Why I Write About Children

 

After my last post about a Jewish man who had established an orphanage in Nazi Germany, I realized that in the last couple of years I have frequently written about children, especially those who are struggling. For a person with no children, that seemed (to me) to be an odd choice: what did I know about children? In many respects, very little. So, I decided to reflect on my reasons for writing about children, particularly in the area of education, and see if I had something new to learn about life and the world around me.

I grew up in a family of three children. Oddly, none of us have had children, by choice. At the time we made our choice, my husband said he would support my choice either way; he already had one daughter by his first marriage. I decided for my own selfish reasons not to have kids: I believed that I couldn’t “do it all” (and still believe that) and I lived at a time when women were celebrated for working; I couldn’t imagine “only” raising children (an incredibly narrow and naïve view); and I was terrified that I would be like my own mother (who struggled at motherhood)—I realized years later that she could have done much, much worse.

There was nothing original about my excuses—and they were excuses, even irrational ones. But for many years I didn’t regret that choice. When friends asked me about our decision (and they always asked without obvious judgment), wondering if I felt I was missing anything, I said that I was. But I also pointed out that parents were missing something by having kids. Part of that is the intimacy that comes with a husband and wife only needing to focus on each other. Selfish, yes, but that’s how I saw my life back then.

International Travel?

 

I used to travel a great deal – often across the Atlantic. That tapered off some years back as scholars in my generation or older passed from the scene and I received fewer invitations. Domestic travel came to a halt in February 2020 — when I realized that what was happening in China would happen here and canceled plans that would have involved me in taking 16 separate flights that spring.

Things are now, in a modest way, warming up again. I was in Baton Rouge, LA, in September, in Portland, ME, in early October – and, in late October, with my wife, I took a trip on my own dime, which took me from Detroit to Amsterdam and on to Sicily. It was in a variety of ways instructive.

Tuesday: Another Narrative, Closer to the Truth

 

All of the reliable propagandist arms of the Big Government machine — major media and their allies in the Democratic Party — will tell you that the dramatic Republican win in Virginia was a victory for White Nationalism and other fictitious bugbears of the radical left.

In fact, what Virginia was was a victory for Martin Luther King, Jr., and for everyone who believes that skin color is less important than character. A man who defended the antithesis of that message, who supported state schools teaching kids that skin color is essential to who they are and how guilty or oppressed they should feel, was defeated by people who are, first and foremost, Americans.

Zoology as Seen Through Fable

 

We read Aesop’s Fables as children or re-read them aloud to our children. Their lessons resonate today. But how accurate are the depictions of the animals in the fables? Can crows add pebbles to a pitcher to raise the water level? Are wolves cruel and rapacious, foxes wily, or donkeys stubborn and stupid? Could a tortoise beat a hare in a race?

“Aesop’s Animals: The Science behind the Fables,” by Jo Wimpenny, looks at the answers to those questions. Wimpenny, a zoologist turned writer approaches the answers through the lens of modern zoology.

In individual chapters she uses nine different Aesop Fables featuring animals as a springboard, examining the behavior of these animals and related species. In addition to the creatures previously mentioned, she also looks at dogs, lions, monkeys, and insects (The Ants and the Grasshopper). Each chapter is an excursion studying the behavior and history of the featured species.

Quote of the Day: Political Conversations

 

“You can’t hold political conversations with people that are calling you evil.” – Ben Shapiro

We saw this in the run-up to the November 2 elections. Oppose CRT in the classroom? “Racist! Evil,” cry the Democrats. Oppose vaccine mandates? “Racism! Only evil people oppose vaccine mandates,” cry the Democrats (despite the fact the most vaccine-hesitant groups are minorities). Think daughters should be protected from predatory males who will dress up in women’s clothing to gain access to them?” “Racist! Homophobia! You are EEEEVIL,” cry the Democrats (again despite the fact the rapist was white and very obviously heterosexual, since he was going after members of the opposite sex – wolf in sheep’s clothing anyone?).

About Mr. Fauci

 

Yes, he admits that he lies to us in order to manipulate us into behaving in particular ways.

