This is for those of you who want to know how to cook tinned ravioli. First you’ll need a good tonne or so of thick, oozing lava...
This is for those of you who want to know how to cook tinned ravioli. First you’ll need a good tonne or so of thick, oozing lava...
Keenly attuned to pressing issues of the day, the Guardian’s Matt Seaton tells us we just aren’t agonising about cupcakes enough. And when I say cupcakes I obviously mean,
Butter-iced snares of self-loathing that sell precisely because they exploit young women’s insecurity about their looks and identity, and offer a completely false and self-defeating solace of temporary gratification, almost certainly followed by remorse and disgust.
It seems our Guardianista is upset by cupcakes being a bit girly. And that somehow, for reasons that aren’t clear, these tiny cakes are exploitative and induce all manner of psychological problems in the womenfolk of the world. It’s a bold claim, I think you’ll agree. According to Mr Seaton,
They’re not just cakes: like any cultural artefact, they have implicit values baked in. And the values I see in cupcakes are of a demeaning, self-trivialising sort of hyper-femininity.
For newcomers, more items from the archives. A flavour of what goes on here.
The Guardian’s Mike Power denounces the barbecue patriarchy. It’s “sexist,” “ugly” and “oppressively penetrating.”
According to Mr Power, there’s nothing uglier than the sight of menfolk indulging, often knowingly, in a clichéd male behaviour – cooking for friends and family, and making sure that everyone is having a good time. “This grilled-food gender split is ubiquitous, odd and unacknowledged,” says he. This may strike readers as a bold, indeed preposterous, claim to make. One of the rituals of the barbecues I’ve attended is the good-natured parodying – one might say acknowledgment – of precisely those conventions. “Man make fire. Man cook meat,” etc. Perhaps we’re to imagine that only the keen social observers who write for the Guardian have ever noticed such things or found them worthy of amused comment. More to the point, it doesn’t seem to have occurred to Mr Power that quite a few people, male and female, actually enjoy the role-play opportunity of the barbecue - the theatre, the ritual, the fun. Even – heresy! – gendered fun. But hey, the point is that some of you heathens are still arranging your leisure time and social gatherings in a way of which our Guardianista disapproves. Your barbecues aren’t being gender balanced in the way he would like.
On sacrificial children and the “anti-family.”
The endlessly entertaining Laurie Penny – who entertains us for reasons she doesn’t quite comprehend – pointed her readers to a breathless endorsement of the fatherless family. New Enquiry contributor Madeleine Schwartz dubbed this non-nuclear unit the “anti-family,” thus signalling its countercultural radicalism and general sexiness. We were told, based on nothing much, that “a couple cannot raise a child better than one [person] can.” Apparently, the “diffusion” of the family unit – which is to say, absent fathers, hardship and subsequent dependence on the state – “is one of the most exciting things to happen to the American social pattern since sexual liberation.”
Make way for George Monbiot. Being a socialist, he’s better than you.
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 allegedly “self-deprecating” and “too liberal for their own good.”
Robert and Edward Skidelsky want to save us from all the nice things they enjoy and that we shouldn’t want.
“Why don’t more people aspire to living a good life?” asks our architect of tomorrow, before blaming Margaret Thatcher. Why doesn’t the rabble want what he knows is good for us? And what’s good for us, apparently, is not earning more than Mr Skidesky deems “enough.” It seems we shouldn’t want to travel the world, as Mr Skidelsky does, or sunbathe by the pool at the Caracas Hilton, as Mr Skidelsky did, or own a house as comfortable and spacious as his. “Keynes never owned a house in his life,” we’re told. “Neither for that matter did Virginia Woolf.” And so why should we, the little people? Mr Skidelsky imagines his inferiors “living good lives, surrounding themselves with beauty.” It’s just that he’d rather we didn’t get to own much of it, or have enough money to make more of it happen. Utopia, you see, will “require some restriction.”
And by all means plunge into the greatest hits.
The Christian Science Monitor ponders some postnatal appetites:
Men were not part of the experiment, so it’s still unknown whether baby smells can activate their reward circuits in the same way. Anecdotally, women seem more likely than men to vocalise their baby-eating impulses, but that may just be a difference in how the two genders communicate.
John Nolte spies a revolving door:
Whether the number is 15 or 19, the fact that this many so-called journalists from outlets as influential as CBS, ABC, CNN, Time, the Washington Post, Boston Globe, and the Los Angeles Times want to work at the very same administration they are supposed to hold accountable, is not only troubling, it also explains a lot. Why would anyone enamoured enough with an Obama administration they want to go work for, do anything that might make a potential employer uncomfortable — you know, like actually report on ObamaCare and the economy honestly, or dig into Benghazi and the IRS?
