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May 2012

No Ego Whatsoever, Just an Urge to Control

It’s been a while since we’ve had an addition to our series of classic sentences, so let’s fix that right now.

Ken Loach is the least egotistical of cinema directors.

Yes, today’s Guardian editorial - In Praise of Ken Loach - would have us believe that an ossified Trotskyist who regards the rise of anti-Semitism as “perfectly understandable” is the yardstick of humility and self-effacement. He’s also, we’re told, a moral visionary: 

“Another world is possible,” Mr Loach told the Cannes audience this week. Not everyone will always agree with Mr Loach’s own politics, but the possibility of a better world is integral to the morality of art, nowhere more so than with Ken Loach. 

Being a devout socialist, a one-time Respect party candidate and a hagiographer of Irish republican terrorism, Mr Loach’s moral credentials are somewhat peculiar. Loach has said that he wants to make the British “confront their imperialist past” and in 1977 he famously rejected the offer of an OBE, supposedly on principle, denouncing the honour as “despicable… deferring to the monarchy and the name of the British Empire, which is a monument of exploitation and conquest.” However, as Prodicus noted over at Orphans of Liberty, this principled adamance did not inhibit the director’s 2003 acceptance of the Praemium Imperiale – the World Culture Prize in Memory of His Imperial Highness Prince Takamatsu. His Imperial Highness was of course the brother of the 124th emperor of Japan, Hirohito, whose activities and ambitions were, it seems, altogether more moral and glorious. 

The flavour of Ken’s complicated moral calculus was captured earlier this year over at House of Dumb:  

Nothing sums up the demented nature of the modern left better than a soi-disant socialist party that supports taxing janitors in Leeds to give money to millionaire luvvies in London, so they can make films about how folk in Yorkshire are ignorant bigots. 

Mr Loach had been holding forth on the publicly funded BBC, as he often does, grumbling about “Tories” and once again taking umbrage with multiplex cinemas and the “very narrow” range of films they find viable to screen. The proposed solution to Ken’s problem was, inevitably, greater public funding of independent filmmakers - much like Mr Loach, in fact - and the public funding of a chain of independent cinemas in which these publicly funded films could then be screened, having been selected by publicly funded people much like Mr Loach. This, he said, would “fulfil the possibility that cinema has.” Writing in the Guardian in October 2010, Loach suggested that cinemas should be owned collectively, i.e., by the state, and “programmed by people who care about films – the London Film Festival, for example, is full of people who care about films.” The term “people who care about films” is used frequently by Loach yet is never quite defined, though one doesn’t have to reach far to find the implication. Clearly, he isn’t talking about thee or me, no matter how many times we may excitedly visit a cinema. Bums on seats are not his bottom line. No, our tastes must be guided and elevated, until they conform to the expectations of our professional aesthetes and socialist betters. See? No ego at all. 

And so, what cinemas show should be determined by people who care, as determined by Ken Loach. Such caring, enlightened people might even be inclined to show films made by Ken Loach, and by the friends of Ken Loach, regardless of whether those screenings would find an audience or be economically viable. (If you already have the punters’ money via coercive public subsidy, why fret about ticket sales and those ghastly popular appetites? He’s above such base urges. He’s a socialist, remember?) Central to Ken’s appeal for further subsidy and unearned influence is a belief that the size of the market for art-house / foreign language films, around 2% of total UK ticket sales, is not in fact a reflection of the public appetite for such things, but rather evidence that art-house / foreign language films are in some way being suppressed, presumably on account of their terribly radical content. And this must not stand: 

Those of us who work in television and film have a role to be critical, to be challenging, to be rude, to be disturbing, not to be part of the establishment. We need to keep our independence. We need to be mischievous. We need to be challenging. We shouldn’t take no for an answer.  

However, they will take our money – and not through voluntary ticket sales, as is generally the custom, but with the force of government and taxation. That being what independent, challenging, anti-establishment types do.

