Friday, October 7, 2011

Top 10 Reads of the Week – October 7, 2011

The President of Contempt – Bret Stephens [Wall Street Journal]

Nixon was tricky. Ford was clumsy. Carter was dour. Reagan was sunny. Bush 41 was prudent. Clinton felt your pain. Bush 43 was stubborn. And Barack Obama is . . .

Early in America's acquaintance with the man who would become the 44th president, the word that typically sprang from media lips to describe him was "cool.".. Read the Rest

Crime, Punishment, and Rehabilitation – Mitch Pearlstein [Center of the American Experiment]

People on the right tend to be enthusiastic about yoking men and women in marriage and about locking bad guys up in prison. To what extent, however, does the latter practice undermine the former?

Research verifies common sense by showing that married men are less likely than single men to break the law. Getting married is thus a good way for a man to help himself avoid getting locked up. But what about single men who have already been charged with committing crimes? They are less attractive marriage partners, not just because they may be incarcerated, but because rap sheets are not conducive to good-paying, family-supporting jobs. By not marrying, they lose a major source of support in straightening out their lives. How can they escape this trap?… Read the Rest

 Obama’s Strategy at Odds With His Message – Josh Kraushaar [National Journal]

President Obama’s reelection is in trouble because of the nation’s troubled economy, but he’s been exacerbating his problems by running a populist campaign at odds with the electoral strategy his advisers have laid out. Not only is his new rhetoric chastising the wealthy to pay their fair share at odds with the president’s well-crafted image of being a post-partisan uniter, but it risks alienating the white-collar professionals that have become an increasingly important part of a winning Democratic coalition.

The president’s team has been arguing that their path to reelection lies in winning battleground states like Colorado, Virginia, and North Carolina—diverse, more affluent white-collar states with growing numbers of independents. But the president’s emphasis on pitting the affluent against the middle-class threatens to push away the very independents he’s seeking to win back. It’s the type of populist message that’s better geared toward blue-collar voters in the Rust Belt, which the campaign sees as close to a lost cause… Read the Rest

Elizabeth Warren and liberalism, twisting the social contract – George Will [Washington Post]

Elizabeth Warren, Harvard law professor and former Obama administration regulator (for consumer protection), is modern liberalism incarnate. As she seeks the Senate seat Democrats held for 57 years before 2010, when Republican Scott Brown impertinently won it, she clarifies the liberal project and the stakes of contemporary politics.

The project is to dilute the concept of individualism, thereby refuting respect for the individual’s zone of sovereignty. The regulatory state, liberalism’s instrument, constantly tries to contract that zone — for the individual’s own good, it says… Read the Rest

A Top 10 Read of the Year

The End of the Future – Peter Thiel [National Review]

Modern Western civilization stands on the twin plinths of science and technology. Taken together, these two interrelated domains reassure us that the 19th-century story of never-ending progress remains intact. Without them, the arguments that we are undergoing cultural decay — ranging from the collapse of art and literature after 1945 to the soft totalitarianism of political correctness in media and academia to the sordid worlds of reality television and popular entertainment — would gather far more force. Liberals often assert that science and technology remain essentially healthy; conservatives sometimes counter that these are false utopias; but the two sides of the culture wars silently agree that the accelerating development and application of the natural sciences continues apace.

Yet during the Great Recession, which began in 2008 and has no end in sight, these great expectations have been supplemented by a desperate necessity. We need high-paying jobs to avoid thinking about how to compete with China and India for low-paying jobs. We need rapid growth to meet the wishful expectations of our retirement plans and our runaway welfare states. We need science and technology to dig us out of our deep economic and financial hole, even though most of us cannot separate science from superstition or technology from magic. In our hearts and minds, we know that desperate optimism will not save us. Progress is neither automatic nor mechanistic; it is rare. Indeed, the unique history of the West proves the exception to the rule that most human beings through the millennia have existed in a naturally brutal, unchanging, and impoverished state. But there is no law that the exceptional rise of the West must continue. So we could do worse than to inquire into the widely held opinion that America is on the wrong track (and has been for some time), to wonder whether Progress is not doing as well as advertised, and perhaps to take exceptional measures to arrest and reverse any decline… Read the Rest

Steve Jobs on education in America – Jim Stergios [’s Rock the Schoolhouse Blog]

SJ: I'm a very big believer in equal opportunity as opposed to equal outcome. I don't believe in equal outcome because unfortunately life's not like that. It would be a pretty boring place if it was. But I really believe in equal opportunity. Equal opportunity to me more than anything means a great education. Maybe even more important than a great family life, but I don't know how to do that. Nobody knows how to do that.

