Saturday, March 20, 2021

Oligarchs vs. "Workers as Citizens"

 


In my last post I made some noise about how we leftists have to propose a revolution, because one does not simply "reform" a system dominated by amoral, vicious psychopaths. We cannot petition or shame amoral, murderous psychopaths into better behaviour. The goal has to be to remove power from their hands.

But then, for my "revolutionary" strategy, I advocate for a constitutional amendment extending citizenship rights to workers within their workplaces. (Very quickly: Just as a Canadian citizen cannot be exiled from Canada, neither can a worker/citizen be involutarily expelled from their workplace. Just as our various levels of government have to provide open, public access to their budgets/spending, so too will workers have the right to inspect their workplaces' finances. Just as a Canadian citizen has the right for free speech and to advocate for their preferred policies, so too should worker/citizens have free speech rights within their workplaces and to propose policies [including changes to what the workplace makes and how it makes them]. You get the idea.)

Now, some of you might be asking just how the hell I imagine that murderous, amoral psychopaths will ever permit a political party to come to power and amend the constitution so as to nullify the control enjoyed by those same psychopaths. How can I, on the one hand, talk about brutal realities/harsh truths and then contradict myself by thinking we can peacefully take away their power through the electoral/legislative/constitutional process?


First of all; What are our options? Again, we aren't going to change things by remaining powerless supplicants peacefully demonstrating and petitioning our masters for better treatment. Telling them that they can remain in charge but they have to act more nicely towards us. Look at the level of callousness and indifference with which the US ruling class is subjecting their own people during this pandemic. Perhaps at some level, the mental insects like Joseph Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, etc., might honestly believe in what they're doing (Pelosi's wounded blathering to Wolf Blitzer about how her party is feeding the poor when they're doing anything but, for example.) Or a moronic psychopath like Donald Trump who is able to simultaneously believe the pandemic is a hoax, a Chinese attack on him personally, and a very real danger (as he confessed to Bob Woodward).  But I can't imagine that anyone who can tie their shoes and remember how to get to the bathroom isn't also aware of the death-toll of for-profit healthcare; the hypocrisy of murderous starvation sanction on Venezuela's socialist government while murderous dictatorships in nearby Colombia and Honduras get showered with financial and military aid. Barack Obama knew what he was doing when he ran cover for Wall Street in 2008, up to and including their brazen criminality of falsely claiming ownership of mortgages of properties that they then foreclosed on. 

However deluded and stupid these people might be, they're not so divorced from reality so as to be unaware of the sufferings they are causing. They might deny it (which is easy to do since they live in social bubbles of similarly afflicted assholes) but denial is a 24-7 thing. It's impossible to maintain such a front full-time. They know what they're doing. 

Crystia Freeland knows what the governments of Colombia and Honduras and Brazil are doing when she aligns herself with them to attack Venezuela. Our politicians know what they're doing when they protect our mining industry from criticisms and any sort of legal consequences for their atrocities overseas. Justin Trudeau knows the danger of global warming and he knows what he's doing when he stops talking with David Suzuki about it upon gaining power. 

These people, and the capitalist oligarchs they serve, are monsters. And they are aware of how monstrous they are.  No sane civilization can be built while leaving them in charge. We need to take their power away.


But how do we do that? Surely not by dressing up in black and throwing rocks through windows! Forget about the tiny, anarchist and communist super-radical population, ... not even "progressives" in all their diverse glory have the numbers to win pitched battles against the police and the other enforcement arms of the oligarchic state. I do believe that physical violence against a regime of murderous, brutal greedheads is justified. But I also believe that violence dehumanizes people and that it can either spiral out of control or produce crackdowns that neuter the limited avenues of organizing and protest that we now have.  Plus, if you simply look at the array of tools of violence enjoyed by the state against anything that "the people" currently have, you will see the balance tips very much in the favour of the oligarchy.  I am not a pacifist and I believe that the best situation should be a society wherein the citizenry doesn't immediately recoil in disgust at the idea of physical retribution at some particularly heinous, egregious, blatant, brazen, example of elite malfeasance. You know, cops who brutalize people should fear retribution, and society should acknowledge the validity of such retribution when the legal system fails, time and time again, to hold them accountable. Politicians who deliberately impose policies that get people killed should fear walking around in public without security and society should be in support of that situation. The current state of affairs where some mass-murdering piece of shit gets red paint thrown on them and even progressive critics of that piece-of-shit's policies run to the fainting couch is ludicrous.

