Puerto Rico is being allowed to fall apart in order to rig American presidential elections by tipping Florida’s electoral votes to the Democrats. The looting of Puerto Rico’s institutions by the rich and the poor alike is depopulating the island.
Puerto Rico is a fascinating test case for what has emerged as the central issue of 2016 politics: borders.
The two American presidential candidates in 2016 both seem fairly centrist in terms of traditional left-right positions, but Mrs. Clinton ranks with John McCain as the purest example of current invade-the-world-invite-the-world establishment ideology. In contrast, as Hillary fumed last week, Donald Trump has fueled his surprise run by endorsing the “alternative” worldview that finds borders prudent and valuable.
For example, Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU politician who heads the European Commission, enunciated this month the ascendant dogma: “Borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians.”
Expressions of open-borders extremism such as this are becoming ever more explicit and common, but way back on Sept. 10, 2001, Mrs. Clinton’s husband affirmed “the ultimate wisdom of a borderless world“ and called for “open borders to all.”
Although The Wall Street Journal first called for the constitutional amendment “There shall be open borders” in 1984, the world’s elites have typically been more enthusiastic about denouncing commoners for doubting their dream of borderlessness than in empirically testing their idea.
Puerto Rico, therefore, is useful to study as a test of the effects of antinationalism because it is a third-world nation with its own Olympic team, yet it enjoys open borders with the United States.
It’s increasingly turned out to be an expensive scam. Puerto Rico has run up $110 billion in debt and unfunded pension liabilities.
But open borders have also been a catastrophe for Puerto Ricans, who have been abandoning their native land in droves.
In the West Side Story song “America,” Rita Moreno snidely described life in Puerto Rico as:
Always the hurricanes blowing
Always the population growing
Puerto Rico has suffered a population slide that is steeper and more financially disastrous than in any U.S. state since the end of World War II.
In contrast, the Puerto Rican population of the 50 states grew about 50 percent from 2000 to 2013.
About three-fifths of all Puerto Ricans now live on the mainland.
That’s an important fraction to be aware of because we are often told that only a small percentage of the 6.1 billion people who live in the less developed nations would bother to decamp for the first world under a policy of open borders. But the experience of Puerto Rico, which is hardly poor (GPD per capita is near triple the world average), suggests that if allowed, third worlders would keep coming until life in America and Europe declines to third-world conditions.
Puerto Rico’s slow depopulation due to corruption and ineptitude is particularly interesting for what it shows us about how the establishment’s invade/invite philosophy undermines civic responsibility and moral accountability. While nationalism encourages stewardship, globalism licenses Puerto Rican-style exploitation and shoddiness.
Benjamin Franklin famously replied to a lady inquiring what the framers of the Constitution had come up with: “A republic, if you can keep it.”
But Puerto Rico is a by-product of America’s first spasm of imperialism, the Spanish-American War of 1898. While the urbane Cubans were quickly granted some degree of independence, the impoverished, agricultural Puerto Ricans seemed too backward for self-rule.
Moreover, master strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan argued that the U.S. Navy needed a coaling station in the Caribbean to protect the approaches to the future Isthmian Canal from the battle cruisers of the Queen and Kaiser, just as the British colony of Malta guarded the Suez Canal.
When Puerto Ricans flooded into New York City after World War II, helping wreck the South Bronx, the U.S. implemented a Trump-like industrial policy to subsidize manufacturing jobs in Puerto Rico. This slowed immigration to the U.S. for several decades. But when a major tax break expired in 2006, the local economy immediately collapsed and the mass exodus began again.
Besides the weak economy, crooked institutions plague this island nation that’s not allowed to be a nation-state. It’s a banana republic without even nominally ever having been a republic.
There’s little point in being a Puerto Rican patriot and working to make Puerto Rico a better place because all the money is in conning Uncle Sam. Electoral politics within Puerto Rico are subservient to the issue of the relationship to the imperial power: Should Puerto Rico stay a commonwealth or become a state? (Only a few patriots call for independence from the Washington cash cow.) Few politicians are interested in local issues of good government.
Puerto Rico in the 21st century demonstrates the moral debilitation caused by a lack of nationalism. Puerto Rico’s institutions have become thoroughly corrupt.
For example, Puerto Rico’s police department appears to be violent, crooked, and ineffectual. A Mother Jones article entitled “You”ve Probably Never Heard of America’s Worst Police Force“ reported:
Between 2005 and 2010, more than 1,700 Puerto Rico police officers were arrested for crimes including murder, assault, theft, domestic violence, and drug trafficking. That’s roughly 10 percent of the 17,000-person force and nearly three times the number of New York City police officers arrested in a comparable five-year period. The NYPD is about twice the size of the PRPD.
If you are an American criminal on the lam, though, Puerto Rico is a good place to hole up from the law. For instance, one of the more lurid recent murders in my neighborhood was the 2009 Armenian-versus-Armenian killing in the parking lot of the local Sears in North Hollywood, Calif. By analyzing social media, the victim’s father tracked the affluent killer down to a beach town in Puerto Rico and federal marshals arrested him. But to the outrage of the LAPD, a Puerto Rican judge let the killer out on $50,000 bail, and he immediately disappeared.
It’s hijab vu all over again.
Each “new” Muslim regalia hoo-ha”this week, it’s the French burkini battle“makes me feel like I”m trapped in Turkish Groundhog Day. You lucky Americans haven”t been screaming at each other about Islam’s wearable trash bags for anywhere near as long as we Canadians.
So you had some cunty Olympic fencer to deal with for a couple of days. What about us? Some say Conservative PM Stephen Harper’s sudden-death-overtime anti-burka feint threw the last election to Zoolander, despite astounding public support for the Tories” proposal. (When did you last see any poll question rack up 82 percent in the affirmative?)
