Saturday, May 10, 2014

Nudity in France: pass the beach towel – I'm British

There are many things one has to get used to as an expat in France
notes Gillian Harvey in the Daily Telegraph:

bureaucracy (bad), café culture (good), cheap wine (very good). But nothing beats the shock to the system of this country’s very different attitude to the human body.

No, I’m not talking about the famous French physique – maintained despite the copious chomping of croissants for breakfast – or even the nudist campsite that I’ve discovered is just 5km from my front door.

I’m talking about the blasé attitude towards exposed flesh, whether at the roadside or in the hospital.

 … Some of the local beaches, too, can cause the odd eyebrow raise. Last summer, I couldn’t help but notice when relaxing on a deckchair (as much as you can relax with three toddlers and a baby bump) that I was one of the few who wasn’t getting a full tan on my upper half. OK, had I wriggled out of my vest top at that point, it may have prompted calls to the RSPCA (or its French equivalent), but – like most of my terribly British friends – I’ve never been that bothered by the odd white bit, and would take covering up over letting it all hang out every time.
Mind you, the exposure of bronzed breasts paled in comparison to one man in the water that day: obviously on an impromptu visit to the shore, he had decided to frolic in the water in his grey Y-fronts, the wet cotton ensuring that not much was left to the imagination. And don’t get me started on the Speedos – while British men tend to go for overlong beach shorts, the French seem seduced by costumes that make all but the most buffed-up look as if they’ve tried on their wife’s underwear for a bet.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Could It Be that J Edgar Hoover Wasn't as Paranoid — or as Despotic — as the Former FBI Director Is Commonly Depicted?

Among the many, and totally unpardonable, sins we hear of American history in leftist history books is that of the harassment the harmless leftists and communists in America suffered unfairly from, mainly perhaps from the 1940s and 1950s. Due to "collective paranoia," we are told, McCarthyism tore apart the nation, destroying democracy in the process, with vicious witch hunts "sicced" on poor, innocent, and indeed noble victims.

Of course, t'is true that we silly paranoid Americans and Westerners had nothing, absolutely nothing, to fear from the harmless communists. Nothing other, of course, than the fact that the party members living in the West were fully supportive of their comrades in the Soviet Union, that the head of the USSR was a man named Stalin, that his Red Army was occupying half of Europe, and that the apparatus that Lenin and Stalin created was killing millions upon millions upon millions upon millions upon millions upon millions of people, Soviet and other. But apart from that, what have the communists ever done to harm us?!

But certainly, we are told, the leftists in America were (apart from that pesky little detail of supporting Stalin) different — harmless beings harassed by witch hunts for no other reason than being leftist, or different, and having different ideas and different plans. What, besides paranoia (collective or other), could possibly explain people like J Edgar Hoover (along with Joe McCarthy et al) not wanting leftists in government? (Head shakes, sighs, eye rolls…)

Well, let's take a moment to ask a few questions: what is it we have had since the 2008 election if not government by those "harmless" leftists?

Who is it who in effect are tearing apart the nation (and dare we say so?) destroying, or at least harming (viciously?), democracy in the process?

"Half the country feels — and is — beset by government," to hear Peggy Noonan say it (thanks to Instapundit).
We are suffering in great part from the politicization of everything and the spread of government not in a useful way but a destructive one. Everyone wants to help the poor, the old and the sick; the safety net exists because we want it. But voters and taxpayers feel bullied, burdened and jerked around, which again is not new but feels more intense every day. Common sense and native wit tell them America is losing the most vital part of itself in the continuing shift of power from private to public. Rules, regulations, many of them stupid, from all the agencies—local, state, federal—on the building of a house, or the starting of a business.
It's all part of the malaise, the sclerosis. So is the eroding end of the idea that religious scruples and beliefs have a high place that must culturally and politically be respected. The political-media complex is bravely coming down on florists with unfashionable views.
"The political-media complex is bravely coming down on florists with unfashionable views."

That's bad enough. Isn't it?

But isn't it far worse than that?

Unfashionable views being the mainstream, we have the government wielding its power against the average (i.e., the honest and law-abiding) citizen.

We have the government by those "harmless" leftists — I should say government by, of, and for those "harmless" leftists — which consists in the authorities going after people who have committed no crime or misdemeanor — none, that is, besides being skeptical of the very "harmless" leftists in government and/or of their policies. We have tax authorities tracking down and intimidating common citizens and we have the justice department tracking down and shaking down citizens for alleged crimes, or should we call, the worst of all possible sins.

