Monday, December 22, 2014

Paris’s airports suffer from existential problems

France is a country that believes you should only know what the powers that be want you to know 
wrote Stephen Clarke after landing in a snow storm at a Paris airport a couple of years ago,
and containing this situation obviously depended on people sitting around in ignorance until they decided individually to come and ask what the hell was going on. Too much information would have caused a stampede for luggage forms and a sense of outraged solidarity in the crowd that would have required even more riot police.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The 1930s Persecution of the Jews in Europe? It's the Fault of the Nazi Party (Not Germany); The Segregation of Blacks in the South? It's the Fault of the South, or America Writ Large (Not the Democrat Party)

See if you can figure out what is wrong with Johnny Clark's AP story on the anniversary of the premiere of the film based on Margaret Mitchell's best-seller:
Seventy-five years after the premiere of the movie "Gone with the Wind," research is shedding light on the racial tensions that existed at the time between the producer and city of Atlanta officials.

 … "Producer David O. Selznick was upset that Hattie McDaniel would not be invited to the Atlanta premiere," said [Emory University film studies professor Matthew Bernstein]. "He argued over and over that she should be allowed."

 … Selznick was guided by the office of Atlanta's then-mayor William B. Hartsfield. It was Hartsfield that originally reached out to Selznick to bring the premiere to the city.

But due to the racial segregation laws in the Jim Crow south, none of the movie's black stars were allowed to attend the premiere or even be included in the movie's promotional program. McDaniel did attend the Los Angeles premiere and was featured in the program.

"Selznick, because he was Jewish, was very mindful of the persecution of the Jews in Europe in the late-1930s under Nazism," Bernstein remarks. "And he saw an analogy between that persecution and the life of African-Americans under Jim Crow, especially in the South."
Can you figure out what is wrong with the story? It's in the last paragraph, in the Emory University film studies professor's remarks, and it may refer to a significant detail that Selznick himself may not have been aware of.

Have you re-read the para? Can you find it?

Okay; there are actually several problems.

First, sorry to sound like an apologist for slavery or Jim Crow, but it happens to be a fact that segregation of the blacks in the South was in no way akin, or even close to akin, to persecution of the Jews in Germany. (I hasten to add — I have no choice, or I risk being pilloried as someone who has nostalgia for the old South (which I don't) — that I am not someone who has nostalgia for the old South.)

Persecution is "we go after you", segregation is "keep your place." Persecution is "we are coming after you — after all of you"; "segregation is "we don't expect to react to you, or even notice you, unless one of you gets our of line — then we'll go after the one that gets out of line." No, I am not defending segregation — in any way. Yes, I know it is anti-American, and anti-Democratic, and against the values of the Republic.

I am just pointing out that one distasteful policy is (far) less distasteful than another distasteful policy. Note that the Emory University film studies professor Matthew Bernstein manages to avoid mentioning the word "segregation" for a more general term — "the life of African-Americans" — to compare the persecution of the Jews to, in order to make it easier to put America (or the South) on the same level, or close to the same level, as Nazi Germany.

You still object? You still think I am defending something that is indefensible?

Okay. Let me go ahead and accept that. But you ought to watch out; because here is where we go to the bigger problem:

Prosecution of the Jews is not laid at the feet of the Germans (Germany isn't even mentioned, Europe is). Persecution of the Jews is laid (far from inappropriately, by the way) at the feet of the Nazis.

By contrast, segregation of the blacks is not laid at the feet of the Democratic Party; nor is Jim Crow. They are laid at the feet of the South, or America in general.

The name of the party that defended slavery, that tore apart the Union in the defense of slavery, that instituted Jim Crow laws, and that ruled over the South as long as the anti-democratic laws were in place — the word Democrat (party) — cannot even be found in the article. Not once.

As Jonah Goldberg writes in Liberal Fascism,
In the liberal telling of America's story, there are only two perpetrators of official misdeeds: conservatives and "America" writ large. Progressives, or modern liberals, are never bigots or tyrants, but conservatives often are. For example, one will virtually never hear that the Palmer Raids, Prohibition, or American eugenics were thoroughly progressive phenomena. These are sins America itself must atone for.

