19 Feb 2019

Why Big City Public Education Fails

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Students enter past metal detectors at Washington Irving High, where Mary Hudson taught 2001-2004.

At Quillette, Mary Hudson, an experienced high school French teacher, describes how well-meaning liberal ideology makes teaching efforts in ordinary New York public schools completely ineffective and education a joke. Amazingly, I found myself rooting for the Teachers Union, and read about Union reps operating as the good guys.

As the weeks dragged painfully into months, it became apparent that the students wouldn’t learn anything. It was dumbfounding. It was all I could do to keep them quiet; that is, seated and talking among themselves. Sometimes I had to stop girls from grooming themselves or each other. A few brave souls tried to keep up with instruction. A particularly good history teacher once told me that she interrupted a conversation between two girls, asking them to pay attention to the lesson. One of them looked up at her scornfully and sneered, “I don’t talk to teachers,” turning her back to resume their chat. She told me that the best school she ever worked at was in Texas, where her principal managed not only to suspend the most disruptive students for long periods, he also made sure they were not admitted during that time to any other school in the district. It worked; they got good results.

This was unthinkable in New York, where “in-house suspension” was the only punitive measure. It would be “discriminatory” to keep the students at home. The appropriate paperwork being filed, the most outrageously disruptive students went for a day or two to a room with other serious offenders. The anti-discrimination laws under which we worked took all power away from the teachers and put it in the hands of the students.

Throughout Washington Irving there was an ethos of hostile resistance. Those who wanted to learn were prevented from doing so. Anyone who “cooperated with the system” was bullied. No homework was done. Students said they couldn’t do it because if textbooks were found in their backpacks, the offending students would be beaten up. This did not appear to be an idle threat. Too many students told their teachers the same thing. There were certainly precious few books being brought home.

I tried everything imaginable to overcome student resistance. Nothing worked. At one point I rearranged the seating to enable the students who wanted to engage to come to the front of the classroom. The principal was informed and I was reprimanded. This was “discriminatory.” The students went back to their chosen seats near their friends. Aside from imposing order, the only thing I succeeded at was getting the students to stand silently during the Pledge of Allegiance and mumble a few songs in French. But it was a constant struggle as I tried to balance going through the motions of teaching with keeping them quiet.

The abuse from students never let up. We were trained to absorb it. By the time I left, however, I had a large folder full of the complaint forms I’d filled out documenting the most egregious insults and harassment. There was a long process to go through each time. The student had a parent or other representative to state their case at the eventual hearing and I had my union rep. I lost every case.

RTWT

19 Feb 2019

“Diamonds Are Forever” (1971)

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Brett Stevens is reviewing old movies and connecting them to cultural changes on the Alt-Right blog Amerika.

We can see the formula — later modified into the Star Wars formula by adding New Age woo to the technology, intrigue, action, romance, comedy, and tragic hard man with a heart of gold ingredients — slowly drift more toward what was being seen on American television at the time: car chases, showgirls, fast quips, and gadgets.

In this transition, we see exactly how humanity outsmarts itself every time. They look at a few factors and conclude that they know enough to control the outcome, so they amplify those factors and in the process, crush the delicate ecosystem of a good story and replace it with the same paint-by-numbers scripts that people came to their film in order to escape.

Diamonds Are Forever feels like a blockheaded episode of Hawaii Five-O or Magnum, P.I.. Bond shows up, has some funny lines, makes out with a pretty girl, goes to famous and expensive destinations, wrecks some high technology, has a bunch of car chases, then finds the bad guy and blows up his lair, only to watch helplessly as the perpetrator escapes.

Where Dr. No showed us a James Bond who might be in an elite unit, a chaotic and violent individual who indulges deeply in the pleasures of life because he never knows if he will see tomorrow, the Bond that Hollywood produced by consulting its target audience surveys is an American middle manager: cautious, by the numbers and less driven to systematic victory than he is to declare success and go home.

As a result, this film moves like a Cadillac with a trunk full of lead. Bond sits through meetings, follows police procedure style investigations, threatens some people, and finally gets to the bottom of the mystery just in time, but everything happens in slow motion. The scenes cut quickly from one to another because no energy is transferred; they are points on an outline that makes the argument of coherence to the plot toward the audience.

Almost no charisma attaches to Bond, who shows us Sean Connery demonstrating the meaning of “phoning it in” with visible boredom and disgust for this lame, formulaic script in his eyes. He seems to be gritting his teeth when he delivers the lines that are “clever” from an audience manipulation perspective but excruciating for anyone with a brain.

Other actors float in for what are essentially cameos, acting out roles that belong on a résumé and not a screen. They interact superficially with Bond, and the plot ends up being one where characters attach to a motion between scenes in pursuit of some very obvious “mystery,” with everyone coming together at the end. They might as well sing a Broadway number at that point, since nothing else makes any sense.

