Monthly Archives: October 2010

The NPR Religion

Chuck Asay

Benjamin Kerstein on the disingenuous arguments of NPR’s supporters:

…NPR’s most beloved talking point: “NPR doesn’t get a lot of public money.” This endlessly repeated assertion is apparently so important that it appears on NPR’s own website, where it features prominently in the ombudsman’s frequently asked questions page. “NPR receives no direct funding from the federal government,” the network states. This begs the question, of course, of why — if the public money it receives is so minor — NPR and its defenders fight so ferociously to retain it.

The answer appears to be hiding in plain sight, in the networks admission that:

Approximately half of NPR’s funding comes from NPR member stations. In an average year, NPR funds about 45 percent of its operations with membership dues and program fees from member stations.

These member stations are, in turn, subsidized by local, state, and federal tax dollars. The manner in which NPR receives public funding appears, therefore, to be akin to that long-practiced method which in other contexts is known as “money laundering.” Indeed, one imagines there are drug cartels that run more honest operations.

None of this, however, makes or will make much difference to NPR’s core audience, and it is not too difficult to understand why. Put simply, NPR is for coastal liberals what Rush Limbaugh is for heartland conservatives: a means of relating to the world from within the confines of a specific subculture. The difference, of course, is that Limbaugh’s admirers do not force others to pay for it.

Nor, I imagine, are Limbaugh’s listeners laboring under the same illusion as NPR’s. Most of them probably understand that Limbaugh is giving opinions based on his political point of view, which is, to say the least, well known to his listeners. NPR’s listeners, on the other hand, are quite convinced that they are receiving nothing less than the pure, unvarnished, objective truth from the network. They believe themselves to be smart and informed, and thus the network they love must also be, perhaps by definition, smart and informative.

As far as I have been able to discern from my own, admittedly subjective, encounters with the network, this is largely a convenient illusion. Put simply, NPR’s reputation seems based largely on aesthetic considerations. Its personalities are articulate and employ a more extensive vocabulary than commercial radio; its programs are professionally produced, with a slickness that conservative media cannot match; and its reporters are generally skilled at sounding calm and objective, even when they manifestly are not. The more one begins to delve into the substance of NPR’s programming, however, the more one senses that the network is neither particularly smart nor particularly informative.

Listening to NPR during a recent ten-day trip to the United States, I was struck by how repetitive, unimaginative, and incurious the network seemed to be. Most of its foreign coverage was provided by the BBC, and generally consisted of what is colloquially called “disaster porn.” Shows like Talk of the Nation largely regurgitated liberal talking points at great length, but not in great depth. The most striking episode of the interview show On Point was ostensibly devoted to understanding the appeal of Glenn Beck, but consisted almost entirely of a monologue by reporter Dana Milbank, who has just published a book attacking Beck from a liberal standpoint. Neither Beck nor a single one of his supporters appeared on the show, an omission that appeared to be motivated more by journalistic laziness and a lack of intellectual curiosity than anything else…

The truth is, that for its regular listeners, NPR is not simply a radio network. For members of the specific subculture it serves — mostly white, middle to upper-middle class, college educated, politically liberal residents of the coastal regions of the United States — NPR is something approaching a religious icon. They relate to it with the same intense emotions with which others regard images of the Virgin Mary or the sanctified structures of Mecca and Jerusalem, and they will defend it just as passionately… In a country in which this subculture sees itself as more and more besieged by ignorance, racism, close-mindedness, and commercialism, NPR constitutes essentially the only form of media they can relate to without alienation or shame.

The extent to which NPR dominates the lives of some of its listeners is quite striking. One is put in mind of an anecdote from linguist and Democratic Party media consultant George Lakoff’s book Don’t Think of an Elephant. When asked whether he has heard of conservative activist James Dobson, Lakoff asks, “Is he on NPR?” indicating, albeit inadvertently, that he essentially listens to nothing else. Lakoff, I think, is not alone.

Of course, every subculture has its objects of affection. Punks and hip-hop fans have their music, Trekkies have their TV shows and movies, hipsters have mumblecore, etc. The difference, of course, is that unlike NPR, none of these are funded largely by coercive means. And this says something, I think, about the liberal mentality. Put simply, liberals constitute the one subculture in the United States that consistently and often willfully mistakes its specific and particular preferences for universal truths.

