Kejda Gjermani her miscellaneous musings

12Jan/111

Are Chinese Mothers Superior?

Amy Chua and her daughter

Amy Chua and her daughter

A certain essay appeared in the Wall Street Journal last Saturday, titled "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," to which one excerpted reaction from the Journal community itself was "I am in disbelief after reading this article." What I am in disbelief about, after reading the article, is that the Journal published it. The author is a Chinese mother, Amy Chua—a professor of law at Yale perhaps best known for writing the New York Times bestseller World on Fire.

The essay affirms that stereotypical Chinese parenting produces stereotypical cases of success for the children raised in that fashion—impeccable grade reports, precocious competence in the violin and piano (but mind you, those instruments and no other!), and fortitude of mind in the child to boot—and it explains how all this can be achieved by drawing on representative episodes from the author's own experience as a Chinese mother. The most instructive and blood-chilling of these is the story of how little Lulu, Chua's youngest daughter, was compelled to learn, just in time for her piano recital, how to play "The Little White Donkey"—a most difficult piece, apparently requiring uncommon ambidexterity and, one would think, rapid and fluent communication between the hemispheres of a seven-year-old's brain, across its not fully developed corpus callosum:

Lulu couldn't do it. We worked on it nonstop for a week, drilling each of her hands separately, over and over. But whenever we tried putting the hands together, one always morphed into the other, and everything fell apart. Finally, the day before her lesson, Lulu announced in exasperation that she was giving up and stomped off. "Get back to the piano now," I ordered.... She punched, thrashed and kicked. She grabbed the music score and tore it to shreds. I taped the score back together and encased it in a plastic shield so that it could never be destroyed again. Then I hauled Lulu's dollhouse to the car and told her I'd donate it to the Salvation Army piece by piece if she didn't have "The Little White Donkey" perfect by the next day. When Lulu said, "I thought you were going to the Salvation Army, why are you still here?" I threatened her with no lunch, no dinner, no Christmas or Hanukkah presents, no birthday parties for two, three, four years. When she still kept playing it wrong, I told her she was purposely working herself into a frenzy because she was secretly afraid she couldn't do it. I told her to stop being lazy, cowardly, self-indulgent and pathetic.... I used every weapon and tactic I could think of. We worked right through dinner into the night, and I wouldn't let Lulu get up, not for water, not even to go to the bathroom. The house became a war zone, and I lost my voice yelling, but still there seemed to be only negative progress.... Then, out of the blue, Lulu did it. Her hands suddenly came together—her right and left hands each doing their own imperturbable thing—just like that.

The author beams with pride over this "success story" and seems to consider it a vindication of her school of parenting against all naysayers. And throughout the article, starting from its title, she does little to disguise her scorn for Western parents, their tolerance for underachievement in their own children, and their squeamishness at the sight or report of the treatment other (luckier) children undergo everyday in the hands of their Chinese mothers.

Having been long convinced that nothing harms stereotypical Western children more than their parents' stereotypical laxness, I nevertheless find appalling much of what Chua states and even more of what she implies. Perhaps the foibles of modern Western parenting have grown so obvious and so ridiculous that any criticism of them is allowed to stick and any proposed alternative is welcomed; the more diametrically opposed to the status quo, the better even. But what Chua is prescribing in her article should not be rashly applauded by even the most frustrated critics of modern parenting mores.

Read the rest in Commentary.

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21Jul/101

New Best Friends in the Balkans

Some news you might have missed last week: Serbia and Turkey have inaugurated a series of unprecedented initiatives of military and diplomatic intimacy, including joint aviation exercises and a mutual abolition of visas. The timing of these gallantries is rather ironic, as it coincides with the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, which marks the extermination of more than 8,000 Bosnians, mostly boys and men, as well as the ethnic cleansing of some 25,000 to 30,000 more—which extermination and concomitant ethnic cleansing the Serb perpetrators justified in the name of “driving out the Turks” (i.e., the Bosnian Muslims).

This was the first year the Serbian government ever condemned the massacre—a humbling gesture aimed at smoothing its path toward EU membership. Some may consider this an occasion of which Serbia has availed itself in order to also mend fences with Turkey—a party its war slogans of 15 years ago had indirectly offended. But it is far more likely that the two developments bear no more relation to each other than did the Serbs’ genocide against the Bosnians and their animosity toward the Turks—which is to say, none at all.

