Sunday, December 31, 2017

Iranians Shatter a New York Times Myth | commentary

So much for the New York Times theory that, thanks to Trumpian and Saudi bellicosity, the Iranian people have closed ranks behind their rulers. In November, the paper’s Tehran bureau chief, Thomas Erdbrink, devoted an extended feature to making this case, and it proved wildly popular with the pro-nuclear deal crowd in Washington.

via www.commentarymagazine.com

December 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Quick Guide to Legal Pot in California – Mother Jones

Just because you’re allowed to possess weed in California doesn’t mean that cities and counties will let businesses sell it. So far, only a few places have passed legislation allowing the sale of cannabis—and even fewer have started handing out licenses to pot shops. That means there will only be a small number of places you’ll be able to buy recreational weed in California on January 1. Some of those places include San Diego, San Jose, and Oakland.

via www.motherjones.com

It's just so weird, man.

December 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Eugenics: the skeleton that rattles loudest in the left's closet

Such thinking was not alien to the great Liberal titan and mastermind of the welfare state, William Beveridge, who argued that those with "general defects" should be denied not only the vote, but "civil freedom and fatherhood". Indeed, a desire to limit the numbers of the inferior was written into modern notions of birth control from the start. That great pioneer of contraception, Marie Stopes – honoured with a postage stamp in 2008 – was a hardline eugenicist, determined that the "hordes of defectives" be reduced in number, thereby placing less of a burden on "the fit". Stopes later disinherited her son because he had married a short-sighted woman, thereby risking a less-than-perfect grandchild.

Yet what looks kooky or sinister in 2012 struck the prewar British left as solid and sensible. Harold Laski, stellar LSE professor, co-founder of the Left Book Club and one-time chairman of the Labour party, cautioned that: "The time is surely coming … when society will look upon the production of a weakling as a crime against itself." Meanwhile, JBS Haldane, admired scientist and socialist, warned that: "Civilisation stands in real danger from over-production of 'undermen'." That's Untermenschen in German.

What I did when I found something wrong in my system of thought (I realized the Soviet Union was indeed as brutal as everyone said it was) was rethink it and end up somewhere else. But that's not going to happen.

December 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Why the Cultured Life is Worth Pursuing

Most people today prefer to spend their lives gathering more and more information. This plethora, this plague of information, now available to all—to what, precisely, does it lead? The best I can see, it leads to two things: the illusion that one understands the world, and the formation of opinions, countless opinions, opinions on everything. Opinions are well enough, sometimes even required; but I have never quite been able to shake the capping remark made by V. S. Naipaul on a character in his novel Guerrillas: "She had a great many opinions, but taken together they did not add up to a point of view." Culture, true culture, helps form complex points of view.

Some years ago, the English political philosopher Michael Oakeshott was asked what he thought of England's entering the European Union. "I don't see," he answered, "why I should be required to have an opinion about that." An extraordinary thing for a contemporary political philosopher to say, or so I thought at the time. But later, reading Oakeshott's Notebooks, I came across two interesting passages that made clear the grounds on which he said it: First, "To be educated is to know how much one wishes to know & to have the courage not to be tempted beyond this limit." And second, that culture "teaches that there is much one does not want to know." I wonder if, in the current age, our so-called Information Age, recognizing "what one doesn't want to know" isn't among the greatest gifts that the acquisition of culture can bestow.

via www.weeklystandard.com

And that is the problem with culture, or rather Culture. I was semi-educated in this tradition and have the credentials to prove it. But then culture died in 1995 or so and I had no choice but to become interested in everything. Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Yale, Chicago, Hebrew University, etc., etc. -- they don't have the answers anymore, if they ever did. It was nice, sort of, while it lasted, but one thing culture did not teach us is that inevitably it has to die.

I'm not sure that what we called culture was any older than perhaps the Great War anyway. You had T.S. Eliot (who wasn't even that great of a poet) and the rest of them, preaching about culture. You had all the Jews who came over to get away from Hitler, who sort of developed the idea of capital E Europe which had culture, which we in the US should try to acquire. You had some OK playwrights such Tennessee Williams and some awful ones like Arthur Miller. It was a much smaller world than the one we live in now.

What I think killed the cozy world of culture was the computer, but especially the World Wide Web. I certainly didn't see it coming. Byt why is anyone going to read Polybius when one can read 100 articles on the separation of powers, or anything else that strikes one's fancy, all just a few clicks away? The answer is, because Polybius is a great mind, or a near-great mind, but is he really? All of this culture stuff relies on a narrow hierarchy of thinkers and thought, and not particularly strenuous thought about them by anointed gate-keepers. But do I even care what Edmund Wilson thought was worth reading? Wasn't he just another dissolute communist who knew (per force) almost nothing about history?

