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October 2014

We Mustn’t Let the Poor Have Nice Things

Today the Guardian shares the wisdom of millionaire socialist and noted fashion crone Dame Vivienne Westwood

Clothes and food should cost much more than they do in Britain to reflect their true impact on the environment, Vivienne Westwood said on Wednesday night. Speaking at a Guardian Live event at Chelsea Old Town Hall hosted by columnist Deborah Orr, the controversial fashion designer said: “Clothes should cost a lot more than they do – they are so subsidised. Food should cost more too – you know something is wrong when you can buy a cooked chicken for £2.”

Westwood also declared that capitalism was over.

Ms Westwood, whose PVC handbags can occasionally be found marked down to a mere £400, was noted here previously, in May 2008, when Conservative politician Boris Johnson became London’s mayor. Naturally, the Guardian invited several leftwing Londoners to share their views on this terrifying development. Ms Westwood expressed her indignation in suitably colourful terms:

Boris as mayor? Unthinkable. It just exposes democracy as a sham, especially if people don’t vote for [leftwing rival] Ken [Livingstone].

Our foremost titan of handbag design appeared to have difficulty grasping the concept of democracy, which entails the possibility that other people – perhaps a great many of them – will have preferences that differ from one’s own. Still, there’s an almost charming megalomania to Ms Westwood’s belief that a system which allows people to vote on those preferences must be a “sham” when the people doing the voting disagree with Vivienne Westwood.

Meanwhile, in the Mirror Universe

Speaking as we were of the urge to mythologise, here’s Ron Radosh on the fantasies and inversions of progressive academia

Look whose photo graces the campus of UCLA, meant to be an inspiration to incoming students. The woman in the photo is standing above the slogan: “We Question.” For those who can’t identify her, the photo depicts Angela Davis, the notorious former Communist Party USA leader who, beginning in the ‘60s, moulded together black nationalism with Marxism-Leninism... For her loyalty to the Soviet Union and its foreign policies, in 1972 she was awarded a Lenin Centenary Medal in the Soviet Union, after which she spoke to thousands at an outdoor rally in Moscow… As she left Moscow and went up the stairs to enter her plane, she yelled out with a clenched fist: “Long live the science of Marxism-Leninism.” There is not an iota of evidence that she questioned anything about the dreary reality in the Soviet Union and their Eastern European client states.

Davis also received the International Lenin Peace Prize — formerly called the Stalin Peace Prize — from the STASI state of East Germany in 1979. She was awarded it for supposedly strengthening “peace among peoples,” but it was actually for her continued fidelity to the Soviet bloc, which to her represented the future of humanity. Not only did she not “question” authority, Davis openly defended the repressive measures of the Communist states by endorsing their imprisonment of dissident intellectuals.

I think that’s what’s called exquisite irony. 

Of course Ms Davis has groupies over here too, at Birkbeck, for instance, where the credulous and dyspeptic scrawled the words “Fuck rich white men.” While the woman they so admire, this self-styled “political prisoner,” charges $20,000 an hour. Details of Ms Davis’s extra-legal activities can be found in the book Radicals by David Horowitz, while his earlier book One-Party Classroom outlines the practised hagiography that surrounds this Distinguished Professor Emerita of the History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies.

Elsewhere (139)

Cathy Young on academic standards and “masculinity studies”: 

When Michael Kimmel talks about men and boys – at least ones unreconstructed by feminism – it is often in a tone that ranges from ironic condescension to scolding rebuke and outright antipathy… He waxes enthusiastic about “rape awareness” measures that treat all men as potential rapists – such as “splash guards” on a college’s public urinals with the slogan, “You hold the power to stop rape in your hand.” Tackiness aside, such a stunt directed at any other group would be readily seen as “hate.” Imagine proposing that “You are looking at someone who can stop terrorism” be inscribed on bathroom mirrors at a campus Islamic centre.