These films are not meant to be rocket science. They balance action, sentiment, gadgets, and adventure. That mixture works because it is not a formula but a means of telling a story, namely that of an agent deeply devoted to his cause but made personally unstable because of it, leading him to a point of lashing out, after which he recovers his discipline and beats his foe.

If anything, the story of Diamonds Are Forever tells us of a management struggle in which adding in more popular ingredients overwhelmed the need to tell a good yarn, and as a result, these films became banal enough to drive Connery, Moore, and eventually their own audiences away as the clever people in charge kept doing “the right thing” only to find out that they were murdering what had been given them.

In competent hands, this franchise could have gone on forever, but after the 1960s, it never regained control. The Roger Moore movies smoothed out the disaster with a more professional and threatening Bond, but could not overcome the tendency to write scripts by committee and rely on surface drama instead of any inner tension or desire for adventure.

The middle class murders anything it touches. The trap is subtle: at first, they like the new banality, but over time they start to drift away, all without ever being able to articulate why it stopped being satisfying.

RTWT

The Bond films went wrong actually, years earlier, with “Thunderball” (1965), when, strangely, suddenly formula seemed to replace story, and Sean Connery began mailing it in.

I thought myself the Roger Moore films got even worse, possibly because Moore was wrong for the part and wore such awful suits.

Daniel Craig has almost magically revived the Bond franchise simply by adding Will and Brutality to a speeded-up version of the formula. The plots are sillier than ever, and the new movies are all brand new concoctions entirely unrelated to anything Ian Fleming ever wrote, but I find this reincarnated Bond surprisingly watchable.

19 Feb 2019

NY Lost $27.5 Billion in Revenue and 25,000 $150,000+ Jobs

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18 Feb 2019

Hitler (Bruno Ganz) Learns He Has Just Died

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18 Feb 2019

Explaining Democrats’ (and the Media’s) Passion for AOC

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Robert Tracinski identifies AOC as a Hollywood archetype.

She’s the Democratic Party’s Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

Once you see it, you can’t unsee it. AOC is an MPDG, and if we had political satirists worthy of the name, NBC would already have brought in Zooey Deschanel to play her on Saturday Night Live.

The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a stock character first classified by Nathan Rabin in a 2007 review of Elizabethtown, a film he described as “The Bataan Death March of Whimsy.” “The Manic Pixie Dream Girl,” he wrote, “exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.”

In my youth, this sort of character was usually played by Julia Roberts, often opposite Richard Gere. More recently, the trope has been associated with the kind of chirpingly quirky free spirit, chock full of precious hipster mannerisms, often played by Zooey Deschanel (and widely parodied). You get the idea: strumming a ukulele, dancing in the rain, riding an old-fashioned bicycle in a sundress. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is the vibrant, attractive young woman who, by the sheer force of her joie de vivre and childlike enthusiasm, rescues the brooding male lead from his cynicism or malaise.

The Democratic party certainly needs this sort of thing right now as it struggles to break free from the funk of defeat and the grey, hopeless compromises of Clintonism. So of course they were eager to idolize a slender, attractive young champion, with her flowing dark hair, improbably big eyes, and wide, toothy smile—many of the qualities, come to think of it, that qualified Julia Roberts for this role on the big screen.

RTWT

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Lisa Schiffren, on the other hand, offers a simpler explanation.

The real reason that neither cameras nor citizens can look away is, of course: sex. The woman exudes a wild kind of sex appeal. She is hugely mediagenic. Her thin, lanky body, with the attention grabbing, er… rack; the expressive face; the crazy eyes and large, invariably red lipsticked mouth—any casting director could have predicted her ability to grab attention.

To use the Hollywood term of art, young Alexandria is, “fuckable.” That is a rare quality among political women, possibly never previously seen in any elected female Congresswoman or Senator. (Though Harry Reid thought that Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D, N.Y.) had it early on, when he called her “the hottest Senator.”) Remember how the extremely hot Sarah Palin disrupted the political landscape, and we learned the acronym MILF? This attribute explains why there are so many politically conservative men telling the world that they would “do” her, while complaining about her “stupidity,” and irritating voice. Men are obsessed, despite the fact (or because of it?) that she is a clear candidate for the top right corner of the Hot-Crazy matrix.

Meryl Streep first publicized this Hollywood casting criterion in a now scrubbed NPR interview. Asked how it was that she had been given all of the serious female roles in her generation, Streep responded, and I paraphrase, “In Hollywood they decided early on that I wasn’t ‘fuckable.’ So I got to be interesting instead.” Amy Schumer and Julia Louis-Dreyfus elaborated on the concept in a sketch known to all millenials.

