Quotulatiousness

January 15, 2017

Corporate sponsors should have no place at national memorial sites

Filed under: Cancon, Government, History, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ted Campbell reacts to the news that corporate logos will be included at the updated Vimy Ridge Centre:

I’m not faulting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau nor Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr for starting this, but they can and should put a stop to it. The business of getting the private sector to “support” public projects is not new and, generally, the public, including me, approves of it: in almost all cases it is good to have commercial sponsorships … almost all. National memorials are different […]

The Welcome Centre of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France flying the Canadian Red Ensign ( 1868 – 1921 version ). This flag along with The Maple Leaf fly at national memorial as Canada was only using the Red Ensign at the time of the First World War Engagement.

I don’t doubt the generosity or patriotism of Bell Canada or WalMart are anyone else, but a few things have to be sacrosanct, and our national memorials honouring our war dead must be amongst them.

Let is be very clear: it is the visitors’ centre, not the memorial itself that is being rebuilt and I’m guessing that the officials close to the project can see a very big difference between the little visitors’ centre building and the memorial, proper, but I, and many others, do not and will not; If the see even an understated, dignified sign in the visitors’ centre they will likely conclude that a corporation is, now, responsible for the whole monument. From the very first moment one sets foot on the land which France ceded, in perpetuity, to Canada it is “our” place, honouring our war dead and, more broadly, the significance of our contribution to the Great War. It is a small, $10 million, project and I am sure that officials will say that they are only trying to make the best use of their budget so that they can devote more to providing much needed care to veterans by spending less on this little building … and I would, normally, applaud them, but not on this.

How not to be politically persuasive, Hollywood edition

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Megan McArdle on the how the actual effect of Meryl Streep’s anti-Trump speech contrasts with her intent, and why:

Well, yes, celebrities are stupid about policy, often breathtakingly so. On the other hand, so is everyone else. You want to hear some really stupid ideas about policy? Grab a group of whip-smart financial wizards, or neurosurgeons, or nuclear physicists, and sit them down for a nice dinner to debate some policy outside their profession. You will find that they are pretty much just as stupid as anyone else, because policy is not about smart. I mean, smart helps. But policy is fundamentally about domain knowledge, and that knowledge is acquired only by spending a great deal of time thinking about a pretty small set of problems. Funnily enough, this is also how one gets good at finance, or neurosurgery, or nuclear physics.

The problem with Hollywood people making political speeches is not that their political ideas are worse than anyone else’s, or that they enjoy sharing their half-baked ideas. This is a minor and forgivable social sin, like arriving five minutes early for a party. No, the problem with Hollywood people making political speeches is that the speeches themselves are bad, at least at their presumed goal of producing political change.

Take Streep. She’s right that Trump should not have made fun of a disabled reporter. However, she surrounded that point with an extended discussion of how mean everyone was being to actors and journalists.

This was a double mistake. First, it accepted Trump’s frame: it’s a handful of liberal elites against the rest of the country. That’s an argument he just won, so it’s unwise to try for an immediate rematch. And second, there is in this whole world no sight less rhetorically compelling than that of successful people with fun and rewarding jobs, and a decent income, complaining that they’re victims of the unglamorous folks who labor at all the strenuously boring work required to make their lives nice. Even I, who have one of those jobs, am rolling my eyes and saying “Good heavens, suck it up.” The only people who don’t recoil from this sort of vacuous self-pity are those similarly situated in elite liberal institutions — but since those folks already hate Trump, you haven’t actually changed anything.

QotD: Like the Bourbons, the Guardian learns nothing and forgets nothing

Filed under: Europe, Law, Liberty, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Bourbons, said Talleyrand, learned nothing and forgot nothing. Sometimes it seems as if our modern liberals are just like the Bourbons. Here, for example, is a headline from the U.K.’s hard-line liberal newspaper, the Guardian:

FAR-RIGHT PARTY STILL LEADING IN DUTCH POLLS, DESPITE LEADER’S CRIMINAL GUILT.