Advocates of minimum wage laws often give themselves credit for being more “compassionate” towards “the poor.” But they seldom bother to check what are the actual consequences of such laws. One of the simplest and most fundamental economic principles is that people tend to buy more when the price is lower and less when the price is higher. Yet advocates of minimum wage laws seem to think that the government can raise the price of labour without reducing the amount of labour that will be hired... As for being “compassionate” toward “the poor,” this assumes that there is some enduring class of Americans who are poor in some meaningful sense, and that there is something compassionate about reducing their chances of getting a job… Most working people in the bottom 20 percent in income at a given time do not stay there over time. More of them end up in the top 20 percent than remain behind in the bottom 20 percent. There is nothing mysterious about the fact that most people start off in entry level jobs that pay much less than they will earn after they get some work experience. But, when minimum wage levels are set without regard to their initial productivity, young people are disproportionately unemployed -- priced out of jobs.
Related to the above, ESR on fast food and “social justice”:
If you are one of the concerned, caring, and vastly indignant activists behind this strike, I’m here to tell you that your social-justice problem has a simple solution. Take out a loan (or put together the money from your like-minded activist friends), buy a franchise from one of the chains, and hire workers at $15 an hour. There, that was simple, wasn’t it? You’ll make money hand over fist and demonstrate to all those eeevil corporations that they can too pay a “just wage”; they just don’t want to because they’re greedy. Or…maybe not.
Heather Mac Donald on when ‘affirmative action’ fails:
Racial preferences are not just ill advised, they are positively sadistic. Only the preening self-regard of University of California administrators and faculty is served by such an admissions travesty. Preference practitioners are willing to set their “beneficiaries” up to fail and to subject them to possible emotional distress, simply so that the preference dispensers can look out upon their “diverse” realm and know that they are morally superior to the rest of society.
And BenSix considers the artistry of Mr Robin Thicke:
It is customary in pieces such as this for their author to insist that he or she is no prude. I will respect this tradition and offer credentials: I have wallowed in low culture to an unhealthy degree, from cage fighting to B movies to French literature.
As usual, feel free to add your own links and snippets in the comments.
Apparently it’s the duty of every female Guardian contributor to air her feminist credentials at regular intervals and to find a feminist angle for pretty much anything that moves. So you can imagine the pressure bearing down on the paper’s feature writer Sophie Heawood, who, deadline looming, strains heroically to make a feminist point. Any feminist point:
My daughter has recently become obsessed with the size of her poos – and they are all big, according to her, whether they look to me like they came out of a greedy Jack Russell or a sickly church mouse. “Big poo, Mummy,” she says, in awed tones – awed by her own bottom. “Big poo.”
Stick with it, she’ll get there. And there may be some classic sentences to file along the way.
I, in turn, have become desperately proud of her pride. I’m so in love with her big poos that I can’t bear the idea of them stopping.
No. Don’t. Bad dog.
Now brace yourselves because here come the guts of the article, the meat of it, wrapped with a single-ply tissue of regulation feminism:
[I can’t bear the idea] of her realising that they aren’t things you want to show off about. Of the day when somebody makes it clear to her, whether by accident or design, that sweet little girls aren’t supposed to describe the massive steaming achievements cruising out of their bums.
Curse the patriarchy, stopping little goddesses finding triumph and validation in the size of their stools.
That curly little blondes such as she should desire to be small, and contained, and clean, and dress up as pink princesses. And shut up about their dirty selves; already, enough. I dread the day those whopper turds have got to go… And I think about how much of what girls do is about making themselves smaller. Wanting to suck their waists in and be thin. To not have said so much in public, with such an impact. To be like Hello Kitty – all smile, no mouth.
Sorrows such as this must be shared with friends.
A friend told me yesterday that her four-year-old announced she had done a poo “like a brown dolphin.” Another friend remembers her little sister sitting on a potty and saying, “Look! It is a beautiful golden sun!” before they all waved it goodbye, discussing the beautiful sunset as they flushed it down the loo. I know I must, but I am resistant. I do not want to flush my daughter’s beautiful sunsets down the loo.
Hey, don’t blame me for lowering the tone. Julia found it.
A line beyond which there’s little to add.
A dried-out batch of asparagus has touched off a debate about racial discrimination, grocery stores and the role of citizen-led commissions. It started in May when resident David Olander was perusing the produce section of the University City Schnucks. He noticed the asparagus weren’t resting in a tray of water. “It was just sitting there dried out,” said Olander, a member of the city’s human relations commission. Olander summoned an assistant manager, and then he asked the question: Did the quality of the asparagus have any relationship to the store’s location in a black neighbourhood?
“I certainly hope not,” Olander recalled the manager saying. Olander’s experience prompted him to write a letter to Schnucks CEO Scott Schnuck, and out of that came a meeting with Schnucks employees. But the letter and meeting were tinged with allegations that the St Louis area’s largest grocery chain was discriminating against minority communities — accusations that Schnucks vehemently denies… Most of these events occurred without the knowledge of the City Council — some of whom were upset to learn that someone representing a city commission had levelled racial discrimination accusations against one of the city’s long-standing businesses….
