Daily Archives: February 19, 2009
Yesterday, in a surprisingly foolish move, New York Post cartoonist Sean Delonas attempted to somehow use the story of the Unfortunate Chimpanzee Incident in Connecticut as a visual segue to some sort of commentary on politics. Although, I’m not entirely sure what point was being made.
The reference to writing the next stimulus bill seems to me to be a clear reference to Pres. Obama. He is, after all the guy the guy who’s been out pushing for the thing since day one. They guy who tried to get Republicans and Democrats together to vote for it a bipartisan fashion. The number one cheerleader. He is inextricably linked in the public’s mind with the stimulus bill. We even call it the Obama Stimulus Bill. So, who, then are we supposed to think this cartoon is referring to? Who else could we reasonably infer it refers to?
Now, Obama isn’t the first president who’s been the butt of Chimp references.
He is, however, the first president whose racial heritage includes centuries of invidious comparisons to the great apes.
Which is a shame, actually, because for reasons entirely unrelated to his race, Pres. Obama has a physical feature that is perfect for comparison to a chimp. His ears.
I mean, have you seen them? They are Ferengi-class ears. Lyndon Johnson’s soundhorns were practically unnoticeable by comparison. Sarah Palin may be able to see Russia from her place in Alaska, but with those satellite dishes Mr. Obama carts around on his skull, I bet he hears the occasional Da, and Khorosho! from the bowels of the Kremlin while sitting in the Oval Office. I don’t think Mr Obama is Jesus, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to learn that he does hear it every time a sparrow falls.
But, irrespective of the comedy gold that could be mined from Pres. Obama’s unfortunate auricular appendages, and unlike Mr. Bush, who had some relatively chimp-like expressions, a major newspaper can’t make those same references to any African-American, much less the president of the United States, and expect to elide past the deserved criticism for it.
How then could the cartoonist possibly be blind to the possible inferences that would be drawn? And for that matter, what of the vaunted “layers of editors” the mainstream media employs? The cartoon didn’t raise any red flags in the mind of the Page 6 Editor? the Op/Ed Editor? The Managing Editor?
I simply can’t believe that the staff of a major newspaper were blissfully unaware that even an oblique Obama/chimpanzee reference would be…troublesome. And even if they did, you’d think the dead president reference might raise a red flag or two in the publisher’s suite, wouldn’t you?
Combining that into the dead chimpanzee president has to be almost the apex of bad judgment by a major media outlet.
But, once the cat was out of the bag, the Right couldn’t leave it alone. Instead, the defenders of the cartoon jumped in with their explanations. Her, for example, is John Hinderaker at Powerline:
Readers of the Huffington Post and–who else?–Al Sharpton construe the cartoon as a possibly racist attack on President Obama…There are several problems with this critique. Most obviously, Obama didn’t write the “stimulus” bill. If anyone is being called a chimp, it is Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.
And yet, we don’t call it the Pelosi-Reid Stimulus Bill, do we? How terribly odd. This defense of the cartoon is little short of obtuse.
And Post Editor-n Chief Col Allen isn’t any more convincing.
“The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut,” Allan said in a statement. “It broadly mocks Washington’s efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist.”
I yield to no man in my contempt for Rev. Sharpton, but this is terribly lame. How, in fact, does this broadly mock the stimulus effort. It can’t be a reference to the bill itself. that bill, unfortunately, is not only not dead, it is now the law of the land. From a political point of view, the passage effort was successful. And why the reference to the person who “wrote” the stimulus bill? That person–if not the actual writer, the primary cheerleader for it–is comfortably ensconced in the Oval Office, savoring his victory on this issue, and moving on to mortgage relief.
The only part of Mr. Allen’s statement with which I agree is that it is, in fact, “is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee”. But to what end? If we assume that it is not a reference to the president, then what, exactly is it about? And why do so many people seem to think it is a reference to the president? Why is there no label on the dead ape so that we can know what it is supposed to represent?
You see, the thing about one-panel political cartooning is that it takes an extraordinary amount of talent to provoke a complicated train of thought from a single, hand-drawn picture. You have to be clear, concise, and often humorous, and make a clear, polemical point in one panel. Somehow, the average person thinks the point is entirely different from what Mr. Allen says it is. And that is, as our Soviet friends used to say, “no coincidence.”