What was the crime of which the far-right leader — Geert Wilders — was guilty? It was incitement to discrimination; in other words, not even discrimination itself. He had discriminated against no one, but made a speech in which he called for “fewer Moroccans.” Significantly, the Guardian gave no further details of what Wilders meant by this — whether, for example, he proposed that fewer Moroccan immigrants should be allowed into the Netherlands, that the illegal Moroccan immigrants should be deported, or that Dutch citizens of Moroccan descent should be deprived of their citizenship and forcibly repatriated. For the Guardian, it hardly seemed to matter.

More significant still was the Guardian’s inability, even after the victory of Donald Trump in the United States—which must, in part, have been attributable to a revolt against political correctness — to see that the conviction of Wilders on a charge so patently designed to silence the fears of a considerable part of the population couldn’t possibly reduce his popularity. By illustrating the moral arrogance of the political class against which Wilders’s movement is a reaction, the charge might actually make him more popular.

Theodore Dalrymple, “Incitement to Hypocrisy: The Netherlands unevenly applies a law forbidding provocation”, City Journal, 2016-12-28.

January 14, 2017

Mad Max for PM!

Conservative leadership candidate Maxime Bernier gets an unusually even-handed profile from the CBC:

Bernier’s life is a moveable banquet of rubber chicken, and shaking grimy, anonymous hands, and pretending great interest in everyone, trying all the while to turn the discussion to Maxime Bernier. And perhaps asking for some money while he’s at it.

Actually, that’s unfair. What Bernier mostly turns the discussion to is his ideas.

He’s libertarian, to the extent that it’s possible to be a libertarian and seek high office in a country that was built on protectionism and entitlement and government being the answer to everything.

He advocates the end of quotas and supply management for dairy, poultry and eggs. Oh, and maple syrup. Most Canadian politicians — let alone MPs representing rural Canada like Bernier — prefer to leave such topics undiscussed.

He wants to abolish interprovincial trade barriers. Stopping companies from growing into other Canadian jurisdictions, or stopping workers from travelling between provinces, he characterizes as “foolish,” “doubly foolish” and “ridiculous.”

Go ahead and argue with that.

Bernier wants an end to what he calls “corporate welfare,” his term for governments using tax money to pick winners, such as Bombardier and General Motors, and letting losers struggle with market forces.

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, it’ll come as no surprise that Bernier is far and away my preferred choice for Tory leader.

“We call it diplomacy, minister”

Filed under: Britain, Europe, History, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Another brilliant bit of realpolitik from Yes, Minister, disguised as humour:

QotD: The intellectual monoculture of universities

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Among the great ironies surrounding the state of academia is the continued insistence on hearing more and more “marginalized voices” and increasing “diversity” on campus, as if there is some kind of archaic conservative establishment making that difficult to do.

One would likely be hard-pressed to find a more left-leaning group than college professors and admissions officers, who prioritize pulling marginalized groups out of their marginalization and adding people of diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds to campus conversations.

Yet in their efforts to achieve a more egalitarian conversation, left-wing academics and their students completely ignore (at best) and marginalize (at worst) students and the rare colleague who disagree with them politically.

And therein lies the ultimate irony: The very voices that decry inequality in all its manifestations either accept or turn a blind eye to the stunning dearth of conservative academics and the de facto censorship of right-wing students on overwhelmingly left-wing campuses.

Were it some other group suffering such a marginalization, there is no doubt that the left would be up in arms, crying discrimination and demanding rectification.

Some might even call such a monopoly on prevailing campus orthodoxy a type of “privilege,” defined as an asset “of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to,” to quote Peggy McIntosh, the matriarch of privilege’s modern construction.

While the marginalization of right-wing thinkers on campus in no way compares to the experience of black Americans throughout history, it might behoove left-wingers on college campuses to think about the various privileges from which they benefit simply by being members of the overwhelmingly dominant group in their academic communities.

Tal Fortgang, “38 ways college students enjoy ‘Left-wing Privilege’ on campus”, The College Fix, 2015-06-24.

January 13, 2017

No Peace For The Wicked I THE GREAT WAR Week 129

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 12 Jan 2017

This week 100 years ago there was talk about peace between the great warring nations. But even after millions of casualties, starving people at home and more escalation on the horizon, the situation didn’t seem bad enough for one of them to give in on their demands. At the same time, the fighting in Romania continues and the political situation in Russia becomes ever more dire.

