This month, many of the nation's best and brightest high school seniors will receive thick envelopes in the mail announcing their admission to the college of their dreams. For many of them, going away to college will be like crossing the Rubicon. They will leave their families -- their homes -- and probably not return for many years, if at all.
That was journalist Rod Dreher's path. Dreher grew up in the small southern community of Starhill, Louisiana, 35 miles northwest of Baton Rouge. He decided to return home after his sister Ruthie passed away from terminal lung cancer, a beautiful and moving experience he describes in his new book.
After listening to the Acculturated podcast with Rod (and Ben and Abby), I started thinking a lot the conflict between career ambition and relationships, which I write more about here. The conflict lies at the heart of many of our current cultural debates, including the ones sparked by high-powered women like Sheryl Sandberg and Anne Marie Slaughter. Ambition drives people forward; relationships and community, by imposing limits, hold people back. Which is more important? Just the other week, Slate ran a symposium that addressed this question, asking, "Does an Early Marriage Kill Your Potential To Achieve More in Life?" Ambition is deeply entrenched into the American personae, as Yale's William Casey King argues in Ambition, A History: From Vice to Virtue -- but what are its costs?
As Dreher was writing his book, one of his East Coast friends told him, "Everything I've done has been for career advancement ... And we have done well. But we are alone in the world." He added: "Almost everybody we know is like that."
Meanwhile, people like Ruthie, who devote themselves to their communities and to others, are surrounded by love.
For many years, Ruthie and her mother had a Christmas Eve tradition of visiting the Starhill cemetery and lighting candles on each of the hundreds of graves there. On that first Christmas Eve after Ruthie died, her mother could not bring herself to keep the tradition going. And yet, driving past the cemetery after sunset on that Christmas Eve, Dreher saw sparks of light illuminating the graveyard. Someone else had lit the candles on the graves -- but who? It turns out that a member of their community named Susan took it upon herself to pay that tribute to the departed, including Ruthie.
In the final paragraph of the novel Middlemarch, George Eliot pays another kind of tribute to the dead. Eliot writes, "The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs." We may not celebrate these people in the media--and they may not be successful in a material sense--but they are the ones who, when they were alive, kept the peace of the world.
If you're interested in some of the interesting psychology research surrounding ambition, relationships, and community--or want to know more about Rod and his sister--you can read my piece here.
The heated debate over Margaret Thatcher’s economic legacy shows many progressives have little use for the pro-market shift taken by US and UK policymakers starting in the late 1970s. They argue that the combo of deregulation, privatization, and lower marginal income tax rates achieved little more than higher incomes for the rich and stagnant incomes for the middle class.
Now, I don’t think the data support such an interpretation. But rather than again argue that point, let’s instead again examine the economic era American liberals pine for: the post-WWII era, particularly the 1950s. As President Obama has said: “In the decades after World War II there was a general consensus that the market couldn’t solve all of our problems on its own. …This consensus, this shared vision led to the strongest economic growth and the largest middle class that the world has ever known. It led to a shared prosperity. “
It was a time of strong labor unions, plentiful manufacturing jobs, and high taxes. If it worked before, why not go back to the future? Some new research shows why America likely won’t, and why liberals are wasting their time pushing nostalgia economics:
1. The decline in manufacturing jobs, though not manufacturing output, stems from globalization and automation. And this is a phenomenon hardly restricted to the US. Lane Kenworthy:
Protecting existing manufacturing jobs, bringing back lost ones, and creating new ones is a perennial aim of the left. But possibilities here are limited … manufacturing’s share of employment has been shrinking steadily in all rich nations. Even South Korea, which didn’t industrialise until the 1970s and 1980s, has joined the downward march. … Two decades from now, manufacturing jobs will have shrunk to less than 10 per cent of employment in most affluent countries.
The good news here is that while this may be a problem for income growth, it doesn’t have to be one for job growth: “There is no tendency for those with a larger share of employment in manufacturing to have a higher employment rate.”
2. As with the decline of manufacturing jobs, the decline in unionization is widespread. Again, Kenworthy:
Unionisation has been falling in most affluent nations. Only five now have rates above 40 per cent, and four of those (Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and Sweden) are countries in which access to unemployment insurance is tied to union membership. … Even if there is no further reduction in bargaining coverage going forward, in all but a handful of the rich countries 20 percent or more of the employed already are outside the reach of collective agreements. And in half of the countries it’s 40 per cent or more.
3. As Paul Krugman has enthusiastically noted, “[In] the 1950s incomes in the top bracket faced a marginal tax rate of 91, that’s right, 91 percent, while taxes on corporate profits were twice as large, relative to national income, as in recent years.”
In short, the rich paid more and the system was fairer. But in a study for the Manhattan Institute (from which the above chart is taken), Arpit Gupta argues the facts say otherwise:
1. In the 1950s, very few people paid the very high income-tax rates aimed at the wealthiest.
2. Claims that wealthy people paid more taxes rest instead on the assumption that the rich, as stock owners, bore the entire burden of higher corporate taxes of that era. There are good reasons to doubt this assumption about corporate taxes.
3. Even if we leave these assumptions unchallenged, the economy of the 1950s was so different from our own that its tax structure cannot be reproduced today. …The collapse of the global economy after World War II and the nature of postwar industrial capitalism, created a period of high corporate earnings in the United States. American firms did not vie then, as they do now, with competitors on every inhabited continent. Both law and convention supported large, monolithic corporations in an environment in which disruption was rare. Capital was relatively immobile, and corporate profits were high—boosting redistribution in the forms of union activity (resulting in higher wages and benefits for workers) and government taxation.
Half a century later, the nature of global capitalism has drastically changed. Though the U.S. still has a high statutory corporate tax rate by developed-country standards, corporate tax revenue today is far lower as a percentage of GDP. Greater competition within industries, the spread of corporate tax loopholes, and the global spread of business and capital mean that domestic capital and corporate earnings are no longer a “captive” source of revenue that can be easily taxed away. Additionally, the holders of capital have diversified. They now include pension funds and ordinary investors. Therefore capital taxes no longer fall so sharply on the very top end of incomes.
4. The most plausible viable paths to higher taxes in today’s economy would render the tax system less fair, not more so.
Gupta’s bottom line: “It is potentially misleading to imagine that U.S. taxes in the 1950s can serve as a model for a better approach in 2013. Income tax rates actually paid in the U.S. have remained stable for decades.
Corporate taxes may have played a role in pushing up the total tax burden for the rich during the 1950s, but this is not as clear-cut as is claimed. And even if high corporate tax rates did lead to high tax burdens on the rich in the past, it is unlikely that we can replicate that experience today.
Meanwhile, the European example does not teach us that higher tax rates can be levied with little effect while enhancing progressivity. Rather, it teaches that the most reliable way to raise taxes in our time would be a broad-based approach that would be the opposite of progressive. The solution to the United States’ revenue debate cannot be found in past.
Back to the 1950s? The left better look for a new model.
Journalism 101 is all about the five W's and an H - What, When, Where, Who, Why and How. Two thirds of that equation usually presents itself very quickly. The last two, who and why, are usually the most elusive, the most interesting, and the most important.
It's also the two things that take the most time to pin down and the lack of those two things creates a vacuum, which nature and the human mind both abhor. Therefore, that vacuum gets filled with all that is bad about journalism today: misinformation, repetition, misplaced righteousness, and mindless speculation.
It's not a new phenomena either. During the early hours of the assassination attempt on President Reagan's life, all three broadcast networks pronounced Press Secretary James Brady dead and all three were wrong. ABC anchor Frank Reynolds famously pounded the desk and demanded to his colleagues, "Let's get it nailed down...somebody...let's find out! Let's get it straight so we can report this thing accurately!"
