Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Chinese Film Studios Are the Planet's Largest, Mass-Producing Films Designed to Build a Positive Image of the Country

Geo Magazine's Thomas Saintourens article features a Giulio Di Sturco photo portfolio of "Chinawood", showing how the country harbors the world's largest film studio (Hengdian is twice the side of Universal Studios) and how an even larger one will be opening at the Oriental Movie Metropolis in Qingdao. Needless to say,
China uses the Seventh Art Form to build a positive image of China
creativity will be limited by censorship.
Related: In cahoots with Beijing — Hollywood's Offerings Promise Only to Get More Anti-American

Monday, March 30, 2015

Kalashnikov Generation: Europe's Gun-Free ZonesOught to Raise a Few Eyebrows

Just as we've gotten used to Frenchmen and Europeans castigating America for its gun culture and violence — to be contrasted with their own gun-free zones, their own intelligence, and their own peaceful ways — we learn, in Doreen Carvajal's New York Times story about a jewelry heist, that not only are firearms used fairly often on the old continent (albeit mostly by criminals), these weapons are often submachine guns — often enough that the weapon has given a book on a new generation of gangsters its title:
Frédéric Ploquin, the author of a new book about the evolution of organized crime in France, said that the robberies reflected a new wave of gangsters who have emerged since 2005 — a “Kalashnikov generation” with a zest for arms, no fear of death, and a taste for quick and easy profits, usually through drug trafficking.
Génération Kalachnikov (Les nouveaux gangsters):
Le milieu traditionnel n’est pas mort, mais les jeunes se bousculent au portillon pour prendre la relève. Ce livre, quatrième tome de la série « Parrains et caïds », est une immersion dans le banditisme français muri à l’ombre des cités. D’Aubervilliers à Nanterre, de Roubaix à Montpellier en passant par Lyon, Grenoble, Marseille et Nice, ceux qui ont repris la « boutique » sont plus nombreux que leurs prédécesseurs, mais surtout plus anonymes : à la différence de leurs aînés dont les noms s’affichaient dans les journaux, on les connaît peu. Un atout considérable, même si certains rêvent de reconnaissance médiatique. Que disent-ils d’eux-mêmes ? Qu’en pensent les policiers qui les traquent et les magistrats qui les poursuivent ? Comment les voyous d’hier les considèrent-ils ? Qui sont les têtes d’affiche ? Que font-ils de leurs millions ? Réponses dans ce livre étayé de très nombreux témoignages inédits. Le roman vrai d’une génération qui ne fait pas toujours la différence entre réalité et cinéma, surtout à l’heure de vider un chargeur.

London Mayor and Possible Future UK PM Hounded Into Renouncing His Dual American Citizenship

Thanks to the IRS, one of Britain's most famous politicians — indeed, London's mayor is a possible future prime minister — has been hounded into renouncing his American citizenship, reports The Economist.
BORIS JOHNSON, the mayor of London, is British-American by birth—and by temperament. He mixes the can-do frontier spirit with self-deprecating wit. After being sacked as a shadow cabinet minister, he said: “There are no disasters, only opportunities. And, indeed, opportunities for fresh disasters.” He is relentlessly optimistic. “Voting Tory will cause your wife to have bigger breasts and increase your chances of owning a BMW M3,” he once promised.

Yet Mr Johnson (pictured) is so fed up with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that he is renouncing his US citizenship. He says he wants to affirm his commitment to Britain—a wise move for a man who hopes to be prime minister some day. But he has also talked of “getting a divorce from America” because of its “incredible doctrine of global taxation”. He became American by “an accident of birth”: his father was studying in New York. Half a century later this made Johnson junior liable for American capital-gains tax on the sale of his primary home, in north London; Britain levies no such tax. He harrumphed last year that this was “absolutely outrageous” and said he wouldn’t pay. (He later settled for an undisclosed sum.)