Elsewhere (64)

Charlotte Allen and George Leef on why sociology is disreputable

In examining those courses, we found very few indications that students were introduced to ideas about the causes of inequality or policies to deal with it that reflect free-market or public-choice perspectives. (Public-choice theory proposes that the bureaucrats who administer social programs are motivated largely by their own self-interest). Overwhelmingly, the courses take an approach perfectly in keeping with left/progressive beliefs about the causes of and cures for inequality. The textbooks and assigned readings are almost invariably by leftist authors. Students almost never encounter well-known conservative critics of leftist conceptions about inequality such as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Martin Anderson, or Charles Murray.

Students are, however, likely to encounter the Communist Manifesto and books by devout socialists Barbara Ehrenreich and Frances Fox Piven, of whom more here, here and here

Thomas Sowell on the big lies of politics

The fact that so many successful politicians are such shameless liars is not only a reflection on them; it is also a reflection on us. When the people want the impossible, only liars can satisfy them, and only in the short run. The current outbreaks of riots in Europe show what happens when the truth catches up with both the politicians and the people in the long run. Among the biggest lies of the welfare states on both sides of the Atlantic is the notion that the government can supply the people with things they want but cannot afford. Since the government gets its resources from the people, if the people as a whole cannot afford something, neither can the government. There is, of course, the perennial fallacy that the government can simply raise taxes on “the rich” and use that additional revenue to pay for things that most people cannot afford. What is amazing is the implicit assumption that “the rich” are all such complete fools that they will do nothing to prevent their money from being taxed away. History shows otherwise. 

And maths shows that even if the left could take everything those terrible rich people have, this still wouldn’t balance the books

Sowell again, on class war rhetoric versus tax revenue

After [Secretary of the Treasury Andrew] Mellon finally succeeded in getting Congress to lower the top tax rate from 73 percent to 24 percent, the government actually received more tax revenues at the lower rate than it had at the higher rate. Moreover, it received a higher proportion of all income taxes from the top income earners than before. Something similar happened in later years, after tax rates were cut under Presidents Kennedy, Reagan and G.W. Bush. The record is clear. Barack Obama admitted during the 2008 election campaign that he understood that raising tax rates does not necessarily mean raising tax revenues. Why then is he pushing so hard for higher tax rates on “the rich” this election year? Because class warfare politics can increase votes for his re-election, even if it raises no more tax revenues for the government. 

And relevant to the above: How to optimise your class war rhetoric

As always, feel free to add your own. 

Friday Ephemera

Attention, ladies. An end to the nightmare of camel-toe slacks. // Instant, fleeting inebriation. // Touchscreen with no touching. // “Stroud had discovered that magnets repel sharks.” (h/t, Dr Westerhaus) // Body armour made of meat. // The mysteries of yawning. (h/t, MeFi) // Trundling into the future. // Slinky on a treadmill. (h/t, Simen) // Elephant prosthetics. // Israeli panoramas. (h/t, Liam) // Duophonic whistling. It’s practically a superpower. // How to optimise your class war rhetoric. // A little maths. // Measuring the Universe. // Chocolate sausages. // The Chork. It’s chopsticks, it’s a fork. // Japanese beatniks, 1964. // Bubble.

The Condiments of Tomorrow

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.

Via Brain Terminal. And for the latest in spilled condiment relocation, see this

Elsewhere (63)

Stephen Hayes on Wisconsin, high passions and the caring, compassionate left

Unions and other Walker opponents have certainly shown a willingness to do anything to win. Walker and his family have been harassed regularly. Unions and their backers have marched on Walker’s personal residence in Wauwatosa. His wife has been subjected to repeated verbal harassment. His sons have been targeted on Facebook. Walker himself has been compared to a variety of terrorists and, of course, to Adolf Hitler. He long ago stopped eating out at restaurants and has stepped up security for all of his public appearances.