 … Liberals are never responsible for their historic misdeeds, because they feel no compulsion to defend the inherent goodness of America. Conservatives, meanwhile, not only take the blame for events not of their own making that they often worked the most assiduously against, but find themselves defending liberal misdeeds in order to defend America herself.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Unseen On-Set Photos of Original Star Wars Movie on Display in London


Rare behind-the-scenes pictures on the set of the original Star Wars film are currently on display at the British Film Institute, announces Popular Mechanics.
Good news for Star Wars fans in London: now you can relive the making of Episode IV, the original film, with just a short trip to the Southbank location of the British Film Institute, where these incredible behind-the-scenes photos are on display.

The collection belonged to Ann Skinner, who served as continuity supervisor for Star Wars (1977). It features shots of the original script, candids of the cast members on set in Tunisia, an unmasked Darth Vader, and much more.

The exhibit will run through January 4th, and is part of BFI’s ‘Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder,’ a celebration of “film and TV’s original blockbuster genre.”

Sunday, December 07, 2014

So much of contemporary liberalism reeks of a scheme by which already affluent and influential people increase their margins and extend their sway


Contemporary liberalism is a scheme for the already affluent and influential to increase their power 
explains Matthew Continetti, with examples galore.
The 2006 Duke Lacrosse case is the paradigmatic example of a liberal rush to judgment when the perceived victim is a minority (in that case, a black woman) and the alleged perpetrator a straight white male. But it is not the sole example.

In 2007, an instructor at Columbia’s Teachers College specializing in racial “micro-aggressions” and under investigation for plagiarism discovered a noose hanging from her office door; when she was fired the following year for academic malfeasance it was widely suspected that she had put the noose there herself. The racist graffiti and Klan sightings that rocked the Oberlin campus in 2013 and served as the basis of an anti-racism campaign were later revealed to be a left-wing “joke.” And of course the leader of the Michael Brown protest movement, tax cheat Al Sharpton, was involved in the Tawana Brawley hoax of 1987.

Recently critics noted serious flaws in the reporting and writing of a Rolling Stone article that purports to describe a violent gang rape in a University of Virginia fraternity house. The article was the basis for the university’s decision to suspend Greek life on campus for the duration of 2014. The magazine was evasive in its response to the challenges. Then, on Friday afternoon, it released the following statement: “There now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s [the alleged victim’s] account, and we have come to our conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.” The story is false.

Does it even matter? Some liberals are upfront that the factuality of these cases is secondary to their political import. “Actually, in both the case of the UVA rape and in the case of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri,” says a writer for The New Republic digital-media company, “the major takeaway of recent weeks should be that our systems do not work” (emphasis in the original).

What The New Republic means by “our systems” is our systems of power: the institutions through which a free society allocates resources and decision making, chooses priorities, delegates responsibilities and authority. It is the goal of contemporary liberalism to command these institutions — in particular institutions resistant to the left such as police and fire departments, fraternal societies and private clubs, the military and extractive industry — and to alter them according to fashionable theories of equality and justice. The details are unimportant so long as the “takeaway” is communicated, the desired policy achieved.

It is sometimes difficult to understand that, for the Left, racism and sexism and prejudice are not ethical categories but political ones. We are not merely talking about bad manners when the subject turns to Michael Brown or UVA or Thomas Piketty. We are talking about power.

“The new elite that seeks to supersede the old one, or merely share its power and honors, does not admit to such intention frankly and openly,” writes Vilfredo Pareto. “Instead it assumes the leadership of all the oppressed, declares that it will pursue not its own good but the good of the many; and it goes to battle, not for the rights of a restricted class but for the rights of almost the entire citizenry.”

Such is the conduct of our new elite, the archons and tribunes of the “coalition of the ascendant,” which proclaims itself the advocate of minority rights, of the poor, of the sick, as it entrenches its power and furthers its self-interest.

 … So much of contemporary liberalism reeks of a scheme by which already affluent and influential people increase their margins and extend their sway. Liberalism, mind you, in both parties: The Republican elite seems as devoted as their Democratic cousins to the shibboleths of diversity and immigration even as they bemoan the fate of the middle class and seek desperately the votes of white working families.

Just-so stories, extravagant assertions, heated denunciations, empty gestures, moral posturing that increases in intensity the further removed it is from the truth: If the mainstream narration of our ethnic, social, and cultural life is susceptible to error, it is because liberalism is the prevailing disposition of our institutions of higher education, of our media, of our nonprofit and public sectors, and it is therefore cocooned from skepticism and incredulity and independent thought. Sometimes the truth punctures the bubble. And when that happens — and lately it seems to be happening with increasing frequency — liberalism itself goes on trial.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

After more than 12 years of living in France, one expat is still trying to figure out exactly how to properly master driving

One thing every […] expat needs to master in France is how to drive on the country’s roads
writes Mark Johnson, the Daily Telegraph contributor who, after more than 12 years of living here, is "still trying to figure out exactly how to do it properly."
The most famous […] roundabout is, of course, the [large – and scary –] roundabout at the Arc de Triomphe on the Place de l’Etoile in Paris. I’ve had that experience a couple of times and would not recommend it to any expat driver.
 