But it pains me because we do know how to provide a great education. We really do. We could make sure that every young child in this country got a great education. We fall far short of that. I know from my own education that if I hadn't encountered two or three individuals that spent extra time with me, I'm sure I would have been in jail. I'm 100% sure that if it hadn't been for Mrs. Hill in fourth grade and a few others, I would have absolutely have ended up in jail.

…The problem there of course is the unions. The unions are the worst thing that ever happened to education because it's not a meritocracy. It turns into a bureaucracy, which is exactly what has happened. The teachers can't teach and administrators run the place and nobody can be fired. It's terrible… Read the Rest

Obama Is No Leader – Michael Barone [National Review Online]

Leadership, said New Jersey governor Chris Christie in his press conference Tuesday announcing he would not reverse his decision not to run for president, is something you can’t be taught or learn. “Leadership today in America has to be about doing the big things and being courageous.”
No one doubts that Christie has shown this kind of leadership in New Jersey. Call him loudmouthed, call him confrontational, but don’t call him wobbly. He leads, and even with a Democratic-majority legislature, the state is moving in his direction.

Things are different on the national level. On the day before Christie spoke in Trenton, the Obama White House officially delivered the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with South Korea, Colombia, and Panama to Congress for approval. That was the 986th day that Barack Obama has been president… Read the Rest

Did Congress Kill the Debit Card? – Daniel Indiviglio [The Atlantic]

Some Americans are outraged that Bank of America intends to charge its customers a $5 fee for using their debit card. And simply switching banks might not help: others are expected to follow. While frustration over yet another bank fee is understandable, this one should surprise no one. Congress acted to cap the debit fees that banks could charge retailers last year, and banks are reacting by directly charging their customers a portion of these lost fees to make up the difference. The move could mean the end of the debit card.

Bank of America is actually being quite straightforward about its rationale for instituting this new fee: it blames the government. A provision from last summer's financial regulation bill promoted by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) capped the fees that banks can charge retailers when customers pay with debit cards. The new rule goes into effect on Saturday… Read the Rest

Sorting out the ‘Extremists’ – Jonah Goldberg [National Review Online]

Brian Phillips is the head of communications for the NYC General Assembly, the group primarily responsible for occupying Wall Street. I learned about him while listening to National Public Radio’s Morning Edition. According to NPR, Phillips is “an ex-Marine with a bachelor’s in computer science. Today he is wearing a sock on his head.”

“My political goal,” Phillips says, “is to overthrow the government.”… Read the Rest

Wall Street Protesters Have Met the Enemy and It Is They – David P. Goldman [Pajamas Media]

America is the land of opportunity, and never before the great housing bubble has a Ponzi scheme drawn such a wide base of support and benefited so many people. This was the most democratic scam in history, and if you got in on the first half of it, you’re still better off. The big losers were not homeowners, but the bankers. A quick look at the numbers shows how misinformed are the protesters running around Wall Street. Instead of picketing the bankers, they should pair off and picket each other. I ran through the numbers recently in an Asia Times Online essay. Here’s the story of the People’s Ponzi scheme in a nutshell:

Household real estate assets rose nearly two-and-a-half times from around $9 trillion in 1998 to $23 trillion at the peak of the bubble in 2006. Bank stocks (a pretty good proxy for bankers’ net worth, as most of compensation for management is in stock) had a smaller bounce, from around 80 on the KBW index to a 2006 peak of 117, a gain of less than 50%… Read the Rest

The Funniest Thing I Saw This Week (also The Most Disturbing Thing I Saw This Week)

Need an explanation of that?  Yeah.  Me too.  It’s here.  And Mark Steyn takes a pretty good stab at explaining the collective lunacy that allows grown adults to participate in self-parody like this, here.

The Funniest Non-Disturbing Thing I Saw This Week

Boston Globe Tailors Print Edition For Three Remaining Subscribers

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