But the idea of a violent revolution seems to me to be a non-starter. 

I rather think that it has to go this way: In his book Radical Transformation, Kevin MacKay takes issue with the "Deep Green Resistance" who believe that radical sabotuers, destroying the industrialized world's infrastructure will develop a fan-base among the general population who will support them. MacKay argues that it's the other way around:

Violent radicals don't appear and generate a mass of non-violent supporters. MacKay says that what tends to happen is that a critical mass of people find a situation intolerable, coalesce to for a peaceful resistance/protest/reform movement, and then, when the powers-that-be reveal themselves as unwilling to concede to the barest of concessions, this radicalizes many among the membership. When the forces of the state resort to violent suppression of the movement, even more people become radicalized and some eventually decide that only force can have any impact.

So, if I had had more persuasive abilities in the 1990's, the Left might have been advocating for the constitutional advancement of workers' rights within their workplaces in a big way in the year 2000.  (As opposed to whatever the hell grand project they've been working on instead that I've simply been too blind to notice.) If enough people and groups on the Left had been advocating for something positive, something that so totally shifts power away from capitalists and towards ordinary people, something that utilizes the Western, liberal values of democracy and human rights that so many North Americans and Europeans have internalized (I can't really speak for other cultures, though I'm sure they appreciate democracy and human rights. And my hesitation to extend liberal cultural hegemony to other cultures is simply because I'm not sure if there really is a more collective ethos in them.) 

Over five or ten years (bringing us to 2010) there are grassroots movements for workplace democracy and political parties advocating for it. (In all honesty, the most that I can tell that the left has been doing in the thirty-years under discussion has been to yearn for a return to the postwar Keynesian compromise, plead for recognition of various ecological crises, and make advances in the areas of identity politics [sometimes on only a very superficial level].) At some point, ordinary people (perhaps Royal Bank of Canada employees being forced to train their foreign replacements, or WalMart workers being told to punch-out and then come back on the floor for extra unpaid work, or Long-Term Care workers condemned to permanent part-time/no-benefits status seemingly forever) might start to think about how maybe having a legal right to a say in the way their workplaces operate, without fear of being fired, is a good idea.

Call me crazy, but I can see this idea becoming popular with significant numbers of people. Let's say (for the sake of argument) that Canada's NDP was convinced of the viability of this strategy. The Conservatives would oppose it and in the most ham-fisted way possible. I wouldn't put it past those morons to blurt out that democracy just doesn't work. The Liberals would (as they tend to do with progressive causes) say they support it in principle, but that we have to move slowly, and try to neuter enthusiasm and smother the project in years of delays and betrayals. But make no mistake about it: The oligarchy would know this was a stake to their vampire heart and they would take off the gloves against the movement behind it.  And, of course, while they were doing this, they would have been continuing to destroy the environment and engaging in their financial market criminal speculation that has required trillion-dollar taxpayer bail-outs every 5-10 years or so. 

How much more radicalized would the electorate be from the oligarchy's rejection of "Workers as Citizens" than the electorate appears to have been radicalized by the failure to restore Keynesian social policies? And, compare the appeal of a coherent, easily-understood, but sweeping, transformative policy like "Workers as Citizens" with the super-radical proposal of telling people to destroy the present system and then take a leap into the darkness in the hopes that Utopia is on the other side?

I think we would have had far more people on our side if someone, ANYONE on the left had been proposing ANYTHING as comprehensive as my plan in all the years since I first tried to interest others in it. 

