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March 2013

The Incident

Steel yourselves, readers, for a shocking report of psychological brutality inflicted on wee ones during a terrifying rampage:

If your children express that they are troubled by today’s incident, please talk with them and help them share their feelings. Our school counsellor is available to meet with any students who have the need to do so next week.

So reads the letter sent to parents in the aftermath of the incident by Myrna Phillips, assistant principal of Park Elementary School, Baltimore. Clearly, the school’s second-grade 7-year-olds were at risk of being emotionally scarred by the incident, which was classified as a “level 3” violation of the school’s code of conduct. 

Oh, yes. The incident

Josh was munching on a strawberry Pop-Tart, when his creativity got the better of him, and he decided to reshape his breakfast by nibbling on its edges. “It was already a rectangle and I just kept on biting it and biting it and tore off the top and it kinda looked like a gun but it wasn’t,” he said. But his teacher thought it definitely looked like a gun, and, what’s more, she claims she saw Josh hold on to his food and utter the words “bang bang.” 

Of course such evil must be punished and bleached from tiny minds.

His Pop-Tart was confiscated and he was immediately suspended for two days.

Regarding Ms Phillips’ letter to parents, Reason’s Jesse Walker adds this:

To be fair, the phrasing leaves open the possibility that the students would be “troubled” not by the imaginary gun but by the suspension, and by the ensuing realisation that they’re powerless pawns in a vast, incomprehensible game run by madmen.

Any readers distressed by these events and who find themselves in need of mental correction should report to our in-house nurse.

Via Brain Terminal

Friday Ephemera

Will no-one help Professor Brian Cox? // 15,000 Volts. // Ladies, now you can charge your phone with your clutch-bag. // I can see your heartbeat. (h/t, Dr Westerhaus) // A happening beat combo. (h/t, EBD) // “I’ve been working on this for months.” (h/t, Julia) // Magnifying the Universe. // Man make fire. // This young man is just showing off. // Unfortunate magazine cover. // Dining table of note. (h/t, AC1) // Old New York. // Far left fashion. (h/t, TDK) // Fluid dynamics. // A vortex tied in knots. // How Google works. // Which House of Cards is better? // Drift. // An actual 3D desktop. // Two lips, one camera and one trombone

Setting Fire to Your Cash Because They Can

As the much-missed blog Burning Our Money is back with us, and with a book to sell no less, readers may wish to reacquaint themselves with some items from the BOM archive. There are hundreds of illustrations of how our betters set fire to money someone else had to earn. For instance, this innovative scheme

A thousand colourful bubble blowers are to be handed out to revellers in Bolton centre. The aim is to encourage drinkers leaving pubs and clubs to focus on playfully blowing bubbles on their way home, instead of getting into scuffles. It is the latest initiative to curb alcohol-related anti-social behaviour. The blue and orange bubble blowers, which double as pens, will be handed out by Police Community Support Officers and town centre ambassadors on Saturday nights in December.

Another subject close to many readers’ hearts is the presumption of our publicly funded arts establishment. On which, this

According to Michael Lynch, the departing head of London’s expensively refurbished Southbank Centre, the private sector hasn’t donated nearly enough to fund his arts empire: “Corporate Britain had in my view let down the side. They need a sense of values.” Apparently, none of those gazillionaire Goldmans’ bankers has given “anything meaningful,” and he describes them as a “bunch of bastards.” Arts, you see, are A Public Good, and rich bastards have a civic duty to dig deep in their support. Everyone knows that. Just like they know that art is what the artist says it is, not what the customer says. Philistinism - aka customer choice - is no excuse... How then did the Southbank manage to fund its costly refurbishment? According to Lynch, “the Government, to their credit, got behind us in a big way.” Well, that was awfully sweet of them, but - and this may be news to Mr L - the government doesn't actually have any money. In reality, once again, it was we poor schmucks who paid. How much? Precise details are sketchy, but we know the refurb cost £111m. And the vast bulk of that came from taxpayers... In addition to that, the Centre is receiving a £20m a year tax-funded subsidy towards its running costs. There are certainly some bastards involved in this, but I fancy they’re not working at Goldmans.

