Pass the Popcorn: The Function of Man

February 8, 2022

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

Just no other way to do this, folks – this post contains MEGA mega mega spoilers.

You have been warned.

My impression of No Time to Die changed on second viewing. When I first saw it in theaters, until the end I was enjoying it thoroughly, but I also felt it had flaws. Dialogue often seemed incomplete. Like many people, I thought the motive of the villain was unclear. But the opening gut punch (when he’s in the car and can’t decide whether to bother fighting back, when he puts Madeleine on the train) really landed, and when the ending came, I was genuinely moved. I thought: “That was really gutsy, and it worked really well.”

Upon seeing it a second time, I appreciate the whole movie much more. What I had thought were flaws were, in fact, a byproduct of a highly complex plot that requires you to attend to everything that’s going on throughout. Some important things are unstated, and become more clear with familiarity. I appreciate that attention to detail, and the invitation to the viewer to discover the implications of the story on our own.

No Time to Die is both a highly satisfying story in its own right and provides a highly satisfying conclusion to the arc of the Daniel Craig films. Nothing, of course, can redeem the monstrous idiocy of the movie Spectre – like many of the most important things in No Time to Die, that goes without saying – but this movie makes a full enough recovery, and makes enough good use of the setup provided in Spectre, that I no longer feel like the time I spent on Spectre was fully wasted. And that takes some doing.

Like Bond in Havana, let’s spend a moment with Ana de Armas before we get to the main event.

Everyone who said that de Armas stole the whole movie in the 20 minutes she was on screen was, obviously, right. Let’s just be thankful she gave the movie back to Daniel Craig on her way out. I felt like she could have walked off with it and there would have been nothing we could have done.

“I’ve trained for three weeks!”

And some people thought the conventions of the Bond franchise couldn’t be retooled for the 21st century cultural environment.

What I really appreciate about the whole Havana-and-oil-rig segment is the great effort that clearly went into making it work on multiple levels – comedy, action, drama – even though it’s essentially disposable in the larger arc of the movie. Even the death of Felix Leiter, while it is used in a very important way to make the point that the movie is making, is strictly unnecessary to the larger plot. They could have skipped Havana and the oil rig entirely and just had a 60-second scene in which the turncoat scientist kills off Spectre.

This is a long movie; there must have been a pretty awful temptation to go that way. But then this would be just another escapist fantasy, rather than a movie about something. And they put in the work to make it entertaining as well as about something.

Speaking of Felix and what this movie is about, let’s get to the main event.

Take a look at this picture of Bond, in his bulletproof car, surrounded by enemies, sitting next to a woman he no longer trusts, trying to decide whether or not saving his own life and hers is even worth it.

Now hold that thought for a moment.

In a way, No Time to Die is the tragic flip side to the essentially happy ending of Skyfall. The lessons of Skyfall, as loyal JPGB fans may recall, are as follows:

  1. All your fancy modern technology and advanced civilization will not save you if you are not the right kind of person.
  2. If you have forgotten how to be the right kind of person, look to your elders and return to the place where you came from.
  3. Do not hesitate to use your fancy modern technology to kill your elders and blow up the place you came from if that is what being the right kind of person requires.

Skyfall is a pretty good way of distilling how the classical liberal view works out in the context of the 21st century. The advance of technology and civilization does not remove, or make less agonizing, the titanic moral struggle at the heart of humanity. That is what divides classical liberals from illiberals whose preferred flavor of illiberalism is progressive.

The sources of the past are all we have to guide us in that struggle, since the sources of the future are unavailable. But the struggle is not to preserve the past, the struggle is to win the battle against evil in our own hearts. The institutions and authorities we have inherited are themselves subject to the same struggle, and inevitably tainted with moral failures, past and present. Sometimes that makes it necessary to destroy them.

Like when they behave irresponsibly and outside the law – which, as we established in Skyfall, they often have to do in order to fight evil.

And here is the happy ending part: To destroy the institutions and authorities we have inherited – if we do it for genuinely moral reasons, and not because we’re infantile and we want to show mom and dad that we’re grown up now and they can’t tell us what to do any more – is to carry forward all that is morally valuable in them. It is in fact the only way to carry forward what is morally valuable in them.

