Archive for February 17th, 2009

February 17, 2009

And then her mom cut off her allowance . . .

(BUMPED; UPDATED) Bristol Palin:

“I think abstinence is, like — like, the — I don’t know how to put it — like, the main — everyone should be abstinent or whatever, but it’s not realistic at all.”

Like, totally duh. Couldn’t keep her britches on, and any expectation that she would keep her britches on was “not realistic.” Any expectation that we won’t eventually see tabloid photos of Levi Johnston slamming jello shots with strippers in an Anchorage bar — also “not realistic at all.”

UPDATE: Some of the commenters are scolding me for being . . . too judgmental. Look, I have three teenagers myself, a 19-year-old daughter and twin 16-year-old sons. Being judgmental is a full-time occupation, OK? I just put one of my 16-year-old boys onto a plane to visit relatives in Ohio, where he’s also got a blonde girlfriend. When I called his cell phone before he boarded the plane, what was the last thing I told him? “Keep it in your britches, son.”

Understand that sexy is a hereditary condition, so it’s not like the boy won’t encounter temptation. But something else is hereditary, too: Extreme fecundity.

My wife is one of seven children in her family, and we’ve got six kids, so there’s really no such thing as “safe sex” with this crew. I’ve had to have this little talk with my daughter and her boyfriend, much to their embarrassment. It’s about 100% certain they’re not having sex, because if they were, there’s a 99% chance I’d be a grandpa by now.

As to the efficacy of “abstinence education” as practiced in public schools, I am not in a position to judge. But how hard is it to tell a teenager, “Keep your britches on“? And how hard is that to do? It’s an instruction so simple that even a teenager can remember.

So excuse my judgmentalism if I think that maybe at some point Bristol and Levi should have noticed they weren’t wearing any pants, and that they should have recognized this as a signal their gametes might soon combine to form a zygote. There’s 6 billion people on this planet, which suggests the efficiency with which gametes combine when two young lovers forget to keep their britches on.

BRISTOL: “Levi., you’re not wearing pants.”
LEVI: “You noticed, huh?”
BRISTOL: “Well, yeah. I did. Like, totally.”
LEVI: “Yeah. And guess what?”
BRISTOL: “What?”
LEVI: “You’re not wearing pants, either!”
BRISTOL: “Oh. My. God.”
LEVI: “Heh. Heh. Heh.”
BRISTOL: “I can’t believe I’m not wearing pants!”
LEVI: “Incredible.”
BRISTOL: “I’m not wearing pants. You’re not wearing pants. How did this happen?”
LEVI: “Uh . . . stuff happens.”
BRISTOL: “Yeah, I guess so. What do we do now?”
LEVI: “Hmmmm. I’ve got an idea . . .”

And so it goes. Two teenagers, mysteriously pantsless, and then — suddenly — pregnant. A sequence of events so baffling, so bizarre that it could only happen in . . . THE TWILIGHT ZONE!

UPDATE II: Gabriel Malor at AOSHQ salutes Bristol as “one brave woman,” and is echoed by Ed Morrissey hailing her “courage.” Yes, the admirable courage of misplacing your pants and then going on national TV to tell the world that it’s “more accepted” to misplace your pants and “not realistic” to keep your pants on. Also, Ed has video of Bristol talking tabloids:

Having taken plenty of abuse for being ardently pro-Palin, no amount of politics can compel me to call a spade an “entrenching implement.” And as someone who has complained loudly and often about double standards in the media, I refuse to suspend my judgmentalism because this particular unwed mother is named “Bristol Palin” and not “LaShonda Watts” or “Maria Gonzales.”

UPDATE III: Now frequent commenter Thirteen28 brings up the common problem with teenage boys: Testosterone-induced dementia, also known as Constant Tumescence Syndrome (CTS). Having suffered a severe case of this dread disorder — the condition persisted well into my 20s, a rare phenomenon chronicled as a case study in various medical journals — I am sympathetic.

