept you up at night. 

But now, reality has thrown some seriously cold water on that prediction. In truth, there have never been as many polar bears.

Bjorn Lomberg has the news:

Not long ago, environmentalists constantly used pictures of polar bears to highlight the dangers of climate change. Polar bears even featured in Al Gore’s terrifying movie An Inconvenient Truth. But the reality is that polar bear numbers have been increasing — from somewhere between five and 10,000 polar bears in the 1960s up to around 26,000 today. We don’t hear this news, however. Instead, campaigners just quietly stopped using polar bears in their activism.

So, you need not worry about the declining population of polar bears. Don’t go off your meds yet, however. They will find something else.

Via Maggie’s Farm and Daniel Greenfield.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Chicago, R. I. P.

Another day, another blue dystopian American city. Today’s selection is Chicago. Reporting on the fall of Chicago is long time resident and essayist, Joseph Epstein.

Epstein gives the impression that he has simply checked out. He seems no longer to roam around town, picking up the rhythm, the good and the bad. He has retreated to the television set,  to keep a wise distance from the ambient chaos:

I’m a news junkie, but the time has come for me to cut back. The first and best place to do so, I have decided, is local television news. It’s altogether too depressing, especially the nightly version that I usually watch before bed. In Chicago, where I live, most of each broadcast is given over to murders, carjackings, hit-and-runs, and interviews with grieving family members of the victims of these crimes.

Crime is now ubiquitous. Once-safe neighborhoods are no longer safe:

So rampant has crime in all its varieties become that no neighborhood in Chicago is free from it. Owing to local television news, I learn about gang murders where stray bullets kill innocent victims (often children) on the city’s South and West sides, but now also carjackings and other robberies in the once-safe neighborhood where I grew up. Retail stores on plush Michigan Avenue have been ransacked. Formerly serene suburbs have experienced murders. Two people were killed recently near a restaurant I frequent. All this is brought home to me nightly by local television news.

Between prosecutor Kim Foxx and Mayor Lori Lightweight, no glimmer of hope remains:

In connection with all this crime, local news in Chicago will often feature interviews with Cook County prosecutor Kim Foxx, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot or police chief David Brown. In their rather pathetic attempts to maintain that everything is under control, the appearance of all three only provides additional discouragement. In her various pronunciamentos, Ms. Lightfoot is especially adept at self-righteously conveying a sense of hopelessness.

From which Epstein draws a stark conclusion:

Is turning my back on all the wretched news on local television uncitizenly, which is to say irresponsible? Is it even safe? Shouldn’t I know how bad things have become in the city? Can I live without local television news? Or, quite as much to the point, can I continue to live with it?

Chicago, R. I. P. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2022

DeSantis Democrats

The rise of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is the political story of the year. Thus, I have followed it. And it seems to be accompanying the declining influence of President Donald Trump. Dare I say that many readers have greeted these facts with considerable chagrin, but reality is what it is. I did not engineer it.

The following analysis comes from Olivia Reingold, at the Free Press site.

By my lights, Gov. DeSantis has succeeded because he rose above ideology. He is a practical man, someone who knows his brief, who lets you know that he is in charge, and who takes charge-- like a competent executive. He allows you to believe what you want to believe. He gets things done. He governs. Thus, he is offering a home for disaffected Florida Democrats:

Williams is one of the DeSantis Democrats: Florida voters who, until recently, identified as Democrats but in November opted to reelect Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis—he who resisted the Covid lockdowns, tangled with Disney, and governed with a record budget surplus—in a landslide. 

It’s unclear how many DeSantis Democrats there are: DeSantis’ vote count jumped from roughly 4 million in 2018 to 4.6 million in 2022. Lots of those voters are presumably independents or Republicans who didn’t vote last time. 

But some are disaffected Democrats alienated from the party they once belonged to. That’s evident from the longtime Democratic strongholds that DeSantis flipped, including Hillsborough, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade, where DeSantis skyrocketed from a 21-point loss in 2018 to an 11-point win in 2022—a net gain of more than 30 percentage points. 

DeSantis is attracting disaffected Democrats because he is doing the job-- in today’s America this is a novelty. Less drama; more results.

Democratic Palm Beach County Commissioner Dave Kerner says he identifies as a DeSantis Democrat, “and I can tell you I’m not the only one.” 

