When it comes to free speech, Britain has embraced Big Brother

Frankly, whether Scotland goes or Scotland stays, once-Great Britain is dead. It’s death was a slow-mo, stupidity-driven suicide:

Orwell understood:

Orwell on an unfree society's hatred for the truth

The Bookworm Beat — 9/8/14 Optics edition (and Open Thread)

Woman writingThis week, when it comes to the top stories, all is not as it seems. What struck me as I read through report after report, and opinion piece after opinion piece, is that we’re surrounded by a swirl of optics that belie the truth. Evidence to support this statement follows:

College student opts to illustrate optics of rape by toting around a mattress

The mainstream media is filled with a bit of performance art by Emma Sulkowicz, a senior at Columbia. Sulkowicz claims that three years ago, on her first night in the student dorms, a senior raped her. Sulkowicz eventually reported the alleged rape to the college, which opted not to expel the senior, despite the fact that other female students eventually charged him with rape too. Three years after the fact, Sulkowicz, a performance art major, has come up with a senior thesis that, as I said, has garnered a good bit of attention from the MSM:

Beginning this week, Columbia student Emma Sulkowicz has vowed to carry her mattress around at all times until her alleged rapist is expelled from school. The performance, which doubles as Sulkowicz’s senior thesis, instantly went viral and has been splashed internationally across Facebook, Twitter, and even the Today Show as the latest chapter in the ongoing conversation on how colleges handle sexual assault cases.

Sulkowicz, a visual-arts major, says she was raped by a classmate in her dorm bed sophomore year, and when she reported the incident to Columbia administrators they botched the report, the investigation, and the hearing. In April, Sulkowicz filed a Title IX complaint with 23 other students alleging Columbia has mishandled sexual assault cases.

Emma Sulkowicz

The MSM, understandably, is terribly excited by the optics here. Sulkowicz explains:

Over the summer, I was lucky enough to get into the Yale Norfolk Residency, and I worked on a video where I had to move a mattress out of the room. The idea of carrying a mattress got stuck in my head the way a song gets stuck in your head, and I unpacked why carrying a mattress is an important visual for me. I thought about how I was raped in my own bed at Columbia; and how the mattress represents a private place where a lot of your intimate life happens; and how I have brought my life out in front for the public to see; and the act of bringing something private and intimate out into the public mirrors the way my life has been. Also the mattress as a burden, because of what has happened there, that has turned my own relationship with my bed into something fraught.

What’s singularly missing from the articles I looked at (and I looked at 7 or 8) is any information about the rape. Was she asleep in her bed only to wake up to the feel of a knife pressed against her throat (as happened to a friend of mine who sports a large scar on her face that she received when fighting of her attacker)? Or had Sulkowicz invited the alleged attacker into her room and into her bed? Was Sulkowicz drunk or sober? Was her alleged attacker drunk or sober? The only detail Sulkowicz discusses is her claim that the attacker had anal sex with her. It’s still unclear whether they had any consensual traditional intercourse before the senior engaged in an act at which Sulkowicz drew the line or whether it was indeed a stranger rape or a rape without any preliminary consensual behavior.

Another interesting thing about Sulkowicz’s whole rape narrative is that Sulkowicz immediately decided not to report the rape to the police:  “I didn’t report it at first because I didn’t feel like dealing with the emotional trauma.”  Okay, I get that, but you can’t eat your cake and have it — unless, I guess, you’re an American college student.  In that case, you can claim that you were the victim of a genuinely criminal act, but bypass entirely the criminal justice system (which as built-in rights for the accused) and, instead, simply complain to your college.  Then, if the college refuses to follow the usual politically correct path of destroying the male student’s life, you take to the media, so he can again be tried without due process.  

I’m sure something happened that night in Sulkowicz’s bed.  I just can’t escape the feeling that what took place was something called “gray rape,” which boils down to a scenario in which a girl agrees to sex and then, feeling guilty about what she did, later cries rape.  The media, of course, doesn’t care.

The media’s credulity regarding Sulkowicz’s very self-serving claims (after all, she now has a performance art thesis that’s garnered her fame throughout the Progressive world) may come about in part because of the media’s readily apparent statistical ignorance.  After all, the whole “rape culture” (as in “1-in-5 college women will be raped”) is in itself totally untrue:

MYTH 4: One in five in college women will be sexually assaulted.

FACTS: This incendiary figure is everywhere in the media today. Journalists, senators and even President Obama cite it routinely. Can it be true that the American college campus is one of the most dangerous places on earth for women?

The one-in-five figure is based on the Campus Sexual Assault Study, commissioned by the National Institute of Justice and conducted from 2005 to 2007. Two prominent criminologists, Northeastern University’s James Alan Fox and Mount Holyoke College’s Richard Moran, have noted its weaknesses:

“The estimated 19% sexual assault rate among college women is based on a survey at two large four-year universities, which might not accurately reflect our nation’s colleges overall. In addition, the survey had a large non-response rate, with the clear possibility that those who had been victimized were more apt to have completed the questionnaire, resulting in an inflated prevalence figure.”

