breaking news from the world of ideas

by Peter Franklin
Thursday, 21
January 2021
Idea
07:00

Does good taste excuse grand corruption?

It’s been called ‘Putin’s secret palace’ — a £1billion complex built upon on the Black Sea coast. But contrary to the impression given by the latest set of breathless reports, the existence of the palace is not a secret. It’s been known about (though shrouded in mystery) for several years.

As to its ownership, the Kremlin denies it was built for the use of the Russian President — or that he has any relationship to the project. That is disputed by opposition activists — most recently Alexei Navalny, who was detained on his return to Russia this week.

At first sight, a palace might not seem to be the smartest way of hiding ill-gotten gains. If secrecy is of the essence, then a store of value that can be seen from space isn’t exactly subtle. A Swiss bank account is discreet; a private estate 19 times the size of Monaco, not so much. ...  Continue reading

by UnHerd
Wednesday, 20
January 2021
Spotted
19:01

Tears everywhere at the departure of Trump

Presidential inaugurations are always an emotional affair, but today’s certainly were a grade above. This time remarkable numbers of America’s best and brightest struggled to keep the tears at bay… Did we miss any?

https://twitter.com/VeraWang/status/1351964765019656196?s=20

A skinny Black girl descended from slaves…I am in tears. ...  Continue reading

by Theo Davies-Lewis
Wednesday, 20
January 2021
Reaction
17:11

The future looks bleak for Welsh Conservatism

For all the talk of a ‘devolution revolution’ from Paul Davies, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, he is not leading by example. Reports emerged last night that he and his top lieutenants were drinking alcohol in the Senedd before Christmas (allegedly until 2am), days after a ban on serving it in pubs took effect.

Davies is “profoundly sorry” but growing numbers of candidates and activists are calling on him to resign — angered not only by the breach of the ‘spirit’ of Covid restrictions, but incensed that their leader was enjoying himself with a Labour member in the ‘Cardiff Bay Bubble’ that growing numbers of Welsh Tories want to destroy. ...  Continue reading

by Dominic Sandbrook
Wednesday, 20
January 2021
Reaction
11:10

Donald Trump’s 1776 Report is a comical own goal

The debate about American history is over. The scholars can put down their pens; the archivists can start locking up. In a parting gift to a grateful nation, Donald Trump’s 1776 Commission has spoken. For generations to come their report on the ‘history and principles of the founding of the United States’ will stand at the centre of American historiography.

I’m joking, of course. The report is terrible. But first, a bit of background.

Mr Trump set up the 1776 Commission last autumn, during his doomed re-election campaign. It was an obvious riposte to the New York Times’s much-criticised 1619 Project, which argued that the true date of the nation’s founding was actually 1619, when the first African slaves were brought to Virginia. Even the American Revolution, it claimed, was driven by a desire to protect slavery. There was no escaping this original sin. ...  Continue reading

by Elizabeth Oldfield
Wednesday, 20
January 2021
Idea
08:35

The two faces of Christianity in Joe Biden’s America

In the lead up to the presidential inauguration, when Joe Biden will put his hand on a Bible and swear to defend the Constitution (so help him God), the US has been occupied with two very different faces of political Christianity.

The first has been burnt into memories by a goat-horned shaman, covered in tattoos of the Norse pantheon, thanking Almighty God and a very New Age “white light” for “allowing” the Capitol insurgents to “send a message to communists, globalists and traitors” in the Senate chamber. Ridiculous, yes; heretical, almost definitely; but followed by pastors and many bearing Jesus banners. ...  Continue reading

by UnHerd
Tuesday, 19
January 2021
Idea
18:03

Get ready for the age of long lockdowns

Long Covid’ refers to the symptoms that some people suffer many months after infection with SARS-CoV-2. It is not a straightforward continuation of the initial crisis — indeed many of the symptoms are completely different.

Looking ahead, we need to prepare for a parallel between the disease and the public policies designed to control its spread. Just as there’s a long Covid there will be a long lockdown.

Vaccination should mean an end to the lockdowns we’ve experienced so far. Step by step, life will return to normal. Households will be allowed to mix again. Schools, shops, pubs and restaurants will re-open. We might even stop wearing masks. ...  Continue reading

by Debbie Hayton
Tuesday, 19
January 2021
Reaction
10:45

Yelling ‘transphobia’ is not an argument

If you haven’t already read Abigail Shrier’s book Irreversible Damage, you should. Shrier scrutinised the transgender craze that is ravaging the lives of teenage girls. She asked questions others avoid and talked to survivors who now regret the hasty and unwise choices they made as children; decisions that left some with mastectomy scars. The Economist listed it as a Book of the Year.

Predictably, Shrier’s book upset that militant band of transgender activists who demand affirmation despite the cost. Last weekend, their apoplexy hit the stratosphere following a review in The Irish Independent. ...  Continue reading

by Henry Hill
Tuesday, 19
January 2021
Debate
07:00

Mark Drakeford has finally dropped the ball

Of all the bizarre and counter-productive decisions made by those in charge during the pandemic, Mark Drakeford’s decision to deliberately slow the Welsh vaccine rollout might be the worst.

The First Minister has decided to space out the distribution of Cardiff’s existing vaccine stocks so that those administering the jabs aren’t left for weeks with ‘nothing to do’ until the next shipment comes in. As a result, thousands of vulnerable people are going to be left unnecessarily unprotected.

The backlash has been fierce, and not just from Labour’s traditional opponents. But to those familiar with Welsh politics, this latest blunder will not come a surprise. (That Scotland is somehow doing even worse might, though.) ...  Continue reading