The simple truth that liking something does not give you the right to force others to buy it for you is lost on a subculture that sees its likes and dislikes as moral imperatives that impose benefits and obligations on society as a whole. NPR is only one, relatively minor, expression of this, but it is a telling one, if only because, for those outside the liberal subculture, it is so obvious and glaring. The blatant hypocrisy and bad faith with which NPR has acted in regard to Juan Williams is, in microcosm, the hypocrisy and bad faith with which it acts in regard to all American taxpayers. And it should be obvious to all, even those who lack the most rudimentary capacity for self-reflection, that to act in such a manner toward those who are, in fact, paying your salary, is neither a smart nor an informed thing to do.

The 60’s Child

Ken Catalino

Shelby Steele gets to the heart of what Barry is all about:

…How is it that Barack Obama could step into the presidency with an air of inevitability and then, in less than two years, find himself unwelcome at the campaign rallies of many of his fellow Democrats?

The first answer is well-known: His policymaking has been grandiose, thoughtless and bullying. His health-care bill was ambitious to the point of destructiveness and, finally, so chaotic that today no citizen knows where they stand in relation to it. His financial-reform bill seems little more than a short-sighted scapegoating of Wall Street. In foreign policy he has failed to articulate a role for America in the world. We don’t know why we do what we do in foreign affairs. George W. Bush at least made a valiant stab at an American rationale—democratization—but with Mr. Obama there is nothing.

All this would be enough to explain the disillusionment with this president—and with the Democratic Party that he leads. But there is also a deeper disjunction. There is an “otherness” about Mr. Obama, the sense that he is somehow not truly American. “Birthers” doubt that he was born on American soil. Others believe that he is secretly a Muslim, or in quiet simpatico with his old friends, Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, now icons of American radicalism.

But Barack Obama is not an “other” so much as he is a child of the 1960s. His coming of age paralleled exactly the unfolding of a new “counterculture” American identity. And this new American identity—and the post-1960s liberalism it spawned—is grounded in a remarkable irony: bad faith in America as virtue itself, bad faith in the classic American identity of constitutional freedom and capitalism as the way to a better America. So Mr. Obama is very definitely an American, and he has a broad American constituency. He is simply the first president we have seen grounded in this counterculture American identity. When he bows to foreign leaders, he is not displaying “otherness” but the counterculture Americanism of honorable self-effacement in which America acknowledges its own capacity for evil as prelude to engagement.

Bad faith in America became virtuous in the ’60s when America finally acknowledged so many of its flagrant hypocrisies: the segregation of blacks, the suppression of women, the exploitation of other minorities, the “imperialism” of the Vietnam War, the indifference to the environment, the hypocrisy of puritanical sexual mores and so on. The compounding of all these hypocrisies added up to the crowning idea of the ’60s: that America was characterologically evil. Thus the only way back to decency and moral authority was through bad faith in America and its institutions, through the presumption that evil was America’s natural default position.

Among today’s liberal elite, bad faith in America is a sophistication, a kind of hipness. More importantly, it is the perfect formula for political and governmental power. It rationalizes power in the name of intervening against evil—I will use the government to intervene against the evil tendencies of American life (economic inequality, structural racism and sexism, corporate greed, neglect of the environment and so on), so I need your vote.

“Hope and Change” positioned Mr. Obama as a conduit between an old America worn down by its evil inclinations and a new America redeemed of those inclinations. There was no vision of the future in “Hope and Change.” It is an expression of bad faith in America, but its great ingenuity was to turn that bad faith into political motivation, into votes.

But there is a limit to bad faith as power, and Mr. Obama and the Democratic Party may have now reached that limit. The great weakness of bad faith is that it disallows American exceptionalism as a rationale for power. It puts Mr. Obama and the Democrats in the position of forever redeeming a fallen nation, rather than leading a great nation. They bet on America’s characterological evil and not on her sense of fairness, generosity or ingenuity.

When bad faith is your framework (Michelle Obama never being proud of her country until it supported her husband), then you become more a national scold than a real leader. You lead out of a feeling that your opposition is really only the latest incarnation of that old characterological evil that you always knew was there. Thus the tea party—despite all the evidence to the contrary—is seen as racist and bigoted.

But isn’t the tea party, on some level, a reaction to a president who seems not to fully trust the fundamental decency of the American people? Doesn’t the tea party fill a void left open by Mr. Obama’s ethos of bad faith? Aren’t tea partiers, and their many fellow travelers, simply saying that American exceptionalism isn’t racism? And if the mainstream media see tea partiers as bumpkins and racists, isn’t this just more bad faith—characterizing people as ignorant or evil so as to dismiss them?

Our great presidents have been stewards, men who broadly identified with the whole of America. Stewardship meant responsibility even for those segments of America where one might be reviled. Surely Mr. Obama would claim such stewardship. But he has functioned more as a redeemer than a steward, a leader who sees a badness in us from which we must be redeemed. Many Americans are afraid of this because a mandate as grandiose as redemption justifies a vast expansion of government. A redeemer can’t just tweak and guide a faltering economy; he will need a trillion- dollar stimulus package. He can’t take on health care a step at a time; he must do it all at once, finally mandating that every citizen buy in.

