Culture Wars/Current Controversies

America Has Fallen, And It Can’t Get Up

No Adults In The Room :: Your Car Was Asking For It :: Unethical Altruists :: Your Taxes Pay For Therapy For Snowflake Journalists :: Sus Slap On Wrist For J6 Riot Leader :: Errol Musk, Lion Father

Two migrants drag another through barbed wire on the border (Getty Images)

The Border Has Fallen

During the Trump years, Democrats attacked Trump as cruel for separating migrant parents and children.

“A policy that separates young children from their parents isn’t a ‘deterrent.’ It’s unconscionable,”  said Biden in 2018. “A policy that traumatizes children isn’t a bargaining chip. It’s abhorrent.”

But Dr. Paul Wise, a pediatrician in charge of monitoring the treatment of migrant children in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, reports that the Biden administration’s U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been separating children as young as eight from their parents.

“Interviews with parents and children found that there were minimal or no opportunities for phone contact or direct interaction between parent and child,” Wise said in the court filing. “The separation of families and the lack of interaction while in custody do significant, and potentially lasting, harm to children, particularly younger children.”

There’s no denying the crisis. In some areas, the border between Texas and Mexico looks like a refugee camp in sub-Saharan Africa. There are thousands of African and Latin American migrants coming through daily. An astonishing 2.7 million crossed the border last year, and nearly two million will cross this year. A total of 3.8 million have remained in the country since Biden took office.

The Biden administration rightly points out that it tried telling migrants not to come. “Do not come,” said Vice President Kamala Harris in Guatemala in 2021.

But Biden had made clear from 2018 to 2020 that he would reverse President Trump’s immigration policies. And so, many more migrants are coming.

They also do so because they know we won’t turn them away. Doing so would be cruel. Children, babies, and mothers would die. And the photographs and videos of the horror would travel the world in minutes or seconds.

If you doubt that this is true, watch the videos of parents sending their children through barbed wire fences and crossing the dangerous Rio Grande River.

That hardly means we’re helpless to stop the flow. This year, for the first time, US Border Control is encountering more migrants from outside Latin America than from within it. That means people are flying from Africa to Latin America and entering through Mexico.

Is this part of a plan by Democratic leaders to expand the voting rolls? Some Republicans say so. And in California, some progressive politicians want to give undocumented immigrants the right to vote. They already provide official California state driver’s licenses and IDs.

But if that was the plan, it’s turning the nation against them

The migrants are overwhelming not just the state of Texas but also New York, whose Democratic leaders, both Mayor Eric Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul, say bluntly that the city is filled up.

“The national government has turned its back on New York City,” said Adams in April. “This is impacting our schools, public safety, our ability to take care of those who were already in shelters. This is impacting the entire city.” Hochul is now proposing eliminating New York’s “right to shelter” law.

Maybe the progressive Democrats who run Chicago, Illinois, have more room — or compassion?

Not quite. “Let me state this clearly,” said Chicago’s progressive new Mayor. “The city of Chicago cannot go on welcoming new arrivals safely and capably without significant support and immigration policy changes.”

What, then, is to be done?

The Biden administration doesn’t even bother offering an answer. Democrats can only say what must not be done. We must not build a wall. We must not deport. Anyone. We must instead find jobs for the millions of mostly unskilled and uneducated immigrants to the US who, critics say, will drive down working-class wages and tax already over-stressed housing, educational, and health systems.

As a result, we’re seeing a return of child labor to the United States, as slaughterhouses illegally hire teenage migrants on the night shift, who are scalded by caustic chemicals and maimed in industrial accidents.

Just a few weeks ago, New York’s Governor Hochul tried to stay above the battle between New York City Mayor Adams and the Biden White House. That all changed late last month when Hochul took off the kid gloves. “We’ve managed thus far without substantive support from Washington,” she said in what her aides billed as a major speech.

In the end, nobody will be able to measure how much of the crisis is driven by Biden and how much of it is from the collapse of civilization within the African and Latin American nations themselves.

What’s clear is that if we don’t fix this, it won’t be just the border that’s fallen.

— MS

No Adults In The Room

Stacey Abrams comes under fire for not wearing a mask in now-deleted photos  with masked schoolchildren | CNN Politics
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams in 2022 (X/Twitter @StaceyAbrams)

Over the last two years, a growing body of research has shown that school closures during COVID-19 temporarily pushed students behind academically.

But there’s now strong evidence that this learning loss wasn’t temporary. “I teach seventh grade,” one teacher said in a viral TikTok video. “They are still performing on a fourth-grade level.”

A second teacher responded in another viral video. “I also teach seventh grade,” she said, “and we have kids that have math grade level equivalents of first and second grade, third grade, many at fourth grade. Very few at grade level. Very few. If any, in some classes.”