What we have, indeed, is the leftists' government spending (wasting) colossal sums of money, on things that not only bring nothing to the average law-abiding American (whatever the color of his or her skin) but is on the contrary inimical to his or her interests as they are supposed to do little else but convince him that he or she is the product of a nightmarish society of intolerance (while showing that the leftists, and their policies, are necessary to save us from ourselves and bring about some sort of paradise on Earth).

Check out Elizabeth Price Foley's column on Peggy Noonan race-card playin' Eric "Holder’s latest foray into the intellectual tar pit of disparate impact, [the latest] the cause du jour of the political left, which isn’t interested in achieving racial harmony but racial balancing" (thanks to Glenn Reynolds).
Spending millions to collect data about racial disparities in police encounters will further various leftist political goals, including challenges to police stop-and-frisk practices. Indeed, data showing differences between whites and blacks — in virtually any situation — can provide valuable ammunition for intimidation. Under Holder’s tenure, DOJ now spends an inordinate amount of time and effort attempting to identify practices for which racial statistical differences can be obtained. DOJ then alleges racial discrimination, using the statistics as a cudgel to beat private parties and states into behaving the way the Obama administration wants. It’s Chicago Way extortion, applied nationwide.

Holder’s DOJ has used disparate impact in a mind-boggling array of situations. It has filed lawsuits — and garnered settlements — against virtually every major bank in the nation, alleging that because banks lend money to a higher percentage of white than minority applicants, they are engaging in racial discrimination. It has sued private employers for using credit and background checks, claiming that because a higher percentage of blacks than whites have poor credit or criminal records, the checks are racially discriminatory.

It has challenged competency tests for workers such as firefighters and police officers, claiming that because more whites than blacks pass, the tests are discriminatory. It has sued states that provide private school vouchers, perversely asserting that because more black children use the vouchers to escape failing public schools, the state must be trying to make public schools “more white.” It has suggested that because laws limiting felons’ voting rights impact more blacks than whites, they are racially discriminatory. It has issued threatening “guidance” to public schools, asserting that because more black than white students are disciplined by school administrators, “racial discrimination in school discipline is a real problem.”
"It’s Chicago Way extortion, applied nationwide."

J Edgar Hoover was supposed to go after mobsters and gangsters, we are told, not "harmless" political operatives who were doing nothing but sharing, entirely legally, their personal opinions.

Wouldn't plans to lead to nationwide-applied "Chicago Way extortion" be a reason for Hoover to treat leftist critics of America with a measure of circumspection?

In that sense, Olavo de Carvalho's thoughts are revealing. The difference between corruption in rightist governments and leftist governments, said the Brazilian philosopher, is that when rightists know they are doing wrong, they try to hide it (and are perhaps even sometimes ashamed), leftists are proud of their doings and try to write it into law.

When reading the following, remember that the comments apply to a foreign (a Brazilian) worker's party, Lula's Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT). And yet, ask yourself if they are not — chillingly — familiar.
It is one thing, I said, remembering an old Arab saying, to steal in the weight of the flour, selling 750 grams for the price of one kilo. Another thing is to modify the scale so that never more it accuses the difference between 750 grams and one kilo.

The old corrupt politicians [of Brazil] limited themselves to stealing. The PT transformed the robbery into a system, the system in political militancy, the militancy in a substitute of the laws and institutions, lowered to the condition of temporary impediments to the construction of the great utopia.

The old politicians stole for their own good, individually or in small groups, moderating the audacity of the blows from the fear of the denunciation. PT steals with a moral authority of someone, who arrogating itself the nobleness of a hypothetical future, is already forgiven a priori from all the faults of the present; with tranquillity and fearlessness from he who uses licitly all possible means, they steal since they are the absolute master of all.