The number of Americans giving up their passports has shot up, from less than 1,000 a year in the late 2000s to a record 3,415 in 2014. A new spur is the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) of 2010, which makes it a lot harder for Americans overseas to get (or keep) bank accounts, pensions and mortgages, because foreign financial firms don’t want the administrative hassles that FATCA throws up. The law also increases filing requirements for citizens—and thus stokes fears that honest mistakes will be punished.

A neighbour of this correspondent, who was born in America but moved to Britain as a child, recently received a huge bill from the IRS, out of the blue, for many years of unfiled taxes. He had not realised that he owed anything; he had always paid taxes promptly in Britain. The IRS was so aggressive that he feared he might lose his technology business; he even discussed divorce with his wife as a way to shield their assets. In the end, he settled for a six-figure sum. He, too, has since renounced his citizenship.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

For Liberals, you can be a murderer, a thief, a liar, but dont you dare be a conservative

In the wake of the prolonged clapping and applause at the Big Apple's Lincoln Center following a composer's gratuitous insult of Rush Limbaugh (John Adams compared the radio host to the Taliban and/or to the Muslim Brotherhood), Ed Driscoll (thanks to Instapundit) quotes a caller to the Rush Limbaugh show describing those two minutes of hate of  “the official bogey man of the left”:
CALLER: Rush ... You can be anything in New York City. You can be a murderer, a thief, a liar, but dont you dare be a conservative.
As I wrote five years ago, this is nothing new:

How could anybody better illustrate my contention (a mere observation, really) — discernible in my upcoming graphic novel with Dan Greenberg, The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln — that not much has changed from a century and a half ago, specifically when Honest Abe spoke at the Cooper Union in February 1860, addressing the Republicans' castigators:
…when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us as reptiles, or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to [Republicans]. In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of [Republicanism] as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite — license, so to speak — among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Appeasement of Communism is “the most dangerous course we could pursue”: The Eisenhower Quotes You Never Hear About

Today is the anniversary of the death of Dwight David Eisenhower, the general and Republican president whom leftists love to quote when it concerns warnings against the military industrial complex (i.e., America's military industrial complex alone and no other country's).

It may come as a surprise, then, to learn that, in Ike's viewpoint, appeasement of Communism is not only a dishonorable course but is
the most dangerous one we could pursue.
From an International Herald Tribune "50 Years Ago" item:
Appeasement of Communism is not only a dishonorable course but is “the most dangerous one we could pursue,” President Eisenhower said [on April 5, 1959]. Speaking in academic robes before 4,000 persons at a special convocation of Gettysburg College, the President said: “The world paid a high price for the lesson of Munich — but it learned it well.” The President made an emphatic plea for his foreign aid program as vital for the security of the non-Communist world despite the view of “uninformed” Americans who want to end, cut or terminate it. 
I remember an internet page from many, many years ago that tried to thoroughly debunk the idea that Ike's statement about the military-industrial complex were the alpha and omega of his thoughts — ignoring, fr'instance, the far more numerous quotes on the dangers represented by the communist block — but I have never been able to find it again.

(Might any readers be able to help here?)

In any case: compare 1959's “the most dangerous [course] we could pursue” to 1961's "we must guard against" ("we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex"). Which is the strongest language here? I.e., which threat, in Ike's mind, is the greatest of the two here? Is it really America's military–industrial complex? Is it not correct that in no way is there any talk of disarmament or pacifism in the 1961 speech?

Related: Ike on War and the World's True Pacifists

How many Democrats (including the one in the White House) truly believe the following? It hardly seems to be an Eisenhower quote widely distributed in leftist histories…
There is nothing wrong with America that the faith, love of freedom, intelligence and energy of her citizens cannot cure. 
How about this one — which tends to discredit somehow Democrats' lesson-giving to everyone on war and peace, especially members of the military for whom they harbor contempt?
I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity. 
Notice that that quote also goes far towards shredding the left's chickenhawk "argument". (…"more importantly: notice how this position can be turned against the so-called peace camp. If only a soldier can speak for the war, then how can somebody who is not a soldier speak against the war?")