Remember where we are folks! We've been screeching about the civilization-busting danger of global warming in a big way since the year 2000. And in 2021, we haven't made more than half a step away from our greenhouse gas emissions society and we're five years away from having lost all hope of preventing this calamity from becoming an inevitability. (If it isn't already.)

Somebody has to take responsibility for this absolute and utter failure.



Thursday, March 18, 2021

What Is To Be Done? 2021 Version

So, I've been busy, ... plus I've been plagued with a knotted muscle in my back on the left-hand side, halfway up (the place most impossible to reach) which makes sitting and typing excrutiating. And nobody listens to me anyway. All the paid, full-time moderates, and the paid super-radicals, and the unpaid activists and volunteers both "pragmatic" and "radical" are all too busy doing nothing, or doing the same things over and over that haven't produced anything in the past, to bother with a crackpot such as myself.

Before I forget (and it's relevant so ...) here's Vincent Emanuele from CounterPunch:

The inability to articulate a vision that has a serious connection to material reality or the forces that currently dominate and comprise our political, economic, cultural, and social institutions is a problem the anarcho and religious left has faced for at least as long as I’ve been engaged in political activism and organizing (fifteen years), if not for decades. Appeals to 'erode structures of oppression,' which sound pretty on paper, mean utterly nothing to organizers and working-class people who are strategizing on the ground. Further, calls to 'erode structures of power' fall into the same failed category of 'anti-politics' that the anarcho-left has peddled for years: constantly calling for 'dismantling' this, or 'abolishing' that, or 'resisting,' but never articulating a viable vision for the 7.8 billion people who live on this planet, never building, never winning — always on the defensive; hence, always focused on destruction.

God bless him! Oh. Before I forget, Ian Welsh provides some hard truths that self-described "revolutionaries" have to incorporate into their analysis if they ever want to be taken seriously:

So, get control of force and use it to control money/means of production; or get control of money/means of production and use it to create force. Obviously it’s really about some of both, but you use whichever one you have more of to get control over the other one. Wall Street bought DC so that it could have control over the police and courts, which is why Obama immunized them from their crimes and bailed them out; including really raw and obvious crimes like illegally signing a document saying the bank owned someone else’s house. Absolute fraud and straight robbery: that’s what Obama made go away for the financial industry.

Some of those people who had their houses stolen, in a society with less police and military and nasty prisons might have taken retribution and recompense into their own hands, but in America, well, no, that’s really not possible. Might get retribution, but then the cops will imprison or kill you, which they didn’t do to the men who stole your house and probably your job, car and future.

...

And that, my friends, is where we are now. There will be no significant downward redistribution until elites either lose control of the violent apparatus or genuinely think they are about to, or can’t win their side of an oncoming revolution.

So, what do we want? Reform or Revolution? If you say "reform" then you're wasting everybody's time. Do you want to reform a system that is ruled by capitalist/imperialist oligarchs? Is the future of humanity supposed to be the vast majority asking for more crumbs from the table until systemic contradictions destroy the ecological base upon which we all rely? 

No. It has to be Revolution. It has to be a genuine, radical transformation of the balance of power in human society. For us leftists, this radical transformation must have as its end-point a system wherein power is dispersed amongst as many people as is practically possible. There are individuals AND societies. For instance, it would not do if each of us held the power of life or death over every other individual. As individuals we would want our personal right to life to be respected and defended by our societies. We would not like to live in a world where every individual has the right to burn tires in their backyard or to operate a backyard shambles.

To control anti-social, selfish, narcissistic, sociopathic, psychopathic individuals, we need a society. A society that upholds the rights of all the individuals within it. I realize that this sounds a little like Thomas Hobbes's Leviathan, but it's not the same thing. I do not believe that without a higher authority over us, that individual humans would all engage in "a war of all, against all." Relatedly, I don't believe that we need anything like the all-powerful leviathan that Hobbes envisioned. Because in the society that I'm picturing, no individuals or institutions will have the resources/abilities/power/authority to do things like create and spew toxins without regulations, oversight or consequences. Nobody will have the ability to absolutely crush anyone. No institution with large numbers of people will be able to do nefarious deeds confident in the inability of their employees to be kept in the dark or coerced into silence. There won't be police forces with the arrogance, authoritarian mindset, sense of entitlement, legal immunity, allegiance with oligarchs, to suppress ordinary people. There will be international bodies overseeing universal human rights and environmental standards. To the extent that things such as nation-states continue to exist, these will be mainly for things like guaranteeing national standards as used to be the case with the Canadian public health care system. Much more authority will be devolved to local levels where power can be more easily monitered and controlled.


