Complain or Deny

In response to my question yesterday at The Federalist, “Why Do Teachers Complain So Much?” one astute commenter posited:

It’s at least partially because so many of them go into the ‘profession’ in order to “make their mark on the world”, to “make a difference”. When your goal in life is nothing less than the transformation of society itself (or any other sufficiently grandiose goal that teachers often cite), there’s a certain amount of hubris involved. And, when you feel stymied in this grand plan of societal salvation, you feel the world deserves to know what happened.

I think that’s pretty accurate. I’ve known teachers who got into it because they recognize what teaching is actually supposed to be—the passing-down of the accumulated knowledge of civilization and the great works of humanity—and I’ve known a few teachers who do it because they simply love it. The entirely accurate stereotype of many teachers, however, is of those who want to “change the world.” Often this does not involve teaching the useful and enlightening things the human race has discovered or produced; many times it involves lecturing your students about whatever fashionable cause or crusade you wish to promote. Whatever other difficulties come with teaching—and there are surely more than a few of them—it must be especially difficult to realize that your majestic vision of “change” was likely grossly overshot.

Meanwhile, across the pond, an article in the Telegraph takes British teachers’ unions to task for their thuggish and childish antics. Mom and Dad raised me to be humble, but one is forced to wonder if the author did not read my article and feel emboldened and inspired by my brazen, chest-thumping American rhetoric. As he writes:

Strikes, boycotts, blocking and chanting: it’s all so negative. Is it any wonder teachers are no longer seen as professional by the wider public? If teachers really want to be taken seriously, all this whingeing and whining must surely stop.

The author evidently composed this piece anonymously, likely for fear of retaliation from the very teachers he criticizes. This is nothing new—this piece in Style has a number of commentators critical of Richmond Public Schools who refuse to be named. If the environment of a school system or a teachers’ union is such that your criticism must remain anonymous out of fear, then the problem goes far beyond mere complaining. But hey, it’s all for the students.

Gun Control Because Gun Control Because Gun Control

According to the New Jersey Star-Ledger’s editorial board,

Thanks to the wealth and power of the gun lobby and its mouthpiece, the National Rifle Association, the modern gun control discussion is effectively one-sided.

That is a demonstrable lie. The National Rifle Association is but one voice in the “modern gun control discussion;” the other voices are numerous, loud and well-funded. In 2012, a pro-gun control commercial was released featuring such faces as “Jamie Foxx, Jason Bateman, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Carey Mulligan, Beyonce, Jeremy Renner, Amy Poehler, Jessica Alba, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, John Legend, Nick Offerman, John Slattery, Selana Gomez, Jennifer Aniston, Jon Hamm, Chris Rock and Conan O’Brien.” That’s just one instance of gun control media, and just a handful of the constant and oft-heard voices calling for increased gun control. When someone tells you that the gun control debate is “one-sided,” what they mean is that their side is continually losing the debate. It’s perfectly understandable that they should get upset over suffering such devastating defeats, but it is disappointing that in their desperation they must resort to lies.

To be fair, this is something of a piece as far as gun control goes. Gun control advocates are continually basing their arguments on counterfactual or evidence-free opinion, such as this one from the editors of the Tampa Bay Times:

It’s called the “bring your gun to a riot” bill. Sheriffs hate it but the National Rifle Association wants it. Guess which side 14 Florida House members from Tampa Bay chose? They stood with the NRA instead of law enforcement and voted to let almost anyone secretly carry a gun during hurricane evacuations and civil disturbances. Their answer to stressful or violent situations is more guns. That is a reckless vote that erodes public safety, and the Senate should protect Floridians and reject this wild west approach.

Following such a promising lede graf, the editors proceed to offer exactly zero evidence that HB 209 is “reckless,” or that it will “erode public safety,” or that Floridians need “protection” from it. If carrying a concealed weapon during hurricanes and riots will lead to more injuries and more deaths, the editors do not tell us. They apparently have no factual basis whatsoever for their opinion, and they do not even attempt to pretend they do. This is often the modus operandi of the gun control lobby—a mess of sentiment and an absolute dearth of  information and data and facts. Talk about recklessness.

Smart Development and Conservation Must Go On

Uh-oh, there’s bad news coming out of the biofuel sector: it’s not as climate-change-friendly as we once thought.

While biofuels are better in the long run, the study says they won’t meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel.

The conclusions deal a blow to proponents of cellulosic biofuels, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal support but have struggled to meet volume targets mandated by law. About half of the initial market in cellulosics is expected to be derived from corn residue.

