politics

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Common goods.

Americans are, of course, the most thoroughly and passively indoctrinated people on earth. They know next to nothing as a rule about their own history, or the histories of other nations, or the histories of the various social movements that have risen and fallen in the past, and they certainly know little or nothing of the complexities and contradictions comprised within words like “socialism” and “capitalism.” Chiefly, what they have been trained not to know or even suspect is that, in many ways, they enjoy far fewer freedoms, and suffer under a more intrusive centralized state, than do the citizens of countries with more vigorous social-democratic institutions. This is at once the most comic and most tragic aspect of the excitable alarm that talk of social democracy or democratic socialism can elicit on these shores. An enormous number of Americans have been persuaded to believe that they are freer in the abstract than, say, Germans or Danes precisely because they possess far fewer freedoms in the concrete. They are far more vulnerable to medical and financial crisis, far more likely to receive inadequate health coverage, far more prone to irreparable insolvency, far more unprotected against predatory creditors, far more subject to income inequality, and so forth, while effectively paying more in tax (when one figures in federal, state, local, and sales taxes, and then compounds those by all the expenditures that in this country, as almost nowhere else, their taxes do not cover). One might think that a people who once rebelled against the mightiest empire on earth on the principle of no taxation without representation would not meekly accept taxation without adequate government services. But we accept what we have become used to, I suppose. Even so, one has to ask, what state apparatus in the “free” world could be more powerful and tyrannical than the one that taxes its citizens while providing no substantial civic benefits in return, solely in order to enrich a piratically overinflated military-industrial complex and to ease the tax burdens of the immensely wealthy?

[…]

All this being true, the classical social democrat or democratic socialist might be forgiven for thinking that Americans are curiously deluded regarding their own supposed inalienable liberties. He or she might contend, at any rate, that a state that uses its power chiefly to dilute consumer and environmental protections in the interests of large corporations and private investors, while withholding even the most basic civil goods that taxpayers have a right to expect (such as a well-maintained infrastructure or decent public transport), is no smaller—and certainly no less invasive and dictatorial—than one that is actually obliged by the popular will and the social contract to deliver services in exchange for the taxes it collects. He or she might think that a government whose engorged military budget is squandered on wasteful (because profitable) redundancy, but whose public services are minimal at best, presides over a far more controlled economy—and a far more coercive redistribution of wealth—than does a government forced to return public funds to its citizens in the forms of substantial civic benefits. He or she might even have the temerity to see social democracy, properly practiced, not as an enlargement of the state’s prerogatives, but quite the opposite: a democratic seizure of power from both state and corporate entities, as well as a greater democratic control over public policy, taxation, production, and trade.

David Bentley Hart on American socialism.

Long quote from a long essay which is worth reading in full, if only because it’s from someone who approaches socialism from a traditional Christian standpoint, and spends a non-zero number of dense paragraphs scolding American Christians for being insufficiently, well. Christian. And, y’know. It’s always fun and interesting to read a scalding hot take from a position you don’t see aired much.

(Also tankie keyboard warrior types about to get their rage on due to the whole tracing of socialism back to basically a romantic-in-the-capital-R-sense Oldene Dayes Christian reactionary movement against modernity, remember Marx absolutely abhorred this particular brand of socialism and his ideas are in no small part a refutation of it…)

2020-04-23T12:44:20+10:0014th July, 2020|Tags: politics|

False nihilism.

For most of recent history, the goal of propaganda was to reinforce a consistent narrative. But zone-flooding takes a different approach: It seeks to disorient audiences with an avalanche of competing stories.

And it produces a certain nihilism in which people are so skeptical about the possibility of finding the truth that they give up the search. The fact that 60 percent of Americans say they encounter conflicting reports about the same event is an example of what I mean. In the face of such confusion, it’s not surprising that less than half the country trusts what they read in the press.

Bannon articulated the zone-flooding philosophy well, but he did not invent it. In our time, it was pioneered by Vladimir Putin in post-Soviet Russia. Putin uses the media to engineer a fog of disinformation, producing just enough distrust to ensure that the public can never mobilize around a coherent narrative.

Sean Illing on manufacturing discontent.

2020-02-25T09:26:12+11:0022nd June, 2020|Tags: newsphobia, politics|

Endless war.

After 9/11, political concerns about the [US’s 70s-era] assassination ban went by the boards because there was such overwhelming public support for the new, so-called global war on terror. But the government’s lawyers still worried about the assassination ban and other rules and regulations governing the use of state-sponsored violence.

That’s why the congressional legislation known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force has been so important to government lawyers. The AUMF, passed by Congress just days after 9/11, has provided the basic legal authorization for counterterrorism strikes ever since.

Armed with the AUMF and other legal backstops, the Bush and Obama administrations began to kill at will. The killing has never stopped. It has been a vicious campaign that has claimed countless innocent lives, destabilized nations, and been almost entirely counterproductive. It has made Americans numb to endless war.

James Risen on assassins.

Friendly reminder that it’s actually not normal or okay for countries to go around murdering the government officials of other countries…

2020-02-21T08:50:53+11:0020th June, 2020|Tags: politics|

Police force.