But that’s nothing. Quebecers have been fighting about the face-covering niqab in particular for ten years; their cousins in France, for a generation. Yet these cases keep regurgitating in bulk, like Sisyphean shark-attack stories. Little wonder, as long as our rulers deign to focus on the sartorial symptom of the disease instead of its cause. Witness Harper’s last-ditch denunciation of a garment “rooted in a culture that is anti-women“”only after his party helped double the country’s Muslim population since 9/11, ignoring warnings from actual Muslims to cut that out.
“I find the notion of the state policing clothing, particularly women’s clothing, indigestible.”
Or look at France. Their reaction to massacres from Paris to Nice is to regulate beach attire rather than lock up treasonous imams, deport criminal Muslims en masse, and block new ones from entering.
Now, I defer to no one in my loathing of Islam. Its founder was a lowlife. Its book is a disordered bore. Its fruits, sterile and rotten. I still support Donald Trump’s ban on Muslim immigration even if he doesn”t, and have been calling for such an embargo for going on fifteen years.
But for much longer, I”ve been an anarchist at heart, long before I”d ever heard the word. And I find the notion of the state policing clothing, particularly women’s clothing, indigestible. (Particularly when said policing serves as an obvious occasional sop to we lowly “racist” peons.)
Not when that clothing refers to face coverings, mind you. The authorities should simply enforce long-standing laws against public mask wearing when Muslims are the culprits, but of course they rarely do.
Selective application of the rules in the name of Islamic appeasement reached a hilarious peak this month, again in Canada. Perhaps you heard about the couple who visited Victoria, British Columbia’s famed Victorian-themed garden and were refused admittance for appearing too…Victorian? This harmlessly eccentric pair dress exclusively in 19th-century garb, but Butchart Gardens says the wearing of period costumes violates their rules. The reporter, who asked the Gardens if, in the purported interest of “preserving their tranquil atmosphere,” divisive medieval niqabs were also forbidden, described that phone call as “the most bizarre interview I”ve experience in my 30 years of journalism””a career that has included taping himself successfully voting in a Canadian election while dressed in full Muslim drag.
On the subject of double standards, The Spectator‘s Gavin Mortimer“writing in support of the burkini ban”serves up chilling anecdotes about female acquaintances traveling in France being threatened and insulted by Muslims for wearing a sundress in one instance and jogging shorts in another. Mortimer warns that “the burkini is part of [the extremist Muslim] strategy…. Toleration of the burkini will only embolden France’s “police of mores” in their campaign of coercion.”
And yes, the tinderbox spark”that arrest on the Nice beach“looks a lot like a Rosa Parks-type stunt, another Muslim “hate crime” provocation.
I know all this. And yet, back to my days as a teenage anarchist. When I wasn”t wearing my Catholic high school uniform”in its least perv-arousing iteration: an over-the-knee kilt and cable-knit leotards, whatever the season”I traipsed around town in Slits-inspired, man-repellent getups: long-john bottoms and army surplus pants topped with baggy “urchin” sweaters.
I didn”t wear (Bermuda only) shorts in public until I was over 30, sometimes using my sun-sensitive lupus as my alibi. And if I could afford to, and actually left my house enough to warrant it, I”d stock up on Solumbra’s SPF clothing, which includes full-sleeved rash guards and ankle-length swimming tights. If I wore those on a French beach, would I be ticketed too? Would Diane Keaton?
The debacle that is U.S. Syria policy is today on naked display.
NATO ally Turkey and U.S.-backed Arab rebels this weekend attacked our most effective allies against ISIS, the Syrian Kurds.
Earlier in August, U.S. planes threatened to shoot down Syrian planes over Hasakeh, and our Iraq-Syria war commander, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, issued a warning to Syria and Russia against any further air strikes around the city.
Who authorized Gen. Townsend to threaten to shoot down Syrian or Russian planes—in Syria?
When did Congress authorize an American war in Syria? Is the Constitution now inoperative?
That we are sinking into a civil war where we sometimes seem to be fighting both sides is a tribute to the fecklessness of the Barack Obama-John Kerry foreign policy and the abdication of a Congress that refuses to either name our real enemy or authorize our deepening involvement.
Our Congress appears again to have abdicated its war powers.
Consider the forces that have turned Syria into a charnel house with 400,000 dead and millions injured, maimed and uprooted.
On the one side there is the regime of Bashar Assad and its allies—Hezbollah, Iran and Russia. Damascus buys its weapons from Moscow and has granted Russia its sole naval base in the Mediterranean. And Vladimir Putin protects his interests and stands by his friends.
To Iran, the Alawite regime of Assad is a strategic link in the Shia crescent that runs from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus to South Beirut and Lebanon’s border with Israel.
If Syria falls to Sunni rebels, Islamist or democratic, that would mean a strategic loss for Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, which is why all have invested so much time, blood and treasure in this war.
If they are going to lose Syria, Assad, Iran, Hezbollah and the Russians are probably going to go down fighting. And should we decide to fight a war to take them down, we would find ourselves with such de facto allies as ISIS and the al-Nusra Front, an affiliate of al-Qaida.
Have the hawks who want us to target Assad considered this?
The American people would never sustain such a war in the company of such allies, with its risks of escalation, to remove Assad, who, whatever we think of him, never terrorized Americans or threatened U.S. vital interests.
Years ago, Assad dismissed Obama’s demand that he surrender power, then defied Obama’s “red line” against the use of chemical weapons. He is not going to depart because some U.S. president tells him he must go.
As for the Syrian Kurds, the YPG, they have sealed much of the border with Turkey and fought their way ever closer to Raqqa, the capital of the ISIS caliphate. But what has elated the Americans has alarmed the Turks.
For the YPG not only drove ISIS out of the border towns all the way to the Euphrates; this summer, with U.S. backing, they crossed the river and seized Manbij.
