Something called the Clinton Global Initiative has been brought to my attention by an AP dispatch dated September 21st entitled “Bill Clinton: Economy, disasters imperil millions.” At first, I suspected it was a leg-pull, but then I realized, no, this is for real. The impeached 42nd POTUS was kicking off the sixth annual pow-wow of his self-styled Global Initiative. To quote the AP writer Beth Fouhy, “The conference brings together leaders from government, business and philanthropy, who make financial commitments aimed at tackling poverty and disease around the world.” Where have I been? Sounds like a folksy rival to Davos. The Economist has called CGI’s annual meetings “…an important part of the global elite’s calendar.”

A few more quotes from the AP dispatch:

Clinton said the gulf region [Gulf of Mexico, that is] had been hit by “€œeverything but a plague of locusts”€ and said climate change had made events like hurricanes and flooding more frequent and deadly. “€œThere is every reason to believe the incidents of economically devastating natural disasters will accelerate around the world with the changing of the climate,”€ Clinton said, urging governments and world leaders to be better prepared for such events.

May I ask, how does Clinton know that? How does anyone know that? Are we supposed to believe it because Al Gore says it is so? After all, this is not history, which can be examined and interpreted. This is the future. Is Bill Clinton now proclaiming himself to be a prophet and sage? Please note, as well, that the current Atlantic hurricane season has been unusually mild, at least so far.

Clinton also pressed attendees on the need to educate and empower women and girls in developing counties, saying the global economy would improve with women’s full participation. “€œThere are still a lot of places in this world where women are part human and part property and where men define their meaning in life,”€ Clinton said.

Putting aside the open question of do-goodism running amok, where does Bill Clinton get off with such rhetoric, in view of his deplorable track record with “women and girls” while he was Governor of Arkansas and during his White House sojourn?

The former president has reemerged on the skyline, lecturing us about empowering “women and girls.” All right. Stranger things have happened.

I vaguely recall that POTUS 42 was hit with a complaint for sexual harassment while in the White House due to his actions at a prior public sector job in the Governor’s Mansion at Little Rock, Arkansas. He and his legal team went to the US Supreme Court to get the lawsuit quashed, dismissed, or delayed until after he left the presidency. They lost that motion by 9 to 0. Undeterred, Bill Clinton went on to perjure himself in a deposition during the discovery process.

When that felony was exposed as a byproduct of the bizarre Monica Lewinsky affair, it led to Clinton’s impeachment in the House of Representatives. He wiggled out of a conviction in the Congress and escaped jail time in a federal penitentiary for perjury but was compelled to relinquish his license to practice law and left the Oval Office in debt to his high-priced defense team. What a mess.

Fast-forward to 2010, and the former president has reemerged on the skyline, lecturing us about empowering “women and girls.” All right. Stranger things have happened.

Bill Clinton largely steered clear of politics during the conference, but said at one point he wished more world leaders made their decisions based on facts. “€œDo you know how many political decisions are made in this world by people who don’t know what in the living daylights they are talking about?”€

No, I don’t. Do you?

Is the Comeback Kid suggesting that his decisions as president were based strictly on facts, not politics, and that he always knows what he is talking about? Anybody with a stiff drink under his or her belt at this gathering must have gagged. The presumption is stupefying. The implication is that we should check with Bill (or with his designated successor to the Oval Office, H.R. Clinton) so that we will know for sure what to think and how to make the right decisions for the good of mankind.

France’s recent “€œBurqa Ban”€ has provoked all the global indignation and murderous outrage one would have expected. Pointed observations on the irony of a liberal democracy which tells its citizens what they can and can”€™t wear were soon followed by Muslims making lunatic bomb threats. Al Qaeda has sworn to “€œseek dreadful revenge.”€ France has instigated a cacophony of international noise, just to keep a couple thousand ladies from strolling the Parisian streets looking like the singing Dinks from Spaceballs.