Jonathan Haidt on the rise of the “microaggression” concept

Filed under: Health, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

He is commenting on an article in Perspectives on Psychological Science (PDF):

The microaggression program teaches students the exact opposite of ancient wisdom. Microaggression training is — by definition — instruction in how to detect ever-smaller specks in your neighbor’s eye. Microaggression training tells students that “life itself is exactly what you think it is — you have a direct pipeline to reality, and the person who offended you does not, so go with your feelings.” Of course, the ancients could be wrong on these points, but the empirical evidence for the importance of appraisal and the ubiquity of bias and hypocrisy is overwhelming (I review it in chapters 2 and 4 of The Happiness Hypothesis). As Lilienfeld shows, the empirical evidence supporting the utility and validity of the microaggression concept is minimal at best.

I think the section of Lilienfeld’s article that should most make us recoil from the microaggression program is the section on personality traits, particularly negative emotionality and the tendency to perceive oneself as a victim. These are traits — correlated with depression and anxiety disorders — that some students bring with them from high school to college. Students who score high on these traits perceive more microaggressions in ambiguous circumstances. These traits therefore bring misery and anger to the students themselves, and these negative emotions and the conflicts they engender are likely to radiate outward through the students’ social networks (Christakis & Fowler, 2009). How should colleges (and other institutions) respond to the presence of high scorers in their midst? Should they offer them cognitive behavioral therapy or moral validation? Should they hand them a copy of The Dhammapada or a microaggression training manual?

It’s bad enough to make the most fragile and anxious students quicker to take offense and more self-certain and self-righteous. But what would happen if you took a whole campus of diverse students, who arrive from all over the world with very different values and habits, and you train all of them to react with pain and anger to ever-smaller specks that they learn to see in each other’s eyes?

And what would happen if the rise of the microaggression concept coincided with the rise of social media, so that students can file charges against each other — and against their professors — within minutes of any perceived offense? The predictable result of welcoming the microaggression program to campus is turmoil, distrust, and anger. It is the end of the open environment we prize in the academy, where students feel free to speak up and challenge each other, their professors, and orthodox ideas. On a campus that polices microaggressions, everyone walks on eggshells.

H/T to David Thompson for the link.

That demon sugar

Filed under: Books, Health, Science — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Last week, Ronald Bailey reviewed a new book on whether the rise in obesity in western society can be blamed on our collective sweet-tooth: The Case Against Sugar, by Gary Taubes.

Less than 1 percent of Americans — 1.6 million people — were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1958. As of 2014, that figure had risen to 9.3 percent, or 29.1 million. If current trends continue, the figure could rise to more than 33 percent by 2050. Something has clearly gone wrong with American health.

The rising rate of diabetes is associated with the rising prevalence of obesity. Since the early 1960s, the percent of Americans who are obese — that is, whose body mass index is greater than 30 — has increased from 13 percent to 35.7 percent today. (Nearly 70 percent of Americans are overweight, meaning their BMIs are over 25.) Roughly put, the prevailing theory is that rising fatness causes rising diabetes.

But what if both are caused by something else? That is the intriguing and ultimately persuasive argument that Gary Taubes, author Why We Get Fat (2011) and cofounder of the Nutrition Science Initiative, makes in his new book, The Case Against Sugar.

For Taubes, sugar — be it sucrose or high-fructose corn syrup — is “the principal cause of the chronic diseases that are most likely to kill us, or at least accelerate our demise,” explains Taubes at the outset. “If this were a criminal case, The Case Against Sugar would be the argument for the prosecution.” In making his case, Taubes explores the “claim that sugar is uniquely toxic — perhaps having prematurely killed more people than cigarettes or ‘all wars combined,’ as [diabetes epidemiologist] Kelly West put it.”

Taubes surveys the admittedly sparse research on sugar’s psychoactive effects. For example, researchers have found that eating sugar stimulates the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is also released when consuming nicotine, cocaine, heroin, or alcohol. Researchers are still debating the question of whether or not sugar is, in some sense, addictive.

Interestingly, in my most recent discussion with a doctor earlier this week, he specifically said that the dietary information we’ve been depending on for generations is incorrect and that we should avoid excess sugar in our diet rather than fat (keeping in mind total calorie count, of course).

