Mark Steyn on the loveliness that is Obama’s Big Government:
In April last year, the Obama campaign identified by name eight Romney donors as “a group of wealthy individuals with less than reputable records. Quite a few have been on the wrong side of the law, others have made profits at the expense of so many Americans, and still others are donating to help ensure Romney puts beneficial policies in place for them.” That week, Kimberley Strassel began her Wall Street Journal column thus: “Try this thought experiment: You decide to donate money to Mitt Romney. You want change in the Oval Office, so you engage in your democratic right to send a cheque. Several days later, President Barack Obama, the most powerful man on the planet, singles you out by name… The message from the man who controls the Justice Department (which can indict you), the SEC (which can fine you), and the IRS (which can audit you), is clear: You made a mistake donating that money.”
Miss Strassel wrote that on April 26, 2012. Five weeks later, one of the named individuals, Frank VanderSloot, was informed by the IRS that he and his wife were being audited. In July, he was told by the Department of Labour of an additional audit over the guest workers on his cattle ranch in Idaho. In September, he was notified that one of his other businesses was to be audited. Mr VanderSloot, who had never previously been audited, attracted three in the four months after being publicly named by el Presidente.
You don’t need a speck of evidence, or a single step of logic, when you rhapsodise about the supposed benefits of diversity. The very idea of testing this wonderful, magical word against something as ugly as reality seems almost sordid. To ask whether institutions that promote diversity 24/7 end up with better or worse relations between the races than institutions that pay no attention to it is only to get yourself regarded as a bad person. To cite hard evidence that places obsessed with diversity have worse race relations is to risk getting yourself labelled an incorrigible racist. Free thinking is not free.
No scholarly text is ever error-free. But in the case of Kimmel’s book, there is a consistent pattern of using selective evidence and even pseudo-facts to stress women’s victimisation and paint males (particularly American males) in the worst light. The fictitious claim that most boys would choose death over girlhood – which will undoubtedly live on the internet after it’s gone from future editions of the book – fits seamlessly into the big picture. Internet myths aside, The Gender Society is widely used in college courses. And if it is indeed the most balanced gender studies textbook available – which may well be true – that says a lot about the rest.
Fair, balanced and impartial Ian Katz will have no trouble fitting in… He is reunited with former Guardian colleague Allegra Stratton and, in Paul Mason, he has an ex-Trotskyist Workers’ Power group member as his Economics Editor.
Feel free to add your own links and snippets in the comments.
Bonfire Night is insufficiently glum. Something must be done.
An earlier Guardian poll - Should Fireworks be Banned on Environmental Grounds? - was a close-run thing, with a narrow majority willing to permit an evening of explosive hedonism. The Guardian’s Felicity Carus suggested a possible compromise in the form of “green fireworks,” a quieter, less colourful, less explosive alternative made from sawdust and rice chaff.
Some people weigh their activist credentials by the annoyance they arouse, often deliberately, while dismissing the irritation as symptomatic of exposure to the Daily Mail. The degree of inconvenience and subsequent hostility can then be taken as evidence of one’s own righteousness and a cause for satisfaction. As if on cue, Sunny Hundal tells us: “Environmental issues is one area where I don’t yield much, and frankly when people snort angrily about [anti-air travel activists] Plane Stupid, that gives me even more pleasure.” Though not, I suspect, quite as much pleasure as Mr Hundal’s own extensive air travel adventures, which were excitedly announced shortly before his declaration of support for Plane Stupid: “Honestly, I love these guys.” Now I’ve no objection at all to people flying halfway around the planet, twice, as Mr Hundal did, to India then California, but I’m not the one declaring my “hard-line” green credentials.
Margaret Jamison is a lesbian feminist who defines rape as “all penile intercourse” on grounds that, “there is something wrong with this notion that a woman’s ‘consent’ is what separates a rapist from a non-rapist.” When not insisting that “all heterosex is rape,” Jamison’s thoughts turn a little too readily to the subject of harming children: “I believe male infanticide to be a better option than the current circumstances. I think it’s better than what we’ve got.”
Meet Arun Smith, the ideal self-satisfied product of a leftist education.
Despite his extensive commentary on the subject, Arun Smith still hasn’t specified any actual remark that offended him sufficiently to vandalise the university’s free speech wall then boast about it online. However, he does tell us that expectations of free speech are “structurally oppressive.” Quizzed on his presumed entitlement to violence, Mr Smith replies, “You forget that writing can be violence. Resistance to violence is not violence.” And so he, being heroic, must resist and intervene to save some (again unspecified and exquisitely precious) potential victim. In this case, presumably, he’s saving them from the psychological hazard of passing by the statement “traditional marriage is awesome.” Four words that would obviously shatter the self-esteem of any vulnerable student already on the verge of weeping. Such are the dramas to be enacted in the modern Canadian university, one of the most indulgent and cossetting environments in the history of the world.