Yesterday morning, before this thing had blown into a full-scale brou-ha-ha, The guys at the Opie and Anthony Show had seen it, and they had their producers out on the street, showing the cartoon to the morning commuters on 57th Street in NYC, and asking them, “What do think this cartoon means?”
What they got was a collection of nervous mumbles that amounted to, “Uh, I don’t really know.” “I can’t say.” “Er, uh, I can’t talk right now”. Oh the passersby had time to read it, but when given the chance to express an opinion about it publicly, all of the sudden it was to dense for them to take in, or they had pressing engagements elsewhere.
Which is an interesting reaction, considering Attorney General Eric Holder’s speech on race, coincidentally given yesterday.
“Though the nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” Holder said.
“Though race-related issues continue to occupy a significant portion of our political discussion and though there remain many unresolved racial issues in this nation, we average Americans simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”
The funniest response to that came from a Jeff Emanuel piece at RedState, which was titled, “Hi There, Eric. I Can’t Help But Notice You’re Black. Let’s Talk About How Black You Are.”
Well, we probably don’t talk enough about race. We don’t have those frank exchanges of racial views. Indeed, we don’t even have humorous public statements about race, even tangentially. Because all it takes is for Dom Imus to say something on the radio like, “That’s some nappy-headed hos right there,” and he’s done. Al Sharpton comes around with a group of lusty, gusty fellows to demand your firing, as soon as he hears about it. And you lose your livelihood, because he’ll get it.
If you’re white, there’s no upside to having a talk about race. You run the risk of accidentally or unknowingly saying something insensitive, at which point the best thing that can happen to you is that you’ll be publicly reviled as some sort of bigoted troll. Why take the risk?
Is that cowardice, or simply the result of a prudent calculation of risks and benefits?
No, the only time we talk about race, is when some buffoon like Sean Delonas makes a public faux pas that can’t be ignored. And I don’t see that changing any time soon.
As you recall, the following is partially blamed for getting us into the current housing crisis:
Ever since the credit crisis began, a lot of blame has been heaped on adjustable-rate mortgages, home loans that recalibrate according to market fluctuations. One brand of these innovative mortgages that have come under special criticism has been so-called “exploding A.R.M.’s” that lured borrowers with unusually low teaser rates that then reset skyward a few years later. These have often been derided as predatory, and lenders who offered them accused of luring homeowners into buying homes they couldn’t afford for the long-term.
So is the Obama administration, with its $75 billion mortgage bailout, any better than those previous lenders who were described as “predatory”? Well not according to the plan he’s put forward:
Critics of these might want to check out the Homeowner Stabilization Plan put forward by the Obama administration today. The plan would reduce mortgage payments and interest rates for homeowners who have seen their payments rise to more than 38% of their monthly income. But those reductions last just five years, after which they begin to reset to higher rates. In short, Obama is just drawing out the teaser rates a bit longer.
During the next five years, the Stabilization Plan will encourage lenders to lower loan payment below 38% of the owners’ income and provide subsidies for banks that lower the payments to 31%. The actual rate of payment will be even lower, since the government will also pay homeowners with the reduced rates $1000 a year to stay current on their payments.
After five years however, those government sponsored adjustable-rate mortgages will reset. The Obama adminstration promises they will reset at a moderate phased in level. But the loss of both the subsidy and the $1000 payment will automatically make the monthly payments much more expensive. What’s more, many market watchers expect interest rates will be much higher five years from now, putting additional pressure on mortgage rates. We could, in short, simply be prolonging the housing crisis.
Nothing like kicking the can down the road 5 years is there? The hope, obviously, is that Obama is safely in his second term when this new crisis hits, and, of course, by then he can safely denounce those who default on their mortgages again as people who were given a chance but didn’t take advantage of it.
Now obviously the people who get this “help” can sell their homes in that 5 years (and, of course, that was the idea when many of these people took out the low adjustable rate loans previously – a quick flip. But the market tanked.). However, it will be a buyer’s market in the coming years. So there’s a very good chance that in 5 years we’re going to see the very same problem we have now resurface.