Lest you think I am insulting the looks of all women previously elected to Congress, please note that the opposite of “fuckable” is not unattractive. It is “serious.” Serious in the manner of women who wish to be taken seriously in the serious endeavor of making the nation’s laws and policies. Serious so that citizens trust them, as we must. It’s not an accident that the women who have held the most power—Margaret Thatcher, Patricia May, Indira Gandhi, Golda Meir…. everyone except Benazir Bhutto and Evita, were post-menopausal. Even Hillary Clinton, no sexpot, had to be “a certain age,” to be plausible as president. No one trusts a woman—or man—who radiates sexuality as a primary calling card, and excites it in others. This is true in real life, though not on TV, where the implausibly attractive imitate the serious.

For the record, this attribute of AOC’s is the major reason anyone—anyone—takes her “ideas” seriously. There’s no there, there. To be sure, the Socialism she spouts is a threat. But all those old people running for the Democratic nomination apparently believe that she is the ticket to eternal life, or at least to the millennial vote, because of her vibe, not her thinking.

Fascinating as it has been to watch, this AOC dumpster fire of sexuality in Congress is terrible precedent—for our political culture, and for women in politics. Charisma—the ability to charm—is tough enough for the admirably substantive to beat.

RTWT

17 Feb 2019

“W.E.B. Griffin” — November 10, 1929 – February 12, 2019

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Obituary:

William E. Butterworth III, the best-selling author, has died. He was 89, and had fought a years-long battle with cancer.

While his body of work includes more than 250 books published under more than a dozen pseudonyms, he is best known as W.E.B. Griffin, the #1 best-selling author of nearly 60 epic novels in seven series, all of which have made The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Publishers Weekly, and other best-seller lists. More than fifty million of the books are in print in more than ten languages, including Hebrew, Chinese, Japanese, and Hungarian.

Mr. Butterworth’s first novel, Comfort Me with Love, was published in 1959. The delivery-and-acceptance check from the publisher paid the hospital bill for the birth of his first son, who two decades ago began editing the Griffin best-sellers and then became co-author of them.

Mr. Butterworth grew up in the suburbs of New York City and Philadelphia. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1946. After basic training, he received counterintelligence training at Fort Holabird, Maryland. He was assigned to the Army of Occupation in Germany, and ultimately to the staff of then-Major General I.D. White, commander of the U.S. Constabulary.

In 1951, Mr. Butterworth was recalled to active duty for the Korean War, interrupting his education at Phillips University, Marburg an der Lahn, Germany. In Korea he earned the Combat Infantry Badge as a combat correspondent and later served as acting X Corps (Group) information officer under Lieutenant General White.

On his release from active duty in 1953, Mr. Butterworth was appointed Chief of the Publications Division of the U.S. Army Signal Aviation Test & Support Activity at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

Mr. Butterworth is a member of the Special Operations Association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Army Aviation Association, the Armor Association, and the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Society.

He was the 1991 recipient of the Brigadier General Robert L. Dening Memorial Distinguished Service Award of the U.S. Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association, and the August 1999 recipient of the Veterans of Foreign Wars News Media Award, presented at the 100th National Convention in Kansas City.

He has been vested into the Order of St. George of the U.S. Armor Association, and the Order of St. Andrew of the U.S. Army Aviation Association, and been awarded Honorary Doctoral degrees by Norwich University, the nation’s first and oldest private military college, and by Troy State University (Ala.). He was the graduation dinner speaker for the class of 1988 at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

He has been awarded honorary membership in the Special Forces Association, the Marine Corps Combat Correspondents Association, the Marine Raiders Association, and the U.S. Army Otter & Caribou Association. In January 2003, he was made a life member of the Police Chiefs Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey, and the State of Delaware.

He was the co-founder of the William E. Colby Seminar on Intelligence, Military, and Diplomatic Affairs.

The W.E.B. Griffin novels, known for their historical accuracy, have been praised by The Philadelphia Inquirer for their “fierce, stop-for-nothing scenes.”

“Nothing honors me more than a serviceman, veteran, or cop telling me he enjoys reading my books,” he said.

———————–

W.E.B. Griffin quotations.

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I really liked his “Brotherhood of War” series, which was so thoroughly grounded in real history that you could describe it as a Roman à clef.

17 Feb 2019

Socialism: Back From the Death Like the Killer at the End of a Horror Movie

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Matthew Continetti associates the rebirth of Socialism and Nationalism with the death of Christianity.

If the death of the socialist idea was the most important political event of the last century, then the rebirth of this ideal must rank high in significance in the current one. Just as nationalism has reasserted itself on the political right, socialism has grown in force on the left. In the twenty-first century the two ideologies are estranged and antagonistic twins, paired in Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party, Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The Democratic victory in 2018 has elevated socialism to a height it has not reached in the United States in more than a century. Only in recent weeks, however, have defenders of democratic capitalism become aware of how great the socialist challenge really is. Only now are we beginning to formulate a response.

