U2’s Bono Named Woman Of The Year

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Glamour magazine is so hard-stretched to find enough worthy female candidates for its Women of the Year shortlist that any progressive male with a decent track record of philanthropy is now in with a shot of winning the prize

Meanwhile, back in SJW-land, life goes on as normal… Glamour magazine has named Bono as one of its Women of the Year.

Now, parents can tell their daughters that one day they too can grow up to be Bono, that designer stubble-sporting, wraparound sunglasses-wearing crooner. Though of course in the age of identity politics, this was always self-evidently the case – it simply involves standing up, declaring that “I identity as the lead singer of Irish rock band and celebrity philanthropist U2” and then demanding that everybody else bow down and play along with your delusion, lest they be accused of intolerance or oppression.

But of course Glamour magazine is doing this to make a Worthy Point, and so we must all nod our heads at their little stunt and murmur “how provocative and brave”.

Christiane Amanpour gushingly writes in the magazine:

When humanitarian and rock icon Bono learned that he was being honored by Glamour as the first-ever Man of the Year, he called his wife of 34 years, Ali Hewson, to give her the news. “I asked did she think I deserved it. She wasn’t sure,” Bono tells me with a laugh. “She said I’ve work to do!”

U2’s front man has no doubts. “I’m sure I don’t deserve it,” he says. “But I’m grateful for this award as a chance to say the battle for gender equality can’t be won unless men lead it along with women. We’re largely responsible for the problem, so we have to be involved in the solutions.”

I’m on Glamour’s side: I think Bono is the perfect choice for this first-time honor because, now 56, he’s been trying to do good for as long as he’s been making music. I first met Bono, born Paul David Hewson, in Sarajevo over New Year’s 1996, shortly after peace accords ended the Bosnian civil war that November. It was the first time in four years that the guns were silent and the people of that beautiful city could celebrate by taking to the concert halls and cafés. I got pulled into a crowded car one night, heading for a party, and there was Bono. Our two-decade humanitarian friendship was launched.

And while my friend has sold 170 million albums and won 22 Grammys, what I admire most about him is his extraordinary talent for tackling problems that seem intractable—and making mighty and measurable gains. It’s not every superstar (or, for that matter, statesman) who can bring about $100 billion in debt cancellation for 35 of the world’s poorest countries, or persuade the U.S. government to pony up the largest contribution ever for lifesaving AIDS drugs in Africa, as President George W. Bush did in 2004.

Now Bono has created Poverty Is Sexist, a new campaign specifically aimed at helping the world’s poorest women—those who survive on less than $2 a day. “Women bear the burdens of poverty,” Bono says, meaning they are far less likely than men to have access to food, clean water, education, and health care; laws in many parts of the world don’t protect them from sexual violence or allow them to own the land they work. By establishing Poverty Is Sexist, Bono is making it clear that powerful men can, and should, take on these deep-rooted issues.

Poverty is sexist? Give me a break. By this alarmist logic, anything impacting men and women differently is inherently sexist, and therefore in need of immediate corrective action by government or other actors. Pregnancy? Utterly outrageous that women are left to bear the burden alone. Money should be poured into womb transplant research and artificial gestation technology so that men can either be surgically forced to bring 50 percent of new life to term themselves, or all of humanity can outsource the job to technology in the name of equality.

Real, grinding poverty – better thought of as the absence of wealth – is debilitating and responsible for nearly all of Beveridge’s famously identified Five Giant Evils. It should be tackled on that basis, not devalued and politicised by slapping an additional identity politics label onto poverty, as though calling it names will make it go away.

But a man winning an award designed for women?

The Telegraph’s Radhika Sanghani is unconvinced:

Glamour’s editor-in-chief Cindi Leive, tried to justify the decision: “We’ve talked for years about whether to honour a man at Women of the Year and we’ve always kind of put the kibosh on it. You know, men get a lot of awards and aren’t exactly hurting in the awards department. But it started to seem that that might be an outdated way of looking at things and there are so many men who really are doing wonderful things for women these days.”

Yes, there are. And none of these men who do “wonderful things for women these days” become women themselves by doing so.

Sanghani continues:

I know these decisions come from a good place. The UN’s appointment was probably meant to be a symbol to raise awareness, while Glamour referenced the #HeForShe movement as part of their reasoning for choosing Bono – saying gender equality will never be achieved unless privileged white men get on board.

