Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cruising the Web

Thomas Edsall finds some intriguing differences between young and old Democrats in recent Pew poll and a Reason Foundation survey of millennials.

John Podhoretz lays out the real differences between Gaza and Israel.
It was nine years ago that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. It was seven years ago that Hamas took control of Gaza following an election in which the terrorist group routed the Palestinian Authority (which controls the West Bank).

The area has been entirely under Palestinian dominion.

Since 2005, Israel’s overall econ­omy has grown almost 60 percent larger, with an annual GDP growth rate of 4.5 percent.

Israel, once the globe’s poorest democracy, ranks 37th among nations in overall GDP and its per-capita income of $31,000 per year makes it the 25th-richest country on Earth.

And Gaza? Its economy is largely frozen. Its per-capita income hovers around $2,000. Because its people elected a terrorist group dedicated to the destruction of Israel, almost all economic ties between the growing economic giant and the basket case have been severed.

No rational outside investor wants to have anything to do with Gaza, given its management and the simple fact that its government seems to be obsessed with getting itself into a destructive war with its neighbor every couple of years.

And not only that, but Gazans exist in a bizarre condition known nowhere else on Earth. Nearly 1.2 million of the area’s 1.5 million residents are classified as “refugees,” notwithstanding the fact that almost all of them were born there. They live in eight “refugee camps” — towns that are now 65 years old.

As Michael Bernstam of the Hoover Institution has written, “These camps were established in 1949 and have been financed ever since by the United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. Yet far from seeking to help residents build a new and better life either in Gaza or elsewhere, UNRWA is paying millions of refugees to perpetuate their refugee status, generation after generation, as they await their forcible return to the land inside the State of Israel.”
Remember how, when Israel pulled out of Gaza they left behind fully equipped greenhouses that could have been used for jobs and producing food. But instead, these greenhouses were quickly looted and rendered useless. It was emblematic of how little interest there was in preserving law and order and growing the economy there was there.

Diane Ravitch is the David Brock of education reform. She's totally flipped positions and now spends her time attacking those ideas that she used to support. Peter Wehner has a good summary of links about her present vituperation against education reformers. Now it's Campbell Brown, the former CNN reporter who is now working hard for education reform. Apparently, Ravitch finds opposition to teacher tenure totally inexplicable. Why should teaching be one of few careers in the country for which people get a lifetime guarantee of employment regardless of performance? (Well, there is government work, but the same theory applies.) I happen to be a teacher who had tenure in the regular public school system and gave it up to teach in a charter school. And I did it happily. I'd always been against the idea of tenure philosophically and when it turned out that a job that I wanted came without tenure I figured it was time to put my career where my mouth was. I like working at a place where I know that the principal has the power to let go teachers who aren't working out. He will give them plenty of opportunities and help to improve, but the bottom line is that we're here for the students, not vice versa. The teachers unions don't seem to believe that. Just look at how the unions pressured Bill de Blasio to get them out of a negotiated requirement to tutor students. I've heard teachers talk of the union reps at their school criticizing them for coming in early and staying late to work with students. I've heard of teachers striking in the Fall and refusing to write college recommendations and defend themselves by saying it is the only way to get what they're demanding. I despise the idea of holding students hostage to teacher demands. I've seen teachers in the school were I taught who were so incompetent that students were jumping out the window and the teacher couldn't stop them. One teacher came to school reeking of alcohol everyday. But they had tenure and so they stayed on or got passed around to other schools because no one could get rid of them. If Diane Ravitch really knew what went on in some schools, she might realize why teacher tenure has become so pernicious.

Congratulations to Professor Mike Adams who has won his fight against UNC-Wilmington for discriminating against him because of his conservative views.

Karl Rove lays out a good roadmap for Republicans on how to run against Obamacare. Bobby Jindal is taking that advice.

Matt Lewis has some advice on how to become a cable-news pundit.