QotD: Markets and politics

Filed under: Economics, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Markets adapt to political changes, and the hierarchy of values that distinguishes between an hour’s worth of warehouse management, an hour’s worth of composing poetry, an hour’s worth of brain surgery, and an hour’s worth of singing pop songs is not going to change because a politician says so, or because a group of politicians says so, or because 50 percent + 1 of the voters say so, or for any other reason. To think otherwise is the equivalent of flat-earth cosmology. In the long term, people’s needs and desires are what they are; in the short term, you can cause a great deal of chaos in the economy and you can give employers additional reasons to automate rote work. But you cannot make a fry-guy’s labor as valuable as a patent lawyer’s by simply passing a law.

This is not a matter of opinion — that is how the world actually works. One of the many corrosive effects of having a political apparatus and a political class dominated by lawyers is that the lawyerly conflation of opinion with reality becomes a ruling principle. Lawyers and high-school debaters (the groups are not alien to one another) operate in a world in which opinion is reality: If you convince the jury or the debate judges that your argument is superior, or if you can get them to believe that your position is the correct one, then you win, and the question of who wins is the most important one if you are, e.g., on trial for murder. But if you shot that guy you shot that guy, regardless of what the jury says — facts are facts. Galileo et al. were right (or closer to right) about the organization of the solar system than were Fra Hieronimus de Casalimaiori and the Aristotelians, and the fact that Galileo lost at trial didn’t change that.

Kevin D. Williamson, “Bernie Sanders’s Dark Age Economics”, National Review, 2015-05-27.

January 12, 2017

Getting outside your bubble for the first time

Filed under: Europe, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Annalisa Merelli recounts her experiences after she voted “no” in the Italian referendum, unlike the majority of her friends:

On Dec. 4, Italians went to the polls to decide on a reform referendum that would redefine the power of local governments and reduce the power of the senate. With a high turnout, my countrymen rejected the reform. In the press, the voters’ decision was described as an Italian Brexit, and a triumph of populism. Beppe Grillo and his Five Star Movement, arguably Europe’s largest populist party, celebrated with Matteo Salvini, leader of the xenophobic Northern League; Marine Le Pen sent congratulations via Twitter, claiming that Italians’ had disavowed not just their prime minister, but the entire European Union.

What had actually happened, however, was more nuanced. And yet, the disappointment amongst liberals — the majority of whom had supported the reforms — was palpable.

[…]

It was a difficult vote, and while I stand by it, I don’t discount the possibility that history may prove me wrong. So I was eager to hear the reasons why so many of my friends had voted “yes.” Before and after the vote, I wanted to understand their points, and I certainly respected their choices.

But they — the yes voters, whose opinions and commentary filled my social media platforms — didn’t seem to have the same respect for my reasoning. As an opinionated citizen with consistently liberal views, I am used to being attacked and insulted by conservatives for my choices and opinions. But the liberal critiques I read weren’t so much attacking my decision as they were questioning my intelligence and my ability to understand the issue.

For the first time in my life, I was on the outside of the so-called liberal bubble, looking in. And what I saw was not pretty. I watched as many of my highly educated friends and contacts addressed those who disagreed with them with contempt and arrogance, and an offensive air of intellectual superiority.

H/T to John Donovan for the link.

How we experience art

Filed under: Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Terry Teachout posted a link to this older column about “blockbuster” art exhibitions and he offered a few suggestions:

(1) Once a year, every working art critic should be required to attend a blockbuster show on a weekend or holiday. He should buy a ticket with his own money, line up with the citizenry, fight his way through the crowds, listen to an audio tour – and pay close attention to what his fellow museumgoers are saying and doing. In short, he should be forced to remind himself on a regular basis of how ordinary people experience art, and marvel at the fact that they keep coming back in spite of everything.

That one’s easy. This one’s harder:

(2) Every “civilian” who goes to a given museum at least six times a year should be allowed to attend a press or private view of a major exhibition. The experience of seeing a blockbuster show under such conditions is eye-opening in every sense of the word. If more ordinary museumgoers were to have such experiences, it might change their feelings about the ways in which museums present such exhibitions.