It’s like being on a chaotic merry go round that never stops, but somehow, despite all the erratic movement of vehicles, the system appears to work most of the time. I’ve asked my city dwelling French friends why the system is constructed this way, but they simply shrug and say ‘that’s just the way it is’.

Tailgating is another anomaly to me. I’ll be driving along, in my comfy little DS3 at a fairly decent speed, on the autoroute only to be startled by the fact that a French driver has appeared out of nowhere and is so close to my automotive rear end that I can almost smell the lunch time garlic on their breath. Yet, when they’re in front of me they seem to be in no hurry at all.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Highly Recommended: "The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels" Dispels One Myth After Another


In The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress offers an "alternative environmental philosophy to America, one that is antipollution but prodevelopment."

Used to publicly debating leading environmentalists, he asks the following question:
Could everything we know about fossil fuels be wrong?

For decades, environmentalists have told us that using fossil fuels is a self-destructive addiction that will destroy our planet. Yet at the same time, by every measure of human well-being, from life expectancy to clean water to climate safety, life has been getting better and better.

How can this be?

The explanation, energy expert Alex Epstein argues in The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, is that we usually hear only one side of the story. We’re taught to think only of the negatives of fossil fuels, their risks and side effects, but not their positives—their unique ability to provide cheap, reliable energy for a world of seven billion people. And the moral significance of cheap, reliable energy, Epstein argues, is woefully underrated. Energy is our ability to improve every single aspect of life, whether economic or environmental.

If we look at the big picture of fossil fuels compared with the alternatives, the overall impact of using fossil fuels is to make the world a far better place. We are morally obligated to use more fossil fuels for the sake of our economy and our environment.

Drawing on original insights and cutting-edge research, Epstein argues that most of what we hear about fossil fuels is a myth.

For instance . . .

Myth: Fossil fuels are dirty.
Truth: The environmental benefits of using fossil fuels far outweigh the risks. Fossil fuels don’t take a naturally clean environment and make it dirty; they take a naturally dirty environment and make it clean. They don’t take a naturally safe climate and make it dangerous; they take a naturally dangerous climate and make it ever safer.

Myth: Fossil fuels are unsustainable, so we should strive to use “renewable” solar and wind.
Truth: The sun and wind are intermittent, unreliable fuels that always need backup from a reliable source of energy—usually fossil fuels. There are huge amounts of fossil fuels left, and we have plenty of time to find something cheaper.

Myth: Fossil fuels are hurting the developing world.
Truth: Fossil fuels are the key to improving the quality of life for billions of people in the developing world. If we withhold them, access to clean water plummets, critical medical machines like incubators become impossible to operate, and life expectancy drops significantly. Calls to “get off fossil fuels” are calls to degrade the lives of innocent people who merely want the same opportunities we enjoy in the West.

Taking everything into account, including the facts about climate change, Epstein argues that “fossil fuels are easy to misunderstand and demonize, but they are absolutely good to use. And they absolutely need to be championed. . . . Mankind’s use of fossil fuels is supremely virtuous—because human life is the standard of value and because using fossil fuels transforms our environment to make it wonderful for human life.”

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Homo Scandals? Reporters are quick to self-censor when they have reservations about the damage their stories might do to beloved causes


Terrence Bean [the] 66-year old co-founder of the radical homosexual outfit known as the Human Rights Campaign (HRC)—a misnomer if ever there was one—was arrested in late November on charges that he and his ex-boyfriend raped a fifteen year old boy in a hotel room in Eugene, Oregon.
Is Benny Huang a bigot? One with "wrong ideas" about the gay movement? The Patriot Update writer has the nerve to challenge homosexual apologists and other "doubters to look a little closer at the seedier side of homosexual subculture." Meanwhile, one wonders whether it isn't obvious that Matt Barber also has "wrong ideas" and, indeed, is nothing less than homophobic; imagine, the WND author has the gall to speak of "the undeniable interplay between homosexuality and childhood sexual abuse" (while linking Terrance Patrick Bean to Barack Obama).