So what are we doing with this 75 billion?
More pain avoidance which, it appears, will simply prolong the problem.
It seems that college students have entirely different expectations than do college professors. Or at least some college professors. Apparently the students see it like this:
“I think putting in a lot of effort should merit a high grade,” Mr. Greenwood said. “What else is there really than the effort that you put in?”
“If you put in all the effort you have and get a C, what is the point?” he added. “If someone goes to every class and reads every chapter in the book and does everything the teacher asks of them and more, then they should be getting an A like their effort deserves. If your maximum effort can only be average in a teacher’s mind, then something is wrong.”
Sarah Kinn, a junior English major at the University of Vermont, agreed, saying, “I feel that if I do all of the readings and attend class regularly that I should be able to achieve a grade of at least a B.”
Essentially the argument is, show up, do the minimum (i.e. all you are asked to do) and you should get an “A”, or at least a “B”.
Merit? Above and beyond the “average” or the “expected”? They don’t seem to enter into their thinking at all.
Yes, as the professors properly identified the problem, it is a false sense of entitlement.
So, now that the problem has been identified, can you pinpoint the source? Well the profs have various views about that.
Professor Greenberger said that the sense of entitlement could be related to increased parental pressure, competition among peers and family members and a heightened sense of achievement anxiety.
Uh, no, but nice try, professor.
Aaron M. Brower, the vice provost for teaching and learning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, offered another theory.
“I think that it stems from their K-12 experiences,” Professor Brower said. “They have become ultra-efficient in test preparation. And this hyper-efficiency has led them to look for a magic formula to get high scores.”
James Hogge, associate dean of the Peabody School of Education at Vanderbilt University, said: “Students often confuse the level of effort with the quality of work. There is a mentality in students that ‘if I work hard, I deserve a high grade.’ “
Oh, oh, oh … so damn close. Where do they get that screwy idea that “level of effort equals quality work”, Dean Hogge? I mean it has to come from somewhere, and apparently it is widespread enough that it is a fairly pervasive phenomenon? Any guesses?
Well, in a nut shell, false entitlement often flows from false self-esteem. Yes, friends, I’m back on that. When little Johnny gets a trophy and a party for being on a 12th place Pee-Wee Baseball team – the very same reward the first place team gets – why in the world wouldn’t he correlate “effort” with “result”? In his case his effort landed him the same rewards as the first place team. So 12th is just as much an “A” as 1st to him, isn’t it? And he gave his all to end up in 12th, so that just has to be good enough, right? Multiply that over a 18 year life time and it isn’t difficult to understand where this sense of entitlement comes from, is it?
When you’re rewarded at the same level as the real achievers throughout life – so you won’t feel like the loser you are and learn from that – two things happen: One, you don’t try to do better because there’s no incentive to do so and two, you feel entitled to the same results as those who actually did achieve something. So it certainly isn’t far fetched for someone to then believe that effort equals achievement and thus entitlement to the best rewards.
Heh … then you finally leave “soft America” and meet “hard America” as Michael Barone calls it. Suddenly reality slaps you in the face, calls you a loser and gives you the “C” you deserve for just doing the expected. The “average”. The same thing you’ve always done and been rewarded with more.
Your world is shattered. You either figure out how big a disservice those who cheered your stunningly average performance up till then have done you and do something positive about it or you wail and whine about how “unfair” you’re being treated and eventually drop out.
In reality, just like our economic remedy, it’s just another example of pain avoidance – something it seems the American public is addicted too these days. The pain avoidance that characterizes the building of false self-esteem can be crippling to a child because the child is given the wrong signals about their abilities and what reality and life expect of them throughout their early formative years. It’s a loser’s way of avoiding reality, except it isn’t the kid doing it to themselves – it’s usually the parents and other enablers who too are in the pain avoidance business.
But the one inescapable truth in this whole process , however, is the fact that reality always finds a way to get through the puny defenses that have been erected and eventually has its way. It’s a pity that many students first discover that in college and many don’t survive the discovery. Had their parents just done their job as parents instead of trying to manage and avoid pain, the kids might be prepared to confront the reality of “hard America” and give it their best instead of being blindsided by it and crushed.