This should be a familiar story to most Americans. While the world watches France harass its human curtain-rods, American authoritarians”€”in both public and private spheres”€”have ramped up efforts to restrict the apparel of various distasteful minorities. The message of this fashion fascism is clear: “€œDress like somebody”€”or stay at home!”€

On September 7, Dublin, GA’s mayor Phil Best signed a bill prohibiting all beltless bruthas from gettin”€™ their sag on. Classifying baggy pants as “€œindecent exposure,”€ this puts bad taste in the same legal category as masturbating or defecating in public. Anyone caught with their britches more than 3″€ below their waist faces a fine of $25 for the first offense and $250 for each additional infraction. If this means that someone caught tossing off on a Dublin street corner is only fined the price of a double-disc porno, I”€™m on my way.

While Mayor Best maintains that the ban targets no particular ethnic group, everybody knows that the only people strutting around with their asses hanging out”€”with the exception of plumbers”€”are surly black youths and their pasty-faced imitators. Not surprisingly, many black citizens support the bill. In a majority African-American township of nearly sixteen thousand people, this local legislation may affect more individuals than the Burqa Ban, which addresses a tiny national minority and carries a fine of “‚¬150.

Along with Hahira, Hawkinsville, GA, Riviera Beach, FL, and at least six cities and parishes in Louisiana that have already passed similar laws, the decent folks of Dublin will no longer have to awkwardly avoid staring at all those bulbous black booties. At Morehouse College in nearby Atlanta, a different group of, err…brothers?…are being told how to dress. Claiming such illustrious alumni as Martin Luther King, Jr., and Spike Lee, this exclusively African-American institution has a reputation for producing young men unafraid to go against the grain. But in October last year, the all-male school passed the “€œAppropriate Attire Policy,”€ prohibiting women’s clothing, makeup, high heels, purses, and weaves from being worn on campus or school-related functions. The dress code specifically targeted five transvestite students who had caused considerable discomfort, as well as the occasional misdirected erection.

Of course, many civil-rights advocates condemned the code. By trumpeting equality, Morehouse faculty clearly chose to put “€œbros”€ before “€œhos.”€

A young man was thoroughly beaten in front of 4 million people after expressing his German-American pride.

While the ban on wearing religious symbols in French schools (i.e., the hijab) attracted the international spotlight in 2004, intolerant dress codes had already gotten their stride in the U.S. after the numerous late-90s school shootings. Gang-related colors and black trenchcoats terrified hand-wringing parents and teachers, leading many districts to prohibit T-shirts featuring Tupac, Biggie Smalls, or Marilyn Manson. This paranoid tendency took an unexpected turn this year after a patriotic fashion faux pas during a Cinco de Mayo celebration at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, CA. In a display of unashamed patriotism that occupies some bizarre border between trendy post-9/11 consumerism and ballsy defiance, five students came to their predominantly Hispanic school wearing American flag shirts and bandanas. Surrounded by Mexican-American classmates decked out in green, white, and red, these kids looked like an ass-stomping waiting to happen. Assistant Principal Miguel Rodriguez promptly told the boys to either remove the shirts or hit the bricks. Their mothers were livid, demanding that school officials apologize. What have we come to when a kid can”€™t express his love of country with red, white, and blue TapouT gear?

The next day, fifty Chicano students walked out of Live Oak and marched on City Hall to support Principal Rodriguez, alleging that wearing an American flag on Cinco de Mayo was “€œdisrespectful.”€ In an interview with Fox News, however, Dominic Maciel”€”one of the patriotic five, who resembles a pubescent Timothy McVeigh despite his father’s Mexican descent”€”countered, “€œI have no problem with them wearing their Mexican stuff.”

When Tom Wolfe harpooned Leonard Bernstein in his famous 60s essay, he did it by directly quoting from those attending the infamous cocktail party Lenny gave for the Black Panthers. Wolfe had finagled an invite to Bernstein’s grand 5th Avenue pad and was taking notes throughout the evening. The end result was devastating. In fact, it killed radical chic once and for all. The rich and famous stopped giving dinners for cop killers and drug dealers, turning to philanthropy instead. Soon after, the great social climb began with a vengeance. John Fairchild’s “Nouvelle Society” was created, and Steinberg, Kravis, and Gutfreund became household names by paying a hell of a lot of money for their seats at charity balls. But it was Tom Wolfe who slew the dragon of radical chic, which had been started in California—where else?—by publicity-seeking rich lovies.