Mayor Shelley Welsch, however, doesn’t believe the commission acted outside its authority. The seven-member commission advises the City Council on a variety of matters to prevent discrimination and foster a welcoming environment. “If they perceive something is different, they have the right to ask why,” Welsch said… Olander, meanwhile, stands by his actions. The asparagus he saw back in May was a far cry from the asparagus he had seen at the Schnucks about eight miles away in Ladue, where it sat in water, looking beautiful, he told his fellow commissioners, according to a recording of the meeting. Olander admitted to being in an “ornery mood” the day he visited the store. “I just felt like stirring it up a little bit, letting them know that somebody cares,” he said.
A phrase I borrow from a remarkably sane Guardian reader, responding to this article by Mike Power, a man apparently determined to atone for having such a patriarchal name. First, picture the scene:
All across Britain, the whiff of charred, low-quality sausage meat is hanging in the summer haze. And with it, floating almost indistinguishably in the grease-filled air across the garden fences, is blokey barbecue chat.
And then, this being the Guardian,
If there is anything less compelling but more oppressively penetrating than the conversation of four suburban men discussing how to light and then operate a barbecue, I have yet to hear it.
You heard him, it’s oppressively penetrating. Why so, you ask?
What really drains the joy from the summer breeze is the assumption, and the practice, that this is Man’s Work. All over the UK, probably the world, the barbecue is now one of the last places where even normal blokes become sexist.
Yes, I know. Two for our archive of classic sentences. Mr Power is upset, as all right-thinking people should be, that some heinous “biological determinism” holds sway in the warm weather custom of cooking outdoors. A cultural phenomenon that, we learn, “sees women as salad-spinners and men as the keepers of the grill, the tenders of the flame, lords and masters of the meat.” “It’s a sausage-fest out there,” says Mr Power. “And it’s getting ugly.” Because there’s nothing uglier than the sight of menfolk indulging, often knowingly, in a clichéd male behaviour – cooking for friends and family, and making sure that everyone is having a good time. None of which impedes our slayer of the patriarchy. He has credentials to display and boilerplate to churn:
The mythology of meat is well marbled with machismo.
I’ll just leave that one there, shall I?
The Heresiarch ponders the Chinese market for human milk:
Apparently - well, according to the South China Morning Post, as retailed in shocked tones to readers of Telegraph Online by Tim Stanley – there’s a trend among China’s increasingly prosperous and fashion-conscious middle classes to hire wet-nurses. Only not all the milk is intended for babes in arms… Yes, it’s unconventional. But you may reasonably wonder why it’s normal for people to consume milk intended by nature to feed baby cows, yet enjoying milk intended for human beings should be considered disgusting and wrong… Leaving aside the yuck factor, it is of course impractical (and morally unacceptable) to milk women in the same way that cows are milked commercially: human milk as such will only ever be a niche product.
Daniel Hannan considers fracking and its opponents:
When I spoke in the European Parliament in support of fracking, most of the negative comments I received did not focus on specific safety concerns. Rather, they complained in general terms that fracking would ‘poison the planet’ or ‘bleed Mother Earth’ for no higher cause than ‘greed’. What is meant here by ‘greed’ is the desire for material improvement that has driven every advance since the old stone age… ‘Greed’, in this sense, is why we still have teeth after the age of 30, why women no longer expect to die in childbirth, why we have coffee and computers and cathedrals. ‘Greed’ is why we have time to listen to Beethoven and go for country walks and play with our children. Cheaper energy, on any measure, improves our quality of life. But this is precisely what at least some Greens object to.
What they want, as they frankly admit, is decarbonisation, deindustrialisation and depopulation. They regard the various advances we’ve made since the old stone age – the coffee, the computers, the cathedrals – with regret. What society needs, they tell us, is not green consumerism, but less consumerism. Which is, of course, precisely what most Western countries have had since 2008. The crash brought about all the things that eco-warriors had been demanding: lower GDP, less consumption, a decline in international trade. Yet, oddly, when it happened, they didn’t seem at all satisfied.
As the reliably wrong ecological doomsayer Paul Ehrlich told the Los Angeles Times in 1989, “It’d be a little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it. Like giving a machine gun to an idiot child.” Ehrlich’s fellow activist Jeremy Rifkin added, “It’s the worst thing that could happen to our planet.”
Tim Worstall on a certain, clearly evil, coffeehouse chain:
Why Starbucks isn’t paying the corporation tax due on its profits is thus explained: it’s not making any profits that it has to pay corporation tax upon. But such is the moral panic that people are still shouting at them. As to where the money is going that is simple enough. Try reading Ricardo on rent....or if that’s too much for you, read Tim Harford’s first chapter in Undercover Economist. Which uses London coffee shops to explain Ricardo on rent. The competition for the land and or sites which get a lot of passing thirsty traffic is such that rents soar and the landlords get all the money. Which they are indeed taxed upon as rents are one of those things that you really cannot shift about in and out of a tax jurisdiction. Starbucks isn’t paying tax this is true: but the economic activity of coffee shops is, it's just through the landlords.