Any political party that turns against "the society", promising to rebuild it from scratch — if not to reform the human nature itself — places itself , instantly, above the effective moral criteria in this society, and it cannot submit to them unless in appearance, laughing to themselves, at the naïveté of those who take them as a regular and loyal adversary. It is not possible to destroy the system and to obey its rules at the same time, but it's possible to use these rules just as a temporary camouflage until the destruction is completed. However, the system, as everything that is human, holds equally its dose of injustices, errors, scandals, and its parcel of morality, order, loyalty. All system consists of a precarious balance between disorder and order. No sane intelligence ignores that only it is possible to restrain or to control the former by fortifying the latter. All attempts to change the system integrally, either through the abrupt revolutionary subversion, either through the slow and gradual erosion of the institutional bases, starts for destroying the balance and therefore the order, under the vain promise of a future without disequilibrium nor disorder. The modesty of the objectives, the limitation of the political program to precise points that do not affect the beddings of the system, here is the mark of the honest parties — and this is not, definitively, the make of [a party like the] PT. The dishonesty of this party is measured by the megalomaniac amplitude of its promises.
Sexual Revolution

The "harmless" leftists also brought us such cultural wonders as the sexual revolution, which is supposed to be a giant leap forward against a society of old-fashioned taboos.

Is that all that the revolution has brought us? Is it only all that is good?

We now live in a society where kids asked for directions run screaming from a stranger's car because the driver was a man; where later London mayor Boris Johnson was once asked to change his seat in an airplane (in an airliner!) because the flight attendants did not want to seat a lone-traveling boy next to a singly-traveling man; where kids in French parks are forbidden to speak with any adult (certainly with any adult male) although they are their in classes of dozens running around on the grass and supervised by a number of teachers; where over 600 mall visitors walked by two lost- and "utterly forlorn"-looking girls in a Daily Mail experiment, ignoring them because they were afraid of being labeled a pedophile; and where males are no longer trusted to be in the teaching profession. Says Good Morning America's Susan Donaldson James:
"It's very hard to change the suspicion of men who are going to elementary education when there are so few of them," [said Massachusetts psychologist Michael Thompson, co-author of the groundbreaking 2000 book "Raising Cain," which argues that society shortchanges boys]. "Schools ask me to talk to men on their faculty and when I sit with them behind closed doors, they say the moms look at them like potential pedophiles. 

"If they are too nurturing or a mother comes in and sees a teacher reading in a chair and the child is leaning against the teacher or cuddling him, they freak out," he said. "Men tell me they only have to look in the mom's face to know what they are thinking." 
The professor adds that
as I’ve noted before, is that if you watch old movies, or even cartoons, it’s regularly assumed that adult males have nurturing instincts. Only in our supposedly progressive era are men reduced to cardboard cutouts dominated by lust and Mammon.
This is the mighty good that the sexual revolution and its good riddance to taboos have brought us: where no one trusts anyone, where every neighbor is a predator, a pedophile, or suspected of being one, if "only" potentially. Or, almost just as bad, a wife-beater or a father with no love for his children, who deserves to have his wife divorce him, his family broken up, and himself left as destitute as possible. (You will notice that the "culprits" most often are men, who are part of the gender most associated with — dare we speak the truth without hysterics breaking out? — a spirit of independence, not giving in, and resistance to the authorities.)

(Question: But, but… who is one supposed to turn to, then, in all those cases? Answer: but to the government, of course — to the government led by avant-garde progressives, or to a member of their ever-growing army of beneficent we-are-here-to-help-you bureaucrats; to the government forced by our own ineptitude and/or our own criminal degenerateness to take over the totality of our lives, for our own good.)

Glenn Reynolds links a Kevin Williamson post on Instapundit, leading to another description of the "harmless" leftists (or one of their subgroups), and the suspicion that the idea of putting spoiled brats (even be they grown-ups) to lord over our fate is hardly the smartest thing to do:  It has become simply “I Want!” in the mouths of a minority of women, but the right kind of women.
Feminism is not an idea or a collection of ideas but a collection of appetites wriggling queasily together like a bag of snakes. Feminism has nothing to do with the proposition that women should be considered whole and complete members of the body politic, though it has enjoyed great success marketing itself that way. . . .
A useful definition is this: “Feminism is the words ‘I Want!’ in the mouths of three or more women, provided they’re the right kind of women.” Feminism must therefore accommodate wildly incompatible propositions — e.g., (1) Women unquestionably belong alongside men in Marine units fighting pitched battles in Tora Bora but (2) really should not be expected to be able to perform three chin-ups. Or: (1) Women at Columbia are empowered by pornography but (2) women at Wellesley are victimized by a statue of a man sleepwalking in his Shenanigans. And then there is Fluke’s Law: (1) Women are responsible moral agents with full sexual and economic autonomy who (2) must be given an allowance, like children, when it comes to contraceptives.
More generally, the leftist society is where everyone is suspected of intolerance, of partisanship, and of (supposed) racism — his own and that of his wicked ancestors — along with innumerable other ghastly sins. In France, a decades-old effort to get drivers to slow down, by installing radars all over the country (which incidentally collects millions of Euros in revenue), refers to drivers — i.e, to common citizens — as "potential assassins" (des assassins en herbe).