One of Tom’s quotes I treasure was the one that had art dealer Richard Feigen sweating and rather desperately following some big shot around asking, “How does one rent a Panther?” Feigen, the Panthers, and I go way back. When I lived in the Hotel du Cap during the summers of the 50s and 60s, Feigen would watch some pretty rich fellows drop by my cabana—people with names such as Thyssen and Agnelli—so he hatched a plan. He offered me a job selling his art to people like that. I took it rather badly. Art dealers back then were considered spivs and conmen, so I told him to shove it. Years later I went to Algeria and interviewed the top Panthers, including Eldridge Cleaver, who were under house arrest having fled America after killing a few cops. (“Oh man, what wouldn’t I give for a hamburger” was the way Cleaver put it.) National Review made it a cover story, and I was on my way.

Had Evans written that Onassis had paid Lee Harvey Oswald to murder JFK he would have been just as wrong as he was when he wrote the rubbish he did about the Golden Greek and Bobby.

Which brings me to the point of my story. Wolfe was present at the party and reported accurately about it. I met the Panthers in Algiers, broke bread with them, and reported likewise. Sure, both Tom and I knew how to slant a story and how to make Bernstein and the Panthers look ridiculous—all we had to do was quote them—which makes it fair.

What is very unfair is to make the whole thing up, which is what a hack writer by the name of Peter Evans did to Aristotle Socrates Onassis, making a fortune as a result. I have no way of knowing if Evans ever met Onassis, but I doubt it. Ari knew a lot of people—actually the other way round—and as he was always on the go and did not use muscle, anyone could approach him and then claim friendship. Evans’s book Nemesis was packed with conspiracy theories meant to sell the book. Onassis was long dead and hence unable to sue. The worst lie of all was that Onassis helped organize and finance Robert F. Kennedy’s assassination. The book sold like hotcakes, and it was all one big lie. Such are the joys of fame. Any hack can invent anything and sell it to the great unread and laugh while spitting on someone’s grave. Evans is such a bull artist he even thanks me in the acknowledgements—a bit too much really, as I don’t agree with a thing he says about Onassis.

The irony is that Onassis and Bobby Kennedy got on fine and liked each other. Three months before Bobby’s assassination, I was at a party given by Susan Stein in her Upper West Side flat and saw the two of them sitting side-by-side having a hoot. Bobby was asking Ari openly but jokingly for funds, and Onassis had turned his pockets inside out claiming poverty.

At the time, Ari and Jackie had been making whoopee for years. Bobby asked them not to make it official until after the ’68 election, which they agreed to do before breaking the pledge after he was murdered in June ’68. Had Evans written that Onassis had paid Lee Harvey Oswald to murder JFK, he would have been just as wrong as he was when he wrote the rubbish he did about the Golden Greek and Bobby.

Now a play based on the book has opened in Derby, and it moves to the West End next month. Robert Lindsay, who plays Ari, is a great actor who was a terrific Fouquet in Power at the National Theatre. Lindsay is such a gifted actor he’s bound to show some good side of Onassis, but he’ll be hard-pressed to do so because of the script. Playwright Martin Sherman only has the Evans book to go on. There are scenes that have Onassis saying that his son should not be nice because nice means weak and so on: “I will not have a nice son.” What garbage. Onassis was a ruined man after his only son died in an airplane accident in 1973, and he died only two years later. I met Onassis in 1957, knew Alexander Onassis well, and I also knew the Bouvier sisters who became Kennedy-Onassis and Radziwill in turn. I also knew Maria Callas, but not well. She and Ari stayed close until the end, and she was never tortured by him as is claimed in that awful book. People live strange lives and are tortured by strange demons. Onassis liked his fame, but he would have forsaken it if he knew what it would bring him after death.


In case you haven’t caught any of the buzz about the movie, or seen Steve Sailer’s review, Waiting for Superman is a 2-hour documentary deploring the state of our public schools, and suggesting ways that public education might be improved.