Turkey’s fear is that the Syrian Kurds will link their cantons east of the Euphrates with their canton west of the river and create a statelet that could give Turkey’s Kurds a privileged sanctuary from which to pursue their 30-year struggle for independence.
If, when the war ends in Syria, the YPG is occupying all the borderlands, Ankara faces a long-term existential threat of dismemberment.
Last Thursday in Reno, presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton took a brief break from coughing up lesbian fur balls and practicing urban dance moves in order to introduce an unsuspecting American populace to the Alt-Right.
In what may very well be a desperately flailing attempt to distract the public’s attention from the possibility that she wears scented adult diapers, Clinton has lately gone Full Godwin on Trump, unleashing a shamelessly sensational fear-mongering one-minute ad linking him to the KKK and David Duke. The ad also features the perennially erudite Jared Taylor being horrifyingly sensible. It also notes that Trump recently hired Breitbart.com head honcho Stephen Bannon as his campaign CEO. Bannon had previously boasted that he transformed the Breitbart site into “the platform for the alt-right.”
During Thursday’s speech in Reno, Hillary wove an elaborate ideological beaded necklace linking Trump to Bannon to Breitbart to the Alt-Right and, by association, to Hitler and Simon Legree and, naturally, to Satan himself:
The latest shake-up was designed to “ quote “ “Let Trump be Trump.” To do that, he hired Stephen Bannon, the head of a right-wing website called Breitbart.com, as campaign CEO….But according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, Breitbart embraces “ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right.”…These are racist ideas, race-baiting ideas, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-women “ all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the “Alt-Right.”….Alt-Right is short for “Alternative Right.”…Racists now call themselves “racialists.” White supremacists now call themselves “white nationalists.” The paranoid fringe now calls itself “alt-right.” But the hate burns just as bright.
“Cultural Marxism is a toxic and destructive form of collective insanity that not only needs to be smashed and left bleeding in the streets”it needs to be murdered.”
Ramping up the propagandistic gaslighting hyperbole to psycho levels, The New York Times defines the Alt-Right as “a fringe ideology of conspiracies and hate.”
Salon refers to it as “a right-wing racist fringe…[that spews] a putrid mÃ©lange of racist, pseudo-intellectual trash.” Not to be outdone, Rolling Stone launches even further out in a PMS-addled hysterical declamation of the Alt-Right:
Calling these people anything less than vile racists is morally reprehensible and intellectually fraudulent…we can’t afford to frame its members as anything less than a band of racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, white-nationalist xenophobes who spew dangerous bullshit while hiding behind their keyboards.
Calm down, sister!
As supposed evidence for the Alt-Right’s “affinity for intolerance,” Rolling Stone trots out Jared Taylor’s reaction to Clinton’s Alt-Right speech: “There is a very broad overlap between the races, but they differ in average levels of intelligence and other traits.”
Shocking! Horrifying! Problematic! Unacceptable! But they didn’t even bother to attempt to explain how Taylor’s statement was untrue…nor what it had to do with “intolerance.”
The Guardian, never missing a chance to piss on the very idea of whiteness, explains that people such as Taylor are peddling “scientific racism,” which as we all know was “widely discredited, and denounced by the UN after the second world war.”
Again, The Guardian does not waste one breath trying to explain how these theories were “discredited”; their writers are the sort that would brand you a racist merely for requesting some rudimentary elaboration.
The Guardian also quotes the Southern Poverty Law Center, as did ABC News and Hillary Clinton and nearly every obedient gelding in the mainstream media who for decades now has been dutifully regurgitating SPLC press releases without the slightest scrutiny or skepticism or basic due diligence.
Instead”as is always the case”all of the purported “debunking” and “discrediting” consists of nothing more than dismissive hand-waving and pearl-clutching and pious moral clucking about the fact that you’d be so hate-filled and disobedient not to bow before their transparently idiotic gospel of innate human equality.
The SPLC fingers former Taki’s Magazine editor Richard Spencer as the man who coined the term “Alt-Right” back in 2008. It says that Spencer surrounds himself with “pseudo-academics,” but the Church of Morris Dees makes no attempt to explain the “pseudo” part except to smear people such as Steve Sailer as Nazis and racists and anti-Semites who are driven by fear and hatred and inadequacy.
If you don’t mind me saying so, the SPLC sounds like it’s the one that’s taking a pseudo-academic approach here. To talk about “discrediting” without bothering to discredit…and to dismiss writers as “pseudo-academics” without making even a tiny effort to explain why they’re wrong…is the very essence of an anti-intellectual approach. Instead, these shallow creeps simply go for scare words and appeals to sinister motives.
Therefore, it provides me tremendous joy to see supremely well-spoken”and, unlike me, well-behaved”people such as Jared Taylor and Richard Spencer reveal their witch-hunting interrogators to be the pseudo-academics who are clearly driven by fear and hatred and inadequacy. These oft-reviled subhuman monsters always wind up coming off smarter and more reasonable than their antagonists, and it’s always a laff riot.
Remember last week when Trump tanked his campaign by flip-flopping on immigration? Few do. It was almost seven days ago and this campaign is about turning every glitch the GOP faces into a nuclear war, then quickly moving on to the next one. Nobody questions the press because by the time the truth comes out, they”re already onto something else. Well, just for fun, I”d like to single out this non-debacle as an example of the kind of fake controversies the media consistently tries to frame Donald Trump with.