And Heather Mac Donald mulls the politics of policing New York:
For the last decade and a half, anti-cop advocates and their political allies have assailed discretionary stops as racist because the vast majority of stop subjects are black and Hispanic. This argument ignores the reality that the vast majority of criminals and victims are also black and Hispanic. Given that fact, the police cannot deploy their resources to the neighbourhoods where law-abiding residents most need protection without producing racially disparate stop and arrest data. The NYPD’s stop rate for blacks is actually lower than their representation among known violent offenders. Blacks, who constitute 23 percent of the city’s population, committed 66 percent of all violent crimes in 2011, according to victims and witnesses, and 73 percent of all shootings — but they were only 53 percent of all stop subjects. By contrast, whites, who constitute 35 percent of the city’s population, committed 6 percent of all violent crimes and 3 percent of all shootings. They made up 9 percent of all stops.
As usual, feel free to add your own links and snippets in the comments.
Chris Snowdon on booze, sponsorship and publicly subsidised temperance zealots:
With tiresome predictability, Alcohol Concern says this must all be done for the sake of “children.” There is, it seems, no interference into adult pastimes that cannot be justified in the name of those who are prohibited from engaging in them. For the moral busybody, all the world is a crèche.
Peter Wood ponders the bean-counting world of campus gender equity:
To be “representative of the student body,” approximately 55% of the 52 Title IX Coordinator positions should have been held by women. But in our sample, 83% are held by women. Likewise, women appear overrepresented in the staff positions of the relevant campus offices, but the level of overrepresentation was less than for the top positions (73.1 percent of the positions are held by women). Considering that the overwhelming preponderance of sexual harassment allegations are directed by women at men, the disproportion of women to men in the positions charged with interpreting and enforcing the sexual harassment rules is a legitimate concern. Are male students who are accused of sexual harassment likely to receive fair-minded treatment in these offices?
Mark Bauerlein* on do as I say not as I do:
When white male President Mills pledges to press for race-based affirmative action, the right reply is this: “Well, then, sir, you must resign your post immediately and call for Bowdoin to hire a racial or ethnic minority in your place.” Keep it simple and direct. Every white male board member of the ACE should receive a message to step down. Let’s ask white male campus leaders to stand up for their own principles and do the thing they want everybody else to do. When white women acquire a disproportionate number of jobs in campus leadership, yet still call for more diversity, they, too, should be asked to withdraw. This is the logic of affirmative action, and if diversity proponents who are white follow it to its conclusion, they should relinquish their positions as soon as possible.
Jennifer Kabbany notes the difficulties of gendered nouns:
The University of Leipzig has voted to adopt the feminine version of the word for ‘professor’ as its default. In German, professorin refers to a female professor while professor is the male equivalent. Under the new measures, written documents will use the term Professorinnen when referring to professors in general. A footnote is to explain that male professors are also included in the description. Physics professor Dr Josef Käs suggested the change as a joke because he was becoming weary of extended discussions about gendered language. To his surprise, the university board voted in favour of the idea.
And Theodore Dalrymple on jihad, entitlement and Michael Adebolajo:
It is not true that the society in which he lived offered him no opportunity for personal betterment. Adebolajo was for a time a student at Greenwich University, graduation from which, whatever the real value of the education it offered him, would have improved his chances in the job market, especially in the public sector. But it was at the university that he encountered radical Islam, that ideology that simultaneously succours people with an existential grudge against the world and flatters their inflated and inflamed self-importance. It also successfully squares the adolescent circle: the need both to conform to a peer group and to rebel against society.
As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments. [ *Added, via Rafi in the comments. ]
So deadly, in fact, we must be steered away from biscuits deemed too substantial:
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.
Steel yourselves, readers, for a shocking report of psychological brutality inflicted on wee ones during a terrifying rampage:
If your children express that they are troubled by today’s incident, please talk with them and help them share their feelings. Our school counsellor is available to meet with any students who have the need to do so next week.
So reads the letter sent to parents in the aftermath of the incident by Myrna Phillips, assistant principal of Park Elementary School, Baltimore. Clearly, the school’s second-grade 7-year-olds were at risk of being emotionally scarred by the incident, which was classified as a “level 3” violation of the school’s code of conduct.
Oh, yes. The incident:
Josh was munching on a strawberry Pop-Tart, when his creativity got the better of him, and he decided to reshape his breakfast by nibbling on its edges. “It was already a rectangle and I just kept on biting it and biting it and tore off the top and it kinda looked like a gun but it wasn’t,” he said. But his teacher thought it definitely looked like a gun, and, what’s more, she claims she saw Josh hold on to his food and utter the words “bang bang.”
Of course such evil must be punished and bleached from tiny minds.
His Pop-Tart was confiscated and he was immediately suspended for two days.
Regarding Ms Phillips’ letter to parents, Reason’s Jesse Walker adds this:
To be fair, the phrasing leaves open the possibility that the students would be “troubled” not by the imaginary gun but by the suspension, and by the ensuing realisation that they’re powerless pawns in a vast, incomprehensible game run by madmen.