“As I traveled around the state and throughout my county over the past several years, at first it was quiet, you know, ‘This governor is doing a great job’—and this is amongst my Democratic colleagues,” he told me. “Then I started hearing it more and hearing it more. And then I saw my own county—which has been majority blue throughout probably its entire history—we saw more people vote for the Republican candidate over the Democratic candidate.” 

In 2022, he says, he backed DeSantis because he’s not anti-cop. And because, Kerner says, he makes things happen. “It wasn’t necessarily about partisan identity but the man himself—even if you didn’t agree with his policies, the way that he was so effective,” he says.

 Of course deSantis Democrats cringe at the ideological conformity imposed by today’s coastal Democratic elites.

Like the Reagan Democrats, the DeSantis Democrats feel condescended to, abandoned by the progressive elites who bankroll Democratic candidates and shape the party’s agenda.

Then, like now, inflation was out of control. Then, like now, the leadership in Washington seemed tired, out of ideas. Then, like now, the country seemed adrift. In 1980, America was losing ground to the communists in Afghanistan and Nicaragua, to the mullahs in Iran. In 2022, it is gripped by a polarization and economic stratification that have been building for years, with eight in ten Americans dissatisfied with how things are going, and two in five fearful a second civil war is on the horizon.

But the DeSantis Democrats, unlike Reagan Democrats, who were mostly white with blue-collar jobs and high school degrees, are not an easily identifiable species. They are not confined to any class, constituency or ethnic category—although Democratic pollsters say Latinos were more likely to flip for DeSantis. They stretch across the city, from Little Havana east to Miami Beach, and south toward Palmetto Bay, and north, to the Cubans and Dominicans and Colombians in Hialeah. DeSantis led the Latino vote by almost 20 points, according to CNN exit polling.

As the old saying goes-- actions speak louder than words:

To the two dozen Floridians interviewed for this story, the governor is more defined by his actions than his ideology: He kept the schools open and taxes low. Period. Even the culture-war bombs he’s tossed—like going head to head with the Magic Kingdom over the so-called Don’t Say Gay bill—served to squeeze tax dollars out of a massive corporation. 

While Reagan was a mythical figure, a movie star who trafficked in big, sweeping ideas, who liked to tell big, Hollywood-esque stories about himself and America, DeSantis is none of that. When you talk to people who like DeSantis, they use words like “effective” and “chief executive”—boring words, words that feel, in this moment of great national stasis, kind of reassuring. 

The thing about DeSantis the Operator is his voters don’t feel judged. No one feels like he’s wagging his finger at them, telling them to mask up, or stay six feet away, or pray, or eat vegan, or be inclusive. 

As I say, it's not about the persona or the personality or the attendant drama. DeSantis succeeds because he does the job.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Sam Brinton; Former Biden Administration Tranny

 Trust me, no one much cares what Sam Brinton wears when he lounges around his house. If he sports the latest in Parisian frocks, it is his business and the business of anyone who cares to share his transvestite fetish. One remarks, to be clear, that cross dressing, in transvestism is not the same as transgenderism, which involves hormones and surgery.

 In any event Brinton was a bureaucrat working in the Biden administration. Don Surber did not approve. (Via Maggie’s Farm)

The media hailed Sam Brinton as the first transvestite to serve as the deputy assistant secretary of Spent Fuel and Waste Disposition in the Office of Nuclear Energy.

The rest of us knew bald, mustachioed men in dresses should not be running the government because if they cannot govern themselves, how can they govern others?

Alas, there is a reason why offices require dress codes, and why they actively encourage everyone to dress professionally. The alternative distracts and confuses.

As you might know Brinton has just been fired. He was caught stealing women’s luggage and clothes. He is being prosecuted:

He has been charged with stealing women's luggage at two airports. The Biden administration canned him. If the charges are true, they show a man who is a slave to his impulses. He needs a checkup from the neck up.

The problem is advertising a deviant lifestyle, that is, foisting it on people who are not in on the joke and who go to the office to work, not to be tricked into Sam is short for Samantha. 

In today’s America, in the Biden administration, people are apparently allowed to make of themselves a public spectacle, and if you do not like it, shut up: We have gotten beyond rules and standards-- and apparently professional competence

But he's LGBT and therefore exempt in our society from rules and standards.

If you do not like it, you are a bigot:

But half the country now believes LGBT teachers have the right to blab about their weekend orgy. A law to ban this kind of talk in Florida faced opposition from Disney.

Librarians meanwhile are demanding that schools stock books that depict children engaged in homosexual activity. The laws against child pornography need to be enforced.

What does this have to do with our drag princess nuclear engineer?