Kristi LaCroix, a Kenosha teacher who appeared in a pro-Walker ad supporting the reforms, received so many threats that she later said she wished she’d never done the ad. When a student at Two Rivers High School showed up at school wearing a pro-Walker T-shirt, the head of the school’s technical education program, who is also the chairman of the local teachers’ union, sent an email to the business that produced the T-shirt noting that the company does business with the school and threatening a “loss of profits.” A reporter for a liberal Madison newspaper telephoned Ciara Matthews, communications director for the Walker campaign, and expanded the definition of “news” by publishing an entire article about the fact that she worked at Hooters to put herself through college. Another Walker staffer returned home one day to find his dog defecating blood. The veterinarian who treated the dog - at a cost of $1,500 - told him the most likely culprit was a high dose of rat poison, something he doesn’t have in his house.

John Aziz highlights the even more charming sentiments of Finnish eco-radical Pentti Linkola

The United States symbolises the worst ideologies in the world: growth and freedom… Any dictatorship would be better than modern democracy. There cannot be so incompetent a dictator that he would show more stupidity than a majority of the people. The best dictatorship would be one where lots of heads would roll and where government would prevent any economic growth… A fundamental, devastating error is to set up a political system based on desire. Society and life have been organised on the basis of what an individual wants, not on what is good for him or her… Our only hope lies in strong central government and uncompromising control of the individual citizen.

It’s for our own good, obviously. Yes, Mr Linkola is rather, er, hardcore, but he’s far from alone in the nature of his fantasies. 

And Thomas Sowell on when a person’s race gets reported and when it doesn’t:  

Similar episodes of unprovoked violence by young black gangs against white people chosen at random on beaches, in shopping malls, or in other public places have occurred in Philadelphia, New York, Denver, Chicago, Cleveland, Washington, Los Angeles, and other places across the country. Both the authorities and the media tend to try to sweep these episodes under the rug. […] A wave of such attacks in Chicago was reported, but not the race of the attackers or victims. Media outlets that do not report the race of people committing crimes nevertheless report racial disparities in imprisonment and write heated editorials blaming the criminal-justice system.

On which, Heather Mac Donald is worth revisiting

In fact, the race of criminals reported by crime victims matches arrest data. As long ago as 1978, a study of robbery and aggravated assault in eight cities found parity between the race of assailants in victim identifications and in arrests - a finding replicated many times since, across a range of crimes. No one has ever come up with a plausible argument as to why crime victims would be biased in their reports.

Apparently there are even significant racial variations in speeding offences

By all means add your own links in the comments. 

Crotch Funk as Art

Aesthetes that my readers are, you’ll no doubt be familiar with the name of Jan Fabre, a Belgian performance artist and “theatre-maker” who, we’re informed, “expands the horizons of every genre to which he applies his artistic vision.” Mr Fabre’s acclaimed efforts at horizon-expanding include Preparatio Mortis, a piece unveiled at the Vienna International Dance Festival and which entertained us no end with its combination of moths, underwear and staggering pretension. While writhing in her bra and panties, the dancer, Annabelle Chambon, was tasked with nothing less than “an attempt to reconcile life and death.” Or as one commenter suggested, to reconcile boredom with public subsidy. 

You will, therefore, be thrilled to the tips of your nipples by Mr Fabre’s recent curatorial triumph. Sweat is a performance piece by fellow Belgian Peter De Cupere, choreographed by Fabre, in which five dancers spend fourteen minutes rolling about and jumping up and down - naked, obviously - while attempting to fill their transparent plastic overalls with all manner of body odour. “The intention,” we’re told, “is to catch the sweat from the dancers and to distil it. The concrete of the sweat is sprayed on a wall of the dance lab and protected by a glass box. In the glass is a small hole where visitors can smell the sweat.” Yes, you can smell the sweat


If that’s not a good night out, I don’t know what is.

Oh, there’s more to it than that of course.

Peter De Cupere is creating his smell. Not just a smell, but a composition of the smells of his body, skin of different parts, breath, sweat, sperm, spittle, nose drops, blood and many more smells you can imagine with a person. The smells are and will be subtracted on different times, after different moments, after special dinners made for himself by himself. A research that will go on his whole life. His first edition of his perfume will be soon available... The perfume is called ‘Peter’.

Now, who’s up for fourteen minutes of excruciating toss? 