Next week’s election is, among other things, a referendum on the idea of president-as- redeemer. We have a president so determined to transform and redeem us from what we are that, by his own words, he is willing to risk being a one-term president. People now wonder if Barack Obama can pivot back to the center like Bill Clinton did after his set-back in ’94. But Mr. Clinton was already a steward, a policy wonk, a man of the center. Mr. Obama has to change archetypes.

A Date With Destiny

Michael Ramirez

Mark Steyn on the Republicans’ (and our) last chance:

…This is really the last chance for the unloved Republicans. If the party establishment is sufficiently dimwitted to see November 2nd as the restoration of the 2004-2006 GOP, they will be setting up the conditions … for a serious third-force challenge in 2012. That would be less convulsive than a remoter though still possible scenario: If the Democrats manage to hold onto power by openly funding spoiler candidates, they would be discrediting the entire electoral process, and setting up pre-revolutionary conditions. In other words, it would be very easy for both parties to confirm the suspicion of a very disenchanted electorate – that the system no longer allows for serious course correction.

And, without serious course correction, America is doomed. It starts with the money. For dominant powers, it always does – from the Roman Empire to the British Empire. “Declinism” is in the air these days, but for us full-time apocalyptics we’re already well past that stage. In the space of one generation, a nation of savers became the world’s largest debtors, and a nation of makers and doers became a cheap service economy. Everything that can be outsourced has been – manufacturing to by no means friendly nations overseas; and much of what’s left in agriculture and construction to the armies of the “undocumented”. At the lower end, Americans are educated at a higher cost per capita than any nation except Luxembourg in order to do minimal-skill checkout-line jobs about to be rendered obsolete by technology. At the upper end, America’s elite goes to school till early middle age in order to be credentialed for pseudo-employment as $350 grand-a-year diversity consultants (Michelle Obama) or in one of the many other phony-baloney makework schemes deriving from government micro-regulation of virtually every aspect of endeavor.

So we’re not facing “decline”. We’re already in it. What comes next is the “fall” – sudden, devastating, off the cliff. That’s why this election is consequential – because the Obama-Pelosi-Reid spending spree made what was vague and distant explicit and immediate. A lot of the debate about America’s date with destiny has an airy-fairy beyond-the-blue-horizon mid-century quality, all to do with long-term trends and other remote indicators. In reality, we’ll be lucky to make it through the short-term in sufficient shape to get finished off by the long-term. According to CBO projections, by 2055 interest payments on the debt will exceed federal revenues. But I don’t think we’ll need to worry about a “Government of the United States” at that stage. By 1788, Louis XVI’s government in France was spending a mere 60 per cent of revenues on debt service, and we all know how that worked out for the House of Bourbon the following year.

In other words, forget about mid-century. Within a decade, the United States will be spending more of the federal budget on its interest payments than on its military. You read that right: more on debt service than on the armed services. According to the CBO’s long-term budget outlook, by 2020 the government will be paying between 15 and 20 per cent of its revenues in debt interest. Whereas defense spending will be down to between 14 and 16 per cent. And even those figures are premised on an optimistic assumption of resumed economic growth but continued low interest rates.

So hold that thought: within a decade, the United States will be spending more on interest payments on the federal debt than it does on the military – and that’s not because the Pentagon is such a great bargain. In 2009, the United States accounted for over 43 per cent of the world’s military expenditures. So, within a few years, America will be spending more on debt interest than China, Britain, France, Russia, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia, India, Italy, South Korea, Brazil, Canada, Australia, Spain, Turkey and Israel spend on their militaries combined. The superpower will have evolved from a nation of aircraft carriers to a nation of debt carriers.

What does that mean? In 2009, the US spent about $665 billion on its military, the Chinese about $99 billion. If Beijing continues to buy American debt at the rate it has in recent times, then within a few years US interest payments on that debt will be covering the entire cost of the Chinese military. This summer, the Pentagon issued an alarming report to Congress on Beijing’s massive military build-up, including new missiles, upgraded bombers, and an aircraft-carrier R&D program intended to challenge US dominance in the Pacific. What the report didn’t mention is who’s paying for it.

Answer: Mr and Mrs America.

By 2015, the People’s Liberation Army, which is the largest employer on the planet, bigger even than the US Department of Community-Organizer Grant Applications, will be entirely funded by US taxpayers. When the Commies take Taiwan, suburban families in Connecticut and small businesses in Idaho will have paid for it.