The Guardian’s fashion guru Charlie Porter has a bag that’s much too daring for Canary Wharf security.
“I heard someone behind me. I turned and saw a man in jeans and a plain top. ‘Security,’ he said quietly but firmly, showing me some ID. ‘Can I have a word?’ He asked to see my bag. ‘Is it yours?’ I said yes, incredulous. This felt like a parallel universe. ‘It’s just that we’ve had a lot of women’s handbag thefts. You can’t be too careful.’”
In today’s Guardian, George Monbiot is stressing a pressing need. Specifically,
The need for a disinterested class of intellectuals which acts as a counterweight to prevailing mores.
And without which,
Racism, nationalism and war are
only three of the many hazards to which society is exposed.
For George, these superior intellects must be free of dirty commerce, even corporate donations for new buildings and scholarships, in order to denounce - and thereby correct - the public’s general preference for free markets and lower taxes. The state may spend more of our earnings and regulate more of our affairs than at any time in living memory, but it still isn’t big enough for George. And so someone must save the lower orders from “neoliberal economists,” “imperialist historians” and “war-mongering philosophers,” all of whom would otherwise warp our tiny, undeveloped minds. An arrangement of the kind Mr Monbiot envisions, presumably funded by the taxpayer and in which our self-anointed betters denounce “economic growth and the forces that drive it,” is a disinterested one, see, and thus pure of motive. Just like socialism. Plus,
this enlightened “class of intellectuals” – which is to say, people very much like
George – is all that will save us from racism, nationalism and even war.
Like his ideological peers in the world of art, Mr Monbiot regards money from companies, given freely, as a distilled wickedness that corrupts all it touches; while money extracted from taxpayers, forcibly, is morally hygienic and apparently without limit. All very humble and egalitarian. Not at all like the fantasy of yet another would-be socialist overlord. George, after all, is known for his immense modesty, as when he expressed his contempt for those who dare to disagree with him, all of whom were waved aside as dullard conservatives struggling with racial phobias. “The other side,” he announced, is “on average more stupid than our own.” Guardian readers - known far and wide as The Great Thinkers Of Our Era™ - were told in no uncertain terms that “conservatism thrives on low intelligence” and “appeals to stupidity.” “Conservative ideology,” said George, “is the critical pathway from low intelligence to racism.” And all of this in contrast with liberals such as himself, who are apparently “self-deprecating” and “too liberal for their own good.”
Readers who wish to sup more wisdom from Mr Monbiot’s milky teats can do so here, here and here.
We treat technological progress as though it were a natural process, and we speak of Moore’s law — computers’ processing power doubles every two years — as though it were one of the laws of thermodynamics. But it is not an inevitable, natural process. It is the outcome of a particular social order. When I am speaking to students, I like to show them a still from the Oliver Stone movie Wall Street in which the masterful financier Gordon Gekko is talking on his cell phone, a Motorola DynaTac 8000X. The students always — always — laugh: The ridiculous thing is more than a foot long and weighs a couple of pounds. But the revelatory fact that takes a while to sink in is this: You had to be a millionaire to have one. The phone cost the equivalent of nearly $10,000, it cost about $1,000 a month to operate, and you couldn’t text or play Angry Birds on it… By comparison, an iPhone 5 is a wonder, a commonplace miracle.
My question for the students is: How is it that the cell phones in your pockets get better and cheaper every year, but your schools get more expensive and less effective? How is it that Gordon Gekko’s ultimate status symbol looks to our eyes as ridiculous as Molly Ringwald’s Reagan-era wardrobe and asymmetrical hairdos? That didn’t just happen.
In the summer of 2012, as the University of California reeled from one piece of bad budget news to another, a veteran political columnist sounded an alarm. Cuts in state funding were jeopardising the university’s mission of preserving the “cultural legacy essential to any great society,” Peter Schrag warned in the Sacramento Bee: “Would we know who we are without knowing our common history and culture, without knowing Madison and Jefferson and Melville and Dickinson and Hawthorne; without Shakespeare, Milton and Chaucer; without Dante and Cervantes; without Charlotte Brontë and Jane Austen; without Goethe and Molière; without Confucius, Buddha, Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.; without Mozart, Rembrandt and Michelangelo; without the Old Testament; without the Gospels; without Plato and Aristotle, without Homer and Sophocles and Euripides, without Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky; without Gabriel García Márquez and Toni Morrison?”
