Category Archive 'Roger Kimball'
20 Sep 2021
World Spectator excerpt #2.
There must be a lot more money in being a prolifically published conservative defender of civilization than I ever realized, since Roger Kimball so clearly consistently drinks a lot higher off the vine than I customarily do.
I commonly get by on Two-Buck-Chuck Shiraz and undistinguished, simple and hearty reds from Spain and Portugal. Meanwhile, Old Roger is evidently routinely quaffing $30 and $50 French Clarets and thinks it worth forking out $120-130 for some 2015 California Cabernet. Harummph!
Roger apparently even, from time to time, gets in on vertical tastings of First Growths which, I must concede, move him to genuine eloquence.
[W]ine is susceptible to other liabilities as well. One is the same liability that, sooner or later, affects us all: age. Wines, like people, have different life spans depending on a number of factors, some intrinsic — the sort of grapes it is made from — some extrinsic — how it has been stored, for example. Most wines, like most people, lose suppleness, vivacity and lusciousness after a certain point. This is generally a gradual process, however, and some wines that are clearly on the way out are still interesting.
Indeed, it is often possible to discern lingering greatness in a wine that is past its prime. Some colleagues and I were once treated to a vertical tasting of Château Lafite Rothschild beginning with a bottle of 1961, a storied vintage of a great wine. I have heard that some bottles of 1961 Bordeaux are still drinking well, but this bottle had had a hard life. You could still discern, just, its nobility, but it was present in outline only, a ghost, something like Achilles encountered by Odysseus in the underworld.
It must be nice!
17 Nov 2020
Roger Kimball suggests Auric Goldfinger would find the 2020 Presidential Election end count highly suspicious.
Itâ€™s partly a matter of what I think of as the Goldfinger principle, after the avid gold smelter and nuclear weapons amateur Auric Goldfinger.
Goldfinger was a sensitive man. He didnâ€™t like it when people began looking into to his business ventures with too much curiosity, largely, no doubt, because many were ostentatiously illegal and, in some cases, evidence of grandiose homicidal insanity.
Nevertheless, his response to the repeated unscheduled appearance of James Bond in his life prompted him to make the eminently rational observation that â€œOnce is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time itâ€™s enemy action.â€
It might have been mere coincidence that Joe Biden ran behind Hillary Clinton everywhere except a handful of critical cities in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Arizona, and Georgia.
That is odd, to be sure, especially when one notes that around midnight on Nov. 3, Donald Trump was running substantially ahead in those states. Then the voting stopped. Everyone yawned and dozed off. When they woke up, what do you know, Joe Biden had the lead everywhere!
Odd. Possible, certainly, but also odd.
It was also odd that the turnout was so large: pushing 90 percent in Milwaukee, for instance, much higher than it was for Hillary, and substantially higher than it was even for Barack Obama.
It was odd, too, that all of what have been described as computer â€œglitchesâ€ benefitted Democrats. They seem to have come to light by accident and, once uncovered, in some cases shifted county elections from the blue column to the red column.
Makes you think, as does the ratio of votes for Biden in those late-arriving ballot dumps.
There are so many occasions for thought in this election. There was the apparent violation of Benfordâ€™s Law, for example, a statistical tool widely used to uncover fraud, as well as the tranches of votes that were filled out, every one of them, for Joe Biden, not to mention the tens thousands of ballots that were filled out for Biden-Harris but for no one down ballot, as if someone were hurrying to stuffâ€”I mean castâ€”his ballot.
None of this is dispositive, of course.
Nevertheless, I feel sure that it would have made old Auric Goldfinger ornery.
27 Jan 2020
Roger Kimball reviews Peter Schweizer’s timely new book, Profiles in Corruption.
[Schweizer’s] real subject, however, is not this unsavory lot of so-called â€œprogressiveâ€ politicians. Rather it is a truth of human psychology summed up in Milton Friedmanâ€™s observation that â€œConcentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.â€
All the figures that Schweizer discusses are known as â€œprogressivesâ€ of one stripe or another, from Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren at the heavy-handed redistributionist, socialist end, to Joe Biden in the gabbling senile establishment middle. They all talk about helping the little guy. They are filled to the brim with â€œgood intentions.â€ But the scare quotes are intended. What they are really all about is increasing the power of government, and hence their own power and perquisites, under cover of noble-sounding progressive nostrums.
This brings us to the core of Schweizerâ€™s important book. â€œWhat makes so many people angry at Washington,â€ he notes, â€œis the fact that those with political power get to operate by a different set of rules than the rest of us.â€ Thatâ€™s it in a nutshell.