Forty years later, NPR would lead the charge into doing the same for Gabby Giffords. Even the simplest of stories like a Supreme Court decision gets botched up because speed is valued over accuracy.
Compounding the problem is television's need for "compelling" visuals. Really important stories can go unreported because they are "visually boring."
But even good visuals are subject to the usual bias. Images of the Boston bombing carry the usual labels, "WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT", but are widely disseminated. Meanwhile, the images of Kermit Gosnell's abortion mill, just as graphic, just as "compelling" remain unseen to the vast majority of the American populous because their reality is something the elite media refuses to allow to invade either their or their viewer's comfortable bubbles.
The news has become the new X-Files. The truth is out there. You just have to find it yourself.
When he first entered office, President Obama sent back the bust of Winston Churchill. Now he is refusing to attend former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s funeral, and no one serving in his Administration will be going either. Not Vice President Biden, not Michelle, not even Secretary of State John Kerry.
The decision was made before the bombing in Boston.
Who is going? George Shultz and James Baker; both served as Secretary of State while Thatcher was prime minister.
Obama’s snub hasn’t gone unnoticed in Britain. Sir Gerald Howarth, chairman of the Thatcherite Conservative Way Forward group of MPs and peers, said, “The bonds forged between the UK and the US through Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher was instrumental in ending the Cold War and liberating millions of people. That the present administration feels unable to be represented as the world marks the extraordinary contribution Margaret Thatcher made will be a source of disappointment to those who served with her in that great endeavor.”
Former defense secretary Liam Fox, a close ally of Thatcher, said, “I think it would be both surprising and disappointing if after President Obama's fulsome tribute to Lady Thatcher, the American administration did not send a senior serving member to represent them.”
The Republican Party is sending three members of the House of Representatives: Marsha Blackburn, Michele Bachmann, and George Holding. Newt Gingrich will also be attending, along with Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger. None of the former presidents will be going, including George W. Bush.
As Obama stays home, other world leaders will be in attendance: Stephen Harper of Canada, Italy’s Mario Monti, and Donald Tusk from Poland.
When President Ronald Reagan died in 2004, Margaret Thatcher attended his funeral as did Prince Charles, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mikhail Gorbachev, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, French President Jacques Chirac, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, among many others.
Yesterday, I caught a little flack from some readers when I suggested that the insensitivity of pop star Justin Bieber might be indicative of a trend toward self-absorption in our culture. Some felt I was too hard on the Biebs, and I feel bad about that. But my greater point had to do with a certain rise in self-regard and self-centeredness that I sense is taking place among young folks today--fueled in equal parts by wealth and social media technology.
Let me explain a little: One study I read about suggests there has been a marked rise in self-esteem over the last four or five decades among American youth. I wrote a piece in January citing a another study that showed that, compared to 40 years ago, students are increasingly likely to label themselves "gifted" today--even though key academic skills have declined on average over that time period.
As Bono once sang: "Some people got way too much confidence, baby."
Before I run out to my front porch and yell at the kids to get off my lawn, I'd like to take aim at a new target: Peter Pan.
Not only does the flying boy deserve ridicule for dressing in green tights, but I assert that his desire to avoid growing up is evidence of selfishness. I say this because I've become convinced that my generations' love affair with prolonged adolescence--our inability to grow up, in other words--is closely tied to our growing comfort with the Big Government welfare state. ( "Young, Liberal, and Open to Big Government" the New York Times rhapsodized in a big feature story back in February.)
Move over Uncle. Daddy Sam just got to town! Government is taking over as proxy parent to the young twenty-somethings of today--promising a kind of comprehensive, lifelong financial security. And this Daddy has advantages--like the power of confiscatory taxation and limitless deficit spending (for a while). And with all that self-esteem, it's the perfect audience for the "Yes we can" slogan.
But back to the guy in green tights. I wrote a piece called "Peter Pan Goes to College" for the latest edition of the journal SOCIETY, in an attempt to make sense of the culture of credentialism, delayed marriage, random hookups, and general lack of purpose that I see among so many of my young peers in their twenties and early thirties. I think it's all linked somehow.
Today, the college years function less as a transition into adulthood and more as an extension of adolescence. For students, this postpones the “other-centeredness” of marriage and parenthood in favor of the relative self-centered focus of childless single life, where one’s primary concerns are often one’s own happiness and fulfillment, not that of spouse and child. In other words, the old notion of young adulthood entailed taking responsibility—economically and emotionally—for a family. For better or worse, today’s educated class has cast that model aside.
In our present culture, life for young people is endlessly transitional. Everything is temporary. The most conspicuous evidence of this evanescence is the hook-up culture, which seems above all to have been conceived as a way for ambitious young people to get by, sexually, until they have enough degrees and enough professional experience to justify devoting a significant portion of their energy to non-career pursuits. Loveless, drunken sex with strangers—it’s the oil that keeps our hypercredentialist, post-feminist society running.
What I really want to know is: Am I being too hard on Pan? Does the freedom to delay traditional adult responsibilities encourage self-centeredness? Or is all of the freedom to defer responsibility that young people enjoy today, on the whole, a good thing?
This morning, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick repudiated earlier reports of five incendiary devices (two that went off, three that didn't). He said there were only two bombs. Full stop.
Nobody has come forward to claim responsibility and any persons of interest or suspects, at this point, are just that. So we don't know who was involved or why.
But if there were only two bombs, and they were very crude bombs, that could have been carried out by a single individual.
If the terror in Boston yesterday required a handful of people to accomplish, would it be easier to thwart future similar efforts? Would the inability or lack of desire to develop a team mean that current efforts to stop acts of terrorism such as this are working pretty well?
There's very little to go on here with this bombing, but what are your thoughts at this early stage?
Also, is it surprising to you that we don't have more of these types of events?
As I wrote in my Defining Ideas column last week, the condition of the labor markets remains perilous. Even though the nominal jobless rate has declined by a tenth of a percent, the sharp reduction in labor market participation gives a clear indication of the ever-decreasing fraction of Americans who are able to find steady work. My recommendation was, and is, that the only way to revive these markets is to remove the barriers to entry created by government regulation.
Today’s army of activist groups is not focused on restoring jobs, however. The hot-ticket item in the current labor market disputes is legislative mandates for paid sick leave. The unintended consequence of paid-sick leave legislation, whether in New York City or elsewhere, will be to block the creation of new jobs by limiting the deals that employers and employees are lawfully allowed to make with each other. I explain further in my column.
-- The Washington Post is reporting two dead with approximately 100 injured. The New York Post, by contrast puts the death toll at at least a dozen and pegs the number of injured at 132. Multiple sources have claimed that one of the dead is an eight-year-old boy.
-- The New York Post is also reporting a Saudi national currently being treated for shrapnel wounds in a Boston hospital as a "suspect" (other sources have referred to this individual as simply a "person of interest"). NBC News describes a person of interest who is reportedly in the United States on a student visa, but never provides enough information to confirm if this is the same person in the Post story.
-- According to the CBS affiliate in Boston, the two devices that went off were placed in trash cans (likely in backpacks) and two other devices that did not detonate have been recovered. The New York Post, however, has at least one of the devices going off in a hotel along the marathon route. The New York Times puts the number of devices as high as five.
-- Cell phone service was reportedly temporarily shut down in the area (though some providers deny that they received any such request) to prevent the remote detonation of any explosives.
-- President Obama is receiving some mild criticism for the fact that he didn't use the word "terrorism" in his statement at the White House earlier today (though White House officials are making clear that's exactly what they believe it was). Obama was reportedly hesitant to use that language without a fuller understanding of the nature of the attack, lest it be perceived as automatically indicating an Al Qaeda plot or something similar.