What this newly forged friendship between Serbia and Turkey actually represents is a miniature replica of the trend in the relationship between their respective patrons, Russia and Iran, who have recently grown very close. For, of late, Turkey has become a firm node of the Iran-Syria-Venezuela axis, and as for Serbia, well—as an independent state, Serbia has not exercised any political free will of its own since the Middle Ages without first consulting Russia’s interests. And while under that whipped fluff of much-talked-about UN sanctions the ties between Iran and Russia continue to flourish, so do those of their proxies in the Balkans.

Read the rest at Commentary.

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12Jul/100

The Problem of Economic Calculation

Census 2010This morning, while riding the express train to work, I stood facing one of those ubiquitous census ads and, for the first time, began considering its wording in earnest. I am sure you’ve seen it too: “If we don’t know how many schoolchildren we have, how can we know how many schools to build? … If we don’t know how many people we have, how can we know how many hospitals to build?” And so on and so forth.

That the government should still pose such questions—innocent as they are—suggests that the so-called problem of economic calculation afflicts the endeavors of central planners today no less than it did in the 1920s, when Ludwig Von Mises first set it forth. Not only that, but the government has also failed to find tools more efficacious in tackling this problem than the nationwide survey—that is, the census. And what a crude device that is!

For one thing, any information collected through it soon becomes outdated, since the census is taken at intervals of no less than 10 years, during which time a lot can happen in terms of economic development and population shifts. For another, delivering the surveys to every doorstep in the country, entreating the citizens to fill them out, and ensuring that a tolerable number of them actually do so amounts to an onerous affair not cheap to orchestrate—as is plainly evinced by the handsome budget of $11.3 billion allocated to the accomplishment thereof. And for all the pains that go into collecting it, this information winds up reaching the government incomplete and only approximately accurate—the proportion of falsified surveys that alloy the census results being a matter of contentious and largely partisan debate.

Read the rest at Commentary.

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15Jun/101

Republicans and Immigration—The Elephant in the Room

Jennifer Rubin draws attention to the elephant in the room—that is, the GOP’s unfortunate posturing toward immigration, of which John McCain has lately become the embodiment.

It should be of some consolation that before he could find someone to cast in the nativist role he sought, McCain had to do quite a bit of fruitless searching and, in the end, resort to “synthesizing” his ad from the scenery of a border town and the commentary of a sheriff from a different county. Indeed, the sheriff who enthusiastically confirms McCain’s bona fides as “one of us”—whatever that means—hails from Pinal county, not even on the border, while the ad is shot in Nogales, a border town in the county of Santa Cruz, whose sheriff, Antonio Estrada, has blasted the Arizona immigration bill in no uncertain terms:

“Local law enforcement has a great relationship with the Hispanic community, and something like this is really going to scare these people,” said [Sheriff] Estrada. “They’re going to look at us as immigration officers every time they see us.”

Clarence Dupnik, the sheriff of Pima—another county in Southern Arizona, which shares with Mexico the longest border in the state—has called the bill “disgusting,” “racist,” and “unnecessary.”

The ad merely reveals McCain to be a politician, evidently less principled than his supporters took him for in 2008. His presidential ambitions now thwarted, in order to at least not lose his Senate seat, he has gone to great lengths—as far as to endorse the anti-immigration bill of Arizona after having supported the pro-immigration bill of President Bush. But no matter that a politician should flip-flop. Most troubling is the fact that McCain judged this ad expedient because it can find a sympathetic audience among the GOP base.

Read the rest at Commentary.

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8Jun/100

Ass-Kicker in Chief

In an interview with NBC, President Obama sets the record straight with respect to his administration’s much-criticized handling of the oil-spill crisis. Far from flailing in his response to the environmental disaster, Obama has been way ahead of the curve all along. As early as a month ago, he assures us, he was facing the elements down in the Gulf, gaining first-hand intelligence from local fishermen on “whose a** to kick.”

Read the rest at Commentary.