And there’s this item, on the remarkably unpopular West Bromwich arts centre, boldly named The Public, which two years after opening had failed to attract a single paying customer. The venue, which promised to “make the arts more accessible,” had nonetheless managed to consume almost £60 million of public money and suffered three insolvencies. Among the aesthetic wonders sadly neglected by locals was a piece by the artist Michael Pinchbeck, a “five year live art project” called The Long and Winding Road. For his mammoth and challenging installation, Mr Pinchbeck “packed a car with the belongings of his brother and drove to Liverpool where his brother died in 1998.” After touring the nation and presenting his car full of rammle to any passers-by who wandered too close and paused fractionally too long, Mr Pinchbeck announced that he would conclude his mighty artistic work by “driving the car into the River Mersey.” The car was subsequently crushed and its fragments displayed for further enrichment of the public. Not to be outdone, the West Bromwich arts centre had its own, no less ambitious announcement regarding the project: “Admission will be on a first-come-first-served basis.”

Another of Mr Pinchbecks’s colossal works, “a deconstruction of Shakespearean stage directions,” can be savoured here

Elsewhere (87)

Chris Snowdon on demands for the banning of alcohol adverts and sponsorship:

The headline of the [British Medical Journal] editorial refers to the drinks industry “grooming the next generation” - a distasteful attempt to draw a parallel with paedophilia - and much of the text is devoted to online marketing. The internet has, of course, created new regulatory challenges as well as new commercial opportunities, but there is no evidence that online marketing has led to a surge in underage drinking. Quite the reverse. Regular alcohol consumption by 11 to 15 year olds has fallen by two-thirds in the last decade - from 20% to 7% - and the proportion of these children who had ever drunk alcohol fell from 61% to 45% in the same period. The BMJ’s call for a total advertising ban is manifestly not a response to a growing crisis; rather it is the “next logical step” in a campaign to apply the anti-smoking blueprint to alcohol. It is no coincidence that one of the editorial’s authors, Gerard Hastings… holds the view, often espoused by left-wing environmentalists, that consumption is primarily caused by advertising rather than by wants, and he is already looking beyond tobacco and alcohol as industries to clamp down on, asking last year “should not all advertising be much more circumscribed because the consumption it engenders harms the planet?” 

And speaking of left-wing environmentalists and their views on advertising, let’s not forget the deep, deep wisdom of Mr George Monbiot.  

Topher Field offers a short history of terrible taxes and the cost of government:  

The ancient Egyptians taxed ordinary cooking oil and you could actually be punished if you didn’t use enough of it. In Russia in the 1700s, you were taxed for having a beard… The English invented a hearth or chimney tax, where you were taxed on the number of fireplaces your house had. In the late 1600s, the English bureaucracy had a brainwave. Why not tax people’s windows? In order to avoid this daylight robbery, the British began bricking up their own windows to save on tax… And when they taxed bricks, people made bigger bricks. 

Of course we’re much more sensible now, right? As Field says, “Your own government shouldn’t be the reason you struggle to make ends meet.” 

Thomas Sowell responds to this and ponders the state as parent: 

Professor Sunstein is undoubtedly correct that “people make a lot of mistakes.” Most of us can look back over our own lives and see many mistakes, including some that were very damaging. What Cass Sunstein does not tell us is what sort of creatures, other than people, are going to override our mistaken decisions for us. That is the key flaw in the theory and agenda of the left. Implicit in the wide range of efforts on the left to get government to take over more of our decisions for us is the assumption that there is some superior class of people who are either wiser or nobler than the rest of us.

Ah, those would be our egalitarian overlords, making life fairer from high above the herd. Lovely people, obviously.

And Mike Denham of Burning Our Money has just published a book. One for the shelves, methinks.

As usual, feel free to share your own links and snippets in the comments.

Friday Ephemera

The 28 state-sanctioned hairstyles of North Korea. (h/t, Samizdata) // Napkins of note. // Armband device controller. // Giant ice lollies as temporary art. // Chocolate lamp. // Gold boom Australia, 1872. (h/t, MeFi) // Brighton teenagers “live at a faster pace,” use words “gracious” and “fellow,” 1960. (h/t, Paul Saxton) // Vertical garden. // Cockatoos and budgerigars. // Octopus fornication. // Communist opera. // For calibrating spy cameras. (h/t, Metrolander) // Manhattan wasn’t actually invaded by aliens. // The modern oil wheel. // I assume this is performance art. It involves bananas and Nutella. (h/t, Simen) // Assorted Nazi bunkers. // Tardis fez with built-in light. // The motorized wheelrider. // I so want this car and of course a time machine. // “High school fashions, 1969.” // Suitcases of insane asylum patients. // Unforeseen consequences