Take your pick of the headlines. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the most talked-about Democrat in the country. Her fellow member of the Democratic Socialists of America, Rashida Tlaib, opened the 116th Congress by saying, “Impeach the mother—.” Their comrade Ilhan Omar apparently wants to offend every Jewish American by the end of her term. The Green New Deal, Medicare For All, eliminating employer-based health insurance, marginal tax rates of upwards of 70 to 90 percent, requiring corporations above a certain size to obtain a federal charter, the expropriation of wealth, heavy inheritance taxes, free college, universal basic income, abolish I.C.E., the anti-Semitism that has long been socialism’s fellow traveler—what was once radical and marginal is now embraced and celebrated by a large and vocal part of the Democratic Party.

Why? The answer goes a long way toward explaining the resurgence of nationalism as well. In “Socialism: An Obituary for an Idea,” the essay quoted above, Kristol exhumed the ideology’s intellectual remains. He explained that the ideal of utopian socialism offered “elements that were wanting in capitalist society—elements indispensable for the preservation, not to say perfection, of our humanity.” Socialism supplied the values, aspirations, goals, mechanisms of meaning that democratic capitalism could not.

As Michael Novak observed in his 1982 masterpiece The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, what we call capitalism is really three systems in one. There is the economic system of entrepreneurship and free exchange. There is a moral-cultural system governing norms and behavior. And there is the political system of democratic pluralism and individual freedom. Socialism returns at times when the democratic capitalist trinity is out of whack, at places where the moral-cultural and political systems fail to provide answers that legitimize the economic system. Socialism is the attempt to derive from the political sphere the direction and purpose to human life that is the traditional province of morality and culture.

The separation of the moral and cultural from the political and economic was the crack in the foundation of democratic capitalism. “A society founded solely on ‘individual rights,'” Kristol wrote, “was a society that ultimately deprived men of those virtues which could only exist in a political community which is something other than a ‘society.’ Among these virtues are a sense of distributive justice, a fund of shared moral values, and a common vision of the good life sufficiently attractive and powerful to transcend the knowledge that each individual’s life ends only in death.”

Thus, if people do not see the fruits of the economic system as just, and if the moral-cultural system fails to satisfy people’s deepest longings, they will look increasingly to the political system to lessen the gale of creative destruction or to silence it altogether. The viability of democratic capitalism, then, depends on its moral and cultural character. “As there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and trust,” James Madison wrote in Federalist no. 55, “so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.”

It was Kristol’s view that the founders of democratic capitalism simply assumed that such qualities would be always present. “Capitalist society itself—as projected, say, in the writings of John Locke and Adam Smith—was negligent of such virtues,” he wrote.

    It did not reject them and in no way scorned them, but simply assumed that the individual would be able to cope with this matter as he did with his other ‘private’ affairs. This assumption, in turn, was possible only because the founders of capitalism took it for granted that the moral and spiritual heritage of Judaism and Christianity was unassailable, and that the new individualism of bourgeois society would not ‘liberate’ the individual from this tradition. It might free him from a particular theology, or a particular church; but he would ‘naturally’ rediscover for himself, within himself, those values previously associated with that theology or church.

Things did not work out as planned. The bourgeois values of honesty, fidelity, diligence, reticence, delayed gratification, and self-control that once reigned supreme have been contested for many decades by an ethic of self-expression, self-indulgence, instant gratification, and demanding the impossible. Our politics is a competition for control over what Michael Novak called the “empty shrine” at the center of pluralist democracy. The champions of Christianity and militant secularism, free speech and political correctness, meritocracy and diversity, the entrepreneurial instinct and an inflamed egalitarianism, and historical memory and limitless iconoclasm struggle for a dominance that is never fully attained.

Both the right and the left are uncomfortable with the democratic capitalist trinity. Both would rather have the empty shrine be replaced with something else. That is why you see laments for the loss of political community, as well as critiques of inequality, on both Fox News and MSNBC.

RTWT

17 Feb 2019

Birmingham Then and Now

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17 Feb 2019

“No, Igor, Don’t Do It!”

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15 Feb 2019

Travis Kauffmann Explains How He Killed a Mountain Lion With His Bare Hands

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15 Feb 2019

There May Be Something In All This

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Michael Walsh, author of the recent history of Leftist Modernism, The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, ?facetiously? contends that today’s leftists have a great deal in common with the squelching, piscine-featured inhabitants of H.P. Lovecraft’s ancient, crumbling New England towns secretly carrying on the nefarious activities of the Starry Wisdom Cult.

It seems to be the only way to account for the frequently self-contadictory unspeakable madness characteristic of the most prominent Progressive democrats.

Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

RTWT

15 Feb 2019

The Pyramids of Egypt

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