Friday, July 21, 2017

Three cheers for Thom Yorke

Rejecting BDS is the most rock’n’roll thing he’s ever done

The fate of the Palestinian people rests on Thom Yorke’s slender shoulders. Or at least that’s the impression you might have got from the weeks of opprobrium heaped on the Radiohead frontman for refusing to bow to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) crew and cancel the band’s upcoming show in Tel Aviv. The backlash, unleashed by pro-BDS artists, myriad luvvies and pro-Palestine protesters, has been positively unhinged.

‘Their ill-advised concert in Tel Aviv suggests to me that they only want to hear one side – the one that supports apartheid’, wrote film director Ken Loach in the Independent. ‘Every international artist who plays in Israel serves as a propaganda tool for the Israeli government’, read an open letter signed by Desmond Tutu, Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, and others. ‘Music helps drown out the cries of the oppressed’, wrote former Faithless guitarist Dave Randall, in support of the letter.

They’ve rounded on Radiohead with the passion of a spurned lover. While other acts continue to play in Israel with less controversy – Justin Bieber played there in May – Radiohead, it seems, are supposed to know better. ‘They are perceived to be a progressive political band’, said Loach. ‘If they go to Tel Aviv, they may never live it down.’ Others have pointed to Radiohead’s support for Amnesty International and Tibetan freedom as proof of their rank hypocrisy.

For all the turbo-charged rhetoric, Yorke’s reasons are eminently reasonable. In a statement on Twitter, in response to Loach, he said: ‘We’ve played in Israel for over 20 years through a succession of governments, some more liberal than others. As we have in America. We don’t endorse Netanyahu any more than Trump, but we still play in America. Music, art and academia is about crossing borders, not building them, about open minds not closed ones, about shared humanity, dialogue and freedom of expression.’

Yorke has come out swinging. He stuck a middle finger up to protesters at a recent gig in Glasgow. And in an interview with Rolling Stone, he didn’t mince words when talking about the effect the controversy has had on Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, who is married to an Arab Jew and has friends ‘on both sides’ of the conflict. ‘Imagine how offensive that is for Jonny… Just to assume that we know nothing about this. Just to throw the word “apartheid” around and think that’s enough. It’s fucking weird. It’s such an extraordinary waste of energy.’

And he’s right. The cultural boycott of Israel, which began in 2005, operates under a bizarre and bigoted logic. For no other nation is its people, all bearing diverse views, so casually conflated with their government; a gig in Tel Aviv might as well be a private performance at Bibi’s birthday party. The historically illiterate, borderline depraved claim that Israel is an ‘apartheid state’ is only a desperate attempt to repackage what looks a lot like collective punishment, of a people who just so happen to be predominantly Jewish.

That musicians, whose post-Trump maxim is ‘build bridges not walls’, have enthusiastically gone along with this cultural blockade is hypocritical and disturbing. Free expression is the lifeblood of culture, and cross-border exchange essential to global pop. And this BDS lark cuts both ways. Not only do Western artists refuse to perform in Israel, but, in recent years, Israeli artists have had Western performances picketed and shut down because they took small amounts of government money, the equivalent of an Arts Council grant.

The intolerance shown not only to Israeli artists but also to artists who dare to defy the boycott is remarkable. The tirades against Yorke openly hint at repercussions. ‘They will lose the respect of thousands of music fans across the region and around the world’, said Randall. Roger Waters, the Pink Floyd frontman and BDSer who has compared Israel to Nazi Germany, said a few years back that anti-Israel bands daren’t speak out for fear of being ‘destroyed’. Yet a ‘Boycott Radiohead’ campaign can hardly be far away.

The rage against Radiohead tells us a lot about the BDS movement. But it also tells us a lot about the musicians who have gone along with it. The pious fury with which they have denounced a band that just wants to perform for its Israeli fans speaks to a prejudice born of blinding self-obsession. The idea that a prohibition of Pink Floyd will bring down the Israeli state, or that Radiohead playing Tel Aviv will ‘whitewash’ Netanyahu, is hubris in the extreme. And their fanaticism has taken some of them down some dark political alleyways.

Good for Thom Yorke – giving the finger to the BDSers is the most rock’n'roll thing he’s done.


From Cactus Theater to the Met, US Government Pours Hundreds of Millions Into Well-Heeled Arts

U.S. taxpayers have paid $90,000 for a theater “performance” in which people commune with a tall cactus for an hour in the middle of an Arizona desert, “to discover what it can teach them.”

On a posher scale, the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York netted $1.2 million in taxpayer-funded grants from the U.S. government since 2009, nearly half of it last year.

These are just two perhaps unexpected findings in a new report from Open the Books that reveals hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money granted to thousands of nonprofits and other organizations by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities.

The report says the government foundation distributed $441 million to 3,163 entities in fiscal year 2016, which ended Sept. 30.

Of these, 71 are “asset-rich” nonprofits, the report says, meaning their assets exceed $1 billion. Even so, they received $20.5 million in grants.

The National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities, the subject of the report, is the umbrella organization for three agencies—the National Endowment of the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Open the Books says its mission is to “capture and post online all disclosed spending at every level of government.” The goal: to show Americans where their taxes are going and let them decide if it adds up to government waste.

Nearly half of the $441 million awarded by the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities—about $210 million—went to recipients in nine states and the District of Columbia. Most are blue states: California, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Ballets, operas, orchestras, and symphonies received $5.4 million, despite having $5 billion in assets, the report says. Among them: the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the New York City Ballet.

New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art received $1.2 million in grants from the government foundation between fiscal years 2009 and 2016, including $551,028 in 2016 alone. 

The Met is a public charity with assets of $3.73 billion, according to its 2014 tax forms. The museum’s annual celebrity-studded Met Gala recently raised $300 million, the report says.

The government foundation’s grants also go to a huge cast of art exhibitions and performances, including a series of shows featuring the saguaro cactus hosted by the Borderlands Theater in Tucson, Arizona.

The theater’s “site-responsive performances” celebrate the treelike cactus, which can grow to 70 feet tall. The idea is that guests pay to spend one hour in the Sonoran Desert with the cactus, then share their experience on social media.

The government contributed $10,000 in tax money to the theater in fiscal 2016 and a total of $90,000 over the past eight years.

Search for “saguaro cactus” on Twitter and it doesn’t appear folks need much government encouragement to share about it:

Besides the Met, rich and famous institutions receiving federal funds since 2009, Open the Books says, include the Boston Museum of Fine Arts ($2.5 million); Chicago’s Adler Planetarium ($1.7 million); the Art Institute of Chicago ($1.4 million); and Hollywood icon Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute in Park City, Utah ($3.3 million).

The National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities’ $143 million in contributions in fiscal 2016 to charitable organizations included universities with billion-dollar endowment funds such as Harvard, Yale, Northwestern, Notre Dame, and the University of Michigan.

A total of 432 federal employees working for the government foundation earned $41.8 million a year in salaries and bonuses, the report notes. The average salary was $96,500 for fiscal 2016, with benefits increasing the average cost to $126,415 per employee.


Liberal Values Are Causing Welfare Costs to Balloon
Recently, Gallup published the results of its annual Values and Beliefs poll.

The headline of the report speaks for itself: “Americans Hold Record Liberal Views on Most Moral Issues.”

Gallup has been doing this poll since 2001, and the change in public opinion on the moral issues surveyed has been in one direction — more liberal.

Of 19 issues surveyed in this latest poll, responses on 10 are the most liberal since the survey started.

Sixty-three percent say gay/lesbian relations are morally acceptable — up 23 points from the first year the question was asked. Sixty-two percent say having a baby outside of marriage is OK — up 17 points. Unmarried sex, 69 percent — up 16 points. Divorce, 73 percent — up 14 points.

More interesting, and of greater consequence, is what people actually do, rather than what they think. And, not surprisingly, the behavior we observe in our society at large reflects these trends in values.

Hence, the institution of traditional marriage is crumbling, Americans are having fewer children, and, compared with years gone by, the likelihood that children are born out of the framework of marriage has dramatically increased.

Undoubtedly, the liberals in academia, in the media, in politics, see this as good news. After all, doesn’t removing the “thou shalt not’s” that limit life’s options liberate us?

Isn’t the idea of freedom supposed to be, according to them, that you have a green light to do whatever you want, as long as you’re not hurting someone else?

But here’s the rub. How do you measure if you are hurting someone else? No one lives in a vacuum. We all live in a country, in communities. We are social beings as well as individuals, no matter what your political philosophy happens to be. Everyone’s behavior has consequences for others.

For instance, more and more research shows the correlation between the breakdown of the traditional family and poverty.

In 2009, Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution published his “success sequence.” According to Haskins, someone who completes high school, works full time, and doesn’t have children until after marriage has only a 2 percent chance of being poor.

A new study from the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies focuses on Millennials — those born between 1980-1984. And this study reaches conclusions similar to those of Haskins.

According to this study, only 3 percent of Millennials who have a high school diploma, who are working full time, and who are married before having children are poor. On the other hand, 53 percent of Millennials who have not done these three things are poor.

Behavior increasing the likelihood of poverty does have consequences on others. American taxpayers spend almost a trillion dollars a year to help those in poverty, a portion of whom would not be in this situation if they lived their lives differently.

But the same liberals who scream when Republicans look for ways to streamline spending on antipoverty programs like Medicaid scream just as loudly at any attempt to expose young people to biblical values that teach traditional marriage and chastity outside of marriage.

The percent of American adults that are married dropped from 72 percent in 1960 to 52 percent in 2008. The percentage of our babies born to unmarried women increased from 5 percent in 1960 to 41 percent by 2008.

This occurred against a backdrop of court orders removing all vestiges of religion from our public spaces, beginning with banning school prayer in 1962, and then the legalization of abortion in 1973. In 2015, the Supreme Court redefined marriage.

Losing all recognition that personal and social responsibility matters, that the biblical tradition that existed in the cradle of our national founding is still relevant, is bankrupting us morally and fiscally.

We are long overdue for a new, grand awakening.


Leftist lies about Christians from Australia's ABC

On Monday, the ABC ran a long program about historic sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in Philadelphia — way off in the United States — as if we really needed to know this here and now.

But the ABC’s most ridiculous attack on Christianity came on Tuesday, with a campaign to persuade us that “the men most likely to abuse their wives are evangelical Christians” who occasionally go to church.

ABC presenter Julia Baird and ABC journalist Hayley Gleeson published an essay on the ABC’s site which gave just one source for this astonishing claim: “As theology professor Steven Tracy wrote in 2008: ‘It is widely accepted by abuse experts (and validated by numerous studies) that evangelical men who sporadically attend church are more likely than men of any other religious group (and more likely than secular men) to assault their wives’.”

ABC Radio National presenter Fran Kelly accepted this without a flicker of doubt in interviewing Baird, asking: “Is it a matter of belief system?”

And they agreed the problem was “patriarchal” churches — male-led — which encouraged men to bully their wives by preaching the Biblical passage: “Wives, submit to your own husbands.”

Baird, who has since repeated her attack on the ABC’s 7.30, suggests this could be a scandal to rival priests abusing children.

“Is it true,” she asked, “that there are striking similarities to the Church’s failure to protect children from abuse, and that this next generation’s reckoning will be about the failure in their ranks to protect women from domestic violence?”

But anyone remotely familiar with Christianity and Australia should have instantly realised there’s no way “the men most likely to abuse their wives are evangelical Christians”.

First, our worst rates of domestic violence notoriously occur in Aboriginal families, where women are at least 31 times more likely to be hospitalised by violent partners.

Second, it is not the Bible but the Koran that licenses domestic violence. Christ stopped the stoning of a woman accused of adultery, but Mohammed said men could hit disobedient wives: “Admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them.”

And, third, Baird, herself, concedes deep in her online article that her American source says “regular church attenders are less likely to commit acts of intimate partner violence”. That suggests Christianity actually protects women, exactly the opposite of what the ABC implied.

But check further and it becomes clear Baird missed clear evidence that contradicts her anti-Church theory. Her single source for her big claim is Steven Tracy, a theology professor at a Phoenix seminary, who did indeed in one essay claim “conservative Protestant men who are irregular church attendees are the most likely to batter their wives”.

Tracy cites a paper by Professor Christopher G. Ellison which actually finds that other groups experience greater incidences of domestic violence, demonstrating that there are, in fact, competing views on this issue. The paper claims: “African-Americans, in particular, have higher levels of domestic violence”.

What’s more, Ellison says that men who often go to a Christian church “are 72 per cent less likely to abuse their female partners than men from comparable backgrounds who do not attend services”.

The conclusion is clear: “Our findings … suggest that religious involvement, specifically church attendance, protects against domestic violence.” Christianity literally saves.

Tracy also quotes in his footnotes a New Zealand study by Emeritus Professor David Fergusson which confirms that Christianity is a civilising influence, counter to what the ABC implied.

As Tracy writes: “... 11.2 per cent of husbands who never attended church assaulted their wives. But only 2.2 per cent of husbands who attended church at least monthly assaulted their wives, while 6.2 per cent of husbands who attended church sporadically assaulted their wives.”

This is not what Baird reported and what the ABC yesterday claimed. Why didn’t the ABC report the truth: that Christianity actually saves women from abuse? Why did it instead falsely claim — and instantly believe — the falsehood that evangelical Christians are the worst abusers? The ABC is not merely at war with Christianity. This proves something worse: it is attacking the faith that most makes people civil.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here


No comments: