politics

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Vore the rich.

Today’s billionaires are the real citizens of nowhere. They fantasise, like the plutocrats in Ayn Rand’s terrible novel Atlas Shrugged, about further escape. Look at the “seasteading” venture funded by Paypal’s founder Peter Thiel, that sought to build artificial islands in the middle of the ocean, whose citizens could enact a libertarian fantasy of escape from the state, its laws, regulations and taxes, and from organised labour. Scarcely a month goes by without a billionaire raising the prospect of leaving the Earth altogether, and colonising space pods or other planets.

Those whose identity is offshore seek only to travel further offshore. To them, the nation state is both facilitator and encumbrance, source of wealth and imposer of tax, pool of cheap labour and seething mass of ungrateful plebs, from whom they must flee, leaving the wretched earthlings to their well-deserved fate.

Defending ourselves from these disasters means taxing oligarchy to oblivion.

George Monbiot on oligarchy.

Hey you remember that time in the post-Depression era when the top marginal tax rates in the US and UK were in the 90% range? And how that funded the post-war economic booms that did everything from build massive of public infrastructure and (at least in the UK) funded the public health system? And how even to this day conservatives seem to spend all their time promoting the post-war era as a halcyon time of middle-class bliss while simultaneously dismantling every single public institution that helped bring it about?

Yeah. Funny, that.

2019-09-11T15:16:03+10:0013th January, 2020|Tags: economics, politics|

Government 101.

It’s not like Congress would say “we want to regulate your data collection practices” and Facebook would say “hmm no we’d rather you didn’t” and Congress would say “okay you have good lawyers we give up.” Facebook’s main leverage against the FTC—“we don’t think we did anything wrong and if you insist on restricting our data collection we will see you in court”—just wouldn’t work to stop Congress from making a law, because it is irrelevant. Congress can make a law about data privacy even if no one has broken any previous laws. In fact that’s the best reason to make a law! “There is a bad thing that is happening, and there is no law against it, so we should make a law against it”: That is a perfectly sensible line of reasoning!

[…]

The idea of passing a law to ban bad stuff is not to give the FTC more power to negotiate stricter settlement conditions. The idea of passing a law to ban bad stuff is to ban the bad stuff. If Congress passed a law restricting social media companies’ data collection practices, then the FTC wouldn’t need to include those restrictions in a consent decree with Facebook, because those restrictions would be in the law. Facebook would be bound by them, not because it agreed to them, but because they would be the law. Twitter and Google and other yet-to-be-invented internet services would also be bound by them, even without agreeing to them, because they would be generally applicable national rules about internet privacy passed by the legislative body in the name of the people, rather than the product of negotiations with one company.

Matt Levine on the law.

It’s almost like there’s been half a century of a concerted effort towards getting the public to stop thinking about the government as a tool through which it may use its collective will to curb the excesses of multi-million-dollar corporations and instead replacing that with an arrangement whereby the entire legislative and executive branches of government are replaced by the judicial. I mean. Almost. You remember that thing about the GOP not letting Obama appoint a SCOTUS judge? It’s almost like this is exactly the reason why. Who needs the affect of a representative democracy when you can have a panel of life-appointed plutocrats running the country as a kritocracy where he who has the most expensive lawyers almost always by-default wins?

2019-12-18T09:52:56+11:008th January, 2020|Tags: government, politics, social media, tech|

Eat the rich (not your neighbors).

The truth is that lying works. That’s one of many truths currently dawning like the morning after a war. Lying works, and lying outrageously and repeatedly in the face of blatant evidence to the contrary works even better. Integrity and decency are no longer seen as leadership qualities. Boris Johnson is a liar. Everyone knows it. In one of the TV debates, there was a studio audience selected for as close to balance as could be managed these days (when a schematic of objectivity that involves assembling an “even number of people from both sides” in one room means you need to know your escape plans). They all laughed at him. And they still voted for him.