Unless you're going to be satisfied in the end with fuzzy thinking that ends up in bromides about Plato and Aristotle, you're going to be sucked in to the gyre of what really happened, what people actually thought in the infinitely complex historical past. The Greeks were so strange, so weird, for example,can what they thought really be applied to us? And so you can say about just about all of the great thinkers and their great books. Sure, some of it can be applied, but what and how much requires so much care to know or partly know, care that is well beyond anything in culture.

So, yes, culture is dead but we have something better for my money in its place, or at least something necessary: the messy but human history of humanity. I might have liked culture better, but it's gone. Welcome to the world.

December 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (2)

The Real Message Behind Audi's Super Bowl Ad Isn't Exactly An Uplifting One - The Truth About Cars

Well, if you’ve been reading along, I think you’ve figured out what the real message of this Audi advertisement is, but just in case you’ve been napping I will spell it out for you: Money and breeding always beat poor white trash. Those other kids in the race, from the overweight boys to the hick who actually had an American flag helmet to the stripper-glitter girl? They never had a chance. They’re losers and they always will be, just like their loser parents. Audi is the choice of the winners in today’s economy, the smooth talkers who say all the right things in all the right meetings and are promoted up the chain because they are tall (yes, that makes a difference) and handsome without being overly masculine or threatening-looking.

At the end of this race, it’s left to the Morlocks to clean the place up and pack the derby cars into their trashy pickup trucks, while the beautiful people stride off into the California sun, the natural and carefree winners of life’s lottery. Audi is explicitly suggesting that choosing their product will identify you as one of the chosen few. I find it personally offensive. As an owner of one of the first 2009-model-year Audi S5s to set tire on American soil, yet also as an ugly, ill-favored child who endured a scrappy Midwestern upbringing, I find it much easier to identify with the angry-faced fat kids in their home-built specials or the boy with the Captain America helmet.

At the end, what does this ad do? It just reinforces our natural biases. Poor is bad, rich is good, and most importantly, rich people deserve their fortune because they are inherently better than the rest of us. You might not like that message, but it’s been selling cars for a very long time. If Audi wanted to try some authentic activism, they might consider showing us an African-American man or woman who overcame a tough upbringing to become an actual customer, or perhaps a differently-abled person who’s achieved enough to buy himself an S8 as a reward for his hard work. But that’s not terribly aspirational, is it? Who wants to be those people? And, by the same token, who wouldn’t want to be that handsome father lifting his beautiful daughter out of someone else’s winning race car?

via www.thetruthaboutcars.com

h/t ER.

December 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

China's Poverty Is Dropping At an Unprecedented Rate - Foundation for Economic Education - Working for a free and prosperous world

The last three decades have seen the Chinese experience an absolutely unprecedented increase in human well-being. Poverty — and we are talking about serious, hand-to-mouth poverty (not having trouble affording insurance that pays for million-dollar cancer treatments) — has dropped from about 60% to under 5%.

via fee.org

December 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Is There a Link between ADHD and Creative Thinking? - Foundation for Economic Education - Working for a free and prosperous world

In an experiment, inclusion of a person with ADHD greatly improved the problem-solving ability of groups, even though it led to more off-task behavior.

via fee.org

I hope this is true.

December 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Prince Philip Under Fire for ‘Terrorist’ Joke About Bearded Man - The Daily Beast

The Queen of England’s husband, Prince Philip, was at the center of a fresh row today after he allegedly joked that a bearded man among the crowds at Sandringham church might be “a terrorist.” Prince Philip, who is 96, plunged the family into controversy just days after Princess Michael of Kent was accused of racism for wearing a piece of Victorian jewelry depicting a crude caricature of a black person. She wore the brooch to a party at which Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s fiance and the soon-to-be first non-white person to marry into the royal family, was present. Philip is said to have made the remark as he led a procession of royals and guests on a walk to the morning service at St Mary Magdalene church, when he spotted a white man sporting a long ginger beard. An onlooker in the crowd quoted in British media said: “Philip was wishing lots of people a Happy New Year and then he spotted this guy with his distinctive beard. He pointed at him in a funny way and turned to one of his Royal bodyguards, saying: 'Is that a terrorist?’” Philip once told a group of British students in China: “If you stay here much longer, you’ll all be slitty-eyed.”

via www.thedailybeast.com

I'm sure the guy with the beard was not offended. The brooch, however, seems deliberately provocative, as they so often are.

December 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (1)

Iran spends billions on proxy wars throughout the Mideast. Here's where its money is going - Iran - Haaretz.com

According to Western intelligence sources, the factions close to Rohani are against spending this money they say is needed for improving infrastructure and providing jobs at home. The debate taking place behind closed doors in Tehran seems to have spilled out onto the streets of Iran’s cities.

via www.haaretz.com

December 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (2)

Iran restricts social media and issues warning to protesters - CNN

Instagram and Telegram have been temporarily "restricted" in order to ensure calm and security, state-run media outlet IRIB reported Sunday.
Social media has been vital resource for Iranians participating in the protests -- described as the largest public display of discontent since the 2009 Green Movement in Iran.

via www.cnn.com

December 31, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)