I can hear my imaginary readers responding: "Fine thwap! But how is any of this supposed to come about?" Well, my devoted apparitions, I believe it needs to happen this way: We will need a mass movement to demand and then achieve the democratization of workplaces. And, while this is being done in individual instances, the mass movement must also push for workers' rights to democratic workplaces on a legal/constitutional basis. Yep. It's my "Workers as Citizens" hobbyhorse again. The idea I have advocated for since the 1990s, with exponentially less fervour every year since then up to the present day.


What else are we going to do? 

Could you leftists PLEASE acknowledge just what it is that we're up against? We are up against an oligarchy of murderous psychopaths. Okay? Companies like Nestlé's which pushed infant forumla in poor countries with no thought to the myriad dangers of this campaign, and for decades, ... including over a decade after having signed an international code of conduct forbidding such practices, and the death toll of malnourished infants can be [very conservatively] estimated at thirty-million. And yet, these murderous vermin continue to operate in the open, selling their products, showing us their ads, taking their profits, year after year after year.

This isn't an aberrant lack of oversight. This is systemic. This level of murderousness is A FEATURE of captialism. Not a "flaw." (Obviously it is flawed behaviour in the eyes of sane human beings. But it is evidently approved behaviour in the moral calculus of capitalism.)

And that's just one food conglomerate. There's the weapons industries. The parastitic financial sector. There's racist, authoritarian, toxic cops. There's a whole system of brutal, power-mad, amoral, grasping, shameless psychopaths. 


Public healthcare systems are one of the greatest life-savers in modern societies. They've proven their cost-effectiveness AND moral superiority to for-profit, individualized, private healthcare delivery systems for decades. So of course, the powerful US oligarchy resists it. And of course, bloated psychopaths like Doug Ford, stephen harper, Jason Kenney, ad nauseum, are seeking to destroy it here in Canada. Why would they want to do that? Who knows from out of the variety of influences upon these shrivelled souls and contemptible morons? Perhaps they're deluded ignoramuses who vaguely buy-into the lies of the private insurance providers and for profit medical community. Perhaps they appreciate the donations to their political parties from these for-profit parasites. Perhaps they think public healthcare services are wasted on poor people who should just die. Who knows? Who cares? It's enough that they want to bankrupt and kill so many of us that we should fight to remove them from power.


At the end of the day, we need to have a revolution to take power out of the hands of such people. We have to come up with systems of governance that bring power down to the community level while still maintaining national or international authorities to guarantee equality and human rights across countries and the planet. The details of this have probably been written about before, and are being discussed and studied today. But it's all academic if we never try to implement the revolution that's necessary to make them a reality.

And make no mistake about it. The oligarchs and their bullying enforcers will resist. Our societies barf-up the most selfish, scheming, amoral, calculating, and shameless among us to rise to the top. They will use all their claws and fangs and lies (propaganda) to defend their positions. The idea that we can petition them to change, or shame them to renounce their ways is the most deluded stupidity. 

Are we then to have a violent revolution? "To the barricades comrades!!!" What barricades? What weapons do we have? What weapons do they have?  Is there to be a General Strike? Perhaps. Waves of rotating strikes. Consumer boycotts. Closing down of bank accounts and the formation of more democratic credit unions? 

The main thing is that we need to have a coherent goal, convince people of its virtues and articulate a coherent, valid strategy for getting there. "Workers as Citizens" obviously utlizes extra-parliamentary activism, but sees as crucial the use of existing political systems to create its legality. (At the very least, denying a democratically arrived-at, legitimate policy will serve to discredit the oligarchy and thereby radicalize the bulk of the population that supports it.)