Heather Mac Donald on the Ferguson riots and the ‘racism’ media narrative: 

The only reason that blacks are subject to fines and warrants [for traffic violations], according to the media, is that they are being hounded by a racist police force. “A mostly white police force has targeted blacks for a disproportionate number of stops and searches,” declared Time on September 1. What is the evidence for such “targeting”? Time provides none. Might blacks be getting traffic fines for the same reason that whites get traffic fines — because they broke the law? The possibility is never contemplated. The most frequently summonsed traffic offence is driving without insurance, according to the New York Times’s “exposé” of Ferguson’s traffic-fine system. Perhaps the Times’s editors would be blasé about being hit by an uninsured driver, but most drivers would be grateful that the insurance requirement is being enforced. Might poor blacks have a higher rate of driving without insurance than other drivers? Not relevant to know, apparently.

And again, here

The only way to avoid what the protesters label as “racial profiling” is to stop proactive policing entirely… But if the police back off from proactive policing, law-abiding residents of minority neighbourhoods are going to be hurt the most.

And don’t forget there are those who insist we must have racial quotas in school discipline to avoid any impression of racism, regardless of who’s actually misbehaving or how often and violently they’re doing it.

And Theodore Dalrymple on bizarre dictators and related paraphernalia: 

I learned that there was a company in Paris that specialised in strip-cartoon propaganda on behalf of dictators. It was called ABC Groupe Média International, and it had published such propaganda on behalf of Siaka Stevens — the first dictator of Sierra Leone, from whose rule the country has never since recovered — and El Hadj Omar (formerly Albert-Bernard) Bongo of Gabon, father of the present president, and ruler and looter for 41 years. When I was in Paris one day, I visited the company’s headquarters, which, if I remember correctly, were in the rue du Cherche-Midi. Suffice it to say that they were not pleased to see me there, and said that since the publication of these immortal works the company had changed its business model.

As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets. It’s what these posts are for.

Flatter, Mythologize, Rinse, Repeat

Yes, I know, we’re all missing this blog’s unofficial mascot, Ms Laurie Penny. What with her recent elevation to loftier moral planes in the bosom of academia, where she will soon be anointed a “leader in journalism.” Luckily, over the weekend, commenter svh spotted a review of Ms Penny’s latest book – this onein the hallowed pages of the New York Times. Given the radical chest-puffing, there’s much to ponder. For instance,

But beyond the politics of the (white) body, Penny is an elegant writer, and she deconstructs the issues of the day with an eye to how neoliberalism has filtered into our intimate relationships (“Under late capitalism, love has become like everything else: a prize to be won, an object to be attained, a commodity to be hoarded until it loses value or can be traded up for a better bargain”).

Apparently, an unsupported, question-begging claim is what now passes for elegant deconstruction. But such is Laurie’s world. She asserts so much and substantiates so little. A talent evidently shared by the reviewer, Latoya Peterson, a self-described “hip-hop feminist” and Guardian contributor, whose opening paragraph offers a shred of comfort to those missing Ms Penny’s signature hyperbole and disregard for reality: 

The feminist scholar Donna Haraway defined cyborg writing as “the power to survive, not on the basis of original innocence, but on the basis of seizing the tools to mark the world that marked them as other.” That term describes so much digital scrawl on the Internet today — voices screaming from the margins, searching for connection. The British journalist Laurie Penny’s words seem to have secured her just that; she has found a devoted audience for her blog and three previous books.

By all means take a moment to realign your mind with the notion of Ms Penny as a “cyborg” writer and in some way marginalised – “marked as other” – and struggling against the pressures of not being heard. Except of course when she’s on TV, or Five Live, or Radio 4, or when airing her various and bewildering concerns in the pages of the Guardian, the New Statesman and the Independent.

Yes, this privately educated middle-class leftist, lectured at Wadham by other middle-class leftists and steeped in all of the “privilege” she so readily denounces in others, is “screaming from the margins, searching for connection.” A woman who was all but waved through the doors of Channel 4 and the BBC, our nation’s state broadcaster, by people who find her mouthings either titillating or congenial. A woman who is currently boosting her social status with a year at Harvard, studying journalism free of charge (thanks largely to petitioning by those same middle-class leftists in the establishment media), and is now sitting through lectures on “economic justice” given by middle-class leftists, while surrounded in large part by middle-class leftists. Oh yes, she’s such an outsider.