Bond and Mallory reconcile and carry on the fight together.

But we pay a price, because we need these institutions and authorities for more than moral reasons. They provide identity, meaning, purpose – wholeness. We cannot simply decide for ourselves what the meaning of our life is, because we have no non-arbitrary basis on which to make the decision. Of course, a very few are capable of reasoning all the way back to the true non-arbitrary source of all things and then reasoning forward from there, but most people require a coherent world of cultural structures to guide them to the right conclusions.

This brings us to what divides classical liberals from illiberals whose preferred flavor of illiberalism is traditionalist.

We need wholeness. But in the advanced modern world with its constant flux of institutions, we struggle not only for morality (as we always did) but now for wholeness as well. The signposts that used to tell us who we are can no longer do so because they are constantly being created and then swept aside in what is by historic standards an eyeblink of time. This is caused by the ceaseless churn of technological change, economic development and freedom of belief – which are, in the long run, interdependent and come as a package deal.

The basic question that confronts us is which of the two struggles – for morality or for wholeness – will take precedence. For the illiberal traditionalists, “because it is right, because justice requires it” is not an adequate reason to tear down the whole cultural world. For liberals, it is.

This is the tragedy of liberalism – that, to preserve what is morally good in the tradition from the shipwreck of its own injustices, we must throw ourselves into a world without wholeness.

The ending of Skyfall left us feeling like we would have what we needed in the new world created by our stand for justice.

No Time to Die admits that we really don’t – and chooses the new world anyway.

Bond and Madeleine want to write their pasts on slips of paper and burn them, visit the grave to ask forgiveness, and then leave the war for justice behind and enjoy wholeness.

Now look again at that other picture of Bond, not sure whether saving himself is even worth it.

The war for justice can’t be left behind. (Nothing but God is really sacred.)

Bond, because he is a warrior for justice, cannot have wholeness. That was, in its way, the lesson of Casino Royale. But now we learn it more completely. (All the best stories have something in the end that points you back to what you saw at the beginning, but now having a different perspective because of the intervening story.)

The lesson of No Time to Die doesn’t require three points, only one.

Wholeness is overrated.

As I’ve said before, Jeffrey Wright’s Felix Leiter has been an enormous gift to this franchise. In contrast to the very British Bond, Leiter always represents America – whether that’s the slick New York sharpness of Jack Lord in Dr. No, or the “aw shucks” Midwestern charm of Cec Linder in Goldfinger, or the simultaneous smoothness and bluntness of Wright, “a brother from Langley.”

Leiter, hemorrhaging, struggles for life in the rising water:

“It’s like back when I was a kid on that shrimp boat.”

“You’re from Milwaukee.”

“Am I? I thought I made that up. . . . You got this?”

“Yeah.”

“Make it worth it. . . . James . . . it’s a good life, isn’t it?”

“The best.”

Wholeness is overrated.

The villain in No Time to Die doesn’t want to destroy the world. The big beef about this movie was: “He wants to destroy the world, but we never find out why!” Washington Post movie reviewer Sonny Bunch answered this effectively with: “Come on. Who doesn’t want to destroy the world?”

That is, in fact, part of what this movie is about.

Safin doesn’t want to destroy the world; he’s selling his viral/nanobot/whatever weapon to people who want to destroy the world. (Kill millions, actually, not destroy the world – but the forms must be obeyed.)

Safin’s whole family was murdered by Mr. White on behalf of Spectre, and he was left as a child with nothing.

Like the illiberals of left and right – the differences between the two flavors hardly matter – all he really wants is to stop the pain and get his lost wholeness back.

For him, that means taking Mr. White’s daughter and granddaughter and making them – or at least the granddaughter, if the daughter can’t be subjugated – his new family.

And it means creating a new technology that will change the world, making his life matter because he left a lasting impact, without caring whether it was just. Just like Nietzsche said we would need to do if we wanted to create wholeness for ourselves in a world that had been stripped of wholeness precisely by the (his words) “slave morality” that cares more about justice than wholeness.