The movie is framed around five children, four pre-teens and one (I think) just-teen.  The four pre-teens, with their cities and as much of their ethnicity as I could deduce, are: Anthony (Washington, D.C.; African American), Daisy (Los Angeles; Mexican-Hispanic), Francisco (Bronx, New York; Puerto Rican-Hispanic), and Bianca (Harlem, New York; African American).  The just-teen is Emily, a white girl—her mother sounds British—who lives in California.

The selection of kids raises questions right away.  In fact when someone on-screen spoke of the schools “failing our children,” I am sorry to say the old Lone Ranger joke came to mind:  “What do you mean, ‘our’ . . .?”  And really, does anyone think that if the student bodies of the inner-city schools in this movie were to be swapped out en masse for the same number of Koreans, we would be talking about how the schools are “failing our children”?  Untold thousands of East Asian students have in fact passed through our inner-city slum schools on their way—those who survived—to universities and professions.

The filmmakers seem to have been uneasily aware of this issue.  Hence the inclusion of Emily Jones, the white just-teen with a British Mum.  Emily lives in an upscale suburb of San Francisco—house prices run around a million, the narrator tells us (an underestimate, if anything) —but even here the local public high school is “failing our children,” with only 62 percent of freshmen making it to graduation.  Emily enters the lottery for a place at Summit Prep, a nearby charter school.

It’s easy to figure why the filmmakers wanted a token white kid in their movie, but looking up some of the background data, one has to suspect there’s more going on than they tell us.  Emily’s public high school, Woodside High, is 56 percent non-Asian minority (hereinunder “NAM”—black plus Hispanic).  This is, as it happens, precisely the state average for California high schools.  It is noticeably more than Summit Prep, though, which is only 43 percent NAM.  Perhaps more to the point, it is way out of whack for its zip code, which is only 11 percent NAM overall.

Do most of Emily’s friends in this zip code—median household income $96,677—attend private schools, schools her parents object to on ideological principle, or cannot afford?  Is this a sore point with Emily?  We are not told. (I should add that the film’s characterization of Woodside High has been disputed by the principal: “We offered for the filmmakers to learn more about Woodside . . . but the filmmakers declined.”)

*    *    *    *    *

With the other four kids we are down among the working poor in big-city slums.  (An environment of which, as it happens, I have some experience as a teacher.)  Here, we are told, the schools are really “failing our children” in a big way; although, as Steve noticed in his review, there is a curious lack of specifics in the movie, and the filmmakers did not venture into these schools to show us the machinery of failure at work.  All they offer us by way of explanation is some negative commentary on the teacher unions and their pathologies.

There was nothing there that you can’t find better-documented at much greater length in Peter Brimelow’s 2003 book about the ed-biz unions, The Worm in the Apple.  The unionization of public-sector workers may indeed be the worst idea of the 20th century, after discounting really big candidates like communism, fascism, and body piercing.  I must record, though, that I came out of this movie better-disposed towards America’s public-school teachers than I went in.

I don’t doubt that some teachers are awful.  Some of my own teachers were awful; some of my colleagues, when I myself was a teacher, were awful; and to be perfectly frank, I never thought that I myself was much good as a teacher.

Mediocrity is the norm in any line of work, though.  How many accountants, or computer programmers, or dentists, or law professors, or manicurists, or opinion columnists, are really stellar performers?  When I go for a haircut at my local unisex salon, I always ask for the same lady: not because she’s a world-bestriding genius with scissors and comb, but because she’s the best of a mediocre bunch in a place whose prices I don’t mind paying.  Most of life works like that.

If our schools tracked kids in the old way, there might be glaring racial maldistributions in the various tracks, with East Asian and Ashkenazi-Jewish kids monopolizing the topmost tracks, NAMS over-represented in the bottom tracks, and a big bulge of white gentiles in the middle.

Yet the movie tells us that if we can just get rid of bad teachers, and hire in more good ones, the schools will no longer be “failing our children.”  One of the talking heads in the film actually quantifies the promise: “If we could just replace the bottom-performing six percent of teachers with merely average teachers, our schools would attain the same level of success as Finland’s!”  That was one of the few moments in the movie that made me smile.  In fact—I’ll admit it—I laughed out loud.  Finland!

The structure of this movie, along with wellnigh everything else one sees or reads about how America’s schools are “failing our children,” gives away the real concern of our education reformers:  the decades-long, intractable, un-budge-able academic under-performance of NAMs.  Some reason must be found for this, preferably—oh, much preferably!—a reason that involves human agency.  Somebody is making it happen!  But who?  Whom to blame?

A good deal of education theory this past fifty years has been given over to picking a proper target for blame, and a corresponding remedy.  Legal segregation and its legacy were the first suspects, with busing as the remedy:  that didn’t work out well.  Inadequate funding by mean-spirited municipal authorities was next up, with court-ordered extravagance the cure: the Kansas City debacle discredited that line of argument.

Parents then took a share of the blame, followed by that indispensable, all-explanatory phlogiston of the social sciences, “culture.”  Today’s fashion is to blame the teachers; today’s favored remedy is charter schools, notwithstanding the fact that rigorous academic study of the charter-school phenomenon shows no advantage to them overall.  Five years on we’ll have some different culprit—fast-food vendors, perhaps—and some new remedy: compulsory celery?

Like millions of Americans, Delaware Republican Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell has had trouble covering her mortgage and other bills over the years. Her opponents consider this a scandal of disqualifying proportions. But there’s a bigger disgrace: It’s all the sanctimonious Democrats who have exploited their entrenched political incumbency to pay for multiple manses and vacation homes—while posing as vox populi.
Former senior senator from Delaware and current Vice President Joe Biden has a custom-built house in Delaware’s ritziest Chateau Country neighborhood. It is now worth at least $2.5 million and is the Bidens’ most valuable asset. Biden tapped campaign funds to pay for his compound’s lawn needs. He secured the new estate with the help of a corporate executive who worked for Biden’s top campaign donor, credit card giant MBNA.

In 1996, Biden sold his previous mansion to MBNA Vice Chairman John Cochran. The asking price was $1.2 million. Cochran forked over the full sum. Biden then paid $350,000 in cash to real estate developer Keith Stoltz for a 4.2-acre lakefront lot. Stoltz had paid that same amount five years earlier for the undeveloped property.

Stoltz told the Wilmington News Journal that “the residential real estate market was soft” at the time he sold the land to Biden. But “soft” for whom?

Stoltz was a well-off businessman who didn’t appear to be in such dire financial straits that he needed to unload the property quickly in a weak market.

GOP candidates like Christine O’Donnell, who have weathered personal financial troubles, have a lot more in common with the 14 million Americans underwater on their mortgages than these privileged Beltway boys.

Reporter Byron York looked at comparable properties in Biden’s neighborhood and found three cases where homes in the area went “for a good deal less than their appraised value. In comparison, it appears Cochran simply paid Biden’s full asking price.”

Biden’s office denied any sweetheart deals took place, but York noted that it appeared MBNA indirectly helped Cochran buy the Biden house through six-figure executive compensation funds listed as moving expenses and losses suffered on the sale of his previous home.

To be clear, no laws were broken. These arrangements were simply a continuation of Biden’s decades-long, Beltway business-as-usual relationships with a deep-pocketed corporate benefactor—which, by the way, later hired his son. Nice nepotism, if you can get it.

North Dakota Democrat Sen. Kent Conrad and Connecticut Democrat Sen. Chris Dodd made cozy arrangements with subprime sleaze lender Countrywide. reported that Conrad “borrowed $1.07 million in 2004 to refinance his vacation home with a balcony and wraparound porch in Bethany Beach, Del., a block from the ocean.”

Senate Banking Chair Dodd received two discounted loans in 2003 through Countrywide’s VIP program. He borrowed $506,000 to refinance his elite townhouse in Washington, D.C., and $275,042 to refinance a home in East Haddam, Conn. Countrywide helpfully waived fractions of points on the loans. The lower interest rates could have saved Dodd a combined $75,000 during the life of the 30-year loans.

