Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category


How many times have you heard the pious intonation, “we’re all to blame”? If you’ve thought about the matter at all, the answer is obvious: too damn many. (Frankly, one time is too damn many.)

At best, this assertion — “argument” is too kind a term — is a malign form of virtue signalling indicating that the speaker has wisely and selflessly “accepted responsibility,” while you, you poor benighted sod, haven’t.

Beyond the unseemly self-congratulation, the humble-bragging inherent in the phrase, why is it malign? Why is it worse than useless?

Because it short circuits critical analysis. Because it let’s those entities and (to a lesser extent) individuals responsible for the world’s problems off the hook.

Let’s see how this works in regard to the most pressing issue of our times: climate change and resultant global ecological catastrophe. (Here, a popular variation on the “we’re all to blame” trope is that old people, as a class, are to blame.)

What kind of actions does assigning blame to everyone point to? With responsibility that diluted, assigned to an undifferentiated mass, with every individual treated as equally responsible, the “we’re all to blame” assertion points to nothing beyond what everyone can do: lowest-common-denominator individual actions such as recycling, reducing energy consumption, tending a vegetable garden, repairing rather than replacing, bicycling and using public transit, eating a vegan diet, etc., etc.

While these actions are all worthwhile, even if they were very widely adopted they would be grossly inadequate as an answer to ecological collapse. They would provide some amelioration, but they would do nothing to address the underlying structural reasons for impending and ongoing environmental cataclysm.

To find ways to address that collection of catastrophes, you need to go beyond pious platitudes, you need to look at the economic, social, and political structures that have produced the ecological crisis, and those sociopathic entities that benefit from the crisis. The vast majority of people are largely along for the ride, propelled by forces they neither understand nor control. (This isn’t to say that they can’t understand or control those forces, just that at present they don’t.)

So, let’s do a brief, necessarily very incomplete analysis of how global warming and its attendant ecological problems were created, and what can be done to address them. Let’s consider rising sea levels (inundating island nations and low-lying coastal areas, and already producing climate refugees), and ever-increasing extreme weather, with its droughts, floods, and hurricanes.

There are reasons for all this. The following list of factors is very obviously far from complete. But it points in the direction where research and consequent action is needed. Please note that this is not intended as a blueprint or detailed analysis, and is simply intended to show the direction we need to take to actually deal with the environmental crisis. How we need to start thinking about things. Given these provisos, here are a few of the most important factors producing global warming — there are many others:

  • Fossil-fuel burning. At present, the cost of renewables (solar, wind, etc.) is falling like a rock, and in many cases is already below the cost of fossil-fuel power generation. But the government continues to provide massive subsidies to the fossil fuels (and nuclear) industries, and to starve renewables of development funds. Why? That brings us to the next factors:
  • The profit motive. Many of the world’s biggest companies are fossil-fuels corporations, and make tens of billions annually (sometimes per quarter) from sales of compounds that are destroying the environment and the lives of future generations. Why are they doing this? Why this horrendous irresponsibility? It’s simple. Money, lots of it. Lots of it in the short term. Corporations are sociopathic by nature and have essentially a single duty: to maximize returns to investors, no matter the cost to others or the environment.
  • Our bought and paid for politicians and political system. Why do our “public servants” put up with, indeed support, this grossly antisocial behavior? Because it’s in their interests to do so. A great many of them receive campaign contributions from the fossil fuels industries, sometimes enticements beyond that, and many often go to work as well-paid lobbyists for those industries immediately after retiring from “public service.”

What does all this point to in the here and now (neglecting radical social-political-economic transformation, which will be necessary at some point soon)? Here are but a few possible steps:

  • Removal of fossil fuel subsidies.
  • Drastic increase of funding for renewables research and deployment.
  • Greatly increased taxation of fossil-fuels companies.
  • A ban on corporate political contributions; an upper limit on all political contributions; and a mandate that all political campaigns be funded by small donors.
  • A ban on lobbying by former “public servants.”

As noted above, this does not even begin to approach a comprehensive analysis nor a comprehensive list of recommendations. It’s merely an example of how we need to start thinking about these matters and start thinking about ways to deal with them, how we need to get away from the simplistic “we’re all to blame” assertion and look at actual causes and solutions.

(For more on all of the above, see John Grant’s excellent Corrupted Science (revised & expanded).

Health permitting, I’ll try to have a related post on habitat loss and resource depletion up shortly.


Chris Hedges just put up a fantastic, fearless post on Truthout about the libeling of those of us who oppose Israeli brutalization and murder of Palestinians as “anti-semitic” (e.g., 200+ murders and thousands of deliberate maimings by Israeli snipers of protesters on the other side of the fence in Gaza during the ongoing “right of return” protests — and just ask yourself, how desperate must people be to deliberately expose themselves to murder and maiming, while the corporate press dishonestly excuses that slaughter — sniper shootings at hundreds of yards — as “clashes”? ). I just wish I could repost Chris’s piece here.

Hence an inadequate but claratory definition from The American Heretic’s Dictionary about what “anti-semitism” means currently in the U.S.:

Anti-Semitism, n. 1) A blind, unreasoning hatred of Jewish people by those who fear, with good reason, that they are inferior to Jews. (This is not to say that Jews are inherently superior to anyone else, even anti-Semites; rather, that Jewish culture encourages self-responsibility, social responsibility, learning, dedication to goals, and individual achievement—things sorely lacking in the mainstream of American culture. Hence Jews tend to be perceived as threatening “overachievers” in comparison with average, “fetch me another beer, Bubba” Americans.); 2) As defined in the United States for well over half a century, the unspeakable act of criticizing the oppression and murder of one Semitic people by another (Palestinians by Israelis). Needless to say, this leads to gross confusion of those who seek social justice with actual anti-Semites—which is precisely the intention of those who use the term in this manner. (Curiously, the ethnicity of all of these individuals is apparently Irish, as they invariablyh respond to the name “McCarthy.”)

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—from The American Heretic’s Dictionary (revised & expanded)

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PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, n. 1) A pathological liar suffering delusions of grandeur; 2) An office which confers upon its holder vast coercive power as well as the means to commit mass murder—an opportunity of which all recent U.S. presidents have taken advantage. Because of this, some observers have concluded that only the worst type of individuals seek the office of president. This unkind assessment is, however, incorrect. It is more realistic to conclude that only the worst type of individuals are elected to the office.

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—from The American Heretic’s Dictionary (revised & expanded)

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(Note: When I wrote these definitions decades ago, Bill Clinton was in office, and the first definition was shocking. It made you think. And it was funny. No more. Now it simply states the obvious. I hope you still get a chuckle out of the second definition.)


At long last we have enough suitable material for another one of these “interesting and marginally useful” posts. This one is fairly heavy on the interesting (and funny) side, so we’ll start off with the most marginally useful sites we’ve stumbled across recently.

  • If you’ve ever tried to explain to an imbecile that there’s a difference between correlation and causation, you can relax; you can forego such exercises in frustration from now on: just point imbeciles at the Spurious Correlations site. No matter how dim people are, there’s at least a chance that a 25-watt bulb will flicker to life in their craniums once they see the near-exact correlation between — my favorite — Per capita cheese consumption and The number of people who died by becoming entangled in their bedsheets in the years 2000 through 2009 (statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). The Spurious Correlations site features many other such correlations; a good one is that between US spending on science, space, and technology and Suicides by hanging, strangulation, and suffocation in the years 1999 through 2009.
  • You’ve probably heard of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is essentially the maddening phenomenon — currently on spectacular display in American politics — in which the more ignorant a person is about damn near anything, the more convinced they are that they’re knowledgeable. Psychologist David Dunning, who supplied half of the name for the effect, was recently interviewed by Vox reporter Brian Resnick. The interview bears the promising subtitle, “How to fight the Dunning-Kruger effect . . .” Unfortunately, Dunning’s advice does seem only marginally useful (those who need it most won’t take it), but it’s worth reading nonetheless.
  • We put up a post about this a month ago, but can’t resist plugging Nihilanand once again. It’s a gag/serious site concerning the criminal activity known as parenthood, and features over 100 memes, some outright hilarious. We put up one of them last month, and here’s another. (But before we go on, do check out the BBC article, “Indian man to sue parents for giving birth to him.” It’s almost as funny as the memes.)

Nihilanand meme

  • Banksy’s Dismaland is long gone, but if you missed its very limited five-week run in 2015 at an “abandoned lido” (whatever the hell that is), there are still two great photo tours of the “bemusement park”: Colossal’s “Welcome to Dismaland” and (yes) Business Insider’s “29 Photos from Banksy’s Twisted Dismaland.” (Note: “Welcome to Dismaland” is slow in loading.) Here’s one of the tour photos:

  • Finally, the Miami Herald just published (and kudos to them for not hiding behind a paywall) a piece titled “Florida is just full of weirdos,” which is a list of the supposedly ten best Florida Man Twitter posts, a Twitter feed that has over 400,000 followers, and which concerns weird news in Florida. We’d strongly disagree that these are the ten best Florida Man posts — it looks like they selected ten at random and labeled them the “best” —  though we do like the one about the dimwit who was “released from jail on an auto theft charge” and was immediately rearrested after trying to break “into another car in the jail’s parking lot . . . with a deputy behind the wheel.” If you like this sort of thing, we’d urge you to check out the Florida Man Twitter feed, which almost always has something to rival the above. The one in the current batch of tweets that caught our eye was a headline from the Florida Times-Union (in Jacksonville) reading, “Florida man kidnaps neighbor’s dog, has sex with it in his trailer,” which brings up the always pertinent question, how is it possible to kidnap a dog?

