American Sense of Life vs. Hollywood

Although it’s old news, I learned about it only in the last week or so via Facebook: “A bipartisan group of Congressmen introduced a bill [in May of this year] that would stop costly first-class flights by lawmakers at taxpayer expense and force representatives and senators to fly coach.” The four Congressmen who sponsored the bill are evidence that at least some in Washington have retained an important element of what Ayn Rand called the “American Sense of Life.” In her essay, “Don’t Let It Go,” she described various aspects of this sense of life, this implicit philosophy that American share and that, Rand thinks, has saved us (so far) from being taken over by a totalitarian dictator. One aspect, Rand wrote, is that Americans “feel that a government official is a human being, just as they are, who has chosen this particular line of work and has earned a certain distinction.” So, while we may feel respect for our government officials, “it is the respect of equals.”

Travel west to Hollywood and you’ll find quite a different attitude. Gwyneth Paltrow, herself a celebrity who one would think would see herself as equal to a politician, apparently fell all over herself when introducing Barack Obama at a fundraiser in her home. “You’re so handsome that I can’t speak properly,” quipped the recently consciously uncoupled actress.

What’s even more disturbing is that Paltrow seems to see no problem with the idea of Obama being exempt from the rule of law, from the Constitutional limitations that plague mere mortal presidents: “It would be wonderful if we were able to give this man all of the power that he needs to pass the things that he needs to pass,” she said.

Travel north to Silicon Valley for the most heartening example of the American Sense of Life—in particular, the focus on achievement and independence—that I’ve read about this week. Jony Ive, in a rare on-stage interview, described how Steve Jobs taught him about the importance of focus, and how he agreed with Jobs that, if you said no to other activities, opportunities or projects, it was not a sacrifice because “I wasn’t vaguely interested in doing those things anyway….” (I assume he meant that, in the context of what he was currently working on, he wasn’t vaguely interested in doing those things he said no to.)

Even more awesome than that was an exchange Ive recalls having with Jobs over the latter’s famously harsh critiques of the work product of members of their design team. Ive asked Jobs whether he would consider softening the critiques.

And he said, ‘Well, why?’

And I said, ‘Because I care about the team.’

And he said this brutally brilliantly insightful thing, what he said was, ‘No Jony, you’re just really vain.’

‘Oh.’

‘No, you just want people to like you. And I’m surprised at you because I thought you really held the work up as the most important, not how you believed you were perceived by other people.’

And I was terribly cross because I knew he was right.

I sure hope Ive stays at Apple, and stays healthy and productive, for the rest of a very long life. (Much longer than 75!)

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Squandering Political Capital

While there’s little chance of this story distracting from Obama’s failure effectively to deal with ISIS/Ebola/Economy, the White House is facing another scandal as the Washington Post reports that Obama aides “knew of possible White House link to Cartagena, Columbia prostitution scandal.” The article states that “new details drawn from government documents and interviews show that senior White House aides were given information at the time suggesting that a prostitute was an overnight guest in the hotel room of a presidential advance-team member — yet that information was never thoroughly investigated or publicly acknowledged.”

Read more here. Even if no particular action is taken in response to the latest of many lies told by the Obama administration, it’s nice to see what little credibility he has left be further eroded. It’s not surprising to see that, as this AP Story reports, Obama allies are “getting harder to find.”

It may turn out that during the last two years of his presidency, all Obama will have is his pen and his phone—without many people being willing to pick up the phone. (Certainly government bureaucrats should be less willing to pick up the phone, if they don’t want to end up in Lois Lerner’s situation.)

While I’m happy to see Obama squander what little political capital he has left, I was sorry to see this week that Ted Cruz—who may be the best, potentially electable candidate for 2016—denounced the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear any of the same-sex marriage cases. He has even vowed to introduce a Constitutional Amendment defending “traditional marriage.” I have loved Cruz’s principled stand on free speech, Obamacare, and other crucial issues, and here I think that Cruz is not only wrong (I support same-sex marriage), but that he is also wasting time, energy and political capital. I feel like I could quote right back to him the beginning of the speech he made in opposition to the Senate Democrats’ proposed Constitutional Amendment to curb free speech. In fact, I hope the Democrats do that.