Fox and Moran also point out that the study used an overly broad definition of sexual assault. Respondents were counted as sexual assault victims if they had been subject to “attempted forced kissing” or engaged in intimate encounters while intoxicated.

Defenders of the one-in-five figure will reply that the finding has been replicated by other studies. But these studies suffer from some or all of the same flaws. Campus sexual assault is a serious problem and will not be solved by statistical hijinks.

Fundamentally, though, statistics and other icky facts just don’t matter to the Left.  What matters is control, something perfectly exemplified in an opinion piece in Britain’s Guardian.  The author, Jessica Valenti, accepts as true the overwhelming horrors of a campus “rape” culture (hyperlinks omitted):

Her performance may be singular, but the deep frustration voiced by Sulkowicz is being echoed by survivors across the United States. Despite increased efforts to curb campus assault and hold schools accountable – the FBI has changed its once-archaic definition of rape, a new White House task force wants answers, and schools like Harvard and Dartmouth have promised new policies – the nation’s university administrators are still failing young people in their care. In the last year alone, 67 schools have had students file federal complaints accusing their own colleges of violating the Clery Act or Title IX.

Oh, the outrage! College is a dangerous place for your daughter! Keep her at home, perhaps in a burqa. Oh, wait. Valenti isn’t saying that last bit. She just wants to control speech more and more (links omitted):

Late last week, the first state bill to require colleges to adopt an “affirmative consent” model in their sexual assault policies passed the California senate unanimously. The legislation, which is headed to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk for approval by the end of this month (his office declined to comment), effectively requires the presence of a “yes” rather than the absence of a “no” – or else withholds funding from the nation’s largest state school system.

The legislation additionally clarifies that affirmative consent means both parties must be awake, conscious and not incapacitated from alcohol or drugs – and that past sexual encounters or a romantic relationship doesn’t imply consent. The California bill also, importantly, specifies that “lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent”.

It seems like a no-brainer to only have sex with conscious and enthusiastic partners, but detractors say the standard “micromanages” sexuality. The truth is that a “yes means yes” policy “helps to create a shared responsibility, instead of the responsibility falling on women to say ‘no’,” says Tracey Vitchers, chair of the board at Safer (Students Active for Ending Rape). Anti-violence activists are clearly excited about the bill, which – if all goes well – could be adopted by more states with large public university systems.

Pardon me for cynicism, but I don’t believe there’s a “rape culture” at college campuses. I believe that there is a “sexually-saturated, morality-free culture” at college campuses, brought about in large part by Progressive pressure on those same campuses to abandon the role of pater familias. Once upon a time, boys and girls lived in separate housing, and they were not allowed to take a person of the opposite sex to their rooms. Even when co-ed dorms first came into being, boys and girls occupied separate floors. Then, that changed so that they occupied the same floors, but had separate bathrooms. Now, they share everything — including copious amounts of drugs and alcohol that numb the smart parts of their brains.

My verdict based on the evidence available: Without more information, Sulkowicz definitely gets an “A+” for performance art and self-promotion. I’ll reserve judgment on the rape claim until there’s a full trial, complete with due process, a defense, and testimony under oath.

Obama — he of the Greek columns — explains that optics are hard

On Chuck Todd’s Meet the Press show, Obama finally deigned to explain why he went on a chortling, fist-thumbing golf game within minutes of announcing to the world that ISIS had decapitated an American citizen, something ISIS proudly filmed and then boasted about in a widely disseminated video. According to Obama, it’s just so hard to remember that the world is watching you. Somehow it’s unfair that the world’s eyes should be on the person who still bears the title of Most Powerful Man In The World, never mind that he’s reduced that power to the point where America’s weight in the world is no greater than any other little tin pot dictatorship’s world power.

Obama’s disingenuous claim that political theater is “not something that always comes naturally to me” unleashed a marvelous outrushing of tweets, some of which focused on his more egregious acts of political theater (faux Greek columns, speeches at the Brandenburg Gate) and others of which focused on his more embarrassing acts of visual ineptitude. Legal Insurrection has assembled some of these tweets.

Here are a few more for your enjoyment and delectation:

 

 

 

 

I’ll also add my favorite umbrella optic:

 

 

New Orleans Commemorates 5th Anniversary Of Hurricane Katrina

We’ve all faced that doorway moment but one just has to believe he could have handled it more adeptly.

Commenting on Obama’s risible statement about his deep feelings on learning of Foley’s death (feelings so deep that he was giggling on giggling on the golf course just a few hours later), Scott Johnson had this to say (emphasis mine):

In this case, the photographs suggest that Obama wasn’t all that choked up about the beheading of James Foley. They document that whatever emotion he felt, if any, dissipated very quickly. On that day, the photographs belied the theater. You might conclude that Obama is something of a phony on a matter of great concern to ordinary Americans. Thus Obama’s irritation.