No wonder Obama — and, by default, the media — cheated to win the 2012 elections: how could these avant-garde visionaries even think (perish the thought) of leaving such ghastly people as we-basically-trust-the-public Republicans to take over, dropping the utopia supposed to make their lot, the lot of all of us, better?!

Perhaps what is worst in all this, the most insidious of all, is that all of this is occurring, and most of the nation is not being informed of it. Au contraire, they are being told that the Obama White House is at worst a normal administration like any other and at best one that represents a huge step forward in all manners of ways…

This is the "dream" of the left: a place where every citizen is suspected of being a doofus and/or a criminal. And therefore where he must, for his own good, be led by a group of his betters, and by their ever-growing army of bureaucrats.

That's what the vast majority of countries and societies on the rest of the planet looks like. This is what leftists — what statists — American and foreign, dream of for the United States — and indeed have dreamed of for over two centuries. (Witness the Nobel  Peace Prize for Barack Obama by the giddy Norwegians the giddy Europeans only two weeks after the apologizer-in-chief entered the White House.)

Guess what: I don't know much about J Edgar Hoover, but might it not be that in the end, he was little more was one of those average Americans who had the silly temerity to believe that the average human being, that the average citizen, is good and caring besides being trustworthy?

And might it not be that the FBI chief wasn't so far off (or paranoid) when he, like millions of people, opined that allowing progressives into government would ruin the country, while tearing apart society and harming democracy? When he opined that, in the words of Olavo de Carvalho, the Left would place itself "above the effective moral criteria in this society," pretending to be "a regular and loyal adversary" in order "to use these rules just as a temporary camouflage until the destruction is completed"?

Update: Obrigado per o link, Sarah

Monday, May 05, 2014

Just as I was never told as a child that Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist stooge who defected to the USSR, the next generation won’t know that the 9/11 hijackers were hot for Jihad unless someone tells them

New York is set to unveil its September 11th Memorial Museum next month and already it’s ruffling feathers at the Council for American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). The self-styled “civil rights group” has taken issue with a seven-minute film clip entitled “The Rise of al-Qaeda.” The film describes the terrorist group as “Islamist,” and rightly identifies its modus operandi as Jihad. In other words, it tells the truth. 
Thus starts Benny Huang's latest opus.
The museum has thus far decided not to placate CAIR by diluting facts that make Muslims feel bad. Thankfully, someone with a smidgen of intestinal fortitude is refusing to be intimidated by the perpetually offended imams at CAIR.

Yet we shouldn’t be lulled into a false sense of security. The battle over “The Rise of al-Qaeda” is but one in a larger campaign to place the hijackers’ identities and motivations onto the list of Things We Can’t Talk About.

What an incredibly long list it is. Despite the fact that isn’t written down anywhere, the list of Things We Can’t Talk About is very real indeed. It is maintained mostly, but not exclusively, by liberals. They define the boundaries of acceptable discourse and they reserve the right to yank those boundaries incrementally tighter according to their whim. We can’t talk about communism, black violent crime statistics, Barack Obama’s Marxist upbringing, race and IQ, welfare abuse, or the health risks of male homosexuality.

And pretty soon we won’t be able to talk about the attacks of September 11th either, not unless we feign amnesia about who did it and why. It will be one of those things that only old screwballs talk about.

 … Never did I imagine that it would be controversial to say that Muslims attacked us on 9/11. How did we arrive here?

What appears to be happening now is a concerted effort to make the world forget what took place that September morning or, failing that, to erase from our collective memory the identity of the perpetrators. Years ago I would have thought it impossible to achieve such a task but that’s because I was twenty-one years old when those towers crumbled and the attacks have remained the formative event of my generation.

 I can see now that knowledge must be transmitted from each generation to the next. To my yet unborn children 9/11 will be ancient history, something like the Kennedy Assassination is to me. Just as I was never told as a child that Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist stooge who defected to the USSR, the next generation won’t know that the 9/11 hijackers were hot for Jihad unless someone tells them.
Read the whole thing