Last Wednesday, Daily Wire columnist Ben Shapiro put Ann Coulter on suicide watch by saying, “Somebody take away Ann’s belt and shoelaces.” He was referring to her reaction to the “flip-flop.” I get that she was mad. She’s very unforgiving when it comes to immigration, and her latest book, In Trump We Trust, is largely devoted to the nominee’s strict border policies. New York magazine called her book a “suddenly mistitled opus,” referring specifically to her quote “There’s nothing Trump can do that won”t be forgiven. Except change his immigration policies.” Everyone seemed to agree this was that. On Wednesday, Trump did a town hall with Fox News” Sean Hannity and said, “Take a person who’s been here for fifteen or twenty years and throw them and their family out, it’s so tough…. It’s a very, very hard thing.” Coulter responded with a facetious “Well, if it’s “hard,” then nevermind,” and Shapiro gloated. The general understanding across the political spectrum was that Trump had done an about-face.
“Lawbreakers have to be punished. Why do you need to follow this statement with Maoist efficiency for it to be true?”
Trump never guaranteed he would deport every single illegal alien in the country. The BBC told us he would “deport every single illegal immigrant” and CNN said his “deportation force” would get rid of all 11 million illegals. However, when you go back and look at exactly what Donald Trump said, you realize this whole flip-flop thing was a myth. The Trump who promised to rid America of every single illegal alien is a straw man. When he denies his critics their straw man, they say he’s changing his mind. But that was never his mind in the first place. The left needs to understand that Trump is not a cartoon villain and the right needs to understand he’s not a god. Nobody can guarantee a mass deportation of all our illegals (the educated guess seems to come to at least 30 million, but I think it’s closer to 50 million). A sane man starts with the present and calls for moratoriums on the most troublesome immigrants while promising to build a wall that will prevent future illegals. That’s what Trump has done. As far as those who are already here, we should do our best to get rid of as many as we can. That’s the promise we are still counting on.
When arguing for the case that Trump has flip-flopped, there were two moments that kept coming up. One is a Meet the Press he did with Chuck Todd on Trump’s private jet. In this interview, Todd rightfully warns of how nearly impossible it would be to deport 11 million people. “You”re splitting up families?” Todd asked while clutching his clipboard, “You”re going to deport children?” Trump very sternly responded with “No. No.” He said what he’s always said, which is “They have to go.” This is true. Illegal aliens have to go.
Lawbreakers have to be punished. Why do you need to follow this statement with Maoist efficiency for it to be true? Drugs are illegal in this country, so if you sell them you need to go to jail, because we are, as Trump put it, “a country of laws.” Now, if you discover that an old man who has never tried pot just bought his son a grow lamp, technically you have to arrest him. This is the law at its worst, and it’s “very hard” to enforce it in a case like this. That’s all Trump has said. The media is taking this and treating it as though Michael Botticelli thinks heroin is cool.
They do the same with abortion when they ask, “What about a girl who was raped by her father? Does she have to keep the baby?” If the pro-lifer says no, he or she is now pro-choice. This is how liberals operate. If it’s not 100%, it’s 0%. They”re all over the map when it comes to their own pescatarian values and Hillary literally gets away with murder, but if they can find one exception or any kind of inconsistency on the right, the entire GOP is a lie. Pro-lifers think abortion is murder. They are against “it.” Trump hates illegal immigration. He is against “it” and thinks “they” have to go. He’s never put a number on “they” because it’s about the idea (an idea Hillary says is “absurd, inhumane, and un-American”). The fact that Trump recognizes it’s hard to deport a law-abiding illegal who’s been here twenty years and has American children doesn”t make him a hypocrite. It makes him human. If Trump gets only 20 million to leave and 10 million remain, he hasn”t failed. He’s probably done 40 million better than Hillary.
The Week’s Most Seductive, Instructive, and Counterproductive Headlines
NIGEL FARAGE BOARDS THE TRUMP TRAIN
Nigel “Mr. Brexit” Farage joined Donald “Our Lord and Savior” Trump last Wednesday evening before a roaring crowd of 15,000 or Trumpeteers in Jackson, MS.
“The atmosphere in the room was more like a rock concert than a political meeting,” Farage would write in the Daily Mail:
Trump is strong on the immigration message and he is connecting, to the horror of the Washington establishment….Hillary represents the status quo where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. She is part of the Establishment that has led us into an endless series of wars….
Hillary Clinton, in a speech that we will cover far more extensively tomorrow, derided Farage as “one of Britain’s most prominent rightwing leaders…who stoked anti-immigrant sentiments” to win the Brexit referendum.
Meanwhile, a psychologist at Oxford University has declared that Donald Trump “outscores Adolf Hitler on a test used to determine psychopathic traits.” Trump edged out Hitler to fall in fourth place on the all-time historical psycho list, bested only by Saddam Hussein, Henry VIII, and Idi Amin. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton falls somewhere in between Napoleon and Nero, which sounds about right.
Trump campaign advisor and anti-TPP activist Curtis Ellis is catching heat for a column in which he unabashedly states that free-trade deals are designed to literally exterminate the white working class:
The party cadres set out to build their brave new world and eliminate their class enemies “ read: white working people. It is in this context that we understand why Clinton and company push so-called “free trade” deals like NAFTA and Obamatrade, corporatist schemes that move America’s manufacturing assets “ and jobs “ to Mexico, China and elsewhere. If you believe, as do the leftists, that America has more than it deserves and Americans are racists, the global redistribution of our wealth and the death (literally) of white working people is a desired outcome, a feature not a bug.
“STOP WHITE PEOPLE” PROGRAM OFFERED AT NEW YORK STATE COLLEGE
Last year a white student at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst was denied entry from a “Stop White People” luncheon on campus.
This year the State University of New York at Binghamton offered a program for resident assistants called “#StopWhitePeople2K16.” The school’s Associate Chief Diversity Officer, one Nicole Sirju-Johnson, said of the program, “I don’t see a problem with it.” SUNY Vice President of Student Affairs Brian Rose said that the phrase “Stop White People” originated from a Twitter hashtag that is “commonly used ironically” and that after a careful review, he and his team of crack expertise “verified that the actual program content was not ‘anti-white.’”