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21May/100

Rand Paul’s Rocky Start

Rand Paul, son of Ron PaulJen, when you say of Rand Paul, “here’s some free advice: don’t trot out his father, Ron Paul, to defend him—it will give voters the sense that Rand is as wacky as his dad,” I am uncertain whether the advice goes far enough. Some of Ron Paul’s ideas and pronouncements are so disturbing and extremist that it may be incumbent upon Rand Paul not only to evade his father’s endorsement but also to distance himself from his unacceptable positions publicly.

Not only the Tea Party protests but also the silent rancor of the public at large seems fueled by outrage at this administration’s fiscal abandon—which tends to overshadow considerations of foreign policy or social issues. It is therefore unfortunate and possibly dangerous that some of the most ardent and sincere champions of fiscal sobriety hail from the Paulian circle and thus carry a lot of undesirable baggage. Voters must take or leave these controversial candidates as a whole—the good along with the bad and the ugly.

During the 2008 presidential race, I came across a great number of well-meaning people so taken with Ron Paul’s promises of fiscal constraint and economic laissez faire—as sorely wanting then as today—that they ignored, denied, or rationalized his noxious standpoint on social matters, his ridiculous prescriptions on foreign policy, his illiberal writings on race relations, and even his connections with anti-Semites. It is possible for the reverse of this phenomenon—that is, wholesale acceptance or rejection—to backfire now for Rand Paul: natural antipathy to his social conservatism (e.g., his advocacy for a complete ban on abortion), his isolationist foreign policy, and his controversial comments on the Civil Rights Act, might, by association, extend in the minds of undecided voters to his agenda of limited government and fiscal conservatism.

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

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2Apr/101

Cutting Angels’ Wings

Senator Chris DoddCongress has passed or contemplated so many blunders of late that I, for one, am finding it harder and harder to muster fresh outrage toward every new one. But this latest being cooked up by Chris Dodd deserves a special shout out:

First, Dodd’s bill would require startups raising funding to register with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and then wait 120 days for the SEC to review their filing. A second provision raises the wealth requirements for an “accredited investor” who can invest in startups—if the bill passes, investors would need assets of more than $2.3 million (up from $1 million) or income of more than $450,000 (up from $250,000). The third restriction removes the federal pre-emption allowing angel and venture financing in the United States to follow federal regulations, rather than face different rules between states.

All the prerogatives over private businesses; all the power over health care, now near absolute; all the dabbling in the inner workings of financial institutions; in short, all the regulation in the world, couldn’t satisfy this government. Are the Democrat legislators ever going to have enough? Or is their regulatory fetish feverishly looking for new, exotic objects?

Read the rest in Commentary Magazine.

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12Oct/0714

Jeffrey Sachs sucks: “Poverty Trap” debunked

I was peripherally acquainted with Jeffrey Sachs' work from a while ago, and didn't think much of it. Nothing seemed to distinguish him from the many misguided Keynesians who dominate the public arena of mainstream economics by default nowadays. But while all purist free-enterprise champions are alike in what they advocate, I guess every dull little statist economist is a statist in his/her own way, with a unique master plan for development, each involving creative offshoots of applied Communism, some more deranged than others.

Sachs' uniqueness doesn't end there: He is not your run-of-the-mill statist economist always on the perpetual brink of choking on his own triviality. He knows what he is and he certainly knows what he is doing. Unlike most laughable economists who sound so stupid only because they cannot see how overly seriously they take themselves, Jeffrey Sachs is pure self-aware evil!

Fascista Sachs

In his interview with Steven Colbert he sounds like a crook and a charlatan. Listen to him talk, pay attention to his smile, the look on his face, and tell me if you don't see a man who knows he is lying on the spot. There is nothing misguided about him, he is fully premeditated in what he is doing.

Hanging out with Bono and Angelina Jolie has got to make Sachs second-handedly feel like a superstar, and second-hand glory is more then enough for a pathetic authoritarian creature to get off on. He knows he will be long dead before his voodoo economics falls out of fashion so he's completely safe and comfortable riding the wave of popularity propelled by the cumulative mediocrity of Oprah-worshiping drones in particular, and the entire ecosystem of leftist-strife spewers in general. Good for him!economist rock-star

Note in the Colbert interview how cheaply he is pandering to the moonbat base by spewing venom on the military and W. Bush. Sachs is befuddled at how "the President" has allotted to the crusade against malaria (read: handouts to Africa) for the next five years, the measly equivalent of the daily budget of the military. That makes no sense "in his book/s", since the military is just killing people and not helping anyone, whereas Sachs could save the world with that cash! Oh brother... They just have trouble figuring out anything at all in Washington these days. Instead of signing Sachs a blank check, they give him a laughable $1.5 billion to work with.