How about this Ike quote on the governance of his Democratic successor in the White House? (Ike does not seem to have been a George W Bush, refusing to criticize a "fellow" president.) The quote doesn't seem to be preeminent in many leftist history books either…
Gen. Eisenhower took out after the President himself in his harshest criticism yet of Mr. Kennedy’s handling of foreign policy. He said it was the product of aimless drift. While he did not mention Cuba by name, he said tartly at a televised political rally tonight that “no threatening foreign bases were established” and no Berlin walls were built during his own Administration. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

In our society, “Diversity” is a goal pursued above all others, including competency; it is the magic word that makes the lowering of standards okay

… the value of a two year degree was not in question until the [Sarasota (Florida) police] department determined that it was a stumbling block to minority applicants who always seem to need some hand-holding to get over the finish line
writes Benny Huang.
Don’t blame me for saying it, blame Chief [Bernadette DiPino] for implying that minority applicants can’t meet the same standards as everyone else.

Chief DiPino, of course, doesn’t fret over the adverse effects of lower standards. According to Sarasota’s local CBS affiliate, “DiPino says there are other important requirements she looks for such as character, integrity and life experience.”

Like a good charlatan, DiPino deftly constructs a false choice—either Sarasota PD will have cops who embody those universally admired traits or it will have cops with college degrees. As if it can’t have both. But, as she already admitted, the goal is not to increase the police department’s quotient of “character, integrity, and life experience,” but rather to boost its melatonin.

“We’re not lowering our standards,” says Chief DiPino. Apparently ditching a two year degree requirement in favor of a GED does not constitute a lowering of standards. “We’re looking for people with good character, integrity, it doesn’t matter [the] color of skin…”

Except it does matter. If skin color were not an issue, Sarasota would have a colorblind hiring process, which it clearly does not. The chief has decided that there are just too many white guys on the force and she’s determined to remedy the situation. When she says that she just wants to hire the best people, without regard to race, she’s telling a big, fat, honking lie. If the chief wants more integrity on the force she should start by working on her own.

Sarasota’s hiring policy is just the latest in a nationwide pattern involving the lowering of standards in order to increase “diversity,” a commodity so valuable that it apparently supersedes pretty much all other considerations.

In Columbus, Ohio, the police and fire departments have become more lenient in hiring cops and firefighters who have taken prescriptions drugs not actually prescribed to them, who have had their driver’s licenses suspended for reasons such as failure to pay their car insurance, and who have had “minor physical or emotional domestic violence in the past 10 years” that didn’t result in criminal charges. Again, “diversity” is the magic word that makes it all okay. The Columbus police and fire departments are just too white, so now they will accept deadbeats. The implication here is that minorities are disproportionately delinquent in their financial responsibilities, which is actually not that far off the mark, but unmentionable unless you happen to be advocating “diversity.”

Amy DeLong, chief of Columbus’s Civil Service Division, echoed Chief DiPino almost word for word: “We are not lowering standards.” You’re not?

DeLong continued: “This is a tweaking and obviously we don’t want someone who is physically abusive or has a bad driving record, but we don’t want to eliminate people that could be good police officers.” What a relief! I thought standards were being lowered, when in fact they’re just being “tweaked.”

In North Miami, Florida, the police department abandoned its swimming test in 2004 because black applicants couldn’t pass it. Swimming is raaaaacist! Like all standards destined to be abandoned, the swimming test was uncontroversial until a push for diversity made people question its necessity. Suddenly it became a silly requirement with no practical application to police work, something like knowing how to juggle or ride a unicycle. There’s just one problem—a police officer, in the course of his duties, might someday have the swim. He might have to, oh I don’t know, rescue someone from drowning.

