Via The Washington Post: ‘D.C. Schools Chancellor Bats Away Calls For Resignation After He Sought Special Treatment’

As I see things, by the time institutional rules are being written and enforced not by those with the most talent, making the most sacrifices, with their own skin in the game (the people whose habits, skills and resources you most need), but by secondary and tertiary actors pursuing their interests, there is already a lot of rot.

Public institutions and political parties, at any given time, are full of a lot second- and third-raters, and a lot of rot.  Even among talented people, meaning well and making serious sacrifices, you’ve got to get the incentives right to keep hope of competency and to stay ahead of the rot.

In a voluntary system, the people whose habits, skills and resources you most need often are often the first to flee from the institutions charged with public obligations if they have the resources to do so (it’s not merely a matter of race, but the pursuit of rational self-interest and basic human nature).

Cities are places of serious freedom, competition and inequality.

In inner city schools, particularly, the social problems are often so grave there is little hope, but the below may be a special indicator of rot:

Don’t forget:  It’s the kid ready to learn, eager to engage, with some care and concern for his/her natural gifts who most loses out amongst kids who are maladjusted, acting-up, potentially violent, and who place no internalized value on learning.

It doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t have some moral obligation to our fellow citizens, but I think it does mean that we all need the freedom to discuss the rules governing our interactions with our fellow citizens, and the kinds of arrangements into which we choose to enter. These are reciprocal relationships full of hopes, ambitions and dreams.

Wouldn’t you want as much?

May you let others be free to do as much.

As previously posted:

Full post here.

‘Rhee believed that mayoral control gave her the power to work her will and to ignore dissenters or brush them off as defenders of the status quo. Mayoral control bred arrogance and indifference to dialogue. She didn’t need to listen to anyone because she had the mayor’s unquestioning support. Mayoral control made democratic engagement with parents and teachers unnecessary.’

Diane Ravitch seemed to think that Michelle Rhee didn’t allow the people who need to ulimately take control of their own lives do so…which is why she was voted out.

Yet, the endemic poverty and political corruption in D.C. has led to an untenable situation, not able to be solved by those who hold up ideals of democracy broadly either.

This is still not a reason to get into bed with the status quo, and all the political, ideological and monied interests involved who want to keep things as they are and get their share.

Judge the men of systems, moralizers, rationalists, idealists and utopians not by intentions, but by outcomes:

Also On This Site:  From Reason.Tv: ‘NBC’s Education Summit-Joe Trippi, Michelle Rhee & More’From The Washington Post: ‘D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee To Announce Resignation Wednesday’

Rhee stated much the same here:  She didn’t with the people who I are most involved…Michelle Rhee At Newsweek: “What I’ve Learned”Repost-’Too Much “Quality Control” In Universities?’

Robert Samuelson Via Real Clear Politics: ‘Why School Reform Fails’From The Bellevue Reporter-Walter Backstrom’s: ‘Educational Progress And The Liberal Plantation’

Walter Russell Mead has a series built upon the argument that the ‘blue’ progressive social model (building the Great Society) is defunct because America will have to adjust to new economic and global realities.   In the [then] current post, he focuse[d] on the part of the model that creates and directs government agencies to try and alleviate inner-city poverty and its problems for black folks.

‘This is one danger for the Black middle class and it’s an urgent and obvious one: the good jobs are going away — and they won’t be quite as good anymore.  The second danger is subtler but no less important.  In the past, government work served to integrate ethnic minorities and urban populations into society at large.  In the current atmosphere of sharpening debate over the role and cost of government, the ties of so much of the Black middle class to government employment may make it harder, not easier, for Blacks to take advantage of the opportunities that the emerging Red Age economy offers.’

A quote from John Locke, found here:

For wherever violence is used, and injury done, though by hands appointed to administer Justice, it is still violence and injury, however colour’d with the Name, Pretences, or Forms of Law, the end whereof being to protect and redress the innocent, by an unbiassed application of it, to all who are under it; wherever that is not bona fide done, War is made upon the Sufferers, who having no appeal on Earth to right them, they are left to the only remedy in such Cases, an appeal to Heaven.”

Hard Decisions Regarding Obamacare And More Signs Of The Times

In response to Megan McArdle’s piece: ‘Republicans Should Save These 3 Unpopular Parts Of Obamacare.

Via The Goldwater Institute: ‘Where The Right Shouldn’t Go Wrong On the ACA

‘The usually spot-on McArdle misses the mark this time.