This is not a “blow” to “proponents of cellulosic biolfuels.” It’s a blow to Americans, who have unwillingly and without recourse funneled “more than a billion dollars” into an industry that has evidently failed in its mission (a mission that was silly and counterproductive to begin with). If this were a private investment, the capitalists who had signed off on this project would now be slinking home red-faced and embarrassed. As it stands, the bureaucratic pencil-pushers who signed off on this inane speculation can simply move on to the next project, the next “biofuel,” and the next billion dollars. It’s not their money, it’s yours. Why should they care?

Not to get all first-principlely on everyone, but sometimes it’s worth it to sit back and think about how much the government simply does—how many ridiculous activities it undertakes—and how much it does poorly. Corn fuel experimentation is the least of it. Witness the headline from the latest press release of the Department of the Interior:

Secretary Jewell Releases Landscape-Scale Mitigation Strategy to Encourage Dual Objectives of Smart Development and Conservation

If you’ve paid taxes in any form recently, some of your tax dollars have gone to this project, whatever the hell it is. Someone in the Department of the Interior thought this up; someone else submitted it for approval; someone else approved it; many people, apparently, thought it was a good idea. Is “landscape-scape mitigation strategy” and “smart development and conservation” the purview of the government? Sure, why not? You don’t want to live in Somalia, do you? This stuff goes on all the time — our government is constantly undertaking expensive projects based upon whatever strikes the fancy of any given bureaucrat, spending lots of money whatever the outcome, and when a 1%-over-ten-years budget cut is proposed, everyone howls that there’s no money to cut, the budget is stretched to the breaking point, if one more dollar is taken out of the budget then babies will starve to death and food inspection will be made illegal and roads will explode. Sleep well tonight knowing that your corn has been biofueled and mitigation strategies have been finalized at the landscape scale: it’s all that’s standing between us and merciless anarchy.

Pigs Are Flying

In a startling turnaround for a federal bureaucracy, the USDA has made a stunning policy announcement that is surely a harbinger of things to come:

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that in an effort to further enhance the biosecurity and health of the US swine herd while maintaining movement of pigs in the US, the USDA will require reporting of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDv) and Swine Delta Coronavirus in order to slow the spread of this disease across the United States…

“USDA has been working closely with the pork industry and our state and federal partners to solve this problem. Together, we have established testing protocols, sequenced the virus and are investigating how the virus is transmitted,” said Vilsack. “Today’s actions will help identify gaps in biosecurity and help us as we work together to stop the spread of these diseases and the damage caused to producers, industry and ultimately consumers.”

Isn’t it remarkable? After years of massive deficits and unsustainable budgets, at least one employee of the United States federal government is finally committed to reducing pork.

If You Drink That, My Feelings Will Be Hurt

James Greiff at Bloomberg View wants you to know:

A refresher course in the work of Louis Pasteur should be mandatory for advocates of so-called raw milk.

Gee, thanks, teacher. The disdainful, supercilious opinion of every anti-raw-milk crusader is that we unscientific 19th-century throwback Luddites must have simply ignored the “science” telling us that pasteurized milk is “safer” than its raw variant. If only we had paid attention in biology class, then people like James Greiff wouldn’t have to worry about us drinking something he doesn’t want us to drink.

[A]n alliance has formed to advance legislation requiring state and federal regulators to end many of the restrictions on unpasteurized milk sales. It’s an unlikely marriage at that, combining the more ardent foes of industrialized farming with the anti-government wing of the political right.

Those promoting raw milk claim — in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary — that pasteurizing milk destroys proteins, enzymes and vitamins that prevent allergies, asthma, even cancer. Of course, there is no proof of this, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, raw and pasteurized milk are nutritionally indistinguishable.

I’ve long ago stopped trying to debate the scientific merits of raw milk with opponents of the stuff; there’s far more stock in telling the nation’s food busybodies to just butt out of our business. Nevertheless, there is a great deal of empirical proof—or scientific evidence, if you’d prefer—that proves raw milk’s superior nutritional content and enzymatic profile as compared to its ridiculous pasteurized cousin; advocates like Ron Schmid and the kooky-but-earnest William Campbell Douglass have been showing this for years. In any event, it’s not “science” that anti-raw-milk people are interested in, but a sneering, preening technological supremacy: “Well, we always get our milk pasteurized—we read our Pasteur, after all.”

