23 Jan 2020

The Problem with the Right-Wing

If you want to identify some classic right-wing policies, then look no further than the EU's triad of the free movement of capital, goods, and people. Removing barriers to economic activity was the fundamental idea behind Adam Smith's economic philosophy and is the one idea that drives many right-wing politicians. This is liberalism applied to economics - one should be free to pursue business opportunities with minimal interference from government. Let markets set prices and act like karma in linking consequences to actions.

Of the three, the free movement of capital has been the most damaging - causing a number of continent spanning economic crises in Africa, South America, South East Asia, and lastly a global crisis in 2008. It's why billionaires pay no tax and why young people cannot afford to buy houses any more.

Economic liberalism is a disaster because markets never operate in the abstract/free way that karma is supposed to. People and governments always interfere. Always. The wealthy always tip the scales in their favour, it's how they get and sustain wealth.

Removing barriers to monopoly power has led to a sharp uptick in wealth inequality. Someone once asked me what I thought a socialist version of the board game Monopoly would would like. I said, "Dude, Monopoly is essentially a socialist game." It is set up to mimic the unlimited power that accrues to the wealthy under classical liberalism. At the end of the game one player owns all the property and has all the wealth and the other players have nothing. That is precisely the socialist view of what unfettered capitalism does to a society.

And notably this is the situation we increasingly see in the world. A few billionaires who own everything and the rest of us who have next to nothing. Bernie Sanders make this point repeatedly.

Ironically, Adam Smith's argument against protectionism and nationalism was that it turned trade into a zero sum game. In the early modern world, the era of massive European Empires spanning the globe, commerce was carried out on a winner take all basis. Colonised countries were mercilessly asset stripped. Piracy was not only rife, but state sanctioned. Smith argued that by dropping barriers to trade, commerce would become a win-win situation - the exchange of goods and services between countries benefits both sides. And to some extent he was right. Trade does tend to raise the standard of living for everyone.

People often cite Singapore as a shining example of unfettered capitalism. But 85% of housing is owned by the government - which is the only reason most Singaporeans are not all homeless right now. Also 22% of GDP comes from state-owned enterprises. Yes, Singapore dropped most barriers to commerce, but they did not throw the baby out with the bath water the way many Western countries did. They carried out the principle role of government in liberal political theory and protected their people from exploitation - ensuring that the cost of housing remains in a sane relation to wages.

Government's role, in liberal political philosophy is to protect citizens from exploitation. This does mean fewer millionaires and no billionaires in order to both ensure competition and to ensure that wealth is distributed fairly amongst citizens. And it does involve some government interventions. Providing free education is universally acknowledged as a public good although this does not stop governments skimping on it and exacerbating inequality. Healthcare is widely acknowledged to be a societal benefit as well (except in the USA).

Capitalism is really the only viable way to run a national economy. But laissez faire capitalism doesn't create a fair or equitable division of wealth. It concentrates wealth, it transfers wealth to the wealthy. It creates a torrent of wealth upwards, not a trickle down effect. Govt has to prevent monopolies. And having just four companies dominating the globe in any given sector is effectively a monopoly. Allowing the largest companies to merge and swallow up competitors reduces competition and removes the incentives that make capitalism work.

The trillion dollar companies used their monopoly positions to squash competitors and prevent new players from entering the market. Having companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook dominate the world is killing innovation and siphoning wealth out of the real economy.

I don't see any future for communism or socialism as systems. However, more worker ownership of businesses would be a good thing. And some state-owned enterprises clearly provide benefits: housing, healthcare, infrastructure such as roads, bridges.

The other clear role for government is in dealing with systemic problems. Acute problems like the coronavirus outbreak in China can only be dealt with by national and international agencies with real power to enforce measures. And chronic problems like climate change require governments to nudge and shove business to change their behaviour. Government is the only check on industries that appear to behave as a psychotic person with no concern for consequences, no empathy for victims, and a single-minded exploitation and manipulation of everyone and everything for their own benefit.

