Vanity UnFair’s “Me and Mrs Palin” Is a Bit of Odious Fluff (Updated)

Vanity Fair has a piece on Sarah Palin through the eyes of her daughter Bristol’s boyfriend, Levi Johnston. The title itself is slimy, implying that there are cougar-like revelations to be had..

[Please note also the cover with its title,  “Keeping up with the Johnston,” the positioning of Levi’s hand on his stomach and Sarah’s photoshopped face over his hand].

O la la – Mrs. Palin is a glass-eating, baby-making monster because, get this, in her family of five with two working parents, the kids do the cooking and the older kids look after the younger kids. Sheesh. Hang the woman.

You can hear the VF staff tinkle – These conservatives are such hypocwites! (Thanks to whichever lefty writer I saw use that little howl of derision). Don’t they know real “family values” means parents should slave for kids so the kids never learn to take care of themselves?

Yep. We get it. “Family values” means helpless, dependent kids, so teachers and counselors can have harder jobs and state social workers can take over their guardianship and create yet another disenfranchised group in need of governmental protection.

And on another point, who invented the hideous word “kids” for teenagers? There was a time not to long ago when girls of 15 and 16 were married and mothers and boys of that age were working like responsible adults.

Dear Vanity UNFair, the piece said more about you than about the Palins, or the wretched adolescent who’s learned how to father kids out of wed-lock and trash the grandparents of the kid all while still just a precious little “kid.”

What a role-model for a young man. Or maybe he’s just another establishment media hack in training….

Note: Shows you how much the media actually cares about children..or anyone in need of consideration. Nice job to have the father of an out-of-wedlock baby (no moral judgment here, merely a recognition that it’s a baby deserving of a little adult sensitivity to its needs) trash the grandparents with whom dad lived not so long ago.

Smacks of those stories of communist spies or Hitler youth turning children against their parents.

Note:

Here’s a good take by Bill Kristol on an earlier Vanity Fair trash piece on Palin. Not that I see eye to eye with Kristol on foreign policy…or much else… but Kristol, unlike the author of the earlier piece, Todd Purdum, is smart.

Note:

Purdum (husband of Clinton press secretary Dee-dee Myers), was called a “scum-bag” by Bill Clinton….who probably knows whereof he speaks..

Further Note:

Check this fawning piece on Henry Paulson, at Vanity Fair. Funny how Todd Purdum, who finds it so easy to pick on a woman’s child-bearing and rearing decisions, her clothes and social class, has nothing except flattery for Paulson:

“It was February 2008, and Henry M. Paulson Jr., a prince of Wall Street turned secretary of the Treasury, was reflecting on his biggest achievement to date: a $168 billion economic-stimulus package that had passed Congress four days earlier after swift, bipartisan prog ress through both houses. In light of all the later twists and turns that the global financial system and the national economy took, this measure would come to seem quaint and fainthearted. But at the time, it was a very big deal indeed, and Paulson felt justifiably proud. The stimulus had been his baby. Paulson had persuaded George W. Bush, whose relations with both parties in Congress were by then close to toxic, to articulate only the broadest principles, and not to present a detailed plan. Paulson himself, in endless night and weekend negotiations with congressional leaders, had delivered the final package.”

Notice the reference to Paulson’s “delivery” of the treacherous bail-out of America’s fattest cats.

Does the Government Do a Better Job Than the Private Sector?

An excerpt from Bill Blum’s latest anti-Empire report below.

Blum is perfectly correct in his analysis up to a point…and then he misses it.

The “crazed” anti-healthers, while no doubt wrong on many details, and no doubt mixed up in their use of the word socialist (they should say collectivist), are actually more right than he sees…

And the only reason they are wrong at all is because of government intervention in the first place.

I’ll come back to the reasons why later, but meanwhile, here’s the piece. ( I ended up interspersing my comments within the piece).

Note:

It makes all the usual left-liberal mistakes, but since it’s the kind of argument you hear all the time, I’ll post it here anyway – since the best antidote for this kind of thing is free debate.

BB: These good folks wanna get their health care through good ol’ capitalism; better no health care at all than godless-atheist commie health care; better to see your child die than have her saved by a Marxist-Stalinist-collective doctor who works for the government.……

LR: False alternative. . And ad hominem.
What those “screaming crowds” are getting at in confused language is that they want the government out of health care, as well as all the so-called private corporations, lobbyists and professional associations (they’re just a bit confused about the second part). They want to go back to the time when there were simple country doctors who knew their patients individually, helped poor people in their extra hours, and charged what people could afford to pay.

That’s how it was before the government, insurance companies, professional associations and the rest of the racketeers got into the debate.

BB:

A common refrain, explicit or implicit, amongst the recent health-care hecklers is that the government can’t do anything better or cheaper than private corporations. Studies, however, have clearly indicated otherwise. In 2003, US federal agencies examined 17,595 federal jobs and found civil servants to be superior to contractors 89 percent of the time.

LR: Earth to Bill Blum – government contractors are not the private sector. They’re part of the government’s rent-seeking, dependent constituencies because they’re responding to an artificial market.