If there's a consistent rhetorical refusal to face facts (as there was with the Administration's handling of the Fort Hood shooting or the Benghazi attack), this strikes me as a legitimate grievance. But given that the President was speaking only hours after the event, when even the most basic details were still murky (as evidenced by the contradictory points above), that amount of discretion, particularly on a one-time basis, does not strike me as misplaced.
My conservative friends are intensely jealous that I was honored by the Russian government over the weekend-- I've been banned from traveling to Moscow in retaliation for U.S. human rights sanctions on Russia. Here's the Wall Street Journal's report:
MOSCOW—Russia on Saturday named 18 Americans banned from entering the country in response to Washington's imposing sanctions on 18 Russians for alleged human-rights violations.
The list released by the Foreign Ministry includes John Yoo, a former U.S. Justice Department official who wrote legal memos authorizing harsh interrogation techniques; David Addington, the chief of staff for former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney; and two former commanders of the Guantanamo Bay detention center: retired Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller and Adm. Jeffrey Harbeson.
The move came a day after the U.S. announced its sanctions under the Magnitsky Law, named for Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested in 2008 for tax evasion after accusing Russian police officials of stealing $230 million in tax rebates. He died in prison the next year, allegedly after being beaten and denied medical treatment.
There goes the judo match with Putin and the seaside dacha on the Black Sea for the wife.
But seriously, I couldn't go to Russia during the Cold War and I can't go now. What's the difference these days in regimes? Obama has as much chance of resetting relations with Putin as he would have with Stalin.
Reports are emerging from Boston about a grisly scene at the end of the Boston Marathon. From Fox News:
At least three people are dead and dozens injured - including up to 10 with amputated limbs - after two explosions rocked the area near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
The simultaneous explosions, and reports of at least one other unexploded device found near the scene - raised suspicions that the explosions, just before 3 p.m., could be terrorist attacks. Competitors and race organizers were crying as they fled the bloody chaos, while some witnesses reported seeing victims with lost limbs.
"Somebody's leg flew by my head," a spectator, who gave his name as John Ross, told the Boston Herald. “I gave my belt to stop the blood.”
Details, we should stipulate, are always subject to be misreported in initial media coverage. What's clear, however, is that this is a tragic day for the city of Boston.
Thoughts and prayers.
Glenn Beck, who is sponsored by Goldline, had one of their people on this morning for an "interview" about the drop. That made me uneasy, because they were talking about all of the reasons to dismiss the market crash, while Goldline has a direct interest in people buying from them. Even if their reasoning was correct (beats me!), it felt like a panicked attempt to shore up their customer base, and I can't trust them to give me a straight analysis. I've been concerned about the US inflating the money supply, but Beck has been predicting Weimar-level hyperinflation for a while, now, and it hasn't come to pass. (There has been considerable inflation in everyday prices, like milk and eggs, but it's not hyper anything, thank goodness.)
Anyway, as a coin collector and not a gold investor, I've been frustrated by the steep price increase over the past decade, so that I can't afford some items I'd like to buy. When my wife and I got married in 2006, we picked out a silverware pattern at $125/setting and decided we'd buy ourselves one place setting each anniversary. With the baby, we held off on this for a few years and recently decided to go for our first set. Now it's over $400/setting. Hah! Stainless will do just fine. So I'm happy to see silver dropping 10% in the last week, in the hope that some day, I'll be able to afford something made from it.
Are these three declines (gold, silver, and Bitcoin) all related? Are they just temporary reactions to the daily news (Cyprus, for example), or are they the new direction?
In case you're one of the few Ricochet readers who doesn't automatically receive "Justin Bieber" Google Alerts on your personal computer, let me fill you in on the latest celebrity scandal to hit the blogs.
The young teen-pop sensation visited the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam last week during his European tour, and reportedly wrote the following in the museum's guestbook:
In other words, Bieber's emotional response to the tragedy of Anne Frank's life was to wish that she too could have been his devoted fan. He got blasted by some critics for this perceived lack of sensitivity. The incident got so much attention that the ADL was prompted to make a statement.
If by this point in this post you're still asking yourself, Who is Justin Bieber?, here's a 5-minute video primer that pretty much tells you everything there is to know:
Now you are beginning to sense the reason for the guestbook outrage.
Alexandra Petri of the Washington Post put it well in her column today:
I have both of their autobiographies on my bookcase. Justin Bieber has an entire page consisting only of the word “GIRLS” written over and over in varying type sizes, and I suspect that this is the work of a ghostwriter. And he expects ANNE FRANK to become HIS fan?
...If I were cruel I would say that the difference between Anne Frank and Justin Bieber is that we wish Anne Frank had lived past 16, because she had real talent.
But “You can’t shame and humiliate modern celebrities,” P.J. O’Rourke once noted. “What used to be called shame and humiliation is now called publicity.”
Maybe Petri is a bit harsh on the Bieber here. But her full column is worth a read. I find Bieber's rather insensitive slip of the pen more saddening than infuriating.
This is a fame-hounding, publicity-whoring generation we've got on our hands. Every youth is the star of his own YouTube channel and Facebook page. Self-obsession is our greatest cultural ill. And Bieber isn't alone in his self-obsession; he's just been unusually successful at turning it into a business.
Sometimes I think Tom Wolfe was about 30 years early in his pronouncement of the "me generation."
UPDATE: Here's a few pictures of Bieber hamming it up at the Anne Frank museum. Not a good look.
When it comes to the mainstream media, as everyone who reads Ricochet knows, there appears to be a news blackout regarding the murder trial of Philadelphia abortionist Kermit Gosnell. Pravda-on-the-Hudson is silent. So is Pravda-on-the-Potomac, and CNN, CBS, ABC, and NBC cannot be bothered to cover developments.
What, I asked myself, about The Wall Street Journal? As a subscriber, I have access to the newspaper's archives online. So, last night, I plugged in the abortionist's name, and I found that two years ago when Dr. Kermit Gosnell was first indicted for murder, the Journal ran a series of stories -- not only about the charges lodged against the physician but also, tellingly, about the failure of the state agencies responsible for oversight.
"In the end, Gosnell was only caught by accident, when police raided his offices to seize evidence of his illegal prescription selling. Once law enforcement agents went in, they couldn't help noticing the disgusting conditions, the dazed patients, the discarded fetuses. That is why the complete regulatory collapse here is so inexcusable. It should have taken only one look," the grand jury report said.
The grand jury condemned Pennsylvania's departments of Health and State for failing to shut down the clinic. The two departments failed to act in spite of receiving numerous reports about troubling events at the clinic, the grand jury said.
Although the state health department found violations during site reviews in 1989, 1992 and 1993, it failed to ensure they were corrected, the grand jury report said. A representative of the Pennsylvania Department of Health didn't return calls to comment, and the Department of State referred calls to a spokesman for newly installed Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican. The governor's spokesman didn't respond to messages for comment.
After 1993, there were no more inspections because the Pennsylvania health department "abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all," the grand jury reported. There was supposed to be an exception for "complaints dumped directly on the department's doorstep," yet the Women's Medical Society wasn't inspected in spite of repeated complaints about Dr. Gosnell, the report said.
In many ways the Department of State "had more damning information than anyone else," the grand jury said, since nearly 10 years ago, a former employee of the doctor's presented the Board of Medicine with a complaint "that laid out the whole scope of his operation: the unclean, unsterile conditions; the unlicensed workers; the unsupervised sedation; the underage abortion patients; even the over-prescribing of pain pills with high resale value on the street."