However, as a father, sympathy must be put aside so that CTS does not lead to two related adolescent maladies, Hymen Disappearance Disorder and the pandemic knockedupicus virus.

As a conservative, I believe that human beings (a species that includes even that beastly subspecies, homo pimplicus adolesens) respond to incentives. Therefore the teenage Lothario, when calculating the cost-benefit analysis of nailing my daughter, must consider the negative incentive of being perforated by 12-gauge double-aught buckshot. (Five in the magazine, one in the chamber.)

Had I been married to the governor of Alaska . . . Wait. Let’s pause to contemplate that hypothetical. . . . As I was saying, had I been married to the governor of Alaska, the “scandal” would have played out in headlines like this:


. . . and this:


. . . and, perhaps, ending with this:

Prosecutors Denounce ‘Jury Nullification’;
Defendant: ‘That Hoodlum Needed Killing’

Forget about “abstinence education.” If you want to reduce teen pregnancy, you’ll get more results from marksmanship training for fathers.

UPDATE IV: Donald Douglas approves of the extreme judgmentalism.


February 17, 2009

Headline of the Day

Stocks slump despite stimulus
CNN Money

Don’t you just love that “despite”? I mean, you’d think that CNN could afford to hire headline writers who knew something — anything — about economics, so that the headline might read:

Obamanomics causes stock slump

What almost nobody seems to realize is that we’re passing 7,500 en route to 6,000. This is not temporary “profit-taking,” but permanent loss-taking — the de-capitalization of Wall Street, as the smart money pulls out of U.S. stocks before we go from very bad to much worse. And if you think the stock market is scary, just wait until the bond market comes down with the heeby-jeebies. Get ready for Weimar America, people.

If I had one word of advice, it would be: SELL. And if you asked me for two words of advice, I’d say: SELL NOW.

February 17, 2009

Socialist government is BAD for capitalism?

(BUMPED & UPDATED) At least the capitalists think so. But just wait until the terror-famines against the kulaks begin — that’ll teach those hoarders and exploiters and parasites!

UPDATE: More surprises?

In midday trading, the Dow dropped 260.37, or 3.32 percent, to 7,590.04. It fell as low as 7,553.48 in early trading — just a point away from the blue-chip index’s five-and-a-half month closing low of 7,552.29 reached Nov. 20.

I’m shocked, shocked, at this vicious display of institutional racism toward President Mugabe Obama.

UPDATE II: Oh, this is freaking rich:

Right-wing economic “theory” is destroying America. It’s doing a bigger job on us that al Qaeda could ever have dreamed.

Among the more astonishing assertions I’ve read in a while, that one, since it hangs on a New York Times story about the economic woes of California, which is being strangled by (among other things) its public-employee unions. At some point, one must learn to discern the key factors in complex causation, and to see California’s debacle as a result of “right-wing economic theory” is so bass-ackward I don’t even know where to begin fisking.

February 17, 2009

Canadian advice to ignore

(BUMPED; UPDATE BELOW) David Frum advises:

In every poll I’ve seen, hefty majorities approve of President Obama’s economic performance. Approval numbers for congressional Republicans remain dismal.
If we’re to make progress in 2010, we have to look serious. This week we looked not only irrelevant, but clueless and silly.

Again with the “we” — as if he and John Boehner and Tom Coburn are sitting around plotting Republican strategy. But the real problem with Frum’s argument is something I pointed out Sunday: Opinion-poll numbers in February 2009 don’t mean zip if what you are “popular” for is passing a neo-Keynesian stimulus that won’t work.

Ross Douthat echoes Frum, pining to see Republicans “articulating an actual alternative to Obamanomics.” But why should they propose an “alternative” that can’t possibly be voted into action given the current overwhelming majority? At this point, Boehner should just tell Ron Paul to keep denouncing central planning and Keynesianism, and let the main GOP message on economics be one of repeated warning: The Obama/Pelosi/Reid plan is leading the U.S. economy into a fiscal trap.