As one compares the treatment accorded to Hillary Clinton, say, or Biden and his sons and brothers with the treatment accorded to General Mike Flynn or a host of other people outside the charmed circle of progressive piety, one is tempted to suggest a change to the inscription on the U.S. Supreme Court.â€œEqual Justice Under Lawâ€ is so out of date; â€œUnequal Justice Under Lawâ€ would be a more accurate slogan, one that accorded better with actual practice if not rhetoric.
Schweizer is right. Such people â€œuse their own levers of power to protect their family and friends from the scales of justice; bail out their failing businesses; steer taxpayer money to them. When they misstep, they are excused or it is covered up. While those with little or no power have to pay for the consequences of their actions, the political class often does not. The power eliteâ€”the people who grease the wheels for themselvesâ€”are the most disconcerting and dangerous ones.â€
Despite the conspiracy of silence imposed by a compliant media on these facts, the truth is leaking out bit by Biden bit. It is one reason that we now have President Donald Trump, not President Hillary Clinton. It is a reason, too, that, come January 2021, President Trump will embark on his second term. We all owe Peter Schweizer an enormous debt of gratitude for his enormous and effective labors in bringing sunlight to these tenebrous and mephitic climes.
29 Aug 2019
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, La baigneuse endormie [The Sleeping Bather], 1897, Winterthur.
The New Yorker rather outdid itself in the “PC Assaults on Civilization” Sweepstakes this week with Peter Schjedahl‘s smackdown of Renoir.
Targeting Renoir as problematic, sexist, and prurient seems not only Philistine, Puritanical, and just plain unkind, it seems to constitute a downright fascistic rejection of la douceur de vivre.
Roger Kimball identifies precisely what is so fundamentally wrong here in the Spectator.
Schjeldahlâ€™s judgments about Renoir are a fastidiously composed congeries of up-to-the-minute elite opinion. There at The New Yorker, everyone will agree with Schjeldahl about Renoir or â€” the more important point â€” about subjugating him to the strictures prevalent among the beautiful people circa 2019. What made Schjeldahlâ€™s essay notorious were not his particular judgments about Renoirâ€™s art or character but rather his imperative anachronism. â€˜An argument is often made that we shouldnâ€™t judge the past by the values of the present,â€™ Schjeldahl writes, â€˜but thatâ€™s a hard sell in a case as primordial as Renoirâ€™s.â€™
Is it? As Ed Driscoll pointed out at Instapundit, Schjeldahlâ€™s essay is sterling example of what C.S. Lewis described as â€˜chronological snobbery,â€™ the belief that â€˜the thinking, art, or science of an earlier time is inherently inferior to that of the present, simply by virtue of its temporal priority or the belief that since civilization has advanced in certain areas, people of earlier time periods were less intelligent.â€™ If, Driscoll observes, we add the toxic codicil that those previous times were â€˜therefore wrong and also racistâ€™ we would have â€˜a perfect definition of todayâ€™s SJWs.â€™
Exactly. Driscoll goes on to quote Jon Gabriel, who has anatomized this process under the rubric of â€˜cancel culture,â€™ a culture of willful and barbaric diminishment.
â€˜Cancel culture,â€™ Gabriel notes, â€˜is spreading for one simple reason: it works. Instead of debating ideas or competing for entertainment dollars, you can just demand anyone who annoys you to be cast out of polite society.â€™ Itâ€™s already come to a college campus near you, and is epidemic on social and other sorts of media. not to mention through the so-called â€˜Human Resourcesâ€™ departments of many companies. Wander ever so slightly outside the herd of independent minds and, bang, itâ€™s ostracism or worse.
There are many ironies attendant on the spread of â€˜cancel culture.â€™ One irony is that, despite its origins in the effete eyries of elite culture, the new ethic of conformity exhibits an extraordinary and intolerant provincialism. The British man of letters David Cecil got to the nub of this irony when, in his book Library Looking-Glass, he noted that â€˜there is a provinciality in time as well as in space.â€™
â€˜To feel ill-at-ease and out of place except in oneâ€™s own period is to be a provincial in time. But he who has learned to look at life through the eyes of Chaucer, of Donne, of Pope and of Thomas Hardy is freed from this limitation. He has become a cosmopolitan of the ages, and can regard his own period with the detachment which is a necessary foundation of wisdom.â€™
It has become increasingly clear as the imperatives of political correctness make ever greater inroads against free speech and the perquisites of dispassionate inquiry that the battle against this provinciality of time is one of the central cultural tasks of our age. It is a battle from which the traditional trustees of civilization â€” schools and colleges, museums, many churches â€” have fled. Increasingly, the responsibility for defending the intellectual and spiritual foundations of Western civilization has fallen to individuals and institutions that are largely distant from, when they are not indeed explicitly disenfranchised from, the dominant cultural establishment.
Leading universities today command tax-exempt endowments in the tens of billions of dollars. Leading cultural organs like The New Yorker and The New York Times parrot the ethos of the academy and exert a virtual monopoly on elite opinion.
But it is by no means clear, notwithstanding their prestige and influence, whether they do anything to challenge the temporal provinciality of their clients. No, let me amend that: it is blindingly clear that they do everything in their considerable power to reinforce that provinciality, not least by their slavish capitulation to the dictates of the enslaving presentism of political correctness.
04 Feb 2017
John Caldwell Calhoun (1782-1850), Yale Class of 1804, 7th Vice President of the United States 1825-1832.
Peter Salovey’s hand-picked committee of Social Justice Warriors has deliberated and, what do you know? They decided that John C. Calhoun should be singled out among all nine slave-owner and slavery defender namesakes of three quarters of the original twelve Yale residential colleges for elimination.
Oldest College Daily:
A University task force has recommended that Calhoun College be renamed, according to Yale officials with knowledge of the groupâ€™s report.
The recommendation from the task force, which was charged with applying the Universityâ€™s newly created principles on renaming to the Calhoun debate, positions the Yale Corporation to rename the college when it meets the weekend of Feb. 10 and 11.
University President Peter Salovey formed the Calhoun task force in December, after the Committee to Establish Principles on Renaming released its report. The task force consisted of two faculty members, history professor John Gaddis and English and African American Studies professor Jacqueline Goldsby GRD â€™98, and one alumnus, G. Leonard Baker â€™64. Both Gaddis and Goldsby signed a faculty petition last spring calling for the renaming of Calhoun, named after slavery proponent John C. Calhoun, class of 1804.
On Jan. 13, the task force submitted its recommendation â€” which came in the form of a report running less than 10 pages â€” to Salovey, who will present it to the Corporation at the February meeting.
Last month, Salovey told the News that he did not plan to release the recommendation until after that meeting. Salovey was not involved in the task forceâ€™s deliberations, although he did have some input on the final draft of the report.
â€œThe task force did their work independently, and their analysis and recommendations are their own,â€ Salovey said in January. â€œThey gave me the courtesy of letting me see a next-to-final draft of their report, and make some comments. But my comments to them were really only about sort of clarifying the way their findings were expressed.â€
If the Corporation accepts the task forceâ€™s recommendation, the University trustees would be voting to reverse their decision last April to keep Calhounâ€™s name. The April renaming decision incited months of student and faculty backlash, and helped unite Yale activists and New Haven community members in a growing â€œchange the nameâ€ movement.
Last August, primarily in response to faculty criticism of the decision to keep the name of Calhoun, Salovey charged the CEPR with outlining broad guidelines for all renaming disputes at the University, starting with Calhoun. The committee released its 24-page report on Dec. 2, calling on administrators to consider historical context as they determine whether the legacies of controversial namesakes like Calhoun justify renaming campus buildings.
Vice President for Communications Eileen Oâ€™Connor declined to comment on the nature of the task forceâ€™s recommendation, but said the Corporation will decide the Calhoun issue at its meeting later this month.
â€œWe have a process, weâ€™re following the process, and weâ€™ll take all the information into account when we make a decision in the best interests of the University,â€ Oâ€™Connor said.
Why stop there? Roger Kimball asked last August in the WSJ:
I have unhappy news for Mr. Salovey. In the great racism sweepstakes, John Calhoun was an amateur. Far more egregious was Elihu Yale, the philanthropist whose benefactions helped found the university. As an administrator in India, he was deeply involved in the slave trade. He always made sure that ships leaving his jurisdiction for Europe carried at least 10 slaves. I propose that the committee on renaming table the issue of Calhoun College and concentrate on the far more flagrant name â€œYale.â€
Elihu Yale had a little black page.
24 Feb 2016
Roger Kimball argues that the spell can be broken, Trump can be stopped, if his Republican opponents fight back and start telling the truth about him.
Donald Trump was never impossible. Nor is he now inevitable. It would be useful to have some of Donald Trump’s golf partners step forward. On Monday, a well placed friend told me that over the years he had run into many of Trump’s partners on the links. “He doesn’t only cheat in every game,” my friend said, “He cheats on every hole. You can hear the splash of a ball going into the pond. But when his partners catch up to Trump, they find him standing over his ball on the fairway, claiming that that’s where the ball landed.” This is of a piece with Trump’s sullied reputation as a businessman. I have heard from several sources that his common procedure is to pay his creditors 75% or 80% of what he owes them and then, when they ask for the balance, tell them to sue. I suspect we will be hearing a lot about Donald Trump’s business practices in the coming weeks. By all accounts, it will tell the story of an unscrupulous bully and cheat. Much has been made of Trump’s populist appeal. That appeal will vanish, I predict, once Trump’s character is subject to the scrutiny it deserves.