One is struck both by the falsity and the petulance of Obama’s comments. I think Obama lies even to himself.

I disagree with Johnson’s last sentence, insofar as it implies that Obama, when he speaks of his deep feeling, knows that the opposite is actually true, and that he’s a shallow, self-involved, unfeeling man. Instead, I would argue that, when Obama told Chuck Todd that he was really quite shattered, and simply forgot that mere Americans wouldn’t understand the visuals of a man so sophisticated that he could go from shattered to silly within minutes, he was telling the truth . . . his truth. After all, the first rule of malignant narcissism is that the narcissist never lies. Since the truth is defined by his needs, when he makes a statement in accord with those needs, he is telling the truth or, more accurately, he is telling his truth.

The Gaza optics reveal that at least one of the dead wasn’t an innocent child

Elder of Ziyon examined the case of one of those poor, innocent civilians who died in Gaza as a result of Israel’s “unconscionable” Protective Edge assault. He found some damn interesting stuff too.

The optics of Britain’s dissolution are infinitely worse than the reality

A new YouGov poll makes it seem very likely that, after more than 300 years of being a United Kingdom, England will be disunited from Scotland: A majority of Scots suddenly seem inclined to go it alone as their own nation. Traditionalists who are moved by centuries of union, are horrified to think that they might live to see the day when Scotland and England part ways.

One could argue in opposition that what we’re seeing here is a necessary Scottish “reconquista,” as Scotland shakes off the shackles of a mere few hundred years of joinder with England in order to return to its more natural state, which was almost a thousand years of independence. That’s a silly argument, though.

John Fund makes a more serious and impressive argument when he says that, beneath the “it’s all falling apart” optics of dissolution, a Scottish vote in favor of disunion would be a good thing. Currently, Scotland sends a disproportionate number of Leftist members to the British parliament. Getting rid of them would give Tories (who are vaguely conservative) a majority. Additionally, once unanchored to the British treasury, hard Left Scotland might find it economically unfeasible to pursue socialist policies. Sadly, with the older generations dead and gone, I doubt that there’s any possibility that Scotland could revert to the hard-headed, self-reliant Scotland that gave America and the free world some of her greatest supporters of independence.

Scotland, of course, is banking on its oil revenue to keep it afloat, while England will mourn the loss of that same revenue. Again, though, oil may not be all its cracked up to be. As the Saudi countries show, oil money too readily props up otherwise broken, ineffectual economies. And as Venezuela shows, when a government becomes too socialist and broken, even oil money won’t help.

Optics and truth when it comes to American economic health under Reagan and Obama

I’m crowd-sourcing here. A Forbes opinion piece makes a compelling argument that Obama’s recovery economy is much stronger than Reagan’s was, with a better stock market, better corporate health, and better labor participation. I suspect jiggery-pokery here.

The argument I would make, and that many in the comments to that same article make, is that the stock market is propped up by government-printed money that doesn’t have actual wealth backing it; that the labor market is worse because more people have dropped out of the labor force and because the majority of jobs created are part-time or low pay; and that the federal debt and deficit mean that, to the extent we’re completely overextended, even the slightest economic tremor could trigger a massive economic collapse that will make 2008 look like the good times in retrospect.

I would value your input on this one. Both collectively and individually, you guys are better at economic data than I ever will be.

Downton Abbey tackles abortion (SPOILER ALERT)

downton-abbey-wallpaper-8SPOILER ALERT!!! I’m going to be discussing last night’s episode of Downton Abbey.  If you haven’t seen it yet, and are still planning on watching it, STOP READING RIGHT NOW.

*

*

*

*

Okay.  Are those of you still with me okay with a spoiler?  Good.  Let’s get going with this post then.

We started watching Downton Abbey when it first came to America.  In the first and second seasons, it had everything an anglophile history buff could desire:  A ridiculously gorgeous setting, breathtaking pre-WWI fashions, solidly good acting, and an interesting plot-line that followed the upstairs and downstairs life of an aristocratic household on the verge of a war that exacted a great toll on England and fundamentally changed the British landscape.

And of course, it had Maggie Smith, who is a delight in every single scene.  As the Dowager Countess, a proud, loving woman struggling to accept all the changes in the world, she is witty, acerbic, and an absolute low-key comedic joy.

Downton Abbey is now in its fourth season and is dragging us through the 20s.  When I say “dragging,” I mean that pejorative deliberately.  The show has bogged down into being a classy, costumed soap opera.  I still watch for the costumes and for Maggie Smith, but otherwise it’s mostly a yawn.  Something interesting happened last night though.

As some of you may already know, the Earl of Grantham’s upstairs family began the series with three daughters:  Mary, the beautiful, snotty oldest (now a widow); Sybil, the beautiful, free-spirit youngest (now dead); and Edith, the ordinary looking, catty, uninteresting middle child.  Edith has consistently been unlucky in love, including being dumped at the altar.