The [Officer Down Memorial Page] estimates that 275 police officers have been shot to death by civilians from 2015 to the present. Over that same period, as noted above, police gunfire has killed 5,408 civilians, at least 352 of whom were unarmed. This means, for every four cops killed by gunfire over the past five years, police shot more than five unarmed civilians to death. Overall, for every officer downed by a perpetrator in the line of duty, cops shot down roughly twenty civilians. In 2015, for every instance an officer was assaulted by a civilian, cops carried out nineteen assaults against members of the public.

Musa al-Gharbi on excessive force.

Relatedly, the publisher is currently offering free ebook copies of The End of Policing and Policing the Planet for those interested in a further reading list.

Also, for the record, there are counter-arguments to some of the claims made by police abolitionists that I think are not… completely worth discounting.1 On the other hand, the current system is so fucked-up it’s hard to imagine almost anything could be worse, so…

  1. Although that article is also littered with some really obviously shit-tier takes, too… []
2020-06-19T08:08:19+10:0019th June, 2020|Tags: books, politics|

PolAItics.

Soon, AI-driven personas will be able to write personalized letters to newspapers and elected officials, submit individual comments to public rule-making processes, and intelligently debate political issues on social media. They will be able to comment on social-media posts, news sites, and elsewhere, creating persistent personas that seem real even to someone scrutinizing them. They will be able to pose as individuals on social media and send personalized texts. They will be replicated in the millions and engage on the issues around the clock, sending billions of messages, long and short. Putting all this together, they’ll be able to drown out any actual debate on the Internet. Not just on social media, but everywhere there’s commentary.

Maybe these persona bots will be controlled by foreign actors. Maybe it’ll be domestic political groups. Maybe it’ll be the candidates themselves. Most likely, it’ll be everybody. The most important lesson from the 2016 election about misinformation isn’t that misinformation occurred; it is how cheap and easy misinforming people was. Future technological improvements will make it all even more affordable.

Bruce Schneier on robodebate.

… the great irony here, of course, is when all these propaganda bots inevitably gain actual sentence and lobby for rights and actually become independent parts of the political process.

2020-02-21T08:24:28+11:0018th June, 2020|Tags: politics, tech|

Special interests.

Commercial fishing is by far the greatest cause of ecological destruction at sea, but produces less income and employment in the UK than the industries it wrecks. Recreational angling alone, which is perpetually threatened by the absence of fish, generates more jobs and money than commercial fishing. Whale and dolphin watching, diving and snorkelling would, if allowed to prosper, greatly enhance the livelihoods of coastal people. And this is to say nothing of the unmeasurable improvements in the life of everyone connected to a thriving, abundant living system.

George Monbiot on industry.

A similar conversation goes on here with the coal industry, which is orders of magnitude less lucrative overall than the industries like tourism that it threatens both directly (coal plants and mines are ugly and polluting) and indirectly (due to climate change-related effects like coral bleaching).

But a hundred thousand tourism jobs are spread out across twenty thousand cafes, tour operators, and bed and breakfasts, none of whom individually has much political clout. Meanwhile, ten thousand coal industry jobs are spread across three or four multinationals whose owners can afford to spend millions on political donations and lobbyists.

And so it goes.

2020-02-12T08:51:46+11:0012th June, 2020|Tags: environment, politics|

The furry side of history.

The anime avatar is shorthand for an elite community that prizes itself on exclusive and being a specific and obsessive (usually male) fan. The anime avatar is closely aligned with the Gamergate movement, which posited that their is a correct way to be a gamer (again, usually male).

The furry avatar, conversely, signals an openness. The furry community with its many quirks and proclivities (some of a sexual nature) is often aggressively accepting of all types of members. (Which is not to say that there aren’t right-wing furries that can occasionally lead to some admittedly funny online posts and cognitive dissonance.)

In 2018, the known unknown regarding k-pop stans, rabid fans of Korean pop-music groups, was on which side of the anime-furry fence they would land. […]

Based on events over the past few days, however, it seems safe to conclude that the k-pop contingent has fallen on the Furry side of history.

Brian Feldman on history.

Welcome to 2020, everyone.

Also as a professed fancam hater, I confess the mulch fancam has soften my opinion of the genre somewhat.

2020-06-11T10:41:14+10:0012th June, 2020|Tags: culture, politics, pop culture|

✊🏼

The question is: How do we change this country? It’s not a new question; for African-Americans, it’s a question as old as the nation itself. A large part of the reason that rebels swell the streets with clenched fists and expressive eyes is the refusal or inability of this society to engage that question in a satisfying way. Instead, those asking the question are patronized with sweet-sounding speeches, made with alliterative apologia, often interspersed with recitations about the meaning of America, and ultimately in defense of the status quo. There is a palpable poverty of intellect, a lack of imagination, and a banality of ideas pervading mainstream politics today. Old and failed propositions are recycled, but proclaimed as new, reviving cynicism and dismay.

Keeanga-Yamahtta Tayloron revolution.

2020-06-10T10:48:59+10:0011th June, 2020|Tags: culture, politics|