Update from Instapundit: ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO IGNORE: Also no coverage at the New York Times of the arrest of Obama bundler Terry Bean for child rape. It’s like they have an agenda to distort the news for partisan reasons or something.
Bean maintains his innocence.

The organization Mr. Bean founded is the largest “gay” “rights” pressure group in the United States. Its logo—a yellow equals sign on a blue background—is rapidly becoming the internationally recognized symbol of a political movement. In Massachusetts, where I hail from, the symbol is ubiquitous on car bumpers.

The HRC is the homofascist mothership and Bean is its queen. The organization published the illegally obtained donor list of the National Organization for Marriage in order to harass and intimidate its opponents. Its efforts also brought about the downfall of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich who made the mistake of making a small donation to supporters of California’s Proposition 8. The HRC supports forcing private citizens to participate in homosexual weddings. As long as anyone anywhere still maintains the rights of free speech and free exercise of religion, the HRC will not rest.
 
The high profile of the accused within the homosexual movement demands an answer as to why all three major networks have thus far completely ignored the story. Yet to ask the question is to answer it. Reporters are quick to self-censor when they have reservations about the damage their stories might do to beloved causes. In this instance, they worry that people might get the “wrong idea” about homosexuals, namely that their community has a special predilection toward pedophilia. Only “bigots” talk that way.

But what if the “bigots” are right? Homosexuals, particular the male variety, engage in kiddy-diddling at a rate far beyond their numbers. No, not all child molesters are homosexual, and not all homosexuals are child molesters, but the overlapping between the two groups is too large to ignore.

About one third of pedophilia victims are boys and nearly one hundred percent of the offenders are men. That means that male homosexuals, who represent about 1.5% of the population, account for approximately 33% of pedophilia incidents. In other words, male homosexuals molest children at a rate twenty-times greater than their share of the population. Homosexual apologists dismiss these basic facts by employing a lot of sophistry intended to demonstrate that men who have sex with boys aren’t really “gay.”

 … Even if every member of the homosexual community isn’t a child molester, the aggregate seems to embrace an attitude of see no evil, hear no evil. It wasn’t that long ago when America’s premiere pedophile rights organization, the North American Man Boy Love Association (NAMBLA), marched in “gay” pride parades. According to journalist Benoit Denizet-Lewis, an open and unapologetic homosexual, NAMBLA became outcasts at pride parades around 1994, and only because the Religious Right began calling attention to the diddlers’ presence. It was almost as if the non-pedophile marchers at these parades failed to notice, for the better part of fifteen years, that their parade had been infiltrated by self-identified child rapists. The non-pedophiles obviously weren’t particularly ashamed of the association and would probably still include a NAMBLA contingent today if “bigots” hadn’t raised a stink about it. …

 … It doesn’t bother [homosexual activists] that their movement is infested with perverts like Harry Hay or Walter Lee Williams. It bothers them that other people notice it and make connections.
Related: What If Someone Told You That "Homosexuals" Do Not Exist? And What If They Were Right?

Monday, December 01, 2014

In a sane world, Sharyl Attkisson would be recognized with the highest commendations in journalism—the Peabody, the Pulitzer

Appearing at number five this week on the New York Times’ bestseller list is Sharyl Attkisson’s much anticipated debut “Stonewalled,” the tale of a renegade reporter who was forced out of her job at CBS because of a supposed “anti-Obama bias.” (Quick: name one reporter ever canned for having an anti-Bush bias.)
 Benny Huang discusses Fox News while quoting Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.
Attkisson’s real crime was to engage in actual journalism, which didn’t sit well with the president of CBS News, David Rhodes. Mr. Rhodes’s brother Ben happens to be a spin doctor at the White House, so you can see why stories critical of the Obama Administration might perturb him. Attkisson covered the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal that cost countless Mexicans and at least one US Border Patrol agent their lives. She also delved into the Benghazi scandal, refusing to accept the administration’s initial yarn about the attack being a spontaneous reaction to “Innocence of Muslims,” a Youtube video that ridiculed Mohammed.

 Judicial Watch recently obtained, via FOIA request, the smoking gun that proves that Obama Administration officials were trying to silence Attkisson. Tracy Schmaler, top press aide to Attorney General Eric Holder, complained in an email to White House Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz that Attkisson’s coverage of Fast and Furious was not reflecting well on the administration. I’m also calling Sharryl’s [sic] editor and reaching out to [CBS anchor Bob] Schieffer. She’s out of control.” Schultz replied: “Good. Her piece was really bad for AG.”