Yes, he apparently dissembles to Congress about his involvement in extraordinarily irresponsible research projects in China.

For the Love of a Child

 

Stories of heroes during the Holocaust are abundant, but every now and then a particular story catches my eye and grabs my heart, especially if it connects to current events. The story of Janusz Korczak is one of those stories.

Janusz Korczak was born into an assimilated Jewish family in Poland in 1878. He became a writer, then a pediatrician, and even served as a doctor in the military in the Russo-Japanese war. Eventually, he realized that his true passion rested with education, and in 1911 he founded an orphanage in Warsaw, Poland, called Dom Sierot.

He loved teaching and empowering children, too:

A Near Thing, or Dewey Beats Truman

 

Ballot boxConservatives were excited by early vote totals from Virginia on Nov. 2. After all, Glenn Youngkin was up 10 points, a 20-point swing from the 2020 presidential election. Then reality intruded, as the lead shrank close to even. Yet, the major networks called the Virginia governor‘s race for Youngkin late Election Day night. The real numbers, just the facts, pointed to the possibility this would be another “Dewey Beats Truman” media failure, a stampede to get the story before the relevant facts were clear.

In the bright noonday sun, on Nov. 3, we saw the Democrats were not closing the gap in any of the three statewide executive races. Terry McAuliffe, almost certainly with detailed information about the uncounted precincts and the party split of the outstanding absentee ballots, conceded, followed by his lieutenant governor and attorney general running mates. Yet, it could have been otherwise, and we should have heard the straight facts late on Election Day evening.

The Virginia Department of Elections is to be commended for transparency and clear presentation of the numbers. The numbers that mattered were the vote difference between candidates, the number of precincts still not reporting, and the difference between number of absentee ballots requested and absentee ballots counted as received by the Department of Elections. Let’s go by the numbers through the state of the election on Nov. 3:

Uncommon Knowledge: Victor Davis Hanson Diagnoses The Dying Citizen

 

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution. His new book is The Dying Citizen: How Progressive Elites, Tribalism, and Globalization Are Destroying the Idea of America. As is typical whenever Dr. Hanson joins us, this interview covers a wide spectrum of topics and references, including the Acts of the Apostles, immigration, Jim Crow laws, primary tribal identities, the suburban everyman, the shrinking middle class, and JFK’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech. It’s a bracing conversation with a scholar who has an incredible breadth of interests and knowledge.

US Supports Terrorist Organizations and Criticizes Israel

 

The Biden Administration is furious with the Israeli government for announcing that six NGOs are supporting the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). The EU is also wringing its hands. It just so happens that the US supports those same NGOs, and claims that Israel didn’t tell them in advance that they were going to publicize this investigation. (Israel says it did tell the US.) I guess the Biden Administration assumes that it could somehow have kept Israel quiet or pre-empted the country’s announcement with denials. The fact remains, though, that the US has known this information for a few years and doesn’t like to be called out for its questionable behavior.

So when we get past the finger-pointing, what makes this story so ugly?

First, the PFLP is one of the oldest terrorist organizations, and has acted many times over the years against Israel. The organization receives millions of dollars in support from all over the world. The NGOs that were identified are described below.

Tax Schemes That Won’t Pay Off

 

Right now, Washington’s fevered political atmosphere is abuzz with taxation proposals to plug the funding gap created by President Biden’s slimmed-down $1.85 trillion Build Back Better program. Biden has no modest fiscal ambitions: he wants to introduce a huge new system of transfer payments to those at the bottom of the income scale, paid for by taxes that are imposed solely on the richest segment of the population, leaving just about everyone else untouched. His two major policy options—in an on-again-off-again fashion—appear to be a tax on the unrealized appreciation targeted to those who have more than $1 billion in assets or $100 million in income, and a 15 percent minimum corporate tax that Biden asserts will make big business pay its “fair share.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi touts this program as “something major, transformative, historic, and bigger than anything else” that Congress has ever attempted—which is exactly why a thumbs-down verdict is warranted, even before its details are laid out. One key classical liberal requirement for good government is the stability of key social institutions, including, prominently, taxation. Stability does not entail total stasis; after all, government must be able to respond to a changed global environment which, whether anticipated or not, may require rapid revisions in revenue needs. But stability does caution against making major structural changes in short time periods, without anticipating the range of complications bound to follow sudden social transitions.