I think the anti-capitalist movement is silly. And I've had to cut my ties with organisations like Extinction Rebellion because it is largely populated with people who have utopian ideas replacing capitalism. I agree that we have to pressure governments to address climate change, but government led capitalism is the only chance we have of bringing about the necessary change at the necessary speed. Socialist utopias are a fantasy and we need to abandon the fantasy that humanity is all going to get along and have their needs provided for free.

26 Nov 2019

The KGB Model of State Subversion

Someone tweeted this part of an interview with an ex-KGB agent, Yuri Bezmenov, from 1984. Bezmenov defected to Canada in 1970.

Back then the Soviet Union was committed to spreading the ideology of Marxism-Leninism throughout the world using these techniques called Ideological Subversion or Active MeasuresPsychological Warfare has four stages. Espionage forms only a minor part of this process.
The goal is to "change the perception of reality to such an extent that despite the abundance of information, no one is able to come to sensible conclusions [in their own interests]".

This occurs in four stages.

  1. Demoralization. 15-20 years. A propaganda and disinformation campaign aimed at students that contravenes the values of the country. The result is that "exposure to true information does not matter anymore. A person who is demoralised is unable to assess true information." Even if the demoralised person is presented with clear documentary evidence that their view is wrong, they will not refuse to believe. 
  2. Destabilization. 2-5 years. The focus shifts from individuals to subverting state essentials: economy, foreign relations, defence. Politicians make extravagant promises.  
  3. Crisis. 6 weeks. A violent change of structure. 
  4. Normalization. Indefinite. The new "Big Brother" regime exerts itself, crushing the demoralised citizens. 

Note that Bezmenov says that the demoralisation phase of the KGB program in the USA is already complete. "Most of it is done by Americans to Americans, thanks to lack of moral standards."

Bezmenov suggests that aim of Soviet operations was to destabilise the free enterprise system. But we need to look at the history of the collapse of economic liberalism the first time around. Economic liberalism is inherently unstable because it creates a super-rich class who misuse the excessive wealth and power they have to subvert democracy. The Soviets cannot take responsibility for the 1929 stock market crash or the Great Depression.

Bezmenov implicates socially liberal educators. Educated people score higher on the openness trait of the Big Five psychometric test and all people who have high scores on this trait tend to be more socially liberal. Bezmenov also implicates civil rights defenders in destabilisation.

One needs to emphasise in response to Bezmenov that the Marxism-Leninism take over of the USA never happened. Indeed, by the time he was giving this interview, in 1984, the USA was moving decisively to the right economically and it continued to do so until Trump. Bezmenov is in fact quite off-beam in his assessment of US politics and social attitudes.

The methodology he describes however is interesting because what we see in 2019 is Americans refusing to believe authentic, documentary evidence of Trump's misuse of power and his subversion of the economy, foreign relations, and defence for his own ends - sometimes in ways that seem consistent with him furthering his own interests and sometimes seemingly at random (though in ways that play to his base).

Last week it emerged that the combined intelligence community is unanimous about the fact that Russia interfered in the 2016 election to help Trump. And that they have presented a classified briefing to the Senate, including authentic documentary evidence, that this was so and that the Ukraine meddling story was a Russian disinformation campaign being promoted by the Russia intelligence community.

Despite the unanimous voice of the FBI, CIA, NSA, and a dozen other intelligence agencies, Republican senators, at the urging of Trump, launched an investigation into the subject of the Russian disinformation campaign. The President and key members of the Republican Party are dismissing the unified voice of the US intelligence community despite the evidence. They seem "unable to assess true information."

At the same time, despite clear and overwhelming evidence of Trump's repeated and ongoing misuse of power for personal gain, half of America and all of the Republican Party are denying that anything untoward happened. The testimony of career foreign service officials made no difference at all.

Although Bezmenov was clearly over-estimating the impact of Soviet Marxist-Leninist propaganda, we are in fact in just the same state of demoralisation as he describes, but with respect to President Trump's agenda and his support amongst the alt-right.

What happened in the USA was not what Bezmenov predicted. Rather it was a replay of the collapse of classical liberalism because of the chaos caused by the super-rich and their irresistible desire to manipulate things for their own ends. The 2019 version of economic liberalism sees billionaires battling it out for control of the government in the open, with the ability to outspend all their rivals combined. Bloomberg, a former Republican, entered the democratic primary by spending $30 million on advertising. The other candidates have raised considerably less than this in total, let alone for advertising.