The existential questions for America loom not decades hence but right now. We face not genteel Euro-style decline cushioned by America, but something faster, wrenching and far more convulsive – with nobody to cushion it.

We know American government is living beyond America’s means. What’s more interesting is whether it’s living beyond the world’s. Historically, foreign official holdings of US Treasury securities have been less than five per cent of the rest of the planet’s GDP. By 2009, they were up to seven per cent. Obama-sized budgets depend on foreign holdings rising to about 20 per cent of the rest of the planet’s GDP.

There is no evidence that the world will be willing to do that. And, even if there was, the net effect would merely be to accelerate the remorseless transfer of wealth to our enemies. Chinese state-controlled enterprises are buying up everything from copper in Canada to zinc in Australia to bauxite in Jamaica. They’re doing what the first settlers did vis a vis the Indians: They sell us trinkets in return for our resources. That said, I disagree with the conclusion of this video. The danger from China is not its strength, but its underlying weaknesses: As I wrote in America Alone, it will get old before it gets rich, and, unless it’s planning on becoming the first gay superpower since Sparta, the millions of surplus young men whom the One-Child Policy has deprived of female companionship is a recipe for profound social convulsions. That’s actually worse news than if China was cruising to global hegemony – because it means their calculations on how the Sino-American relationship evolves are even less likely to align with ours.

As I said, the decline of great powers invariably starts with the money. When government spends on the scale Washington’s got used to, that’s not a spending issue, it’s a moral one. There’s nothing virtuous about “caring” “compassionate” “progressives” being caring and compassionate and progressive with money yet to be earned by generations yet to be born. That’s what “fiscal conservatives” often miss: This isn’t a green-eyeshade issue. Increasing dependency, disincentivizing self-reliance, absolving the citizenry from responsibility for their actions: The multitrillion-dollar debt catastrophe is not the problem but merely the symptom. It’s not just about balancing the books, but about something more basic and profound.

In a two-party system, you have to work with what’s available. In America, one party is openly committed to driving the nation off the cliff, and the other party is full of guys content to go along for the ride as long as we shift down to third gear. That’s no longer enough of a choice. If your candidate isn’t committed to fewer government agencies with fewer employees on lower rates of pay, he’s part of the problem. This is the last chance for the GOP to restore its credentials. If it blows it, all bets are off for 2012.

Shut Up, Paul!

British economics writer Jeremy Warner tells Paul Krugman to put a sock in it:

…I see old Kruggers, Nobel prize winner and New York Times columnist, is at it again. Not content to lecture his own country’s administration about how they are not spending enough, Professor Krugman lambasts Britain’s coalition government in his latest column for its deficit reduction plan, which he reckons will condemn the UK to a depression…

the idea that you can more or less indefinitely keep putting off deficit reduction until the economy is firing on all cylinders again just looks like an excuse to me for continuing to spend at unaffordable levels. He accuses the Tories of being “ideological” in their single minded pursuit of deficit reduction, and of using the crisis to dismantle the welfare state, yet he conveniently skirts around the underlying issue, which is in essence that the country can no longer afford this expenditure.

[Britain’s Finance Minister George] Osborne’s fiscal consolidation is aimed only at removing the structural deficit – which is the bit that won’t go away when the economy returns to normal. The Obama Administration’s reluctance to take similar action in the US is extraordinarily irresponsible, and one of the reasons why the Democrats are so hopelessly down in the polls…

Professor Krugman suggests that Britain has nothing to fear from excessive public debt, which is still as things stand below its long run historical average. He’s technically right about this, but like a lot of statistics used to support a particular, ideological position, it’s completely meaningless. Looking at the path of UK public debt as a percentage of GDP, there have indeed been quite long periods when it has been much higher than it is now, but these periods mainly coincided with prolonged and all embracing war – first the Napoleonic wars, then later the Boer war and the first world war. Britain had barely recovered from the financial consequences of the first world war by the time the second world war hit.

The big point missed by those who think elevated public debt doesn’t matter is that these periods of excessive debt utterly crippled the UK economy. Indeed, Britain’s decline through the twentieth century as an economic superpower directly correlates with increased indebtedness. Fighting wars is not good for economic health

Both America and Britain are again technically at war, but these conflicts are relatively small affairs by past standards. What makes the current unsustainable trajectory of public debt so worrying is that it’s not military spending that is the problem this time around. We cannot rely on demilitarisation to come to the rescue of the public finances, as it has in the past. Public debt is excessive for entirely different reasons – the excess in public spending is not on fighting wars but on treating ourselves [my emphasis]– and unless America does something about it soon, the US will decline economically and geo-politically over the next fifty years as surely as Britain did in the last century.

