Maggot Cheese: Pass

Many of our readers know that here at Yet, Freedom! we are big fans of the Mediterranean environment, culture, and food. After all, as Samuel Johnson said, “The grand object of all travel is to see the shores of the Mediterranean.” But in the case of Sardinia’s maggot cheese, we’re taking a pass.

EU bureaucrats have banned sale of the cheese, although it is still being produced. The bureaucrats really should back off and leave people to their own traditions, even if disgusting.

Gordon Ramsey – Maggot Cheese

The End of History–Not

In the wake of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Francis Fukuyama published his famous essay, “The End of History?”, which he later expanded into a best-selling book. Fukuyama essentially argued that the resolution of the Cold War pointed to the ultimate triumph of Western classical liberalism, broadly defined, as the only viable alternative for humanity.

“What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government.”

Twenty years ago, Fukuyama’s thesis was the ‘hot take’ in intellectual circles, and it catapulted him to celebrity status. But this month, a referendum was held in Turkey. And the result of that referendum blows Fukuyama out of the water.

Now, when most Americans hear ‘Turkey’, what comes first to mind is a sandwich option, rather than the country. But the country is important. Turkey’s population is larger than that of Britain or France, and Turkey is very strategically located between Europe and the Middle East. And now, following the referendum this month, Turkey has officially defected from its 90-year alliance with the West and allegiance to Western values.

Well farewell then Turkey.  Or at least, farewell the Turkey of Kemal Ataturk.  It’s a shame.  Ataturk-ism nearly made its own centenary.

But the nation that he founded, which believed broadly in progressive notions such as a separation of mosque and state, has just been formally snuffed out.  President Erdogan’s success in the referendum to award himself Caliph-like powers for life finally sees the end of Turkey’s secular and democratic experiment.

Turkey is gone.

Ataturk’s revolution was remarkable. He took a country that had been for hundreds of years Islamist and backward and hostile to the West and Western values and turned it around and made it a modern, progressive nation, allied with the West. Ataturk’s logic was essentially the same as Fukuyama’s–the only viable way forward is through classical liberalism: representative democracy, free markets, and the rule of law. Ataturk’s remarkable revolution had a good run of nearly 100 years.

But even though Fukuyama’s thesis implies that Ataturk was on the right side of history, his revolution is over. According to what everybody came to believe 20 years ago, this wasn’t supposed to happen. The Turkish referendum was an explicit rejection of The End of History.

There’s another lesson here, and that is the role of birth rates. Mark Steyn argues that Turkey steadily moved toward Islam and away from secularism due to the fact that religious and rural Turks in the East outbred secular and urban Turks in the West.

Since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, there have been two Turkeys: the Turks of Rumelia, or European Turkey, and the Turks of Anatolia, or Asia Minor. Kemal Atatürk was from Rumelia and so were most of his supporters, and they imposed the modern Turkish Republic on a somewhat relunctant Anatolia, where Atatürk’s distinction between the state and Islam was never accepted. In its 80-year history, the population has increased from 14 million in 1923 to 70 million today, but the vast bulk of that population growth has come from Anatolia, whose population has migrated from the rural hinterland to overwhelm the once solidly Kemalist cities. Atatürk’s modern secular Turkey has simply been outbred by fiercely Islamic Turkey.

Fukuyama in his book briefly and breezily dismissed Islamism as a viable alternative to Western liberalism. In response, Samuel Huntington in 1993 published “The Clash of Civilizations?” in which he argued that history had not come to an end, and that in particular, Islam would pose a formidable challenge to the West.

Huntington 1, Fukuyama 0.

Music in Our Culture: How Much Has Been Lost

I liked the following youtube comment by “TLM”. It refers to a clip of Mario Lanza’s performance of “vesti la giubba”, from the 1959 film For the First Time.

Mario Lanza Vesti La Giubba 1958 Widescreen

Yeah, it’s easy to go through life in contemporary America and never even find out that opera and classical music exist. The stuff hardly gets any exposure, except as the occasional background music on a TV commercial. That’s a shame, because even though opera and classical are not for everyone, in fact probably not for most people, a lot more people might nonetheless appreciate this music if only they got more exposure to it.

At my gym the speakers constantly blare hip-hop and rap, even though my gym’s clientele does not generally fit the typical demographic for those genres. The other day, one of the members talked an employee into shutting the music off, and the silence was welcomed by the rest of us who were working out. Another member commented that he was sick of the fact that, at high school basketball games, the music is always that same sort of “garbage.”

It wasn’t always like this in America. During the 1950s, America boasted a thriving middle-brow culture. In 1955, attendance at classical music concerts exceeded attendance at major league baseball games. In the early ’60s, Leonard Bernstein’s classical concerts were broadcast on national network television, sometimes during prime time. Prime time Shostakovich is unimaginable today. Young people have no idea how much has been lost. Sad.

But getting back to Mario Lanza, he had an amazing voice, and is in fact my favorite tenor. Which is surprising, because he was just a movie singer and not a real professional opera singer, kind of like The Monkees weren’t a real group, but just played one on TV. Lanza’s breakthrough movie was The Great Caruso (1951) in which he played the legendary tenor. But Lanza, the actor playing Caruso, was actually a better singer than the legend himself, if you can believe it.