It is no exaggeration to say that, because it is immune from judicial, executive and legislative review and oversight, IPAB is the most dangerous consolidation of unchecked government power in American history. That is why it should be a top priority in ACA repeal efforts.’

Meanwhile, A. Barton Hinkle at Reason has a few suggestions:

‘Obamacare tries to solve the problem of pre-existing conditions the Rube Goldberg way: Make insurers cover individuals no matter what, then guard against people buying coverage only once they get sick by forcing everybody to purchase a policy through the individual mandate—an unprecedented expansion of government power.’

Hard choices will have to be made, choices which may quite literally mean death, or a sooner death, for some people than otherwise would occur.

Yet, in a world of scarce resources, these decisions are being made every day, and this blog believes if you want the greatest number for the greatest good, you must treat health care like the market it is, getting the incentives right and letting as many individuals (you and me) negotiate those hard choices with as many market and price signals as possible.

Once health-care becomes a ‘right,’ it becomes a sacred cow to be slowly milked by people who claim to have the knowledge to milk that cow, but whose claims to knowledge, I don’t believe, can negotiate reality beyond the political and economic influence they seek and the often ideological lights which guide them.

This failure of design will fail more spectacularly in the long-run, and lead to more suffering.


On that note, I don’t necessarily dream of a world of old W.A.S.P. establishment types making the important decisions which affect my life; nepotistic, clubby, but hopefully honorable and capable of broader sacrifice beyond their spheres of belief and interest.

I would just rather have the guys out on the golf-course swapping stories, finding camaraderie and making subtle judgments about each other’s characters to have the right incentives, having to serve customers and do right by their families when possible.

You know, be held to their own past decisions and frankly, not to have too much power.

Let’s spare everyone the bullshit of having any individuals be inherently any better or worse by their status as a group-identity member.

That way lie(s) fiefdoms and Balkanization.

On that note, I would rather as few people as possible getting rich solely through politics, but some signs are not good.

Culturally, I suspect many are drifting towards ideals that will retrench some of the old government/big business connections found throughout the boomer generation, but now with the standard-issue European secular humanistic ideals and their discontents playing a more important role.

Please tell me all the ways I’m wrong, here:

I keep putting up this quote from Ira Stoll:

‘Indeed, if there is a single fact that sums up the state of American political economy at the present moment, it is this: the Boston office building once home to Inc. Magazine and Fast Company, which chronicled and celebrated small and fast-growing businesses, is now the headquarters of a publication called “Compliance Week.”’

There’s Still A War In Afghanistan

Walter Russell Mead: ‘Media Gives President A Pass Again

‘Obama should have been criticized over his smarmy and vacuous claims to have a solution for the problem back in 2008, but the press was more interested in crucifying Bush and wounding McCain than in offering the public a serious account of a genuine dilemma. What was clearly true back in 2008 was that the U.S. had won a difficult and shaky victory in Iraq after a war that should in hindsight not have been launched, while the smaller and more justifiable war in Afghanistan still offered no serious prospect of a happy ending.’

And it still doesn’t…Mead takes the NY Times to task.

Here’s a documentary on the Green Berets passed along by a reader, which has good footage of what American special forces are being asked to do in Afghanistan: The fierce fighting. The tribal, poor and divided loyalties of what come to be Afghan forces. The thuggish tactics of the Taliban:

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Related On This SiteFrom March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanStephen Biddle At Foreign Affairs: ‘Running Out Of Time For Afghan Governance Reform’

Repost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Monday Quotations-Henry KissingerTom Ricks Via Foreign Policy: ‘American General Dies In Afghanistan; An American Lt. Col. Goes Off The Reservation

Pauline Baker At The American Interest: ‘Unraveling Afghanistan’

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To be fair, there is good journalism out there, which this blog looks for, and where the facts, attention to detail, legwork, and good writing offer undeniable value.

A few unsolicited opinions regarding the press:

There seems to be a bent towards supporting whomever’s in power along with a certain amount of conventional wisdom.  News orgs need eyeballs, and like politicians, often traffic in influence and public sentiment.  There are a lot of fingers in the wind.

News orgs don’t like (any more than politicians or companies or all of us, really) to be called on their mistakes and failures. Individual journalists must often bend their work to the demands of their employers and to current public sentiment in the marketplace.