The state department dismissed the complaint after an investigator interviewed the doctor offsite and never inspected the facility, questioned other employees or reviewed records, the grand jury said.
In the two years since this story appeared, my search revealed that the name of Dr. Kermit Gosnell was not again mentioned in The Wall Street Journal.
Stop and think about this for a moment. The story of this abortionist's conduct is not just a story of personal failure. It is a political scandal of the first order. It is a story of systematic failure; failure that took place due to a political decision made, if memory serves me correctly, by a pro-abortion, country-club Republican Governor of Pennsylvania.
This was known in 2011. It was spelled out in the grand jury report -- and there has been no follow-up in the mainstream press. I would like to know who scotched this story at The Wall Street Journal. I would like to know why it too is silent in the face of medical conduct deliberately overlooked by the governmental agencies responsible for oversight, which is reminiscent of what we learned about what went on in Hitler's concentration campus.
It would, for example, be interesting to know whether what happened in Philadelphia is an isolated case. There are abortion clinics in every state in the land. It would not be surprising if the abuses discovered in Philadelphia existed elsewhere, and, as John Fund pointed out near the end of his post this morning, there is reason to suspect something of the same sort is amiss in Delaware. But the intrepid investigative reporters of the mainstream press -- including The Wall Street Journal -- have thus far looked into . . . nothing.
The Journal is today our only respectable national newspaper. Is it, too, more interested in managing the news in the interest of the libertine left than in reporting it? Why are its editors and columnists silent? What is going on?
Two recent data points:
1. Younger music fans are listening to lots of music. Just not on the radio. From Deadline.com:
...in Q4 online services including Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Spotify accounted for about 23% of the average weekly music listening time among 13-to-35 year olds, up from 17% at the end of 2011. The latest figure is just about even with AM/FM radio: It accounted for 24% of the music listening time among young fans, down two percentage points from the previous year. The change is “driven by mobility and connectivity” — especially the growing use of smartphones as music devices ...Traditional radio still has a lot of fans among older listeners. AM and FM stations accounted for 41% of music time for those 36 and older. They spent about 13% of their time with Internet radio.
Old people are still listening to the radio, poor things. And they're probably still watching television, too.
2. People are ditching their televisions and watching what they want to watch on-line. From Quartz:
...one-third of America’s internet users—and more than 80% of the population is an internet user—say they would consider ditching TVs altogether, according to a new report by market research firm eMarketer.
That may not sound like a huge proportion but by next year, more than half of American internet users will be watching movies and television shows over the internet. In 2012, 106 million Americans watched TV online. By 2017, that number will 145 million, an annualized growth rate of nearly 7% year-on-year. The industry likes to refer to it as “cutting the cord.” It is an apt metaphor.
People still love music. And they're watching more television content every year. They're just moving away from the traditional distribution devices onto more customizable, personal, flexible, and responsive gadgets. People are demanding -- and getting -- more choices and more power in their entertainment.
So why are they choosing the opposite when it comes to health care and education, just to name two important things that government wants to deliver?
Listeners to "Law Talk" will have heard my suggestion that the U.N. Arms Trade Treaty may create domestic authority for gun control. In this piece in Today's Wall Street Journal, John Bolton and I lay out the constitutional reasons for concern.
The treaty requires states to establish what it calls a "national control system" and a "national control list" for weapons, ranging from heavy conventional weapons all the way down to small arms. Under the old Supreme Court case of Missouri v. Holland, there is some reason to think that treaties can extend beyond congressional statutes in their power to regulate domestically. Either Congress or President Obama could claim authority from the treaty to implement new gun control measures under this loophole:
Opponents of capital punishment have used treaties to press the Supreme Court to stop the death penalty in Texas. Women's rights groups advocate an international convention that would achieve the goals of the failed Equal Rights Amendment. And supporters of bans on "hate speech" invoke international norms to defeat First Amendment objections. There also is an international legal doctrine that during the period when a country has signed but not yet ratified a treaty, it must take no measures that defeat the treaty's object and purposes. Under some liberal theories, this would allow the president to put some measures of the new arms treaty into effect by executive order.
Bolton and I argue that the Senate should refuse to give its advice and consent to the treaty rather than looking to the courts to prevent the treaty from reinforcing the authority for gun control.
As the day is upon us, some random thoughts from the front lines of the income tax preparation wars:
- The IRS's "Modern E-file" has crashed twice in the past 4 days. And these are the people who are going to enforce the health care law?
- Why don't the brokerage houses issue their "corrected" 1099's first? Charles Schwab and Wells Fargo, I'm talking to you.
- Instead of keeping guns out of peoples' hands, some people should not be allowed to own a stapler.
- The fact that documents and tax returns can be transmitted electronically does not mean that you can drop your [expletive] off at my office on April 13 and call a day later to ask if you're getting any money back. Here's a tip, the later you show up, the more of your money I get to keep.
- It terrifies me to think that an airline will entrust a multi-million dollar piece of equipment to convey hundreds of people over vast distances and then return to someone who can't open an attachment on an email.
- It really doesn't bother me that the weather so far this spring has been lousy. If I have to be strapped to a desk, I don't care if everybody else is miserable.
- The only time I've seen a smaller type font than is typically used on today's 1099's was when as a kid somebody would give me a crucifix with a little crystal in it that I'd look into to see the Lord's Prayer.
- My wife and I are planning a road trip to Louisiana starting Tuesday. I've just been informed that we'll be driving through the second coming of Hurricane Camille. Figures.
- I wish the bright boy who came up with the idea of segregating stock transactions into "covered" and "non-covered," then requiring that they be reported separately would meet me in Louisiana. There's a big river swamp down there and they'd never find the body.
- For those who are hit with the Alternative Minimum Tax, you've just seen the future of "tax reform."
- I see that the Munificent Sun King paid an effective tax rate of 18% this year. I wonder if he attached a check for an additional "donation" of his fair share. ("Mr. President: Warren Buffett on line 2!") What a jerk.
- Get this. A client just uploaded a Turbo Tax version of his taxes to assist me in preparing his return. All 157 pages of it. I'm not lying. For those of you who insist on doing your own return, don't foist it upon me as an aid to my work. It'd be like me trying to tell Jacques Pepin how to make a souffle. (Here's a Turbo Tax Tip: Unless you absolutely must write off your car or claim mileage for business, don't go anywhere near the automobile entry screens. You'll never come out. It's abysmal.)
- The IRS seems to think that they can scan private emails for information. Look out below! Here comes the 4th Amendment crashing down.
- Why is it when there's a story on the news about doing one's taxes, they always show the stock video of a person doing a return with a pencil?
As you've probably guessed by now, I'd rather be doing anything than spending a Sunday morning doing a tax return, even if it is for money. I haven't been able to watch the Masters for 30 years, and won't be able to this year, either. Two more to go, then extensions for those who requested them, the cowards. (I never file extensions if the material is in my office by filing day.) Then, having honed my skills with the practice of the last months, it's my turn to make my own peace with God. Adieu, mes amis.
This is the funniest thing to come out of Saturday Night Live in a while:
Of course, punk was always more diverse than the mass media suggested.
Today is Memorial Day in Israel. It takes place every year, with a poetic appropriateness, on the day before we celebrate Independence Day.
Although we are routinely castigated for our purported indifference to human life, that allegation is shattered not only by the unprecedented efforts the IDF goes to to avoid casualties on the parts of our enemies but also by the way Israelis behave toward those they are closest to. Life is celebrated with an incredible exuberance here, and devotion is expressed shamelessly and openly. So is sorrow.