Trying to “win” news cycles in February 2009 is not what the Republican Party needs to be worried about. Let’s see what the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the inflation rate and the unemployment rate are on Labor Day 2010 before deciding who looks “serious” and who looks “silly.”

More blog reactions at Memeorandum.

UPDATE: Kathy Shaidle once again reminds us that not all Canadians are evil. And hey, a dead-cat bounce in congressional approval ratings! Wonder what that means?

UPDATE II: Linked at Conservative Grapevine.

February 17, 2009

Larison We Can Believe In!

Daniel Larison and I are often at odds, but his takedown of Nate Silver is splendid:

Naturally, [Silver] is going to set up his own position as the rational one and the one he is attacking as implicitly irrational. That . . . is typical of the technocratic, anti-populist side in any debate to frame disagreements with their critics as a battle between reason and passion. You can find this with David Brooks’ description of anti-TARP Congressmen as “nihilists” (even though their skepticism and advocacy for alternatives were entirely warranted and correct) or any of the usual pro-war and pro-immigration advocates that seek to impute malicious intent or hatred to their opponents. This is a method used for dismissing, rather than engaging, and for treating opposing arguments as inherently unworthy of attention or serious consideration. Technocratic types prefer practicing this politics of contempt, because it automatically rules out serious objections to certain policies as automatically invalid and invests them or people like them with a certain unchallengeable authority. They tend to make respect for expertise into a debilitating inability to question experts’ assumptions and biases. [Emphasis added.]

You’ll find the same type of how-dare-you-question-the-expert-consensus arguments made by global warming alarmists, among others. Big hat-tip to Donald Douglas who, while even more politically/ideologically at odds with Larison, nevertheless can’t deny the nail-on-the-head accuracy of Larison’s description of the “technocratic” style in debate.

BTW, I am perfectly willing to admit that my politics are not always rational. Individual self-interest and “little platoon” loyalty are not the sort of things that can be articulated as universal ideological principles. What steams my vegetables is when the elite try to pretend that their self-serving politics is rational and principled, and backed by expert consensus, while the politics of the truck driver in Tulsa is just know-nothing populism.

February 17, 2009

Suggestion for President Obama

Please appoint Lindsay Graham to be an ambassador. Chad, China, Chile — we don’t care, just so long as it’s far enough away that he never shows up as a Republican spokesman on TV again.

February 17, 2009

Viva Californication!

A $41 billion state budget deficit — way to go AFSCME! Way to go SEIU! Way to go CTA! You showed that mean ol’ Republican governor who’s boss, didn’t ya? So now your state is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, and they’re planning to cut 20,000 state jobs.

If there were any justice in the world, the idiot bosses who run the government-employee unions would be fleeing to Nevada and seeking police escorts to help them make it to the state line ahead of the vengeful mobs of angry taxpayers. Somebody should make reference to Fred Siegel’s The Future Once Happened Here — liberal Democrats and labor unions have done to California what they did to New York City in the 1960s and ’70s.

UPDATE: Linked by Ed Driscoll, who has lots more on the rapidly imploding state of California.

February 17, 2009

How to fix the GOP?

John Hawkins is the list-master of the conservative blogosphere, and he’s now got a list of “Six Keys to Turning Around the Republican Party.” I think he’s right in saying that the first step to figuring out how to go forward is figuring out how things went wrong, to wit:

Bush and his Republican allies in Congress systematically alienated their conservative supporters by almost totally ignoring their concerns on issues like spending and immigration, even to the point of gratuitously insulting conservatives who disagreed with them. The Party then topped this all off by choosing the single least popular man in the entire Republican Party with conservative activists, John McCain, as the party’s presidential nominee.

Read the whole thing. The important thing is not to let the liberal media, the Democrats and Republican “moderates” get inside your head with their what-went-wrong narratives, which always end with the conclusion that that those right-wing anti-government nuts and the evangelical holy-rollers are the problem with the GOP.