It's also clear that Russia has also been at work in the UK, especially in the process of the UK leaving the EU (aka Brexit). They seem to have part funded the Leave campaign and to have facilitated a process of demoralisation including 20 years of fake news about the EU.

The Institute for Global Affairs, London School of Economics, released a report in 2017: Soviet Subversion, Disinformation and Propaganda: How the West Fought Against It. An Analytic History, with Lessons for the Present. This provides more details as well as counter-measures that the US Govt developed to combat active measures. They point out that modern Russian propaganda is no longer ideological; it is distributed between state actors and various other interests and it is opportunistic. And there is no concerted effort to combat it.

The full, hour long interview is here.

17 Nov 2019

The Impeachment of Trump in a Nutshell

I've been following the impeachment hearings in the USA with interest. They are not only inherently interesting and political drama of the highest calibre, but they are a welcome distraction from the sewer of British politics and electioneering.

The information coming out is complex and in order to organise it I started a diagram of how the players are connected.

click to embiggen.

This diagram is still a bit messy, but it does help me to see certain things. I say "in a nutshell" but it's a big nut. I'll keep working on the diagram and update it as and when I can.

Here is the story as I understand it.

Joe Biden was instrumental in removing corrupt Prosecutor General Shokin from office. Shokin wanted revenge and so floated the story that he had just been about to open an investigation into Burisma and Biden's son Hunter who was a fig-leaf on the board. His replacement Lutsenko did investigate Burisma, but found nothing. He supported Shokin's allegations and helped to spread them to the US via various channels: a journalist named John Solomon, Paul Manafort, and the President's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who met with both Shokin and Lutsenko.

Manafort was Trump's campaign manager. He formerly worked on Ukraine President Yanukovych's campaign and when this came out he was forced to resign (because of corruption) and fled to Russia. Later he was convicted of financial crimes and is still in jail and facing further indictments.

As well as his connections to corrupt government officials, Giuliani has been cultivating business interests in Ukraine via Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. These two were involved in a number of business deals including the ironically named Fraud Guarantee which has no customers and provides no actual services, and thus has no bone fide income, yet paid Giuliani $500,000 to provide legal services. Parnas and Fruman are charged with campaign finance violations after they channeled Russian money to Trump's campaign via fake intermediaries. Foreign political donations are illegal in the USA. Parnas has agreed to testify to Congress although I don't think he is scheduled yet.

Another story, possibly originating from Putin (who spoke about it in a 2017 press conference) was circulating that it was Ukraine who hacked the DNC server and meddled in the election. Though this story is confused because they are supposed to have intervened on Clinton's side but all the leaks were damaging to Clinton. The hacking was interference in favour of Trump, who subsequently won the election (although he lost the popular vote). Also the US intelligence community conclusively proved that is was Russia that had hacked the server. The idea is that a physical DNC server was somehow smuggled out of the US and is being hidden in Ukraine.

The Biden story made its way to Trump. He put two and two together and made five. Trump saw two opportunities. Firstly he could hurt his main political rival, Joe Biden. Secondly, he could cast doubt on the work of the US intelligence community (who he felt were working against him) and exculpate his friend and ally Vladimir Putin. He decided to use his the weight of the office of president and the apparatus of state to force the new and inexperienced Ukraine president Volodimir Zelensky to publicly open investigations into the Bidens and the server. This would achieve both aims.

It's possible that Trump believed the stories to be true, but even so, he was clearly abusing his power in choosing to take this action, whether or not it succeeded.

Trump's first problem was the Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovich. She was competent, intelligent, and actively fighting corruption. She had implicated the head of the anti-corruption unit of the Prosecutor General's office, Nazar Kholonitsky, in witness tampering (they bugged his fish tank). Yovanovich was publically calling for his removal and prosecution.