Given that the 2014 elections are nearly upon us, I was happy to see Jason Mattera help Senate Majority Fossil Harry Reid squander a bunch of his political capital this week. It seems Mr. Reid doesn’t like being questioned about his multi-million-dollar net worth. Reid’s “aide” (as one source called him) actually physically attacked Mattera, who was doing nothing more than asking Reid how he made so much money while living on a government salary his entire career. Reid has vehemently denounced the Koch brothers, who spend their own money to influence politics so that politics doesn’t have as much influence over our lives. In the meantime, Majority Fossil Reid has apparently used political influence—and our tax dollars—to line his own pockets. It’s time we showed him the door.

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American Sense of Life vs. Government Schools

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, best known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, spoke at the Intellectual Property Expo in London today. Among the controversial statements to the press made by Sir Tim in the hours leading up to the event, is his assertion that “computers are getting smarter and we are not.” What should we do? Paraphrases Matt Warman of The Telegraph, “The only solution, he argues, is for people to embrace new technology, and accept that some jobs will simply disappear.”

One sort of job that will not disappear, predicts Sir Tim, is that of software developers. In fact, the demand for software developers, he thinks, will be limited only by our imagination:

I think in a way with software if people are interested in writing it, it’s not that there’s a certain amount of software that needs to be written. What you do with it is limited only by your imagination. If your imagination limited, OK. But some of it can be very artistic some of it can be very practical.

Those of us who embrace new technology, and who realize that everything comes with a cost, accept the inevitable job displacement that often accompanies innovation. We realize that the way to thrive, now and in the future, is by ensuring that we and our children receive a quality education that will allow us to adapt to a changing job market.

But will our government permit us to do this?

Parents who choose to send their kids to government schools are finding they are able to exercise less and less control over their children’s education. Many states across the country are still in the process of implementing Common Core, in which the curriculum–which some have complained will indoctrinate and dumb-down our children to an even greater degree than before–is dictated by a federally-appointed body. Those states that are implementing Common Core are being bribed, with our tax dollars, to get as many children as possible to take and pass–whatever that means–a series of standardized tests based on the Common Core. Now, in Wyoming, the Attorney General has, according to the Daily Caller, “officially advised the Wyoming Department of Education that it is illegal for parents to opt their own children out of statewide standardized assessment tests given in taxpayer-funded public schools.” Illegal to keep your own children home on the day the tests are administered because you don’t want their brains–or egos–to be turned into mush.

Think you can escape the effects of the Common Core by choosing to homeschool your child? Think again.

On Sept. 18 The Examiner reported that a New Jersey family that was homeschooling their children “received a notice from the local Superintendent of Schools that they must adhere to Common Core standards.” The Home School Legal Defense Association is there to help the parents fight back, but given the increasing popularity of the homeschooling movement (see this story, for example, about the increase in the rate of homeschooling in NC), I doubt this will be the last we’ll see of this sort of power grab.

Thankfully the American sense of life seems to be alive and well in parents throughout the country: The Daily Caller reports today that a recently published study shows that the public–and, in particular, parents at the local level in school districts throughout the country–is increasingly turning against the Common Core. (You may rightfully experience satisfaction that the study was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which supports Common Core.)

When surveyed, 34 percent of district leaders described resistance from outside the school system as a major challenge to implementing Common Core, and another 39 percent described it as a minor challenge (18 percent said it was not a challenge at all).

That is a dramatic shift from 2011, when only 5 percent of district leaders said outside resistance was a major problem, 35 percent said it was a minor one, and 60 percent said it wasn’t a problem.

And of course the report found that implementing Common Core, as with any other government program, will cost more than originally projected: “[A]ll is not well even for district heads, who are adamant that more time, effort, and money than initially expected will be necessary for Common Core to work.”

Read more of The Daily Caller’s summary here.

As Ayn Rand wrote in her essay, “Don’t Let It Go,” “An American is an independent entity….[and] has no concept of service (or of servitude) to anyone.” Let’s hope that parents will continue to embrace this attitude and resist Common Core—and that they are able to overcome the bureaucratic inertia that already exists in the curriculum’s favor. Eventually, of course, my hope is that a substantial minority of parents in our country will join the abolitionist movement, but for now it is the Common Core that must be defeated.

(Those who need extra concrete motivation to join the abolitionist movement: Check out this story, in which we learn that a chain of Ohio “charter schools,” which are government-funded, but privately run, and are supposed to provide a higher quality alternative to “traditional” government schools, are hiring a large number of Turkish teachers of dubious qualification.)

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