The new system’s administrative costs, the high likelihood of technical error, and the nonstop, evasive maneuvers of targeted taxpayers to avoid or minimize the new tax regime make it a virtual certainty that tax revenues will fall short of projections. Overall economic growth, meanwhile, will likely falter, often with unanticipated distributional consequences that make both the rich and poor worse off.

A Return to “Normal” Life—or Not

 

As I try to return to a life that somewhat resembles “normal,” I’m finding I’m not so eager to take all the recovery steps after all. Like many people, I resent any more limitations on my freedom, yet I have been the obedient citizen and have gotten my three Pfizer shots (without any adverse reactions). My most recent decision has to do with returning to one of my most important commitments: hospice volunteer.

This past June I consulted with my internist about returning to volunteering. I had pretty much gotten my strength back, and I’d returned to my daily routines. But in June, the Delta virus was escalating, and he insisted I wait until the numbers came down. (He was so adamant that I didn’t even question him.)

Stalking Sinema, Menacing Manchin, and Talking Trillions is Political Theater

 

Manchin Sinema SenatorsDo not be distracted by headlines, video clips and dollar signs. Stalking Senator Sinema, and menacing Senator Manchin, was indeed part of the process, the process of passing a radical rigging of politics and society. The wedding crashers, harassing Senator Sinema and ruining the big day for a bride and her mother, were bad theater this past weekend. The supposed negotiation over trillions in the reconciliation bill is primarily a deception campaign, luring the Republican establishment into going all green eyeshades about taxes and debt. Do not fall for the con, keep focused on the real game.

The recent stalking of Senator Sinema and menacing of Senator Manchin made for great political theater, complete with smartphone video. We got several news cycles of reactions. The president and establishment media declared the intimidation campaign “part of the process,” minimized the threats, and suggested Manchin and Sinema had it coming. Conservatives expressed outrage at the thugs and their establishment enablers. We can expect the same with the Arizona wedding stunt. All of this provided cover for Manchin and Sinema to eventually sign onto the radical reconciliation bill, and it will be radical, whatever the final sticker price.

Radical Reconciliation

McCauliffe Affirms School Signs

 

Ballot boxThe Virginia gubernatorial race will be over, plus or minus the stuffed ballot boxes, Tuesday, November 2. In the closing week, it appeared the electorate was shifting towards the Republican candidate, Glenn Youngkin. To the extent the shift was real, it was driven by the veteran Democrat hack Terry McAuliffe saying the quiet part out loud on education. His statement, in a late September debate, hurt him in the polls, but he has doubled down in the closing days of the election. Contrast this with his shift away from trying to make the election about President Trump. Is this a sign his campaign is confident the fix is in, that they have secured the margin of cheating?

In the September 28 debate, McAuliffe addressed school curricula and parental voice, a hot issue:

“I’m not going to let parents come into schools and actually take books out and make their own decision,” McAuliffe said. “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.”

Senator Manchin Objects

 

ManchinSenator Manchin defied his party, dominated by the far left, and showed far more respect for our constitutional republic than has become customary. He issued a statement on camera on November 1, laying out his enduring objections and expectations as a senator from West Virginia. Manchin defied progressives’ demands as Biden nodded and slept his way through the only COP he and his party support. Senator Manchin defended the Senate against the House, and the Congress against the Executive. He reiterated a series of substantive objections about effects on the present and future of America.

The Democratic Party leadership in Congress failed to leverage Biden’s appearance on the international stage as a pretext for rushing through major legislation. In particular, Speaker (of the House) Pelosi failed to crowd Senator Manchin into doing the bidding of the House Progressive Caucus. Manchin’s words reflected what was once centrist political orthodoxy, but now trigger instant outrage and tantrums from the leftist core of today’s Democratic Party.