Unfortunately, Lanza had a problem with overeating, and died prematurely at just 38 years of age.

Americans Getting Lonelier: Fake News?

We live in an information age in which an overabundance of data is available at our fingertips. But how reliable is that information?

A bit more than a week ago, the following article in the New York Times caught my attention.

I found the article’s headline statistic particularly arresting.

Social isolation is a growing epidemic — one that’s increasingly recognized as having dire physical, mental and emotional consequences. Since the 1980s, the percentage of American adults who say they’re lonely has doubled from 20 percent to 40 percent.

I was so disturbed by this statistic, that it stuck with me, and sometime later I quoted it in conversation with someone. But is the statistic true? What is the source?

The article in the Times contains a hyperlink that goes to an article at… Hmmm. The Slate article is from 2013, and says the following:

Loneliness has doubled: 40 percent of adults in two recent surveys said they were lonely, up from 20 percent in the 1980s.

Despite the reference to two surveys, the article links to only one, a survey conducted by AARP back in 2010. That survey is available in pdf format here. The survey came to the following conclusion:

Overall, a little over one-third (35%) of the survey respondents were lonely, as measured by a score of 44 or higher on the UCLA loneliness scale.

So the real figure is 35%, not 40%. An interview in Fortune from last summer falsely inflates this figure a bit more, to “40% to 45%.”

Looking from a few different sources of data, it seems that way. The percentage of Americans who responded that they regularly or frequently felt lonely was between 11% and 20% in the 1970s and 1980s [the percentage varied depending on the study].

In 2010 , the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) did a nationally representative study in 2010 and found it was closer to 40% to 45%.

Note that the Fortune story also repeats the claim that only 20% were lonely back in the 1980s or 1970s. A search of the AARP report, however, turns up no references whatsoever to the 1970s or 1980s. I have no idea what the source is for this claim about lower rates of loneliness in those decades.

Furthermore, AARP did not perform a “nationally representative survey” of “adults.” AARP surveyed only “older adults” above the age of 45. The report says nothing about the happiness of Americans below the age of 45.

So to summarize, an AARP survey found that 35% of Americans over age 45 are lonely, and multiple prominent national publications turn that into 40% or 45% of all American adults, and add the claim, without citation, that this figure has doubled since the 1980s.

The New York Times no doubt considers itself the gold standard of professional journalism, but pulling headline statistics unverified from Slate, a clickbait webzine, doesn’t seem like best practice.

Loneliness might in fact be on the rise, but none of these articles offers any good reason for believing it.

In the modern world, we do have access to more information than ever, but pari passu, we also have access to more misinformation than ever.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Last summer I was fortunate to get to see this famous painting at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The guide at the museum noted that it is the painting that visitors most often ask to see.

All the people depicted are real, since Rockwell always worked with live models. The man standing behind the turkey lady, however, is not her real husband. Rockwell decided that her real husband for some reason did not fit the part, so he used a different model.


No Ceasefire in the War on (Pale) Males

The ruling class doesn’t like pale male voters because they are not sufficiently compliant and deferential. To borrow a line from Bertolt Brecht, the ruling class wants therefore to dissolve the people and elect another.


If that hate speech is not explicit enough for you, there’s more below. And the person who produced it is right now on the campaign trail with Hillary.

Hell Hath No Fury

Some guy in Barrington, Rhode Island, wrote a letter to the editor saying that older women shouldn’t be going around in yoga pants.

Alan Sorrentino wrote to the Barrington Times about his dislike of yoga pants. He said women over age 20 shouldn’t wear them.

‘‘Yoga pants belong in the yoga studio,’’ he wrote. ‘‘What’s next? Wearing a ‘‘Speedo’’ to the supermarket? Imagine if men did that. Yuck!’’

Then all hell broke loose.

The saga began Wednesday with a letter to the editor in a local Rhode Island newspaper criticizing women over 20 who wear yoga pants in public. Quickly, it snowballed into a “Yoga Pants Parade” Sunday afternoon with hundreds of people walking past the letter writer’s house — and a few death threats, according to the author, who said he had only intended satire…The backlash was immediate, passionate, and international.

Sorrentino disagreed as the walkers passed his Knapton Street home, where he had put up a sign bearing the words “FREE SPEECH.”

Barrington police officers stood on the edge of the property while some people in the street paused to take photos of the home.

Sorrentino said he received death threats, which he reported to the police. Someone wrote in chalk on the street outside his house that morning, identifying him as the resident.

“Every little bump, every little noise,” he said. “I lock my car, I lock my windows, I lock my house — I’ve locked myself out of my house twice.”

Two billion people in the world don’t have electricity, and a billion people in China live under a police state where the government, anytime it wants, can make a person disappear. But hey, some guy in Rhode Island hurt the feels of middle-aged, middle-class women by pointing out they’re not 20 anymore.

