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March 2012

Reheated (24)

An Occupy special.

Don’t Be So Mean to the Titans of Tomorrow.

How can they take over the world if you keep laughing at them?

“Coming up with an action plan for a new world order takes time,” says Laurie. Yet despite the utopian bluster and mutterings of revolution, the protests seem headed for one of two conclusions. Either they fizzle out due to lack of interest, squalor and general tedium, leaving someone else to foot the bill and clear up the mess - the symbolism of which should not pass unnoticed. That, or they culminate in violence and riots. Neither conclusion invites much in the way of sympathy or hopes of a brighter, fluffier world. Laurie also tells us that the failure to generate a coherent, remotely practical set of demands is due to “attacks from a hostile press while surviving sub-zero temperatures in central London.” Yes, some people have been laughing at Laurie and her incredibly radical peers, which is beastly and mean. Plus it’s been a bit nippy.

The OccupodPeople Will Save Us.

Occupiers blather, stab, shit on streets. The leftist media swoons.

The Occupiers complain about their shanty towns finally being scraped from the streets in an attempt to restore order and basic hygiene. And like so much else before it, this too is disingenuous. Given their behaviour and the growing squalor, what did they expect to happen? What was their exit strategy? At what point were they planning to clear up their garbage, pick up the excrement, apologise to the locals and go home peacefully?

It’s the Calibre of the People That Impresses Me the Most.

Meet Occupy Denver’s Idiot Hat Guy. A radical thinker, a delicate flower.

Idiot Hat Guy plans to obstruct a lawful business and “disallow” staff from entering or leaving their own place of work. His intended victims can apparently still “practice their free will” provided they don’t actually try to earn a living or try to get home. Note too the implication that, should reinforcements arrive, things may get physical. But when faced with the suggestion that he and his comrades are forcing their will on others, Idiot Hat Guy gets upset. Evidently, he doesn’t like being confronted with what he’s actually doing, stated in simple terms and perhaps for the first time. For someone who presumably likes to think of himself as radical and heroic, the dissonance must be quite troubling. After all, fascism couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the utopias of the left. And so our champion of the people tries to change the subject by pretending that he’s the one whose freedoms are being “violated.” His flattering self-image is called into question and – pow! - suddenly, he’s the victim.

Socialism always attracts the smart ones.

Newcomers may also wish to explore the updated greatest hits.

Friday Ephemera

Robotic barber lacks finesse. // No fear of heights. (h/t, TDK) // Chicken and waffles now in syrup form. // “Probable farts.” // Beer plus soap equals beer soap. // A rather fetching squid hat. // It’s a tapir, not a watermelon. // Browse WikiPaintings. // Plasma TV meets microwaves, things go awry. // Why Spike Lee is an arse. // Not everyone can do this. (h/t, Anna) // Taxidermy hybrids. (h/t, Rob) // Stuffed badger plus theremin equals badgermin. // Children make noises by fondling jelly. // Diving suits and pressure suits of note. // The radio adventures of Sherlock Holmes. // Hyperdecanting. I’m scandalised and intrigued.

Elsewhere (59)

Mark Steyn notes a standard media narrative:

The killer of French schoolchildren and soldiers turns out to be a man called Mohammed Merah. The story can now proceed according to time-honoured tradition. Stage One: The strange compulsion to assure us that the killer is a “right wing conservative extremist,” in the words of NRO commenter ExpatAsia. […] The insistence that the killer was emblematic of an epidemic of right-wing hate sweeping the planet is, regrettably, no longer operative. Instead, the killer isn’t representative of anything at all.

So on to Stage Two: Okay, he may be called Mohammed but he’s a “lone wolf.” Sure, he says he was trained by al-Qaeda, but what does he know? Don’t worry, folks, he’s just a lone wolf like Major Hasan and Faisal Shahzad and all the other card-carrying members of the Amalgamated Union of Lone Wolves. All jihad is local. On to Stage Three: Okay, even if there are enough lone wolves around to form their own Radio City Rockette line, it’s still nothing to do with Islam. […]

And then, of course, Stage Four: The backlash that never happens. Because apparently the really bad thing about actual dead Jews is that it might lead to dead non-Jews: “French Muslims Fear Backlash After Shooting.” Likewise, after Major Hasan’s mountain of dead infidels, “Shooting Raises Fears For Muslims In US Army.” Likewise, after the London Tube slaughter, “British Muslims Fear Repercussions After Tomorrow’s Train Bombing.” Oh, no, wait, that’s a parody, though it’s hard to tell.

Oh, and don’t forget the Guardian’s contribution.

George Will on the size and scope of government.

James Q. Wilson, America’s preeminent social scientist, has noted that until relatively recently, “politics was about only a few things; today, it is about nearly everything.” Until the 1930s, or perhaps the 1960s, there was a “legitimacy barrier” to federal government activism: When new policies were proposed, the first debate was about whether the federal government could properly act at all on the subject. Today, there is no barrier to the promiscuous multiplication of programmes, because no programme is really new. Rather, it is an extension, modification or enlargement of something government is already doing.