As the herds of wildebeest migrate in October and November, when the short rains come, from the grasslands of the Masai Mara to the breeding grounds of the Ngorongoro Serengetti, so do herds of American nouveaux-riches load up their near-adolescent brats in the SUV for an autumn tour of New England to “€œlook at”€  boarding schools.

To stretch the metaphor further, the object of the migration, whether understood or not, serves a similar purpose for both man and beast.  For the wildebeest the trek breaks the dependence of the yearling on its mother’s udder and sorts out the weak and the infirm.  The Mara river crocodiles and the big cats of the plains do the culling.

For the human child, boarding school tears the little horror from its nanny’s apron strings and introduces the child to the rigors of a kind of upper-class boot camp.

At least that is what used to happen.  The male, single-sex boarding school in America, like St. Paul’s and Groton, was founded on the English model. Eton, Harrow and Rugby are the principal examples.  The English aristos created these “€œpublic”€ schools because the alternative was “€œprivate”€ education at home, in many cases the stately home, with tutors and servants calling the young monster “€œmaster.”€

When the Empire consisted of a quarter of the world’s population and a fifth of its land mass the English ruling class knew that they needed a cadre of vigorous young men to administer it in corners of the world where the location and the situation were often far from comfortable.

There’s coeducation, hence fornication and drug use, a predominance of Asian students, homo/lesbo clubs, and political correctness to beat the band.

Hence the austere character of the great English boarding school: plenty of manly sport, cold baths, chapel twice a day, rudimentary food, caning, fagging (acting as servant to a senior boy), and Tom Brown style hazing.

Dr. Arnold of Rugby said (circa 1850) that the mission of the public school was to instill “€œfirstly, religious and moral principles; secondly, gentlemanly conduct; thirdly, intellectual ability.”€

It is said that the prospect of prison was never daunting to a man who had been to a proper English public school.

It is not often that I see Gimlet floored but this morning was one of those occasions. He had been trawling through the newspapers, tut tutting about the Pope’s visit to England and murmuring approval at the government’s radical multi-billion pound fund for financing the “€˜Greening”€™ of small businesses. This is part of an energy efficiency scheme under which small and medium size businesses will receive loans to replace their old energy hungry equipment with the cash repaid from savings made from their energy bills. Suddenly I noticed that Gimlet had gone silent and had developed that furrow in his brow which indicates bamboozlement. Finally he folded the paper and handed it to me.

“€œWho on earth is Colette Rooney?”€ he asked, “€œeverywhere I look I come across the woman’s name. I thought she was a novelist.”€

I looked at the headline he was referring to. He clearly hadn”€™t read what came after.

“€œYou mean Coleen Rooney, not Colette,”€ I said.

“€œAm I supposed to have heard of her?”€ said Gimlet, “€œhas she made some important discovery, a cure for Alzheimer’s perhaps?”€

I told him that she had discovered her husband with a prostitute.

“€œAh, another Profumo affair,”€ said Gimlet, “€œIs her husband in the cabinet?”€

For a moment it occurred to me that this might be Gimlets bone dry sense of humour at work but I quickly realized it wasn”€™t.

I explained that Coleen was the wife of a man called Wayne Rooney who played football for Manchester United. He gave me a sort of goggle-eyed look.

“€œHas the world gone completely mad,”€ he exclaimed, “€œwherever I look, whatever I listen to, there are these Rooney people. Now you tell me he plays football. It seems hardly credible.”€

The fact is that the Rooneys are headline news in England because people like the Rooneys are the heroes of today. In days gone by aspiring young sportsmen and women achieved greatness by reaching the top in their field. They were paid very little but considered representing their country as sufficient reward. These were inspirational role models who led by example and conducted themselves as sporting champions should. Today most sportsmen are paid a fortune. They develop huge egos which their limited brains aren”€™t able to cope with and that’s when the trouble begins. Once you believe you can walk on water, you are closer to drowning. Cricketers are an exception”€™ they tumble for different reasons; temptation, corruption and threat but for many the allure of sly girls in short dresses often proves too much to resist. Spotting a photograph of the Rooneys on the opposite page, I pointed it out to Gimlet.

