July 31, 2016
They might not think as I do. They might not know that she has demonstrated the willingness and the predilection to go to war more quickly than her Republican counterpart. They might not believe, as I do, that money in politics and the slow transformation of this country into an oligarchy is as insidiously dangerous as the lump-headed racism of the alt-right that is drowning the Republican Party.Michael Harriot states the blindingly obvious. Oh, boy, is he gonna get yelled at.
The first instinct of many in the US press and political class is to treat Trump as if he’s some foreign entity, an exotic outsider who can only be referenced with regard to Less Civilized Countries. This tic was again found in President Barack Obama’s speech Wednesday night at the DNC, when he called Trump “un-American.” Several pundits followed suit, praising this sentiment as clever and effective. Trump was something foreign, without precedent, that could only be understood in the context of things outside The Greatest Country on Earth.FAIR on the usual boilerplate, linking to Grandin, Greenwald and quoting Robin (see also.)
But, as some on the left have noted, Trump is as American as apple pie.
July 30, 2016
Social Justice Warriors
On Friday 4 August 1939, while members of the Queensland State Labor Caucus were having their morning meeting in a room in Parliament House in Brisbane, a group of 37 men, calling themselves the ‘Social Justice League’, entered, making threats, carrying batons, coils of barbed wire, hammers, knuckledusters and other tools. Barricading themselves in, they demanded a 40-hour week, lower taxes and tolls, unemployment relief, cooperative ownership of primary industry, and a ‘stabilised price’ for farmers.This vignette about your grand-daddy's SJWs comes from Liam Hogan's potted history of the nutty Social Credit movement at Overland.
It was, unsurprisingly, a dramatic scene. ‘I refuse to be instructed by you’, Premier William Forgan Smith told the group’s leader, and went on, in his strong Scottish accent, to lecture the men. ‘This is a display of Fascism and I will not countenance such an outrage in Queensland. We refuse to be intimidated by you, individually or collectively, and I ask you to withdraw’. When a leader (perhaps Richard Newton Boorman), claimed to be a rebel in the Jacobite mould, making reference to the 1746 battle of Culloden, the premier told him that if he was a rebel he ‘would have to take the consequences of being one’. In the excitement, one Minister slipped out to call the police, who soon arrived, and took everyone to jail.
July 26, 2016
I think it’s understandable at moments like this to long for a return to the status quo, but let’s remember that the status quo, whatever its advantages and disadvantages, was not survivable. We cannot survive an endless escalation of inequality, not even physically. Many areas that voted to leave Europe will probably within our lifetimes be forming a much more challenging union with the sea. Neoliberalism has taken a stranglehold on our societies by seeing chaotic events as opportunities. Well, maybe we should take this opportunity to do something decent. To elect a government that will retain the best parts of EU legislation and strengthen them in the direction of workers, rather than corporations. There is a reason that so many banks, multinationals and, of course, the United States feared Brexit. I think if I had to say what the most feared thing in the course of human history is, it’s probably a good example.-//-
Remain’s leaders would have kept us straitjacketed into the EU’s current death-by-a-thousand-cuts version of corporate neoliberalism. At least now, shed of that distraction, we have our governmental elites much more clearly in our sights. How smaller, shabbier and curiously more vulnerable they look, without that EU cloak they avowed to detest draped around their shoulders. And this is as it should be, as they’ve basically put everything into play.-//-
I’d like Clinton more if she told the truth about herself: that she is a smart, amoral and competent steward of American empire, who understands material reality and the laws of physics. And that – although it is perhaps not the most exciting case one can make for a leader – this is more than you can say for her Republican opponent. I wonder if Clinton wishes she were running in a different country, one to which she could speak frankly. She’d look it in the eye, and say: “Yes, I believe in nothing. But I’m an intelligent adult. No Rome will burn on my watch. I’ll keep us on the slow decline to which you people are accustomed. I’ll make nothing better – but I won’t make things radically worse.”Gosh, three cites all from the Guardian; that is strange. I usually find their opinion pages as tiresome as I'm finding the bien pensant wailing wall of latter day Twitter, now spiralling into the tu quoque event horizon that presages an American election.