After its implementation, ordinary, non-radical, workaday people won't have to notice some sweeping transformation of their lives. They can naturally, organically transform their workplaces as local circumstances permit or demand. And this includes the transformation of the economy necessary to ATTEMPT to mitigate global heating. This will also require states that have the resources to assist with the dramatic reductions in meat consumption, automobile use, plastics, useless consumer goods, airlines, etc., etc., ... Some people will be paid to stay home until beneficial work is found for them. Some workplaces will need to do massive re-tooling from wasteful consumerism to providing actual necessities. 

I've been tinkering with this blog post for a couple of weeks, in my spare time and I think I'll post it now, azzizz.




Friday, February 26, 2021

We Have Five Years: GO!!!!!

 

A few years ago experts began to say that we had ten years to radically transform, what should we call it, ... the international economy? human civilization? humanity? so as to avoid ecological collapse and the implosion of technological civilization. And, so far, we haven't done that. We haven't begun to do that. Nightmarishly, as a collective, we haven't even begun to think about how to go about doing that. [After writing this post and putting in the pretty pictures I looked for a link to go with my "few years ago" statement. How time flies. That link is from 2007. Which coincides with how some experts say it's already too late.]

I've been thinking about blogging about Jason Kenney some more. Or Doug Ford. Because Lord knows that we Canadians have spent far too much time talking about everything Trump related and acting complacently about our own predicament because "At least we're not as bad as the USA." Then, a couple of days of reading about the broken promises of the contemptible Joe Biden, including last night's reporting that the senile imperialist bombed Syria, made me want to at least address the hideous reality that the US political system is entirely hopeless but so many US-Americans are still passionately invested in that stupid theatre.

But what would be the point? Yes. Things are bad. Our politicians are corrupt/scumbags/idiots/dotards/morons. Nothing new to see there. The USA's political-economic elites are world-threatening maniacs. Where do we look for rescue? Europe? A bunch of bickering neo-liberal automatons and boorish fascists? Russia? A fossil-fuels dependent authoritarian oligarchy? China? Anti-democratic, authoritarian technocracy? I suppose we could look to the many good examples in the Global South, not for rescue, but for inspiration. The achievements of Bolivarians in Venezuela at addressing education, housing, literacy and nutrition are undeniable. The achievements of pro-Indigenous people's parties in Bolivia and Ecuador are also praiseworthy.

We can look at certain policies from around the world, in Venezuela, Cuba, New Zealand, Bolivia, Sweden, Norway, Ecuador, and other places, for reality-based examples of the benefits of non, or anti-capitalist, majoritarian policies.

And then we should think about achieving them here, in Canada, A-N-D in the United States. Because the USA remains the world's most richest, powerful country, and anybody, anywhere else in the world, who can come up with intelligent strategies for defeating the insanely narcissistic oligarchs who are plundering it and deforming it, has a responsibility to speak up. 


So that is what I decided to blog about today. If we accept that we had ten years to transform the human world a few years ago, and we've done effectively nothing since then, I think it imperative that we focus our minds on how we could conceivably transform the world within FIVE years. If you blog, spend half your time blogging about achieving this. If you read for research, research more about specific strategies for changing the world. All the time you spend critiquing capitalism and complaining on PHazeBock, take half of it to think about what seriously needs to be done to have the world on a sustainable projectory WITHIN five years. 

Don't engage in meaningless generalities about "raising awareness" until a "critical mass" is reached, whereupon "something" will magically happen. Don't waste everyone's time with drivel about taking some obviously corrupt, corporatist tool and "pushing them left." Don't self-delude yourself about a revolutionary tidal wave that is just about to happen.

I have my own ideas and I'll write about them in my next post.