Our army is unconventional in some ways, and one of them is the way grief is unabashedly expressed. These are Israeli soldiers at a funeral of one of their number. There is nothing stiff-upper-lip about these people. They stand together in danger, they love and honor their comrades, and their hearts visibly break when one of them dies.
There are heroes among us, where I'm sitting and where you are, too. Today is our Memorial Day, but it's a good day to remember all soldiers -- everyone who puts his body between us and catastrophe. We can't begin to repay these people. The very least we can do is bless, honor, and remember them.
While standing in line at Legoland yesterday, I sent out a tweet that I thought was mildly amusing, about Back to the Future. Not thinking anything of it, I skimmed through my feed when I noticed a prominent Ricochet contributor with large following had retweeted me. Immediately someone in his timeline caught a factual error. To which I was like, "Pffffssh, what does she know? I got this off Facebook, which way more reliable than twitter." But then, the floodgates broke wide and Back to the Future fans came unhinged, literally, with the cries of foul taking over my timeline. At which point I was like, "Oh no, I just juked the third smartest man in the world, and all around nice guy!" I quickly sent out a redaction, but it was no use. I watched in semi-horror as the retweets took off. Somewhere in all this I started to get curious, "I wonder how bad this is gonna get? How many people will retweet this even though it's been acknowledged to be false?"
According to science, I had several processes working against my attempt to fix the error. As Frank Farley, a psychology professor at Temple University points out, "You can do a fast correction, but it hardly ever has the value of the original." But why, Dr. Farley?
Jame Gleick, author of The Information, answers it this way:
"The fact is, we love this fast pace. We're exhilarated by it," he says. "We're happy to be able to reach in a pocket and press a button or speak to our device and instantaneously get an answer to a question -- even if we know that the answer is not 100% reliable."
And being first (or, to many Internet commenters, "First!") is even better: the "primacy effect," it's called in psychology. We tend to remember the first items in a series more than later entries.
So people are more likely to believe what they remember. That makes sense, but there are other factors at play, too, like the credibility and popularity of the person retweeting.
Neiman Journalism Lab wrote about a study by Microsoft Research which found, "A false tweet with credible features, or a false tweet from a credible person, might as well be true."
Add to that a study by Microsoft and the University of Michigan, which found, "the mention rate" or popularity, "of the person tweeting is a strong predictor" of how many retweets or "offspring" a tweet will produce.
Finally, there is the matter of speed. How fast does a tweet travel? This interesting article by Wired, attempts to answer that question. I think they settled on 100 km/s, but the author does say numerous factors will influence speed, chief among them, the time lag between the tweet and when someone will read it.
So what did I learn from all this? Unless you are equally credible and popular, it is almost impossible to stop the spread of bad information by correcting it with good information. Also, Bruce Carroll is now following me, so that's cool.
In the Review section of Saturday's Wall Street Journal, I came across a squib by Daniel Akst entitled Closing Ceremony, in which the following was reported:
When consumers make a choice, they're happier with it if they perform some small act that emphasizes the finality of their decision.
A paper about four studies found that "choice closure" inhibits people's tendency to reconsider and increased the chooser's satisfaction. In one study, participants were asked to choose from an array of chocolates on a covered tray; then some were asked to close the lid. They reported liking their chocolate more than those who hadn't closed the lid.
There is more in Akst's piece to the same effect, and it makes perfect sense to me. But I suspect that you get his point: "research" shows "that people are happier with irrevocable choices, which promote rationalizing and make it harder to conduct post-choice comparisons."
We ought, I believe, to rethink matrimony in this light and to do away with no-fault divorce. Marriage -- when viewed from a civil perspective -- is said to be a contract. We Catholics think of matrimony as a sacrament as well, and we regard it, the proliferation of annulments notwithstanding, as a permanent arrangement -- as do nearly all brides and grooms, which is why they marry instead of merely shacking up. Consider the traditional wedding vows:
. . . to have and to hold,
for better or for worse,
for richer or for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish;
from this day forward,
until death do us part.
Then, ask yourself: Can you think of any other legal contract in which there is no penalty for breach of contract? And can you think of any other moral commitment that ought to be weightier?
As things stand in the United States, however, these vows are all too frequently a baldfaced lie. It would be more truthful for the two to promise "to have and to hold, from this day forward, until boredom, temptation, or inconvenience do us part." But very few brides and very few grooms would want to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in so bold and bald a fashion -- which is why pre-nuptial contracts outlining the terms of an anticipated divorce are still relatively rare. What bride and groom want to think about their upcoming divorce on the day they wed?
No-fault divorce is, of course, a great convenience. As I know from personal experience, it eases one's exit from a bad marriage. But we cannot have this convenience, great as it is, and a strong sense of finality as well. Given the weakness, the folly, and the dysfunctional character of fallen man, there is much to be said in favor of closing the lid after one has selected the chocolate. "Irrevocable choices" really do "promote rationalizing," and they "make it harder to conduct post-choice comparisons." The messier and uglier we make divorce, the firmer we make marriage. It is not for nothing that the Book of Common Prayer states, "Marriage is a condition not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently" and "deliberately."
The greatest political threat we now face stems from the breakdown of marriage. If we want to halt this country's slide into soft despotism and reverse it, we should arguably begin with marriage. It is, after all, the foundation of all political communities; and, as Tocqueville pointed out long ago, it is especially important to bourgeois society.
Whether we like it or not, the law is a moral teacher. No-fault divorce teaches the insignificance of the marriage vows. Requiring that fault be established and assessing penalties in its light would teach the significance of those promises.
This is convoluted so stay close, eyes on me.
It began with Mollie's whimsical post about the Norwegians' irrational, obsessional love of wood in it's many states-- cut, split, stacked and burning-- to which Edward Smith posted in his comment a couple YouTube videos of artisan smiths and woodworkers.
Oddly, this admixture rekindled in me a dormant desire to hew rough wood with cold steel (or perhaps not so odd--it's in my genes, after all), and I set about scrounging all of the edged tools in the household for honing and whetting.
Daughter n° 2 watched this progression with detached bemusement, but finding herself in an aimless state, having rejected the idea of higher education, she nonetheless agreed to come along with me to visit the Compagnons du Devoir which had an open-house about a month ago.
The Compagnons are a craftsman's guild dating from Medieval times, and are world renowned for the quality their apprenticeship and their insistence on personal excellence and independence An artisan who has progressed from apprentice to journeyman to Master is considered to be the crème de la crème of his/her field, and the Compagnons travel the world, often working on prestigious projects such as restorations of cathedrals or other classed sites.
Above is a shot I took that day of the courtyard of their headquarters in the heart of Paris. Under the canopy, stone carvers were showing off their craft, shaping decorative lintels out of limestone. Not a bad cadre to work in.
I figured we'd spend a half hour looking around and perhaps Kirsten would get some ideas about learning a trade. We stayed four hours and she took the entrance exam. Last Thursday, she received a letter of admission, and I haven't seen her so enthusiastic about anything in years.
Which all goes to show that any post, no matter how lighthearted, or comment no matter how glib may just help change the course of someone's life.
Ricochet, you may come for the podcasts, but you'll stay for the community. Thanks.
Because things weren't hard enough already for John Kerry.
Salam Fayyad, the embattled Palestinian prime minister, has finally thrown in the towel after serving since 2007. For all his appeal to Western eyes and skill rustling up international support, he is despised by President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority (as well as by the rogues' gallery of Hamas in Gaza, although their opinion is less directly relevant). Fayyad has been struggling to build credible Palestinian institutions essentially on his own all these years, without any politically powerful Palestinian allies. It's a wonder it took him this long to realize the futility of his efforts.