The vicious cycle that should worry [economic adviser, Larry] Summers is the reverse of the one he imagines. It is not government being “cut back” because of disappointments that reinforce themselves. Rather, it is government squandering its limited resources, including the resource of competence, in reckless expansions of its scope. “There has been,” Wilson writes, “a transformation of public expectations about the scope of federal action, one that has put virtually everything on Washington’s agenda and left nothing off.” Try, Wilson suggests, to think “of a human want or difficulty that is not now defined as a ‘public policy problem.’” 

And related to the above, Tim Worstall on Zoe Williams and her suggested jobs of choice:

When the desirable jobs are spending other peoples’ money, reporting on spending other peoples’ money and lobbying to spend other peoples’ money, then you know that the society is fucked.

Feel free to add your own.

Friday Ephemera

Neon mice. You know, for kids. // Man can’t stop laughing. Wife not amused. // One tiny hand. // Takanori Aiba’s tiny bonsai worlds. // A tour of the Moon. (h/t, Dr Westerhaus) // Trash and its shadows. // The Sun is angry. // Nano-scale racing car. // The Vader respirator is strangely relaxing. // But we mustn’t call it the Alien prequel. // Parahawking in Nepal. // College, it’s not for everyone. // The last word in anti-squirrel countermeasures. (h/t, Peter Risdon) // Wearable kinetic wing sculptures. // How to open a bottle of wine. // Exotic dancers of the 1890s. // Chinese sex doll factory. // Tree sculpture. // Micro-management.

Elsewhere (58)

Rex Murphy on convenient parking as a human right:

Well, all of us know what a trauma it can be when one or more of your side-mirrors gets dinged. On the scale of oppression and misery it’s even worse than a flailing, about-to-fall-off wiper, and just short of an oil pan leak - milestones of grief and torment both. So… the much beset Ms. Howson went to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, pleading - obviously - a diminishment of her human rights. Ms. Howson is herself a former investigator for the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, so she brings to this matter an expertise that only first-hand exposure to the nebulous clouds of current human rights thinking can supply… We begin with the idea that here in Canada, nothing is too small or, on the face of it, too ludicrous to be matter for a human rights complaint… I would offer it as an axiom that if a human rights complaint even contains the word “Mazda 5,” someone has stepped off the bridge of reason altogether.

Theodore Dalrymple on crime, punishment and the bien-pensant evasions of China Miéville:

In his article on London in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine, titled Oh, London, You Drama Queen, novelist China Miéville writes: “The aftermath [of the recent riots] was one of panicked reaction. Courts became runnels for judicial cruelty, dispensing sentences vastly more severe than anything usual for similar crimes.” This is the statement of a typical intellectual whose indifference to the actual lives of the urban poor masquerades as compassion for them. Miéville fails to mention that most of the sentences handed down were for people with criminal records, no doubt in many cases long ones. The real judicial cruelty - not to the criminals but to their victims - was the leniency before the riots that gave the rioters a hitherto justified sense of impunity. [...]

One cannot say often enough that the victims of crime are, like the perpetrators, more likely to be poor than rich. For example, single-parent households in Britain have a more than one-in-20 chance of being burgled in any given year; and since most burglars are recidivists, indeed multiply so, it follows that the class of victim is much larger than the class of perpetrator. Leniency toward criminals is not therefore a form of sympathy for the poor, but a failure to take either their lives or their property seriously.

Indeed. 75% of the rioters and looters who appeared in court had previous convictions. Some had more than fifty. Not that such details inhibited the Guardian’s Marxist philosopher Nina Power, who preferred to see the muggers, thieves and arsonists as the “dispossessed” fighting against “entitlement.” Because “fighting entitlement” entails beating up pensioners, robbing children of their clothes and burning women out of their homes. The muggers’ own rather prodigious sense of entitlement was of course excused by Laurie Penny, the self-styled ‘riot girl’ of Wadham College, who told us with trademark certainty that “violence is rarely ever mindless” and that “nicking trainers” is “a political statement.”

For some reason I’m reminded of the words of Thomas Sowell:

The most fundamental fact about the ideas of the political left is that they do not work. Therefore we should not be surprised to find the left concentrated in institutions where ideas do not have to work in order to survive.

Feel free to add your own in the comments. 

This is What Passive-Aggression Looks Like

I’ve previously used the term “socialist antibody” to describe the members of a leftwing protest crowd whose function is apparently to shadow and intimidate people they identify as unsympathetic to their cause. I think the following may also qualify. For the last year or so, Ann Althouse has been reporting on some of the more instructive scenes at the Wisconsin protests - as, for instance, when activist doctors invoked the virtue of “public service” while handing out bogus sick notes to absentee teachers, thereby leaving the taxpayer with a multimillion-dollar bill for work not done. All in the name of “social justice,” obviously. It’s fair to say this attention wasn’t always well-received by our egalitarian betters and resulted in death threats, ‘shadowing’ and a promise to “ruin your career, your sense of safety… and your life.”

