Tuesday, 31 August 2010

So Wrong

This Theo Hobson post is plain nuts. I can sort of see where he's coming from. But he's obviously never bothered reading any of the CiF comments, where right wingers will self-righteously tell you that it is only moral to admire Pinochet because the imaginary Chileans who would have been killed if he weren't in charge would be much greater than those he did kill.

And let's not forget (though almost everyone in the media seems to have) the attempts of supporters of the Iraq war to portray opponents as buddies of Saddam. And does anyone remember when our armchair warriors were handing out cybernetic white feathers to the bloody conchies who were saying that we should keep well clear of the tie chewer of Tblisi (where Saakashvilli's tanks machine gunned fleeing civilians: which is moral in their world)?

In fact, the archetypal merry Tory GK Chesterton hated warfare AND the free market. I doubt if the supposedly carefree and unjudgemental modern right would really sway him with their lovable lack of heavy-handed moralising.

Being a somewhat distant relative of Sir Thomas Urquhart, I think that being quite carefree and disliking the preaching tone is quite acceptable for a social democrat. However, given that only a maniac would think there is anything moral about the free-market or warfare, I really don't feel any attraction to the modern right. But even if a tree fell on my head and I did, I think the heavy handed moralising that they use to dress up their self-righteousnes would put me off.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

War on the War on Drugs

I'm hoping that Social Democracy is edging its way towards being a mainstream concept again because I think it is the fairest way to run a society and in so many ways neo-liberalism has been intellectually discredited.

However, I do also wonder if the modern 'left' can either get behind social democracy or become an intellectual force to be reckoned with.

Reading this article by Johann Hari really makes me wonder if the left is regressing. I actually do think most drugs should be legalised. But I realise that this is a complex situation and respect people who disagree. I acknowledge there would be a huge human cost to legalising drugs as well as a high cost to society. However 1) Making drug use an offence has created a vast prison population 2) It often results in unsafe drugs being released 3) It does indeed line the pockets of criminals 4) It's de facto legal in the West anyway if you have enough money and white skin 5) I don't know to what extent the state should be able to control what people consume and 6) The WOD has resulted in vast environmental damage and human cost.

However, Hari's work is just drivel:

'To many people, the “war on drugs” sounds like a metaphor, like the “war on poverty.” It is not. It is being fought with tanks and sub machine guns and hand grenades, funded in part by your taxes, and it has killed 28,000 people under the current Mexican President alone. The death-toll in Tijuana – one of the front-lines of this war – is now higher than in Baghdad. Yesterday, another pile of seventy mutilated corpses was found near San Fernando – an event that no longer shocks the country.'

Uh, no. The 'war on drugs' hasn't killed 28,000 people in Mexico. Most of these people have been massacred by drugs dealers. And leaving aside the poor writing of 'another pile of seventy corpses' does he know that this type of horrific event 'no longer' has the capacity to shock? Really? Did Hari check that out with people who live in Mexico? Or do the Hispanics not mean much to the modern left unless they're unintentionally helping union busters? Well, the opinion of Mexicans about whether drugs should be legalised are certainly of little interest to Hari.

But thankfully Hari demonstrates how we can all be wonderful people:

'To support the right side in the referendum to decriminalize cannabis in California this November - one of the most important moves on drugs in the world at the moment - please donate or volunteer for the campaign here.'

Whilst I have sympathy for this movement, when people speak about being 'on the right side', I do tend to be very, very nervous. The irony is that it is an expression I often see being used by the modern right and which seems very 'religious' in a fundamentalist way. However, I think of it as being profoundly 'unconservative' as it were, not just in its vulgarity and its stupidity but in its forceful rejection of dialectic debate that lies at the root of European culture.

In some regards this rejection of the Ancient Wisdom is a sign of how (as Frank Shaeffer said) the religious right and the new left are two signs of the same coin. They are both far happier with counter-culture narcissism and certainty than with classical thought. Whilst on a personal level I have a lot of time for popular films and music, I do think that people of my generation have to wake up to the fact that it has greatly failed in a greater social context.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Well, I'm very confused Ted

Seems that coalition 'partner' Nick Clegg is angry with the suggestion that the 'progressive coalition' budget is going to lead to widening income disparity:

'Speaking this afternoon, Clegg said: "This IFS analysis is, by definition, partial. It does not include the things we want to do to get people off benefits and into work.'