There’s no point in debating the merits of legalizing a ten-thousand-year-old food when your debater can only muster the intellectual wherewithal to view the crusade as a “marriage” between “foes of industrialized farming [and] the anti-government wing of the political right,” and whose primary appeal to authority appears to be “foodsafety.gov,” also known as “Your Gateway to Federal Food Safety Information.” As the FDA points out, between 1987 and 2010 there were “at least 133 outbreaks due to the consumption of raw milk and raw milk products.  These outbreaks caused 2,659 cases of illnesses, 269 hospitalizations, 3 deaths, 6 stillbirths and 2 miscarriages.” That’s right: the FDA has determined that raw milk caused .10 deaths per year over a twenty-three-year period, and a grand total of roughly 115 illnesses per year during that period as well. At this rate, it would take around 275 years for the number of deaths associated with raw milk to equal the number of dog attacks in 2012 alone. Who needs a “refresher course” in this case—the people who want to take their chances with raw milk based on its good odds, or the guy who’s so scared of it that he simply can’t bear the thought of anyone else consuming it, and wants to make it illegal for them to do so?

This Time I Know I’m Right!

Remember when all those foreboding climate change doomsday predictions came true over the last forty years or so? Well, unless we act soon, we may have to remember all over again:

Finally, let’s stop thinking that, well, there’s nothing to be done since these changes operate on such a monumental scale. Human beings survived Ice Ages and previous warmings, this thinking goes. They’ll survive this one. Yes, but at what cost? People will die from the impacts. Others will be uprooted. Conflicts are likely. (New research published recently at Smithsonian.com suggests Genghis Khan was aided in his 13th-century predations by a warmer, rainier climate that promoted the growth of steppe grasses that kept his warriors’ horses fed.) And there is the potential for less likely but potentially catastrophic climate-change events, such as the sudden collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheets.

That’s right: one of the justifications for “acting” on climate change is that Genghis Khan’s army of horses was well-fed by warm weather. Global warming apologia increasingly resembles a bad parody of global warming apologia written by unintelligent anti-science evolution-denying right-wing “climate change denialists.”

Anyway, assuming climate change is as real a threat as they say it is, it certainly is worth it to wonder “at what cost” humans would survive it. It’s equally worthwhile–perhaps more so–to investigate “at what cost” humans would have to stop global warming from occurring, such as that proposed by the IPCC:

The recommended solution is a 75 percent reduction in meat and dairy product consumption.

Of course it is: the environmentalist solution to everything is to eat less animal products. The problem, of course, is not the amount of meat and dairy we eat but the ways in which the meat and dairy are produced—a fact that always seems to elude the diehard veggie lobby; the report cited by the IPCC appears to make no distinction between the numerous systems of agriculture one can find in any given country. Hey, why attempt a rigorous examination of the differences between certain modes of agricultural production? Eat less meat, eat more wheatgrass and soybeans.

Meanwhile, the climate continues to send mixed signals to its global warming acolytes:

The calendar says April, but the skies will say snowstorm in northern Wisconsin on Wednesday.

Growing up, I was told by wild-eyed pundits and environmentally-minded peers that global warming meant we’d never see snow again. It turns out that global warming means just about whatever they want it to mean. It must be nice to be in possession of an unfalsifiable ideology, but you shouldn’t be surprised when fewer and fewer people take your ceaseless, frequently-incorrect apocalyptic warnings to heart.

Abolish Self-Reliance!

The United States Department of Agriculture, which may qualify as the most meddlesome and irritating bureaucracy in United States history, has announced plans to ban junk food from all United States high schools:

The USDA said in a statement that “the new standards preserve flexibility for time-honored traditions like fundraisers and bake sales, and provide ample transition time for schools. USDA is committed to working closely with students, parents, school stakeholders and the food and beverage industries to implement the new guidelines, and make the healthy choice the easy choice for America’s young people.”

That’s awful nice of them to “preserve flexibility for time-honored traditions,” though one notices that they apparently can’t be bothered to preserve flexibility for the time-honored American tradition of, you know, self-government. In any event, it always begins with making “the healthy choice the easy choice;” eventually the “healthy choice” will become the mandatory choice when the USDA extends its junk-food-banning oversight to the larger civil society. That sounds far-fetched until you consider that, a few generations ago, it would have likely seemed absurd to suggest that the USDA had the authority to ban junk foods in schools, or ban it anywhere, for that matter.

Here’s another interesting part of the report:

The regulations, which kick in this July, say vending machines are only allowed to sell fruit, dairy products, whole-grain foods, lean-protein products or vegetable items that are less than 200 calories for “snacks” and 350 calories for “entrees…”

Evidently vending machines are capable of dispensing “entrees” now. What boneheaded school official allowed such machines onto school property? What inept parents allow their children to purchase “entrees” from machines in the hallway? The USDA may be a pointless and pernicious bureaucracy that’s fostering a culture of dependency in the upcoming generation, but it is merely the tip of the iceberg in modern society’s widespread failure to do right by our school-aged children.