Well, it’s good to know that there’s absolutely no collusion between journalists and officials associated with the Obama Administration.

In a sane world, Attkisson would be recognized with the highest commendations in journalism—the Peabody, the Pulitzer. She did what good journalists are supposed to do—she dug, and dug, and discovered that there’s a lot still untold about the Benghazi and Fast and Furious scandals. So much has gone untold, of course, because the administration refused, and still refuses, to answer basic questions. In the “most transparent administration in history,” the truth is always under wraps. National security, my dear. National security.

What exactly ails the fabled “fourth estate” that would cause it to toss aside a gem like Sharyl Attkisson? For the answer to this question I would refer to the late Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, the dissident writer and thorn in the Soviet Union’s side. Solzhenitsyn’s most famous work, “The Gulag Archipelago” is an indictment of the Soviet labor camp system in which he was himself imprisoned for producing “anti-Soviet propaganda.”

Upon arriving in the West in 1974, Solzhenitsyn hungered to read newspapers and periodicals that only an ostensibly free press could produce. How disappointed he was to discover that so much western journalism had little redeeming value. Speaking at Harvard in 1978, he remarked: “Without any censorship, in the West fashionable trends of thought are carefully separated from those which are not fashionable: nothing is forbidden, but what is not fashionable will hardly ever find its way into periodicals…”

I might object to the “without censorship” part. When a press aide to the attorney general can call upon editors and reporters to squelch a story that doesn’t flatter the administration, I’d call that government censorship. But the rest is spot on.

The problem with our media is their tendency to conform. No, they do not deliver “all the news that’s fit to print” as the masthead of the New York Times boasts. Their selection of stories is guided more by current fashions than any obligation to tell the truth. Their stifling conformity can and should be called soft censorship.

 … The end result of most media outlets marching to the beat of the same fashionable drummer is that some newsworthy stories are ignored while others that seem rather flimsy become the focus of the news cycle for a day or two, maybe longer. Who can forget the picture of the empty press box at abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s trial? The man who ran a filthy abortion mill in Philadelphia, who killed children even after they had emerged from the birth canal fully alive, did not seem to pique the interest of most news agencies, as evidenced by the empty benches reserved for reporters at his trial. Dozens of little Michael Browns and Trayvon Martins died, but the media didn’t care because they couldn’t pin it on a supposedly racist white cop, or even a “white Hispanic.”

When the estimable Mollie Hemmingway asked The Washington Post’s “health policy” reporter Sarah Kliff why she covered the Susan G. Komen row, Todd Akin’s comments about rape, and Sandra Fluke’s petulant demands, but failed to cover Gosnell’s house of horrors, Kliff responded: “I cover policy for the Washington Post, not local crime, hence why I wrote about all the policy issues you mentioned.”

As if Gosnell’s case were just a routine mugging in Central Park! If Kliff were honest, she would admit that the reason she didn’t cover Gosnell’s trial is because she serves as Planned Parenthood’s go-to gal for all things abortion. Planned Parenthood wanted to strangle the Gosnell story in the cradle and Kliff was eager to assist.

That’s the state of our media today. Great reporters like Sharyl Attkisson find themselves unemployed because they pursue stories that powerful people don’t like, while abortion industry shills like Sarah Kliff get to keep their jobs. One knew how to march to the beat of the proper drummer; the other did not. …

Sunday, November 30, 2014

With all this money Valérie Trierweiler’s earning from her book sales, she’ll probably be moving to London to escape her ex-boyfriend’s tax laws

 … the delicious irony is that with all this money Valérie Trierweiler’s earning from her book sales, she’ll probably be moving to London to escape her ex-boyfriend’s tax laws
Thus quips The Daily Telegraph's Stephen Clarke after  learning that "the French bought 650,000 copies [of her revenge book], making her an instant millionaire."
Chantal Jouanno … wants to end the whole fiasco of having First Ladies in France. No more private hairdressers, no more chauffeurs, office staff, foreign junkets. She’s head of the French Senate’s delegation for women’s rights, and seems to want women to have real political jobs rather than just being glorified political housewives (does the word palacewife exist? It should.)

You can’t chip away at French polticians’ privileges, especially not at the president’s own imperial lifestyle. And now that France has become accustomed to having its regular doses of presidential reality TV, the public wants all the scandal it can get. And in a way, it’s the best antidote to austerity there is. For the last few days at least, no one has been talking about the economy at all. Except to note that at least one French person is making a fortune by selling Frenchness overseas. Vive la France, non?