Good Luck With That

Mike Lester

The left has been attacking media mogul Rupert Murdoch for his contribution to Republicans. Now we learn that on the day NPR fired Juan Williams, the tax-supported, leftist broadcast outfit accepted a 1.8 million “grant” from billionaire, liberal bankroller of Moveon.org, George Soros.

Howard Kurtz comments on the amazingly stupid Williams fiasco:

His firing has backfired, handing Fox a victory and making Williams a symbol of liberal intolerance—on the very day NPR announced a grant from George Soros that it never should have accepted.

After watching Bill O’Reilly lead an hour of NPR-bashing on Fox News Thursday night, it’s tempting to say that the right’s reaction to the Juan Williams firing is just a tad overblown.

But it’s not. This was a blunder of enormous proportions. Even many liberals—Donna Brazile, Joan Walsh, Whoopi Goldberg—are castigating National Public Radio for throwing Williams overboard.

NPR Chief Executive Vivian Schiller—dubbed a “pinhead” by O’Reilly—made matters worse by suggesting that Williams needs psychiatric attention. She later apologized.

John Boehner, who may well be the next House Speaker, told National Review that it’s “reasonable to ask why Congress is spending taxpayers’ money to support a left-wing radio network.”

And in a triumph of awful timing, yesterday was the day that NPR announced a new grant—$1.8 million from liberal philanthropist George Soros to hire 100 new reporters. No news organization should accept that kind of check from a committed ideologue of any stripe. Even if every journalist hired with the cash from Soros’ foundation is fair and balanced, to coin a phrase, the perception is terrible. (This New York Times story didn’t even mention Soros’ liberal views. The guy just gave a million bucks to Media Matters. Hello?) Oh, and NPR is in the midst of a fundraising drive. Good luck with that…

The New Reality: We’re Broke

Michael Ramirez

Regardless of next month’s U.S. election results, it seems increasingly clear that the old battle between liberals and conservatives is really coming to an end and the liberals have lost. The reason? There simply is no money for the big government programs that keep liberals in power.

While President Barry and his congressional colleagues are trying to make us more like Europe, pacifist and government-dependent, European governments have had no other choice but to make their countries more like us, except they’re still pacifist and dependent on us for their defense.

The French are truly embarrassing, as Guy Sorman points out:

The French have a long tradition of taking to the streets as an irrational answer to economic reforms. In 1848, when a democratically elected government tried to contain monetary inflation, the nascent Socialist Party raised barricades in Paris. Alexis de Tocqueville, then a member of the parliament, wrote in his “Memoires” that the French knew a lot about politics and understood nothing about economics. The current disruption of French cities by strikes and riots illustrates the continuity of this political culture.

The pretext for the current “social movement,” as we call it in French, is a perfectly rational initiative by President Nicolas Sarkozy to raise the legal age of retirement to 62 from 60. It had been lowered to 60 from 65 in 1983 by the socialist François Mitterrand. Going up to 62 is thus a modest return to sanity: 62 happens to be the average in the European Union.

The rationale behind this reform—an aging population—can be understood by all the French. Longer life expectancy and slow economic growth offer no other choice to save the public pension funds from bankruptcy…

The British and the German governments are also trying to face reality, and at least so far the Brits and Germans are behaving rationally about it. When you add to that the amazing admission by German Chancellor Angela Merkel that multiculturalism has been a dismal failure, even leftist gadflies like Rachel Maddow (click on her name to see and hear her at her paranoid worst) would have to admit that their days are numbered.

Richard Fernandez says it well:

…The problem with living in denial is that once the illusion shatters, the pendulum is apt to swing completely the other way. Overconfidence can be instantaneously replied by blind panic in the press. It’s easy to see why. All around the liberal landscape the pillars are collapsing. When the Boston Globe’s Jeff Jacoby notices that Barney Frank can’t play the gay card any more, a tectonic shift has occurred. Frank has gone from a man who would win by twenty points “no matter what he did” to a tired old man fighting for his political life in the bluest of blue districts.

Mr. Frank, 70, has not faced a competitive contest in over two decades. But Mr. Bielat is a compelling candidate, a fresh-faced former Marine with a Georgetown-Harvard-and-Wharton pedigree, and he is trying to capitalize on the anti-incumbent sentiment sweeping the country. With less than two weeks until Election Day, he has made this race far closer than anyone anticipated (Mr. Frank even lent his campaign $200,000 of his own money this week.).