Glad they clarified all that, because we wouldn’t want some knuckle-dragging racist moron out there to think that a college program called “Stop White People” is anti-white.
FINALLY, A UNIVERSITY WITH BALLS
Standing in starkly gleeful contrast to the vast majority of American campuses where Cultural Marxism reigns supreme with the choking strength of a rustily screeching steel vagina, the dean of students at the University of Chicago sent a welcome letter to incoming freshmen that has been deemed “controversial” merely because it refuses to succumb to the rancid dictates of egalitotalitarian lunatics. Dean of students John Ellison writes:
Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.
Praise be unto thee, University of Chicago. Thou art a breath of fresh air in the Windy City.
GERMAN NATIONALISTS SEIZE THE BRANDENBURG GATE…FOR A MOMENT
A group of 15 or so members of Germany’s Identitarian Movement climbed the iconic Brandenburg Gate on Saturday to unfurl a banner that read, “SECURE BORDERS “ SECURE FUTURE.” Members also handed out flyers bemoaning the fact that ethnic Germans were “becoming a minority” due to the country’s accelerating “Islamisation” via mass immigration. (An estimated million or more Muslim “refugees” poured into Germany last year alone.) The group called for Europeans to unite and build a “fortress” against creeping Islam.
Berlin’s mayor referred to the protest as “disgusting.” To our knowledge, he has uttered no equivalent moral condemnations regarding the ongoing mass rape of German women by Muslim refugees.
Okay, sports fans, the Games are over, Uncle Sam and Britain hit pay dirt, and the prettiest girl of the Olympics was Morgan Lake, a black Brit high jumper who wins the gold medal for looks and proper demeanor.
Here’s a tip for ambitious mothers: Take a lesson from Morgan Lake—the name is perfect, no agent could have made it up—and instead of sending your daughters to Hollywood, where they’re more likely to end up as high-class hookers, you should guide them toward athletics and the high jump. Morgan Lake is café au lait, with a perfect body and a very sweet, innocent face. She didn’t place but was in the finals, having jumped over one meter ninety-four. I know nothing about her except that she’s 19, and what I saw of her on the TV screen.
What was that Noël Coward song about putting your daughter on the stage? If she looks like Morgan, let her be a high jumper—so eat your heart out, Jessica Raine (remember her? I’m over her). Why is it that grace and innocence make my knees go weak? I suppose it is because I have a view of the fairer sex more common in an era more romantic than the present. I feel more alive in the presence of beauty, but I also feel longing, both spiritual and physical. But beauty has been downgraded these past 50 years. Beautiful buildings are no longer built, just ugly, modern, so-called utilitarian ones, and I’m not sure about the last one. Boats are now extremely ungraceful and downright unshapely; they either look like insects or refrigerators on steroids. Once upon a time there was nothing more elegant or beautiful than sailing boats with overhangs on their bows and sterns. Now we have titanium trimarans that can do 50 knots and look like prehistoric ants. If you need to do 50, get a boat with an engine.
Fashion is another industry that vies mightily for the ugly. Gracelessness is the order of the day. Horrors like the Kardashians revel in eyesore fashion because it attracts the paparazzi and hides their unattractiveness. Loveliness, however, needs no additional paraphernalia. Morgan Lake jumping in a simple bikini-like suit is the perfect example.
“Why is it that beauty is no longer the standard we judge things by?” asked a female friend of mine as I was writing this column. (She and her sister were the two prettiest girls in Paris 40 years ago.) I told her why: Beauty is elitist, carried off by a few, and we now live in the age of the common and vulgar. Beauty is an optimistic thing, and we now have all become pessimists. Beauty means great inequality, and that’s the real no-no of our times. We are supposed to all be equal now, at least that’s what the crooks who rule us and make these ludicrous laws try to force us to believe.
But we are not. The busybodies think they can cure the ills of an unequal society by keeping the smart ones back. That’s an old trick that was tried with comprehensive schools and ended in utter failure. I know it would take a heart of stone to criticize the fact that the poor Syrian butterfly-stroke girl was allowed to compete in a special heat of very slow swimmers—which she won—but it is part of the same scheme: enforced equality.
No wonder opinion-makers loathe beauty, it is as unequal as it gets. Beauty does not need to promote itself over others, it’s too self-evident. The incendiary appeal of victimhood—all those Olympians crying that they’ve been cheated of victory—does not apply to beauty. The disaffected cry, the beautiful ones float on gossamer wings. Beauty meets the needs of the soul, ugliness the needs of our inhibitions.
And I forgot about ugly art. The sanctification of Picasso, not to mention the grotesque Lucian Freud, are perfect examples of visual ugliness triumphing over the sublime art of Leonardo, Rembrandt, Sargent, and Degas. It is what Paul Johnson called fashion art, as opposed to fine art. Art is now a species of hucksterism, no ifs or buts about it. Critics now judge art not on aesthetics but on whether it advances a progressive political agenda. When I see the crap that sells for hundreds of millions I really want to shout. But my shouts are drowned out by atonal music, or any music after 1960, if you know what I mean.
But back to Morgan Lake and the Olympics. She competed and did not win, which was the purpose of the Games to begin with—to take part. And that was better than purchasing athletes like Qatar and Bahrain did, and even Turkey. Poor Greece, with no help from it’s broke government, won six medals, three of them gold. Qatar and Bahrain paid for foreigners to compete under their ludicrous flags and won two medals between them. Qatar and Bahrain are ugly places ruled by ugly people who think they can buy beauty. They cannot. Just because a lot of greedy Brits sold their beautiful old houses to them, the two sandy hellholes thought they could also buy Olympic glory. Most athletes are professionals nowadays, so they figured it would be easy. For once the good guys won. The hellholes will remain hellholes without Olympic glory, at least for another four years. That’s good enough for me.
