The Bookworm Beat 12/30/14 — The madness of crowds and Open Thread

Woman writingDo you find it as ironic as I do that those of us who champion diffusing power amongst the people, rather than centralizing it in the government, are the ones who are on the receiving end of the madness of the crowds? In other words — and here’s the irony — even as we champion the wisdom of the people, the people are proving to be exceptionally unwise, especially when it comes to race relations. Already in 1841, Charles Mackay had a name for it: Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. We seem to be living through another one of those times when rationalism takes flight.

And speaking of which:

Thomas Sowell mourns a modern age, in which facts aren’t stubborn, they’re ignored

That true patriot, John Adams, successfully defended the British soldiers accused after the Boston Massacre. In pre-revolutionary American — and Adams was central to that revolutionary mindset — that was an unpopular thing to do. Nevertheless, Adams was a principled man. He understood that, in a civil society, even unpopular people are entitled to have a friend at their side in a criminal trial and that, no matter how awful the accusations, the facts should triumph. After all, as Adams famously said, “facts are stubborn things.”

The Left understands that facts are stubborn things. It also understands that the way to deal with stubborn facts is to ignore them, steamroll them, deny them, twist them, and generally obfuscate them so thoroughly that an uneducated, malleable, easily manipulated population couldn’t care less about those stubborn facts. As Sowell explains, facts, rather than being stubborn, are obsolete:

Some of us, who are old enough to remember the old television police series Dragnet may remember Sergeant Joe Friday saying, “Just the facts, ma’am.” But that would be completely out of place today. Facts are becoming obsolete, as recent events have demonstrated.

What matters today is how well you can concoct a story that fits people’s preconceptions and arouses their emotions. Politicians like New York mayor Bill de Blasio, professional demagogues like Al Sharpton, and innumerable irresponsible people in the media have shown that they have great talent in promoting a lynch-mob atmosphere toward the police.

Grand juries that examine hard facts live in a different world from mobs who listen to rhetoric and politicians who cater to the mobs.

Sowell then provides chapter and verse to prove his thesis. It’s very depressing.

Michael Brown — the “Gentle Giant” of Ferguson — might not have been so gentle

The video below purports to show Michael Brown (the “Gentle Giant” of Ferguson fame) cold-cocking a man in order to rob him. There’s a debate as to whether the footage is genuine, so please take that into account as you decide whether it shows Brown, or just someone remarkably similar looking, in action:

People seem to like Obama’s high-handedness

Also on the subject of the madness of crowds, don’t think it’s gone unnoticed in the White House that Obama’s popularity has jumped in the wake of his decision to govern by pen, phone, memorandum, executive order, and gentleness towards tyrannical dictatorships. It seems that, just as Italians yearned for timely trains and Germans yearned for a restoration of order after the Wiemar years, many Americans would prefer the strong hand of a demagogue to the more diffuse power of a democratic republic.

Centralized government is expensive

For reasons that elude me, Americans keep buying into the belief that having the government run things is cheaper than having a free market. Maybe if they could just get a look at the compensation packages for government employees. The San Francisco Bay Area is a case in point:

The average full-time compensation for employees of 55 North Bay cities was $130,172 in 2013, with thousands earning more than $200,000 a year and hundreds more earning more than $50,000 in overtime alone. Such compensation is significantly higher than that of peers in the private sector.

Two thousand and six North Bay municipal employees earned at least $200,000.

  • Walter Shuld, San Pablo Police Chief, earned $440,983.
  • Malcolm E. Miller, Oakland Police Officer, earned $436,256.
  • George R. Silva, Hayward Battalion Chief, earned $428,457.
  • 488 North Bay municipal employees earned at least $50,000 in overtime alone.
  • Angel Bobo, Richmond Fire Captain,, made $279,105 in overtime and $508,893 in total compensation.
  • Marc Palechek, Richmond Fire Captain, made $241,578 in overtime and $450,942 in total compensation.
  • Stanley Eng, Vallejo Police Corporal, made $221,073 in overtime and $425,660 in total compensation.

Note that most of these cities are not affluent, and some, like San Pablo and Richmond, are considered poor and troubled. Vallejo, which pays a fire captain 450K, went through bankruptcy and laid off a substantial portion of its police force.

For California overall, it’s good to be king . . . I mean, a government employee. You’ll see what I mean with this screenshot of just the top California earners (all receiving taxpayer money, of course):

Top California public employees