I started trying to get the “what went wrong” story straight even before the election, with my “How John McCain Lost” article on Oct. 7. That had been preceded by articles on “Libertarian Populism” (Sept. 30) and “The Bible vs. the Bailout” (Oct. 2), and was followed with “You Did Not Lose” (Nov. 5), “Don’t Overthink It” (Nov. 12) and “Future Ex-Democrats” (Nov. 24).

The most important thing, after a solid ass-kicking like Republicans took on Nov. 4, is not to panic or become demoralized. You could argue that Democrats might not have lost in 2004 if they hadn’t panicked and become demoralized after their surprising defeats in 2002. I think we can see that Howard Dean in late 2003 was basically on the path that would lead to Democratic victories in 2006 and ’08, and John Edwards was viable at that point. Instead the party’s Establishment got skittish and went with that insufferable loser, John Kerry.

But the Democrats did something very smart after 2004. Instead of freaking out over those “values voters” and getting all down in the dumps, they got busy organizing and raising money so that when the GOP hit a long streak of bad moves and bad news in 2005-06, the Dems were ready to take advantage of it. A day of organizing is worth a week of blathering about “strategy,” and an hour of fund-raising is worth far more than a month of navel-gazing op-ed columns pumped out by the punditocracy.

But the pundits always want to over-intellectualize everything, because that’s what they get paid to do, and the consultants always want to talk “strategy,” because they’s what they get paid to do. Grassroots organizing, candidate recruitment and fundraising — those are the three things the GOP needs to focus on in the near term. It’s hard to focus on that kind of important stuff if you let yourself get bummed out by doomsaying pundits.

UPDATE: Moe Lane:

Whining does not count as “doing something about it.” Neither does demanding that the Party drop everything to concentrate on your pet issue, stapling your hand to your forehead about how the awful Party never listened to you, and/or threatening to move out to the countryside with a full load of ammo and survival gear. All any of that does is depress people who are trying to actually fix things.

Hear! Hear!

February 17, 2009

Cultural illiteracy

Professor Paul Gottfried surveys the yawning chasm of ignorance between the ears of the young:

My Western Civ. Students, who claimed to be appalled by the Patriot Act, compared the evil George W. Bush to McCarthy and Hitler. But significantly they couldn’t tell me anything about the Patriot Act, and they certainly couldn’t provide many details about the former junior senator from Wisconsin or the German tyrant.
Cultural literacy forms a unified whole, in the same way that Georges Clemenceau once stated that “La Gauche, c’est un bloc.” And no, I don’t believe that 68% of the American population is sufficiently informed about Darwin to be able to answer the pollster’s question with any degree of honesty. My skepticism results from the fact my college seniors, who are presumably no worse than most, had absolutely no idea about what languages the Bible was written in. Except for natural scientists, the two educational gaps are usually connected. Cultural illiteracy, like the French Left in 1919, constitutes a consistent whole.

Well, Professor, how many know enough French — or enough European history — to know who Clemenceau was, or what he meant? The Tiger might as well have never lived, so far as the average college student is concerned. Nor would you see any flicker of recognition from that average student if you mentioned Black Jack Pershing, or Leon Trotsky or Whitaker Chambers, or Danton or Marat, or Catiline or Cicero, or Austerlitz or Agincourt or Cannae. How many know even a smattering of French or German? How know anything of Latin? And Greek? Don’t even ask.

What is striking is that, even while a greater proportion of America’s young people are now college educated than ever before, the percentage who are actually educated — that is to say, who possess such knowledge as once befitted a person who was considered “well-read” — is probably smaller than it was 50 years ago. However, because the average level of learning has sunk so low, they are ignorant of their own ignorance. They actually believe themselves knowledgeable, because they know as much as any of their classmates, apparently without realizing what absolute ignoramuses their classmates are.