How bad things will turn out to be in the next few months is a matter of conjecture. What appears to be true is that the old certainties are finished. By how big a margin is the question. The arithmetic is brutal. The money that once supported the welfare state is gone. Big Government “Hope and Change” is dead because it’s broke. Broke. Broke. Ask the Fed. All the protests in the world are not going to change that fact.

And the commissars at the people’s republic of NPR have fired Juan Williams because he made a slightly politically incorrect comment about Muslims on Fox News. Why am I forced to subsidize these a..holes?

No, We Don’t All Know This

Michelle Rhee

A couple of recent events have caused the media to pay a lot of attention to the never ending problem of public education: the resignation of D.C. schools’ head Michelle Rhee and the release of a movie called Waiting For Superman made by the guy who did the Al Gore global warming political potboiler, An Inconvenient Truth.

Michelle Rhee’s firing has been blamed on teachers’ unions and the movie apparently (I haven’t seen it) excoriates them as well.

Teachers are the only group that catches hell from both sides of the political spectrum: the right hates unions and the teachers’ union is one of the most powerful contributors to the Democratic Party; the left supports unions, but that support is complicated by the fact that teachers provide a service to children.

Liberals have always used children to raise money and support for their projects. Years ago, they discovered that they could extort lots of money from taxpayers by playing the children card. The most effective card player was Marion Wright Edelman who created something called the Children’s Defense Fund, which was little more than a shakedown outfit for the poverty/civil rights industry. She coined the phrase No Child Left Behind. Hillary Clinton, an Edelman admirer, got into the act with her book, It Takes A Village (to raise a child).

Congress passed legislation they shrewdly called “Aid to Dependent Children,” which should have been called cash transfers to unwed teenage girls and their abusive boyfriends. Critics quickly learned that to criticize such legislation invited charges of racism and hard-heartedness toward “the children”, which, as was intended, silenced all but the most intrepid critics.

As a recovering teacher, I’ve been asked what I think of Michelle Rhee. My reply: I’m sure there are a lot of teachers in D.C. who should be fired, but I don’t know whether she fired the right ones.

Everyone seems to think that who’s a good or a bad teacher is obvious. Nothing could be further from the truth. Used to be that a good teacher was one whose students actually mastered the subject the teacher was teaching. Sometime back in the 60’s (it’s always the 60’s), the teaching of “mere knowledge” became a target for radical political educationists who sought to replace the imparting of knowledge and skills with something called “affective education,” which would, they insisted, instill such qualities as self-esteem and raised (political) consciousness, much more important than math and reading.

Over the years, we’ve seen an endless number of variations on this theme: the child-centered class room, the child’s “right to his own language,” and my favorite: the idea that we all have different “learning styles,” which means that, for example an English teacher ought to evaluate a “word-challenged” pupil by allowing him or her to paint a picture or do a dance rather than write an essay.

Michelle Rhee, as I understand it, evaluated teachers based on their students’ test scores. Sounds good to me, but I remember when I administered the state test to my English classes. They took the test over a period of, as I remember, three days. But only about a quarter of the students on my rolls were present for all three days. Was I going to be evaluated on the basis of the large majority of students who were not present for the entire test?

So I’d need to know the conditions under which teachers administered the tests in D.C. before I mourn the loss of Ms. Rhee. It’s also my experience that school administrators tend to blame teachers for poor attendance and poor behavior.

Now, I love the Wall Street Journal editorial page, which loves to bash teachers’ unions. But they, like most critics of teachers’ unions from both the right and left, eschew mentioning “the children” or their parents. But at least they published today an excellent letter that raises issues that most assiduously avoid:

“We all know that good schools begin with good teachers,” Rupert Murdoch writes in “If Schools Were Like ‘American Idol’ . . .” (op-ed, Oct. 8).

No, Mr. Murdoch, we don’t all know this, although that is what we are forever being told. Of course good teachers are necessary if the students who come to them are to do well. But the teachers must work with students from a society fragmented into groups that have quite different ideas of what constitutes a “good education,” including groups which send their children to class with what would once have been unthinkable behavior, a problem only infrequently referred to by reformers of public education.

As a retired elementary teacher with over 30 years experience in Minneapolis, one of the best of the Council of Great City Schools public school systems, and a teacher who has served twice as union steward, I am certainly aware of and not condoning the problems arising from union power in the school systems of this country. However, what I can no longer sit by and accept is this naive (if truly believed), accusation that the lack of good teachers is responsible for the deplorable results so often mentioned.

So long as the citizens of the U.S. are ambiguous in setting and prioritizing goals for our children, and so long as they refuse to acknowledge and correct student behaviors that make it impossible for the best of teachers to succeed, the reformers will continue to ignore an important aspect of poor school performance.