This development is deeply awkward for Obama and Kerry, who have decided -- hark, the familiar refrain -- that a magical key to Israeli-Palestinian peace and harmony actually exists somewhere and can be located with the help of good old American gumption. While Fayyad was not directly involved in negotiations with Israel, his image -- ex-IMF economist, US-educated, anti-corruption, distinguished, articulate -- made the dubious narrative of the "peace process" much easier to sell, since Abbas -- the purported "man we can talk to" -- has long since lost any credibility. But Fayyad's popularity abroad, significant as it was, was peanuts compared with the hatred he provoked at home, and he was never likely to win a final showdown with Abbas. Over at Haaretz, Barak Ravid goes into some detail on that relationship and its consequences:
Abbas and the Fatah party's old guard that surround him saw Fayyad as a political rival who needed to be eliminated.
Fayyad's resignation is another sign of the PA's internal disintegration and the deep political crisis it is struggling with. In order to survive, Abbas imposed a semi-autocratic regime in the West Bank styled after that of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Journalists and bloggers are sent to prison, demonstrations and criticism are suppressed with an iron fist and the government doesn't function while the ruler travels the globe.
The PA president looked on with jealousy as Fayyad gained popularity not only in Washington and Brussels but also in the West Bank. Senior Fatah party members saw Fayyad as an obstacle toward their political and economic ambitions. The Palestinian prime minister refused to transfer funds to them or to appoint them as ministers.
The financial crisis that struck the PA fell like ripe fruit into the hands of Abbas and the Fatah bigwigs. They decided to direct the public anger over the rising cost of living and high unemployment towards Fayyad and his government.
The conflict between Abbas and Fayyad grew following the latter's objection to Abbas' decision to unilaterally declare Palestinian independence at the United National General Assembly. Fayyad thought it was merely a symbolic step without real benefit and warned of the damage it would cause the PA as a result of Israeli sanctions. Fayyad was right. Israel responded by stopping the transfer of the PA tax revenues deepening the West Bank's economic crisis and almost bringing it to a state of insolvency.
Abbas is no doubt feeling a warm glow of satisfaction over the political demise of his enemy, but he'd be well advised not to break out the champagne just yet. As Ravid notes, Fayyad's departure is likely to increase the hesitation among foreign donors to open their checkbooks, which will only deepen the Palestinian Authority's financial crisis. It's certainly not going to encourage the Israelis to be any more forthcoming either, financially or in any other way. And the worse the Palestinian economy gets, the likelier it becomes that the people will unleash their frustrations in the time-honored way. With the West Bank Palestinians descending into violence, particularly violence that spills over into Israel, the odds of a brokered peace -- which were never very good anyway -- disappear completely.
A new study coming out of the peer reviewed Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Does abortion reduce the mental health risks of unwanted or unintended pregnancy? A re-appraisal of the evidence, is challenging conventional wisdom on the link between mental health issues and abortion. This is not good news for abortion advocates in either of these two countries, as protecting the mother's mental health has been the primary reason for 90% of abortions performed.
According to BioEdge, this latest research study stands in stark contrast to a widely held belief:
They contend that the evidence shows that abortion is not associated with a reduction in rates of mental health problems, and is associated with increases in risks of anxiety, alcohol and drug misuse, and suicidal behavior. They warn that “the growing evidence suggesting that abortion does not have therapeutic benefits cannot be ignored indefinitely, and it is unacceptable for clinicians to authorize large numbers of abortions on grounds for which there is, currently, no scientific evidence.”
This could have important social policy consequences, they warn. Well over 90% of abortions in Australia and New Zealand and elsewhere are done “on the grounds that continuation of the pregnancy would pose a serious threat to the woman’s mental health”. If an abortion would pose an even greater threat, the rationale for legal abortion would be undermined.
“It is our view that the growing evidence suggesting that abortion does not have therapeutic benefits cannot be ignored indefinitely, and it is unacceptable for clinicians to authorize large numbers of abortions on grounds for which there is, currently, no scientific evidence.”
I'm incredibly encouraged that psychologists and psychiatrists are even asking the question as to whether or not abortion harms a woman's mental health. Here in the U.S., since 1969, The American Psychological Association policy position has held firmly, that abortion is the civil right of a woman, and in 2008, the Task Force on Mental Health and Abortion, found that adult women are largely unaffected after having a single abortion in the first trimester. So what's the problem? Well, even the APA acknowledges there are times when women do feel a bit glum after an abortion:
Nonetheless, it is clear that some women do experience sadness, grief, and feelings of loss following termination of a pregnancy, and some experience clinically significant disorders, including depression and anxiety. However, the TFMHA reviewed no evidence sufficient to support the claim that an observed association between abortion history and mental health was caused by the abortion per se, as opposed to other factors.
This review identified several factors that are predictive of more negative psychological responses following first-trimester abortion among women in the United States. Those factors included:
- Perceptions of stigma, need for secrecy, and low or anticipated social support for the abortion decision;
- A prior history of mental health problems;
- Personality factors such as low self-esteem and use of avoidance and denial coping strategies; and
- Characteristics of the particular pregnancy, including the extent to which the woman wanted and felt committed to it.
Absurdly absent from that list is any indication the woman may have distress over killing her unborn child. The problem I see with the APA's position on abortion is its unbalanced. It accepts only one outcome, if a woman can choose unreservedly, implicit in that decision is the assumption that she chose that which was best for her, therefore unburdening herself from the distress of her decision. See how nicely that works? Only it doesn't. Literally millions of women suffer in silence over the decision to terminate their pregnancies, and the best the APA can do for them apparently, is support their right to choose. It's shameful.
My hope is that as the story of Kermit Gosnell's butchery gains traction, inconvenient research findings such as the afore mentioned will get the media attention they deserve. But I'm not holding my breath.
Think about the Gosnell abortion story, for a moment, strictly in terms of how we conduct politics.
- First Item: Here we have a horrific story, and the media (you know, the people who claim the right to “inform” the rest of us) don’t cover it. But pressure is mounting, and the story is getting out – thanks in no small part to Mollie Hemingway – and now the needle is starting to move.
- Second Item: The nonstop coverage on guns (starting with the news about psycho atrocities, then constant commentary) now has produced laws ... the coverage created the policy.
- Third Item: A “47%” video did as much to defeat Romney as anything Obama did.
What does that tell you?
I say that the pattern is pretty clear.
- Policy is driven by media coverage.
- Coverage is driven by two things:
- Media bias, and Events …
- Events are the key, not bias.
The old argument is that bias drives the media, media drives coverage, and coverage drives the politicians. My argument is that there’s no question that the media is biased, but that bias alone doesn’t do anything. Events are really the key. Reality matters.
Let’s think about it …
These days, national policy is driven by media coverage. When there’s no dominant coverage of an event, and all we have is one ideology opposing another ideology, let’s face it, nothing happens. The ideologies are pretty much in stasis, a balance that doesn’t tip one way or the other for very long. The Sunday shows regurgitate the same old stuff; Karl Rove and Bob Shrum appear and say the same things, nobody cares, and nothing happens. Ideology doesn’t change policy.
Events make a difference. When there’s no event, nobody cares. You can come up with a brilliant, comprehensive, effective policy program … but if the public doesn’t see a specific reason for it, they’ll yawn. When there’s an event, though, the public is interested.
When an “event” happens, the political chemistry changes.
Lawmakers, usually trying to exploit the event, start by proposing laws. They’re only trying to get their face on TV (OK, I’m cynical about politicians). Still, their naked self-service is useful to democracy – it prompts them to get off their behind. That focuses the political universe long enough to address a policy, whether the laws actually pass or not.
