Saturday, March 16, 2019


Weekend Roundup

Stories that caught folks' interest this week included an airplane that aims to crash, mass slaughter of Muslims in New Zealand, and the revelation that some rich people got caught trying to cheat their way into getting their kids enrolled by elite colleges (as opposed to the proper way, which is to give the colleges extra money). On the latter, I'd like to quote Elias Vlanton (on Facebook):

Missing the Forest for the Trees: A few rich people bribed their kids into elite colleges. So what? The real scandal is an educational system that favors rich students over poorer ones (regardless of color) from the first day of pre-K through crossing the graduation stage, diploma in hand. If every bribing parent is jailed, the real injustice of social inequality will remain. Ending it is the real task.

The post was accompanied by a photo of some of Elias's students, who look markedly different from the students caught up in this scandal. This seems to be one of the few crimes in America with a means test limiting it to the pretty rich. Actually, I feel a little sorry for the parents and children caught up in this fraud -- not so much for being victimized (although they were) as for the horrible pressures they put upon themselves to succeed in a world that is so rigorously rigged by the extreme inequality they nominally benefit from. I got a taste of their world when I transferred to Washington University back in 1973. That was the first time I met student who had spent years prepping for SATs that would assure entrance to one of the nation's top pre-med schools. It was also where I knew students who tried (and sometimes managed) to hire others to write papers and to take graduate school tests -- so I suppose you could say that was my first encounter with the criminal rich. I always thought it was kind of pathetic, but it really just reflects the desperation of a pseudo-meritocracy. And true as that was then, I'm sure it's much more desperate and vicious today.

One more thing I want to mention here: I saw a meme on Facebook forwarded by one of my right-wing relatives. It read:

YESTERDAY IN THE PHILIPPINES A CHURCH WAS BOMBED BY MUSLIM TERRORISTS KILLING 30 CHRISTIANS. NO MEDIA COVERAGE.

I suppose the intent was to complain about news coverage of the mass shooting in New Zealand, where a "white nationalist" slaughtered 50 Muslims, implying that the "fake news" media is playing favorites again, acting like Muslim lives are more valuable than Christian lives. I thought I should at least check that claim out. Google offered no evidence of such an attack, at least yesterday. However, I did find that two bombs had been set off on January 27, 2019, at a Catholic Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, in the Philippines, killing 20 people. There's a pretty detailed Wikipedia page on the attack, so that could be the event the meme author is referring to. I've also found an article in the New York Times, although the emphasis there is more on the growth of ISIS within the long-running Islamic separatist revolt -- which started immediately after he US occupied the Philippines in 1898, and has flared up repeatedly ever since, most recently in response to Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte (one of Trump's favorite strongmen). (Also another article in CNN.) The context stripped from the meme doesn't excuse the atrocity, but it does help explain American media's limited interest. I have several links on the New Zealand shooting below, and they too reflect our rather parochial interest in the subject. Although pretty much everyone deplores the loss of life in all terrorist atrocities, the New Zealand one hit closer to home (for reasons that will be obvious below -- see, e.g., Patrick Strickland).


Some scattered links this week: