Mid-week misanthropy, vol. 17

Finally, a minor shitstorm in the Canadian election campaign.  Yesterday, Stephen Harper decided to show that his Conservatives are just as strong in the field of simplistic populist pandering as the Liberals and the New Democrats.  He painted (heh heh) artists as gala-attending subsidy-guzzling ivory-tower elitists, and claimed that “ordinary Canadians” don’t care about the arts.

On Tuesday, Mr. Harper cast his lot with “ordinary, working people” and not with “ivory tower” justice experts or with a cultural elite he characterized as government-subsidized whiners.

“I think when ordinary working people come home, turn on the TV and see a gala of a bunch of people, you know, at a rich gala all subsidized by taxpayers claiming their subsidies aren’t high enough when they know those subsidies have actually gone up, I’m not sure that’s something that resonates with ordinary people,” he said during a campaign stop in Saskatoon.

Naturally, the Canadian arts community got a bug up its collective asshole about the comment, which apparently shocked a lot of people despite the Conservative government’s cuts to arts funding.  (Which, since they’re a minority government, must’ve met with some approval from the other parties in order to get passed.  But this is election season, so we’ll pass on the facts and get right to the hysteria.)

In a united press conference on Wednesday morning, leading actors and artists insisted that arts is not about galas and subsidies.

Rather, they said, it’s a resource that comes from the minds of Canadians and delivers fantastic returns in the form of quality of life, education and national identity.

I’ll spare you the details and get right to the point: those united actors and artists swear up and down that “the arts” deliver “fantastic returns” without which Canadian culture would become a barren wasteland, only they can’t give any specific examples and are forced to speak in sweeping generalities.  As ever, they raise the spectre of the Americans:

“Yet we still have this feeling here that we are practically compelled to bend or dissolve within the larger picture of the American sensibility, and we don’t like it,” [veteran actor and CBC presenter Gordon Pinsent] said. “We all want to work. We’re artists to begin with.”

Apparently the American sensibility has a habit of manifesting itself in human form, putting guns to the heads of Canadian artists (you know those Americans and their guns), and forcing them to not work.  And it’s all Harper’s fault, or something.

But wait: I was wrong.  (Jeez, twice in one week!)  It turns out that you can quantify the impact of the arts.

The performers — including Colm Feore and Wendy Crewson — noted that the arts provide 1.1 million jobs within cultural industries and contribute $86-billion to the GDP.

That’s pretty cool.  (Of course, I’m still a bit vague on what “the arts” and “cultural industries” might be, and since no-one bothered to cite their fucking sources I’ll probably never find out.  But as I said earlier, it’s election season; back to the hysteria!)  And it makes perfect sense.  See, if you’re an eighty-six billion dollar industry, you get to demand money from the taxpayers government as though you have a right to it:

They say the $45-million that the Conservative government cut from culture funding last summer could seriously damage their industry.

The performers called on voters to reject the Tory cuts and demand that the government restore stable funding, with Mr. Feore saying the arts are crucial to Canada’s identity.

Somehow I get the feeling that very large film and music — er, “arts” — corporations are happy to misrepresent themselves as starving creative geniuses at the grassroots of Canadian cultural development.  This looks like just another corporate welfare package, tarted up as they usually are to appeal to voters’ feeeeeelings.


Speaking of the arts, we’re going to have to change the way we speak of the arts.

Publishers and universities are outlawing dozens of seemingly innocuous words in case they cause offence.

Banned phrases on the list, which was originally drawn up by sociologists, include Old Masters, which has been used for centuries to refer to great painters – almost all of whom were in fact male.

It is claimed that the term discriminates against women and should be replaced by “classic artists”.

Naturally, this comes from Britain — which I presume will shortly expunge “Britain” from its vocabulary and replace it with a set of latitude/longitude/elevation coordinates to avoid offending immigrants from other nations.  Oops, I wrote something offensive:

The list of allegedly racist words includes immigrants, developing nations and black, while so-called “disablist” terms include patient, the elderly and special needs.

It comes after one council outlawed the allegedly sexist phrase “man on the street”, and another banned staff from saying “brainstorm” in case it offended people with epilepsy.

Surely verbs like “outlaw” and “ban” are potentially offensive as well, given that they imply a hierarchical power relationship and reinforce the status quo (that was Latin; am I being elitist?) while subconsciously discouraging those in (hmm, how to phrase this without offending?) positions whose leadership potential has yet to be fully actualized (whew!) from advancement.  I shall write my MP directly.


It just wouldn’t be right to write Misanthropy without poking fun at some particularly asinine aspect of security theatre.  Courtesy of Bruce Schneier:

[Clay Hodges, general manager of Cash Special Utility District] explains all the district’s hydrants, including those in Alexander Ranch, have had their water turned off since just after 9/11 — something a trade association spokesman tells us is common practice for rural systems.

“These hydrants need to be cut off in a way to prevent vandalism or any kind of terrorist activity, including something in the water lines,” Hodges said.

But Hodges says fire departments know, or should have known, the water valves can be turned back on with a tool.

You’d think that everyone who’d successfully completed grade school would immediately understand that this is a ridiculously bad security tradeoff.  Schneier surely does:

One, fires are much more common than terrorism — keeping fire hydrants on makes much more sense than turning them off. Two, what sort of terrorism is possible using working fire hydrants? Three, if the water valves can be “turned back on with a tool,” how does turning them off prevent fire-hydrant-related terrorism?

But… but… but… zOMG Terr’ists!!!11


It would also be something of a let-down if I didn’t poke fun at British policing.  This week’s case is unusual, however, as it stems from British police doing a magnificent job:

Most of the plods’ aura of thuggishness comes from their propensity to fuck with people who aren’t causing any harm.  (See, for example, roughly half of the posts on this blog.)  They generally make time for this by ignoring the people who are causing harm.  You might therefore suspect that a police chief who insists that his officers investigate real crimes would, along with the rest of his force, be held in high regard.

You’d be mostly right.

No-nonsense Essex Chief Constable Roger Baker has won widespread support for his back-to-basics approach.  And his tactic has paid clear dividends, with thousands of fewer crimes reported last year.  But in an incredible move, HM Inspectorate of Constabulary questioned whether sending officers to every reported crime is the best use of resources.

Recall that the same government which issued this comment also suggested that police should “target” a three-hour response time to emergency calls.  I suppose they’re being made to feel rather inadequate by a police force which does its fucking job.

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anarchocapitalist agitprop

Be advised

I say fuck a lot



Statistics FTW

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