Yet underneath the humour (see Tweet embeds for the best Bono jokes going around today) there is an uncomfortable feeling that no woman was good enough for the position. That Glamour couldn’t find a tenth inspiring woman deserving of the award, while the UN couldn’t find another Emma Watson to make empowerment appealing to the masses. Even Bono, gets it, telling the magazine: “I’m sure I don’t deserve it.”

There you have it; straight out of the 2016 Woman of the Year’s mouth – a man doesn’t deserve to have an award celebrating women. Who would have thought it?

I am less confident that these decisions come from a good place.

When Caitlyn Jenner won Glamour’s Woman of the Year award last year, at least the former Bruce Jenner made the effort to physically transition from male to female and begin living as the latter before being given her award. But those who worried about excessive fluidity in gender identity didn’t realise how quickly things would develop. Fast-forward just one year and now one might find oneself publicly declared a different gender just for doing a bit of charity work.

Together with some other individuals from my old firm, I once spent a day re-painting a community centre for elderly residents in east London, and another day teaching employment and job-searching skills to young NEET (not in employment, education or training) teenagers. Does that entitle me to be named as a contender for either Septuagenarian or Disadvantaged Kid of the Year?

We can trace this kind of stunt back to Bill Clinton – he who spoke of “super-predators” and did as much as anyone to promote mass incarceration – being lauded as the “first black president” back in 2008.

At one time we could dismiss stunts such as this from the Congressional Black Caucus as isolated incidents. But we seem to have reached critical mass with this phenomenon where it is now considered hip, edgy and provocative to deliberately misgender people, both as a way of generating controversy to keep public attention fixed on something increasingly irrelevant (print magazines) and to further undermine the idea of biological gender altogether.

This is becoming ridiculous. It is one thing for grown adults to declare that they wish to identify as a different gender – to which the polite response should be to comply with their request, no matter one’s personal stance on transgender issues. But it is another thing entirely for the media to start bestowing new gender identities on unwitting people as a signal of approval of their actions.

Gender is innate, and means far more than simply being a pat on the head for good work, even for a lifetime of charitable service. If U2’s Bono actually wants to be a woman, there is a clear and well-trodden path laid out for him to do so and many people will light the way with glowsticks and strew it with petals.

But assuming that he does not in fact want to become a woman, Bono should demonstrate real respect for women by refusing to participate in this insidious game, and decline the Glamour award.

 

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Top Image: Rene Romero, Wikimedia Commons

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The Clinton Foundation – Noble Charity Or Grubby Political Pay-To-Play Scheme?

Hillary Clinton - Bill Clinton - Clinton Foundation - CGI

Hillary and Bill Clinton continue to insist that there is nothing untoward in the way that their Clinton Foundation sought donations or interacted with the State Department when Hillary was Secretary of State. But how much smoke can there possibly be without fire?

It has been three days now since the Associated Press’s big investigative story detailing potentially concerning links between the charitable Clinton Foundation and individuals who managed to secure private meetings with Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State.

A flavour of the story:

More than half the people outside the government who met with Hillary Clinton while she was secretary of state gave money — either personally or through companies or groups — to the Clinton Foundation. It’s an extraordinary proportion indicating her possible ethics challenges if elected president.

At least 85 of 154 people from private interests who met or had phone conversations scheduled with Clinton while she led the State Department donated to her family charity or pledged commitments to its international programs, according to a review of State Department calendars released so far to The Associated Press. Combined, the 85 donors contributed as much as $156 million. At least 40 donated more than $100,000 each, and 20 gave more than $1 million.

Donors who were granted time with Clinton included an internationally known economist who asked for her help as the Bangladesh government pressured him to resign from a nonprofit bank he ran; a Wall Street executive who sought Clinton’s help with a visa problem; and Estee Lauder executives who were listed as meeting with Clinton while her department worked with the firm’s corporate charity to counter gender-based violence in South Africa.

The meetings between the Democratic presidential nominee and foundation donors do not appear to violate legal agreements Clinton and former president Bill Clinton signed before she joined the State Department in 2009. But the frequency of the overlaps shows the intermingling of access and donations, and fuels perceptions that giving the foundation money was a price of admission for face time with Clinton.

Obviously, the Clinton campaign sees it slightly differently.

From the Washington Post:

She dismissed as “ridiculous” Trump’s accusation at a rally in Tampa on Wednesday that Clinton had run the State Department like a “Third World country,” doling out favors and access in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation.

“My work as secretary of state was not influenced by any outside forces. I made policy decisions based on what I thought was right,” Clinton said. “I know there’s a lot of smoke and there’s no fire.”