Things finally started to go well for Edith last season when she met a handsome newspaper editor/publisher who fell in love with her.  The only problem was that he had a mad wife (shades of Mr. Rochester) and couldn’t divorce her to marry Edith.  Eventually, he decided to move to Germany (a scandalous thing to do immediately after WWI) and become a resident there, so that he could get divorced.  Sadly for Edith, he has since disappeared in Munich, and we don’t know what’s happened to him.  (By the way, if you’re British and do know what’s happened to him, please don’t tell me.) Even worse for Edith, she’s just discovered that she’s pregnant.

One of the threads in yesterday’s convoluted plot (complete with a boring rape story line) was Edith’s decision to go to London to get an abortion.  It’s obviously a difficult decision for her.  The aunt with whom she’s staying forces her to reveal her plans and, instead of being angry at unmarried Edith for being pregnant, is compassionate, and tries to talk her into having the baby.  Edith, though, is terrified of being a social outcast.  She loves the father, she wants the baby, but she cannot bear the thought of complete social ignominy.

So off they go to the abortionist.  I assumed that this would be the point where a compassionate 1920s doctor makes a speech about the evils of illegal abortion.  Instead, after being admitted in a clean, unadorned waiting room, by a clean, unadorned receptionist/nurse, Edith realizes that having the abortion will cut her off from her family just as surely as having the baby will.  She would no longer be able to stand going into the nursery where her niece and nephew live.  This promise of future regret overwhelms her . . . and she leaves the abortionist.

In a show full of hackneyed soap opera twists and turns, I did not see this one coming.

Will Obamacare see America replicate Britain’s early 20th Century slide into irrelevancy?

Victorian women in EnglandWhen I was at UC Berkeley, I had two good professors from whom I actually learned something.  One of them was Sheldon Rothblatt, who then taught a class covering England from the Industrial Revolution to the dawn of World War I.  He was a delightful teacher, able to infuse life and color into what would have been, in less skilled hands, a drab recital of capitalist oppression and Marxist struggles.

Looking back, I realize that Professor Rothblatt, unlike the usual Marxist cohort in Cal’s history department, viewed people as individuals with wants and desires, rather than as mere cogs in an endless struggle between oppressed masses and oppressive upper classes.  Prof. Rothblatt’s recognition that individuals count may go a long way to explaining the answer he gave when someone asked why the Industrial Revolution was petering out in England at the beginning of the 20th Century while, in America, it kept roaring on.

If I remember correctly, Prof. Rothblatt said that the end of the Industrial Revolution in England lay with the working classes.  The problem wasn’t that they were too oppressed.  Instead, between the downward pressure from the class system (“an Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him“), and the rising level of (comparative) luxury brought about by the Industrial Revolution, working-class Englishmen simply stopped trying very hard.  They knew that, no matter the effort they put in, they wouldn’t be able to break through the class ceiling.  Additionally, provided that they weren’t living in abysmal poverty, they had more creature comforts than they could ever have imagined.  So why work?

In America at the beginning of the 20th Century, things were different.  The working classes knew that, with effort, they could rise up and their children could rise up even more.  Heck, John D. Rockefeller went from a very shabby childhood to being one of the richest men in the world.  Andrew Carnegie, the son of a Scottish weaver, did the same.  While most wouldn’t reach those rarefied heights, there was no doubt that, with hard work, geographic mobility, and America’s open class system, a man or a woman, or that man’s or woman’s descendents, could realistically attain middle class or even wealthy status.  In addition, as the original poor gained economically because of the Industrial Revolution, thereby leaving the working class behind, there was a constant influx of (legal) immigrants to provide fresh, hope-filled labor for the factory floor.  Yes, many people fell by the wayside, but even more people ascended American society’s ranks — and that was itself an incentive for continued effort.

America has changed dramatically since then in three very significant ways.  First, we’ve lost our geographic mobility.  I know that sounds funny in a day and age of trains, planes, and automobiles, but it’s true.  We are heavily weighed down by both tangible and intangible assets.  If my husband were to lose his job (God forbid!), and if there were no employment prospects here, moving to find work would be reasonable.  Nevertheless, we would find it incredibly difficult to move.  Every room in our house is crammed with stuff that would have to be sorted, sold, packed, and transported and then, at the other end, we’d have to unpack, re-sort, and probably sell some more.  Unlike people in days of old, who might have had only a few clothes, a Bible, and a cook pot, we have four computers (one for each of us), hundreds of clothes (between the four of us), thousands of books (mostly mine), televisions, kitchen gadgets, appliances, dishes and cookware, cleaning supplies, furniture (too much, since my husband can’t bear to part with old when we buy new), family photographs, art work, knick-knacks — and that’s probably only a partial inventory of the tangible clutter that is a modern life.

A move also requires transporting our intangibles.  We have to engage in the tiresome task of changing our bank accounts.  In the old days, you’d just deposit or withdraw money.  Now the paperwork of setting up a new account to comply with the bank’s requirements, the state’s requirements, and the fed’s requirements can take hours.  We have to sever all our ties to cable companies, phone companies, and utilities, and then recreate new ties at our destination.  We need to change our address with credit card companies and make sure that Amazon ships more clutter to our new address not our old.  As I remember from my last move, it was almost a year before I’d managed to transfer every bit of data from my old address to my new one.