Naked self-interest is also behind the media, but the media question is which interest is more powerful to them, selling newspapers or advancing a political agenda? The media’s only alibi for why they saturate the airwaves with certain stories is sales, i.e., that the public is passionate to read about “sensational” details. That’s why their utter refusal to cover the Gosnell story is so revealing. The story is packed with sensational details, so not covering the story exposes their alibi. This evidence destroys their alibi. If their only explanation for stories was “sensationalism,” then they’d be all over this, they’d go wall-to-wall over John Edwards, and any number of other Lurid Left stories.
But it’s more than just bias. Events matter. Bias is only a modifier. Events are the actual substance.
I say that what moves people is neither policy, nor ideology, nor theories, nor celebrity, nor anything else static. Events move people.
Of course, I’m hardly the first to say it. But I’ve been struggling to come up with a way to describe how we should proceed. We may have a firm commitment to the wisdom of conservative ideals, but long ago, I came to the conclusion that mere wisdom doesn’t start action or movement … it can only guide movement that’s already started.
Media bias is mostly in the form of selection bias – as Jay Nordlinger and Mona Charen so aptly stated in their recent podcast. But selection bias can be fought. The media can be made, forced, and cajoled into selecting stories that can only be explained and redressed with conservative values. And it’s important to say to the American people that unless the media is willing to tell everything that’s going on, anything they tell you is unbelievable. Unless they tell the whole truth, they’re not telling the truth.
The questions, therefore, are obvious.
- Does it take horror on the level of the Gosnell story to provoke the media?
- Mollie’s had some success in bringing the fight to the media. Why haven’t we done this before?
- What kind of events shape policy? (Hint: economic statistics don’t do it.)
- For every media piece that tells a Julia store (where the moral of the story is more government), what kind of stories offer a different moral, i.e., less government?
- Why is Solyndra simply a story of a missed investment, rather than a story of the perils of making such investments in the first place?
"This is a targeted, elitist and racist prosecution of a doctor who's done nothing but give (back) to the poor and the people of West Philadelphia," announced defense attorney Jack McMahon in his opening salvo before reaching his anti-climactic climax, "It's a prosecutorial lynching of Dr. Kermit Gosnell." The prescription of racism having thus been written, most of the media took their meds and went dutifully to sleep. The only thing missing were a few New Black Panthers to stand guard at the courthouse and Eric Holder could have short-circuited the legal process altogether. But something's gone amiss here as the dark side of utopia slowly comes into the light.
We weren't supposed to see the milk jugs, juice cartons, and pet food containers that held the remains of 45 human beings, nor the jars of severed babies' limbs. In our supposedly enlightened age, when even the language is sanitized so as to avoid offending the advanced sensitivities of people who expect us to pay for their contraceptives, we weren't supposed to gaze into a decidedly unsanitary and blood-stained doctor's office, where broken and unwashed medical instruments were used amidst the stench of urine and scattered cat feces. In an age when received wisdom instructs us that government knows best and is therefore entitled to regulate everything from mud puddles in our back yards to the air we breathe, it really wasn't intended that we learn of the studied regulatory neglect that resulted in semi-literate high school dropouts posing as medical professionals, administering anesthesia to young women and performing "snippings," (the act of jamming scissors into the base of a child's skull and killing him/her by "snipping" the spinal cord). No, realities of this order were suppose to be subsumed into the hazy euphemism of "choice," and "reproductive rights," thereby denying us entrance to Dr. Gosnell's office, where according to one former employee:
If… a baby was about to come out, I would take the woman to the bathroom, they would sit on the toilet and basically the baby would fall out and it would be in the toilet and I would be rubbing her back and trying to calm her down for two, three, four hours until Dr. Gosnell comes.
In an age in which the mere mention of the word "Chicago," sends the tender racial sensitivities of Chris Matthews into apoplectic fits, an abortion clinic in which white women were kept in the cleanest rooms and seen promptly by the doctor, while black and Asian patients waited for hours in filthy rooms evidently sends no alerts, nor anything else, down the "journalist's" famous leg. Then again, perhaps he can be excused on the basis that he's been busy peering over the heads of Allen West, Herman Cain, Condoleeza Rice, Mia Love, Nikki Haley, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, J.C. Watts, Tim Scott, Clarence Thomas, Walter Williams, Michael Steele, Thomas Sowell, et. al., in his never-ending quest to locate Republican Racism.
"Margaret Sanger," according to pbs.org, "devoted her life to legalizing birth control and making it universally available for women." The benign biography covers the approved highlights of Sanger's life, such as the fact that, "In 1914 she coined the term 'birth control' and soon began to provide women with information and contraceptives," and concludes happily ever after by observing that, "…after more than half a century of fighting for the right of women to control their own fertility, she died knowing she had won the battle." A battle against who? Well, PBS would rather not say, because to do so would again expose progressivism's dark side, which includes a quote from Ms. Sanger herself when she wrote Dr. Clarence Gamble in 1939 that, "We do not want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population, and the minister is the man who can straighten the idea out if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members." One supposes that Chris Matthews would pass out cold if he heard that sentence, but one wonders if it would be from the savage inhumanity of the idea or because it undermines the progressive agenda?
"More children from the fit, less from the unfit -- that is the chief aim of birth control," wrote the woman whose work led to the birth of Planned Parenthood, though I rather doubt the quote will make its way onto the organization's website. Instead, you'll learn that:
For nearly 100 years, Planned Parenthood has promoted a commonsense approach to women's health and well-being, based on respect for each individual's right to make informed, independent decisions about health, sex, and family planning.
In fact, the closest we get to Sanger's admonishment that, "The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it," is the comparatively straightforward analysis of writer Heather McNamara. "Dr. Gosnell ended the lives of some fetuses, which, left alone, would have become cute little bouncing pink babies in adorable outfits," she writes. (Question: Do they become human only after the purchase of "adorable outfits," or after they begin bouncing?) With brutal candor, Ms. McNamara continues:
Now is the time when we, as feminists, can show we're not afraid to confront the difficult and unpleasant realities of abortion -- the disturbing bloody images, the fact that sometimes women don't actually have a Very Good Reason to be seeking one, and even the unfortunate physical and emotional consequences that sometimes follow. Once we acknowledge that these things are there and real and unpleasant, we can continue to assert our right to do it anyway, and in doing this, remove their power over us.
Why, Joseph Goebbels himself couldn't have said it any better! Ms. McNamara at least does us the honor of her honesty, showing vastly more fortitude than Barack Obama, who voted against laws banning infanticide while in the Illinois Senate while explaining:
That if that fetus, or child, however you want to describe it, is now outside of the mother's womb and the doctor continues to think it's non-viable but there's lets say a movement or some indication that they're not just coming out limp and dead that in fact they would have then have to call in a second physician to monitor and then check off and make sure that this is not a live child that could be saved?
How's that for courage? How's that for decisiveness? How's that for meandering pablum designed to obfuscate and mask the issue of infanticide with a layer of rhetorical fog thick enough to blot out the sun and everything under it, including the gore and butchery of Kermit Gosnell's clinic?
Of the Gosnell story, Ricochet member Matthew Gilley writes, "So are the social conservatives still supposed to sit down and shut up?" To which one answers, no sir, it is the duty of anyone with even a semi-developed conscience to not only speak up, but to tear down the curtain of double-speak and amorphous dissimulation behind which the ghastly costs of leftism speaks for itself. As soon as the President is through carrying survivors of the Sandy Hook massacre on Air Force One, in his effort to disarm the American citizenry, perhaps he can haul the survivors (few though they may be) of Dr. Gosnell's tender care (including relatives of the women who died following botched abortions) to Capitol Hill and deploy them on a mission to make infanticide as unacceptable to the ruling class as a Big Gulp is to Michael Bloomberg. For that matter, why not take the families of the victims of Fast and Furious on a similar flight, or the survivors of the Benghazi attack?