BB:

Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Boys of Capital have been chortling in their martinis about the death of socialism. ….. Not one socialist government or movement — from the Russian Revolution to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, from Communist China to the FMLN in El Salvador — not one was permitted to rise or fall solely on its own merits; not one was left secure enough to drop its guard against the all-powerful enemy abroad and freely and fully relax control at home.

LR: The Boys of Capital aren’t Austrian free-marketers. They’re statists. But surely, I hope Blum isn’t arguing that the Soviet Union and Communist China killed and robbed their own people, defensively?

BB:

It’s as if the Wright brothers’ first experiments with flying machines all failed because the automobile interests sabotaged each test flight. And then the good and god-fearing folk of the world looked upon these catastrophes, nodded their heads wisely, and intoned solemnly: Humankind shall never fly..”

LR: Flying was a productive technological innovation. Communism is a fatuous theory of social organization that’s been tried on a small-scale (and a few times on a large scale) without any great success.

In any case, who’s stopping anybody from voluntarily sharing his goods, his food, his medicine, his house or his wife with anyone else? People object to being forced into the scheme. Voluntary socialism might well be the most admirable idea ever. But the Soviet Union or Korea or China or the US government aren’t exactly voluntary, are they?

Karen de Coster on Matt Yglesias on Public School Funding…

Hmm..some flying fur:

Matt Yglesias has a blog post called “School for Rich Kids Isn’t Charity” to which Karen de Coster administers several unkindest cuts.

The gist of Yglesias’ argument is that private school tuition money should be taxed because it’s money that really ought to be going to public schools, if those varmint parents only knew their duty to the state.

Well, first, as Ms. de Coster points out, those private school parents (and everyone else) are already paying for public schools through property taxes. So what Yglesias is asking for is a punitive second tax, for the sin of opting out (with your own money) of the free goodies the state wants you to have to make you yet another dependent. A dependent who will then be a reliable vote for expansion of the state.

Ms. de Coster is a CPA who’s probably (?) never taught in a school, private or public. I have.
[Note: this seems to have come off as a brush-off. It’s not meant to be. Just explaining why I think I have something to add, from anecdotal experience, to a theoretical debate].

So let me toss my two cents in.

From my experience (and it’s not extensive), public schools have problems but they’re not caused by lack of money primarily For my part, I made better money teaching in a public school for troubled inner-city children than I ever did teaching in private schools. There was grant money coming to the school. Whether it was usefully spent or not I don’t know. Everyone worked, but the students came from such difficult backgrounds (routine gun fights in their neighborhood, missing parents, pervasive drug addiction, an AIDS patient in one case, malnourishment, street life with its attractions and traps, it was an uphill and probably futile task. The school folded up in three months when the funds suddenly vanished.

Private school wasn’t always much richer but it was different. One of my first jobs teaching in the US was teaching music at a private boy’s school. It was supposedly part-time but I got into the classroom at 6:30 and left only at 3:00, with my time entirely taken up by classes and prep. I was paid $4000 a semester for that. (Fortunately it was only one of three jobs I held at the time). It was probably the hardest work I ever did. There were between 20-35 rather rambunctious boys between the ages of five and 14 who didn’t take kindly to choral instruction, music theory, or my accent. One asked me with disdain why I didn’t look like Vanna White, his heroine (he was nine). Another was so disruptive I had him stand in the corner, where he created more disruption by announcing sotto voce that the art teacher was being undressed by the geography teacher, and he could see it through a hole in the wall. (There was no hole in the wall. Like Saki’s heroine, he was a specialist in romance at short notice).

He was all of five, had a tow head and a face like a cherub, but it didn’t stop him from calling everyone a “d*** face” whenever he had a chance. I finally had to talk to his mother, who received my complaints frostily. Angel-face had already told her that naughty teacher has used the word “wimp” to his preciousness (I’d jokingly told him not to be a wimp but to come up and join the rest of the band)…. which had left him too shaken, poor darling, to continue.

As for “d*** face,” she was sure he would never use such language, she said, in a tone that let me know she was sure I would…..

What I’m saying is that private school can be as tough and underpaid as any public school. And there can be just as uncooperative parents and difficult children.

Money isn’t the main problem with public schools. The problem in the inner cities is the environment in which the school and the children are forced to function; the administrators who have no conception of what’s needed; and a culture that doesn’t support learning.

My high school in India was half-built and lacked running water in one of the labs. I remember sitting on sand in one class. We had no xerox machines, no computers, no type-writers or calculators in the class. There was a broken-down piano (an enormous luxury in India), old books sent to us from America for the library. We loved them for the glossy pictures, lively text and smooth pages. Our own Indian text-books were printed smudgily on cheap paper, rarely had pictures, and tended to be litanies of facts. It was in those old discarded text books that I first read about Robert Fulton and the steam ship and the duel between Burr and Hamilton. It didn’t make a difference that I read it leaning against an old pile of bricks, doodling in the sand, while a nineteen-year old, in a green sari and a huge rose in her bun, sang out the endless details of the Tree-tee of Ver-sigh-liz, while the boys tried to catch her eye.

