Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cruising the Web

Mayor de Blasio just handed off a present to New York City's teachers by relieving them of a negotiated requirement that they tutor students.
Back in 2005, when New York City was pre-crash flush, Mayor Michael Bloomberg offered the United Federation of Teachers a raise in return for 150 extra minutes of classroom work per week. The mayor’s idea was to spend that extra time tutoring the kids who needed the most help–the bottom third of each class. UFT president Randi Weingarten agreed that the group sessions would be small, no more than 10 students per class. Schools chancellor Joel Klein wanted three 50-minute periods per week. The union wanted five 30-minute periods. They compromised on four 37½-minute sessions.

The program was never given a name, which made it easier for New York’s new “progressive” mayor Bill de Blasio to give it back–to eliminate the required 150 minutes of special instruction–in his negotiations with the UFT this spring. You might well wonder why. I tried to find out but received a heaping ration of gobbledygook from a source close to the mayor. He said that the program had been “inflexible” and “one size fits all.” That it was not “workable to the purpose.” Translation: it didn’t work. But how do we know that? No studies or evaluations were done. At his press conference announcing the new union deal, the mayor and his schools chancellor, Carmen FariƱa, gave several foggy reasons for the change: the time would be used for additional parent conferences and for “professional development” so the teachers could learn how to teach the new core curriculum. A lot of unspecific wiggle room was negotiated on both counts–part of the mayor’s drive toward “flexibility.”
Because, of course, the mayor of the city has no desire to have at-risk students receive tutoring. Why should he care about them when there was a teachers' union to appease?

Apparently, some of the people who reflexively blame Israel for everything have a novel argument to make about Iron Dome, the missile defense weapon that has been saving Israeli lives from incoming Palestinian missiles. There are those who argue that Iron Dome is a bad thing because it prevents Israelis from dying and thus keeps them away from the bargaining table to give in to Hamas. Presumably, it would also be Israel's fault that Hamas just rejected the cease-fire that Israel accepted.

Meanwhile, it's worthwhile asking, as Jonathan Tobin does, why the Palestinians don't have bomb shelters as Israel does.
The assumption is that the Hamas-run strip is too poor to afford building shelters and safe rooms for its civilians, a point that adds to the impression that the Palestinians are helpless victims who deserve the sympathy if not the help of the world in fending off Israel’s assault on Hamas’s arsenal.

But the assumption is utterly false. Gaza’s tyrants have plenty of money and material to build shelters. And they have built plenty of them. They’re just not for the people of Gaza.

As is well known, Gaza is honeycombed with underground structures from one end of the strip to the other. This doesn’t only refer to the more than 1,400 tunnels that have connected Gaza to Egypt through which all sorts of things—including rockets, ammunition, building materials as well as consumer goods–came into the strip until the military government in Cairo stopped the traffic. The chief problem facing the Israel Defense Forces in this campaign is the same one they faced in 2008 and 2012 when they previously tried to temporarily silence the rocket fire. Hamas’s leaders and fighters are kept safe in a warren of shelters build deep underneath Gaza. There is also plenty of room there for its supply of thousands of rockets and other armaments. Moreover, they are also connected by tunnels that crisscross the length of that independent Palestinian state in all but name ruled by Hamas. Indeed, when you consider the vast square footage devoted to these structures, there may well be far more shelter space per square mile in Gaza than anyplace in Israel.

If these structures were opened up to the civilians of Gaza, there is little doubt that would lower the casualty figures. Indeed, if the leaders of Gaza and their armed cadres emerged from their safe havens under the ground and let the civilians take cover there they could then show some real courage. But lowering casualties isn’t part of Hamas’s action plan that is predicated on sacrificing as many of their own people as possible in order to generate foreign sympathy. Instead, they cower behind the civilians, shooting missiles next to schools, storing ammunition in mosques (as today’s explosion in Gaza illustrated) and, as I previously noted, are actually urging civilians to act as human shields against Israeli fire on Hamas strongholds. Indeed, they have enlisted the people of Gaza as part of their misinformation campaign in which they attempt to conceal the presence of missile launching or masked, armed Hamas fighters in civilian neighborhoods.

Sounds like Obama is losing one MSM reporter. Steven Hayward surveys the news and wonders if a killer rabbit can be very long in coming.

"People who claim to worry about climate change use more electricity." Ed Driscoll notes that "Al Gore could not be reached to comment from the other side of his three monitors, plasma screen TVs, private jets, mansions and former TV channel sold in 2013 to an Arab oil emirate." Though I would suspect that one reason for the finding is that climate change is something that is more concerning to those who are affluent than those who are poor, just as nations with growing economies are more likely and more able to take action to protect the environment than poorer nations.

Don't expect many small businesses to participate in Obamacare exchanges.

My husband responds to James Fallows' argument defending California's proposed high speed rail. Fallows argues that there has always been controversy about every big peacetime government project. I don't know, but I wonder how much controversy there was to the Eisenhower highway system or the space program.

