Thursday, October 27, 2011

'Occupy London' is a Potemkin Village (Updated)

Thermal imaging photos of the Occupy London encampment outside St Paul’s Cathedral reveal that nighttime occupancy drops to near nil.  The Daily Mail commissioned the photos after it discovered that similar results had been obtained by the London police, using a helicopter.  Those citizens and city leaders who are beyond the ‘enough’ portion of ‘enough is enough’, including the Bishop of London, have been calling for the camp to be removed, and now it has been shown that the best time would be at night when it is practically empty.

Purple means 'empty'

This is an apt symbol of this ‘movement’.  Interviews with the people of similar such demonstrations in the US, which fall generally under the Occupy Wall Street banner, show that the vast majority of the participants are as full of verbosity as they are empty of real content.  And would anyone care to conduct a similar experiment here in the US?

Yes, I weary of hearing of wealthy and politically well-connected executives who are bailed out by the government, putting a laughably ironic twist on the term ‘risk-adjusted capital’.  Part of the essence of capitalism is that one is free to risk his capital in ventures, which can result in great success or failure (or points in between).  But if that capital is protected and augmented by taxpayers through a parochially motivated government, then we approach a national socialist structure.  As Justice Clarence Thomas has said, “The dirty little secret of freedom is, you’re on your own.” This is the same sentiment found in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations and Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, but I have yet to hear such understanding in the coverage of the various events of this ‘occupation’, though I do hear it articulated by those in the media-disdained Tea Party.  There are those in the media who wish to conflate the two movements along this line, but the comparison suffers when only one side of the argument can verbalise the agreement, a sort of Penn & Teller approach to the idea.

So, strap on the night vision goggles and clear them out.  London in particular should be leery of sustaining this potential powder keg in their midst after the riots in the UK in August, so they are more apt to remove them while they still can.  There are people who are looking for the spark to ignite whatever revolution they can come up with, such as Danny Deutsch on MSNBC.  Simply waiting them out leaves them with the advantage, but pointing out the weakness in their arguments can move them along, which might at least move them to protest at sites that are more germane, such as at the Capitol and the White House.  Why not occupy the universities which charged them such exorbitant prices for their Sociology or Feminist Literature degree?

Now move from words to actions.  Want a shovel-ready job?  The Administration has spent three years sitting on the Keystone XL pipeline project that promises to create 13,000 union jobs and 118,000 "spin-off" jobs.  A State Department environmental review says the project poses no threat to the environment, but the Administration's eco-friends are screaming lest it go ahead.
Then there are the jobs the Administration and its allies in Congress are actively killing.  In June, American Electric Power announced it would have to shutter five coal-fired power plants, at a cost of 600 jobs, in order to comply with new EPA rules.  Those same rules may soon force the utility to shutter another 25 plants.  Bank of America's decision last month to lay off 30,000 employees is a direct consequence of various Congressional edicts limiting how much the bank can charge merchants or how it can handle delinquent borrowers.
These visible crags of the Obama jobs iceberg are nothing next to the damage done below the waterline by the D.C. regulations factory, which last year added 81,405 pages of new rules to the Federal Register, bringing the total cost to the U.S. economy of regulatory compliance to an estimated $1.7 trillion a year.
Less easy to quantify, but no less harmful, are the long-term uncertainties employers face in trying to price in the costs of ObamaCare, Dodd-Frank, the potential expiration next year of the Bush tax cuts, the possible millionaire surcharge, the value of the dollar and so on.  No wonder businesses are so reluctant to hire: When you don't know how steep the trail ahead of you is, it's usually better to travel light.
This probably won't do much to persuade the Occupiers of Wall Street that their cause would be better served in Washington, D.C., where a sister sit-in this week seems to have fizzled.  Then again, most of America's jobless also won't recognize their values or interests in the warmed-over anticapitalism being served up in lower Manhattan.  Three years into the current Administration, most Americans are getting wise to the source of their economic woes.  It's a couple hundred miles south of Wall Street.
As always, read the whole thing.

Update:  The Daily Mail has a reporter doing undercover work with the protesters and files a lengthy report, cited here with but a few examples to give you the flavour of the event:
A key activity is sitting around smoking joints and knocking back lager. Complaints circulate about drunk people urinating on the steps of the cathedral and on each other’s tents. It becomes clear that undisciplined behaviour is affecting the camp’s image and driving some of its residents away. . . .
The only uniformity in the camp is that just about everyone, when not inhaling marijuana, smokes cigarettes (roll-ups, of course). The mornings are a cacophony of hacking coughs.
Everyone looks exhausted. For starters, the cathedral bells peel every 15 minutes, and buses roar past throughout the night. The City starts work early and finishes late. At 6.30am on Tuesday I am roused by a passer-by yelling: 'Get up, you lazy bastards.’ Not that they do. . . .
Even after living cheek-by-jowl with the demonstrators for two days and nights, what they stand for and what they hope to achieve by occupying this half-acre of paving slabs remains an utter mystery to me.
They purport to be running their campaign to fight against capitalism. But what I encountered was a disparate group of freelance travelling protesters with little or no discernible philosophy and a penchant for petty squabbles.
'Our response to systemic failure is not to propose a new system, but to start making one,’ wrote members of the camp in one of a number of articles published in The Guardian, the protesters’ newspaper of choice. . . .
At the previous evening’s meeting, we had been encouraged to join a march in support of electricians who are on strike at nearby Blackfriars Bridge.
Six people including myself turn up. Even after one of our number, a wispy-bearded white Muslim convert, tours the site with a megaphone shouting 'Wake up. This is not a picnic’, the contingent barely reaches double figures. . . .
[T]hey had also given the thumbs up to holding a mass meditation session on the grounds that 'a load of guys sitting round in silence would look really cool from a photo-opportunity perspective’. . . .
Many tell me they attend London universities, dividing their time between their studies and the protest. Hardly surprising, then, that much of the business of the camp has the whiff of student politics. Twenty-something and predominantly female, the middle-class accents of the 'facilitators’ — yes, that’s what they call themselves — fill the piazza as they do 'shout-outs’ for people to join caucuses for women and ethnic minorities, and for Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LBGT) support groups.
Alongside them in equal number are foreign activists living in London. Smaller in number but perhaps most vocal of all are the professional activists. Several tell me they have just returned from the Dale Farm traveller evictions. Others are veterans of protest camps dating back decades.
If you have any interest in this 'phenomenon', give yourself a treat and read the whole thing.  I fail to see how this can be any different from the demonstrations here in the US.

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