Schrag’s appeal to the value of humanistic study was unimpeachable. It just happened to be laughably ignorant about the condition of such study at the University of California. Stingy state taxpayers aren’t endangering the transmission of great literature, philosophy, and art; the university itself is. No UC administrator would dare to invoke Schrag’s list of mostly white, mostly male thinkers as an essential element of a UC education; no UC campus has sought to ensure that its undergraduates get any exposure to even one of Schrag’s seminal thinkers (with the possible exception of Toni Morrison), much less to America’s founding ideas or history.
Leaders of the University of California system have agreed to disagree with – and outright dismiss without discussion – a lengthy report that details examples of leftist bias by professors and within social science curriculums throughout the 10-campus system.
John Murtagh on when terrorism is a credential among leftist academics:
Forty-three years ago last month, Kathy Boudin, now a professor at Columbia but then a member of the Weather Underground, escaped an explosion at a bomb factory operated in a townhouse in Greenwich Village. The story is familiar to people of a certain age. Three weeks earlier, Boudin’s Weathermen had firebombed a private home in Upper Manhattan with Molotov cocktails. Their target was my father, a New York state Supreme Court justice. The rest of the family was, presumably, an afterthought. I was 9 at the time, only a year older than the youngest victim in Boston. One of Boudin’s colleagues, Cathy Wilkerson, related in her memoir that the Weathermen were disappointed with the minimal effects of the bombs at my home. They decided to use dynamite the next time and bought a large quantity along with fuses, metal pipes and, yes, nails.
Biscuits could be made smaller under plans to cut obesity rates by reducing the amount of fat in the nation’s diet. Ministers are set to demand that food manufacturers, cafes and supermarkets reduce the portion size of items high in saturated fat, such as biscuits, doughnuts, milky coffees and cakes. Under the plans, seen by the Telegraph, customers could be encouraged to buy low-fat options by restricting the availability of less healthy food in restaurants and shops.
Making it more difficult to buy certain popular items is encouragement, see? The concern for us is touching. Thank goodness The Clever Ones are in charge.
However, Department of Health officials have suggested there is a risk that smaller portions of items such as biscuits and cakes will simply lead to customers buying more and could fail to reduce their fat intake overall. Customers could also find themselves at risk of being ripped off if retailers charge the same price for less generous portions.
It’s not just biscuits of course. There’s always a list.
Officials suggested actions that companies could take to help reduce the amount of fat that customers consume, including coffee shops using “low fat milks” as the “default option.” Caterers and shops could also use reduced fat cheese and spreads as standard.
If the Department of Health has time to fret about our use of undiluted milk and the size of our biscuits, perhaps it’s time to rethink the scope, staffing and budget of the Department of Health. A much slimmer one seems in order.
The first collaboration between tattooist and fantasy artist Loren Fetterman and performance artist Stefanie Elrick, Written in Skin will see the stories of an international group of strangers [being] ‘blood-lined’ across the entirety of Stefanie’s body in one sitting. ‘Blood-lining’ is a semi-permanent form of tattooing without ink, the results of which are akin to scratches visible for weeks that gradually heal and disappear. Literalising the emotional marks we inflict and receive through experience, then transforming them into a customised piece of body art, this project explores vulnerability, intimacy and the regenerative process of love.
It explores. But of course. Oh, there’s more.
As the skin begins to restore itself the following weeks, photographer Jamie Alun Price will document the healing process via an online picture diary.
Written In Skin will be, um, performed at the Cornerhouse Annexe, Manchester, Sunday May 19th, between 11am and 5pm.
And those with a taste for even more daring and challenging work may prefer the theatrical stylings of Mr Ivo Dimchev, a “radical performer” acclaimed for his “gripping sensitivity” and whose performance piece I-ON “explores” the “provoking functionlessness” of various objects, before showing us “how to make contact with something that has no function.” Readers are advised that the aforementioned contact-making, which was performed as part of the 2011 Vienna International Dance Festival and is shown below, inevitably includes vigorous self-pleasure with what appears to be a wig:
When Jada Shapiro decided to raise her daughter from birth without diapers, for the most part, not everyone was amused. Ms Shapiro scattered little bowls around the house to catch her daughter’s offerings, and her sister insisted that she use a big, dark marker to mark the bowls so that they could never find their way back to the kitchen… “Elimination communication,” as the diaper-free method of child-rearing is called, is finding an audience in the hipper precincts of New York City. Ms Shapiro, who is a doula, a birth and child-rearing coach, says it is practically now a job qualification to at least be able to offer diaper-free training as an option to clients. Caribou Baby, an “eco-friendly maternity, baby and lifestyle store,” has been drawing capacity crowds to its diaper-free “meetups,” where parents exchange tips like how to get a baby to urinate on the street between parked cars. Parents are drawn to the method as a way of preserving the environment from the ravages of disposable diapers. Many of them like the thought that they are rediscovering an
ancient practice used in other cultures.