I am very cautiously encouraged by Manchin’s latest statement, his apparent position after the Build Back Better Act was supposedly slimmed down from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion. He seems to be pushing back on both policy and real costs. On policy, Manchin objects to major growth in the scope of federal government involvement in Americans’ lives, and to energy and economic harms. On costs, he calls pure applesauce on the budgetary gimmicks. My analysis of the Build Back Better Act concludes it is radically leftist, transformational in its effects on America. Senator Manchin just might help save our constitutional republic for a season.

New Florida Surgeon General – Black, Opinionated, and Republican

 

New Florida Surgeon General, Joseph Ladapo, is taking a beating from the media as well as the Democrats because of his opinion on COVID-19 and challenging the irrational messaging in the state. There’s no doubt in my mind about the reasons Gov. Ron DeSantis selected him, given the attacks he has personally had to sustain in Florida and nationally. And to date, SG Ladapo has shown himself to be up to the job.

Early controversy erupted when Dr. Ladapo explained his reasons for not wearing a mask when he was invited to visit with FL Senator Tina Polsky, who insisted he wear a mask when visiting her in her office. SG Ladapo pushed back against wearing a mask, since he believed that the mask, which would cover half his face, would interfere with effective communication; he offered, instead, to meet her elsewhere, including more spacious locations or outdoors, to accommodate her. (Senator Polsky recently was diagnosed with cancer, but had not told Ladapo.) She refused to compromise, and SG Ladapo was attacked for his decision. One criticism came from a black Republican minister, Dr. R.B. Holmes, Jr., who is a leading civil rights leader, denouncing Ladapo, DeSantis, and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran. Holmes said:

We are extremely alarmed and saddened that the surgeon general would not meet with the elected state senator from Broward County when she asked respectfully, ‘Will you please, sir, wear a mask,’ the Rev. Dr. R.B. Holmes Jr. told a group of reporters at Tallahassee’s Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, where he is pastor. ‘For that top doctor to not wear a mask is disrespectful and dishonorable.’

After-action report from the epicenter of Candy History

 

At 4:40 PM on the last day of October the dog raised the alarm. I looked out the window: a long line of tots and toddlers in costume was heading down the sidewalk to the Triangle. Ah. The parade.

The Triangle has always been the meeting place for Halloween. A few days before the 31st, the city drops off barriers so the street can be blocked off. Fifteen years ago the parents got together to apportion duties – who brings the tables, who brings the grills and bonfire pits. There was a core group of men who were responsible for the chili, who tended the simmering pot for days afore.  Pete did lighting for movies and commercials, so he strung the illumination; I volunteered to do the ambient sound and scaaaary music. It was a great party:  the menfolk in desultory costumes, the womenfolk effortlessly adopting the raiments of witchery. A few dogs skulking the shadows, picking up scraps; all the kids in costumes, waiting to head into the dark with the dads for the shakedown. 

A Comedy of Errors—Mexican Style

 

When we go to our favorite Mexican restaurant, we always count on flawless service, pleasant wait staff, and delicious food. Last night we decided to settle for two out of three, and the mishaps were so unexpected that we began to enjoy watching the show.

This particular restaurant is a bit of a drive for us, so we don’t go often and look forward to the visit. As we entered, a pretty blonde greeted us, asked if we wanted a booth or table and after checking booth availability, she seated us at one.

So we gazed at the menu and munched on chips and salsa as we waited for the waiter.

Why Have Hope?

 

While there’s a lot wrong with the nation right now, I remain hopeful that we will undo much of the recent damage and set the country on a better path. I think there are sound reasons to consider that a possibility, beginning with the increasingly visible failures of modern progressivism.

I’m not such an optimist that I believe in utopian solutions to our current problems. I don’t think that has ever been an option, and I think it is unrealistic to imagine that we’ll move the country to some place of enlightened liberty that it has never actually occupied. But I do think that we can move back and forth on the continuum of freedom and prosperity; that we’re largely free and prosperous today; and that we can increase both our freedom and our prosperity in the near future. I don’t think it will be easy. I do think we can do it.

Rubber in Liberia

 

In the first decades of the 20th century, rubber changed from a material that was a sometime useful curiosity into a vital strategic asset. This was especially true in the heavily-industrialized United States, with a massive demand for rubber in both transportation and industry.  The problem was the United States controlled no sources of rubber. Every pound came from foreign countries or colonies controlled by foreign countries.

