Mark Steyn on America’s throbbingly intellectual Clown-in-Chief:
As historian Michael Beschloss pronounced the day after his election, he’s “probably the smartest guy ever to become president.” Naturally, Obama shares this assessment. As he assured us five years ago, “I know more about policies on any particular issue than my policy directors.” Well, apart from his signature health-care policy. That’s a mystery to him. “I was not informed directly that the website would not be working,” he told us. The buck stops with something called “the executive branch,” which is apparently nothing to do with him. As evidence that he was entirely out of the loop, he offered this: “Had I been informed, I wouldn’t be going out saying, ‘Boy, this is going to be great.’ You know, I’m accused of a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying, ‘This is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity,’ a week before the website opens, if I thought that it wasn’t going to work.”
Ooooo-kay. So, if I follow correctly, the smartest president ever is not smart enough to ensure that his website works; he’s not smart enough to inquire of others as to whether his website works; he’s not smart enough to check that his website works before he goes out and tells people what a great website experience they’re in for. But he is smart enough to know that he’s not stupid enough to go around bragging about how well it works if he’d already been informed that it doesn’t work. So he’s smart enough to know that if he’d known what he didn’t know he’d know enough not to let it be known that he knew nothing. The country’s in the very best of hands.
Tim Worstall on why the advice of Will Hutton should never, ever be taken:
If we’ve got a cost that is higher than the benefit then this is a signal that we should stop doing this thing. Hutton is indeed arguing that the cost of a university education is higher, for many to most people, than the benefit that comes from having one. This is true whoever is paying the bills. Therefore we would rather like to have fewer people going to university... Hutton is arguing that university does not make sense in terms of value added for most students. He therefore proposes subsidy for those students. Which is ridiculous. If the activity is not value adding we don’t want more of it, we want less of it.
A very common way of thinking in literary criticism is not seen as a consequence of communism, but it is. Every writer has the experience of being told that a novel, a story, is “about” something or other. I wrote a story, The Fifth Child, which was at once pigeonholed as being about the Palestinian problem, genetic research, feminism, anti-Semitism and so on. A journalist from France walked into my living room and before she had even sat down said, “Of course The Fifth Child is about AIDS.” An effective conversation stopper, I assure you. But what is interesting is the habit of mind that has to analyse a literary work like this. If you say, “Had I wanted to write about AIDS or the Palestinian problem I would have written a pamphlet,” you tend to get baffled stares. That a work of the imagination has to be “really” about some problem is, again, an heir of Socialist Realism. To write a story for the sake of storytelling is frivolous, not to say reactionary.
It’s remarkable how often some cultural critics see their own preoccupations in unlikely art forms. As when the film historian Sumiko Higashi saw the Vietnam War lurking somewhere among the zombies and wrote that although “there are no Vietnamese in Night of the Living Dead... they constitute an absent presence whose significance can be understood if narrative is construed.” Or when cineaste Robin Wood informed readers that the zombies’ cannibalistic tendency “represents the ultimate in possessiveness, hence the logical end of human relations under capitalism.” Or when a Channel 4 reviewer hailed Danny Boyle’s zombie film 28 Days Later as actually being a “powerful message” about “anger at call-centre queues.”
As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.