Any readers distressed by these events and who find themselves in need of mental correction should report to our in-house nurse.
Via Brain Terminal.
Chris Snowdon on demands for the banning of alcohol adverts and sponsorship:
The headline of the [British Medical Journal] editorial refers to the drinks industry “grooming the next generation” - a distasteful attempt to draw a parallel with paedophilia - and much of the text is devoted to online marketing. The internet has, of course, created new regulatory challenges as well as new commercial opportunities, but there is no evidence that online marketing has led to a surge in underage drinking. Quite the reverse. Regular alcohol consumption by 11 to 15 year olds has fallen by two-thirds in the last decade - from 20% to 7% - and the proportion of these children who had ever drunk alcohol fell from 61% to 45% in the same period. The BMJ’s call for a total advertising ban is manifestly not a response to a growing crisis; rather it is the “next logical step” in a campaign to apply the anti-smoking blueprint to alcohol. It is no coincidence that one of the editorial’s authors, Gerard Hastings… holds the view, often espoused by left-wing environmentalists, that consumption is primarily caused by advertising rather than by wants, and he is already looking beyond tobacco and alcohol as industries to clamp down on, asking last year “should not all advertising be much more circumscribed because the consumption it engenders harms the planet?”
And speaking of left-wing environmentalists and their views on advertising, let’s not forget the deep, deep wisdom of Mr George Monbiot.
Topher Field offers a short history of terrible taxes and the cost of government:
The ancient Egyptians taxed ordinary cooking oil and you could actually be punished if you didn’t use enough of it. In Russia in the 1700s, you were taxed for having a beard… The English invented a hearth or chimney tax, where you were taxed on the number of fireplaces your house had. In the late 1600s, the English bureaucracy had a brainwave. Why not tax people’s windows? In order to avoid this daylight robbery, the British began bricking up their own windows to save on tax… And when they taxed bricks, people made bigger bricks.
Of course we’re much more sensible now, right? As Field says, “Your own government shouldn’t be the reason you struggle to make ends meet.”
Professor Sunstein is undoubtedly correct that “people make a lot of mistakes.” Most of us can look back over our own lives and see many mistakes, including some that were very damaging. What Cass Sunstein does not tell us is what sort of creatures, other than people, are going to override our mistaken decisions for us. That is the key flaw in the theory and agenda of the left. Implicit in the wide range of efforts on the left to get government to take over more of our decisions for us is the assumption that there is some superior class of people who are either wiser or nobler than the rest of us.
Ah, those would be our egalitarian overlords, making life fairer from high above the herd. Lovely people, obviously.
As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.
Another classic sentence, this time from the Guardian’s Jill Filipovic, who tells us:
Somehow, big food companies have convinced us that drinking a 32oz soda is a matter of personal liberty, and that the government has no place in regulating how much liquid sugar can be sold in a single container.
Apparently those evil food companies have – somehow, nefariously - made some of us consider the proper role of the state and whether it should have any business telling people what size beverage they may drink while watching a three-hour film in the local multiplex. Yes, that must be it. How else can we explain the fact that not everyone agrees with Jill Filipovic?
As a teen anorexic, I found diet yoghurt ads hard enough. I don’t know how I’d defend myself from the everyday body hatred now.
These days you don’t even have to buy a magazine to absorb the body hatred.
Stoicism and a sense of proportion are not standard fare at the left’s national newspaper, and so we also get quite a bit of this:
This evening, shopping at Sainsbury’s, I was greeted by the following headlines, in bold capitals and at eye level, as I entered the store: WEIGHT TORMENT (New! magazine), OUR BODY WARS (Star), BODY PANICS! (Heat)… The very existence of these things can mess with your head. You can try to avert your eyes as you head for the fruit and veg but if you look back once – sneak even the slightest glance – all this can send you straight to the cake counter for yet another miserable pre-starvation-diet binge.
Such crippling intrigue, all at eye level. In bold capitals, even.
Ms Smith, a grown woman, has yet to embrace the incredibly radical solution of not being interested in Heat magazine, which is, I think, a little odd. For a grown woman. Such magazines, and their readers, were ridiculed 20 years ago in Absolutely Fabulous. And it is, after all, quite possible to breeze round the local supermarket without finding oneself emotionally gripped by the latest travails of Kerry Katona or the Kardashian sisters, none of whom I could reliably identify, or by the latest breathless opinion on hemlines, weight loss or pubic waxing. And yet many of the Guardian’s supposedly sophisticated and freethinking columnists - feminists, even - find not being interested inexplicably difficult.