Saturday, February 20, 2021

2 Stories: A Doctor on the Covid Ward and Doug Ford

 


Toronto Life has an emotional piece written by an infectious diseases specialist who works in a Toronto Covid ward:

What differentiates Covid-19 is that it’s hidden, capricious. It’s also extensive in its reach and dangerously infectious, which makes it even more daunting and overwhelming compared to any outbreaks I’ve seen in the past.

...

The second wave hit Toronto hard and fast, as if we never saw it coming. But many of us did. The seemingly virus-free summer reprieve only increased people’s doubts and denial about the insidiousness of the pandemic. I knew that once people had a taste of freedom, it would be difficult to take it away from them—and that the second wave would be even more devastating than the first.

...

You might be fortunate enough to have an entirely uneventful shift in the Covid ward, where nothing drastic happens and you feel good at the end of the day. But the truth is, I haven’t had that experience very often during this pandemic. It’s been the rule rather than the exception that people will die on my watch. 

...


From the first wave to the second, I’ve noticed a shift in people’s attitudes toward the virus. There’s public doubt, a belief that the spring lockdown was an overreaction, that the first wave wasn’t really so bad. There’s an element of rebellion, and distrust in our public health officials, which is fuelling an anti-science sentiment. I think there’s even a growing resentment toward doctors and nurses and other front-line health care workers, because some people see us as reminders of the virus they don’t want to hear about anymore. Some people, mostly younger people, are thinking, Well, I’m young and healthy, so I’m going to be okay. Those people are trivializing the risks and consequences of the virus. That’s a punch in the gut to me, because I see the horror of those consequences up close on a daily basis. When I see a 60-year-old father or mother—someone who would have likely walked out of the hospital had they been sick with a conventional pneumonia—die on maximal therapy, without their family there to say goodbye to them, that’s a punch in the gut too. It pains and angers me to see people diminishing the threat of this disease.


Not exactly related, but obviously not unrelated, what the fuck is Doug Ford doing sitting on all those quick Covid tests???? Obviously, it's not just Ford. It's also his fellow conservative troglodytes Jason Kenney and Scott Moe as well. It's gotten to the point where Trudeau has thought about taking them back and giving them to pharmacies to administer.

The Ontario government has only used about 18 per cent of the 5.4 million rapid tests that Ottawa has sent it since November, even though Premier Doug Ford has called them “game changers.”

Health care falls mostly under provincial jurisdiction, and a move by Ottawa to send rapid tests directly to pharmacies across Canada has the potential to spark tensions.

Although many rapid tests provided by the federal government are still shelved in Ontario, the province has moved to purchase another nine million of them from Abbott Canada.

This pandemic has revealed many things about our society. First of all, it's that the banks run this country and our governments put the concerns and wellbeing of the banks ahead of Canadian citizens. Secondly, decades of neo-liberalism has severely eroded the capabilities of our state sectors (federal and provincial). [One example being the Progressive Conservative Mulroney's selling off of Connaught Labs. Now the heirs of that party are bloviating about how we don't have enough vaccines in Canada!]

Capitalism is a barrier to effective responses to public crises. Our governments are very tolerant of right-wing nut-jobs. They'll send the police to bash in the heads of peaceful left-wing protesters, when even the most violent of left-wingers do nothing more than break some windows. But these right-wing, anti-maskers with their super-spreader events, ... they're going to cause a lot more harm to people's lives and the economy. They should be treated as the menaces that they are.

The main thing is that our society doesn't want to have to change the way it does things. We're all waiting for a quick, scientific fix, like a vaccine, rather than do the hard work of a major public effort to isolate and destroy the virus through massive testing. Short, but effective quarantines/lockdowns. And, of course, we don't want to inconvenience the super-rich in any way whatsoever.



Thursday, February 18, 2021

Lack of Accountability and "Failed States"

 


When you shrug your shoulders when corrupt elites flout parliamentary means of accountability you abandon the surest peaceful means of addressing that corruption. If you simultaneously delude yourselves that your usual means of protesting constitutes "holding their feet to the fire" when, in reality, they accomplish nothing, it means that the corruption continues. You could use the legal system. But corrupt elites often use their time in power to de-criminalize their actions, pack the judiciary, and hire the police.