Although France is on the same downward slide as Britain, you can tell that it has not yet descended quite as far because it did not win as many medals in the Olympic Games as Britain. Nevertheless, it won more such medals in these Olympics than it ever had before, which is irrefutable proof of its decline.
Now, as it happened I was at Gatwick Airport on the day the Olympics ended. I was on my way back to France after a very brief visit to my homeland. Gatwick Airport is just south of London, and is the place from which the enormously fat people of that area start out on their summer holidays. Why enormously fat people should squeeze themselves into body-hugging shocking-pink T-shirts (and never was pink more shocking than at Gatwick) as well as thigh-hugging apple green Lycra shorts, displaying lower legs the size and shape, though not the color unless varicose eczema had set in, of an entire jamÃ³n serrano, I have no idea. But, as Ruskin said of Whistler’s great picture, it is a pot of paint thrown in the face of the public. O Ruskin, thou shouldst be living at this hour: England hath need of thee, for thy descriptive powers if for nothing else.
Gatwick Airport, of course, is hell, beyond the imagination of Dante to describe or the canvas of Bosch to portray. Different rock music comes at you from every angle, jangling your nerves. If we must have inescapable sound, I should much prefer it to be the speeches of Kim Il Sung because they are easier to screen out of one’s ears. Announcements of special offers for fragrances exclusive to Gatwick compete with requests that passenger X go to gate 539 to join his flight to some fishing village on the Mediterranean”turned”giant nightclub and drug-distribution center.
There is a constant hubbub, the only silent people being the behemoths of South London grazing on their early-morning hamburgers just as the brontosauruses in my picture book of dinosaurs when I was a child grazed on the foliage of fern trees: that is to say, without any notion of an alternative. If Luther were alive today and a South Londoner, he would pin not “Here I stand, I can do no other” to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral, but “Here I eat, I can do no other.”
It occurred to me then that there was a strange dialectic at work in our society between narcissistic athleticism on the one hand and utter degradation of the body on the other. If you can”t be Apollo, you can at least be Henry VIII. If you can”t be Twiggy, you can at least be a painting by Botero. By the way, one couldn”t help wondering how the mastodon mothers came by their newborn babies. This was a question from whose answer one averted one’s mind, in a modern version of Coleridge’s willing suspension of disbelief.
It also occurred to me how unfair”how discriminatory“it was that only the athletic should compete in the Olympics and be eligible for medals. Could anything be better designed to undermine the self-esteem of the fat than to see a lot of finely sculpted people receiving the adulation of an enormous crowd? Should not the adulation be shared equally?
SAN GABRIEL, Calif.”Only two athletes in history have won medals in six consecutive Olympic Games.
Let me put this in perspective. There are about 13,000 Olympians, both summer and winter, during each four-year cycle. Since 1896, when the modern Games began, there have been 184,869 Olympians. So we”re talking about something that happens .001 percent of the time, which is just one click above…never.
The first athlete is Armin ZÃ¶ggeler, a carabiniere from the Tyrolean Alps who has won two gold medals, one silver medal, and three bronzes during the 1994 through 2014 Winter Games. Armin’s nickname is “Ice Blood,” and you”ll see why if you watch his 2002 Salt Lake City luge run on YouTube. Luge is one of those sports that require constant daily training, constant care of your equipment, and such fine-tuning that the winners and losers are judged by thousandths of a second. It’s the most precisely timed sport in the world.
The Italians feel so strongly about Armin ZÃ¶ggeler’s six-medals-in-six-Olympics feat that they”ve asked him to carry the national flag in opening and closing ceremonies three times. He was only able to accept twice because the other time would have interfered with his training runs.
The other six-in-six Olympian is a woman from Southern California. She should have been asked to carry the flag at the closing ceremonies in Rio. I have nothing but respect for Simone Biles and her five medals in gymnastics, but this sixth medal in six Olympic Games was not only a once-in-a-century achievement, it was also accomplished by a 37-year-old woman who was fighting injuries, who was struggling against decades of sexism in her sport’s Olympic organization, who has to train by herself while raising a 3-year-old son, and who had to learn a whole new sport halfway through her medal run because the Olympics decided only men could compete in her preferred event.
It would have been a phenomenal milestone simply for her to compete in six Olympics, but 130 other people have done that. Most of those six-time athletes came from smaller countries where it was easy to qualify. Not so for our American champion. She had to re-qualify each time for one of only two American slots in a sport where a single mistake can mean the difference between winning and fifth place, and then she had to earn her medals in the most competitive sport in the world”more nations compete in her event than in any other sport.
Wouldn”t it have been fitting to follow the tradition established in many past Olympics in which a very senior athlete with a long record of victory is honored by being asked to carry the flag? That’s what was done at the opening ceremonies, when Michael Phelps carried the American flag to show respect for his earth-shattering records in swimming. That’s what Great Britain was doing when it had 36-year-old field-hockey captain Kate Richardson-Walsh carry the Union Jack. That was the idea behind 40-year-old volleyball player Sergey Tetyukhin hoisting the colors for Russia. That was why Germany handed its flag to Timo Boll, a 35-year-old table-tennis player.
But our champion didn”t even get a Bob Costas interview. Don”t get me wrong, I wouldn”t wish a Bob Costas interview on anyone, but as the principal commentator on NBC, the network that paid $1.23 billion for broadcast rights, you would think Costas could take two minutes to say, “Hey, nice work. Six medals in six Olympics. The only woman to ever come close to that. Mind-blowing.” Instead you had to go to the NBC YouTube channel, or the NBC website, or catch the 15-second wrap-up at the end of the day. The BBC did a better job of covering the event and Great Britain didn”t even have anyone in the finals.
