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January 2011

Elsewhere (28)

I wasn’t planning to comment on the shootings in Arizona, but the rush to exploit the tragedy for political gain shouldn’t pass unremarked. The first thing that caught my eye was this smug and nasty sermon from the Guardian’s Michael Tomasky, who tells us “rage is encoded in conservative DNA.”

Guns are simply too central to the mythology of the American right, as is the idea of liberty being wrested from tyrants only at gunpoint. For the American right to stop talking about armed insurrection would be like American liberals dropping the subjects of race and gender.

Mr Tomasky’s rather selective alarm has thankfully been noted by Natalie Solent and Tim Blair

Glenn Reynolds, a man whose “conservative rage” is difficult to detect, offered this:

To be clear, if you’re using this event to criticize the “rhetoric” of Mrs. Palin or others with whom you disagree, then you’re either: (a) asserting a connection between the “rhetoric” and the shooting, which based on evidence to date would be what we call a vicious lie; or (b) you’re not, in which case you’re just seizing on a tragedy to try to score unrelated political points, which is contemptible… Those who purport to care about the health of our political community demonstrate precious little actual concern for America’s political well-being when they seize on any pretext, however flimsy, to call their political opponents accomplices to murder.

At Harry’s Place, Gordon MacMillan is troubled by “violent metaphors,” albeit only those used by some Republicans:

If you do use such explicit language like “reload” and “bullseye,” and “cross hair” imagery then to many the message is clear. You’re gunning for people even if it is metaphorically.

Even more troubled – to the point of authoritarian incoherence – is Pennsylvania Democrat Robert Brady. Mr Brady hopes to outlaw the “use of language or symbols that could be perceived as threatening or inciting violence against a federal official or member of Congress.” As an example of impermissible symbology, Brady pointed to a map used by Sarah Palin to indicate “targeted” congressional seats, saying: “You can’t put bull’s-eyes or crosshairs on a United States congressman or a federal official.” That the map in question does no such thing doesn’t appear to hinder Mr Brady. Apparently his perception is enough.

As Jeff Goldstein notes,

Neither Sarah Palin nor that Kos jaggoff targeted Congresswoman Giffords. What they targeted was her Congressional seat. Nobody literally put a bullseye or a target on her. And anyone pretending that they did - in order either to win political points or because they actually believe such nonsense - is either craven and opportunistic, or else too moronic to be taken seriously, save for the dangers they pose to our liberties by advocating for a legally-binding crackdown of fucking symbolism… One person’s dog barking is another person’s words from the Devil instructing them to kill. The answer to which is to get the person hearing voices some help, not to outlaw dogs.

Update, via the comments:

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Friday Ephemera

Augmented diving. // Emergency kit for boredom. // Where do I put the paper? // What you need to know about data transfer speeds. // Bespoke electronic instruments. // 3D book cover art. (h/t, Julia) // Transit. // Foldable knife. // The complete Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. // For seeing with. // The ghost cities of China. (h/t, dicentra) // From zero to 100. // Alcohol and mayonnaise, together at last. // A junk-touching diagram. // Pyjama jeans. (h/t, Simen) // “Everyone is equally intelligent.” // “The fantastic sensations, including fireworks and airplanes, were a lot of fun.” // How to make a micro-omelette inside an eggshell.

New Crisis Detected

George “laughing boy” Monbiot has spotted another crisis. As he does, regularly. This particular crisis is “scarcely mentioned” yet is “growing… at a rate that’s hard to comprehend.”

You’ll seldom hear a squeak about it in the press, in parliament, in government departments or even in the voluntary sector. Given its political sensitivity, perhaps that’s not surprising.

What could it be this time? Is air travel still as reprehensible as child molestation? Is Tony Blair still at large despite his “crimes against peace”? Or is it the deadly menace posed by newspaper advertising? No, can’t be. We’ve already been warned about that: “Advertising is a pox on the planet. It is… driving us towards destruction.” No, it’s something else, something even more alarming:

The issue is surplus housing – the remarkable growth of space that people don’t need.

Yes, there are spare rooms in some private houses - space that, according to Mr Monbiot, people just don’t need. And which, therefore, they shouldn’t be allowed to have.

Nearly half of England’s private homeowners are now knocking around in more space than they need. Why is this happening?

Possibly because British citizens still retain some degrees of freedom in their domestic affairs. And homeowners aren’t yet being coerced by the state to use their own property “wisely and fairly” as determined by Commissar Monbiot. Still, such hindrance to utopia can be overcome and our big hearted Guardianista has a solution in mind:

While most houses are privately owned, the total housing stock is a common resource. Either we ensure that it is used wisely and fairly, or we allow its distribution to become the starkest expression of inequality… We have allowed the market, and the market alone, to decide who gets what. 

Clearly, what we need is more state bureaucracy and coercive leverage, with databases, inspectors and prurient intrusion. Some reallocation is in order.

Those who have more space than they know what to do with face neither economic nor social pressure to downsize… Those who use more than their fair share should pay for the privilege, with a big tax penalty for under-occupation.

Ah, the privilege of being allowed to own what is yours. At this point I fear George may be typing with one hand.

If it prompts them either to take in a lodger or to move into a smaller home in a lower tax band, so much the better.

Yes, that guest room or glorified junk cupboard isn’t just your business, you know. It’s a “common resource.” And that selfish loft conversion is just more proof of your guilt. Embrace the greater good, damn you. Sadly, Mr Monbiot doesn’t share with us the details of his own living arrangements, such as whether or not he frivolously uses a room purely as an office or study - say, for the writing of Guardian articles. But perhaps his colleague Polly Toynbee will be spurred to throw open the doors to one of her two rather spacious estates. How about that nice villa in Italy? Or maybe Monbiot’s employer Alan Rusbridger could find a wiser, fairer use for the space currently occupied by his £30,000 grand piano


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