Connie Worthman

Edina, Minn.

Beaten At Her Own Game

Tiresomely nasty Maureen Dowd complains about “mean” conservative women:

…We are in the era of Republican Mean Girls, grown-up versions of those teenage tormentors who would steal your boyfriend, spray-paint your locker and, just for good measure, spread rumors that you were pregnant.

These women — Jan, Meg, Carly, Sharron, Linda, Michele, Queen Bee Sarah and sweet wannabe Christine — have co-opted and ratcheted up the disgust with the status quo that originally buoyed Barack Obama. Whether they’re mistreating the help or belittling the president’s manhood, making snide comments about a rival’s hair or ripping an opponent for spending money on a men’s fashion show, the Mean Girls have replaced Hope with Spite and Cool with Cold. They are the ideal nihilistic cheerleaders for an angry electorate…

Jennifer Rubin responds:

This is rich: Maureen Dowd is aggrieved because Republican women are insufficiently demure. The grand dame of the Gray Lady, whose columns are distinguished not by their blindingly clever policy insights (her research is confined to taxi cabs in Manhattan) but by her own particular brand of nasty armchair psychology (not to mention plagiarism), is beside herself…

Beaten at her own game, is she? Why yes. (She does impart one piece of information: Sharron Angle “campaigns at times with a .44 Magnum revolver in her 1989 GMC pickup.” My word, what is not to like about her?!) The tough girls have not only given a clear alternative to the whiny victimhood of Dowd and her fellow gender-grievance-mongers; they have redefined political feminism. You can gain power, win the respect and affection of fellow citizens, and be pro-free market, pro-guns, and pro-life (the unholy trinity of the left).

No wonder Dowd has wigged out, feeling “jittery” after Angle demolished Harry Reid (whom Dowd bizarrely terms “the soft-spoken Mormon”). Dowd is aghast that Angle would point out that he has made a mint, thanks to his Senate career (”‘one of the richest men in the Senate’ after coming from Searchlight ‘with very little’”). This is going “for the jugular”? How sensitive Dowd has become.

But don’t you see? Only liberal women are permitted to spew bile at their male political adversaries. Heaven forbid telegenic, principled conservative women should upend their liberal opponents, ascend the political ladder, and grab the spotlight. Bad enough there was Sarah; now there is a whole flock of them. You can understand why Dowd is green with envy.

Canada: Friend of Israel

Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

David Warren on the Canadian government’s principled stand for Israel and against “enlightened” leftist opinion:

There was a moment this week in which I felt very proud to be Canadian. There could be moments like that in any week, but this one was unusual for its cause. It was something done by the government, that invoked principle, and required courage. That made it something rare, to be savoured…

So let us not miss this opportunity to praise the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper. He cost Canada a coveted seat on the UN Security Council, by refusing to sell out Israel. He withdrew our candidacy when it became apparent that the bloc vote of Arab and Islamic states (about a third of the UN membership) had been turned against us; thereby conceding the seat to Portugal, with her more flexible policy of moral appeasement.

In the course of scotching our bid, Harper allowed the announcement of an important trading agreement between Canada and Israel to go ahead, the very day before the vote. This could easily have been disguised or elided.

He likewise demurred on an attempt by the United Arab Emirates to link landing rights for commercial aviation to foreign policy positions.

In addition to organizing opposition to Canada’s Security Council bid, the Emirates have now unilaterally withdrawn Canadian access to Camp Mirage, which we have been using through the last decade in the deployment of our troops to Afghanistan. In a further move as characteristically petty and childish as it was shoddy, the UAE refused overflight permission to a plane carrying our defence minister home from a visit to Afghanistan.

Among all western nations — not excluding the United States — Canada has taken the clearest stand in defence of Israel’s legitimate rights and interests. We have paid, and we will continue to pay for this. And we should take genuine pride in paying for our defiance of efforts by the Arab and Muslim bloc at the UN to isolate Israel, and make her a pariah.

Words cannot express my contempt for Michael Ignatieff, and other opposition members, who have tried to cloud what they know is a stand on principle.

Canada is not “tilting to Israel.” Our government is rather maintaining a policy that has been consistent for more than six decades, since the state of Israel was created by the same United Nations after the Second World War.

We have affirmed and continue to affirm Israel’s right to exist, as a Jewish nation — just as she was from the beginning. And in a region where there are many squalid governments, and almost all formally claim to be “Islamic states” — where all except Israel belong to the only explicitly religious international bloc (the Organization of the Islamic Conference) — we rightly refuse to dignify objections to what they call “Zionism.”