It didn’t make a difference to our education because there was a culture of learning. The students came from households that were often struggling to pay the bills, for whom uniforms and books and lunch boxes on small middle-class Indian salaries was an enormous sacrifice. But those households placed an extremely high value on learning and accomplishment. They were largely professional or academic families. If a teacher scolded or punished us, our parents took the teacher’s side (for the most part). We didn’t have television to distract us. We had structured time to study at home. We had standards demanded from us. We had people who had a firm grasp, if not of their subject, of the role they had to play in the class room.

Matt Yglesias often has interesting things to say. But on this one, Ms. de Coster is right. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Money isn’t the central problem in public schools. I doubt that it’s even really a major problem.

Swine-Flu is a Man-Made Panic..

My new piece on swine-flu is up at Lew Rockwell.

Please note, I have it as Harold Varnus in the piece. It should be Varmus, as in my previous blog post on the subject. In my defense, I wrote it mostly in very dim light…

“The latest in the barrage of media reports on swine flu is a Bloomberg news report (August 25, 2009) that it might hospitalize 1.8 million patients in the US and over-burden hospital intensive care units.

This comes from a planning scenario released by the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology

The Bloomberg story cites some theatrical numbers:

  • Half of the US population infected (that is, over 150 million people)
  • 300,000 people in hospital intensive care units
  • 30–90,000 people dead
  • By-pass surgery emergency operations disrupted

But hidden in paragraph 5 of the Bloomberg piece is the most pertinent part:

These numbers are only “scenario projections” that were “developed from models put together for planning purposes only,” says a Centers for Disease Control spokesman.

So.

  • Statistical projections.
  • Projections from models of past pandemics. (And not the past, as in 1968 or 1957, but way back, as in 1918.)
  • Projections developed for planning purposes only.

That’s three stages removed from anything you could call reality.

But perish this tenuous link with facts, PCAST wants Obama to rush through vaccine production so that 40 million people can be infect – er – injected by mid-September.

And who should make that decision?

A doctor? The surgeon-general? A medical team?

Why, the homeland security adviser!

That’s John Brennan, a former CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, deputy executive director of the CIA under George Tenet, and the director of the National Counterterrorism Center (CTC) from 2004 to 2005 during the exact period when the CIA became most heavily involved in torture practices in Iraq and elsewhere.”

Note:

I wanted to state here that my social views are quite liberal, and I do not have any objection to voluntary family planning and contraception. I’m also firmly pro-choice. And in terms of the environment, I support far greater consideration by each of us, as individuals and as communities, for animal life, nature, and conservation.

But those are my personal views. Putting the legal and physical force of the corporate- state behind those preferences, in the form that Holdren apparently thinks will work, is, in my view, completely misguided.

A Plague of Locusts: A True Tale from Argentina…..

Reading the history of these regions, I came across this early example of the futility of trying to fend off nature…

No other part of the world has in recent years suffered from such a
plague of locusts as the agricultural districts of Argentina
. They come from the north in clouds that sometimes darken the sun. Some of the swarms have been estimated to be sixty miles long and from twelve to fifteen miles wide. Fields which in the morning stand high with
waving corn, are by evening only comparable to ploughed or burnt lands. Even the roots are eaten up.

In 1907 the Argentine Government organized a bureau for the destruction of locusts, and in 1908 $4,500,000 was placed by Congress at the disposal of this commission. An organized service, embracing thousands of men, is in readiness at any moment to send a force to
any place where danger is reported. Railway trains have been repeatedly stopped, and literally many tons of them have had to be taken off the track. A fine of $100 is imposed upon any settler
failing to report the presence of locust swarms or hopper eggs on his land. Various means are adopted by the land-owner to save what he can from the voracious insects. Men, women and children mount their horses and drive flocks of sheep to and fro over the ground to kill them. A squatter with whom I stayed got his laborers to gallop a troop of mares furiously around his garden to keep them from settling there. All, however, seemed useless. About midsummer the locust lays its eggs under an inch or two of soil. Each female will drop from thirty to fifty eggs, all at the same time, in a mass resembling a head of wheat. As many as 50,000 eggs have been counted in a space
less than three and a half feet square.

During my sojourn in Entre Rios, the province where this insect seems to come in greatest numbers, a law was passed that every man over the age of fourteen years, whether native or foreigner, rich or poor, was compelled to dig out and carry to Government depots, four pounds
weight of locusts’ eggs.
It was supposed that this energetic measure would lessen their numbers. Many tons were collected and burnt, but, I assure the reader, no appreciable difference whatever was made in their legions. The young jumpers came, eating all before them, and
their numbers seemed infinite. Men dug trenches, kindled fires, and burned millions of them. Ditches two yards wide and deep and two hundred feet long were completely filled up by these living waves.
But all efforts were unavailing–the earth remained covered.

“Through Five Republics on Horse-back: Being an Account of Many Wanderings in South America,” G. Whitfield Ray, 1915

My Comment

An apt metaphor for most government intervention..
Efforts to tackle our own plague of locusts are just as futile..

Sometimes nature must take its course…and right now, nature demands that a season of fat be followed by a season of lean..