Last week, the Clinton Foundation announced that it would no longer accept foreign donations or donations from corporations if Clinton is elected president in November.

So something which would be unacceptable if Hillary Clinton were president (taking money from foreign donors and entities) was perfectly fine when she was “only” the nation’s top diplomat?

Lots of smoke and yet no fire, the candidate’s own (rather smug) words.

There’s nothing to see here, we are continually told. Move along. Sleep easy in your beds. Everything about the Clinton Foundation is pure, noble and virtuous. There have never been dubious financial dealings, and nothing which might even fall into a morally grey area. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign isn’t resting on top of a powder keg of suspicion and scandal which could see Donald Trump snatch the election, or at least weaken Clinton to the extent that she effectively becomes an instant lame duck. No, nothing like that. Honest.

The American Conservative’s Patrick Buchanan – perhaps unsurprisingly – disagrees:

The stench is familiar, and all too Clintonian in character.

Recall. On his last day in office, January 20, 2001, Bill Clinton issued a presidential pardon to financier-crook and fugitive from justice Marc Rich, whose wife, Denise, had contributed $450,000 to the Clinton Library.

The Clintons appear belatedly to have recognized their political peril.

Bill has promised that, if Hillary is elected, he will end his big-dog days at the foundation and stop taking checks from foreign regimes and entities, and corporate donors. Cash contributions from wealthy Americans will still be gratefully accepted.

One wonders: will Bill be writing thank-you notes for the millions that will roll in to the family foundation—on White House stationery?

By his actions, Bill is all but conceding that there is a serious conflict of interest between his foundation raking in millions that enhance the family’s prestige and sustain its travel and lifestyle, and providing its big donors with privileged access to the secretary of state.

Yet if Hillary Clinton becomes president, the scheme is unsustainable. Even the Obama-Clinton media might not be able to stomach this.

In one sense, Hillary Clinton is right. At present there is lots of smoke – huge, billowing clouds of the stuff – but not one visible lick of flame. It may well remain like that. It may be that the remaining emails still to be released (and think on that: the world’s superpower having its democracy influenced by shadowy outside actors based on the poor decision-making of one of its presidential candidates) point to more potential tawdry sleaze, but with no smoking gun.

And let’s face it: both Hillary Clinton and her husband are highly accomplished lawyers and politicians – if they did engage in corruption, are they really likely to have left a smoking gun or to have dealt with people who could not be trusted to keep silent? Hardly.

So rather than any concrete ethical scandal which may or may not emerge, I think it again comes down to a question about bad decision-making by Hillary Clinton. The decision to go rogue and conduct State Department business from a bootleg private email server was appalling. Even if the State Department did not have clear protocols in place for how departmental emails should be managed, simply going off on one’s own and setting up a home server is an appalling idea. Under the American system of course there was nobody to stand up to Clinton when she made the decision. In countries like Britain, with a permanent civil service running the show in the background, Clinton’s homebrew server plan would have been slapped down within minutes of it being suggested.

And then there’s the Foundation. I get it: it must be difficult transitioning back to normal life after being president of the United States. One can hardly go back into business working at an ambulance-chasing law firm or a lobbying firm or corporate America. Neither is there an established tradition of ex-presidents seeing out their days as a small town mayor or state governor, charming as the thought may be. After the Oval Office, lesser offices of state understandably seem less appealing.

So what is one to do? Well, George W. Bush provides a very helpful template for us, though sadly too late for Bill Clinton to have followed. After George W. Bush left office with an abysmal 22% job approval rating, he retired to Texas and resolved to see out his days painting unconvincing watercolour pictures of dogs (and some of his less fortunate counterparts and colleagues). Sure he’ll pop up to give a speech every once in awhile, but generally George W. Bush has maintained a dignified and most welcome silence.

Or one can go the other way, and do as Jimmy Carter did, enthusiastically throwing himself into real charitable work – not the running of giant foundations with all the perks that doing so entails (first class or private jet air travel, five star hotels, swanky fundraisers with billionaires, nurturing relationships with the politically active and an occasional conscience-easing cash disbursement to a worthy cause) but rather doing God’s honest work for Habitat for Humanity.

Actually physically building homes for disadvantaged or struggling people – that’s real charitable work. The Clinton Foundation in many respects is quite praiseworthy as some 88% of funding goes on charitable mission, but on $2bn revenue up to 2016 that is still $120 million on “overhead”, which in a family foundation has potential to conceal a whole world of ethical grey areas or outright abuses.