Rather than simply recally Yovanovich, as he could have done, Trump allowed Giuliani to cook up a smear campaign against her. Her exemplary record and character notwithstanding, Yovanovich, who had served in active war zones and been shot at in the course of her duties, was smeared by Lutsenko, which was repeated by Giuliani, lawyers for the President DiGenova and Toensing (picked up by Fox News), and by Trump Jr. Finally she was smeared by Trump just before he removed her from her role and again while she was giving testimony to Congress (thus committing the federal crime of witness tampering).

Yovanovich was replaced by William Taylor a man of impeccable record and character. Although he was named ChargĂ© d'affaires rather than Ambassador (the post remains unfilled). Taylor's appointment was a smoke screen as he soon came to realise. He took up the regular role of representing the US's interests in the Ukraine. However, there was another White House team at work in Ukraine, seemingly managed by Giuliani.

Three WH officials operated an alternative mission to Ukraine. Ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland bought his post with a $1 million donation to the Trump campaign. The hotelier has no political experience. He was teamed the Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry, and the Special Envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker. They affectionately referred to themselves as the "three amigos". The trio were charged by Donald Trump to put pressure on Zelensky to publicly support Trump by announcing investigations into Biden and the mythical server. Giuliani was their line manager, but SOndland at least spoke directly with Trump about this project.

In a series of meetings they conveyed Trump's message that US support was contingent on support for Trump's witch hunt to Zelensky and his top officials. On offer in payment for this compliance was a public meeting in the White House for Zelensky (which would help bolster his support and legitimise his presidency). Trump has often publicly supported his allies such as Kim, Putin, and Erdogan in this way.

Mike Pence was also roped into delivering the ultimatum. He claims ignorance of the machinations, but this hardly seems credible. If he did not know then he is incompetent. Zelensky, faced with multiple White House Officials bullying him had to play along. But he could not easily capitulate to the US without a backlash from Russia and from his own people. He was in a serious bind and stalled for time.

Seemingly Trump did not feel enough pressure was being brought to bear on Zelensky so he had his Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, intervene in the Office of Budget Management to hold up financial aide to Ukraine. Zelensky did not know about this during the infamous phone call, but he was already under considerable pressure from Trump's goons. The hold on the aide was made known to Ukraine, who were agreeing to do what was asked, but not actually doing anything. Zelensky was trapped and agreed to make the required announcement, but still stalled.

Finally a whistleblower who heard about the call and some of the machinations going on, reported this to their boss. The complaint was illegally withheld from Congress, but eventually released and impeachment inquiry announced within days. At this point, the aide to Ukraine was released and Zelensky escaped from the trap Trump had set for him. However, he was still compelled to support Trump publicly, he is still under Trump's thumb and having serious problems at home. At the same time the call was moved to a high security server set up for matters of national security in a rather inept attempt at a cover up.

As pressure mounted on the President in the form of openly leaked excerpts of secret depositions in the impeachment hearings, Mulvaney went on national television and confessed that they had been trying to bribe Ukraine (by demanding investigations into Biden and the mythical server) and asserted that this was simply the norm in foreign policy. "Get over it". This has caused an ongoing rift with top White House lawyer, Pat Cipollone. There has been no coherent message from the White House.

The impeachment hearings continue and the Congress are still taking depositions in private.

Sondland is the weak link of the White House goons. His testimony to date could well leave him open to perjury charges as its apparent he knew much more than he is saying - he was fully involved and fully informed, even he is was not experienced enough to know he was breaking the law. Ignorance is not a legal defence. If you watch no other public hearing, watch Sondland's testimony on Wed 20th. He had personal phone calls with President Trump about his clandestine mission in Ukraine. Weirdly he had them on an unsecured line in a country where Russia routinely monitors communications, and with Trump speaking so loudly that others could hear the whole conversation.

Sondland is going to have to betray Trump or face jail time. And this may weaken Trump enough open the floodgates. 

The way I read it, Trump is guilty of abusing his power in the form of bribery to seek foreign interference in the 2020 election. Of course the call notes so far released are clear evidence of this, but the weight of it is in the actions of his goons in Ukraine. He is also guilty of obstruction of Congress for refusing to comply with lawful subpoenas and for blocking others from complying with lawful subpoenas. And he is guilty of obstruction of justice in the form of witness tampering. All are impeachable offenses. However, as we know, he is also guilty of obstruction of justice in the Mueller Inquiry.