Lastly, I’ll take a flying leap into the cesspool of arrant idealism:

(3) No museum show should contain more than 75 pieces, and no museum should be allowed to present more than one 75-piece show per year. Tyler Green […] wrote the other day to tell me that Washington’s Phillips Collection, our favorite museum, is putting on a Milton Avery retrospective in February that will contain just 42 pieces. I can’t wait to see it, not only because I love Avery but because that is exactly the right size for an exhibit of that kind – big enough to cover all the bases, but not too big to swamp the viewer and dull his responses.

I’ll close with a memory. A few years ago, I gave a speech in Kansas City, and as part of my fee I was given a completely private tour of the Nelson-Atkins Museum. I went there after hours and was escorted by one of the curators, who switched on the lights in each gallery as we entered and switched them off as we left. I can’t begin to tell you what an astonishing and unforgettable impression that visit made on me. To see masterpieces of Western art in perfect circumstances is to realize for the first time how imperfectly we experience them in our everyday lives. It changes the way you feel about museums – and about art itself. I didn’t realize it then, but that private view undoubtedly helped to put me on the road to buying art.

Perhaps one of our great museums might consider raffling off a dozen such tours each year. I’m not one for lotteries, but I’d definitely pony up for a ticket.

QotD: Scientific feuds

Filed under: Humour, Quotations, Science — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

To the outside world the sheer nastiness of scientific feuds often comes as something of a surprise; politics, by contrast, is a relatively polite affair.

Matt Ridley, Genome: The autobiography of a species in 23 chapters, 1999.

January 11, 2017

“The money paid to footballers is ‘grotesque’, said Corbyn today, in his best irate vicar voice”

Filed under: Britain, Politics, Soccer — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn just proposed a salary cap for professional football (that’s “soccer” to us benighted colonials on the other side of the pond) in the UK:

Is there nothing Jeremy Corbyn can’t screw up? This week his advisers whispered to the press that their leader was about to do a Donald, be more populist, try to connect with the man and woman in the street who might think of him as a bit stiff and aloof and stuck in the Seventies. And how does he kick off this project? By slagging off footballers, the most idolised sportspeople in Britain, cheered by vast swathes of the very people Labour no longer reaches but wishes it could. The money paid to footballers is ‘grotesque’, said Corbyn today, in his best irate vicar voice. Cue media coverage of Corbyn’s moaning mug next to Wayne Rooney (£250k a week, loved by millions). What next in Corbyn’s populist makeover? A call to wind down Coronation St? Close pubs on Sundays? A Twitterspat with Ant and Dec or Sheridan Smith or some other national treasure?

[…]

Labour leftists have never understood this basic fact: ordinary people don’t hate rich people. In fact they admire many of them. They don’t wince when they see a footballer and his WAG posing by the pool in Hello! — they think, ‘That looks like a nice life. Good on them.’ Corbyn bemoaned footballers’ pay as part of his proposal to enact a law preventing people from earning above a certain amount of money. Yes, a maximum wage. ‘I would like there to be some kind of high earnings cap,’ he said. It’s the worst idea a British political leader has had in years, and it reveals pretty much everything that is wrong with the left today.

First there’s the sheer authoritarianism of it. It will never come to pass, of course, because Corbyn’s footballer-bashing and bodged populism and general inability to connect with anyone outside of Momentum and the left Twittersphere means Labour won’t be darkening the door of Downing St for yonks. But that Corbyn is even flirting with the notion of putting a legal lid on what people can earn is pretty extraordinary. It would basically be a stricture against getting rich, a restriction on ambition, a state-enforced standard of living: you could be comfortable and middle-class, but not loaded. There’s a stinging moralism, too. Labourites complain about those on the right who look down on the ‘undeserving poor’, but what we have here is not all that different: a sneering at the undeserving rich, a prissy concern with the bank balances and lifestyles of those who’ve made a bomb.

Luigi Cadorna – The Generalissimo I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Published on 10 Jan 2017

Luigi Cadorna was the Italian Chief of Staff when World War 1 broke out and when Italy joined the conflict a year later. He was a man of tradition and believed that most important factor of military success was the will and determination of his soldiers. During the numerous Battles of the Isonzo River, this doctrine proofed disastrous for his troops.

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