April 2, 2012

New from The Guild: “I’m the One That’s Cool”

Filed under: Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:20

Music by Jed Whedon, lyrics by Jed Whedon and Felicia Day.

Kelly McParland: Judge Harper not on what he says, but what he does

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Government — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 09:14

In the National Post, Kelly McParland scrutinizes the entrails of the federal budget to determine what Prime Minister Stephen Harper is really thinking:

It’s pretty self-evident that prime ministers reveal a lot of their own character in the content of their budgets, but it may be particularly so for Stephen Harper. The guy is an economist, after all. Messing around with graphs and figures was what he planned to do with his life, if seizing control of the country’s government didn’t work out. And since we know he’s a bit of a micro-manager, it’s probably safe to say there’s at least as much Harper as there is Jim Flaherty in the nitty gritty of the latest budget document. So let’s use it to figure out what Stephen Harper believes — really believes — when it comes to running the country.

We know what he says he believes in: smaller government, fewer bureaucrats, restrained spending, less intrusion, an end to taxpayer-financed welfare for businesses and governments. Accountability, prudence, fairness. Individual responsibility rather than the smothering embrace of the nanny state. No more currying favour with every special-interest advocacy group that captures the attention of congenitally correct.

Maybe on some plane he does honestly hold those values dear to his heart. But we all profess to believe in ideals we never quite get around to displaying. Mr. Harper has been Prime Minister for six years, and since last May has had the majority needed to have his way with legislation. Yet, as Andrew Coyne has so clearly demonstrated on more than one occasion, Mr. Harper’s actions habitually belie his words. If he were applying for membership in the True Conservative Believers Club of Canada, they’d turn him away as unqualified.

The August riots: another study that finds exactly what it expects to find

Filed under: Britain, Government, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:01

Neil Davenport on the most recent report on the causes of the August riots in Britain:

Once again, an independent panel, this time set up by the government, rolls out a rehearsed number of ‘social factors’ to explain away the disturbing events: unemployment and lack of opportunities for young people; ‘forgotten families’; police harassment and a widespread ‘culture of materialism’. The panel, which visited 21 communities and interviewed thousands of people affected by the riots, says its wide-ranging recommendations ‘must be enacted together’ if the risk of further riots is to be reduced. In a conclusion that bizarrely echoes Tony Blair’s time in office, panel chair Darra Singh says that everyone must have a ‘stake in society’. It makes you wonder why ‘stakeholder society’ policies didn’t actually work in the first place.

[. . .]

None of the enquiries have examined the broad cultural changes that have taken place in British society which, more often than not, are institutionalised in English schools and other state agencies. In fact, this is the ‘social context’ that ought to preoccupy researchers, not the handwrung staples of poverty and unemployment. To approach the riots in this way is not to rehearse ‘teachers aren’t strict enough’ platitudes. It is to examine the kind of destructive values that have been passed down from the top of society: namely, the fostering of assertive victimhood whereby nobody is expected to be accountable for their own actions. It really is somebody else’s fault.

What every schoolchild learns from an early age is that both emotional hurts and tick-box disadvantages — from minor medical problems to class/ethnic background — constitute a person’s default status. It is only by placing demands on state providers that these ‘hurts’ are temporarily assuaged. This is what is meant by a culture of entitlement — victim status has to be recognised and then rewarded by state providers. The higher the perceived victim status, the greater the expectation that somebody else must make provisions or allowances (or even an educational maintenance allowance). In this sense, looting from JD Sports becomes justified, even acceptable, because of the expectations that somebody must pay for a looter’s inflated sense of grievance.

Indeed, many of August’s looters rolled out a lexicon of ‘hurts’ in order to justify their destructive, anti-social behaviour. According to this cultural script, social solidarities are entirely alien because young people have been socialised to dwell on their self-esteem above all else. Far from other people or a wider community being a source of support, they are more often seen as a target for all sorts of imaginary grievances. Local shopkeepers and random individuals attacked during the August riots were, in some way, being held responsible for young people’s poverty and lack of employment prospects. As one of the blasé looters put it, ‘we wanted to show the rich that we can do what we want’. If young people have grown up with the belief that they are automatically held back by social disadvantages, often promoted by state agencies themselves, then a local community itself can become a target for retribution.

[. . .]

Once again, another report on last August’s riots is an exercise in advocacy research, whereby the research neatly matches already rehearsed conclusions. The government panel’s recommendations, failing to recognise the profound significance of the riots, follow the line of wishful thinking and delusion pursued by radical commentators. Furthermore, the panel’s instinctive elitism simply echoes the radical left’s own distrust of ordinary people. Institutionalising the claim that most people are naturally incapable and useless is what destroyed informal communities in the first place. As the nannying, hectoring tone of the latest report into the riots shows, what could be more morally debilitating and soul-destroying?

30 years on, and the tension is rising again

Filed under: Americas, Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 08:40

On this day in 1982, Argentina attempted to take the Falkland Islands in a surprise attack. The ruling Junta had hoped to use the invasion to rally popular support. After the islands were retaken, the Junta fell and democracy eventually returned to Argentina. In recent months, a democratically elected Argentinian government has been pushing for Britain to “negotiate” the future of the islands.

A total of 255 British servicemen and about 650 Argentines died after the UK sent a task force following the Argentine invasion on 2 April 1982.

The anniversary comes amid renewed tension, as Argentina has reasserted its claim to the archipelago.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron said the day should be used to remember both the British and Argentine dead.

In a statement, Mr Cameron also said that he remained committed to upholding British sovereignty over the islands.

[. . .]

Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is expected to visit the southern port of Ushuaia on Monday to remember the Argentine servicemen who died.

President Fernandez is due to lead rallies to commemorate the Argentine dead and to light an eternal flame devoted to their memory.

[. . .]

Argentina has complained about what it calls British “militarisation” in the south Atlantic.

BBC World affairs editor John Simpson said while a new armed conflict remained unlikely, Argentina was now using diplomatic weapons to push its claim over the Falklands.

The defeat of the Argentine forces led directly to the collapse of the military dictatorship led by Gen Leopoldo Galtieri, who was later jailed in Buenos Aires for “incompetence” during the war.

The British prime minister at the time was Margaret Thatcher, but she is not expected to play a part in the commemoration of the 30th anniversary because of ill-health.

EUNAVFOR to get more aggressive against pirates

Filed under: Africa, Europe, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 08:18

Strategy Page explains why the pirates in Puntland are being targeted:

The EU (European Union) agreed, on March 23rd, to allow its anti-piracy force off Somalia (EUNAVFOR) to attack coastal targets and coordinate military operations with the Somali TNG (Transitional National Government). This means that EUNAVFOR ships and aircraft can attack pirate targets on land. Most of the pirate bases (coastal towns and villages) are in Puntland, a self-declared state in northern Somalia. While less violent and chaotic than southern Somalia, Puntland officials are bribed and intimidated (by the superior firepower of the pirate gangs) into inaction. Technically, Puntland is opposed to the pirates, so the EU is hoping that Puntland won’t make a stink when EU forces begin shooting at pirates on the coast.

The EU plan apparently involves going after pirate logistics and fuel supplies in their coastal havens. This could be tricky, as the pirates are well aware of how the Western media works and could easily put many of these targets in residential neighborhoods. The EU could respond by blockading the pirate bases, and attacking pirate attempts to truck in fuel and other supplies. Pirates could put civilians on trucks, or even captured sailors from ships held for ransom. There is no easy solution to the Somali pirates.

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