“Empire of Rubber: Firestone’s Scramble for Land and Power in Liberia,” by Greg Mitmann tells of one US attempt to circumvent that shortfall. It relates how Firestone, a US company, with the support of the US government established and ran rubber plantations in Liberia between the 1920s and the 1980s.

Liberia an independent nation on Africa’s Slave Coast was established in 1822 by the United States. One of three independent nations in Africa in 1920, it was not a colony. It was settled by free blacks from the United States, part of an effort to solve the US’s slave issue by returning blacks to Africa. Its historic ties with the United States made it an ideal choice for “American” rubber.

Republicans: The Virtue of Realism

 

As I sat down to type my nth comment defending the Republican Party against claims that it is useless, has accomplished nothing, and needs to be abandoned, I decided to write a post about it instead.

If the Republican Party were a monarchy, it could announce its intentions and its loyal subjects would fall in line and march as ordered. As king, the Republican Party could use its fiat power to declare that the things it claims to support and believe in — American exceptionalism, limited government, free markets, a strong military, and the Constitution — were sacrosanct; the Party’s subjects would dutifully vote for the Party and elect its candidates.

Union Paybacks Affect Us All

 

Most of the attention of our nation’s businesses entities is focused on attempts to win government favors. That’s typical of political economies sliding into corruption mode.

America’s unions have been a big winner of the competition. They poured hundreds of millions of dollars into Democratic campaigns. Their bet paid off when Democrats swept the presidency and both houses of Congress. Not only that, ol’ Scranton Joe is a longtime friend.

So White House favors have flowed in a torrent. For example, a new law mandates union labor on virtually all federal projects, automatically adding 20 to 30% to the cost. There is also a provision making union dues tax-deductible, another huge union subsidy.

A Marine Is an Everyday Hero in Arizona

 

At a time when the media is saturated with whining and complaining, a hero comes into view. His name is James Kilcer, a former Marine who makes a point of being alert to his environment and his circumstances. Recently, he was about to leave a gas station convenience store with his purchases when he heard the door open loudly, and noticed that three people were entering and one had a gun:

In one motion, Kilcer grabbed the gun and without hesitation hit the other suspects with a bag of his store purchases, which he said included two Gatorades, two energy drinks and ‘a snack.’

‘I was actually going to take control of his head and the gun at the same time, and the bag just happened to be heavy and attached to me and it smashed him right in the face, Kilcer said.

A Flood of Superficial Climate Reports

 

This past week, the Biden administration doubled down in its campaign against climate change with the release of a suite of four reports, on national defense, financial risk, homeland security, and migration. These reports all start with the common premise that the climate crisis is now upon us in full fury. Moreover, they also all insist that the issues at hand are nonpolitical, and that the objective at all times is “to be guided by the best available science and data.” To say the least, however, the claim looks hollow, given that none of these reports offers any data whatsoever to support its major contentions.

The reports never address contrary views or even acknowledge that on some points the science is, to use the much-mooted phrase from Steven Koonin, “unsettled” on such key questions as the size of the Greenland ice sheet, the patterns of sea level rise, or the impact of expected temperature increases on economic growth over time. The reports are also dead silent on the role that technological improvements will play in reducing the raw materials or carbon dioxide output needed for any given output of energy, agriculture, or machinery. Nor do they ask whether human decisions, like poor forest management, account for increases in fires and air pollution, or whether a shift to nuclear power, natural gas, or clean coal might change the arc of history. Finally, they never acknowledge the complex interactions between American actions, international treaties, and the actions of key players, like China and the European Union.

Sadly, instead of asking any hard questions, these reports just take the worst-case scenario for granted and move on. The financial risk report summarizes this basic orientation by wrongly claiming that the report of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “concluded with high confidence that the climate crisis is ‘code red for humanity.’ ” The quoted words were not, however, from the IPCC report but rather from a florid press release by the secretary-general of the United Nations, António Guterres, which unwisely went well beyond the IPCC report.