Saturday, August 30, 2014

The wise, disinterested experts of the regulatory state will deliver progress for our own good, whether we understand it or not

Government requires trust. Government by progressives, however, demands such inordinate amounts of trust that the demand itself should provoke distrust. Progressivism can be distilled into two words: “Trust us.”
Thus writes George Will (thanks to Instapundit and Ed Driscoll).
The antecedent of the pronoun is: The wise, disinterested experts through whom the vast powers of the regulatory state’s executive branch will deliver progress for our own good, as the executive branch understands this, whether we understand it or not. Lois Lerner is the scowling face of this state, which has earned Americans’ distrust. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

From now on France can forget recovery, forget unemployment, it’s all about politicians’ egos

Monday, Stephen Clarke heard that Arnaud Montebourg, the economy minister, has resigned;
it turns out that he has been saying a bit too loudly that he doesn’t agree with the government’s economic policies (a bit rich from the man who accepted the job of conceiving and implementing them, one might think) and that he has been “resigned”. In fact the PM Manuel Valls has decided that he’s had enough of sniping ministers and has announced to President Hollande that his government has resigned, which simply means that he is going to have a massive ministerial reshuffle.

Montebourg wasn’t the first by any means to start openly criticizing Francois Hollande. The knives are out. A former ecology minister Cecile Duflot has just ripped into him in a book. Other left-wing figures having been queuing up to distance themselves from Hollande.

It’s no coincidence, of course. The politicians are well aware that ex-President Nicolas Sarkozy is preparing his comeback, and that the Socialists need someone strong, and new, to stand against him. They’re all thinking “pourquoi pas moi?” This naturally involves forgetting that the elections are three years away and that France needs to be governed in the meantime.

Three years till presidential elections, and the campaign is under way. From now on the country can forget recovery, forget unemployment, it’s all about politicians’ egos. As if it was ever any different.

From now on, I predict non-stop rumours about who wants to run for President, a glut of new parties, and endless speeches about how moi and only moi can save the country – despite the fact that all I’ve done for the past three years is sit back and criticise.

Oh joy …

The BBC reports that a
central aim of his latest reshuffle is to replace those left-wing critics [Arnaud Montebourg (L), Benoit Hamon (C) and Aurelie Filippetti (R)] with more sympathetic minds, and give President Hollande's economic drive a boost.

Key among the new appointments announced on Tuesday is a fresh face in government. Emmanuel Macron is a former banker and economic adviser to the president who now takes up the job of economy minister.

His key selling point is that he shares the president's pro-business, centre-right vision - unlike his predecessor.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

White Americans avoid speaking the truth aloud for reasons of racial guilt and black Americans avoid saying it for reasons of racial solidarity, but no one is really fooled

The tragic death of Michael Brown, an eighteen year old black man, at the hands of the police, has sparked days of rioting and looting in Ferguson, Missouri. His community rallied around him from the start, telling reporters that Mike Brown was a great kid who was shot down “like an animal” because of his race.
Thus writes Benny Huang.
Unfortunately, the portrait they painted of the gentle giant wasn’t entirely accurate.

 … The version of the story that portrays Brown as a hapless victim of racism and police brutality is quickly unraveling. He was not shot in the back as Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson, a witness to the killing (and accomplice to the robbery), claims. Nor was he shot for jaywalking as ludicrous early reports indicated. Brown robbed a store then attempted to take a police officer’s gun, presumably to shoot him with it.
Either Brown’s die-hard supporters are truly mistaken about what happened on August 9th or else they know that the story is a concoction and they just don’t care.
The Michael Brown case is starting to look a lot like a warmed over version of the Duke lacrosse case, the Trayvon Martin case, and the Tawana Brawley case. In other words, a rush to judgment has resulted in a lynch mob mentality.

Yet I suspect that most black Americans know, in their heart of hearts, that the fictional narrative being foisted upon the nation is a sham. The black citizens of Ferguson are doing what blacks tend to do whenever a racial controversy erupts—presenting a united front to the outside world. It’s a form of tribalism that would rightly be called racism if white people did it, which they occasionally do.

No one knows better than black Americans that there’s something amiss in black America. They know that black-on-black crime is a far greater threat than the supposedly racist cops who patrol their streets and that their values and priorities are out of whack, yet they prefer to discuss these matters when only black ears are listening.

 … A code of silence dictates that black criticisms of black behavior be kept in-house. If outsiders were to overhear them admitting that blacks need to straighten up and fly right they might take it as confirmation that “the system” is not broken; black culture is. “Racists” might exploit that.