The point, I suppose, is that a family charitable foundation is a perfectly legitimate option for an ex-president and his family who intend to quit the political game after leaving office. But when this is not the case – when Hillary was pursuing senatorial ambitions and later becoming Secretary of State – conflicts of interest are inevitably going to occur.

When one is as rich and well-connected as the Clintons, acquiring more money becomes of limited interest. Instead, the reason for getting up in the morning after having left the White House often becomes the building of power, influence and legacy – and, of course, keeping the family in the style of living to which they have become accustomed (i.e. minimal contact with ordinary people). A family foundation accomplishes all of these objectives wonderfully. But when one or more members of the family are still politically active it is highly questionable.

It would have been far better, when there are still active political careers in play, for the Clintons to have put ego aside and thrown their support behind an alternative, existing foundation – much like Warren Buffett is giving away much of his wealth to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, recognising that it makes little sense to build up his own philanthropic expertise from scratch and create all the overheads which come from a second foundation when a perfectly good one already exists.

Why did the Clintons not take the Warren Buffett approach? Three reasons – ego, power and prestige. It is great that the Clintons are philanthropically active. But nearly all of their philanthropic work is done through the Clinton Foundation ($1 million to the foundation in 2015 and just $42,000 to another charity), meaning they want to do charity on their terms. It is a few distinct shades further away from pure altruism, and more to do with continuing to exercise power after the White House.

When Bill Clinton’s presidency ended in 2001, like a shark he had to keep swimming or surely die. Sitting at home in front of the television was never an option. But neither was Bill Clinton about to show up to work for Bill and Melinda Gates, or Habitat for Humanity. He wanted the benefits of his charitable work to accrue to him and his family, not to the Gates family or anyone else. And so the Clinton Foundation was born.

And since the Clintons choose to conduct philanthropic activities on their own terms and through their own foundation, in a way which aggrandises the Clinton family name and brings them power and influence, it is perfectly reasonable to ask questions about any other “fringe benefits” which Hillary Clinton pursued while holding the immeasurably valuable bargaining chip of being a senior part of the Obama administration. And when there is smoke, it is not churlish or unreasonable for journalists to have lots of questions about these activities.

And yet…

None of this is yet sufficient grounds to choose Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton. Indeed, it is difficult to say just how large an ethical scandal would have to befall Clinton to make her less preferable as president than Donald Trump, a lying, authoritarian would-be strongman who delights in his own ignorance and capitalises on the ignorance of others.

But while the Clinton Foundation smoke machine is no reason to elect Donald Trump, it does paint an even more worrying picture about the quality of decision making and the ethical firewalls which may or may not exist in a second Clinton White House. And it makes one marvel that the Democrats could not follow Barack Obama with a presidential nominee capable of remaining scandal-free at least until Inauguration Day. Nearly every other heavyweight Democrat was intimidated away from the field because 2016 is, we were constantly told, “Her Turn”.

I can’t help but wonder if the Democrats will yet come to regret granting that extraordinary privilege so carelessly and cheaply.

 

Hillary Clinton

Top Image: The Atlantic, Lucas Jackson/Reuters

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Kids Company, And The Scam Of Government Funded Charities

Camila Batmanghelidjh - Kids Company - Charity

Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh – who reportedly had five personal assistants and turned her office into a palatial throne room with a tree in the centre – ran her organisation into the ground and dumped the thousands of young people who relied on the charity at the foot of the taxpayer. And yet even now, people are falling over themselves to say how great she is.

Douglas Murray gives it to Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of defunct charity Kids Company, with both barrels in The Spectator today:

It has often occurred to me that if you wanted to perform any great con trick these days you could do no better than to have a hard to pronounce name, wear achingly ethnic clothing and cultivate a sort of ‘mother earth’ persona. The search for authenticity is such that before long every culturally embarrassed media and political creep would beat a path to your door, sit at your feet and hug you like a tree. In reality you would never need to do anything much because you’ve already ticked all the culturally correct boxes.

He’s right. Despite having made thousands of young people reliant on the services of Kids Company – and, through her own financial mismanagement and the negligence of her trustees, left them high and dry when the charity collapsed yesterday – most other commentators are still falling over themselves to praise Batmanghelidjh for her supposed pure-hearted, selfless altruism.

Here’s Fraser Nelson, balancing accurate and deserved criticism of Batmanghelidjh on the one hand, with the almost obligatory effusive praise on the other:

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