Yesterday Althouse visited another leftist gathering at the Wisconsin capitol. While filming, she was recognised. A smiling woman approached and asked an unusual question: “Who’s going to save you when you get attacked?

I know. It’s because they care so very much.

As Ann says in her post,

They seem to feel empowered by their numbers and my aloneness, but they can see I’m filming, and they’re only interested in harassing me because I’ve put things on the internet in the past. Are they so into the moment that they don’t have a clue that I’m going to put up this blog post?

It is, I think, instructive that so many voices of the left should profess such empathy with the mob dynamic, in which personal responsibility can be dispersed and obscured, allowing participants to indulge more freely in some physical emphasis, or threats thereof. Mobs tend to embolden their participants precisely because of the sense of physical power and the promise of moral anonymity, and the implicit threat that violence can ensue should their wishes be frustrated. Or indeed their vanity. And while mobs may be effective in rousing emotion and inflating egos, they aren’t an ideal forum for mental or moral clarity. Perhaps that’s the appeal for the rote radical. Maybe that’s why they forget that people will see.

Friday Ephemera

Squirrels want your snack treats. // Fresh Guacamole. // Batman & Robin run away from shit. // Quadrotor drones in “aggressive manoeuvres.” // Live like the Flintstones in Malibu, California. // The Hindenburg’s interiors. // A day in the life of the internet. // Musical instruments made of ice. // The Museum of Government Waste. // “Whitehall departments spent £1.4 billion in an attempt to save £159 million.” // How to extract your DNA using everyday household items. // LA sci-fi convention, 1980. // Baked potato bean bag chair. // Avengers be assembling. // Two visions. // Antarctica in colour, 1915. // San Diego penguin cam.

Elsewhere (57)

Tim Worstall on high taxes:

You cannot pay for Big Government with a highly progressive tax system. There just aren’t enough rich people and they don’t, collectively, have enough money to pay for everything. It’s worth noting that the countries that do have substantially larger government than we do, the Nordics, have tax systems which are more regressive than our own. That’s the only way you can have both a Big State and also any hope of continued growth.

Heather Mac Donald on theories, reality, crime and punishment:

In 1994 Mayor Giuliani and then-commissioner Bratton made “Broken Windows” a template for the New York policing revolution. The police would no longer ignore allegedly “minor” infractions of the law, such as graffiti, public drinking, and illegal vending, but would intervene to restore a sense of order in troubled neighbourhoods. In so doing, they would only be responding to the previously unacknowledged demand in poor communities for the same sense of lawfulness enjoyed in wealthy areas. Left-wing academics and journalists continue to dismiss that desire with their specious claim that broken-windows policing is an unjust assault on the poor.

And Charles Moore on the shortcomings of the NHS

The NHS arose from a good idea – that people should be able to get good health treatment without financial worry. Unfortunately for Britain, this was acted upon at a time when centralised state socialism was at its height. So the NHS was constructed to carry out Whitehall commands. It was even imagined that these commands could be so efficiently obeyed that the cost of care would actually fall. The thing was a fantasy of the state planner. It is the reality, not the fantasy, which strikes the patient – and the patient’s friends and relations – every day. […] Far from being “organised compassion,” the NHS is, by its nature, a bureaucracy. Bureaucracies, inevitably, are selfish. They are constructed according to the convenience of the producer, not the consumer (although, oddly, they are often unpleasant places for the producers to work in). Not for nothing does the word “patient” mean “one who suffers.” Suffering is guaranteed by the system.

A few years ago, my step-father was in pain and diagnosed with a major blood clot and a very serious risk of stroke, heart attack and pulmonary embolism. An ambulance was dispatched, though, an hour later, it hadn’t arrived and its whereabouts couldn’t be determined by the people who’d despatched it. Unwilling to rely on the offer of a second ambulance, we drove my step-father to the suggested A&E, which was supposedly expecting us, and registered his details at reception, after which we were pointed to some ingeniously uncomfortable vandal-proof seats. The seats were red, denoting patients with “urgent and life-threatening” conditions. Here, we waited for an hour, despite the calm of the large, rather demoralised A&E department, which had perhaps a dozen people in it. The only red seats occupied remained our own. Two return visits to the reception desk resulted in vague assurances that we would be seen in due course. Thirty minutes later, a third, more anxious, visit to reception revealed that my step-father’s details now couldn’t be found and the registration process would have to be repeated. Another forty-five minutes passed before, finally, his name was called. While he was being treated in one room, another door opened and his name was called again by a second doctor. Apparently his details had been lost then duplicated. I’ve been told by several people that this is not a particularly unusual experience.

Feel free to add your own items of interest.