The poor simpletons, Nick. You should phone the IFS up to explain to them that there are lots of imaginary people in your head who are going to get jobs because you 'want' them to. You can explain that the not-so-imaginary people who are certainly going to be made redundant by the reforms will also find work because you 'want' them to and everyone will be happy and drink lemonade with bunnies in the sunshine because you 'want' that to happen.

That is the state of modern Britain. The idea that the invisible hand won't find work for people seems to be a thought crime.

The Centre Cannot Hold

So, the 'progressive coalition' will hit the poorest members of society hardest according to Te Graun which will be humiliating for the Lib Dems. The Treasury's response is brilliant:

'The Treasury said it did not accept the think-tank's analysis, saying it ignored the effects of people who would come off benefits and go into work.

"It is selective, ignoring the pro-growth and employment effects of Budget measures such as helping households move from benefits into work, and reductions in corporation tax," a spokesman said.'

So slashing jobs will drive people off unemployment benefits? Brilliant thinking lads, can't believe no one ever thought of that before.

At the same time, Labour contender Diane Abbot calls for renationalising railways:

'If Network Rail had to let go of 95 managers then it really is in a mess. Further to this there are allegations of sexual harassment against network Rail’s head of human resources Peter Bennett. All of this would be just about bearable if the railways were genuinely private but they continue to cost the taxpayer billions.

We subsidise train operators to the tune of £1billion a year and subsidise network Rail by £4billion. yet managers continue to pay themselves fat, private-sector salaries and bonuses and the companies continue to squeeze the travellers. That is why I believe it is time to take the railways back into public ownership. It was a mistake to privatise them in the first place as it’s allowed private companies to profiteer without regard to public interest.'

I've got my doubts about Abbot's electability though she is the most progressive amongst the contenders, followed by Ed Miliband (if Ed Balls or David Miliband take up the reigns we can say hello to one party Britain). However she has been the subject of some justified criticism and how tolerant a country Britain is is very much open to doubt.

Aside from that, I do think that the Tories are riding roughshod over their Lib Dem cup holders and progressives will no longer be given the third party option.

It will be curious to see what results.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Take a Chance on Me?

I was reading about New Labour's near bankruptcy with mixed feelings. Being frank, they were abysmal: they failed to renationalise railways whilst splurging on CCTV, war and mass surveillance. However, they managed to get re-elected purely by telling the British people that even if they were the second worst party, they could still save Britain from the worst party.

So goes the two party system. Republican supporters have to pedal drivel about Obama being a Stalinist Islamofascist to hide the fact that Sarah Palin is apparently the brains of the outfit.

If Labour were stable, surely it would just mean that David Miliband would be a neo-liberal neo-con in a 'centre left' cap, just as David Cameron would be a neo-liberal neo-con in a 'centre right' cap and Nick Clegg would be a neo-liberal neo-con in a 'centre' cap.

However, Ed Miliband seems to be making a genuine attempt to change the Labour party. However, this leads to the question 'from what'? The 2010 labour party or the 1997 Labour party?

In fact Blair also ran on a centre-left pro-nationalisation platform. And see where that got to? However, Blair was in charge, when, to quote Maggie 'there was no alternative' from neo-liberalism.

However, the mood is certainly changing. The terms 'left' 'right' and 'centre' are all very stupid and have done a lot to damage modern political thought. Would someone who wanted to massacre half the world's untermensch me a 'centrist' by Nazi Germany's standards? Would someone who wanted to privately manufacture tiddly-winks be a demented mad right winger by Soviet standards?

The terms are intrinsically ridiculous and yet, the Brits have received such a rough time from neo-liberalism, the centre could be the place to watch. Whilst I disagree with him on some things, Ian Dunt who is supposed to be objective is a better critic of neo-liberalism than many Graun writers. And with this yahoo article, I wonder if the 'centrists' are just getting too hacked off with our economic system?

'Well, because the taxpayer now pays higher subsidies to private companies than we paid to state-owned British Rail. A report by Dr Richard Knowles, of Salford University, showed that passenger rail subsidies topped £1.34bn in 2002-2003 compared to £1.07bn in 1993-1994 under BR.
- But rail companies are still ‘profitable', that is, they still make money and pay themselves immense bonuses because the bedraggled taxpayer covers their losses and then pays through the nose for a ticket to ride one of their arthritic trains, before being absolutely wrung dry in the refreshments carriage if they weren't wise enough to stock up in M&S first.'