Exactly. Chris Cillizza writes that "a political world where only positive ads could be run would be absolutely terrible." People like to complain about negative ads, but those are the ones they remember, not the gauzy ones of the candidate surrounded by his smiling family, American flags and an appropriately diverse group of admiring fans.

Read the essays that California eight graders wrote after being given the assignment to argue for and against the claim that the Holocaust was a hoax.

Charlie C. W. Cooke writes on the story that the Holder Justice Department is investigating a float in a Nebraska town's July 4 parade because it made fun of President Obama by depicting an outhouse labelded "Obama Presidential Library." Apparently, satire of the President is now a federal issue. Because all criticism of The One must be fundamentally racist.
In a typically risible statement, Nebraska’s state Democratic party described the incident as one of the “worst shows of racism and disrespect for the office of the presidency that Nebraska has ever seen.” That this is almost certainly true demonstrates just how much progress the United States has made in the last 50 years — and, in consequence, how extraordinarily difficult the professionally aggrieved are finding it to fill their quotas. If a fairly standard old saw is among the worst things to have happened to the Cornhusker State in recent memory, the country is in rather good shape, n’est-ce pas?

Exactly what it was about the float that rendered it “racist” was, of course, never explained. Instead, the assertion was merely thrown into the ether, ready to be accepted uncritically by the legions of righteously indignant keyboard warriors that lurk around social media as piranhas around a fresh carcass. But, for future reference at least, it would be nice to have the details of the offense unpacked. Are outhouses racist now? Are zombies? Or was it perhaps the overalls in which the zombie was dressed? Moreover, if any of these are now redolent of something sinister, at what point was this association held to be operative? A popular cartoon from 2006 depicted a latrine standing in the middle of the desert, on its outer wall the words “Bush Presidential Library.” Was this “racist,” or is this one of those timeless truths that were only discovered in 2009?

It is always tempting to believe one’s own time to be particularly interesting or fractious, but there is little in politics that is genuinely new. Sharp and violent denunciations of the executive branch have been a feature of American life since the republic’s first days. Before the Revolution, the colonists routinely hanged likenesses of unpopular royal representatives, including King George III; Andrew Oliver, the Massachusetts Distributor of Stamps; and the loyalist Supreme Court justice, Thomas Hutchinson. Afterward, having dispensed with the old guard, Americans took to lambasting the new, among them George Washington, who had effected the king’s defeat; Thomas Jefferson, who had authored the charter of separation; and James Madison, who had drafted the lion’s share of the new Constitution. Chief Justice John Jay’s 1795 treaty with the British was so wildly unpopular among the Jeffersonians that Jay reported being able to travel from Boston to Philadelphia by the light of his burning effigies. Later, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln was subjected to the treatment. In one form or another, most presidents have been.

The modern era has served as no exception to the rule. During his two terms, George W. Bush was the object of considerable opprobrium, his likeness being frequently hanged, knived in the forehead, and even assassinated on prime-time television. At the height of the Left’s umbrage, progressive heroes Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield went so far as to take a twelve-foot effigy of Bush on a national tour, setting fire to it at each stop to the audience’s hearty cheers. Ben and Jerry make ice cream, not apple pie. But their barnstorming road trip could not have been more American. There are few things more indicative of human liberty than the ability to castigate power with impunity — up to and including the moment of offense. “To learn who rules over you,” Voltaire suggested, “simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Is Barack Obama to be a ruler?
Cooke's commentary is so smack on. Anyone who knows anything about American history knows our rich history of satirizing our nation's leaders. When Democrats depicted Lincoln as an ape, was that racist or just derogatory? There's a reason why we have a First Amendment protection for speech. Our Founders had experienced the laws against criticizing the King or royal governors and didn't want to have such a situation here. That is why our nation's Sedition Acts in the Adams administration or during WWI are some of our more shameful federal laws. Apparently, Holder's Justice Department wants to act as if there were a contemporary Sedition Act that outlawed any ridicule of Obama. Since there is no such law, they just have to label such satire as racism and that gives them a hook to spread their tyranny. This is dangerous stuff and a sign of how low the administration is willing to go.

David Sirota, a liberal writing at Salon, describes how Democrats cater to big business to provide them with corporate welfare.

Former senator Judd Gregg has an optimistic view of what might happen if the Republicans were to take the Senate.

Under Obama, the U.S. has declined in terms of economic freedom. What a surprise.

Three more Pinocchios for Obama.

Byron York explains why Obama won't take any action to resolve the crisis on the border.

Yet another official who disparaged Republicans, helped Democrats while working for a supposedly nonpartisan agency and whose hard drive crashed and got recycled before it could be examined. Amasing how that happens, isn't it?

Stuart Rothenberg looks at the key Senate races this year and thinks it's still problematical for the GOP to take the Senate. So they better not get cocky.