Surber reports on the influence that one Sam Brinton exercised:

Fox reported, "Sam Brinton, the non-binary former federal government official who is now facing the possibility of significant prison time, played a key role in developing a model school policy adopted in multiple states that instructs school districts to keep 'unaffirming' parents in the dark about a potentially suicidal child’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

"Brinton, a biological male who gained notoriety for being one of the U.S. government’s first non-binary officials, was recently fired from the Office of Nuclear Energy, an agency of the Department of Energy, after being charged with stealing airport luggage on multiple occasions.

"Before joining the federal government, Brinton was in charge of advocacy and government affairs at the LGBTQ youth suicide prevention nonprofit The Trevor Project, where he helped craft a 'Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention' in 2019 along with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the American School Counselor Association and the National Association of School Psychologists.

"Brinton cheered the model at the time, saying it’s imperative for school suicide prevention policies to be LGBTQ competent."

Sunday, December 18, 2022

Male Lesbians?

What are we fighting for in Ukraine? In principle, we are fighting for liberal democracy, for democratic elections, for free expression, for human rights, and the whole kahuna.

And yet, don’t you find it bizarre that in Norway, a leading democratic Western nation, a woman is going to be prosecuted for running afoul of the thought police. Card-carrying lesbian, Tonje Gjevjon is being investigated and may be prosecuted for exercising her freedom of speech. What did she say? Well, she said that no male being could be a lesbian. (Via Maggie’s Farm)

They are trying to put her in prison:

Hate speech cases across Western Europe are growing more outrageous by the year, with the latest example out of Norway reaching new heights of absurdity. This as various countries' laws get narrower and narrower over what can or cannot be said regarding 'gender identity'. 

A woman in Norway is being threatened by the government with a stiff prison sentence for the alleged "hate speech crime" of pointing out that a man cannon become a lesbian.

Unfortunately, it is not a joke. It’s what happens when we become so completely full of ourselves that we toss reason out with the trash.  It’s also what happens when we become so self-righteous that we do not even know when we are making complete fools of ourselves If you want to know why Russia is confident of victory over the west, just ponder that for an instant.

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Do Trigger Warnings Help Trauma Victims?

In our lust for mental health and in our conviction that we must never do anything to harm the emotions of anyone else, we have adopted what are called trigger warnings.

When teachers in college and even high school assign materials that might be distressing to anyone who has suffered a trauma,  they often include a trigger warning. By that they mean to protect the vulnerable students from the chance that the material might provoke traumatic emotions. Forewarned is forearmed… so to speak.

The logic seems impeccable. You suffered a sexual assault. If you now read about a sexual assault, the story risks provoking the negative emotions you suffered, only to aggravate your condition.

And yet, alas, it does not seem to work that way. Writing for PsyPost, Vladimir Hedrih summarizes the research into the matter:

Modern academic literature often contains trigger warnings – statements intended to warn readers about potentially disturbing materials that might exacerbate their distress related to a previous trauma. However, a new experiment on U.S. students showed that reading passages about physical and sexual assault did not lead to much distress, regardless of trauma history, trigger warning type, and students post-traumatic disorder scores. The study was published in the Journal of American College Health.

Trigger warnings are meant to allow individuals who have experienced trauma to be warned in advance about material that may elicit unwanted, intrusive memories from their past.

Theoretically, such warnings should be particularly protective of persons with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in whom such materials might trigger strong emotional and physiological responses. The idea is that if such people are warned in advance, they will be able to avoid emotional distress.

Naturally, we want to know why this should be so. The researchers have the answer. It’s all about desensitization.

When we suffer a trauma we need to process it. We need to reduce the threat, not to enhance it. When we face the facts we tend to reduce the threat. When we avoid it at all costs, we make the threat that much more dangerous. In truth, as happens when people undergo treatment for phobias, the path to treatment lies in reducing the threat, not in enhancing or even empowering it.

Thus, reading about a bad experience from a book or seeing it portrayed in a movie tends to mitigate the danger and to aid in processing trauma.


Friday, December 16, 2022

The Coming Conflict with China

In the current stage of the great clash of civilizations, we are not doing very well. So says David Goldman and he has become our go-to source on such matters.

For today we cast our gaze toward the Middle East, where China’s president Xi Jinping has just wrapped up a series of meetings in Saudi Arabia. The purpose of the meanings was to forge new alliances with the Saudis and the other Gulf Arab countries. Apparently, the meetings were a rousing success, though we are obliged to note with Goldman that their existence tended to loosen ties between China and Iran.