Safin says Bond, with his war for justice, leaves nothing behind him. But he thinks that he, unlike Bond, does.

He gives the world what he thinks it wants: “People want oblivion.”

This nihilistic nullity has been the final endpoint of all illiberalism in the modern world, of left and right alike: to steal other people’s children for indoctrination, and destroy anything they can’t control.

Because they want their wholeness back, and they care more about that than about justice.

As Pat Buchanan said in 1992: “Somebody’s values are going to prevail. Why not ours?”

What better image than a poisonous garden built on top of a decommissioned ICBM silo for all the efforts, on both left and right, to take our wholeness back?

The naïvely rationalist Romanticism of the illiberal left would seize the technological and economic capacity produced by classical liberalism and use it to build a Brave New World. The naïvely traditionalist Romanticism of the illiberal right would seize that capacity and use it to build a Brave Old World.

Both are “brave” because they begin by summoning up the courage to kill the part of us that loves justice more than wholeness.

And both end in poison, fire and death.

Safin is wrong. Bond does leave something behind.

In the end, we see Madeleine driving with Mathilde.

Visual clues tell us, subtly but unambiguously, that they are back at Matera.

Bond has been buried with Vesper, where he always belonged.

Madeleine has visited the grave to ask forgiveness.

She is going to tell Mathilde about her father, who sacrificed his life – and his wholeness – so she could be safe, and be raised by her mother and not a madman, in a world ruled by the merely weak and venal rather than the diabolically insane.

Meanwhile, his friends at MI6 also tell his story and remember him.

Then, clink the glass and: “Back to work.”

The war continues.

Wholeness is overrated.

The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.

I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them.

I shall use my time.

In the advanced modern world, we all agree on this. In fact, there has never been a time when this was not agreed upon. But it has taken on new urgency in the advanced modern world because, having lost our wholeness, we are constantly tempted to merely exist and prolong rather than live.

But what do we use our time for? All the big divisions are about this.

Seeking to take our lost wholeness back only grows poisonous gardens that end in fire.

We need wholeness. But we need to serve others more.

It’s right to want wholeness, because we ought to love ourselves.

But love of self becomes poisonous if we don’t make it an even higher priority to love others as we love ourselves.

Mathilde wants wholeness, too.

“If it’s an error, it’s on my shoulders, fair and square,” says Mallory, who endured torture for three months as a prisoner of the IRA.

“I’ve dedicated my life to defending this country. I believe in defending the principles of this…”

He gestures, and looks around at London, and falls silent, unable to find any words to sum up what he serves.

“Of this.”

The burden of responsibility, the legacy of injustice and corruption, the necessity of making new worlds, the sacrifice of wholeness…

If we love others as ourselves, we must accept it.

The war goes on.

Back to work.


School Choice Makes Homeschoolers and Private Schools More Safe from Government, Not Less

February 1, 2022

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

OCPA carries my latest, on why school choice programs make homeschoolers and private schools more safe, not less safe, from government interference:

Once these programs exist, they quickly become so politically strong that they are almost never reduced in size or subjected to any kind of additional regulations or requirements. The politicians typically try that stuff once, get beaten badly, run home and never try it again.

Why? Because once these programs exist, they create a huge new constituency to protect them. Once parents see their children liberated from the government school monopoly, they’re not about to let anyone mess with their children again.

And families that value educational freedom are going to need that political strength for reasons that have nothing to do with choice programs:

The right to raise your children in accordance with the dictates of your own conscience is being set up for threats like it’s rarely seen in this country. Homeschoolers and private schools are going to face these challenges whether there are school choice programs in their state or not. What they need most right now is an organized political constituency that is large enough and institutionalized enough and angry enough to fight back. They’re feeling increasingly vulnerable and anxious, because they don’t have that now—except in places that have big school choice programs, where the organizing has already been done, and many thousands more parents are part of non-government education than before choice programs existed.

Let me know what you think!