Exactly a month ago, I wrote about Trump and “the madness of crowds.” The phrase was from Charles Mackayâ€™s classic book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. For the moment, I noted, Trump occupies that empyrean of seeming invulnerability that occasionally cloaks movements of ecstatic enthusiasm. Point out Trumpâ€™s past support for Hillary, for Obama, for Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, mention his abuse of eminent domain to grab private property for his casinos, and his acolytes will respond, â€œHe just did what he had to do to make his business succeed.â€ Couldnâ€™t John Gotti have said the same thing?
Mackay was writing about such curiosities as Tulipomania in 17th-century Holland, when a single bulb could, briefly, be traded for the price of a mansion, or various money or stock schemes like the South Sea Bubble or the Mississippi Scheme or the (perhaps more pertinent in this case) â€œthe popular admiration for great thieves.â€ A common thread of these admonitory tales, I noted, “is the giddy rapidity of ascent followed by sudden and cataclysmic collapse once the spell is broken, which it always is.” The $64,000 question, of course, is exactly when the rude awakening will come. I pray it will not be too late.
Read the whole thing.
15 Jan 2013
Roger Kimball lives in one of the Fairfield County, Connecticut towns bordering Long Island Sound, and his neighborhood was hit by Sandy. He has to repair his home, and consequently ran into the nightmare regime of building codes and zoning regulation that prevails everywhere in developed portions of America.
Our first exposure to the town zoning authorities came a couple of weeks after Sandy. We’d met with insurance adjusters, contractors and “remediation experts.” We’d had about a foot of Long Island Sound sloshing around the ground floor of our house in Connecticut, and everyone had the same advice: Rip up the floors and subfloors, and tear out anythingâ€”wiring, plumbing, insulation, drywall, kitchen cabinets, bookcasesâ€”touched by salt water. All of it had to go, and pronto, too, lest mold set in.
Yet it wasn’t until the workmen we hired had ripped apart most of the first floor that the phrase “building permit” first wafted past us. Turns out we needed one. “What, to repair our own house we need a building permit?”
Before you could get a building permit, however, you had to be approved by the Zoning Authority. And Zoningâ€”citing FEMA regulationsâ€”would force you to bring the house “up to code,” which in many cases meant elevating the house by several feet. Now, elevating your house is very expensive and time consumingâ€”not because of the actual raising, which takes just a day or two, but because of the required permits.
Kafka would have liked the zoning folks. There also is a limit on how high in the sky your house can be. That calculation seems to be a state secret, but it can easily happen that raising your house violates the height requirement. Which means that you can’t raise the house that you must raise if you want to repair it. Got that?
Read the whole thing.
I blogged about a second-hand horror experience with building codes back in 2011:
One day, while I was still living on the SF peninsula in San Carlos, I went outside to get something from my car, and the pretty Oriental young lady who lived in the house across the street (whose name I did not even know, we had only been on waving-hello terms) ran crying into my arms.
She and her husband, a silver-haired, distinguÃ©e executive-type who drove an S-class Mercedes, had purchased the typical run-down 1960s-era California spec house across the street from our rental for something north of a cool million. They then proceeded to gut snd completely rebuild the place. Construction activity had been going for about two years, and seemed finally to be nearing completion. I thought these neighbors seemed likely to be about to take up residence just about the same time I was scheduled to depart.
My neighbor began sobbing out her story. A building inspector from the city of San Carlos had just left. He had disapproved of the nails used to attach the wire-mesh to the outside of the house which had already been covered with stucco cement and painted. Because the city didnâ€™t like the contractorâ€™s choice of nail, my neighbors were going to have to give up plans to move in. They would be obliged to tear off the entire new exterior surface of their house, and re-attach new wire mesh and stucco, and paint the whole thing all over again. It would take months to do the demolition and exterior covering again, and it would cost a lot of money.
Beyond the many tens of thousands of dollars all that extra construction was going to cost, theyâ€™d have to do an additional move (their lease was up) and pay thousands of unnecessary dollars a month for another rental house. My neighbors had been hit with six figures in extra expenses by the local building code enforcement system over a nail.
No wonder the poor girl was sobbing. She probably felt a lot like Richard III.
In all the suburban enclaves of the community of fashion, layers of officials have erected regulatory empires funded by the tax dollars of the generally oblivious ordinary citizen. No rational person would buy a home burdened with exorbitant levels of taxation which he can only actually use with the grudging permission of hostile and tyrannical officialdom, but one always discovers the character of one’s place of residence too late.
Really, the best choice is the complete reverse of what most people desire. Instead of living in the most toney neighborhood, surrounded by affluent neighbors with prestigious careers and elite educations, you want to live in a rural township: the kind of place lacking in prestige, fashionability, and good restaurants, where your neighbors are all rednecks and poor. That kind of township will have next to no government, taxes will be extremely low, your neighbors will be friendly, and you can hire labor at cheap rates.
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