July 10, 2016
Much of the content of this populism is, simply, nothing other than what an ordinary member of the ALP or Liberal Party believed a half-century ago. The political–media caste imagines that social-historical time flows the same everywhere. It doesn’t. The revival of Pauline Hanson’s fortunes is not a sign that the new senate system is “a disaster” or that “the genie is out of the bottle”. That’s nasty, elitist stuff. What it means is that people knew who they were voting for, and got them, rather than whichever carousel creation of insiders the ticket-voting system dished up. Hanson’s vote – about 8 per cent – is not an unusual showing for a nativist party, with the usual obsessions, in a Western society. The new system didn’t conjure her supporters into being. They were always there. Now their reasonable arguments can be debated, and their more noxious and wacky ones vociferously challenged. Finally, the 2016 election got exciting. It just happened after the voting stopped.- Guy Rundle in The Saturday Paper
At this stage the only thing that seems clear is that Malcolm Turnbull’s days as prime minister are numbered. The Coalition may be returned in its own right, or Turnbull may be able to form a minority government. But his ability to placate the rabid right wing of his party depends on him delivering clear electoral victories. He has failed his first test. He is unlikely to get another chance. How did it come to this?- Russell Marks in The Monthly
The better question is: why did Turnbull get even this close? On its record, the Turnbull-led Coalition should have lost in a landslide. But we live in a mediated age ... [and] during the 2016 election campaign, mainstream content was virtually silent on the government’s record over the past three years. Even the most trusted of outlets, the ABC, was little more than a conduit for the parties’ narratives.
There’s a lesson for Australian media here. Journalists need to stop seeing themselves as players. Their job is to represent the public to decision-makers, not the other way around. We don’t want them to make forecasts; we want to them to demand answers to simple questions. We want them, beyond rare exceptions, to stop reporting self-serving anonymous scuttlebutt and to insist that people go on the record.- Mr Denmore.
Mr Marks' and Mr Denmore's complaints about the news media are sufficiently valid that I will forgive their usual error of imagining the function of journalists (at least those who work for the commercial side of the legacy media) as genuinely something other than to provide content for an advertising platform.
July 06, 2016
When the economy necessarily determines policy, why waste time with conferences and branch meetings and the other rituals of old fashioned political engagement democracy? You don’t lobby the seasons to change, you don’t protest at the ebb and flow of the tides. Once the market’s entirely naturalised, what’s the point, other than nostalgia, of a trade union or a pressure group?- Mr Sparrow
[F]or the new mandarins, the shrinkage of such bodies doesn’t matter. On the contrary, it was all to the good, since it allowed the duly qualified experts to do their thing undistracted – and they had the business of governance entirely under control.
Until, suddenly, they didn’t.
Since when did the primary role of government become providing “certainty” to the business community? In fact, it’s hard to read a newspaper or turn on the TV these days without some rent-seeking plutocrat whining about the democratic process getting in the way of the grubby business of making money.- Mr Denmore.
In short, “certainty” must be denied everyone but the wealthiest and most powerful members of the community. The rest of us, through three decades of neoliberalism, have gradually been stripped of our life protectors and told to sink or swim.
Now, with another indecisive election outcome, the business cassandras are out in force again, blitzing the media with doom-laden press releases – each of them faithfully recycled by a media that has come to accept uncritically the message that business interest and the public interest are one and the same.
Amusing also to see the media cheerfully doing the (ex-)government's work for them in spreading the Mediscare lie. While serving the Coalition's agenda to delegitimise their (near) loss, for our commentariat it, like the "Howard fatigue" nonsense of 2007, serves their neverending efforts to delegitimise democracy itself, and bury any suggestion that voters might be motivated by rational views on substantive issues, rather than being gulled by the scams of the campaign, sheep that we are.