It seems to me that many of the people involved have criminal liability including Giuliani. Interesting just a few days he "joked" that he had insurance in case Trump did not remain loyal to him. I do not believe for a second that this was a joke. It was a threat.

It seems clear to me that Pence, Pompeo, and Barr all knew was was going on. Mulvaney was probably involved in the strategy. They are all complicit. And it's no wonder that the GOP are fighting so hard to undermine the credibility of the impeachment inquiry. Knowingly supporting a corrupt President is hard to sell to voters. If they fail to dismiss the charges they are all going down with Trump. Indeed it seems likely that, if they fail, Trump would consider them his enemies and make a point of taking them down with him.

Many more Trump aides are looking at criminal indictment (joining the long list of criminals that Trump has associated with over the years).

Last week Trump was found guilty of misappropriating and misusing funds from his charity for personal gain. It is now a matter of public record that he is corrupt. Trump is presently being investigated by the Southern District of New York for fraud and is likely to spend the rest of his life in court if not in prison once he leaves office. He has been fighting very hard to prevent his tax returns from being released and we can only assume that this is because they are incriminating in some way. His business empire is crumbling now that his father is no longer able to bail him out. The transparent attempt to subvert the emoluments clause in holding the G7 at this own resort failed, which leaves Doral losing vast sums of money for Trump.

The institution of democracy and the validity of the Constitution of the USA hang in the balance. But the Founders anticipated this moment. They gave the three branches of government equal status and power. It will all turn on whether Republican senators back Trump and corruption or back the Constitution and take their bitter medicine.

10 Nov 2019

The British Elite Are Terrified of Corbyn

This comparison of two stories from the Express says it all.

One party want to raise the minimum wage to £10.50. The other party wants to raise the minimum wage to £10.00. One is hailed as a boon for workers while the other is derides as destroying jobs. Logic suggests that the higher amount ought to draw fire for hurting jobs, since the argument is that higher wages suppresses job creation.

But the paper does not follow logic. In Sept 2019 it rails against £10.00 proposed by Labour, but in Nov 2019 it hails the Tory proposed increase to £10.50.

This is nonsense. This is fake news. This is misinformation. The "free press" may be free, but they are liars. What the hell do we do about this? 

25 Oct 2019

The Debt Clock and the Generational Disaster in the USA.

Check out this amazing Debt Clock for the USA.

It's scary in several ways. Look particularly at the bottom left under "Unfunded Liabilities".
Unfunded Liability - (n) liability is a debt or obligation one party owes to other(s) some future date in time. Debt gets commonly settled by payment or performance of a service. An Unfunded Liability describes any liability, debt, mortgage, or obligation that one either does not have savings set aside for it. 
At present the US Government has unfunded liabilities of $126 trillion. Just to be clear the US government has promised to $126 trillion but has no budget for paying any of it. This is medicare, pensions, social security, government debt, and so on.

And the GDP of the USA is $19 trillion. So the unfunded liabilities are 679% of GDP.

What happens when the US government defaults on its obligations? The constraints on debts to banks and other nations mean they will get priority. A major power defaulting on debts would threaten global chaos on a scale that would make the global financial crisis look like a day in the park. So what will happen is defaulting on domestic obligations: medicare, pensions, social security.

The other thing to notice is the differential between rise in wages and the rise in health care and education. Comparing 2000 and now.
mean income:      $30,872 → $33,445 (+  8.3%)
healthcare costs:  $5,508 → $11,516 (+109.1%)
college tuition:  $11,897 → $24,568 (+106.5%)

This trend is only continuing. It goes with another fact: successive generations have saved less, and fewer have saved at all, for retirement. Saving for retirement requires that we earn enough to put some aside. In my life time the developed world has moved from the wages of one man supporting the entire family with some put aside for a pension, to the wages of both parents being insufficient for live on.

This has been great for corporate profit margins. It has been great for shareholder dividends in this generation. But in another 50 years not only will the population be aging and longer lived, but it won't have saved for retirement. Just at the time when the government's own financial crisis is forcing them to stop spending on domestic obligations.