I think that the British people have long been waiting for an ideological clash of the titans which never happened: of left against right. In fact almost all journalists and politicians morphed into a kind of neo-liberalism: pro-abortion, pro-privatisation, pro-EU, anti-death-penalty but in favour of a large prison population, pro-immigration, pro-pop culture, in favour of 'humanitarian intervention (I.e. people who speak English dropping bombs on people) but against disproportionate violation of national sovereignty (people who talk foreign dropping bombs on people). Whilst I am obviously no fan of neo-liberalism, I don't disagree with all its positions but I think politics needs to have parties who disagree with each other.

Maybe Ed Miliband will bring the Labour party in a new direction. It will be curious to see.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Well, thank you very much

Of all the surreal images left from Tony Blair's premiership, the sight of the Fettes boy in jeans and a donkey jacket at a trade union meeting has to be the maddest. It was so ridiculously insincere it actually contained a sincerity all of its own in its blunt condescension.

However, this moment must be Cameron's equivalent, as he pretends that his is the old fogey's party. Cue Americanised drivel about Britain's history being 'the oldest and proudest'. Some nations that weren't involved in the slave trade, genocidal violence against American and East Indians, rapaciously pillaging other nations, sending children to clean chimneys or starve to death etc might disagree. But then, saying that Britain has 'a complex and chequered history' might not get money to change hands, which is his sole interest in heritage. Aside from that, his party is the party of the old fogeys the way that New Labour was the party of the working classes.

It was the Tories who did the most to destroy British heritage projects. It was the Tories who did the most to support and economical system whereby drivel like Robbie Williams and the Spice Girls enjoy financial hegemony. Is it any wonder that Simon Cowell, the personification of all that's wrong with Britain, endorsed Cameron? After all, Andrew Lloyd Weber, his precursor in conveying vulgar drivel was a longtime Tory supporter.

Now heritage projects are guaranteed near total destruction under Cameron and Osborne because they have little market value.

It is curious that the reactionary Tories are now like the working classes, a major force which gets nothing but empty promises from 'their' party. Perhaps this will lead to a new drive for electoral reform. But I doubt it, given that most reactionaries like to blame 'socialism' for Britain's modern faults.

Anyway, chin up guys. Just as well we don't live in a socialist nightmare society like Venezuela where no doubt the nippers are taught to singe dirges about their great leader and his tractor factories, eh what? Just as well we live in the individualistic West where we have Big Brother, the X-factor and all those other life-affirming symbols of free-market victory.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Help Stop Stupid Swarthy Foreigners From Breeding

Seems to be the gist of this article.

Argentina is a democracy with an elected government. But these backwards people have made a mess of it as usually happens when left to themselves. They need some nice benevolent cough, rich white, hrmph, people to take them in hand and stop producing so many kids:

'international human rights law says that women have a right to make decisions about if, when and how many children they have, says Human Rights Watch. In Argentina, those rights have been "systematically flouted for years", it says.'

Firstly, what is 'international human rights law'? Is this a law based on values that ,cough, splutter, white, rich harumph, people draw up? Can I guess that these countries include the enlightened nations of the USA, Germany, Britain and Belgium for instance?

Let's see what Wikipedia has to say:
'Its headquarters are in New York City and it has offices in Berlin, Brussels, Chicago, Geneva, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, Paris, San Francisco, Tokyo, Toronto, and Washington D.C'

Ok, so except Japan, Russia and South Africa it is solidly white and first world. It includes two countries that have attempted to exterminate entire races, five that have had savage foreign Empires, one which has an appalling history of racism one which unapologetically benefited from Nazi banking and whilst I don't like criticising Russia, let's just say I wouldn't relish being teleported to 90s Grozny either. Pleased to see that poor countries have such benefactors to make sure they have access to contraceptives and sterilisation procedures. Also interesting to note that with the very dubious exception of France there is none with a strong Apostolic Christian presence.

Nor of course, do they have any Latin American countries there, which may explain their far from stellar record in those parts. And their vocab:

'Many become pregnant due to negligent care that deprives them of the right to make independent decisions about their health and lives, such as when the government does not purchase or distribute contraceptive supplies that it has promised to provide, and legal sterilization procedures are arbitrarily denied.'

Get that? The poor and stupid inhabitants (specifically poor and stupid women) from poor nations are deprived of the right to make independent decisions because the government does not buy them contraceptions so they 'become' pregnant and have unwanted offspring.