Chris Snowdon on the dishonesty of ‘minimum price’ lobbyists and the prohibitionist tendency:
There is much more that could be said about this thinly veiled piece of lobbying. The inexplicable lack of a control group, for example, or the mystery of why official hospital records were not enough for the authors - instead they created their own “estimates” of how many people died. But the bottom line is that these people are lying with statistics. The result - and almost certainly the intention - of their study is to make people believe that fewer people died of alcohol-related diseases in British Columbia between 2002-09 as a result of minimum pricing. “Nearly a third” fewer in fact.
Theodore Dalrymple on an appetite for doom:
The apocalyptic pessimist… believes that the end of the world is nigh, and secretly is rather pleased about it. If he is of a scientific bent, he does the following: he takes an undesirable trend and projects it indefinitely into the future until whatever is the object of the trend destroys the world. For example, he might take the fact that Staphylococci reproduce exponentially on a Petri dish to mean that, within the week, the entire biosphere will consist of Staphylococci and nothing else. Man will be crushed under the weight of bacteria. Paul Ehrlich is of that ilk. His belief in the end of the world precedes his belief in any particular cause of it.
As Fabian Tassano said,
Thinking, it will be recalled, is the activity one performs before one has arrived at the answer.
And Tim Worstall parses the logic of Green Party leader Caroline Lucas:
60% higher is an interesting definition of lower, isn’t it?
Note Ms Lucas’ use of the term “demand management.” Feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.
Chris Snowdon ponders fatness and what mustn’t be said about it:
This week, lots of outraged people - mainly on the political left - got themselves in a tizzy when public health minister Anna Soubry pointed out that childhood obesity rates are disproportionately high amongst low income groups… Why the controversy? Soubry’s greatest crime was to not use the most politically correct language. She used the word poor instead of deprived or underprivileged. As Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum said: “It was the tone of what she said. It was arrogant and condescending.” As for the facts, he conceded: “Yes it is true that the lower down the social scale you go the more likely people are to be obese.” On Twitter, big boned Labour MP Diane Abbott tried to whip up the mob. She reckons that pointing out the well-known association between poverty and obesity amounts to “blaming the victim.” This is the same Diane Abbott who wrote in 2011: “Studies about the predictors of obesity in the UK have shown that the poorest are most likely to be obese.”
I don’t see fat people as “victims,” nor do I feel the need to “blame” anyone for something that is none of my business. Even if I did, the incomes of those involved would have nothing to do with it. Abbott, on the other hand, wants us to blame the food industry for making people like her grossly overweight. She won’t take responsibility for herself and she doesn’t expect anyone else to. As a state socialist, she holds institutions accountable for all human outcomes and believes that the only solutions lie in a more coercive government. Terrifyingly, this woman could be Britain’s next health minister.
Ms Abbott, a woman of substance in only the physical sense, is hardly alone in holding such ambitions. There are those, including writers of Observer editorials and Lancet contributor Professor Boyd Swinburn, who wish to save us from “passive overeating” by restricting our choices, including where we may eat, and by making food more expensive. The state, we’re told, must “intervene more directly.” Yes, we must be supervised by those who know better. Because you simply can’t be trusted when there’s pie nearby.
David Mamet on gun laws in theory and practice (and much more besides):
Healthy government, as that based upon our Constitution, is strife. It awakens anxiety, passion, fervour, and, indeed, hatred and chicanery, both in pursuit of private gain and of public good. Those who promise to relieve us of the burden through their personal or ideological excellence, those who claim to hold the Magic Beans, are simply confidence men. Their emergence is inevitable, and our individual opposition to and rejection of them, as they emerge, must be blunt and sure; if they are arrogant, wilful, duplicitous, or simply wrong, they must be replaced, else they will consolidate power, and use the treasury to buy votes, and deprive us of our liberties. It was to guard us against this inevitable decay of government that the Constitution was written. Its purpose was and is not to enthrone a Government superior to an imperfect and confused electorate, but to protect us from such a government.
And Jeff Goldstein on dreams of a disarmed citizenry:
As Ace rightly notes, “as the goal is admitted, let us have no more discussion of these ridiculous diversions.” It’s not your folding stocks or flash suppressors or bayonet lugs they’re after: it’s your ability to remind them that you are free people, and that their power is contingent on you. And would-be aristocrats grow weary of such presumptions from the riff raff, particularly those they imagine in a cabin somewhere eating possum stew off of the tits of their first cousins.
As always, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.
As a lover of white truffles, a stereotypically upper class food, the rapper [Jay-Z] is bolstering a new kind of black identity.
That glorious caption is the work of a subeditor, but it’s perfectly attuned to the deep political musings of the article’s author, Ms Kieran Yates, who tells us:
Jay-Z has shelled out an eye-watering €15,000 on three kilos of white truffles on a recent holiday to Italy.
Before asking the question pressing heavily on no-one’s mind.
What does this extravagant detail say about the Jay-Z brand?
And then answering it, excitedly and with tremendous gravitas:
The term [bling] has always been political… This new kind of spending goes a long way to help his brand while bolstering a new kind of black identity.
There we go.
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.”