Why is this? For a good 30 or 40 years, at least, the educational trend has been toward the cultivation of self-esteem — All Must Have Prizes — and thus their teachers are afraid to teach them the most important lesson of youth, namely: You don’t know anything, you young savages!

Am I the only one who remembers when teachers used to employ what might be called “Socratic sarcasm.” As early as seventh or eighth grade, I remember teachers who would call on a student and, if the student gave the wrong answer, the teacher would rebuke his ignorance with some droll remark then say, “Who knows the correct answer?” The kid who raised his hand next had better know the answer, and if no hands were raised, the class would be scolded for having failed to study the lesson.

Brutal? Well, after all, the lesson had been assigned, and you had the textbook right there on your desk. If you didn’t know your Doric from your Ionic, whose fault was that? Our teachers didn’t give a damn about our “self-esteem.” They were not hired to flatter us, or condescend to us, or to applaud us for merely showing up and being nice. They were expected to teach us, and we were expected to learn. (Again: Am I the only whose teachers used to remark on the distinction between a pupil and a student?)

I am convinced that the vastness of contemporary ignorance is rooted in this trend toward pedagogical softness, and this in turn reflects the influence of television. As Neil Postman wrote nearly a quarter-century agao in Amusing Ourselves to Death:

[T]elevison’s principal contribution to educational philosophy is the idea that
teaching and entertainment are inseparable.

If I had a time machine, I’d go back to maybe 1966 or ’67 and find the first teacher who thought she was being “innovative” when she said, “Let’s make learning fun!” And after I’d slapped her face a few times to get her attention, I’d deliver a lecture on the disastrous consequences of her idiotic idea.

Learning is hard work, and it only becomes fun when students have mastered the basic skills and developed their knowledge to the level of fluency. The smart ones might get there by fifth or sixth grade, but you’ll never get them there by the teaching-as-entertainment, let’s-make-learning-fun approach. And if they get used to the let’s-make-learning-fun style when they’re in first and second grade, what will become of them when they encounter algebra and diagramming sentences? I’m sorry — you can buy gold-star stickers by the boxcar load, and it ain’t going to make algebra fun, except for that handful of nerds for whom math is fun anyway.

A hunger for knowledge cannot be aroused unless the student is first made to feel ashamed of his ignorance, and the self-esteem theory of education forbids the inculcation of that sense of shame (or any other). Some clever teacher of the so-called “gifted,” ought to try this with an advanced class of high-school history students: Assign Richard Taylor’s Destruction and Reconstruction as a text.

Taylor was an erudite and urbane man, whose memoir is filled with clever allusions to history and literature, so that for example on page 64 one finds a reference to the mauvais quart d’heure of Rabelais, on page 68 he writes of being fixed with a “Parthian glance of contempt,” and on page 71 he uses “claw for claw” (a reference to the Fingal legend of Conan, perhaps by way of Waverly by Sir Walter Scott).

If a teacher were to put Taylor in the hands of a classroom of smart 10th-graders, after having studied for himself all these allusions, then take the time during the class to call attention to these — asking them to research Conan and Parthians and Rabelais, etc. — it might get through to them just what a universe of knowledge is out there beyond their own limited store of learning. These kids know they’re smart, they just don’t realize how ignorant they are, and this is the point to be driven home, if they’re ever going to become truly educated.

UPDATE: My friend and fellow JSU alumni James Joyner decides he wants an argument:

[W]e’re comparing an idealized view of the past with a very different educational system of today. There was never a time when most Americans were well educated in the sense that Stacy describes.

James, I’m not talking about “most Americans,” I’m clearly talking about college graduates, and I’m saying that the average college graduate knows less — in terms of history, geography, literature and languages — than was true 40, 50 or 100 years ago. Granting that college education is more widespread, the real problem is the simulacrum of education, the belief of swinish Philistines that they’re “educated” when they really aren’t. James continues:

We live in a much more complicated world than existed fifty years ago, requiring us to train our young people in a variety of tasks. Most obviously, today’s kids are vastly more technologically literate than those of previous generations.