Some might think it curious that a Guardian columnist can find common cause with an organisation that's turned a Nelson eye to the Honduran Junta. But expect this bond to strengthen in coming years.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Mrs Lucas goes to Scotland

And good for her. Whilst I don't want to overdo the Steven Seagal metaphors, Donald Trump is just like the villain of Fire Down Below, except with even worse hair. Chris Kristofferson's blow-dried wavy mullet just can't trump, as it were, Donnie's hair.

For those who haven't noticed Trump has been getting hot under the collar because a bunch of Jocks don't want him building a gargantuan golf course on an area of ecological importance.
Mr Trump is less concerned with the rare flora and fauna than in creating 'the greatest golf course in the world'.

Now, maybe I've just seen too many bad movies, but that is exactly the thing a mid-80s-mid-90s action movie villain would cackle. And even if someone started cackling that they could build the 'greatest gold course in the world' by merely dynamiting a Tescos supermarket, I'd still be reluctant to let them do it.

Sadly, this is one area where Trekkie patriot Alex Salmond has let himself down. However, could he be having second thoughts?

Whilst Salmond has shown impressive backbone over Megrahi, he is a politician at the end of the day and an unusually clever one. Whether he merely wanted to avoid the 'Blair Effect' of grinning like a loon whilst unquestioningly supporting the world's only superpower waiting for something to happen or whether he was acting out of deep sincerity, I don't know. But his decision to both release Megrahi and not to send Kenny MacAskill to Washington showed leadership that was very popular within Scotland.

Maybe Lucas feels buoyed by this and Scotland will become a testing ground for progressive, grassroots movements. I think if Trump does a volte face on this one, it will help not just Scottish national pride, but British. If it achieves this, then I would feel even more proud to be Scottish. The worst thing that could happen for Scottish nationalism would be to develop and anti-English or anti-American outlook. But letting Trump destoy an ecosystem would not benefit the American people, as forcing Megrahi to die in prison would not benefit any American or English people.

Update: My friend Gareth pointed me to this website: http://www.trippinguptrump.com/

This was a very moving little video:


Ironically the idea of little people taking on environmentally-unfriendly big business is a staple of Hollywood, from Fire Down Below and On Deadly Ground to that film with Julia Roberts where no-one gets shot and which I didn't bother to see. If they do force Trump's arm, I think people across many nations (including America) would be happy about it.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Thought for the Day


"I think I'm speaking for many, many Scots people when I say we're just getting a bit fed up of being lectured to by the United States of America as to how to administer justice,"

Mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah. And he's a pro-life 'conservative' theologian as well. I think that the identity politics left has really failed to tell it like it is to the Neo-Cons who see us as their property. I'm partially hoping that a resurgent theologically conservative Christianity might give us more of a voice.

Of course religion, even a religion such as Apostolic Christianity where self-doubt is integral, can open a different can of worms. People can take too much unwelcome interest in others and with society. In common with the identity politics left they can espouse admirable ideas but then go into the field of litigation and statism.

However, the simple thing is that the people need a voice, need ethos and need certain institutions. Both modern 'left' and 'right' have failed to give these in Britain.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Political Correctness Gone Right

I've never been one for tribal political ideas of 'left' and 'right'. I generally think of myself as being left-wing because I am an anti-war social democrat who supports a large degree of immigration.

However, I do see that in some regards the mainstream left and right are far more similar than either would acknowledge. One way in which this comes out is in what is called 'political correctness': in other words taking the view that minorities should be granted privileges. I say 'what is called' because I don't think anyone describes themselves as 'politically correct'.

Yet, whilst this is generally something that causes whinging on the right, in some ways they are the worst perpetrators.

Take the recent Shimon Peres comment that "There is in England a saying that an antisemite is someone who hates the Jews more than is necessary." Really? Who said this and where? Could it just be some self-pitying bullshit that he invented?

What gets to me is the apologetic nature of the responses to Peres' comment. Given how much theft and murder is committed by the Israeli state, I'd guess he was in a pretty poor position to lecture other countries about their record of tolerance. And even aside from insulting our culture, isn't this exactly the kind of ghettoising victim mentality that the right are supposed to dislike?

However, where is the right wing furore over this? Where is our Tory leader, who has just been acting Mr Big in South Asia to stick up for British national pride?

And incidentally, a word about some passports...