I said I thought they were in the art market. Gimlet corrected me: the Moma that Kenmare own is an ilmenite mine on the north east coast of Mozambique.

“€œGood god!,”€ exclaimed Gimlet, “€œTo be sure she’s no pretty Coleen.”€ He paused. “€œSpeaking of Ireland,”€  the connection wasn”€™t obvious, “€œHave you ever visited the little town of Kenmare in the south of county Kerry?”€

I said that I hadn”€™t and asked him the reason for the question.

“€œJust wondered,”€ he said, “€œI have been studying a company called Kenmare Resources. They own the Moma project and I strongly recommend them as a Buy.”

I said I thought thought they were in the art market.

“€œTouche,”€ said Gimlet, “the Moma that Kenmare own is an ilmenite mine on the north east coast of Mozambique, not to be confused with the Museum of Modern Art on 53rd street in Manhattan!”€

Davis Guggenheim’s much-publicized documentary with the meaningless title of Waiting for “€œSuperman”€ makes the (by now familiar) liberal centrist case for school reform: the cause of the achievement gap is bad schools, which are the fault of bad teachers, who are protected from termination by bad teachers”€™ unions. The solution is charter schools that fire bad teachers and hire not good but “€œgreat”€ teachers!

Ten years ago, there would have been a certain frisson if somebody so plugged into the Democratic Party”€”Guggenheim won an Oscar for directing Al Gore’s global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, and helmed the Barack Obama biographical short shown at the 2008 Democratic convention”€”attacked the Party’s mainstay, the teachers”€™ unions.

The unspoken goal of the most effective charter schools is to isolate minority students away from their own cultures and pound middle class values into thems.

Yet, anybody who has flipped through Newsweek or New York Times Magazine over the last decade won”€™t find anything new. The heroes of Waiting for “€œSuperman”€ are the usuals: Michelle Rhee, the Korean-American school chancellor despised by black voters in Washington D.C., and Geoffrey Canada, the black Harlem school impresario. They are congratulated by other talking heads, such as Bill Gates, Washington Post education reporter Jay Matthews, and Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter.

Interwoven are the stories of five young students at neighborhood public schools. They are told, in effect, that if they don”€™t get picked in admission lotteries by celebrated charter schools such as Harlem Promise Academy, KIPP LA Prep, or Washington D.C.’s SEED public boarding school that they might as well start dealing crack right now.

It’s Yale or jail time, kids!

The unspoken goal of the most effective charter schools is to isolate minority students away from their own cultures and pound middle class values into them over endless school days. The SEED boarding school for the urban poor, for example, costs taxpayers and donors $35,000 per student per year. Still, a 2009 NYT Magazine article about it lamented how much more money is needed to prevent the students from regressing back to street corner culture by not letting them go home each weekend. Only 20 of each class of 70 graduate.

If you would understand why America has lost the dynamism she had in the 1950s and 1960s, consider the new Paycheck Fairness Act passed by the House 256 to 162.

The need for such a law, writes Valerie Jarrett, the ranking woman in Barack Obama’s White House, is that “working women are still paid only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man.”

But why is that a concern of the U.S. government, and where is the empirical evidence that an inequality of pay between the sexes is proof of sexist hostility to women?

On average, Asians earn more than Hispanics; blacks less than whites. Mormons earn more than Muslims; Jews more than Jehovah’s Witnesses. And Polish Americans earn more than Puerto Ricans.

Does that prove America is a racist and religiously bigoted country?

The assumption of the Jarrett-backed law is that the sexes are equal in capacity, aptitude, drive and interest, and if there is a disparity in pay, only bigotry can explain it.

Should this bill become law, the effects are predictable: more forms to be filled out by businesses, more bureaucrats for the EEOC, more charges of sex discrimination, more class-action suits, more fines, more lawyers getting rich via the litigious looting of the private sector.

But are there not other, simpler answers for why women earn less?

Perhaps half of American women leave the job market during their lives, sometimes for decades, to raise children, which puts them behind men who never leave the workforce. Women gravitate to teaching, nursing, secretarial and service work, which pay less than jobs where men predominate: mining, manufacturing, construction and the military.