As commenter Nikw211 points out, Ms Penny is so marginalised, so suppressed by The Hegemon, a massively enlarged projection of her face currently graces the walls of the Victoria & Albert Museum, barking revolutionary instructions to the little people below. So, no establishment penetration there.

Friday Ephemera

How to gird your loins. Because you need to know these things. // Beer-glazed bacon. // Beautiful chemistry. // Yes, but how many crisps are in that bag? (h/t, Coudal) // That old book smell. // Hello, bunny. // How deodorant works. // Always wash your dachshund. // No singing in the rain. // Fun with stains. // Making fake Japanese food. // It absorbs oxygen. // Coffee car. // They have the technology. // Polyphonic overtones, sung by Anna-Maria Hefele. // Pringles can plus laser diodes equals sexy party. // Why toothpaste makes orange juice taste awful. // Ashtray of note. // “Teach women not to rape.” // There are penises in the lab. // There may be some heat issues as you approach Mach 7. // And finally, it isn’t clear what kicked off this suburban kangaroo street fight.

There May Be Some Swelling

Menfolk, avert your eyes.

The 23-year-old ended up in hospital where his penis had to be drained of two pints of blood – after suffering from an erection lasting 17 hours.


Jason first woke up with the condition last Friday morning and initially didn’t worry about it. However by lunchtime he was beginning to get concerned and tried to address the situation by... 

No, don’t. Bad dog.

taking an ice bath and then going for a jog.

When these measures failed, 

He went to the hospital where his condition was diagnosed and doctors drew off two pints of blood to try and reduce the pressure. They also had to inject medication 24 times to restrict the blood flow. 

Mercifully, this tale has a happy ending.

All is now well with Jason, who described the pain of his treatment as “ten out of ten.” “It is completely normal now,” he added, “apart from the fact that it looks like it’s been through a war. It’s all a bit black and blue.”

Via Chris Snowdon

Because Waitrose Eats Your Soul

And so, again, we visit the pages of the Guardian, where Felicity Lawrence looks forward to the downfall of big supermarkets. You know, those dark, forbidding entities that have “marched across our food and shopping landscape,” casting shadows so vast and terrifying that “it seemed there was no part of our consuming lives they did not want to capture.”

Tightening her moral corset, she says,

People are in revolt against Big Retail… The fall of this empire looks as though it will be fast… It is hard to mourn.

It seems I’d missed these dramatic events, this fall of empire and popular revolt. Perhaps, like many others, I was busy buying groceries at a reasonable price in a pleasant, airy supermarket with polite and helpful staff. But apparently the “supermarket model” is not only accompanied by “social destruction,” it’s also a “colossal market failure.” And so we – that’s thee and me – will somehow find both the time and enthusiasm for “smaller baskets” and “more frequent provisioning,” several times a week from righteous local suppliers - where they exist, that is, and regardless of the weather and any scheduling commitments. Their prices may be higher and their supplies less varied and reliable, but at least their moral aura will meet Guardianista standards. And so never again will dark forces “make us buy things we never intended to buy.” Never again will we be seduced by discounted biscuits and that sinful Pot Noodle.

As is the custom at Kings Place, Ms Lawrence then goes on to tell us what it is “we” think:

We don’t want the illusion of “choice” that 30-40,000 lines offer, especially when so many of them are just variations on the same theme of highly processed fats, sugars, and salt disguised by additives.

That’s all supermarkets sell, obviously. Damn their glowing eyes. And even if it wasn’t, we mortals have no ability to make decisions regarding how we spend our money. We, it seems, just drift down those supermarket aisles, no shopping list in hand, scooping things at random into our baskets. Yes, dear reader, we all shop by poundage and volume. Didn’t you know?