Food has always been an issue in working class communities, and one of the first things you learn when you are finally allowed consumer power is that food that you once thought was off limits is in fact accessible. Jay-Z understands the cultural capital of food, and with his purchase he is showing the world that taste is not for the white elite to dictate.
Note the words allowed and dictate. And indeed white elite. Ms Yates, an English Literature graduate, has evidently learned to regurgitate the kind of airy, tendentious guff her lecturers expected.
What Jay-Z is in effect saying is that the world of decadent foodstuffs is not off limits – not to him, or to hip-hop culture. Assumptions are slowly being challenged.
See, radical and profound. One Guardian commenter helpfully distils the intellectual heft of this mighty opus:
BLACK MAN EATS TRUFFLES.
The fanciful pseudo-politics of “urban” music and rap paraphernalia are a Guardian staple, obviously, being as they are so daring and transgressive. Readers may recall Lanre Bakare, the recipient of a Scott Trust bursary, who tried to persuade us that “the soundtrack to the credit crunch is being written by hip-hop artists” whose “socially conscious” rapping should be acclaimed for its “focus on harsh economic issues.” Among the insightful thinkers offered as guides was the well-heeled Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy, aka Jay Wayne Jenkins, of whom, Mr Bakare said,
Jeezy concentrates on his own money issues, with lines like “I’m staring at my stack like where the fuck’s the rest at” and “Looking at my watch like it’s a bad investment,” making it clear that even successful rappers suffer in an economic downturn.
In a later column, Mr Bakare urged us to believe that graffiti is deserving of taxpayer subsidy. Behaviour that our Guardianista would presumably find aggravating and costly to undo if done to him and his belongings should nonetheless be done to others because, well, it’s so edgy and countercultural. And let’s not forget Adam Harper’s apparent belief that “bobbing in time to the wacky syncopated beats and pitch-shifted vocals of Major Lazer’s Pon De Floor” is some kind of radical act, especially when done within fifty yards of a police officer. Wacky, syncopated beats having only been discovered in the second decade of the twenty-first century.
Novelist Joan Brady is outraged. So much so she felt compelled to share her indignation with Guardian readers:
In 1993 I became the first woman to win the Whitbread Prize, and it changed my life. Money! One winner blew it all on a swimming pool for the family’s French villa. Not me. Mine paid off my debts: there are few joys in life to beat clearing the slate.
Yes, I know. Bear with me. The outrage is coming.
I suppose I should have given some thought to where the money came from. I didn’t.
What, pray, was the source of this dirty, dirty money that freed Ms Brady from debt? A company that promotes cock fighting, orphan hunts or live kitten peeling?
The shortlist was awarded at the Whitbread brewery – which meant I could hardly avoid knowing it had something to do with beer – but how was I to know that Whitbread saw the whole excitement as just an advertising gimmick?
Yes, trembling readers. A brewery chain. And in return for their chunk of cash Whitbread hoped for some… publicity. The fiends. Brewery chains, it seems, don’t in fact exist solely for the benefit of Guardian-reading novelists. And it gets worse.
I didn’t learn the truth until a few years ago, when a transformation took place in some distant boardroom. Whitbread, a vast multinational corporation,
had just acquired the coffee business set up in Lambeth by Bruno and Sergio Costa, and with pubs declining, coffee looked like the future of the hospitality business.
Beer and coffee. And hospitality. Will the depravities never end? No wonder Ms Brady feels morally soiled.
Literature is supposed to be independent...
Of what, economics? Isn’t winning a large cash prize - say, around £30,000 - a way to be independent, to write more books – and to pay off one’s debts?
It’s supposed to be a statement of an individual view of the world, not a corporate tactic… Costa is strong-arming its multinational way into small towns and villages all over Britain.
Yes, even in Totnes, Devon, where, Ms Brady tells us, not everyone is happy about the new arrivals. Especially, and unsurprisingly, other coffee shop proprietors.
Corporate juggernauts mowing down local communities is a part of modern life. Powerful, ubiquitous international brands that are convenient and familiar but dull as hell: that same smell, that same taste, that same plasticky look and feel. This kind of commerce has nothing to do with the lives of people except to chew them up and spit them out.
They’re selling coffee, remember. Which people choose to buy, having walked in voluntarily. So far as I’m aware, Costa doesn’t employ press gangs of burly men to prowl the streets in search of coffee-drinking prey, while armed with clubs, tasers and heavy nets.
For newcomers, more items from the archives.
“Passive overeating” is a global pandemic, so Guardianistas want the state to stop us eating.
Setting aside the surreal wording and overt authoritarianism, there’s something vaguely unpleasant about a group of richer people – say, left-leaning doctors, columnists and academics - demanding constraints and punitive taxes on proletarian food. Taxes and constraints that would leave themselves largely unaffected.
Guardian hearts Occupier. Said Occupier hearts smashing other people’s stuff.