23 Oct 2019

Some Thoughts on the Politics of the Bottom.

From the protests in Chile:

“We are not from the Right
nor from the Left.
We are from the Bottom
and we are coming for the ones at the Top”

In the politics of the Bottom we have to acknowledge that the Bottom have a uniformly terrible experience of government bureaucracy. They especially have a terrible experience of the legal system and the welfare system. Less money is spent on the Bottom. They get a worse education. They work harder. They don't live as long. They are bullied by the state and management. They are despised.

So the Bottom might not see socialism (the state running things) as a great idea. Handing power to the people who torment, torture, and kill the Bottom may seem like a bad idea to folk at the Bottom. Hence, many vote on the right to the consternation of the left. And they would not be wrong. You cannot empower the disempowered, by handing power to the state. The social liberal aims to give the Bottom a step up through education, healthcare, etc. But the bias in the system constantly sabotages this.

Unfortunately, contra the Liberal myth, the Bottom want to be empowered without taking responsibility. Who appears to offer this? Fascists. The Mafia. Gangs...
"Join us! No one will push you around (except us), we'll look after you and your family, you'll make good money, and there is a career path if you want it."
Fascists understand the bottom better than Socialists or Social Liberals. This is not a good thing... Economic Liberals (NeoLiberals) see the Bottom as an obstacle to prosperity.

The is a problem of Essentialism: the idea that being at the Bottom is not a matter of circumstances or chance; that is is somehow meaningful. If you trace back, people at the Bottom usually had everything taken away by the Top at some point and never recovered.

We have to somehow find a new dynamic. The court cases in the USA which aim to hold the oil companies to account for their deceptions on climate change is one good sign. Similarly the holding of big pharma to account for the opioid crisis.

22 Oct 2019


Orwellian doublespeak has become the norm for politicians and big business. The tools of semantics leave us scratching our heads when someone says something and then claims not to have said it, or to have said something different, or to have meant something different. Pragmatics takes the nonsense in it's stride and asks the same question: what is the author of the speech act trying to do.

Sowing confusion amongst your enemies using disinformation is a classic military tactic. It undermines the ability of the enemy to understand your true intent and leaves them expending time, energy, and resources sifting through your utterances looking for the truth.

The use of disinformation and propaganda in warfare is not new. The routine overt use of them in domestic politics is. This tells us that the elite are on a war footing. And we, the people, are their enemy.

11 Oct 2019

Google vs Republicans:

The big headline in the Guardian today is Google made large contributions to climate change deniers.

I don't think Google was targeting climate change, denial, but rather the reasoning is found in another article: The obscure law that explains why Google backs climate deniers.

Google and other large internet companies rely on section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to avoid liability for what people like me publish on my Google-owned blogs. This part of the CDA offers the internet giant legal immunity for content I create using their platform "in effect treating them as distributors of content and not publishers". And this seems fair enough. Google owns Blogger. There are millions of blogs on this platform and Google cannot reasonably moderate them expect retroactively if people complain. Google merely distribute my words. And I should be the one who has the liability.

Still, this doesn't explain why Google are giving a lot of money to quite so many right-wing think tanks. Nor why Google have been so defensive about being caught out.
“We’re hardly alone among companies that contribute to organisations while strongly disagreeing with them on climate policy,” the spokesperson said.

The reason they have been making contributions is that Republican senators, particular Ted Cruz have been calling for repeal of §320. And in particular Cruz argues that Google is biased in favour of the Democrats. That is that Google search results are biased. Here is Cruz grilling a Google representative on 16 July 2019:

Make no mistake, this is a disaster for Google! Because senators have power to change laws. If Google were deemed to be a publisher then they would be open to vast number of lawsuits from Republican supporters.

In Aug 2019 Slate ran an article with a bit more information on this. 
"Fox News’ sister network Fox Business had discussed the July Senate testimony of a psychologist named Robert Epstein, who said that “Google’s search algorithm likely impacted undecided voters in a way that gave at least 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton.” 
And President translated this into a Tweet that said in part "Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 Election!" Now this is an obvious distortion of the facts and one of tens of thousands of lies that Trump has told.