Comedian Bill Cosby was chided in 2004 for his remarks at an NAACP function marking the fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education. The thrust of his remarks was that black Americans should forgo any celebration about how far they’ve come since the fifties and sixties because blacks themselves have largely squandered the gains they struggled for. The black community needs to do some soul-searching about what really ails them—white racism or black attitudes and habits? 
While most black leaders found Bill Cosby’s remarks abrasive, some admitted that they sometimes say the same things to black audiences. Cosby’s transgression was to air the black community’s “dirty laundry” for the whole world to see. In fairness to Cosby, he didn’t know his comments would leak to the media. He believed he was speaking entre nous.
Cosby has responded on several occasions to accusations of airing dirty laundry.   “When you go looking for the dirty laundry, I would appreciate it if you would direct your attention to a school where there is, for sure, a fifty per cent dropout rate among black males. And don’t forget the guards, the ones that have to check for the guns and the knives. Shhhh.This will be our personal little black secret.”  What Cosby meant is that black delinquency and underachievement is the worst kept secret in the world. Hiding the problems isn’t working because anyone with eyes can see them. White Americans avoid speaking the truth aloud for reasons of racial guilt and black Americans avoid saying it for reasons of racial solidarity, but no one is really fooled.

Monday, August 25, 2014

French-Speaking History Professor: Say No to Pro-Russian Propaganda and Do Not Engage in Moral Relativism

Depuis le début de la crise ukrainienne, un discours structuré de défense systématique des actions de la Russie est très dynamique sur les réseaux sociaux, dans des médias officiels russes publiés en français et leurs relais d’opinion en France. Il relève d’une propagande qui joue habilement sur un aspect commun à plusieurs cultures politiques françaises, l’anti-impérialisme, lui permettant de trouver un écho dans des milieux politiques variés. 
In the face of what he calls all the pro-Russian propaganda present in France, Olivier Schmitt has decided to protest in Le Monde:

 … le relativisme moral est mal placé. D’un côté, une démocratie dont les dirigeants sont régulièrement renouvelés, les soldats sanctionnés lorsqu’ils violent le droit international humanitaire, qui dispose d’une presse libre et reconnaît les droits des minorités.

De l’autre, un Etat autoritaire, dont la brutalité des troupes s’exerce en Tchétchénie, en Géorgie et en Ukraine, où les homosexuels sont pourchassés et la liberté d’expression un concept oublié. Personne ne dit que les Etats-Unis sont parfaits, mais créer une équivalence morale entre les deux pays relève de la cécité ou de la complicité.

Vladimir Poutine veut être entouré d’Etats vassalisés – auxquels il dénie donc la souveraineté qu’il prétend défendre par ailleurs – et, obnubilé par son maintien au pouvoir, ne peut pas concevoir qu’une révolution telle que le soulèvement de Maïdan à Kiev ne soit pas forcément un complot américain.

L’exploitation habile par la propagande russe de divers aspects de l’anti-impérialisme commun à plusieurs courants politiques français fausse ainsi la perception d’une politique russe particulièrement inquiétante pour la sécurité de l’Europe et de la France.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Almost impossible for anyone to set up their own business in France because the administrative costs are so high

The French economy is not in a great place right now
writes Mark Johnson,
but my heart still sinks when I see that yet another local business has closed down in the nearby towns round my part of rural France.
Recently, I noticed that the local kitchen and bathroom business in the enclave of Savigné had shut its doors for good. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised, they’d once quoted me €28,500 for two bathroom renovations.

An English expat friend, who owns a beautiful seven bedroom chateau in the Limousin, collapsed in fits of laughter at that quote, saying he’d managed to install five luxury bathrooms for less than €12,000.

But, while President Hollande dithers over how to get the nation back on its economic feet, business owners, employees and their suppliers are counting the cost in real terms of a country that refuses to modernise and create opportunities for the next generation of local entrepreneurs.

This is nothing new of course. Years ago, when I lived in the thriving Arabian emirate of Dubai, I met loads of young French folk who had forsaken their homeland for a nation that would encourage entrepreneurialism and reward their hard work.

One French friend said that it was almost impossible for anyone to set up their own business in France because the administrative costs are so high that you need to already have a fortune in order to get going. Even today, there’s a pile of government regulations and a raft of taxes to pay before you even serve your first customer. “That’s why so many people in France work for the government,” she said.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

What irritates Stephen Clarke is that so little happens in Paris in August

I know lots of people who say that they love to be in Paris in August, when all the Parisians are away
But Stephen Clarke does not agree:
what irritates me is that so little happens in Paris in August.

Of course everyone needs their holiday, but it gets tough setting up meetings, for example. Lots of Parisian meetings happen in cafés, and … many of these are closed in summer

 … It’s the same buying bread. There are very strict rules about when a boulangerie can close for its annual holidays. The baker has to belong to one of two groups, according to when he or she (almost always he) wants to close: either 1-31 July or 1-31 August. When a shop closes, it has to give the addresses of the two nearest boulangeries that are still open.

 … So it’s all well organized, and fresh bread is always available by law, but if your local boulangerie closes and you’re used to strolling lazily across the road in the mornings to buy fresh bread, and now you have to go all of 200 metres further to a boulangerie that you don’t particularly like because their pain aux raisins are too doughy (it can happen), it feels to the average Parisian as if you’ve been told to crawl to Lourdes on your hands and knees as penance for a sin – maybe the sin of staying in Paris when you ought to be on holiday.

So yes, we Parisians are a spoilt bunch, but when you’re used to having a café and a boulangerie within yards of your front door, it’s hard to adapt. I’m sure the same is true for polar explorers: give them easy access to shops and restaurants and they’ll go insane with claustrophobia.

Another problem with Paris in August is that the weekly events guides slim down to supermodel thinness.

 … Paris, I think, needs a summer festival.

 … I fear, though, that theatres, music venues and café back rooms will all be subject to city rules about annual closure; that sound engineers, stage managers and actors will all want their annual holiday; and that everyone would go on strike anyway, as they threatened to do this year at Avignon.

So maybe Paris is doomed to be bereft of culture every summer. Except of course for the art museums, where you can still see some of the greatest collections in the world. But then again, art shows aren’t hindered by annual holidays, because all the artists concerned are on an eternal vacation in the afterlife. Though I bet that if they want to change from heaven to hell one summer, they have to ask for permission.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Wait a Minute! The WMD Spiel Was All a Lie by Dubya, So Stop Bringing Unpalatable Facts Into the Equation

Obama is currently meeting privately with his cabinet to discuss the news from Iraq that ISIS has discovered scores of Weapons of Mass Destruction that Saddam Hussein had hidden before the start of the US Invasion in 2003
claims Political Ears.
Buried in various spider holes and underground bunkers, the WMD stores were found in areas east, west, south and north around Tikrit and Baghdad. The existence of the WMD stores, unknown since 2003, have now become known. Now, known unknowns include ISIS’ specific plans for the WMDs and the expediency with which they will rain death on what they consider western infidel regimes.

 …  Proving that the past was not predictable at the time of the US Operation Iraqi Freedom invasion, the events of the past few months have definitively raised the level of unpredictability for the future. Jihadists now control nuclear, chemical, and biological WMD, creating a global crisis of the highest order.

 … With the success of un-American foreign policy enacted by the Obama Administration to remove support for the troops, elements of the American far left are unable to explain why their efforts to undermine the cause of freedom in Iraq was an intelligent decision.
Update: one reader says that is "a satire website" while another replies that it
makes no difference if "we found them or not" THE FACTS ARE HE HAD THEM AND HE USED THEM ON THE IRANANS AND ON HIS OWN PEOPLE.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

President Obama complained last week in an interview with the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman that American politics is increasingly dysfunctional for a number of reasons including the “Balkanization of the media.”
Thus writes Benny Huang.
The Balkanization of the country as a whole is just fine, as evidenced by his lawless illegal immigration policy, but the media have to be united. It’s clear that he does not value a diversity of viewpoints. According to the president, “people just watch what reinforces their deepest biases” and that’s a real problem.

Liberals have always been able to watch what reinforces their deepest biases. It’s called the network news. They can have their deepest biases confirmed in print as well, in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and nearly every other newspaper.

 … I’m glad that President Obama opposes the so-called fairness doctrine in radio and television which would mandate “equal time” to differing points of view on controversial subjects. There is, however, some evidence that his position is a sham like his previous opposition to same-sex marriage. His FCC even proposed a pilot program to monitor newsrooms for “balance.” They backed away from that one after considerable outrage. In any case, the traditional leftist position on the issue is supportive of the doctrine. Liberals just want to hear “both sides” and all that stuff.

Have you ever met a liberal who really wanted to hear both sides of an issue? I haven’t. There’s a reason they insist on campus speech codes, criminalize policy differences, fire conservatives from their jobs, and shout down opposing speakers. Surely it isn’t because they’re worried that the other guy won’t be allowed to speak his piece. They even complain that there’s too much balance on stories about, for example, global warming. Since November of 2013, the Los Angeles Times has even had a policy that prohibits all letters to the editor that dispute the theory of anthropogenic global warming. You can’t make this stuff up!

What President Obama is really complaining about with his “Balkanization” remark is that people are allowed to hear differing viewpoints, though not in equal proportions, of course. FOX News may be the behemoth of the cable news market, but its influence is a not an equal counterweight to the combined forces of MSNBC, CNN, the networks, and print media. What he really wants is total domination of the narrative factory that influences so of much public opinion. The fact that someone else gets to speak every once in a while, on one cable channel, is intolerable.

 … Their journalistic good old days peaked in 1974 when the legendary Woodward and Bernstein duo took down a president named Richard Nixon. I don’t blame the two Washington Post reporters because they uncovered true malfeasance which precipitated a coverup, which in turn precipitated abuses of presidential power. They did their job in keeping politicians honest.

Yet it should not be ignored that previous presidents—FDR, JFK, and LBJ—pulled similar shenanigans. Why couldn’t the Washington Post be bothered to investigate those presidents? Because they were liberal Democrats, of course. They got a pass. The fact that Carl Bernstein was the son of card-carrying communist parents, and that he sought to weaken a president who was trying to salvage a war that Bernstein didn’t want America to win explains a lot too.

Forty years later there’s at least one network that will cover similar abuses by a leftist president. I’m speaking of FOX News, of course.

 … The media in this country aren’t “Balkanized” enough. They’re still absurdly biased to the Left, making no pretenses of covering issues such as same-sex marriage, illegal immigration, abortion, or global warming with any degree of even-handedness. 
Conservatives have managed to find a very modest toehold in the journalistic world, but we shouldn’t be deluded into thinking that any kind of sea change has occurred. We’re still losing the media wars. Yet the fact that we’re even allowed any voice at all—a cable network, a few talk shows, half a newspaper—is an existential threat to this president, his administration, and the movement he represents.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Police Officers Love To Say That They Are at War, But There Is No Excuse For Abusing Language That Way

Re the petition to stop the “national militarization” of police departments (thanks to Instapundit):

Police officers like to say that they are in a war, a war on drugs, etc…

There is no excuse for abusing language like this (not even being a fan of over-the-top Hollywood movies): in a war (a real war), a soldier has reason to fear and reason to fight, as well as a reason to be heavily protected, as he is opposed to a (large, armed, and well-trained) force whose main objective is to win by shooting at you and bringing about your death.

The police officer fits in no category like that one, as the main object of (the rare, few, and usually disorganized) criminals is to get rich by breaking the law and, insofar as possible, avoiding any contact with the law (i.e., with any member of the police force whatsoever) and certainly avoiding a policeman's harm or death (which they all know can do nothing but make their main objective much harder).

In the civilian world, we are innocent until proven guilty, and the police officer, who is supposed to come from our "ranks", is supposed to reflect that by treating us as an equal.
The police are the public and the public are the police (1829)
What it all amounts to is that police officers who like to say that they are in a war are play-acting, a little more seriously certainly than Civil War reenactors, but play-acting (as tough gung-ho macho men) nonetheless as there is almost no way that a Hollywood film scenario will occur in real life.

Indeed, when things have truly gone bad, what has usually happened is that a police officer was shot by an entirely honest and law-abiding citizen awoken in the dark of night who — with good reason — thought that the over-the-top police action could only be the doing of criminals, say a home invasion by gang members, and reached for a weapon of defense. But more often, police-related deaths have been that of a basically harmless, run-of-the-mill civilian killed by one or more overeager cops.

Update: Andrew Klavan quotes Kurt Schlichter (thanks to Instapundit) as making the excellent point that
the military wins by increasing violence while the police win by decreasing violence.

With a misconceived sense of benevolence, progressive socialists make the populace believe they truly care, when in all actuality this is about the subjugation and destruction of the individual will

 … this is how liberal government works
explains Allen West:
A program is begun with good intentions, then politicians realize they can leverage the benefit for votes. It is the ultimate bribery scheme. Subsequently, fear and coercion is used against opposition – as we saw Republican Senator Thad Cochran do to his opposition in Mississippi — to scare blacks into believing these benefits will be taken away by those “mean ol’ Conservatives.”

The safety net has truly become a hammock, all at the expense of hardworking American middle-income families who are watching their wages dwindle and small business owners who were told, “you didn’t build that.”

To paraphrase Lady Margaret Thatcher, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” With a misconceived sense of benevolence, progressive socialists make the populace believe they truly care, when in all actuality this is about the subjugation and destruction of the individual will. Why work? After all, as the singer says, “all you gotta do is ooh-ooh and nine months later, you got the big bucks.”

This is one of the fundamental differences between progressive socialists and constitutional conservatives: economic enslavement vs economic empowerment.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Europe's Disunity in the Face of Putin's Russia: “Old Europe” is not threatened, and so it can focus on its own economic interests, while “New Europe” is reminded of the nightmares of its past

Eastern Europe, which beginning with Poland is celebrating its 25th anniversary of freedom from Communism, has suddenly awakened from a beautiful dream about the end of history
writes Slawomir Sierakowski.
No less an authority than Adam Michnik, the legendary Polish anti-Communist dissident, recently announced that 2014 marks the end of the best period in Poland’s history in three centuries.

 … Now, faced with the powerlessness of the West before Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia, the countries of Eastern Europe are suddenly confronted with the need to reflect on their foreign policies — and no country more so than Poland.

The primary problem for Eastern Europe is not so much Mr. Putin’s aggression, but rather the disunity in the region’s response.

 … Nor can Eastern Europe depend on its Western allies. European weapons manufacturers, foremost among them German and French companies, are arming the Russian military, while Russia pays Europe with the money it earns from supplying gas, making Europe energy-dependent on Russia. Meanwhile European firms are signing multibillion-dollar energy contracts with the Russian energy companies Gazprom and Rosneft. 

As a result, Europe, the largest economy in the world, finds itself helpless in a confrontation with a country that, in economic terms and excluding the energy sector, belongs in the global third division.

The swirl of opinions, analyses and interests can be bewildering, especially in contrast to an essentially simple calculation by Russia. Unlike the West, it values geopolitical expansion, not economic conditions. Otherwise, Russia would invest the money it earns from oil and gas in economic development, and not in its military, which according to projected spending will account for well over a quarter of the national budget by 2015. 

This situation casts a dark shadow on the place where the Iron Curtain used to be. “Old Europe” is not threatened, and so it can focus on its own economic interests, while “New Europe” is reminded of the nightmares of its past. The fact that Ukrainians were willing to die in order to open the door to the European Union, which is now unwilling to bear the economic costs of a confrontation with Russia in order to protect them, is hardly comforting.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

False Friends in English-French Discourse

 … some of the Google translations previously used by the owners were somewhat off the mark. For example, their starters included crudités (raw vegetables) translated as “crudeness”, and salade aux deux magrets as the mind-boggling “two breast salad” instead of “roast and smoked duck breast salad”. We also found mignons de porc (pork fillet) became “cute pig”, but the final straw had to be crottin de chèvre chaud (warm goat’s cheese) which was unappetisingly described as “warm goat dung”. 
From Neuville de Poitou, a small market town in western France, the Daily Telegraph's Duncan Webster broaches 'the thorny subject of “false friends”.'
What is a false friend? Well, in recent years, many Anglicisms have been adopted into the French language but they are not always used in ways we would expect. For example, a French town may have several parkings (not car parks), people erect tents on a camping (not a campsite) and may communicate by talkie-walkie.

Other uses of English words are less obvious. A French person having a makeover is going for a "relooking". They wear baskets (not trainers) on their feet, and use Scotch (tape) to seal a parcel. In English, too, we have misappropriated French words. For example, the French sit on canapés (their word for sofas), but would not sit on a commode, because that means a chest of drawers. It is, of course, necessary to explain these strange uses of our two languages and the resulting discussions are often a source of great amusement. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Britain’s Family Doctors Call for End to Free Treatment

Britain’s family doctors have decided to press for an end to free treatment for patients under the socialized health service
reports the Herald Tribune.
The decision, announced by the British Medical Association, is intended to reduce overcrowding in consulting rooms and ease the burden of the country’s doctors. The BMA council’s chairman, J.R. Nicholson-Lailey, said that the BMA did not want these payments collected by the doctor. Mr. Nicholson-Lailey’s statement indicated that the payments might be used to keep persons with frivolous complaints from monopolizing the doctor’s time.