Journalists like to think they are speaking truth to power, but often quite less so when their favored ideals are in power.  Newsroom culture matters. People who want change and are generally suspicious of power often end up in journalism, often in pursuit of their ideals.  Like minds also tend to attract like minds, so people often drift towards certain like-minded outlets across the spectrum.

Personally, I don’t trust any organization to speak for all of the public, nor to ever become institutionalized enough to do so.  I couldn’t possibly do so. The capture inherent in a government-funded org seems too great to not be considered an ultimate threat to pursuing the truth and for liberty more broadly–Too many bad incentives.

A generally liberal-ish set of favored ideals seems shared amongst a majority (the left and activist Left highlighted under the current administration…the current mood very confused).  I’m guessing there are common beliefs such as: History is on a general path towards more freedom, equality and progress.  It’s a noble thing to walk this path and spread the wealth, fairness and knowledge around and be good citizens (see number 1).

The truth value of such ideals is another matter, which wars like the one in Afpak can highlight.

******This, and because the demands of the market, there’s a lot of junk science, dietary advice, human-interest stories, royal-baby watching, some light Kennedy-worship, What-should-we-feel-about-what-we-think-about-our relationship-to-that-new-TV show etc.

It’s hard to take many people seriously at all.

A Concrete Wonderland In D.C.

From Buzzfeed:  The 7 Ugliest Government Buildings In Washington D.C. (Via Althouse)

The author of that post fired for plagiarism.  Let’s hope those are real photos!

The modern art that’s often been left to roam the lobbies and courtyards of large bureaucracies is often curiously bad, and some is on display at the link.

A reader sends a link to a bad public art blog.

Perhaps you’ve caught a glimpse of the strangely familiar in a favorite work of art; being moved deeply, comforted, given some pleasure, frightened. Maybe for a moment some deeper truth seemed to reveal itself to you, and you were free to follow it for awhile, wherever it lead, along some thread of intuition.

Now, why would you want to do that in the lobby of the Department Of Housing & Urban Development?

We should be comforted when corporate/bureaucratic art is bland, bad, and uncommunicative.  After all, do you think you’d trust a bank more or less if it had a shocking modern/pop art sculpture in the lobby?

More broadly, sometimes I worry about the attempt to seek collective purpose and postmodern meaning in modern art, music and even cartoons etc. The flirtations with nihilism can encourage more desperate collectivist/ideological impulses to fill the void. The excesses are many.

As for a critique of Albany Plaza, another modernist/bureaucratic concrete wonderland, here’s Robert Hughes:

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Some snippets of previous posts:

James Lileks responds to an Atlantic piece which reflects upon the modernist influence.  From the Atlantic piece.

‘At their best, the Schiffs can be models for renewing the unquenched aspiration of a century ago, to place art and its imaginative demands at the center of an effort to build a more humane future’

Humane.  Human.  Human rights.  Make it new.  Break with the past.  Shape man’s destiny upon new foundations of knowledge, explore new possibilities, and perhaps shape men themselves.

Why, there’s a whole philosophy under there.  Not a religion necessarily, and not always moral claims to knowledge, but a whole framework nonetheless.

Well, some of it, anyways.

A previous head of the Social Security Administration was also a pretty good poet.

See Also On This Site:  Trying to stick something against his poems: Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The JarWednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens, The Snow ManFriday Poem: Wallace Stevens And A Quote By David Hume

They designed a city in the heart of Brazil that really doesn’t work for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

Adam Freedman At The City Journal: ‘Federalism, Red and Blue’

Full piece here.

Freedman suggests that the steady growth of the federal government, and Washington D.C., could find some relief in a red and blue resistance to being micro-managed:

‘Conservatives may still be the most vocal advocates of greater state autonomy, but federalism is far from a uniquely conservative phenomenon. Indeed, the revival of states’ rights is a movement that has the potential to unite Left and Right while fundamentally changing the balance of power in America’

Related On This Site: Ross Douthat At The NY Times: ‘Washington Versus America’Megan McArdle At The Daily Beast: ‘America’s New Mandarins’Harvey Mansfield At Defining Ideas: ‘Democracy Without Politics?’From Bloggingheads: “Michael Lind Discusses His New Book ‘Land Of Promise’”

Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.  Technology is changing things rapidly, and maybe, as Charles Murray points out, it’s skewing the field toward high IQ positions while simultaneously getting rid of industrial, managerial, clerical, labor intensive office jobs.  Even so,  we can’t cling to the past.