Epstein works at the American Institute for Behavioral Research. But Epstein was already in a long standing conflict with Google: "In 2012, Epstein publicly disputed with Google Search over a security warning placed on links to his website" (NYTimes). He subsequently made a career of criticizing Google and other big internet companies. And of course in the increasingly divided and paranoid politics of the US, Republicans latched onto this idea that Google had manipulated search results. 

Of course Google has responded through the usual channels - the mainstream media. They have testified in  But the parts of the media controlled by Republicans of the extreme views we associate with Cruz and Trump are not bound to give Google a fair hearing. The comments under that Ted Cruz video are disturbing in their partisan credulity and paranoia. 

The original liberal country, the home of liberal democracy, the nation that has inscribed liberalism into the very fabric of their constitution has produced a generation, of mainly younger white men, who hate liberalism. I saw yesterday that young white men have issued death threats to Greta Thunberg who they see as representing a vast conspiracy against them. Angry older white men like Jordan Peterson have only stoked the fire higher by confirming their fears of a liberal conspiracy. It's not quite clear what this liberal conspiracy will achieve apart from free healthcare and green energy, but the paranoiacs associate it with gun control and with progressive social values.

We often see negative comments about Google bowing to political pressure to censor results in China. We seldom see analysis of the kind of political pressure that Google has to deal with in the USA where society was always economically right wing, but has become increasingly socially conservative and authoritarian. And make no mistake, Epstein has put Google firmly in the cross hairs. 

Google should be scrutinised. It enjoys a monopoly on the market and it is not always a friend to the individual citizen. Issues about privacy, data, metadata, and censorship are important and Google should be seen to be conforming to social norms on these issues, or at the very least complying with relevant law. 

But the pressure Google face from paranoid Republicans and the rednecks who support Trump is something else. We can perhaps understand why they have resorted to giving large (but undisclosed sums) to right-wing think tanks. Google is fighting for survival and needs allies in the Republican Party to help thwart the insane clown posse that is Trump and his supporters. They cannot simply make a rational argument and present evidence because the other side don't operate on facts and reason. They operate on emotions and prejudice.

Still there is something fundamentally immoral about supporting these organisations that are contributing to climate change denial. Sure, other big companies are doing it, but since when has that been a valid moral argument? Two wrongs don't make a right. Climate change is the issue of our time. And even if we are wrong about everything and we clean up the environment only to realise that we needn't have, we still have clean air, clean water, lower deaths from pollution, and so on. We have to make the transition to a Green Economy anyway. Climate change just makes it urgent. 

Lewis Powell argued in 1971 that the American free enterprise system was under attack by progressive social attitudes (by which he specifically meant the environmental movement, but at that time presumably also the civil rights movement as well). 

The freedom of economic liberals has always been about the freedom to exploit the people and world for profit. The so-called free enterprise system only ever worked well for large multinationals that pursued and gained monopoly power. It wasn't free for anyone else. The free market ideology that combined classical economic liberalism and the new economic theory of monetarism never really addressed the complete lack of freedom of markets. Google is fighting to survive and against a pernicious trend led by a corrupt politician who is misusing his office, but they are using their wealth to buy political influence. This is the flaw in the free market system: those who could, always have manipulated markets for their own benefit. 

Capitalism always ends up being about the elites fighting for power over the workers. If that means drafting our workers to kill your workers, then so be it. The various factions get involved in the deluded idea that by backing the right tyrant they will get special treatment in the new dispensation. So suddenly the young right-wing white men of the USA are against Google, even though Google's contribution to their lives far exceeds that of senator Cruz and this cronies. It's all part of a sinister plot. 

All this is frankly terrifying. Trump, Cruz, the Republican Party, are corrupt and disinterested in dealing with climate change because it shifts profit making to other industries. Google, in a shameless attempt to buy political influence with the allies of these corrupt politicians in order to stave off a disadvantageous change i the law, are making large contributions to the very think tanks that fuel the Republican climate change denial. The only winner here is climate change denial

The UK where I live is scarcely any better. Venal millionaire politicians are destroying democracy for money.