Second, illegal immigration means that our new crop of workers remain as perpetual bottom feeders, stultifying America’s former dynamic of moving from the bottom of the heap up to the middle or beyond.  We give the illegals marginal jobs, welfare, and food stamps, but they are, as their community organizers like to say, stuck in the shadows, something that severely limits upward mobility.  The appropriate course of action for our nation to take, of course, isn’t to grant amnesty, which is an invitation to yet another large batch of economically stultifying illegal shadow workers.  It is, instead, to shut down our borders, deny welfare to illegal immigrants and education to their children, put pressure on companies that employ them, and watch them self-deport.  Meanwhile, if we do indeed need all these workers, we should dramatically boost our legal immigrant quota and enable more people to come here freely and work openly.

Third, and most significantly, we’ve now got Obamacare, which acts as a disincentive to hard work.  John Podhoretz neatly summarizes the key points of the CBO’s most recent report about Obamacare’s effect on employment:

If that’s not startling enough [that the number of uninsured will stay the same or even rise, there’s also the telling projection about ObamaCare’s impact on employment — “a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024.”

Overall employment will rise, the report says, but not steady, secure, long-term assured employment. The possibility of securing government-provided health-care without employment will give people a new incentive to avoid it. “The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply,” the report says.

Indeed, overall, between 2017 and 2024, the actual amount of work done in this country will decline by as much as 2 percent.

How come? Because of perverse incentives ObamaCare provides in the form of subsidies to some and higher taxes to others.

First, the report says Americans will “choose to supply less labor — given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive.”

Here’s why: Poor people get certain subsidies, which disappear once a worker achieves a certain level of compensation. So it may be better to work less, or not work at all, rather than reach that higher pay level, because the pay increase won’t offset the loss of the subsidy.

For those at the bottom economically who once had dreams of “movin’ on up,” Obama has placed insuperable hurdles in their way:  any incremental increase in wages from working longer hours or at a more demanding (but better paying) job will be offset by a dramatic increase in healthcare costs, resulting in either more work for less money or more work for the same money — neither of which is an appealing option.  Only those workers who are able to make the unlikely leap from poor to rich overnight will be able to bypass this barrier without suffering.

What all this means is that the modern American worker is now situated in the same way as the late 19th century English worker:  Where the English worker knew that the class barrier meant that harder work wouldn’t see him rewarded for his effort, the modern American knows that the Obamacare barrier means that harder work will not see him rewarded for his effort.  Where the English worker was frozen geographically because there were no better alternatives elsewhere (that class thing again), the American worker is likewise frozen, both because Obamacare’s perverse incentives apply everywhere and because moving is just too gosh darn difficult.

Lastly, just as that long-ago English worker had reached a level of comfort that made him willing to accept class and geographic limitations, so too has the American worker reached a fairly comfortable dead end.  He’s certainly not living lavishly.  However, thanks to Obamacare, unemployment, food stamps, and welfare, he’s getting an endless vacation.  He may not be basking on a Tahitian beach, taking in Broadway shows, or touring Europe’s cities, but he’s surfing the internet, talking to friends on his smart phone, and getting high scores on Call of Duty, all while receiving a bi-monthly check from both state and federal governments.  And when this sedentary lifestyle starts to have consequences — everything from carpal tunnel syndrome to life-threatening blood clots — he knows he’ll get free medical care that’s every bit as good as the Cuban medical care that multi-millionaire communist Michael Moore has raved about.

Some of you might be shaking your heads and saying “But no one would want to live that way.  It’s a squalid, marginal lifestyle.”  Well, as I’ve written here before, there are a lot of people who think it a fine way to live.  At the very least, it sure beats working.  For these people, the journey from a poorly paid job to permanent welfare is a much easier trip, both practically and economically, than working harder to make more money, only to see the extra wages vanish into the endless maw that is Obamacare.

While walking the dogs this morning, I listened to Mark Steyn, who was guest-hosting for Rush Limbaugh.  He pointed out that the real sin of welfare isn’t wasted money but is, instead, wasted humans.  As Betty Friedan (of all people) said in a talk I heard 20 or so years ago, there are three ingredients to a quality old age:  strong family ties, strong community ties, and work (i.e., a reason to get home in the morning).  Much as we humans like to do nothing, the fact is that the Victorians were right when they sagely opined that “idle hands are the Devil’s playground.”  Given too much free time, which is what’s about to happen to vast numbers of Americans thanks to Obamacare’s negative incentives, idle hands create tremendous societal wounds as people, rendered meaningless, engaging in destructive or self-destructive behavior.

Many people looking back at the early 20th Century think that World War I and World War II (followed by the loss of India) destroyed England.  They didn’t.  Those earthshaking events were actually the exclamation points on a society that had already run dry by 1914.  Once a society stops striving, it starts dying.  It happened there and, unless we can put the brakes on the slippery slope we’re now sliding down, it will happen here.