School Choice in a Divided America

January 4, 2022

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

OCPA carries my latest, on how school choice is a way forward for a divided America – at each others’ throats over everything from mask mandates to CRT – that reflects our national commitment to diversity and equality under the law:

These intense emotions surrounding education have always presented an unsolvable problem for the government school monopoly. We shove all kids into a single monopoly school system based on the notion that dispassionate educational experts will discover and implement the One Best Way to run schools, but it has never actually worked out that way. Government schools have always served the powerful, delivering at least decent service to comfortable suburban whites, while relegating the poor and the marginalized into schools that are little better than warehouses.

Today that unsolvable problem has become a crisis. Increasing polarization has raised the stakes of cultural conflict so high that even the government school monopoly is no longer able to cope. As Jonathan Haidt explained in his landmark book The Righteous Mind, even questions that seem like they ought to be resolvable through dispassionate discourse, like medical policy, are in practice subject to powerful group-membership associations that transform them into questions of fundamental decency and righteousness.

I have some specific things to say to those on the right who think they can beat the blob at its own game by “banning CRT” in schools:

Leave aside for a moment the fact that CRT has no stable and generally accepted definition, and that the government school monopoly, to the extent that it wants to rely on CRT, will have no difficulty working around or subverting whatever laws you pass. Is America about using political power to force people to conform to the in-group, leading to an endless cycle of conflict over who gets to speak for the in-group? Or is America about protecting everyone’s right to live in the way that seems best to them, as long as they respect everyone else’s right to do the same?…

Beyond prohibiting the most extreme abuses, the way to get education that really raises kids to believe in equality of rights under the rule of law is school choice. Most parents of color agree with that vision of America—equality of rights is what they spent centuries fighting for, after all. What they want from schools is not indoctrination in extreme ideologies, but the Three Rs and sound character virtues. Put them in charge, and that’s what they’ll choose.

Of course, like all other parents, they’ll also expect schools to affirm their human dignity and the contributions of their cultural identity—which white parents, to be blunt, have always taken for granted. “Kiss Me I’m Irish” doesn’t mean “Punch Greg in the Face, He’s Italian.”

A strong, confident America would want to keep the promise of freedom under the rule of law, even for those few families who really do want radical education. It wouldn’t hold those families’ children hostage and try to use the power of the state to turn them against their parents. That doesn’t strengthen the American experiment, it undermines it.

Let me know what you think!


The DEI Trilogy

December 12, 2021

James Paul and I have released a series of three studies from the Heritage Foundation documenting how extensive and dangerous Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts in education are. As I’ve written on this blog before, DEI sounds like it should be a good thing given that we truly value diversity and inclusion (equity is a different story), “but like many bad enterprises, DEI takes a bunch of good words and in Orwellian fashion uses them to advance the very opposite of what those words mean.”

The first report in our trilogy, “Diversity University: DEI Bloat in the Academy,” shows how large diversity staffs are at the 65 universities in the “Power 5” athletic conferences. The average institution has about 45 people devoted to promoting the social and political agenda associated with DEI. Keep in mind that our study did not count any of the staff devoted to ensuring compliance with non-discrimination laws nor did it count any of the faculty or staff in ethnic or gender studies departments. The compliance staff may be necessary to avoid legal problems and the ethnic/gender studies departmental staff are presumably engaged in the traditional academic enterprise of teaching and conducting research. The DEI staff we counted are neither legally necessary nor engaged in core academic activities. They are activists employed by universities to promote a particular, and as we demonstrate, noxious political agenda.

That report also showed that students report campus climates that are no better and often worse at universities with larger DEI staff relative to those with few DEI personnel. James and I had a piece in the Detroit News highlighting the situation at the University Michigan, which has 163 DEI staff — the biggest among the 65 universities we examined. I had a piece in the Daily Signal discussing how the growth in DEI staff was contributing to administrative bloat and rising costs in higher education. And James and I published another op-ed featuring how large DEI staff are at the University of Virginia (94 DEI staff) and Virginia Tech (83 DEI staff). People interested in looking up any of the 65 universities to see how many DEI personnel there are and how that staff level compares to the number of history professors or staff devoted to providing services to disabled students can use this really cool data visualization that the folks at Heritage designed.