4 Oct 2019

Problems of market economies

From Encyclopedia Britannica:
"By the end of the 19th century, some unforeseen but serious consequences of the Industrial Revolution in Europe and North America had produced a deepening disenchantment with the principal economic basis of classical liberalism—the ideal of a market economy. The main problem was that the profit system had concentrated vast wealth in the hands of a relatively small number of industrialists and financiers, with several adverse consequences. First, great masses of people failed to benefit from the wealth flowing from factories and lived in poverty in vast slums. Second, because the greatly expanded system of production created many goods and services that people often could not afford to buy, markets became glutted and the system periodically came to a near halt in periods of stagnation that came to be called depressions. Finally, those who owned or managed the means of production had acquired enormous economic power that they used to influence and control government, to manipulate an inchoate electorate, to limit competition, and to obstruct substantive social reform. In short, some of the same forces that had once released the productive energies of Western society now restrained them; some of the very energies that had demolished the power of despots now nourished a new despotism."
"As modern liberals struggled to meet the challenge of stagnating living standards in mature industrial economies, others saw an opportunity for a revival of classical liberalism. The intellectual foundations of this revival were primarily the work of the Austrian-born British economist Friedrich von Hayek and the American economist Milton Friedman. One of Hayek’s greatest achievements was to demonstrate, on purely logical grounds, that a centrally planned economy is impossible. He also famously argued, in The Road to Serfdom (1944), that interventionist measures aimed at the redistribution of wealth lead inevitably to totalitarianism. Friedman, as one of the founders of the modern monetarist school of economics, held that the business cycle is determined mainly by the supply of money and by interest rates, rather than by government fiscal policy—contrary to the long-prevailing view of Keynes and his followers. These arguments were enthusiastically embraced by the major conservative political parties in Britain and the United States, which had never abandoned the classical liberal conviction that the market, for all its faults, guides economic policy better than governments do." 

3 Oct 2019

My Response to George Monbiot on Demagogues

Monbiot writes in the Guardian: Demagogues thrive by whipping up our fury. Here’s how to thwart them.

I believe the present wave of authoritarian, nationalistic, and violent politics is the direct result of 40 years of neoliberalism undercutting workers pay and conditions, undermining job security, and generally telling the citizen that they don't matter. 40 years of neoliberal politicians and corporate CEOs corrupting public office and subverting democracy.

There is no govt money for the people because it's all going to subsidise multinational corporations. We have pogroms against "benefit cheats" but tax cheats who steal 100x more are routinely ignored.

This is a mirror of what we saw during the decline of classical liberalism. It "concentrated vast wealth in the hands of a relatively small number of industrialists and financiers," and the masses did not benefit; it caused cycles of boom and bust; and lastly those who had great wealthy used it to buy influence in and control of government, and to manipulate the electorate. (Adapted from Encyclopedia Britannica).

While authoritarian, nationalistic, and violent politics did not take hold everywhere as a result, it did take hold in enough places that we had to fight WWII to stop it. And after that we saw a brief period of humanistic, society-oriented politics until the early 1970s when the economic liberals merged their ideas with the new monetarism to create the new classical liberalism or neoliberalism. The neoliberals launched a "counterattack" against what Lewis Powell called the attack on the free enterprise system. They bought up the media. They bought up business schools. They founded think tanks to employ the business school graduates to keep the message in the media. They built power base that is more or less impervious to governance and democracy.

We did not learn the lessons of history. And now the farce is playing out as tragedy. The difference this time is that 40 years of neoliberalism have ignited climate change, which may well already be irreversible.

In response to this, Monbiot really does have much to offer beyond some simple common sense. I agree that insulting the opposition is a mistake. Insults raise the tension and make resolution less likely. Of course appeasement is not going to work in this case either. This also has historical precedent. 

I think we have to take to the streets in large numbers and demand change. But the UK is a deeply divided country at present, and this favours the Romans Tories, while the Judeans Left cannot stop their infighting even for a second. So a political solution seems a long way off, because the party that creates discord is not going to be stopped by the party embodying discord. In the USA the impeachment of Trump looks encouraging, but remember that Pence will be his replacement. Elsewhere things seem to hang in the balance. And every day the earth is heating up...