Don’t Open Your Mouth

Yesterday I wrote about the decrepit and shameful state of Richmond Public Schools, the rotting buildings of RPS proving once again that public education is often run by either unrepentant crooks or incompetent morons. Up in the higher echelons of the American education complex, in contrast, the problems are usually not so staggering in their brazenness, but they are often no less dismaying:

The sorority sisters hung a banner outside their house that referenced the school’s former “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo; it stated: “You can take away our mascot but you can’t take away our pride – Mens 2014 NCAA Frozen Four” – in support of the school’s hockey team in the NCAA Frozen Four in Philadelphia this week.

But some on the campus quickly dubbed the banner “insensitive,” including UND President Robert Kelley, who chided the young women for putting it up during the university’s “Time Out Week,” a campus-wide celebration of Native American culture and history. Making matters worse, the Gamma Phi Beta sorority house is next to the American Indian Student Services building.

I yield to no man in my sympathy for the Native Americans, who were cheated, defrauded, murdered and abused countless times by British colonial authorities and the subsequent United States government. I also must confess to a certain antipathy towards Native American “appropriation” or whatever they’re calling it these days—in any event, I’m not entirely comfortable with team names like “Braves” or “Redskins.” And yet this latest debacle is simply laughable. It’s now considered insensitive not only to “appropriate” a Native American tribe name, but to express your displeasure when it is taken away. The delicate sensibilities of UND cannot even deal with a divergent opinion, let alone political incorrectness.

What’s the remedy for such intolerant free speech?

In a statement released Tuesday, the national Gamma Phi Beta organization condemned the banner and apologized to the UND community, promising to “provide sensitivity training … on the importance of cultural appreciation,” and adding they may impose sanctions on the UND chapter.

That will show those dastardly sorority girls what’s what. There are few things more braindead and interminable than “sensitivity training.” A few years ago, while working at a university, I was forced to attend a three-hour “living our values” sensitivity “workshop.” The word “diversity” was used more times than I thought possible in such a short period, and was used in such a slapdash and slack-jawed manner that I didn’t even really grasp what it meant after, oh, the first ninety minutes. The moderator of the event even implied that it “wasn’t okay” if someone uttered an “offensive remark” in a private conversation. Sensitivity training is more often than not designed to make its participants entirely insensitive to a culture of robust debate and frankness of opinion. For their inexcusable transgression, the Gamma Phi Beta sisters will have to be taught this. “You can’t take away our pride,” they claimed, to which their thin-skinned overlords replied, “Oh yeah? Watch.”

Public School and Other Running Gags

There’s a great article in the latest edition of Richmond’s Style Weekly investigating the rotten state of many buildings occupied by Richmond Public Schools. Longtime residents of Richmond will be unsurprised to learn that RPS has let many of its buildings fall into shocking squalor, yet still, some of the details are jaw-dropping:

Never mind dead rodents — Armstrong fights live ones. It got so bad, she says, that snakes became a problem as well. Led around by an administrator who also doesn’t want to be named, Gray looks at the locker rooms. The girls’ is dominated by peeling paint, rust and a white residue that looks like it should wash off, but doesn’t. The boys’ is faring a little better since the last time she saw it. Shower floors are covered in cigarette butts, but the hardware is newer.

“Armstrong fights live rodents.” How about that? The average teacher’s salary in Richmond rests at over $43,000 (an income over which they no doubt complain bitterly), which is to say that the average teacher in Richmond makes more than most of the planet—and yet our schools are indicative not of a city in a first-world powerhouse but of a slum in a third-world banana republic. There is something distinctly chilling—not merely enraging, but actually unnerving—about an institution that is entrusted to take care of our kids and instead places them in run-down, putrid cesspools for seven hours of the day. The brazen incompetence of the Richmond Public School system should be a source of deep shame for every resident of Richmond, if only because the blundering idiots at RPS likely have no capacity for shame.

Of course, public schools are frequently if not usually the failures of left-liberalism writ large, as one sees in the repeated sentiment found in the paragraph above and the one below:

None of the school staff members accompanying Gray, Larson and Style on the school tours are willing to be identified by name.

Of course they’re not. If the top brass got word that some of the foot soldiers of the Glorious Public School Project were dissatisfied with the filth and the insanity in which they are forced to work—well, heads would have to roll. You can’t have people stepping out of line. Public education in these instances reminds one less of an enterprise for the “common good” and more of a paranoid Communist state, both in the fearful timidity of its victims and the wretched living conditions it inevitably creates. Forward, comrades!