Her students, the teacher explained, cannot read or decode and have no vocabulary or background knowledge. “I’ve never seen anything like it,” she said.

Some of this we already knew, and the teachers’ observations are in line with national data. Test scores have plunged, and chronic absenteeism shows no signs of improving.

But it is shocking to hear from teachers about just how poorly their students are still doing. Academic recovery has stalled for most kids in what some researchers call “education’s Long Covid.”

This is a national crisis that is likely to affect society for years, if not decades, to come.

“This should be a national emergency, yet outside of a small group of policy experts and academics and a handful of politicians, the reaction to America’s massive learning loss has been eerily quiet,” wrote Michael J. Petrelli in The New York Times.

There are many reasons for this lack of outrage and lack of action.

One of the main reasons is that parents have no idea how far behind their kids really are.

Another reason is that many of the people we entrust with children’s education share much of the blame for this crisis, and they, therefore, have no desire to amplify it on the national stage.

Apart from COVID-19 policies, one of the primary factors behind the country’s education fiasco is the use of bad, poorly tested teaching methods and curricula.

For years, schools moved away from phonics-based early literacy instruction in favor of the “balanced literacy” approach developed by Lucy Calkins of Columbia Teachers’ College. This approach was not based on solid research, and it led to a major illiteracy catastrophe for generations of students.

Two weeks ago, in the midst of this growing scandal, Columbia decided to quietly “dissolve” Calkins’ program and put her on an indefinite sabbatical.

One might think that the teachers union would try to address the disaster caused by clueless academics and policymakers, but many union leaders have little concern for the real issues plaguing schools.

This month, the head of the Chicago Teachers Union, Stacy Davis Gates, revealed that she was sending her son to private school despite having called school choice “the choice of racists.” Gates explained that she made this decision because public schools were “struggling to recover.” (Gates herself had advocated for school closures as late as early 2022.)

National union leader Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, appears to be more concerned with fighting culture wars than with fixing public schools. On Wednesday, Weingarten tweeted about a teacher who, she said, had been fired for reading The Diary of Anne Frank to her class.

“THIS Speaks for itself!!!” wrote Weingarten.

The teacher had not, in fact, been fired for reading The Diary of Anne Frank but for reading a graphic adaptation that included sexual dialogue. Parents’ complaints about the sexual content led to the teacher’s firing.

It could still be argued that this firing was unjust, but the fact that Weingarten is spending her time on Twitter misleading the public while seventh graders struggle to read is telling. It “speaks for itself,” as she would say.

American education has become a dysfunctional circus, and most politicians, academics, and union leaders have washed their hands of the problem. No one wants to take responsibility, and everyone wants to pass on the blame. What can we actually expect children to learn in this situation when there are no real adults in the room?

— AG

Deep Fake of the Week

Ouroboros696969 published to Reddit

“The first thing you’ll see if you search Google for “tank man” right now,” wrote  a media commentator last week, “will not be the iconic picture of the unidentified Chinese man who stood in protest in front of a column of tanks leaving Tiananmen Square, but an entirely fake, AI-generated selfie of that historical event.”

As of this morning, Google has “tank man” pop up fourth, just after those iconic pictures from 1989.

— MS

You’ll Own Nothing And Still Be Robbed

Garry Tan 陈嘉兴 — e/acc on X: "At 1AM shortly after Mothers Against Drug  Addiction wrote the names of 100s of overdose victims at SFH City Hall, DPH  got an order to
San Francisco City Councilmember Dean Preston (left) and Jennifer Friedenbach (right) of San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness (Thomas Hawk)

Most progressives would agree that few things epitomize blaming the victim more than telling a rape victim that she was asking for it. Women should be able to walk around in short skirts and other revealing outfits and not fear that they will be sexually assaulted.

And yet progressive officials are increasingly telling victims of other crimes that they are effectively asking for it, say, by leaving valuables in their car or owning a Toyota, since it’s so darn easy to steal their catalytic converters.

“Just as government in the 1980’s launched a massive “buckle up” campaign to retrain drivers/passengers to use seatbelts,” said San Francisco City Councilmember Dean Preston, “we need as a City to pound in every way possible the message to visitors: do not leave anything in your car. Do this & we’ll dramatically reduce car break-ins.”

LA councilwoman Nithya Raman struck a similar note about catalytic converters.

“One of the things that really infuriates me is a company, Toyota, that makes the Prius, that has a device on the cars [a catalytic converter] that is super easy to remove, that is the value of a Mac Book that is put in a place that is incredibly easy to access in a car! And all of the costs are given to us to bear instead of them manufacturing a car that is not so easy to be stolen!”

Obviously, what Raman said is ridiculous, and her told her that, right?

Ha ha. No.

Instead, about a year after Raman’s rant, Los Angeles City Council passed a motion on an 8 to 4 vote that makes it illegal for any person to possess a detached catalytic converter “unless valid documentation or other proof of lawful possession can be produced.”