But of course, that smacks of common sense and as our experts are constantly telling us they know much more how our children should be raised than we do. And trust me, given the results, that claim has little to do with common sense.
UPDATE: If you don’t believe this translates into a real world problem all you have to do is listen to Bill Press – or not, as, apparently, most people choose. Here he is in an interview describing why he wants government to ensure his reward via the Fairness Doctrine:
‘I know why I’m interested in it because I get up every morning at 3:45, I do three hours of talk radio every day from six to nine, that’s my life, it’s my business, I want to make money at it, and I want to be heard.
Translation: I make the effort and thus I should have the same rewards (listenership, influence and monetary) as Rush Limbaugh.
Unproven science is apparently going to drive an administrative (instead of legislative) push to regulate carbon dioxide. In the middle of a “crisis” which President Obama calls the worst since the 1930s, the EPA is apparently going to drastically raise the cost to do business in critical sectors:
The Environmental Protection Agency is expected to act for the first time to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that scientists blame for the warming of the planet, according to top Obama administration officials.
The decision, which most likely would play out in stages over a period of months, would have a profound impact on transportation, manufacturing costs and how utilities generate power. It could accelerate the progress of energy and climate change legislation in Congress and form a basis for the United States’ negotiating position at United Nations climate talks set for December in Copenhagen.
Note that none of the “change” appears to be good for the US or its consumers. Instead, we’re likely to see it put even further stress on families on the margin and drive more layoffs and higher unemployment. But the world will love us, or at least the UN.
I don’t think there’s any question at the moment as to whether Obama is going to govern as a centrist or liberal, is there?
I‘m always a little amazed at stories like this. I’m not sure why, given they happen quite often.
A Manhattan jury awarded $2.33 million to a man who lost his leg after drunkenly stumbling onto the path of an oncoming subway train.
Now, you’d think, given that sentence, that there’s no way a jury could hold the subway folks liable because this drunk stumbled in front of their train right? Heck, he had a blood/alcohol level of .18. That’s smoked folks. That’s twice the legal limit if you’re on a highway. But check out the reasoning his attorney used and, obviously, the jury bought:
According to Dibble’s lawyer, Andrew Smiley, NYC Transit rather than Dibble bore primary responsibility for the accident because the subway driver had time to stop the train but did not.
Smiley added that Dibble’s drunkenness did not excuse the driver, who said in a court deposition that he mistook Dibble for an inert object.
“They don’t get a free pass as to why the person was on the tracks. They are trained to be able to look out for people on the tracks … and people are known to be intoxicated by night,” the lawyer said.
“Trained to be able to look out for people on the tracks”? Uh, even if that’s true, how does that excuse Dibble of responsibilityfor being on the track?
That comes in the second line – “people are known to be intoxicated by night”?
No kidding? So tell me Mr. Smiley, had your client been on the road in the same condition, do you supposed a state trooper would have just said, “aw forget it, sir. People get drunk at night. Take it easy?”
And you can bet your house (or the bailout you’re getting for it) that the state trooper would have only held one person responsible for the state Mr. Dibble was in at the time he stopped him.
In this case, my guess is two things happened. One – Mr. Smiley made sure that Mr. Dibble appeared in court looking as pathetic as one could look and used that to play on the sympathy of the jury. Emotional theater. And, two, the MTA was represented by lawyers (not victims) and was thus easy to ignore emotionally. And besides, I’m sure the New Yorkers felt the MTA had deep pockets or insurance or something with which to pay this pathetic creature, right? Of course if their fares go up because of this, they’ll be the first to bitch as well.
But back to the trial. This was my favorite part:
The jury ruled Tuesday that Dibble was 35 percent responsible for the accident, so his monetary compensation was also reduced by 35 percent — from $3,594,943 to $2,336,713.
Really? Good thing I wasn’t on that jury because at worst, it would have been a hung jury. I, unlike this bunch, would have found Mr. Dibble 100% responsible for being where he was and in the condition he was in when the train hit him, and he wouldn’t have gotten a red cent.
If that makes me a cruel and heartless you know what, well so be it.