The second report in our trilogy, “Equity Elementary: ‘Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’ Staff in Public Schools,” measured how far the DEI staffing and political strategy had made its way into K-12 education. We found that among larger districts with more than 100,000 students, 79% had a Chief Diversity Officer (CDO). This is not quite as universal as in higher education, but it is getting close. Among all public school districts with at least 15,000 students, 39% had a CDO. We also looked at the relationship between having a CDO and gaps in standardized test results between black and white, Hispanic and white, and poor and non-poor students. Districts hire CDOs claiming that it is necessary to help close achievement gaps, but we find that those gaps are larger and growing larger over time in districts that have a CDO relative to districts that don’t. This holds true even after we control statistically for the size and demographic characteristics of the districts. It appears that CDOs are likely counter-productive in accomplishing their stated purpose of closing achievement gaps. Instead, we suspect they are focused on their real purpose of advancing a noxious social and political agenda.

I was invited onto Fox News to discuss the Equity Elementary study. We mostly talked about Critical Race Theory and how I thought it could lead to a parent backlash, resulting in a Youngkin upset in the VA gubernatorial election. Turns out I was right about that. But I was also able to mention how CDOs are educationally counter-prodctive in K-12 public schools and instead are working to advance CRT and other radical political efforts. Kyle Smith also had an excellent column in the NY Post describing our Equity Elementary study in some detail. And Heritage made another really cool data visualizion that allows people to look up any of the 554 school districts we examined to see if they have a CDO and how large their achievement gaps are.

The third and most recent installment in our DEI trilogy is “Inclusion Delusion: The Antisemitism of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Staff at Universities,” which was released last week. It reports on the contents of university DEI staff’s Twitter feeds with regard to Israel and, for comparison purposes, China. We examined the tweets, retweets, and likes of 741 DEI staff at the same 65 universities studied in the Diversity University report. We found that university DEI staff pay almost three times as much attention to Israel as to China, and are almost always critical of Israel while mostly favorable toward China. Even more shocking than the fact that 96% of their Twitter communications regarding Israel were critical while 62% about China were favorable, is the intemperate language and tone of those tweets. We provide numerous examples in the report and they clearly demonstrate that these DEI staff cross the line from reasonable criticism of Israel into outright antisemitism. Keep in mind that the same university DEI staff hired to prevent hate and bias and to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students are doing the opposite of that, at least with respect to Jews.

So, we have published Diversity University, Equity Elementary, and Inclusion Delusion — DEI — in that order over the last several months. I love the Heritage Foundation for giving me the opportunity to produce this kind of work and contribute factual information to the debate over how our educational system should approach Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

You might think that since this is a trilogy and since we have managed to use Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the titles that we are now finished with this effort. But like Star Wars, Foundation, Riverworld, and other famous efforts that began as trilogies I strongly suspect that our work is not done here. I hope we don’t have to create the DEI-verse or pursue multiple timelines, but we will continue to examine DEI in education as long as is necessary to prevent a radical agenda from being foisted onto kids.


Parents’ Children, Parents’ Choice

December 2, 2021

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

OCPA carries my latest, in which I reply to a school district superintendent who is flogging the slogan “Public Money, Public Rules for Vouchers”:

His list of mandatory conformity for private schools includes taking exactly the same tests, which means the curriculum and pedagogy must also be the same as government schools. He demands they hire teachers on the same basis—worthless teaching certificates that are long proven to have no relationship to educational outcomes—and follow exactly the same “accountability” rules. He even demands they provide exactly the same student services and extracurricular activities.

What’s left for schools to offer parents a choice about? The school mascot?

This is like saying you support letting families decide what to eat for dinner, as long as they decide to eat hamburgers every single night. Hey, you’re free to put your choice of ketchup or mustard on them. It’s a free country! We’ll even let you put cheese on them, sometimes, provided you do it through our government-controlled cheese accountability system.

It’s time to rethink what really serves the public:

What is the public’s interest in education? Is it to ensure all children are pressed into molds, like machine parts on a factory assembly line? Or is it in the public’s interest to recognize that both human nature and the American experiment in a free and equal citizenry demand that education be answerable to parents?

One thing that’s definitely not in the public interest is “accountability” that is under the control of politicians and never holds schools accountable to anything but serving special interests….