If Ms Lawrence’s pieties sound familiar, you may be thinking of Friday’s column by Deborah Orr, who told the nation - or the tiny part of it that reads the Guardian unironically - that the big supermarkets are “in trouble” because they’re,

viewed as having helped to impoverish town centres and are now looking horribly antisocial.

You see, the entire nation – not just a subset of well-heeled Guardianistas – is raging against the convenience of the local supermarket, where cheap food is plentiful and easy to find. Instead, says Ms Orr, we’re all spending our weekends in joyful protest at the nearest out-of-town farmers’ market, where securing a week’s food shopping is a more ambitious task and generally more expensive. And we’re doing this because – yes, because – “people don’t have as much money to spend.” This is what we’re all doing, apparently. Just like her.

Update, via the comments:

Continue reading "Because Waitrose Eats Your Soul" »

Elsewhere (138)

Eric S Raymond on crime, reporting and “black privilege”: 

No conspiracy theory is required to explain the silence here. Reporters and editors are nervous about being thought racist, or (worse) having “anti-racist” pressure groups demonstrating on their doorsteps. The easy route to avoiding this is a bit of suppressio veri – not lying, exactly, but not uttering facts that might be thought racially inflammatory. The pattern of suppression is neatly explained by the following premises: Any association of black people with criminality is inflammatory. Any suggestion that black criminals are motivated by racism to prey on white victims is super-inflammatory. And above all, we must not inflame. Better to be silent. I believe this silence is a dangerous mistake with long-term consequences that are bad for everyone, and perhaps worst of all for black people.

KC Johnson reflects on the Duke lacrosse scandal and those left unscathed by it: 

Higher education is perhaps the only product in which Americans spend tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars without having any clear sense of what they are purchasing. Few parents, alumni, legislators, or prospective students spend much (if any) time exploring the scholarship or syllabi offered by professors at the school of their choice; they devote even less effort to understanding hiring patterns or pedagogical changes that have driven the contemporary academy to an ideological extreme on issues of race, class, and gender. At most, there seems to be a general —incorrect— impression that while colleges have the occasional “tenured radical” who lacks real influence on campus, most professors fall well within the ideological mainstream… The lacrosse case provided a rare opportunity to glimpse inside the mindset of an elite university — and the look was a troubling one.

More glimpses here, here and here

And Theodore Dalrymple on policing speech: 

In [philosopher François De Smet’s] view, some opinions have been responsible for so much mass murder that it is quite permissible, perhaps even essential, to ban them. But as with all such proposals, the question is where the limits should lie. For example, it is a moot point whether racism or economic egalitarianism was responsible for more deaths in the last century… It occurred to me that, on the above author’s principles, there would be every reason to ban egalitarian discourse, which has the effect and often the intention of promoting hatred and resentment of the rich, who in the not distant past have been massacred horribly, especially when rich means above averagely endowed with worldly goods, however gotten. Monsieur Hollande, for example, President of the French Republic, should be taken into preventive detention (and heavily fined) for having said that he did not like the rich, a statement clearly intended to bring the latter into hatred and contempt. The same applies to Mr Miliband, the silencing of whom would at the very least add to the gaiety of the nation.

In fairness to Mr Hollande, he doesn’t seem to like the poor much either

As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.

Friday Ephemera

Unnecessary explosions are totally unnecessary. // Undulating clouds. // No likes yet. The unloved of Instagram. // At last, your very own wearable drone. // People on a mountain, arranged artfully. // Cross the Alps by tightrope, in a hammock. // Volcanic shockwave. Watch the clouds. // Very loud indeed. // An archive of earthquake data and a map of quakes across the world. // AutoCompleteMe. // Mongolia’s golden eagle hunters. // Rock band stage configurations. // Big and curvy rides. // Big cats divided on the charms of Marmite. // “Human Be-In,” San Francisco, 1967. // Earthworm-eating leech of note. // Japan in colour, 1886. // “I think computers was far enough. We didn’t need to go beyond that.” // How Big Bird works. // And finally, I think these cats are broken