Once we’ve accepted that cops don’t really need to know how to swim, it’s only a short mental hop to the idea that lifeguards don’t either. Yes, lifeguards. In 2013, the city of Phoenix decided that it needed more minority lifeguards at its city pools. “The kids in the pool are all either Hispanic or black or whatever, and every lifeguard is white and we don’t like that,” said a Phoenix official. Geez, no racism there. She added that “the kids don’t relate; there’s language issues.”

Hmmm…maybe the kids should learn English? Sorry, asking people to learn English is racist. I take it back.

 … In our society, diversity is a goal pursued above all others, including competency.

Monday, March 23, 2015

To put it in terms that gays might understand, economic transactions should take place between “consenting adults”

Militant homosexuals get a little overheated whenever it’s suggested that other people have rights too
sighs Benny Huang.
The current debate we’re having over wedding cakes, wedding flowers, B&B’s, and a variety of other services is not about discrimination; it’s about sovereign individuals being able to engage in economic transactions on a voluntary basis.

Which is why homosexuals, if they really want a cake for their mockery of a wedding, should find someone who actually wants to make it for them. My advice is this: do business with people who want to do business with you. To put it in terms that homosexuals might understand, economic transactions should take place between “consenting adults.” If one party doesn’t consent, the deal is a non-starter.

The concept of voluntary economic transactions is essentially what Silk was trying to articulate before the New York Times trimmed his quote, seeming to suggest that homosexuals have no right to be served but everyone else does. What he was really trying to say is that no one has a right to be served. That’s no small distinction.

 … I believe that any private business should be able to decline my patronage for any reason and they don’t owe me or the government an explanation. That’s their right, just as it’s my right to shop with their competitor. Anything else would be involuntary servitude by definition, which is prohibited by the thirteenth amendment to the Constitution.

Advocates of coerced economic transactions find this line of reasoning hard to refute so they resort to accusations of hypocrisy as a means of avoiding it entirely. As angry lesbian columnist Sally Kohn sneered in a recent Daily Beast column, “Those championing the right to discriminate generally want the right to discriminate against others, but for others to not be able to discriminate against them.” She cites zero examples.

Newsflash for Sally: I have been denied service on account of my nationality and I didn’t run crying to the government. It happened a few years ago in Tokyo when I walked into a small neighborhood diner and was brusquely “greeted” by a grouchy old Japanese woman, probably the owner, who informed me that she only served Japanese customers. Shaking my head in disbelief, I left and spent my money at a restaurant that actually wanted it. Yes, I was shocked and perturbed, mostly because my American upbringing bequeathed me a sense of entitlement to this woman’s labor. I grappled with the concept that she had the same right to choose her customers as I had to choose a restaurant. We had the opportunity to make a deal on terms agreeable to both of us but alas, we reached an impasse and the deal fell through. I had no legal recourse because there’s no law against refusing service to gaijin (foreigners) in Japan. Nor should there be. The Japanese have the right idea.

It’s called freedom. I kind of like it. …/…

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Ham Sandwich: Proof of France’s inherent conservatism

What’s in a French sandwich? asks Stephen Clarke.
 … on my way to London on the train, I was reading a fascinating French article about a study that purports to measure the cost of living in various towns and cities in France by comparing the price of a staple food: le jambon-beurre, or ham sandwich [a length of baguette filled with butter and a slice or two of ham].

 … The most surprising thing about the study, though, was the revelation that of the 2.19 billion sandwiches sold in France in 2014 (by my calculation that’s about 43 sandwiches per French person in possession of teeth), a whopping 58 per cent of them were “au jambon“. That’s not just a popular sandwich – it’s a totalitarian régime. Of the other 42 per cent I’d be willing to bet that another 30 per cent are “mixte” which usually means jambon-fromage. And then at least 10 will be fromage (usually gruyère) or saucisson (salami).

 … The sandwich statistic is, I think, yet more proof of France’s inherent conservatism. Give your average Parisian the chance to open up a sandwich shop and they’ll opt to go the way of the 58 per cent. (I say average because there are of course some people who go crazy and open bagel shops, pitta parlours, smoked fish stores and even gluten-free havens). Give your average Londoner the same opportunity and watch out for flying halloumi.

There is nothing wrong with this, by the look of things. The French truly love their jambon-beurre, and we all love France for its eternal Frenchness.  I’m the same when it comes to beer. I want beer that tastes of beer. Start wafting fruit juice or honey or chocolate anywhere near a beer barrel, as many people are doing these days, and I will howl with outrage. To each their own conservatism.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Following the Charlie Hebdo Massacre, the Le Pens' Front National Is Back in the News

Marine Le Pen … who campaigns on an anti-immigration and anti-European platform, is increasingly seen as a serious presidential candidate in the 2017 elections
writes Susan Dominus in a lengthy New York Times Magazine piece…
 … a recent poll found that if Le Pen ran for president now, she would finish ahead of all presumed contenders, including Nicolas Sarkozy, a conservative former president of France, and François Hollande, the current Socialist president. Much of her party’s support comes from regions far from Paris, in areas gutted by deindustrialization or in tiny towns struggling with budget cuts and trying to keep traditional village life going
There are many who find good things to say about France's Front National — notably the party's attempt to get rid, or to diminish the number, of the repressive and extortionate radars ubiquitous on all the country's highways — but just because the party is said to be a part of the right should not let people forget such things as the fact that Marine Le Pen is a critic of the free market and an interventionist in favor of a strong state (like all the other politicians) — having indeed said that "Obama is way to the right of us” (!) — and that France ought to "turn its back" on the American "hyper-power" and "turn towards Russia" and its leader, Vladimir Putin.

Indeed, the New York Times' Susan Dominus writes that
Both anti-establishment and populist, the National Front has cast itself as a party for the little people, with a mix of proposals that confound current American notions of right and left. Its platform calls for the preservation of local services, protectionist trade policies and higher taxes on the rich…

Vincent Pons, a French academic [and] a campaign expert — a company he founded provides technological support to candidates — reminded me how difficult it is to map basic American assumptions onto the French political landscape. “In France, officially, we don’t have race,” he said; it is illegal, for example, to ask about race or religion on any government form. “We just pretend that race does not matter, but it’s this crazy thing — of course it matters,” he said. “There are no statistics, so you can make no policy around it. But even if you tried, you’d be accused of making too much of race.”
Dans l'émission Toutes Les France sur la chaîne France Ô, Erwan Lecoeur et François Durpaire débattent Alexandre Del Valle et Jean Robin sur le sujet "FN et Pouvoir (Si Loin, Si Proche)". Ce dernier, éditeur d'Enquête & Débat, essaie de dénoncer la censure généralisée.

Toutes les France 1ère (dernière?) télé Jean Robin par enquete-debat

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Supporting School Choice is Being “Pro-Children”

As strange as it may sound, Carine Martinez-Gouhier informs us — over at the Bell Towers — that Texas, in spite of its libertarian credentials, is singularly lacking in school choice.
In 2015, the State of Texas is the envy of the rest of the United States. Thanks to its low taxes, a relatively small regulatory system, a limited government, Texas created more than 450,000 in 2014, the highest net nonfarm job growth in the nation. The Texas Model is thriving. The freer the markets, the more options people have for jobs, for products and services, and for opportunities.

Yet, there is something that the Lone Star State surprisingly falls short on: school choice.
And why should one be in favor (anywhere — in Texas, in another State, or abroad) of amplifying choice? asks Carine in another post. Because Supporting School Choice is Being “Pro-Children”.  At
Archbishop Carroll High School, a catholic private high school [in Washington, DC, we] saw students that were eager to participate, with teachers walking around the classroom. Clearly teachers are, as we would often hear, “in front of their students” and not behind their desk. The average class size is 20-24 with an 11 to 1 student/teacher ratio. Students [76% of whom describe themselves as African-American] were amazingly focused. No computer, or tablet are used: the Principal explained that they chose not to use new technologies systematically, but are open to let student use their computer or tablet if they wish.
Read the whole thing to learn about Carine's visit to Achievement Prep (also in Washington, DC) and Founders Classical Academy (in Texas).
If such stories, featured for everyone to see in documentaries such as Waiting for Superman, or The Ticket, are not enough to make the case for school choice, it is hard to know what is.
But what exactly was it that made this French immigrant better understand the whole debate? Carine lists Five Themes (click the link)…

Monday, March 16, 2015

“Fake but accurate” seems to be the liberals' guiding philosophy—usually cultivated at the expense of actual people, their lives, and their reputations

“Hands up, don’t shoot!”—the rallying cry of the Ferguson protestors (or rioters, in some cases)—was always a fiction, the Department of Justice admitted last week.
Thus does Benny Huang begin his acid trip (sic) Inside the Leftist Mind: The Primacy of Narrative Over Facts.
Michael Brown’s hands were not up and he was not attempting to surrender when Officer Darren Wilson killed him in self-defense.

That Eric Holder is finally admitting this, five months after autopsy results indicated that Brown’s hands must have been at his side, is progress, I suppose. But don’t expect too much from the attorney general too quickly. Baby steps. Despite admitting that there’s no evidence that Officer Wilson did anything wrong, Holder still wants us to contemplate why so many people believed the lie. “It remains not only valid – but essential – to question how such a strong alternative version of events was able to take hold so swiftly, and be accepted so readily,” he said.

Holder’s clear implication is that the lie could only have gotten legs if it had the ring of authenticity in the ears of Ferguson’s black citizens. So even though it’s not technically true, let’s all pretend that it speaks to the larger truth that white cops routinely gun down defenseless black males for sport.
Which they don’t. In this great big country we live in, liberals have tried and failed to evidence even one example of cops wantonly murdering unarmed blacks out of racist motives.

 … What Holder is trying to say is that even though the “alternative version of events” has been thoroughly debunked, the narrative lives on. It always does. 
The primacy of narrative over facts is perhaps the greatest enigma of the leftist mind. “Fake but accurate” seems to be their guiding philosophy, as evidenced by the 2004 Rathergate scandal. Seemingly intelligent people really believe that it doesn’t matter that Matthew Shepard wasn’t the victim of a “homophobic” hate crime because surely someone else was. The same people also find it immaterial that Crystal Mangum wasn’t actually raped by three Duke lacrosse players because white men have been raping black women since slave times.

In place of facts they prefer compelling narrative, usually cultivated at the expense of actual people, their lives and reputations. The now utterly debunked UVA rape story that Rolling Stone ran in November is an excellent example. Reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely failed to conduct even the most basic fact checking; in fact, she promised not to contact the accused rapists as a condition of getting her exclusive interview with “Jackie,” the alleged victim, who turned out to be a fraud.

 … This tendency to elevate the narrative over the facts is not a new feature of the Left. Consider Ray Mungo, the radical 1960s journalist and co-founder of the Liberation New Service, a wire service for the underground press. Mungo admitted in his 1970 memoir, Famous Long Ago, “Facts are less important than truth and the two are far from equivalent, you see; for cold facts are nearly always boring and may even distort the truth, but Truth is the highest achievement of human expression.”

 … What liberals fail to realize is that their narrative, if it is to be worth anything, must be supported by facts. Like a house standing on a crumbling foundation, their larger, capital-T Truth cannot remain upright while its foundation of smaller truths—what used to be called “facts”—dissipates. But alas, for liberals, it can. A myriad of concrete examples can turn out to be bogus and their narrative will still hold, because they “know” they are correct in the abstract. In their own minds, they are still right even when they’re wrong, and truthful even when they’re lying.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Global Warming? 30 Years Ago, It Was the Ice Age We Were Supposed to Fear

Remember When the Media Was Terrified of the Coming Ice Age? asks Onan Coca regarding the global warming scare.

I know; it's almost as if one might be allowed to think that our self-described élites are not the purveyors of wisdom but little more than simple drama queens. !