Trenchant Lemmings
"Arrive in a clown car, bursting with anger."
Robert Weaver
Sydney, Australia
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The weblog description is a misquotation from Steve Aylett's Indicted to a Party: What to Do, Who to Blame.
The weblog title links to the "No Country Redirect" version, for whatever that might be worth.
August 31, 2011
5 Things to Read

As this month's statement of the blindingly obvious has been a tad tardy, here's a smorgasbord of same:

Autumn of the empire - Joshua Clover

An era of industrial expansion and real growth bears the seeds of its own undoing; when it fails, the financial sector must leap in to generate the profits elsewhere. But these expansions of the financial sector are always temporary, if not indeed illusory. There is no financial expansion that is not a bubble. Credit is, for all the many mysteries and wonders in which it traffics, money spent now for work to be done later: a mortgage, a share of IBM, and the mezzanine tranche of synthetic Collateralized Debt Obligation are all, in more and less evident ways, “claims on future labor.” The moment that it becomes evident that all that productive labor is not waiting up around the bend, then nobody wants to give out any more credit. And the creditors want their money. And the investors want out of risk. Pop.
Strange death of American revolution - Jada Thacker
The origin of American civil government was not, as certain champions of Locke’s social contract would have it, to secure to each citizen his equal share of security and liberty, but rather to secure for the oligarchs their superior position of power and wealth.

It was for precisely this reason the United States Constitution was written not by a democratically-elected body, but by an unelected handful of men who represented only the privileged class.

Accordingly, the Constitution is a document which prescribes, not proscribes, a legal framework within which the economically privileged minority makes the rules for the many.

There is nothing in the Constitution that limits the influence of wealth on government. No better example of this intentional oversight exists than the creation of the first American central bank. ...

The bank was necessary in order to carry out a broader plan: the debts of the new nation would be paid with money loaned by the wealthy, and the people were to be taxed to pay the money back to the wealthy, with interest.

The 1791 Whiskey Tax – which penalized small-scale distillers in favor of commercial-scale distilleries – was passed to underwrite this scheme of bottom-up wealth-redistribution. When frontiersmen predictably rebelled against the tax, they were literally shackled and dragged on foot through the snowbound Allegheny Mountains to appear in show-trials at the national capital, where they were condemned to death.

Socialist bureaucrats were not the culprits here: the 16,000 armed militiamen that crushed the rebels were led in person by two principal Founding Fathers, President George Washington and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, the author of both the central bank and the whiskey tax legislation.

(After the disproportionate tax drove small producers out of competition, Washington went into the whiskey-distilling business, becoming by the time of his death the largest whiskey-entrepreneur in Virginia, if not the nation.)

This should be a “text-book” example of how oligarchy works, but such examples are rarely admitted in textbooks. Instead, the textbooks assure us that the Founders established the nation upon the principles of “liberty and justice for all,” words that do not appear in any founding document.
Labor has neither the brains nor strength to fix its problems - Guy Rundle
Indeed part of the problem for Labor is that figures such as Emerson and Costa would prefer to win the argument in the party and lose the election, than the reverse. Their commitment is to the idea and practice of neoliberal economics, and they see the party as a host body for those ideas to propagate through. When such policies deliver a relentless decline in Labor's base, they blame the relatively marginal role of social issues politics associated with the Greens. Given all these factors we can say that Labor is not fit for purpose, and it seems prudent to work on the assumption that the rest of the 'teens is Tony Abbott and the Coalition's to lose (and if anyone can do that, it's Abbott).
In the battle for the right, the market always wins - Jeff Sparrow
It goes likes this. Conservative activists, often ordinary people from struggling backgrounds, get whipped into a lather by demagogic neocons over, say, the amount of smut and blasphemy screening in the movies. These activists duly campaign for conservative candidates, who, once elected, implement the neoliberal economics to which the Right is fundamentally committed.

Thereafter, the free market does what the free market is supposed to do: namely, freeing up corporations to make money. Hollywood, of course, knows it will sell more tickets to crass sex comedies than upright Christian narratives, and so, lo and behold, crass sex comedies are what it delivers.
Stretching charges of anti-semitism - Lawrence Davidson
And who, except of course the Zionists, says that Zionism is a desirable vehicle for the expression of this alleged right of self-determination?

Let us face it. Israel and its Zionist ideology were born of the will of a small minority of Jews, almost exclusively from Central and Eastern Europe, most of whom were secularists, and almost all of whom carried within their heads the poisoned perceptions of European imperialist bigotry – an outlook which still characterizes the state they set up.

That is why, in practice, Zionism has resulted in a prima facie racist environment in Israel. And now we are told that, according to the “working definition,” pointing out the link between Zionism and racism is an act of anti-Semitism!