And California Attorney General Rob Bonta endorsed the thinking of Preston and Raman, saying, in a prepared statement, “Hyundai and Kia made a decision to forgo a standard safety feature that would help protect owners’ investments, and now their customers are paying the price…It’s time for Hyundai and Kia to take responsibility for their poor decision, which is hurting American families and putting public safety at risk.”

Bonta is considered a leading candidate to succeed Gavin Newsom as governor in 2027.

Perhaps all is not lost. The responses to Preston’s post on X/Twitter, several of which came from friends of Public, captured the irony apparently lost on the progressive city council members.

“‘She shouldn’t have worn a shirt skirt’ – Dean Preston,” posted Seneca Scott, a former Oakland mayoral candidate.

“Or just instill consequences for bad behavior and punish criminals,” suggested Jared Klickstein, former homeless addict and author of the outstanding Public essay from earlier this year, “The Secret to Ending Homelessness.”

Continued Klickstein, “You [Preston] being a landlord, imagine rewarding those that didn’t pay rent and punishing those that did. What do you think would happen? Humans react to incentives, and the recent phenomenon of ‘punish good behavior and reward bad behavior’ thing CA has been experimenting with has yielded the obvious results.”

Such a simple point and yet one utterly lost on the deaf ears of Preston and Raman, who can see criminals only as victims and crime victims as owners of property and, thus, by definition, oppressors.

And everyone knows that oppressors are asking for it.

— MS

Lifestyles Of The Rich And Altruistic

Barbara Fried, the mother of former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, leaves after a bail hearing for her son at Manhattan Federal Court on August 11, 2023 in New York City. (Photo by Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Stanford law professors Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried raised their son, crypto-billionaire pioneer Sam Bankman-Fried, known universally as SBF, in a household where morality and ethics were discussed at the dinner table.

Bankman raised his son with utilitarian ethics, which holds that what’s moral can be deduced through reasoning, while Fried emphasized to her son that it’s irrational to punish people for their actions since free will is an illusion.

The result of these two moral frameworks appears to be one of the greatest white-collar crimes in history. The government is accusing SBF of having defrauded investors of billions of dollars in what appears to have effectively been a Ponzi scheme.

It would be wrong, both analytically and morally, to blame the parents of SBF for his alleged crimes. SBF is his own person, after all. He should be held accountable, not his parents.

But that’s entirely the point. Western civilization has, for thousands of years, rested upon the principle of holding individuals to account for their behaviors.

It is notable that Fried, the mother of SBF, disagreed with the idea of personal responsibility. In a long, unoriginal essay published by Boston Review in 2012, Friedman argued that free will is an illusion. We are but creations of our genetics and environments, and thus, we have no free will.

Friedman, in other words, appears to have taught her son the nihilism that would rest at the heart of his Ponzi scheme.

The reason she taught it is because she believes it’s cruel to punish criminals for breaking the law.

The problem with this logic is obvious: even if free will is an illusion, treating it as such gives people permission to do illegal and unethical things. Perhaps it’s an illusion, but it’s a necessary one to have so that people obey the laws and don’t hurt each other.

As for Bankman, he taught his son that brilliant people, like the Bankman-Fried family, could reason their way to right and wrong.

They didn’t need things like traditional values and eternal verities; all of that was barbaric in comparison to their modern and even mathematical ethics, formerly known as utilitarianism and recently re-branded by a British professor as “effective altruism.”

Advocates of effective altruism, like SBF, held that he and other Platonic guardians could, from on high, decide what was best for the world. (Naturally, emerging during the pandemic it was pandemic preparedness.)

But it was also about getting rich. SBF was, temporarily, a billionaire, and now a new lawsuit says that his father felt he wasn’t being paid enough.

“Bankman complained to FTX US Head of Administration that he was receiving gross pay of only $16,667 per month from FTX US,” noted the lawsuit’s complaint, “when he was “supposed to be getting $1M/yr, starting in December. So that would be a bit more than $80,000 a month, gross…”

Gross indeed.

But it worked. Two weeks later, Bankman-Fried gave his parents $10 million and a $16.4 million house in the Bahamas.

It would be one thing if Bankman and his son were just typically greedy Stanford University professors, but Bankman and Fried ostentatiously and consciously raised their son to be ethical.

The lesson couldn’t be clearer: we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss old-fashioned values like honesty, humility, and personal responsibility.

Maybe the reason the Bankman-Frieds so frequently discussed morality and ethics is because they didn’t have any.

— MS

Errol Musk, Lion Father

Errol Musk, the father of tech billionaire Elon Musk who spent his early life in apartheid-era South Africa, poses for a portrait at his house Langebaan, South Africa on May 26, 2022. (Photo by GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP via Getty Images)

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