How daringly ethnic. Why, it’s practically like having your very own brown baby. I can’t help wondering if this, um, innovation will affect how often such parents find willing babysitters and dinner guests. To say nothing of how often they get invited round for lunch by friends who may wish to preserve their own environment.
Durkin’s film not only offers a useful history lesson, it’s also a nimble shredding of quite a few leftist myths. Its highlights include contributions from Madsen Pirie, who really ought to be on TV more often, and some comically disingenuous squirming by Mary Warnock and Neil Kinnock. During the Kinnock interviews, pay close attention to Durkin’s right eyebrow. A lot can be said with an eyebrow.
[Inventor, Ali] Razeghi also claimed to have beaten competitors working on similar devices: “The Americans are trying to make this invention by spending millions of dollars on it where I have already achieved it at a fraction of the cost.” He added that he is concerned about industrial espionage, as other nations will be eager to learn his secrets. “The reason that we are not launching our prototype at this stage is that the Chinese will steal the idea and produce it in millions overnight,” he said.
This is an extraordinarily, absolutely, uniquely cohesive political entity and society… I’ve been there. I’ve seen it up close and personal… They do have a satellite circling the Earth. They do have a cohesive, pristine, innocent culture. A culture that has not been penetrated by globalisation and by Western mores… I’m much more afraid of the United States of America and so are most people in the world.
The woes of being leftwing and insufficiently black.
One needn’t be a cartoon Tory to marvel at Decca Aitkenhead’s classic Guardian piece Their Homophobia is Our Fault, in which she insisted that the “precarious, over-exaggerated masculinity” and murderous homophobia of some Jamaican reggae stars are products of the “sodomy of male slaves by their white owners.” And that the “vilification of Jamaican homophobia implies… a failure to accept post-colonial politics.” Thus, sympathetic readers could feel guilty not only for “vilifying” the homicidal sentiments of some Jamaican musicians, but also for the culpability of their own collective ancestors. One wonders how those gripped by this fiendish dilemma could even begin to resolve their twofold feelings of shame. It’s important to understand these are not just lapses in logic or random fits of insincerity; these outpourings are displays – of class and moral elevation. Which is why they persist, despite getting knottier and ever more absurd. Crudely summarised, it goes something like this: “I am better than you because I pretend to feel worse.”
A black man buys truffles. The Guardian is thrilled.
This “new kind of spending” - buying overpriced fungus - is much more radical than buying Rolex watches, ostentatious cars or cases of Cristal champagne. It’s a thrilling development in “black identity.”
Academic Wrongthought™ and the narrowing of minds.
A study of 24,000 students conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities in 2010 revealed that only 30.3% of college seniors strongly agreed with the statement that, “It is safe to hold unpopular opinions on campus”… The students were downright optimistic compared to the 9,000 campus professionals surveyed. Only 18.8% strongly agreed that it was safe to hold unpopular opinions on campus... As the sociologist Diana C. Mutz discovered in her 2006 book Hearing the Other Side, those with the highest levels of education had the lowest exposure to people with conflicting points of view, while those who have not graduated from high school can claim the most diverse discussion mates. In other words, the most educated among us are also the most likely to live in the tightest echo chambers.
My local publicly-funded galleries of contemporary work, one of which is a glorified coffee shop for two dozen middle-class lefties, can be relied on to disappoint - and to go on disappointing - precisely because there’s no obvious mechanism for correction. No box office takings to fret about, no bums on seats, no ghastly commercial metrics need be considered. And so the featured artists, or pseudo-artists, can expect taxpayers to serve as patrons, whether they wish to or not, while being immune to the patron’s customary discrimination between promising art and opportunist flim-flam. The expectation that one must be exempt from base commerce, and by extension the preferences of one’s supposed audience and customers, is an arrangement that rewards and encourages the peddling of drek. Yet Liz Forgan and her Arts Council associates would have us believe that an interest in visual culture, music, etc., should coincide with an urge to make others pay for whatever it is that tickles you, or for whatever is deemed to improve the species by Liz Forgan and her colleagues, i.e., People Loftier Than Us.