Prior to smashing windows and hitting police officers with 8 foot long steel pipes, the Occupiers had gathered at an anarchist book fair, where leaflets and workshops promised a softer, fairer, fluffier world. (“Indigenous solidarity event with Native Resistance Network.” “Equal rights for all species.” “Children welcome!”) In this temple of warrior poets and ostentatious empathy, the “activist and educator” Cindy Milstein cooed over Occupy’s “direct democracy and cooperation”: “This compelling and quirky, beautiful and at times messy experimentation has cracked open a window on history, affording us a rare chance to grow these uprisings into the new landscape of a caring, ecological, and egalitarian society.” Occupy, says Milstein, is all about “facilitating a conversation in hopes of better strategizing toward increasingly expansive forms of freedom.” Its participants, we learn, are “non-hierarchical and anti-oppression.” See, it’s all fluff and twinkles. It’s just that some of the twinklers like to wear masks and balaclavas – the universal symbol of friendliness and caring - while trying to shatter glass onto Starbucks customers.
Bettina Camilla Vestergaard creates “an uninhibited space for creative thought and action.” Radical grass-tearing ensues.
Decenter was, we’re told, a place for artists who longed to escape “the choking effects of the market,” and who wished to air their “radical and uncompromising thoughts,” thereby creating “a more humanely oriented society.” You see, these precious flowers are choked by the market, implying as it does a reciprocal arrangement with the rube footing the bill. A parasitic relationship, in which the taxpayer has no say and is essentially irrelevant, is much more liberating.
Now waste your afternoon in the greatest hits.
Because the world has been waiting for a low-friction ketchup bottle.
MIT PhD candidate Dave Smith and a team of engineers and nano-technologists at the Varanasi Research Group have devised a “super slippery” coating ideal for clogged condiments. The coating does have potential in other, non-ketchup-related areas, including windscreens and fuel lines, but the team is currently in talks to market a sauce bottle lubricant. “The market for bottles - just the sauces alone - is a $17 billion market,” says Smith. “And if all those bottles had our coating, we estimate that we could save about one million tons of food from being thrown out every year.” Imagine. No more futile shaking or caveman-style thumping. No more mayonnaise mishaps or inadequately spiced sandwiches.
Watch that goop glide, baby.
Zombie ventures into the moral wilderness of Occupy’s latest project:
The farm they seized was not a working farm per se, but rather a “research farm” for the University of California, near its Berkeley campus. The only difference between the way the farm used to be (prior to a week ago) and the way it is now is that the Occupiers have transformed what was essentially a well-maintained and important open-air laboratory into a dishevelled and ultimately purposeless pretend-farm for trustafarian dropouts… The scientists themselves are for the most part royally pissed off at the Occupiers and some may have years of work ruined by the Occupiers’ juvenile prank.
This being Berkeley, several faculty members felt a need to display their own mighty radicalism:
Some leftist U.C. professors are lecturing today at the farm to show their solidarity with the Occupiers, including Laura Nader (famous for helping to lead the field of anthropology toward self-critical Political Correctness); Gill Hart, a Gramscian anti-capitalist; and Paul Rabinow, a deconstructionist anthropologist. What do any of these professors know about farming, or plant biology? Nothing. But hey, they know about the significance of what it means to spout off a bunch of revolutionary socialist verbiage while absconding with stuff that isn’t yours.
As these are ersatz radicals with ersatz principles, the “farming” they do is also of the pretend variety.
Breaking into gated property and “liberating” land is exciting; the tedium of then spending endless hours over the next year in the blistering heat, in order to legitimise your actions and prove you’re not just jacking everyone around — not so fun. […] Only a handful of rows, right near the entrance, were planted all along their length, from end to end. Soon enough, those rows gave way to other rows with just a few plants near the walkway, seemingly just for show. Many rows’ plantings were pretty pitiful, or perhaps just symbolic; in this case, for instance, a single full-grown leek was stuck in the ground at the start of one row, to simulate the concept of “farming leeks.” […] Prediction: Very few, if any, of these “crops” will ever be harvested, or even grow to maturity.
Why, it’s almost as if the Occupiers’ “farming” were just a pretext for fatuous grandstanding and self-admiration. Say it isn’t so.
As the camp’s official volunteer sign-up sheet reveals, nearly 80% of the activities at the “farm” have nothing whatsoever to do with farming.
Meanwhile, in entirely unrelated news…
The FBI arrested five men Monday evening, saying they had planted what were believed to be explosive devices under the Ohio 82 bridge over Cuyahoga Valley National Park as part of a May Day protest… One of the leaders of the Occupy Cleveland movement, Brandon Baxter, is one of those arrested.
Via Daniel in the comments, Jim Treacher has more background here, along with the obligatory disclaimer: “Remember, everybody: Whenever an Occupier commits a crime, he’s not really an Occupier. All Occupier crimes are completely unrelated incidents, because shut up.” Sharp-eyed readers will notice that Mr Baxter – aka Skabby, the would-be ninja of social justice - is seen tapping bongos in front of a banner that reads “greed kills.” Unlike exploding highway bridges, of course, which have no physical consequences whatsoever.