“I don’t get involved in much in the way of protests and marches and all of that, but this just brought me out because the guy’s letter was offensive,” said Ellen Taylor at the parade, who sported a neon yellow shirt with the words “ ‘MATURE OLDER WOMAN’ in yoga pants” written on it.

“It’s OK if you’re 20 and gorgeous to wear yoga pants, but don’t do it if you’re older and lumpy and bumpy?” she asked.

What got Ellen Taylor off the couch and marching in a protest:


What did not get Ellen Taylor off the couch:


OK, that happened in the UK, not the US, but you get the point.

All I have to say is that these yoga pants protesters are narcissistic, solipsistic, and just plain awful. Their selfish and bourgeois insularity lies at the heart of much of what is wrong with America today.

Peak Baby Boomer

Like a lot of people, I was both surprised and amused to hear that Bob Dylan, who is not an author, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. A week before the announcement a London betting site gave Dylan a 2 percent chance of winning, but even that slim chance caused The New Republic to write:

Bob Dylan 100 percent is not going to win. Stop saying Bob Dylan should win the Nobel Prize.

And yet it happened. So: William Butler Yeats, Thomas Mann, William Faulkner, Boris Pasternak, Bob Dylan. One of those names does not belong.

How did this happen? The fact is that hardly anybody gives a fig about Bob Dylan except baby boomers. In human society, most leadership positions are usually filled by people in their 50s and 60s, and right now, that’s baby boomers. So at the moment, the baby boomers are in charge, and they have given us Bob Dylan as the Nobel laureate in literature. They also gave us the Clinton Crime Family.

But the Boomers did most of their damage to America’s culture long ago. Prior to the Boomers, America had a thriving ‘high-brow’, or at least ‘middle-brow’ culture. In 1955, classical music concerts had greater total attendance than did major league baseball. In 1958, Leonard Bernstein started producing his Young People’s Concerts, intended to introduce kids to the joys of classical music. The programming, however, included pretty heavy stuff like Bach, Liszt, and Shostakovich, and was watched mostly by adults, not kids. Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts ran for several years on TV, including three seasons in prime time on CBS. For CBS to run a Shostakovich concert in prime time today seems unimaginable.

Those Americans not into ‘long hair’ music usually enjoyed jazz or well-crafted show tunes by the likes of Gilbert and Sullivan, Rodgers and Hammerstein, or Cole Porter.

America’s cultural landscape was not just musical, but also literary. During World War Two, book publishers created a generation of readers by sending free books to troops serving overseas. The so-called Armed Services Editions were small, compact paperbacks that soldiers could easily carry with them. During the war, a staggering 122 million such books were produced. Many soldiers continued their reading habits after returning from the war. In those days, it was not unusual for people who did not even have high school diplomas to read more books than the typical college graduate does today.

But then, starting in the 1960s, the baby boomers tore down America’s cultural life. They replaced classical music and show tunes with rock. They argued amongst themselves about who was greater, the Beatles or the Stones. Answer: they both suck.

Oh well. There’s nothing to be done except to wait for the boomers to pass from the scene and to be temporarily replaced in power by Gen X. The boomers gave Bob Dylan a Nobel, but I’m guessing that Gen Xers are not so flaky and solipsistic as to want to give one to Kurt Cobain (if he had lived). We shall see.

Chris Matthews Explains What is Going On

Our old professor Tyler Cowen is proprietor of the highly successful economics blog Marginal Revolution. Back in May, Tyler was perplexed by the political news from this most extraordinary year in politics, and so he made a post entitled “What the hell is going on?”.

Donald Trump may get the nuclear suitcase, a cranky “park bench” socialist took Hillary Clinton to the wire, many countries are becoming less free, and the neo-Nazi party came very close to assuming power in Austria.  I could list more such events.

Haven’t you, like I, wondered what is up?  What the hell is going on?

Tyler didn’t seem very sure of the answer, and the best he could come up with was to blame a subset of men for being “brutes.”

The contemporary world is not very well built for a large chunk of males. The nature of current service jobs, coddled class time and homework-intensive schooling, a feminized culture allergic to most forms of violence, post-feminist gender relations, and egalitarian semi-cosmopolitanism just don’t sit well with many…what shall I call them? Brutes? [Emphases in original.]

Well, I would inform Tyler that one of the main things currently roiling the political scene is that many people are fed up with political correctness, including that aspect of our “feminized culture” that reflexively blames men for every problem.

But if Tyler wanted a more complete explanation of what is going on, all he had to do was watch the short video, embedded below, of Chris Matthews giving a speech back in October, almost a full year ago.

As Matthews explains, ordinary Americans are angry because they feel betrayed by the political class. And ordinary Americans have some pretty good reasons for feeling betrayed, because for a number of years now they’ve had to endure a political class that can’t pass a budget, piles up government debt as far as the eye can see, and won’t defend the nation’s borders from foreign interlopers. The political class practices all this dysfunction while at the same time adding insult to injury by looking down on the working classes and refusing to take seriously their very real concerns.

Chris Matthews is rather liberal and I disagree with him on most issues, but his analysis in this case is pretty spot on.