The most abhorrent suggestion is that, by refusing to abandon our obligations to Israel, the Harper government is dabbling in “Islamophobia.” This term, through frequent repetition, has become the standard Left-Islamist smear against anyone who contradicts them…

And John Podhoretz makes a good point about Obama’s being a moderate:

…Andrew Ferguson, in [an article in the] Weekly Standard…[e]ntitled “The Roots of Lunacy,” … considers the way in which political hatred morphs over time, with particular emphasis on Dinesh D’Souza’s new bestseller, The Roots of Obama’s Rage. Andy’s point in the end is that looking for explanations for the origins of Obama’s politics is a ridiculous exercise since he is simply an “unchecked liberal” who is likely more moderate than a President Kerry or a President Edwards would have been. I don’t think that’s right; Obama’s unchecked liberalism is of an order different from the liberalism of anyone who might have served in his stead owing to the fact that it really is unchecked by any experience in political or ideological compromise of any sort. Edwards was a Democratic pol in a Southern state and had some sense at least of how to talk to people who don’t agree with him; Kerry served in the Senate for a very long time under Democratic and Republican majorities and at least had learned how to maneuver in a heterodox partisan atmosphere. None of that is true of Obama, whose inexperience both helped get him elected and now gives him absolutely no sense of how to handle the turnaround in the national mood or the disenchantment of the voters with him. Ideologically, he gives one the sense that the only conservative he’s ever talked to is David Brooks, and he views the plurality of the electorate that uses the word “conservative” to describe itself as a strange, distasteful foreign creature whose president he also, unfortunately, must be.

It Depends On How You Define “Jewish State”

P. J. Crowley: The Grand Obfuscator

Power Line examines the refusal of the PLO (not Hamas) to recognize Israel as a Jewish state which you would think is a minimum requirement for negotiation since a non-Jewish Israel equals no Israel:

Earlier this week, Israel said it would agree to expand its moratorium on building in settlements if the PA would recognize Israel as a Jewish state. The offer was quickly hooted down as “racist” by the PA, raising this question: Why would Israel even bother to negotiate with an outfit that has a problem recognizing Israel as what it is at its core?

But now there is, perhaps, an equally pressing question: Why would Israel accept as an intermediary in its relations with the PA a U.S. administration that is reluctant to recognize Israel as a Jewish state? The question arises from this exchange between administration spokesman P.J. Crowley and members of the press, as reported by Rick Richman:

QUESTION: P.J., do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state and will you try to convince the Palestinians to recognize it?

MR. CROWLEY: We will continue our discussions with the parties. I would expect, following up on the Arab League meetings of late last week that George Mitchell will go to the region at some point. I’m not announcing anything, but I — it would be logical for us to follow up directly with the parties, see where they are. . . .

QUESTION: And do you recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize the aspiration of the people of Israel. It has — it’s a democracy. In that democracy, there’s a guarantee of freedom and liberties to all of its citizens. But as the Secretary has said, we understand that — the special character of the state of Israel.

QUESTION: Is that a yes or no?

QUESTION: P.J., it’s — do you want to answer his question or –

QUESTION: Did you say yes or no to that question from Michel?

MR. CROWLEY: Hmm?

QUESTION: Michel’s question was a yes or no sort of question. I was wondering whether that was a yes or no.

MR. CROWLEY: We recognize that Israel is a – as it says itself, is a Jewish state, yes.

As to the other part of the original question — whether the administration will attempt to persuade the PA to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, the exchange continued as follows:

QUESTION: … Does the U.S. want the Palestinians to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MR. CROWLEY: Look, I will be happy to go back over and offer some — I’m trying — I’m not making any news here. We have recognized the special nature of the Israeli state. It is a state for the Jewish people. It is a state for other citizens of other faiths as well. But this is the aspiration of the — what Prime Minister Netanyahu said yesterday is, in essence, the — a core demand of the Israeli Government, which we support, is a recognition that Israel is a part of the region, acceptance by the region of the existence of the state of Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people and that is what they want to see through this negotiation. We understand this aspiration and the prime minister was talking yesterday about the fact that just as they aspire to a state for the Jewish people in the Middle East, they understand the aspirations of the Palestinian people for a state of their own.

A 2004 letter from President Bush stated that the U.S. is “strongly committed to … [Israel] as a Jewish state.” Yet, as Richman points out, “this administration has to be prodded six times to answer whether it recognizes Israel as a Jewish state and — after an affirmative response is extracted — cannot give a one-word answer on whether it wants the Palestinians to recognize one as well.”

The idea that the Obama administration has Israel’s core interests at heart as it attempts to broker a deal between Israel and the PA is laughable and, I assume, viewed as such by the Israeli government, however much it may try to humor the current American president.