Bob Costas did, however, do an extended interview with Shaun White, another Southern Californian. Remember Shaun White, the snowboarder whose medal count in the 2014 Sochi Olympics was…zero? Yeah, that Shaun White. He was hanging around Rio for some reason and Bob apparently thought we would like that warm, fuzzy “reality-show reject” feeling you get when you see a self-promoting skater dude in board shorts.
Let’s face it, though, nobody was gonna go out of their way to congratulate Kimberly Rhode, because Kimberly Rhode carries a shotgun.
She carries, to be precise, a custom-made Beretta DT11, which is the second gun she’s competed with ever since “Old Faithful,” the competition Perazzi she used for 18 years, was stolen by crackheads who broke into a locked compartment of her pickup while she was inside a shopping center in Lake Elsinore. That was in 2008, and even though a dedicated Riverside County sheriff’s detective recovered the gun a year later, she had already started practicing with a new one and had made adjustments for the altered recoil and ammo load.
And while we”re on the subject of ammo load, Kimberly Rhode is so well-known in shooting circles that the Winchester Repeating Arms Company of New Haven, Conn., developed a special shotgun shell just for her, with a load that reduces the recoil on her overtaxed right shoulder. Here’s a wow fact for you: Kimberly is one of only four people pictured on a Winchester ammunition box since the founding of the company in 1855. The other three are company founder Oliver Winchester, Teddy Roosevelt, and John Wayne.
The reduced-recoil ammo was especially important after she had a difficult pregnancy in 2013 followed by gallbladder surgery and a series of medical complications that made her unable to walk for an extended period and only at 70 percent of her physical capacity going into the Rio Olympics. Since she’s one of the most bubbly, upbeat, optimistic people ever to wear an American uniform, she didn”t mention any of this in her press interviews. She simply bucked up and got it done.
And she did it the hard way. In the qualifying round of women’s skeet, she hit 72 out of 75 targets, just one behind Meng Wei of China.
In the semifinals, in which six women fire at 16 targets to determine who advances to the gold and bronze rounds, Chiara Cainero of Italy was a perfect 16-for-16 and her teammate Diana Bascosi missed once, meaning Italy locked up gold and silver. But three shooters had missed twice, resulting in a sudden-death shoot-off between Meng Wei, Kimberly Rhode, and the No. 1-ranked shooter in the world, 22-year-old Morgan Craft of Muncy Valley, Penn., which is an unincorporated dot on the map in the Pocono Mountains.
In a three-way sudden-death shoot-off for two positions, the first one to miss…loses. No pressure there.
Each woman shot three perfect rounds. On the fourth try, one of them lost concentration and broke”and it was Morgan Craft. Kimberly Rhode had fought her way into the bronze-medal match with a chance to make history.
The bronze-medal round always has a drama that the gold medal round lacks”because both competitors for gold are already assured of a medal. In a sport like skeet, where everything is about composure and steadiness, stakes like that can be overwhelming.
Adding to the pressure was that this had now become one of the most dramatic moments of any Olympics, since one shot by either woman could either establish a virtually unbreakable record or send Kim back to the ranks of Olympians who “almost did it.” On this day the bleachers were full.
On the first shot, nerves got the better of both women. Both of them missed. These are women who routinely hit 95 out of 100 moving targets, so it had to be the atmosphere.
And who could blame them? Shooting is a sport that normally occurs in quiet environments”duck blinds, gun ranges, open fields, places like Tillar, Ark., where the Olympic trials were held earlier this year. You”ve probably never been to Tillar (population: 222), but I have, and let’s just say that you won”t be accessing Uber on your smartphone while you”re out there. The closest thing to a tourist attraction around Tillar is the ruins of the World War II Japanese internment camp, famous because one of its inmates was George Takei, who would go on to play Commander Sulu on Star Trek. Tillar also has a mosquito population normally found only in Irwin Allen disaster movies. Nobody goes to Tillar to be a spectator.
But then there’s that one time, every four years, when a large crowd sits in the stands to watch the Olympics, roaring at every burst pigeon and audibly sighing when a clay is missed. It’s a big adjustment for a shooter, since your whole body has to be relaxed while you rest the gun on your hip, wait for the pigeon to be released, raise the gun to your shoulder, swing it horizontally in coordination with a four-inch disk traveling at 58.6 feet per second, lead it by several feet, and fire within the 1.7 seconds it remains in the kill zone. In the doubles part of the event, you have to fire twice in the kill zone at objects that are traveling in opposite directions.
In the Rhode/Wei shoot-off for the bronze medal, suspense ran so high that every single shot resulted in cheers from the crowd”until the final shot was fired. That would be the shot in the seventh round when Meng Wei missed.
Kimberly Rhode had been in situations like that before. Kimberly Rhode sings a song in her head while she’s shooting so that she won”t be too concentrated on the job at hand and her muscle memory will take over. Sometimes she tweets between rounds to take her mind off the competition. In the past, when she’s been in arenas where people were cheering, she has started to tear up and her friends and family have worried that the tears would cloud her vision and she wouldn”t be able to see the next pigeon. On this day, the tears didn”t flow freely until the final moment, when the crowd rose for a standing ovation. One of the people who rose with them was Thomas Bach, the German lawyer who currently serves as President of the International Olympic Committee. I have to assume that Bach is a busy man, seeing as he runs the most complicated sporting event in the world, but he made his way out to the Olympic Shooting Centre, in a western suburb of Rio, because he “wanted to see history made.”
And he did see it made. Even if Bob Costas didn”t. Even if NBC didn”t. Even if most Americans didn”t because they were too preoccupied with reports that day about Ryan Lochte ripping up a gas-station restroom and lying to his mother.