 

Basil Fawlty’s insanity almost becomes Bank of England policy

I do believe that one of the funniest things ever shown on TV is the episode of Fawlty Towers (a show that ran from 1975-1979) in which Basil Fawlty welcomes four German guests to his seaside hotel.  He’s told not to mention the war, lest he offend the Germans, but he cannot help himself:

As is happening way too often lately, life in the 21st century has gone from amusing satire to dysfunctional seriousness.  This is the news out of England today:

Bank of England bosses thought twice about putting Sir Winston Churchill on the new £5 note – because they didn’t want to upset the Germans.

Officials warned Sir Mervyn King, then Governor of the Bank of England, that Churchill’s wartime record might make him highly controversial, documents obtained by The Mail on Sunday show.

[snip]

In a memo dated April 11, 2012, Sir Mervyn was advised Churchill will be a popular choice because of his ‘broad name recognition’ and the public’s ‘very affectionate view’ of him as a wartime leader. But officials also warned him that ‘the recentness of World War II is a living memory for many here and on the Continent’.

[snip]

Officials also warned Sir Mervyn of Churchill’s ‘disastrous’ decision to return Britain to the gold standard in the 1920s. Churchill’s critics at the time claimed the move, with the backing of the Bank of England, produced the mass unemployment, deflation and industrial strife of the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Bank staff who conducted ‘considerable research’ into Churchill’s role in the debacle noted: ‘If academics do pick up on the move to the gold standard it is likely they will refer to the role of the Bank and Churchill’s own criticism of the Bank.’

We shouldn’t be surprised by this thinking, though. The same government body was worried about using Jane Austen’s image on a bank note in case something shady emerged about her private life.  (For those who are not fanatic Austen fans, she lived her whole life with her family; never married; wrote exquisite social comedies that were also strong morality stories; and left virtually nothing of herself behind other than her work, since her beloved sister Cassandra destroyed almost all of her letters.)

Paul Weston — “I am a racist”

Defending what is good about your country is racist.  So is describing Islam and its cultural and political practices.

Regarding Islam, let me be clear that this is not the same as the antisemites making things up about Jews, as they have since time immemorial.  Instead, what we know about Islam comes from the Muslim world itself:  from their concrete (and bloody) acts, from their media, from their speeches, and from their houses of worship.  They are open about what they are.  It is we who bury their true nature under platitudes and lies.

RIP to the late, very, very great Margaret Thatcher

Thatcher dismissing personal attacks

I was living in England in 1981 and 1982, so I was there for the coal miner riots and the Falkland War.  Since I was at a Northern University, the official posture of every student there was that Maggie Thatcher was evil.  I kind of admired her then, and I greatly admired her later.  This is the obituary I wrote for her at Mr. Conservative:

The indomitable Margaret Thatcher is dead at age 87, after having suffered a stroke. Thatcher was England’s Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990. She got elected after promising England that she would end the socialist hold over the British economy and, despite fierce opposition, that is precisely what she did.

Thatcher was absolutely sure of her convictions – she knew that Communism was evil; and that British socialism, a soft form of Communism, was simply a slow-moving evil sapping away the will and moral fiber that had once characterized the British people.

As is always the case when people who have been dependent on government benefits suddenly have those benefits pulled out from them, violence ensued. Thatcher was unmoved, and delighted in the fact that the British adopted the Soviet nickname for her: “The Iron Lady.’ She knew she was right, and she was not going to back down. She relished battle.

Thatcher on socialism

When, in 1982, Argentina attempted to take over the Falkland Islands, a small British governed island chain off its coast, Thatcher unflinchingly sent battleships off to war to take those islands back. The British, even those who hated her economic policies, cheered her on and celebrated what turned out to be a swift victory

Thatcher was the daughter of a conservative grocer and his wife. They raised her to believe in herself and in the fact that others had the right and the ability to be equally self-confident and self-sufficient. In the Thatcher family, dependency on government wasn’t just an embarrassment; it was a destructive force that had to be fought at every turn. This belief guided Thatcher’s entire career. Thankfully, her education at Oxford was in science and then law, so she was not indoctrinated in the leftism that was already then infecting Western liberal arts education.

Thatcher also had a wonderful gift for pithy sayings that readily encompassed serious conservative political thought. Small wonder that she and Ronald Reagan, whose presidency overlapped with much of her time as Prime Minister, delighted in each other so much:

Individualism has come in for an enormous amount of criticism over the years. It still does. It is widely assumed to be synonymous with selfishness…But the main reason why so many people in power have always disliked individualism is because it is individualists who are ever keenest to prevent the abuse of authority.

To be free is better than to be unfree – always. Any politician who suggests the opposite should be treated as suspect.

Because she understood socialism so well, she had the gift of prescience, predicting the socialist future with remarkable accuracy:

The European single currency is bound to fail, economically, politically and indeed socially, though the timing, occasion and full consequences are all necessarily still unclear.

I do believe that political arrangements which are based upon violence, intimidation and theft will eventually break down – and will deserve to do so.

Margaret Thatcher was a great lady, with the highest degrees of moral courage and political conviction. For a short, but golden time, she was able to stop Britain’s miserable slide into socialism. Although her control over Britain ended in 1990, it is her death that truly reminds us how rare her courage was, how difficult her conservative gains were, and how easily they were lost. All that’s left of Britain now seems to be embodied in an ugly, mean-spirited Leftist carpetbagger who seeks to destroy America as he and his kind have succeeded in destroying Thatcher’s Britain.

“Come on, you Spurs! Come on, you Spurs!

When I lived in England, the Tottenham Hotspurs, a London based football club, was doing very, very well.  It had done very, very well the year before too.  So Chas & Dave, a popular English duo, wrote a song, which became a massive hit.  The song is undeniably catchy, and it’s been stuck in my head for more than thirty years now:

During the song, you can hear the players in the back holler “oy, oy.” When I first heard this, I thought it was a funny coincidence that the Spurs used a Yiddish word like that. I was quickly disabused of this notion. There was nothing coincidental about that. The Spurs had such strong support from London Jews that it was called “the Jewish Club.” Back in the day, that was just a fact. The Brits, who were then known for a casual, rather than venomous, antisemitism, might make slighting remarks, but that was all.

Today, though, the team’s Jewish identity is something very dangerous for the team’s fans, despite the fact that there are no Jewish players and the vast majority of its fans aren’t Jewish:

For Tottenham Hotspur’s corps of traveling fans, Thursday’s soccer game in Italy against Internazionale Milano holds many dangers—and not just to their team. When Tottenham played Lyon in a Europa League game last month, 150 visiting fans were set upon by a group of neo-Nazis, with three Spurs supporters ending up in the hospital. It was the second time in recent months that the team’s fans have been attacked by a fascist mob in Europe—in November, several Spurs fans were injured when they traveled to Rome to see Tottenham take on Lazio. Their assailants screamed “Jews” before attacking them with knives and clubs.

Tottenham’s supporters are no strangers to anti-Semitism. The North London team has been known as the “Jewish club” since the beginning of the early 1900s, when it regularly attracted over 11,000 Yiddisher supporters to home games. In 1986, it was the first big team (and the last) to hire a British Jew, David Pleat, as a coach, and a Happy Yom Kippur message has made an annual appearance in the club’s official program since 1973.

The paragraphs above come from a Wall Street Journal article about the team and its Jewish identity. Although it’s short,it nevertheless manages to be a fascinating blend of history, antisemitism, and identity in a PC age. It is, therefore, well worth reading.

Richard III’s death, because it paved the way for Henry VIII, was a pivotal moment in British and world history *UPDATED*

Richard III

My sister and I got to talking yesterday about Richard III.  He was, she said, a decent king during his two years and his administration was terribly maligned by subsequent Tudor historians and, especially, Shakespeare.  She’s right.  Contemporaneous records show that he was a good leader up in his home base, the north of England, and that he was an effective, pragmatic king.  In addition, he almost certainly committed regicide against the two princes in the Tower.  The only reason this mattered was because it gave Henry VII the opening to be righteous in his bid for the throne.

Henry VII

Looked at objectively, Richard III and Henry VII were two peas in a pod:  both were able administrators, both had a tenuous claim to the British throne, and both were willing to kill to get that throne.  It’s likely that, had Richard III retained his throne, England during his reign would have looked remarkably similar to England during Henry VII’s reign.

It’s equally likely that Richard III, even if he’d handed the throne to a son, would not have had a son like Henry VIII.  For all his faults (and they were many, considering that he had sociopathic or even psychopathic tendencies), Henry VIII was arguably the most important monarch to sit on England’s throne.  It was his overwhelmingly personality — his inability to beget sons; his overwhelming ego; and his mad passion for Anne Boleyn, who promised him a male heir — that saw him remove Britain from Rome’s orbit at a pivotal time in both British and European history.

Henry VIII

Some argue that Henry would have left Rome in any event, since Spain and France were his enemies and leaving Rome strengthened his alliance with Protestant lowland Europe.  This overlooks the fact that Henry’s break with Spain also came about because of his inability to have sons, his ego, and his passion.  During the good years with Katherine of Aragon, Catholic Spain was an ally, and helped Catholic England in the balance of power against Catholic France.

It was only after Henry abandoned Rome (and he did so administratively, not doctrinally) that the shift in the balance of powers that we associate with Henry’s, and the Elizabeth’s, reign came about.  By then, of course, religious wars were starting to rip Europe apart anyway.  And indeed, one can wonder whether, if Henry (or an imaginary son of Richard III) had stayed with Rome, the Protestant schism would have been as powerful as it was, or if it would simply have exhausted itself in small, German and lowland municipalities.  (In France, of course, the Catholic monarchs quashed Protestantism with brutality creating a Huguenot diaspora.)