You recall Iran. When we read of the axis of autocracy that is forming around the world, we hear tell of Iran, Russia and China. Well, apparently, Iran is more of a junior partner than the other two, and China is keeping something of a sane distance from the Islamic Republic.

If you read about this in the American media or if you listen to American politicians you will gain the impression that China wants to rule the world, that it wants to defeat America in grand struggle for political power. 

According to Goldman, such is not the case:

American strategists imagine that China wants to project power globally because they think that China is as stupid as they are. 

Goldman believes that China wants to project soft powers and to keep international markets open for its products. It wants, especially in the Middle East, to have continuing access to energy sources. It largely prefers diplomacy to warfare, and is certainly not prepared for anything like violent conflict.

Nonetheless, China’s soft power is reshaping the Middle East, and Beijing is loath to let spoiler regimes like Tehran ruin everyone else’s good time. Its diplomacy is cautious, reticent and unimaginative—but fully alert to threats to its long-term interests.

The risk we face is that the unhinged rhetoric by our politicians and pundits provokes armed conflict. Such would be the cost of misreading Chinese intentions, taking them for an enemy rather than a competitor.

Nevertheless, I emphasize that all of the talking heads on television are persuaded that China is a mortal enemy, one that we must confront immediately and with force. Has anyone been suggesting that they tone down the rhetoric, just a notch?

Thursday, December 15, 2022

Learning Loss in the Third Grade

As  you know, we have been following the damage done by school shutdowns. Children who were deprived, thanks to teachers unions and government bureaucrats, of classroom learning have fallen behind. The chances of their being able to recover what they have lost are slim. The damage done by well-meaning pedagogues and bureaucrats exceeds what anyone can imagine.

The Hechinger Report sums it all up nicely, for your edification. It emphasizes the conditions of third graders, children who were in kindergarten when the pandemic hit:

Children in kindergarten when the pandemic broke out in the spring of 2020 are now roughly eight years old and in third grade this 2022-23 school year. A new report by the nonprofit educational assessment maker NWEA documents that third graders are currently suffering the largest pandemic-related learning losses in reading, compared to older students in grades four to eight, and not readily recovering. 

Why does the third grade matter?

Learning to read well in elementary school matters. After children learn to read, they read to learn. Poor reading ability in third grade can hobble their future academic achievement.  It also matters to society as a whole. Students who fall behind at school are more likely to be arrested, incarcerated and become teen mothers. A separate December 2022 analysis calculated that if recent academic losses from the pandemic were to become permanent, it would add up to $900 billion in lower lifetime earnings for the 48 million students in public schools.   

How alarming is it?

That’s why NWEA’s findings for third graders are alarming. The results emerged from an analysis of fall 2022 test scores of seven million elementary and middle school children across the nation, in which the reading abilities of third graders remained far behind what children used to be able to do in third grade before the pandemic. The differences between pre- and post-pandemic reading levels are smaller in older grades. While it’s good news that third graders are learning at a typical pace again and no longer falling further behind, they are also not gaining much extra ground. Their learning recovery is the smallest among students in grades three through eight. (See the purple reading graphic below.)

One has been told that a little tutoring and extra effort will compensate for the loss. The data tells us that such is not the case.

Third graders in 2022 are the furthest behind in reading, as depicted by the bar on the far left. So far they’ve recovered only 10 percent of their pandemic learning losses, which were at their greatest in the spring of 2021. Older grades are making better progress in catching up. 

Older children, those who learned to read before the pandemic, are doing much better:

Slightly older students in fifth, sixth and seventh grades, who were in second grade and above when the pandemic hit, are making much better progress in reading. If their current pace of learning continues, they’ll be on track to recover in two or three years, Lewis calculated. By contrast, it’s unclear when, if ever, current third graders will even catch up to pre-pandemic norms in reading. Lewis said there is a “long road to go” and that she estimates it will be “five plus years” for these third graders to catch up. That would be after eighth grade for this class of children. (See recovery graphic below.)

In case you were feeling optimistic about the American educational system, the report suggests that our schoolchildren were not doing very well before the pandemic:

It’s worth noting that pre-pandemic reading levels weren’t spectacular and had been deteriorating; most children were not proficient in reading for their grade level, as measured by a national yardstick. So, it’s an estimated “long road” to return to a rather low level of achievement that was already a subject of consternation and hand-wringing.