And as long as they were in the neighborhood, couldn't the President at least ask Jay Z and Beyonce to take the surviving family members of the 166 Cubans who, according to the InterAmerican Human Rights Commission, "…were executed and submitted to medical procedures of blood extraction of an average of seven pints per person," by Fidel Castro's government and fly them the hell off the island? Well, of course not! The reason, of course, is that initiatives of that order would not advance the agenda of the left, an agenda that seeks always to minimize the individual, depriving him of life and liberty in pursuit of a future that is fictional, while employing tactics whose horrific and deadly price must be shielded at all costs. We, on the side of liberty and humanity, must remain relentless.
High school is full of hypotheticals, like “How does one solve for x?” and “What happens if I skip class?” But this week, students at Albany High School were given an alarming thought puzzle: How do I convince my teacher that I think Jews are evil?
That question was posed to about 75 students on Monday by an unidentified 10th-grade English teacher as a “persuasive writing” exercise. The students were instructed to imagine that their teacher was a Nazi and to construct an argument that Jews were “the source of our problems” using historical propaganda and, of course, a traditional high school essay structure.
“Your essay must be five paragraphs long, with an introduction, three body paragraphs containing your strongest arguments, and a conclusion,” the assignment read. “You do not have a choice in your position: you must argue that Jews are evil, and use solid rationale from government propaganda to convince me of your loyalty to the Third Reich!”
The assignment — first reported by The Times Union of Albany — prompted an embarrassed reaction from school district administrators, who were alerted to it by a concerned parent on Wednesday night.
“Obviously, we have a severe lack of judgment and a horrible level of insensitivity,” said Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, superintendent of Albany’s schools. “That’s not the assignment that any school district, and certainly not mine, is going to tolerate.”
Dr. Vanden Wyngaard, who met with Jewish leaders in Albany and made a public apology on Friday, said the assignment was apparently an attempt to link the English class with a history lesson on the Holocaust. The assignment itself seems to back up that theory, telling students to use “what you’ve learned in history class.” It also suggests using “any experiences you have.
And lest you think that this is an isolated problem …
[The assignment] echoed another recent, controversial assignment in Manhattan, where an elementary school class was given math problems featuring the whipping and killing of slaves, according to The Associated Press. That assignment was an effort to combine math and social studies lessons.
I don’t have any proof whatsoever that these assignments were motivated by racism or anti-Semitism. However, I have plenty of support for the proposition that they were motivated by extreme stupidity. And I am horrified to think that there are many more instances of stupidity—perhaps more subtle, but no less pronounced—occurring in our school systems nationwide. How kids can be expected to compete when they are held back by incredibly bad teaching is a complete mystery.
I'd had only a dim awareness of the Philadelphia trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell--until now.
What just changed? Two of Ricochet's own--our editor, Mollie Hemingway, and our longtime member, Conor Friedersdorf--both published searing, brilliant articles on the nature of the charges against Gosnell---among the many crimes on the list, Gosnell is alleged to have quite routinely delivered live babies, then severed their spinal columns--and the utter outrage of the indifference to the story of the national press.
Mollie, on the non-coverage of the story by the Washington Post's health reporter, Sarah Kliff:
I have critiqued many of her stories on the Susan G. Komen Foundation (she wrote quite a bit about that) and the Sandra Fluke controversy (she wrote quite a bit about that) and the Todd Akin controversy (you know where this is going). In fact, a site search for that reporter — who is named Sarah Kliff — and stories Akin and Fluke and Komen — yields more than 80 hits. Guess how many stories she’s done on this abortionist’s mass murder trial.
Did you guess zero? You’d be right....
And what policies could possibly be under discussion with this Gosnell trial? Other than, you know, abortion clinic hiring practices? And enforcement of sanitary conditions? And laws on abortion practices that extend to killing live infants by beheading them? And the killing of their mothers? And state or federal oversight of clinics with records of botched abortions? And pain medication practices? And how to handle the racist practices of some clinics? And how big of a problem this is (don’t tell anyone but another clinic nearby to Gosnell was shut down this week over similar sanitation concerns)? And disposal of babies’ bodies? And discussion of whether it’s cool to snip baby’s spines after they’re born? And how often are abortion clinics inspected anyway? What are the results of inspections? When emergency rooms take in victims of botched abortions, do they report that? How did this clinic go 17 years without an inspection? Gosh, I just can’t think of a single health policy angle here. Can you?
Since the case has been so underreported, Conor begins his piece with a simple (but skillful) recounting of the facts:
On February 18, 2010, the FBI raided the "Women's Medical Society," entering its offices about 8:30 p.m. Agents expected to find evidence that it was illegally selling prescription drugs. On entering, they quickly realized something else was amiss. In the grand jury report's telling, "There was blood on the floor. A stench of urine filled the air. A flea-infested cat was wandering through the facility, and there were cat feces on the stairs. Semi-conscious women scheduled for abortions were moaning in the waiting room or the recovery room, where they sat on dirty recliners covered with blood-stained blankets. All the women had been sedated by unlicensed staff." Authorities had also learned about the patient that died at the facility several months prior.
Public health officials inspected the surgery rooms. "Instruments were not sterile," the grand jury states. "Equipment was rusty and outdated. Oxygen equipment was covered with dust, and had not been inspected. The same corroded suction tubing used for abortions was the only tubing available for oral airways if assistance for breathing was needed. There was no functioning resuscitation or even monitoring equipment, except for a single blood pressure cuff." Upon further inspection, "the search team discovered fetal remains haphazardly stored throughout the clinic - in bags, milk jugs, orange juice cartons, and even in cat-food containers."
And "Gosnell admitted to Detective Wood that at least 10 to 20 percent of the fetuses were probably older than 24 weeks in gestation - even though Pennsylvania law prohibits abortions after 24 weeks. In some instances, surgical incisions had been made at the base of the fetal skulls...."
Then Conor ends with a devastating litany of the reasons this story, reported by no major news outlet in the country, should instead be in headlines everywhere:
[T]his isn't solely a story about babies having their heads severed, though it is that. It is also a story about a place where, according to the grand jury, women were sent to give birth into toilets; where a doctor casually spread gonorrhea and chlamydiae to unsuspecting women through the reuse of cheap, disposable instruments; an office where a 15-year-old administered anesthesia; an office where former workers admit to playing games when giving patients powerful narcotics; an office where white women were attended to by a doctor and black women were pawned off on clueless untrained staffers. Any single one of those things would itself make for a blockbuster news story. Is it even conceivable that an optometrist who attended to his white patients in a clean office while an intern took care of the black patients in a filthy room wouldn't make national headlines...?
Why isn't [the trial] being covered more? I've got my theories. But rather than offer them at the end of an already lengthy item, I'd like to survey some of the editors and writers making coverage decisions.
Mollie, too, ends her piece by promising to continue reporting, so to speak, on the lack of reporting.
Mollie and Conor, demonstrating the skill and sheer outraged indignation that informs journalism at its best.
I'm just proud to know them.
This week, Mona and Jay take a look at Kathy Boudin, the former Weather Underground terrorist and now an idolized (by the left) professor at Columbia and NYU and her relationship to Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. Also, a "Need To Know" shout out to Cuban dissident/blogger Yoani Sánchez, a plea for for a wealthy Republican to buy the Washington Post, the outrageous lack of news coverage of the Kermit Gosnell trial, a tip of the hat to Margaret Thatcher, Rand Paul lights up the left wing blogosphere, and Jay make s the case for missile defense in light of new threats from North Korea.