Normally I don”t believe in “media conspiracy” theories, but when we have a president and a highly visible presidential candidate constantly making antigun statements, repeatedly trying to reclassify sporting weapons as assault weapons, blaming terrorism on gun ownership, you have to wonder whether politics don”t filter down into the choice of flag bearers and the decisions about media exposure. Kimberly Rhode is a member of the National Rifle Association and an outspoken supporter of the Second Amendment. How could she not be? She started hunting rabbits and doves at age 3, armed with a BB gun and a pellet gun, and she learned to shoot competitively at age 10 through a free program sponsored by the NRA. At age 12 she went on her first safari.
Sociologists often talk or write nonsense. Sometimes they dress up the bleeding obvious in pretentious language. Sometimes they merely seem determined to demonstrate that they are more intelligent and understand things better than the rest of us. And sometimes this makes them seem fools or greater fools than perhaps they may be. The Olympic Games offered a nice example of sociology-speak from one Peter Kaufman, associate professor of sociology at the State University of New York.
It was provoked by the booing of the French pole-vaulter Renaud Lavillenie by a number of Brazilian fans. He was competing for the gold medal against the Brazilian Thiago Braz da Silva, and found the booing to which he was subjected distressing. It may”I don”t know”have affected his performance. At any rate the Brazilian won gold, the Frenchman silver, and afterward Lavillenie compared the Brazilian fans to Nazis booing Jesse Owens at the 1936 Berlin Games. This was a bit over-the-top, and indeed Lavillenie later apologized for making the comparison. Fair enough, you may say; end of matter.
However, up stepped the brave professor to put Lavillenie right, and to complain of what he called “the backlash towards the home fans.” “I find it interesting,” he said, “that people are not looking at the fact that crowd behavior is a matter of cultural values. Why,” he asked, “is the way Brazilians cheer or jeer “wrong”? What we know as reality is shaped by the environment we grew up in. Academics regard jeering as a form of social interaction.”
Well, I suppose it is. This doesn”t, however, mean that this “form of social interaction” isn”t unsporting, ill-mannered, and even plain nasty. Suppose that Professor Kaufman is met with boos and jeers when he stands up to deliver a lecture at his university, how would he respond? Would he say, “Nice piece of social interaction,” or would he be offended, even perhaps a little hurt? I may be wrong, but I guess he would condemn the jeering and booing as, at the very least, inappropriate behavior. It might be a “form of social interaction” that didn”t greatly appeal to him.
The Olympics, he tells us, “have a much broader meaning””than what?””and when Brazilians boo they might actually be defying authority rather than only trying to influence the outcome of a match.”
Well, I suppose it’s just possible that when they boo a French pole-vaulter they are really expressing their dislike of their own government, but if you believe that, you probably can get yourself a job teaching sociology. Those of us not gifted with the good professor’s insight would have had no doubt that the Brazilian fans were trying to upset the Frenchman, disturb his concentration, affect his performance, and help secure victory for their own Brazilian hero.
Still, the professor is, I”m happy to say, a generous and understanding fellow. Asked if the victim of booing”which in other circumstances he might define as “verbal abuse””mightn”t quite reasonably be upset, angered, or distressed, he replied:
The targets of booing can be excused for feeling offended, sad, or even threatened by a raucous crowd. We can”t blame them for not having time to think of cultural aspects when they are more worried about sporting performance.
No doubt if Renaud Lavillenie had had the benefit of Professor Kaufman’s schooling he would have shrugged his shoulders, said “It’s just their culture,” and gone on to win gold. Perhaps, thanks to the professor, he”ll know better and do better next time.
Still, friend Kaufman wasn”t finished yet, not by a long chalk.
“It’s understandable that the French athlete got upset, but he was competing against a Brazilian athlete in front of a home crowd. It was inevitable that the fans would pick on him.”
Our sociologist seems to have a low view of human nature. It’s not inevitable at all. It may sadly be common in some sports and some places, but inevitable it isn”t. It was long the convention in rugby union that the crowd observed silence when a player was taking a kick at goal. This convention is now often disregarded. It’s disregarded in France and, I”m sorry to say, in Edinburgh, but not everywhere. In Dublin there is almost always complete silence when a player from either team is lining up a kick at goal. Even when a successful kick might cost Ireland the match, the crowd falls silent. You could, as they say, hear a pin drop. It’s a matter of good manners and of respect for the conventions and the spirit of rugby. An Irish crowd is as passionate as any, but it knows how to behave.
Still, our sociologist will have none of it. He has no sympathy with calls for crowd behavior to be curbed.
“Sport is passionate and exciting,” he says. So indeed it is; we may all agree on that and wouldn”t wish it to be otherwise. But he tells us that we must understand that “people are making political statements.” Well, sometimes, doubtless, they are. He gives two examples.
“First, he says, “Brazilian fans booed Russian athletes because of the doping allegations.” Perhaps that was indeed why they booed. I”ll take his word for it. Nevertheless it was still unfair, because all the Russian athletes who competed in Rio had been cleared to do so by the various Olympic committees and were therefore entitled to compete. Then it was nasty because there was no good reason to hold individual athletes responsible for the sins of other athletes or state-sponsored doping. Some of the individual Russian athletes, who natural justice requires us to consider innocent of wrongdoing, were visibly distressed by the reception they got, and their performance suffered. But the professor approves of what he considers to have been “a political statement” directed nastily at individuals. I think he’s wrong and foolish to do so.
The second political statement of which he approves was made by Brazilian fans who “picked on Argentine fans because of the soccer rivalry between the two nations.” Well, this is more understandable and arguably acceptable, but intense rivalry doesn”t mean that there aren”t proper limits to what is appropriate. I have sat beside English supporters at Scotland-England rugby internationals without feeling the need to insult or abuse them”and vice versa. There are right ways and wrong ways to behave.