Continue reading "Crotch Funk as Art " »

Friday Ephemera

Hey, it could happen. // Hands up if your garage contains a Boeing 737 nose cone and flight simulator. // Bees that drink human tears. // Harvesting bees in the Himalayas. // Elephant chair. // Elephants have big innards. // Tiny tarantula. // Cocktail shaker of note. // Coffee maker of note. // Now this is a shopping trolley. // How a Bicycle is Made, 1945. // Watch lithium burn. // Skydiving in a kayak. // The radio time machine. // Retro synth sofa. (h/t, Robert) // The power of wearing spectacles. // The physics of a jumping Hulk. // Can your pet mouse do this? // And finally, Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf narrated by Boris Karloff

The Intellectual’s Temptation

I was doing some research on Detroit and its decline. They kept raising income tax and every time they raised the tax rate, the tax revenues went down. In 2008, Charles Gibson put this to Obama when he was a candidate. He said, “Why are you for raising the tax rate on the rich? Because you often get more revenue at lower tax rates than at the higher tax rates.” And Obama said, “Well, it’s a question of social justice.” In other words, he doesn’t really care about whether the government raises more revenue. If he can get people mad at the rich and they vote for him, then it’s a success.

Further to this, Thomas Sowell discusses the second, expanded edition of his book Intellectuals and Society. Subjects touched on include solutions versus trade-offs, Marxism versus reality, Obama’s hubris, and how to deal with mountain lions lurking near school gates.

And remember, the “anointed” vision Sowell is talking about is embraced by people like this. And by these “enlightened leaders.”  

Elsewhere (62)

Daniel Hannan on a bloated state and the legacy of Gordon Brown: 

The lugubrious Fifer inherited a Chancellor’s dream scenario: falling expenditure, rising revenues, strong growth and low inflation. For two years, as promised in Labour’s 1997 manifesto, he stuck to Conservative spending plans, and debt was paid off. Then, purposefully and methodically, he started blowing everything away… All subsequent politics have been dominated by that central, dismal fact. […] The national debt now stands at £1,023 billion (66 per cent of GDP), up from £905 billion (60 per cent) twelve months ago. Total public spending, contrary to almost universal belief, has risen over the past year from £605 billion to £617 billion. […] It cannot be repeated too often that ‘the cuts’ are a figment of the BBC’s imagination. Net public expenditure is higher today than it was under the Broon. The government is spending nearly half our GDP. Whatever is causing the downturn, it plainly isn’t some imaginary shrinkage of the state.

Zombie on the Cloward-Piven strategy:

Voters in both France and Greece, two countries ruinously addicted to government entitlements, rejected the “austerity” model of debt-reduction and instead doubled down on unsustainable spending sprees. France elected Socialist François Hollande as president, and in his acceptance speech he promised to increase government benefits and amp up “stimulus” spending programs - the exact things that got France into a metaphorical debtors’ prison in the first place. But exactly as Cloward and Piven surmised, once you get 50+% of the population hooked on “free” government money, there’s no turning back - they will vote for socialists every time.

And – as Sam notes in the comments – then the money runs out.

Roger Kimball on France’s descent into socialism: *

Here’s a question I would like to ask François Hollande: just where does he think money comes from? […] Socialists tend to believe that money comes from “the rich.” Need some dough for your social program? Simple, take it from “the rich” (however you define that elastic category) and give it to someone else via a government bureaucracy you have set up. But what happens when the rich cease to be rich? What then? […] For the capitalist, the purpose of economic activity is the production of wealth; for the socialist, the purpose of economic activity is the redistribution of wealth: how the wealth gets generated is for the socialist a secondary question, a detail.

Heather Mac Donald on race, riots and Rodney King:  

Unlike most of the public, the jury that decided the excessive-force charges against the officers saw the full video. They acquitted the officers. By then, the media had disseminated the relentless message that the biggest threat facing blacks in L.A. was the cops, not the hundreds of gangs that murdered blacks every week with zero protest from racial advocates.

And David Boaz on the best way to be a socialist

Feel free to add your own. [*Added, via Anna.]