Nobody trusts Boris, and that’s exactly what they like about him. Corbyn went at Johnson like a damp flannel, limply refusing to make personal attacks. Corbyn is clearly a person of principle and integrity. Some people don’t like his principles, but he at least has some. Not only was that not enough, it was an active impediment. The tabloids called him a raving terrorist every week for three years, and someone on his team thought it was a good idea not to argue. Corbyn promised to tax the rich and reinstitute social democracy. That’s not how I’d define terrorism, but someone was certainly scared.

Laurie Penny on anger.

See also this.

2019-12-19T08:41:56+11:0019th December, 2019|Tags: culture, politics|

Rome is burning (Rome is the world).

The world faces a great disaster. It is drying out and burning. There are floods and extinctions. The reefs are bleaching. Sea levels are rising. Refugees move across borders in greater and greater numbers. It is clear now that we will see in our lifetimes wars we might never have imagined.

The science says all this could still be arrested. The politics says it can’t be. It is worse than cynicism. It is a mass failure of caring, a misalignment of values. We are trapped in a continuous, declining present. We have no sense of the future and no leaders who will take us there.

On the center, not holding.

2019-12-18T07:43:07+11:0018th December, 2019|Tags: climate crisis, environment, politics|

Democracy’s end.

Here’s a reflection: the value proposition of democracy is that it provides for a peaceful transfer of power, once an incumbent regime loses its political legitimacy. If you have a working democracy you don’t need revolutions to get rid of incompetent leadership. As Enoch Powell said, “every politician’s career ends in failure” (unless they die unexpectedly): in a democracy they agree to step down, and life goes on.

But when you get a faction, party, or regime that no longer subscribes to the idea of democracy and refuses to back down gracefully, you get back the old problems: pressure for change builds up and when it erupts the effects can be devastating and unpleasant–especially, as we’ve had a crash-course reminder in recent years, when the tools of communication make it really easy for dangerous demagogues to draw a following.

Charles Stross on political vampires.

2019-08-22T19:11:50+10:0012th December, 2019|Tags: politics|

Over-tonnes.

While we’re on the subject of graphs, American political parties on a left-right spectrum, as compared to similar parties in other countries.

Probably no huge surprises here—the GOP is fa-aa-ar further to the right than most other “mainstream” conservative parties, ditto historically the Democrats, though this has shifted since 2016—and probably some room to question the methodology. But interested to see on a graph, either way,

2019-08-08T08:47:11+10:0011th December, 2019|Tags: politics, usa|

Cap’America.

[T]he sad fact is that much of the world has been destroyed institutionally by what America [has done] over the last fifty years or so. Think of Latin America — savaged by CIA plots and American-backed militias. Think of parts of Asia like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos — they paid the price for not choosing capitalism with millions of lives. Think of Africa, which was taken advantage of for decades, its resources greedily gulped down.

These regions of the world were left largely trapped by the American Century. They weren’t able to progress much, because they didn’t want to be capitalist — mostly, they wanted to be social democracies, but America wouldn’t let them be anything else, either. So there they were, shoved down again and again by the bully on the block, unable to develop the way they wanted to. The simplest example is Chile, where when a social democratic government was elected, America literally overthrew it, installed Pinochet as dictator, and looked away whistling while the death squads went to work.

umair haque on who shaped the century.

Remember that Tumblr post that was going around a while ago where it turned out that, like, a startling number of Americans don’t know just how aggressively their country overthrows foreign governments and assassinates foreign leaders? Yeah. About that…

2019-07-31T12:25:12+10:004th December, 2019|Tags: politics, usa|

A short history of Glenn Greenwald.

And by “short” I mean “long”. And by “history of Glenn Greenwald” I mean “history of Greenwald’s long-standing trend of defending white supremacists“, in both the figurative and specifically legal sense.

2019-07-10T08:41:56+10:0011th November, 2019|Tags: politics|