And as we’ve said before . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . Th . . . That’s all folks!

Porky Pig


There’s a standard psychological list to assess psychopathic tendencies, The Hare Psychopathology Checklist. It’s a list of 20 traits common to psychopaths.

The traits are ranked on a scale of 0 to 2, with 0 being entirely absent, 1 being somewhat present, and 2 being strongly present. The Checklist ranks someone as a psychopath if their score is 30 or above out of a possible score of 40.

One of the points on the Checklist “revocation of conditional release” is entirely dependent on class status (doesn’t apply to the rich — they’re never in the system in the first place) — and another is almost entirely so, “juvenile delinquency” is almost entirely class-dependent (the rich get “diverted” and their records erased), so let’s disallow those two criteria. That leaves 18 checkpoints. Let’s see how Trump does, taking a score of 27 (75%) as indicative of psychopathy:

  • glib and superficial charm
  • grandiose (exaggeratedly high) estimation of self
  • need for stimulation
  • pathological lying
  • cunning and manipulativeness
  • lack of remorse or guilt
  • shallow affect (superficial emotional responsiveness)
  • callousness and lack of empathy
  • parasitic lifestyle
  • poor behavioral controls
  • sexual promiscuity
  • early behavior problems
  • lack of realistic long-term goals
  • impulsivity
  • irresponsibility
  • failure to accept responsibility for own actions
  • many short-term marital relationships
  • criminal versatility

My best estimate, based on abundant public evidence, is that Trump scores 33 out of 36, well up into the psychopathy range.

What’s your estimate? Why? (Please leave a comment.)

And why isn’t the press addressing the urgent matter that we have an apparent raving psychopath with his finger on the nuclear button?

 


Death Wins All Wars front coverDeath Wins All Wars: Resisting the Draft in the 1960s, a Memoir, by Daniel Holland, introduction by Chaz Bufe. Softcover, 192 pages, $16.95, ISBN 9781947071353, publication date September 1, 2019.

This entertaining and thought-provoking memoir covers Daniel’s experiences in the anti-war counterculture of the 1960s, experiences which led to his refusal to submit to involuntary servitude as a killer in a criminal war. The book goes on to describe his trial, his legal travails, and life in the counterculture following that trial. The book concludes with a chapter in which Daniel reflects on his and other draft resisters’ experiences during the Viet Nam War, and lessons about achieving peace for today’s activists.

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The Great Evil front coverThe Great Evil: Christianity, the Bible, and the Native American Genocide, by Chris Mato Nunpa, PhD. Softcover, 256 pages, $19.95, ISBN 9781947071360, publication date September 1, 2019.

In this shocking book, retired Native American history professor Nunpa exposes a sordid and little known aspect of American history: The intimate ties between Christian doctrine, Christian churches, and the mass slaughter and enslavement of Indigenous peoples.

(We’ll be running a post by Chris on February 12, Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, on why the Dakota people have very little use for Lincoln, why to them he’s more “the great hangman” than “the great emancipator.”)

 


Salom Mesa Espinoza

“I come from the social subsoil, and my ideas embrace political struggle. . . . to procure a revolutionary order, to leave behind justice for my equals; but the results of the political struggle in which I’ve been an actor haven’t served these ends, but on the contrary it’s served to turn me into an animal, to debase me, to corrupt and degrade the sons of the people. And as an honest man — which I’ve always wanted people to see me as — I had to break with that which life itself showed to be evil. In may case, conventional [electoral] politics.

“The legal [political] parties in which I participated were generous with me. The first, Acción Democrática, made me councilor for the Federal District and later a deputy to the Congress, and for it I spilled my blood. The second Movimiento Electoral del Pueblo, made me a deputy for the Federal District three consecutive times, and the final time nominated me and secured my election while I was imprisoned. It conducted a vigorous and and valiant campaign for my freedom, and its president doctor Luís B. Prieto harshly criticized the government and vehemently demanded my release. I’m profoundly grateful to the MEP and Doctor Prieto, and I won’t forget that.

“But for me social struggle makes sense [only] if it tends in the direction of human emancipation; and forty-four years of party militancy, surrounded in the vast majority by good people, has convinced me that we’ll never reach emancipation through political action, that the sons of the people, like me, should have nothing to do with [electoral] politics nor with government. Our mission is that of destroying the ruling political and social order so as to later construct a just order.”

–Salom Mesa Espinoza, La vida me lo dijo, elogio a la anarquía (rough translation: Life told me this, elegy to anarchy)

(quoted by Rodolfo Montes de Oca in Venezuelan Anarchism: The History of a Movement, which will go to press later this month)

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Venezuelan Anarchism front cover