For art’s sake, vote no

7 08 2012

First thing I’ve had time to write in a while. Now appearing, a little belatedly, at the Michigan View.

It would be a genuine surprise if the trio of Arts Authority millages — the basis of the so-called Detroit Institute of Arts tax — failed to pass tomorrow. Simply compare the number of “Vote Yes” yard signs in the front yards of high-end homes and boutique shops to the non-existent “Vote No” signs that opponents of the measure have apparently been too embarrassed to produce.

And it’s scarcely surprising that opponents have been largely mute (save for a few brave voices here at the View). The millages are so easy to support: Just vote yes, and for a few paltry dollars a year we can keep art alive in Detroit. It’s a reasonable proposition. So reasonable, in fact, that any critic must be either an art-hating philistine or a greedy elitist. In any case, an individual certainly unfit for polite, cultured company and undeserving of future dinner party invitations.

I would be unsuitable for said dinner parties. Forcing taxpayers to support cultural institutions is not only morally unjustifiable — it ignores the historical factors that led to the creation of the DIA and the decline that set the stage for its current predicament.

For historical perspective, I’ll cite an expert on the formative years of the DIA: Read the rest of this entry »


The national bloodbath that never happened

20 06 2012

Take desperate individuals trapped by a lack economic opportunity, add in record firearm sales, and — just for the heck of it — set it all against the much-hyped “climate of hate” turning Americans against each other as never before. It’s practically a recipe for a national bloodbath.

And if you search hard enough, you can certainly find parts of the country where that apocalyptic scenario seems to be playing out. Look at Detroit. Fairly or not, the Motor City is used as a national — even international —  example of what happens when society breaks down. It’s the New Wild West, which, as turns out, is much, much worse than the old, not-so-wild West.

But Detroit is the exception, not the rule. Pockets of violence aside, Americans enjoyed a fifth straight year of decreased violence in 2011. Via Hot Air, a report that will disappoint the doomsayers and cheer just about everyone else:

The FBI is expected to report the final 2011 figures around the end of the summer. Assuming those figures match the current estimates, the nation’s murder rate has been cut by about 53 percent and the total violent crime rate has been cut by about 49 percent since 1991, when violent crime hit an all-time high. Stated another way, the nation’s murder rate has fallen to about a 48-year low, and the nation’s total violent crime rate has fallen to about a 41-year low.

Peace and prosperity: now available in an expanded range of calibers

The report comes courtesy of the NRA, so the FBI figures are naturally used to support the claim that more guns mean less crime. It’s a compelling argument, especially since the NRA cites the rise of laws making it easier for citizens to carry and use firearms defensively rather than simply boasting about the overall increase in the rate of gun ownership. But gun ownership and gun-friendly laws can’t tell the entire story of our increasingly civil society.

Read the rest of this entry »

Formula One racing – American as apple pie

10 06 2012

Formula One racing has never seen the type of domestic success enjoyed by, say, NASCAR.

F1’s image is undoubtedly part of it – there’s just something foreign about the series that extends beyond the marques represented on the track or the far-flung locations of the races themselves. I watched both the Monaco Grand Prix and a decent chunk of the Indianapolis 500 this past Memorial Day weekend. I’ll let you guess which race kicked off with a P-51 Mustang flyover.

Then there are the drivers. In the stock car racing satire Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, Sacha Baron Cohen’s effete, macchiato-sipping Jean Girard lampooned America’s perception of the typical F1 driver. His fictional sponsor was Perrier. Compare that to Ricky Bobby’s all-American Wonderbread backers.

Of course, real F1 drivers are not sniffy elitists but highly skilled athletes – and a quick glance at off-track politics reveals that that, ideologically speaking at least, the racing series and its participants may not be so foreign after all.

Take the events surrounding the Grand Prix of Canada. The race has been threatened by college students – let’s call them “Occupy Montreal” – protesting insignificant tuition increases and (of course) capitalism in general. F1 racing, a pursuit of the global One Percent, is an easy target. Read the rest of this entry »

Singapore, Land of the Free

7 06 2012

A would-be graffiti artist was recently arrested in Singapore, and if convicted of vandalism, the 25-year old woman faces fines and jail time — and even corporal punishment in the form of caning.

In a nation famously called “Disneyland with the Death Penalty,” the draconian discipline doled out for seemingly minor infractions like graffiti is hardly surprising. Still, Western nations seem to understand that Singapore’s medieval approach to crime and punishment, while apparently effective (the streets are clean, after all), is a rather high price to pay for a veneer of order.

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

Unfortunately, there’s no place on the planet where individuals exist in a state of absolute liberty. Singapore’s economic freedom must be weighed against the literal butt-whooping that awaits minor acts of criminal stupidity. Western Europe’s celebrated cultural liberalism comes with a burdensome, faltering welfare state attached. Read the rest of this entry »

Texas Karma Car-becue

10 05 2012

The Chevrolet Volt received quite a bit of negative press after one of the vehicles burst into flames late last year. Of course, the Volt specimen in question had been subjected to crash testing and then left for several days in a garage; barring negligence, the eco-mobile should not present any danger to those few souls actually interested in buying them.

While fears over the Volt’s safety have subsided, there’s a new Car of the Future in the hot seat: the Fisker Karma. First, we heard of how the $100k hybrid conked out less than 200 miles of testing, presumably a victim of glitchy software. At least the owners of non-functional Fiskers can commiserate with would-be drivers of “bricked” Tesla Roadsters – that particular all-electric sports car has a nasty habit of becoming a four-wheeled paperweight if left unattended for extended periods of time. At least those incidents only cost drivers their time (and money, in the case of the Tesla; replacement of its $40,000 battery is not covered under its warranty).

That can’t be said about the Karma’s most recently discovered design quirk, which manifested itself in a spectacular fashion last week. Read the rest of this entry »

Perspective and social justice

8 05 2012

Whatever the faults of our current economic and political system are (and there are many), we should at least acknowledge that, in relative terms, the poorest Westerners are better off than a decent chunk of the world’s population.

Conservative organizations like the Heritage Foundation have pointed out that even Americans living below the poverty line enjoy products and technologies that were luxuries a generation ago; these results are then trumpeted by proponents of free markets, who are quick to note that it is hard to call a household with multiple televisions, cars, and modern appliances truly impoverished. In a country where lower income individuals are more likely to be obese than starving, we might want to re-examine our understanding of the word poor.

Just don’t try making that point to a left-leaning friend acquaintance. I’ve tried. It doesn’t end well. So you don’t even think the poor should enjoy television or refrigerators!? is the usual response – as if I don’t want individuals of all income groups to benefit from our modern economic bounty. It’s an incredibly unproductive argument – and a frustrating one.

There’s a reason for this frustration. You can outline your favored position over and over again, but no amount of logical clarity will ever allow you to confer your perspective on another person. And perspective is everything; without it, you’re just talking past each other. Read the rest of this entry »

My Ears, They are A-Dyin’

5 05 2012

Remember the eagerly anticipated Occupy Wall Street benefit album? No?

Well, I managed to put it out of my mind as well. Until today.

Now, via Ace of Spades, you too can enjoy the vocal tour de force that is Michael Moore’s rendition of “The Times They are A-Changin'”… if you dare. You might want to set a side a few minutes for recovery deep mediation after listening:

It gets really bad at around the 1:10 mark (1:20 in the above video). Of course, this might just be the vanguard of a new Occupy strategy: flooding the market with terrible, terrible protest song covers until the One Percent voluntarily surrenders their wealth.

If Moore’s take on Dylan is any indication of what is to follow, that strategy might just work.