I’ve got an “accountability” question for Deighan: According to brand-new data from the same state accountability system you’re so in love with, only 27% of students in the system you run are “proficient” or better in academic performance. Only 10% of African-American students in your system are proficient, and none—zero percent!—are above that level. When are you planning to resign?

I propose the counter-slogan “Parents’ Children, Parents’ Choice.” That’s the “public rule” that really serves the public.

Let me know what you think!


How do the States Stack Up? Measuring What Matters in Charter School Ecosystems

December 1, 2021

(Guest Post by Matt Nielsen)

In June of 2021, Educational Freedom Institute released a report (EFI Charter Ecosystem Rankings, aka “ECER”) that took a unique approach to rating the charter school ecosystems in each state. While the approach was unique, it was nothing if not obvious: measure what matters.

Dr. Benjamin Scafidi and Dr. Eric Wearne of Kennesaw State University produced that initial report and have now followed it up with a more robust ranking system that includes an expanded set of measures and more recent data. Surprisingly, no other rating system devised to that point measured the outcomes that one might consider important—outcomes like student performance and accessibility.

ECER 2022 asks those two questions: “Do students have reasonable access to a charter school?”, and “Are the charter schools doing right by the students that attend?” 

Those two questions are asked in a couple of different ways to ensure we’re truly ‘measuring what matters’ in as comprehensive a manner as possible. The ranking system includes measures, as follows.

The answers to these questions produced a rank-ordering of each state that turned out much different from efforts by other organizations like NAPCS and NACSA. For readers who are familiar with the input-based ranking systems, the ECER 2022 results may be surprising:

Why was the report necessary when other ranking schemes exist? As Scafidi and Wearne note,

“On NACSA’s 2015 ranking for example, Alabama placed fourth in the country, while having 0 charter schools and 0 charter school students. NACSA noted that in 2015 Alabama “passed a new charter law in 2015 that is based on best practices in charter school policy” for context. Mississippi ranked 6th, with a then five-year-old charter school law, a single authorizer, and 0 open charter schools. Arizona placed 18th in the same analysis, with 15% of their public school students enrolled in charter schools, the highest percentage in the country, except for the District of Columbia, which finished two places ahead of Arizona and enrolled 44% of their students in charter schools.”

Policymakers need reliable reports that accurately portray the effects of their policies. Prior to June 2021, no such report existed for the charter school ecosystems in the United States.

Download the report here to read more about the methodology of the ranking system, and to compare ECER 2022’s rankings to NACSA and NAPCS’s efforts.

Questions or feedback on ECER 2022? Contact Matt Nielsen: matthew@efinstitute.org


Segregated Public Schools

November 2, 2021

(Guest post by Greg Forster)

OCPA carries my latest, on how the government school monopoly maintains segregated schools:

Assigning students to schools based on where they live guarantees segregated schools, because Americans live in segregated neighborhoods. And even as the lines that separate school districts and individual school attendance zones have fluctuated over generations since the civil rights revolution, the lines continue to be drawn so as to ensure racially segregated schools.

Should we be surprised at that? As long as government monopolizes schooling, who goes to school where is under political control. And one of the most enduring forms of political mobilization is racial identity pandering. Whether openly or by subterfuge, politicians make gravy by appealing to voters’ race-based anxieties and perceived interests. That reality doesn’t magically disappear when it’s time to draw district and attendance-zone lines.

I draw on the Urban Institute’s mapping tool, Dividing Lines, to look at district lines and attendance zones that segregate students in Oklahoma City. Click the link to find schools in your state!

Convincing politicians not to pander by race strikes me as a rather Sisyphean task; I propose another approach:

Unsurprisingly, the progressives at the Urban Institute and I differ on the question of how these lines should be drawn if we lived in a perfect world where they weren’t drawn to satisfy political constituencies driven by identity politics. But we don’t live in that world, so who cares? To my mind, the only question that counts is how we can realistically, in this world, break the chain that binds skin color and school attendance.