John Dickerson at Slate has had it with Obama's hypocrisy on photo ops.
So no wonder people hear there is a crisis at the border and want to see him there. He’s conditioned them to think that when something is serious, he pays it a visit. If you release pictures of the president in the Situation Room showing he’s on the case in one instance (when maybe you’re trying to milk the drama of the moment), then people are going to expect a Situation Room photograph from the night of the Benghazi attack or from the first night of unrest in Ukraine. A president can’t suddenly get virginal about the theatricality of photo ops when it doesn’t suit him. It rightfully makes us suspicious of him when he does.
Even Maureen Dowd is fed up.
The White House likes to use a phrase of tingling adventure to describe the president’s recent penchant for wandering the country talking to people: “The bear is loose.”

There are three problems with this unbearable metaphor: Barack Obama is not in captivity, he’s not a bear, and he’s not loose. As Voltaire said of the Holy Roman Empire, it was “neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.”

When our whippetlike president travels on Air Force One from staged photo-op to staged photo-op and then to coinciding fund-raiser to coinciding fund-raiser, encased by the White House travel behemoth and press centipede, that’s kind of the opposite of breaking loose.

Somehow, I thought that the tech revolution in campaigns would usher in fresh ways for presidents to communicate. In the age of Snapchat, I didn’t think presidents would still be crisscrossing the country to do hokey snaps of chats.

So let's get this straight. Joe Biden is now promising young liberals that, although his administration wasn't able to accomplish the change that was promised in 2008, we can still get that change if young people will just work for it. Huh? I never understood exactly what that change was supposed to be, but now Biden is admitting that he and Obama didn't get the job done. But if we click our heels together and wish for it, that amorphous change can still happen. This is what happens when politicians promise us abstract nouns without telling us what they mean by "hope and change" and what we'll have to endure to accomplish that. And does anyone think that Joe Biden is somehow the guy who can bring about that change?

Jonah Goldberg writes about how much of our culture is more conservative than we might think.
Conservatives refuse to celebrate, or even notice, how much of the popular culture is on their side.

Sure, Hollywood is generally very liberal, but America isn’t. Judging by their campaign donations, Hollywood liberals are very supportive of abortion rights. But there’s a reason why sitcoms since Maude haven’t had a lot of storylines about abortion. Indeed, nearly every pregnant TV character treats her unborn child as if it’s already a human being.

The Left may be anti-military, but such movies tend to do poorly, which is why we see more pro-military films. Similarly, it’s a safe bet that Hollywood liberals loathe guns. But you wouldn’t know that by what they produce. Not many action stars save the day by quoting a poem. Most Hollywood liberals probably oppose the death penalty, yet they make lots of movies where the bad guy meets a grisly death to the cheers of the audience. The Left rolls its eyes at “family values,” but family values are at the heart of most successful sitcoms and dramas.

One explanation is that while it is true that culture is upstream from politics, reality and, I would argue, morality are upstream from culture. Good stories must align with reality and a sense of justice. They can be set in space or Middle Earth, but if they don’t tap into something real about the human condition, they will fail. As Margaret Thatcher used to say, “The facts of life are conservative.”
I'll add in one other aspect of culture that is actually quite traditional. It's one of my secret vices - contemporary romance novels. Every good romance novel is heading towards a HEA or a "happily ever after" which includes marriage. Sure there is a lot of sex, but if a woman gets pregnant, she never even thinks of an abortion. And the reader knows that she'll be planning on marriage by the end of the book. If there are gay characters, they are almost always in committed, longtime relationships. Many of the heroes are former military and, while they might have some painful memories and a bit of PTSD, they also display a sense of honor that we value in our military. If the hero isn't military, he'll often be a policeman, FBI agent, or fireman. Or, if he's a wealthy businessman, he's earned his wealth by hard work and sharp ideas. Often the heroine is beginning a new stage in her life by starting a new small business. And, if they fall on tough times, they work on their own or with the help of family and friends to make it. They're not looking to government to help them. Many of the stories take place in small communities where people care about each other and are always willing to help out. Romance novels are the biggest sector of the publishing industry. Check out the stats on who reads romance novels. And I would be willing to wager that, for some women, they read a lot more romance novels than they watch Hollywood films. So, that is one aspect of popular culture that a lot of women (and some men) are reading and enjoying even if the values in those books are quite traditional.