“Technological literacy,” and yet our best graduate schools in engineering, medicine and science are notoriously full of foreign students. I think if you talked to some engineering teachers, you’d be much less convinced that the decline in the humanities is a result of any succcess in teaching students to be “technologically literate.” James continues:

We give short shrift to — or eliminate entirely — subjects that were once considered “essential” knowledge for educated people in order to teach things considered important today.
I have a PhD and am much more of a reader than most people. But I don’t know Latin or Greek, beyond a handful of words that have crept into our language or scholarly jargon. . . Part of that is because my education has been quite specialized compared to my historical antecedents. There’s a lot more to know than there was in 1950, after all.

And part of it — the very biggest part of it — is the lowering of standards in secondary schools and in collegiate admissions, which have in turn produced lower standards all the way to the top of the system so that, inter alia, Larry Summers was run out of Harvard by a bunch of women’s studies harpies. That a college-bound student should be able to fulfill the foreign-language requirement with Spanish (which I take to be almost the only foreign language that most students learn nowadays) utterly misses the original purpose of the foreign-language requirement, which I won’t even go into.

While I took only a year of high-school Latin (in my junior year, Douglas County High was divided to create Lithia Springs High, DCHS retaining the Latin teacher, and I being forced to switch to French at LSHS) and remember nearly nothing of those cojugations and declensions, still there was some value in learning a smattering of Caesar and Cicero in the original.

Does my friend Dr. Joyner really believe that political science is such a specialized field that, in his 19 years of formal schooling, he could not have squeezed in a few semesters of Greek or Latin? Ah, but since classical languages have been discarded in favor of uno cerveza por favor, we find that teachers of Greek and Latin are almost impossible to find, and the new Dark Ages descend unnoticed.

Am I a nostalgist, idealizing the past? No, I’m a realist, who refuses to euphemize the present. We have lost a culture in which allusions to history and literature were the common language of educated men and gained a culture in which allusions to TV shows and movies are the only such references anyone understands. (“Eric Stratton, rush chairman — damned glad to me ya!“) This is certainly a decline, if not indeed a fall, and I don’t expect that a future Gibbon will miss the point.

February 17, 2009

Good questions

Noticing the denunciations of the Senate RINO trio, Bradley Johnson reels off a list of Senate seats held by Democrats in states that are — or could be — competitive for Republicans:

Why do Max Baucus, Byron Dorgan, Tim Johnson, Kent Conrad, and Mark Begich hold seats in what are generally reliable Republican states at every level? Is it not possible to defeat Harry Reid in Nevada, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Robert Byrd in West Virginia, or Sherrod Brown in Ohio? How is it that Democrats control both of Virginia’s senate seats? Not that long ago, Republicans controlled seats in Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Delaware, New Mexico and Michigan. Is it really impossible to elect a second Republican Senator to join Chuck Grassley from Iowa or Dick Lugar from Indiana? Is there no way to defeat appointed Senators Roland Burris of Illinois or Mike Bennett of Colorado in 2010?

Mr. Johnson: The most important causes of the GOP decline in the Senate were:

  • The war in Iraq — You knew this.
  • Top-down politics — Ken Mehlman and Karl Rove tried to run the entire national apparatus of the GOP from Washington, picking favorites in Republican primaries and otherwise meddling in state-level affairs they should have stayed out of. This is what killed grassroots enthusiasm among rank-and-file party activists.
  • Immigration — In consecutive years (2006-07), Republicans led by John McCain pushed amnesty bills in the Senate, measures which were stopped only by a fierce clamor from grassroots conservatives who understood that amnesty is absolute poison in terms of keeping “Reagan Democrats.” Don’t. Ever. Let. That. Happen. Again.

It’s perfectly possible to rebuild a Republican majority in the Senate. But if the GOP doesn’t learn the lesson of its mistakes during the Bush years, there’s no hope at all.