School choice, which allows parents to use the public funds for their child’s education to attend the public or private school of their choice, has a great track record of integrating schools. That’s because it ends the segregationist practice of assigning students to schools based on where they live. Seven empirical studies have examined the impact of school choice programs on segregation; six found it reduced segregation while one found no visible effect. No empirical studies have found that school choice increases segregation. (Of course, given how aggressively segregationist the government school monopoly is, creating a more segregated system would be a tall order.)

Let me know what you think!


And the Winner of the 2021 “Al” is… Ken “Heinie the Tank Buster” Adam

November 1, 2021

We had an excellent set of nominees for this year’s Al. Greg and Matt each nominated two people. Greg nominated Nazar Mohammad Khasha and Ken “Heinie the Tank Buster” Adam. Matt nominated Christopher Lee and Ryan Peterson. I nominated Joseph Friedman. And Ron Spalter nominated John and Justine Glaser.

A compelling case could be made for selecting any of these very worth nominees. Nazar Mohammad Khasha stood up to tyrants with courage and humor, in the fine tradition of past Al nominees and winners. Fasi ZakaWim Nottroth, and  Master Sergeant Roddie Edmonds. Christopher Lee may really have been The Most Interesting Man in the World. Ryan Peterson is an excellent reminder that in the olde tymes there were these people called journbalists who actually went into the world to collect information and report it to you so that you might be better informed to take positive action rather than just folks who scan Twitter to bolster their partisan talking points. Joseph Friedman follows in the excellent tradition of Debrilla M. RatchfordGeorge P. Mitchell, and Al himself to demonstrate that people who invent things and build businesses may help themselves and profit, but they also can do much to improve the human condition. And John and Justine Glaser prove much of the same point.

But Ken “Heinie the Tank Buster” Adam is the most deserving among these very fine nominees because he gave us one of the most powerful ways of improving the human condition when faced with its awfulness — escape. Rather than thinking about how awful the container logjam at the port is or how evil the Taliban are, Ken “Heinie the Tank Buster” Adam allowed us to imagine a completely new world that is way cooler than the one we lived in. Secret rocket launchers inside of volcanos and a comic war room full of buffoons are not only cooler than the world, they are cooler than bendy straws, cookies, and the actors who work without those fantasy worlds.

I don’t get to ride a monorail that runs to the rocket launcher inside a volcano, but I can dream for days on end about being able to do so. The construction of compelling fantasy worlds, which Ken “Heinie the Tank Buster” Adam literally did, makes this world much more bearable and therefore significantly improves the human condition. Oh, and he also killed a bunch of Nazis. For these reasons, Ken “Heinie the Tank Buster” Adam is this year’s recipient of the Al.


For the Al: John and Justine Glaser

October 31, 2021
5 of NYC's Oldest Bakeries: Ferrara, Veniero, Glaser's, Parisi, and  Caputo's - Page 3 of 5 - Untapped New York

(Guest Post by Ron Spalter)

I respectfully submit, as nominees for the 2021 Al, John and Justine Glaser.  John and Justine are the originators and creators of the greatest pastry in the history of the world, the black and white cookie.

Overcoming disease, extreme poverty, and jealous other bakers in their day, John and Justine came up with this amazing treat in 1902.

They shouldn’t win just because they created the one edible item that immediately brings joy to all who eat or stand in its presence.  They should win because they were “woke” 118 years before the most woke rubbed the sleep out of their eyes. 

They, despite the incessant whining of their competitors, refused to make a cookie with only one glaze.  Fun fact:  John and Justine were Michael Jackson’s inspiration for the song, “Black or White.”  The unreleased, extended version of the song features the line,

“You know that you’re delicious, it doesn’t matter if it’s black or white.”

Like I said directly to the award committee, if John and Justine Glaser don’t win, the committee is obviously comprised of joyless people with no taste buds.  I submit this nomination even though I’m a type-1 diabetic.  Nuff said


Ryan Petersen for the “Al”

October 31, 2021

(Guest Post by Matthew Ladner)

The twitter thread that just over a week ago may have saved Americans from shortages and hyper-inflation. From Don’t Worry About the Vase, followed by the Al-worthy thread:

They went to five shortly thereafter.


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