If only "the President" were a feudal lord free to piss the spoils from his taxpayer vassals on grandiose personal-charity events to his heart's content! W. Bush is certainly under no obligation to give any money at all; it is in fact arguable that he is under an implicit constitutional obligation to not spend taxpayer money on handouts to other countries, which generally end up benefiting only their dictators and some distinguished ungrateful parasites like Sachs, whose genial administrative plans for that money are sure to entail much more than just a multi-billion-dollar mosquito-net shopping-spree.

Jollysachs

It is obvious to me that Jeffrey Sachs is a conman, but it might not be obvious to you, so I will stop pushing on that front because at the end of the day it's not so relevant whether he is a crook or just a misguided moron, but rather whether his economics adds up. So let's turn to his economic ideas and consider them on their own merits. Everything Jeffrey Sachs has said (and I expect him to ever have to say) about development pivots around the "poverty trap", a conjecture whose gist can be safely summarized as follows:

Poor countries are so poor today because they started out so poor for one reason or another, that their people cannot even minimally afford to save today to accumulate capital for investment. And it takes a critical mass of investment to achieve any tangible results in development, since for example, a bridge constructed only half-way through is of no use, but once it is fully built, it will rock the world! But the dirt-poor subSaharan Africans cannot afford to save for projects that will deliver results the day after tomorrow: they would starve by tomorrow if they cut their consumption every-so-slightly today to give rise to investment! So you see, they're stuck in a Poverty Trap, and we the West need to give them just enough aid for them to make it through the initial hump, to get out of the trap. They'd be all set from there on.

This is the focal point of Sachs' argument for development. Please watch carefully while this snotty undergrad blasts off Mr. Smarmy Harvard PhD with a single unpretentious quasi-rhetorical question:

If the key to development is escaping this poverty trap, then wouldn't foreign direct investment be perfectly capable of doing the job instead of foreign aid?

The opposite of Sachs' booga-booga poverty crap should normally be observed: countries starting out at the very bottom of the developmental ladder for "one reason or another" should grow at rates much faster than normal due to the proverbial catch-up effects. Investment in India returns a whooping 19% on average! Countries too poor to save for themselves don't need to: rich foreigners can supply the capital, the natives only have to freely accommodate it. Everybody wins, and no Big Plan is needed, just a native government that sufficiently tolerates free enterprise.

But there is no foreign investment going on in Africa. Investors won't inject their funds into those countries because the volatility of institutional thuggery that doesn't give a shit about its citizens' life, liberty, and property, let alone the property of foreign investors, is not conducive to profit-generation. Africa doesn't need any handouts: they just fatten its dictators, cripple whatever free independent spirit its people have, give parasitic jobs to an army of bureaucrats, and hold these countries back from moving towards freedom and self-reliance. What Africa desperately needs is government, of the kind that will let its people be. The best thing that could ever happen to the continent would be for America to colonize it and govern it according to its constitution for a century or so.

But Jeffrey Sachs urges governments to throw money to a cause which no private investor is willing to back. There would be no returns from it, no end to poverty through it, and no end to it, period... just handouts after handouts after handouts. He knows it too, if you read between the lines he is calling it what it is in so many words: perpetual charity.

And being the authoritarian cock that he is, he won't stop at urging people to donate individually and privately. His great cause, his Big Plan is larger than life: not only private investors won't walk the walk, but even private philanthropists will not give enough to satiate Sachs. The Government is his only hope, the only agent rich and careless enough to finance his Big Scheme. And despite receiving insane amounts of taxpayer money, he yet bites the fat hand feeding him, complaining that the US government won't just give him any number he fancies. Every cent that he does receive is taken by force, since he has not been able to raise it voluntarily through cheesy U2 concerts, private charity, and private investment combined. It's a $1.5 billion no one else but the government would give him, and it's still not enough, it's never enough.

BonoSachsJeffrey Sachs makes me sick.

I rest my case...

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