The current conditions are not encouraging:

Goodrow is hearing from third grade teachers that even children who can read words are having a much harder time paying attention to what they are reading than in previous years. Third graders are having greater trouble absorbing the meaning, identifying the main character or explaining what the story is about.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Overcoming Gerontocracy

It’s a bit early for the 2024 horse race, but we have already introduced it in prior posts, so here is the latest.

You will recall, doubtless with some chagrin, that I have suggested that the strongest Republican candidate for 2024 would be Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Obviously, some of you took personal offense at the notion of supplanting the Donald. And some have suggested that a DeSantis candidacy would be suicidal for our great republic.

Others have suggested that it will never happen. They have suggested that Republican voters would never abandon the Donald.

Well, what a difference a few weeks makes. The Daily Mail reports a new USA Today poll. As it happens, the public and especially Republican voters have changed their minds.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is fast emerging as a top 2024 presidential contender capable of beating both Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, an early election poll suggested on Tuesday. 

The new USA Today/Suffolk University survey shows that a majority of GOP voters want Trump to pass the torch to the 44-year-old Republican governor - despite having declared his own third White House campaign last month.

And while the ex-president trails Biden in a theoretical head-to-head rematch, DeSantis holds a narrow lead over the Democrat of about four points.

I am sure that you do not want merely to choose the candidate who is most likely to win and who looks like he will do a better job, but on all scores, sad to say, it looks like the American public has been cured of its appetite for perpetual drama and for gerontocracy.

Think about it.

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Know Thy Enemy

Have you denounced anti-Semitism today? It is becoming de rigueur? Some foolish politician throws out an anti-Semitic slur and immediately all other fellow travelers are told that they must immediately denounce it, lest they be considered Neo-Nazi thugs. And then the question becomes how fervent the denunciation.

In our war against bigotry, we are constantly on the lookout for racist invective and are constantly working to remove the last vestiges of bigotry.

And yet, anti-Semitism remains, Joel Kotkin explains, the one remaining acceptable bigotry. Especially when we are dealing with black anti-Semitism. Or better, with Islamist anti-Semitism.

Even Biden’s press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has a history, as a spokesperson for MoveOn, of anti-Israel sentiments, and other nominees also have a record of attacking Jewish “money and influence.” Democrat-dominated groups like the Anti-Defamation League of course rail against right-wing hate groups but seem reluctant to take on liberal anti-Semites like Al Sharpton and Ilhan Omar. As the Jewish magazine Tablet suggests, their mission to combat anti-Semitism continues to be shape by their predictably progressive bias.

And also:

The second, largely ignored, comes from the Left. The progressives and their media allies have had a field day with Trump’s nauseating repast but they are far less interested in combating anti-Semitism from progressives. This was evident in 2020, when the ADL and many mainstream Jewish groups openly embraced the anti-Israel Black Lives Matter, even while CEO Jonathan Greenblatt acknowledged the hateful views of many of BLMs supporters. Greenblatt, like most Democrats, has genuflected towards Al Sharpton, a past dealer in anti-Semitic calumnies.

And then, 

The third and perhaps the most disturbing face of antisemitism is neither left or right, but essentially black. This reflects the recrudescence of a dormant but persistent hostility that has characterized a century of relations between two prominent minority groups. African American communities, according to surveys, are the least admiring of Jews of all ethnic groups while many of their most prominent leaders—Louis Farrakhan, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton—have all embraced, without much criticism, antisemitic tropes more recently adopted by such high-profile black celebrities as Kanye West and Kyrie Irving.

And, Kotkin continues:

But, contrary to the notions backed by the ADL and their claque in the mainstream media, Jews face an arguably bigger, if perhaps less lethal threat—at least in terms of politics, culture and education—from the Left. Two decades ago the famous Nazi-hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld predicted that the main threat in the future would come from an alliance of Islamists and left-wing activists.

Today barely half of Europeans think Israel has a right to exist. The generally middle class Green Parties, which have emerged as big winners in Germany and across the continent, tend to support the BDS movement, with aims to demonize and eliminate the Jewish state. The German Greens regularly label Israel an “apartheid” regime. Many European leftists favor the actual destruction of the Jewish state, itself likely to generate a new Holocaust.

The NYPD reported 208 antisemitic hate crimes through September of this year—9 percent more than in all of 2018, and 41 percent more than all of 2017. Black people, not white nationalists, are committing a growing number of random attacks on both Asians and Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn, a place where neo-Nazis are hardly thick on the ground.

The lesson-- know they enemy.