Over 95 percent of our 40,000 dead and wounded from Afghanistan and Iraq were men. Men in prison outnumber women 10 to one. Is that the result of sex discrimination?

Sports have become a national obsession, and among the most rewarded professions in fame and fortune. And TV viewers prefer to watch male athletes compete in baseball, basketball, football, hockey, golf, tennis and boxing.

Is unequal pay for men and women professional athletes a matter for the government?

Plus, Ben Harper’s new super group, a spellbinding John Lennon biopic, and London’s Fetish Weekend

Ronnie Wood: Spend or Expend, The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH, Now through November 21
Surprise, surprise! Ronnie Wood’s a man who wears many hats. The Rolling Stones guitarist is also a painter and mixed media artist, and his first major exhibition has opened in Ohio. Before he wore those famous fingers down with The Bird, Faces, and The Jeff Beck Group, Wood was toiling away with a paintbrush. It’s evident now where his inspiration comes from”€”most of the lovingly crafted portraits are of his Stones bandmates. Who better to capture the wide mid-song snarl of Mick Jagger than the man who’s been standing next to him since 1975? Here’s the best of both worlds: a tribute to rock and a little insight into the mind of one of this generation’s finest musicians.

Onassis, Novello Theatre, London, In previews, Runs October 12 “€“ February 5
Aristotle Onassis”€™ life has all the makings of a great tabloid drama: sex, power, and lots and lots of money. The Greek shipping billionaire wed former first lady Jackie Kennedy, bedded Maria Callas, and dodged the FBI. His life is finally getting the West End treatment with a new play written by Martin Sherman. Inhabiting the titular role is Tony winner Robert Lindsay, (Richard III, Oliver! and Me and My Girl) returning to the stage after a 25-year absence. Peter Evans”€™ hailed biography Nemesis provides all the juicy details of Onassis”€™ waning days, including some unfounded conspiracy theories”€”did he help finance RFK’s assassination? This one’s so good, critics are predicting it”€™ll hit Broadway next year. Go ahead, see it now in London”€”just be sure to hit up Greece while you”€™re over there.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary
Thank god David Sedaris is back, we were starting to enjoy life a little too much. The droll satirist returns September 28 with a new set of essays, only this time he’s traded life in London for hovels and litter boxes. All the stories are written from an animal’s perspective, and we have to say we”€™re grateful for a fresh take”€”even if the cats and toads are only there to shine light on human foibles. The titular furry couple is a sort of Romeo and Juliet driven apart by their close-minded family, and written with a healthy dose of Sedaris”€™ wit. Think of these tales as Aesop’s fables for the NPR set.

As I Call You Down
A Fistful of Mercy formed earlier this year, a big-name collaboration between the always delightful Ben Harper, Beatles heir Dhani Harrison, and the supremely underrated Joseph Arthur. The super group has been low-key so far, but their debut album finally drops October 5 on Harrison’s own record label before their 10-city trek across the country. Harper’s resonant blues combines beautifully with the trio’s soulful vocals. Plenty of acoustic guitars make this the perfect record to ease you straight into fall. It’s nice to see rock stars get a little earnest. Especially hypnotic is the track “€œA Fistful of Mercy.”€

There Are Many of Us
For all those who found Where the Wild Things Are slightly disappointing, Spike Jonze offers up an extremely satisfying peace offering with the DVD release of his short film I”€™m Here. The Los Angeles-set love story between two robots was one of the best things to hit the web this year (seriously, venture off YouTube every once in a while and there’s actual quality out there). With the help of McSweeney’s, Jonze is releasing the film, its soundtrack, and behind-the-scenes insight into the making of the heartfelt tale that critics called “€œhaunting, whimsical and overwhelmingly heartbreaking.”€ An added bonus: the lovesick boy robot is voiced by Hollywood “€œIt”€ boy Andrew Garfield, star of Never Let Me Go, The Social Network, and our future Spider-Man. Buy this set, and say you saw him”€”or at least his android counterpart”€”when.