August 29, 2011

For the record, here's the long version of a comment left at Larvatus Prodeo, shortened there for brevity (I say "left"; LP blithely collapsed as soon as I pressed "Post"). Here, it should probably be even longer:

It amuses me that journalists insist on their special status because they supposedly tell the public about how the political system is operating and yet consistently fail to recognise their own role in that system. If Insiders, for example, was true to its name it would report as much about the spear-carriers in the commentariat as their favourite pollies; as much about the agendas driven at the behest of media magnates, corporations and other extra-parliamentary centres of power and their PR systems of "thinktanks" and astroturf, as about the soundbites coming from the politicians; and break the kayfabe about how information about politics comes to the journos in the first place. (I acknowledge it would be far too much to ask them to acknowledge the institutional features of media that makes it a factory of bien pensant* bourgeois orthodoxy.)

Of course, they - speaking of soundbites - won't even talk sensibly about the politicians' overt side of the propaganda system, never mind their own part in it: who pointed out, after Joe Hockey got all weepy in 2007 about the people he was going to have to sack, that these were ministerial staffers [an important source of leaks**], that is, political appointees there to serve the politician in a PR capacity, not the public, and yet paid with public money? Look how they complained about Rudd organising press conferences without inviting everybody rather than ask the more obvious question - why are you flying to the middle of nowhere to wear a silly hat and make an announcement you could have made by e-mail? These particular hands feed the media maw and it will not bite them. The media will complain about any form of government "waste" except that which provides copy.

Their keenness to provide political/official sources with anonymity is one example of their embeddedness. They will tell you they need to provide anonymity to keep the source friendly, thus allowing them access to the information they share with us. But the identity of the source is the most important part of the information as it allows the readers to assess the credibility of the story. Naturally the source doesn't want the audience to be able to properly assess credibility, any more than they would wish to be publicly associated with what is almost certainly a lie; but then neither does the journo: letting punters know the source is an excellent way of killing the story's news value. Thus they cheerfully set themselves up as PR conduits and avoid the tiresome and tricky chores of objective analysis. [Weirdly, this paragraph is one deleted from the LP comment, when it would be more use there than here, where I make this point on a regular basis.]
*I believe this phrase is Tony Jones' middle name.

**As we saw during the Children Overboard fiasco, the ministerial staffer's function as a conduit of information to the media is matched by their role as a filter between public servants and the minister, in case the public service attempts to make the minister aware of something it would be better for him not to know.

August 24, 2011
All of a Sudden

"Gay is one of the most beautiful words ... no-one should have the right to take that word off us."
Bob Katter, b. 1945.

Bringing Up Baby, 1938.

Those determined to live in the past clearly prefer to know as little about it as possible.

August 13, 2011

Glen Newey at the LRB.

Lewis Namier famously described 18th-century British politics as 'aristocracy tempered by rioting'.


Namier's bon mot could be rewritten for our times as 'plutocracy tempered by riot'. Consumerism holds up varnished designer tat as the sine qua non of civic respect. Its supporting ideology holds that monetary access to consumer goods flows from desert, the sort of thing stockpiled by politicians' beloved 'hard-working people and their families'. But everyone - not least Keele University cleaning staff, employed for over thirty years, who get up before six every morning to earn the minimum wage - knows that that is all balls. Acquisitiveness and arson are, as far as this goes, two sides of the same coin. Consumerism may be a mug's game; but acting as though it efficiently metes out rewards according to desert is a mug's game run by the mugs. Small wonder when the lid is taken off that those who know the system is a put-up job fill their boots.

August 11, 2011
Violent Youths

The Bullingdon Club -- a members' only dining society in the university preserved for the most privileged of (male only) students -- is known for breaking the plates, glasses and windows of local restaurants and drinking establishments and destroying college property in Oxford. (The U.K. newspaper, The Independent, described it as a club "whose raison d'être has for more than 150 years been to afford tailcoat-clad aristocrats a termly opportunity to behave very badly indeed.”) New recruits are secretly elected and informed of this by having their college bedroom invaded and "trashed".

The Conservative leader's affiliation with the Bullingdon and its elite and riotous reputation has at times haunted his political career. In the 2010 election, in which Cameron's Conservative Party won a majority in Parliament for the first time since 1997, his opponents and the media frequently brought up his Oxford past. A television documentary was devoted to one particular night in 1987 -- when both Cameron and the current London mayor, Boris Johnson, were Bullingdon members – during which club members were arrested for causing havoc in Oxford and broke a restaurant window. Cameron claimed he went to bed early on the night in question, but the Financial Times reported in 2010 that he was "most definitely" at the party. An old Bullingdon friend told the paper that Cameron's determination not be caught was "extraordinary."
Hee hee hee hee hee.

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