Sunday, 15 May 2011

Selected on-line rants

Over the past few months I have been reading political discussion threads here and there, and noting down any interesting points of view. I’m aware of course that events have a nasty way of overtaking commentary. Several important things have occurred since I recorded the views below, so I thought I would put them in this showcase before the names and incidents became as remote as Sir Anthony Eden and the Suez Crisis.

I neither endorse nor oppose any of the views expressed. I shall append them here without much further comment, except as follows. Firstly they are short, often polemic statements; in order to develop the arguments of each the writers would need time and space to prepare a fully referenced essay, and that’s not what these discussion threads are about. Secondly one commenter referred to ‘true socialism’ as ‘the approach to resource allocation in which resources are allocated through central planning’ along with ‘collective/public ownership of productive resources’, giving the examples of the USSR, pre-reform China, North Korea, etc. Those centralist, statist regimes are (in my opinion) not true socialism at all. The Bakunin/Kropotkin models with power devolved away from the centre are true socialism (and indeed true democracy!), and these have not even been given the chance to fail yet.

I don’t know the identities of the writers, with the possible exception that the writer of the section I have headed Oil and the American Dream is, I believe, a blogger called John Clarkson.

Oil and the American Dream

The USA has a 200 year old political system, that is based on a 300 year old idea. This kind of inept government, where the checks and balances end up destroying any hope of change for the people will not survive population growth or the end of the age of oil. I've calculated using the latest statistics that the world will run dry of oil by roughly 2036. This figure is also quoted by the EU in their calculations. But American leaders don't seem to understand. They continue to have an American Dream - one that is based on cheap oil, cheap transport, easy access to credit, and plenty of opportunity for economic growth. But this is a dream. In the age of scarce oil, all of these reverse. As population grows slowly representation erodes. Check out your congress. Find out how many representatives the population of your area had in 1950, and how many they have now per person. You'll see democracy is dying. As it dies a Plutocracy led by the Tea Party are on the rise. These are the same nerds that destroyed the banking regulations, and allowed the banks to finally take all of the money from the people. These were Republicans. The Democrats proved powerless to deal with this, because when you are trillions in debt, because of an open cheque written by your government to bail out these banks, then your country is screwed big time. The fact is America will no longer be a superpower soon. It's infrastructure is packing up and not being properly repaired. The cost of everything is rising as the oil price rises. Soon China will be self sufficient. She won't need America or Europe. She'll be a law unto herself. Why sell abroad when you have an internal market. Chinamerica will die as the oil prices rise until oil is finally rationed just to grow and transport food.

If you've not woken up to these facts and you believe in a Flat Earth where resources are infinite in size, or that God will come down from heaven and sort it all out, you my friends are up for a rude awakening. Oil scarcity, not climate change is future threat to civilisation.

After all, without cheap, portable fuel, how can you build nuclear power, do mining on the scale it is now, feed people, build renewable energy, or just drive a car economically? You cannot, and America will be the country most hurt by the tides of history.

Atrocities committed by our troops

First commenter: As an ex marine I'm saddened by the incidents reported but not surprised. Armed forces are habitually recruited from the lower strata of society mainly disaffected men with little or no social responsibility, trained in a bullying and aggressive manner to be disconnected from and supercilious of those they are reputedly trying to protect. Racism, homophobia, misogyny and gang ethics are the working creed of the Marines and those of us who tried to reject by treating the civilian population with respect and trust this were treated to physical and mental abuse, accused of letting the side down and left because the scary fact became: the enemy was the man next to you - and if someone in their own group is considered 'wrong' how when given weapons and no cultural, social training are they going to react when confronted by virtual aliens? Like this....

Second commenter: I had a few friends in the RAF and Royal Marines. They really confirm what [the other commenter] is claiming. One ex Royal Marine claimed that in Africa, the squaddies resorted to punching up prostitutes for amusement since HIV was such a threat there. I think politicians such as Tony Blair are so far detached from reality that they couldn't imagine such things might happen in a war zone. Or perhaps they do, and they really are callous and inhumane as they claim the terrorists are?

Nick Clegg

How can someone as obviously hollow as Clegg ooze so much smarm and bullshit?

Read up on AntiSocial Personality Disorder and ask yourself the same question again. Superficial charm, manipulative behaviour, laxness with the truth - all used to achieve own ends and no remorse shown to those taken in by the sociopath's behaviour. Some psychologists estimate 5% or more of the population are sociopaths. Not all sociopaths end up exhibiting violence.
Many who fit the profile run companies, are bosses and achieve 'great' things. They love power and are skilled in using their deviant behaviour to achieve it and to achieve a veneer of public acceptability.

[Note to forum moderators. Many peer reviewed research papers on this]

The American Right’s distortion of the term ‘Socialism’

First commenter: One of the things that I have just come to realize is that the American right has been in the process of massively expanding the meaning of 'socialism' for some time.

I think most educated people know that strictly, socialism is the approach to resource allocation in which resources are allocated through central planning (rather than through price-based/market-based mechanisms). It also goes with collective/public ownership of productive resources.

On the original definition, having large social safety nets (welfare programmes) and progressive taxation does not imply socialism in any way shape or form. As long as production and prices are set by the actions of individual entrepreneurs and competitive forces and not by central planners, we have avoided the dreaded socialism. In general, in the classical and historically accurate view, tax policy and welfare policy are nothing to do with the basic choice about how resources are allocated.

What we're seeing now amongst the new American right is a broadening of the definition of 'socialism', such that

  1. Any policy that would increase the size of the public sector is socialism

  2. Any progressive form of taxation, or increase in the progressiveness of the taxation system (i.e. increasing the marginal rates of tax paid by the rich) is socialism

  3. Any increase in expenditures in social safety nets is socialism

  4. Any regulation of business is socialism

Of course one has to allow that words change meaning over time. But what is so clever about this from a political point of view is that this blurring of the meaning of 'socialism' allows the new American right to taint more moderate forms of capitalism (such as those found throughout Europe) with the failures of true socialism (i.e. the USSR, pre-reform China, North Korea, etc).

Another very cunning aspect of what the new American right is doing... If you put country models in a spectrum, with small safety nets, less progressive taxation and less regulation of business at one end (broadly the Atlantic version of capitalism) and more safety nets, more progressive taxation and more regulation at the other (the European version), then it is probably safe to say that the last ten years has suggested that the right point is more towards the European end than was previously thought. Yet by tarnishing that end with the 'socialism' brush, they are suggesting that we ought to move further in the direction of the Atlantic version – coming to exactly the opposite conclusion to that supported by the evidence.

Both sides of US politics are pretty slimy, but I do think that the right is much better at using labels and twisting definitions to score political points.

Second commenter (American): The wingnuts got excited when schools talked about the importance of teaching ‘socialization’ (getting along with other kids) in kindergarten. They were up in arms that the liberal leftwing was indoctrinating their kids with ‘socialism’, which they assumed meant ‘communism’.

Rather like that English town that stormed the house of a paediatrician because they thought that word meant 'paedophile'.

No nation has a monopoly on ignorant people all too ready to jump at an excuse to hate and fight someone they decided was a convenient scapegoat. The rest of us have to remember the rule of AA: you can't help someone who doesn't want help, but don't be an enabler out of sympathy for their plight.

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