Claire Berlinski on Margaret Thatcher and her loftier enemies.
When asked why intellectuals loathed her so, the theatre producer Jonathan Miller replied that it was “self-evident” – they were nauseated by her “odious suburban gentility.” The philosopher Mary Warnock deplored Thatcher’s “neat, well-groomed clothes and hair, packaged together in a way that’s not exactly vulgar, just low,” embodying “the worst of the lower-middle class.” This filled Warnock with “a kind of rage.”
There’s more, so much more, in the greatest hits. And patrons are reminded that this rickety barge is kept afloat by the kindness of strangers.
Mark Steyn on the decline of the family (and what that costs):
Seventy percent of black babies are born out of wedlock, so are 53 percent of Hispanics… and 70 percent of the offspring of poor white women. Over half the babies born to mothers under 30 are now “illegitimate” (to use a quaintly judgmental formulation). For the first three-and-a-half centuries of American settlement the bastardy rate (to be even quainter) was a flat line in the basement of the graph, stuck at 2 or 3 percent all the way to the eve of the Sixties. Today over 40 percent of American births are “non-marital”… The most reliable constituency for Big Government is single women, for whom the state is a girl’s best friend, the sugar daddy whose cheques never bounce. A society in which a majority of births are out of wedlock cannot be other than a Big Government welfare society. Ruining a nation’s finances is one thing; debauching its human capital is far harder to fix.
See also Heather Mac Donald here, here and here. Or if you’re feeling terribly radical and edgy, you could do as Laurie Penny says and “fuck marriage,” “fuck monogamy” and fuck all of those other “small ugly ambitions.” What could possibly go wrong?
Ministers will hit back in the row over welfare this week by publishing a raft of figures which they say show that tough measures - or the threat of them - are already “changing behaviour” by seeing people drop their claims. These include the figures on incapacity benefit. As well as the 878,300 who chose to drop their claims [rather than face a medical], another 837,000 who did take the a medical test were found to be fit to work immediately, while a further 367,300 were judged able to some level of work. Only 232,000 (one in eight of those tested) were classified by doctors to be too ill to do any sort of job. Some 30 people claimed they were unfit to work because of blisters, while 60 cited acne and 2,110 said “sprains and strains” rendered them unfit for employment.
If someone comes at you with a knife and you point a gun at him, he is very unlikely to keep coming, and far more likely to head in the other direction, perhaps in some haste, if he has a brain in his head. Only if he is an idiot are you likely to have to pull the trigger. And if he is an idiot with a knife coming after you, you had better have a trigger to pull. Surveys of American gun owners have found that 4 to 6 percent reported using a gun in self-defence within the previous five years. That is not a very high percentage but, in a country with 300 million people, that works out to hundreds of thousands of defensive uses of guns per year. Yet we almost never hear about these hundreds of thousands of defensive uses of guns from the media, which will report the killing of a dozen people endlessly around the clock. The murder of a dozen innocent people is unquestionably a human tragedy. But that is no excuse for reacting blindly by preventing hundreds of thousands of other people from defending themselves against meeting the same fate.
And Chris Snowdon is momentarily optimistic about the culling of quangos:
One of the coalition’s stated priorities after the general election was to have a “bonfire of the quangos” which would save the taxpayer £2.6 billion and rid us of numerous pointless bureaucrats. Three cheers for that, of course, and some progress seems to have been made, with more than 100 of these parasitic organisations biting the dust. It is, however, notoriously difficult to slim down the size of the state thanks to the vested interests who depend upon it. Governments are also incredibly inefficient even when it comes to closing things down. Almost unbelievably, the cost of the bonfire will be £830 million — nearly twice the original estimate — and the government could not resist setting up some new quangos in the process.
As usual, feel free to add your own links and snippets in the comments.
Franklin Einspruch climbs Mount Vanity and argues with art dealer Ed Winkleman, who tells us:
“Is that art?” is not a valid question for the observer, despite how well educated, to apply to a declared artwork. “Art” is whatever an artist says it is. The role of the observer is limited to deciding whether that declared artwork is any good or not. It’s not at all up to them to declare whether the work is “art” or not. The artist said it was. Full stop.
Yes, you – the lowly punter – have a “limited role,” even if you’re “educated.” And even if you’re a taxpayer being stiffedwiththebill. Thank goodness our artistic Brahmins are so much better than us.