Oliver Cromwell

Henry’s decision to break with Rome set the stage, a little over a century later, for the English Civil War.  That War opened the door to Cromwell, who allowed the Jews to return to England, which arguably helped jump start England’s phenomenal mercantile rise.  From that came a British colossus that, for almost two centuries, controlled vast swaths of the world — North America, the Indian subcontinent, parts of Africa, the Caribbean, etc.  Significantly, and without exceptions, Niall Ferguson demonstrates convincingly that every former British colony went on to become prosperous, whether that prosperity is measured on a worldwide scale (as is the case with America) or on a smaller, geographic neighborhood scale (comparing Kenya to the Congo, for example).

Short of dropping into a science fiction show that allows us to see alternate realities, we can only assume how history would have progressed if certain events hadn’t happened.  England might still have hewed Protestant without Henry’s decision to break away.  Had that happened, though, it might well have been a more gradual, organic transition that didn’t result in a Civil War.  Under the same line of reasoning, England, once Protestant might have invited the Jews back, although perhaps not at such a pivotal time, one that coincided with the geographic expansion of European power.  And even without the Jews, Britain might have become an imperial giant.

All we do know is that things played out as they did.  And to the extent one believes that it was a good thing for the world that Britain, which was historically a more freedom-oriented country than its contemporaneous peers, then one must also believe that Richard III’s death, by paving the way for Henry VIII, was more important than his life.

Richard III's face

UPDATE: Andrew Roberts has more on the fact that Richard III was an effective, indeed good, monarch, while Henry VII had the sweaty sheen of a liar and opportunist.  Be that as it may — whether Richard was a murderer or a victim — the fact remains that his death paved the way for Henry VIII, and all the consequential changes that flowed from his passions.  (Additionally, one cannot avoid the fact that, while Henry VII is as likely a murderer of the princes as was Richard III, they did vanish on Richard’s watch….

Eco-friendly homes more expensive than promised

I think Al Gore must have been behind this eco-friendly housing subdivision, because it’s making money for the rich and screwing every one else:

Residents promised cheaper bills to live in a multi-million pound eco-friendly ‘homes of the future’ complex say they will have to move out after being hit with sky-high electricity charges.

The Pavilion Gardens complex in West Bowling, Bradford, West Yorkshire, was heralded as being the most environmentally-friendly in the county when it was completed in July 2011 at a cost of £5.6million.

Residents were told their electricity bills would be £500 cheaper than average because the houses are super-insulated with biomass boilers for heating and solar panels for electricity.

But just 18 months after moving in, many residents say they have been hit with massive electrical bills almost double the annual average and they can’t afford to live in the properties.

Read the rest here.

Green — it’s the color of the wheelbarrows full of money the scammers are weeping over as they head to the bank.

 

Richard III’s remains positively identified

“Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York,” says the malevolent Richard III in Shakespeare’s eponymous play.  Generations of Shakespearean actors have portrayed him is a sinister hunchback, greedily eying his brother’s throne and eventually murdering two young boys in order to obtain it.  The play was a perfect example of the victor’s ability to write history.

Laurence Olivier as Richard III

For centuries, people accepted Shakespeare’s portrayal at face value.  Starting in the late 19th century, though, contrarion historians started challenging this view.  They claimed that Richard III was a reasonable, temperate monarch, and that Henry VII was an overreaching usurper who needed to blacken Richard’s name in order to hold onto the throne that he had won by war, not by right.  The problem for these revisionists always remained those missing boys in the Tower of London.  Did they die?  Did Richard murder them?  Did Henry VII murder them?  Who knows.

What we do know is that Shakespeare was right about one thing:  Richard was indeed a hunchback.  Thanks to a stunning example of historic investigation, coupled with modern forensic science, we can look at Richard’s skeleton — and he had significant scoliosis:

Richard III's skeleton

We also know now that he fought ferociously in the Battle of Bosworth, for his skeleton reveals ten significant cuts, three of which were on his skull, with each of those three having the right to be called a death blow. There are also indications that Henry’s soldiers engaged in a little body mutilation after he did. Richard did not go gently into the night.

What struck me about the skeleton, in addition to the scoliosis and cuts, was Richard’s teeth.  They’re beautiful.  I didn’t expect the late-medieval corpse of a 32-year-old man to have such straight, white teeth:

Richard III's teeth

Whenever I think of medieval smiles, I think of a mouth opening to reveal gaping holes and blackened stubs. Richard’s smile, though, must have been lovely: big and white.

The media claims that this skeleton will allow a wholesale reevaluation of Richard’s reign. My imagination is failing me, though, because I don’t know how a skeleton can reveal whether he usurped the throne, whether he was a good administrator for the two years he held it, or whether he murdered his nephews. It can tell us about diet and health, certainly, but the only historic fact it seems to prove is that he was a hunchback. Whether he was a good or a bad hunchback is something to discern from the documentary record, not the bones.