For decades there has been a concerted effort on the part of elites to neuter the regulatory state (such as it was) to allow oligarchs to "regulate" themselves and to abolish or weaken or abuse those bodies tasked with oversight of government.

More and more, with stephen harper's Conservatives' election fraud and the Republicans in the USA hypocritically whining that the election was stolen from them (ignoring their own sabotage, gerrymandering and voter suppression efforts) it's clear that "throwing the bums out" (to replace them with other stinky bums) is becoming less likely.

This leaves violence as the only way an injured public can effect retribution on elite actors who have/are harming them. And violence is dehumanizing. And, nowadays, elites and the states they control have a vastly superior arsenal of the means of violence to what the people have. 

I'd wanted to say something to that effect on my last post about "De-Democratization." But it also fits as a response to these two articles that I saw recently. The first (another one from Juan Cole: "From Covid to Power outages in Ice Storms: the Texas Republican Party has created a Failed State."

The GOP is about coddling the very rich. The poor babies don’t like being regulated, being made to spend money on the welfare of the people, or being taxed. Who will will take these burdens off the snowflake business classes? Never fear, the GOP is here.

The Republican Party is the victim of magical thinking that the market can solve all problems if only it is unleashed and freed of the shackles of government.

These precepts are ugly, producing an ever ratcheting economic inequality in which much of the country’s wealth is in the talons of a handful of billionaires while millions live in poverty and food insecurity and even many workers are part of the growing class of working poor. 

...

Would it not be better to have a larger public sector and electricity during ice storms than capitalism and 4 million people without power?

The state’s privately owned power plants have not been weatherized to deal with severe winter storms. The equipment at the electricity plants itself froze and stopped working.

Because the private companies that own the plants did not want to spend the money to weatherize them. Indeed, the deregulation of the electricity grid may have encouraged companies not to weatherize. This, even though severe winter storms hit the Southwest roughly once every 8-10 years. They are not rare.

Officials of the Texas Republican Party were aware of this problem and did nothing. The companies were aware and did nothing. The market does not like investing money to forestall a disaster that may be 8 years away. 

We see the same thing with right-wing governments here in Canada, whether federal or provincial. The governments of stephen harper (some minority governments and a majority) were all freak shows. harper's front bench were either disgusting troglodytes like Jason Kenney, John Baird or Pierre Pollievre, or shamelessly incompetent ciphers like Joe Oliver or Tony Clement. Their policies were always based on their moronic ideology and their defenses of their stupid behaviour were always laughable. 

Nowadays the torch has been passed to Doug Ford (brother of [the now deceased] international disgrace/Mayor of Toronto, Rob Ford) in Ontario, with Jason Kenney having relocated from Ottawa to Edmonton, Alberta. Doug Ford begain "strong," braying like an arrogant jackass and attempting all sorts of rotten policies. There was an enormous social pushback against him and he found himself universally hated. Chagrined already, the coronavirus crisis saw Ford mouthing the words of a serious person and making token steps to follow fact-based policies. In a world containing deluded cretins like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson, this behaviour garnered a lot of public compliments. Remember though, Doug Ford is a 21st Century "conservative." A a key tenet of this ideology is that if spending money on safeguards to keep the elderly clients of Long-Term Care facilities costs money that eats into the profits of the facilities' scumbag owners, then that money should not, and will not be spent. It is the politicians' job in such instances to lie their fat, stupid faces off about how they're "moving heaven and earth" to protect the seniors and their overworked, underpaid, unprotected caregivers. 

Meanwhile, in Alberta, Jason Kenney, having won his leadership of the United Conservative Party through corruption and fraud, and led that party to power by an electorate that had kept the earlier, Progressive Conservative Party in power for four decades, only replacing them with the Alberta NDP when the last PC government responded to a financial crisis caused by a drop in oil prices as being the fault of Albertans selfishness. It wasn't the FORTY-FOUR YEARS of PC governments' giving away a non-renewable resource at firesale prices, failing to invest what money they did raise, and telling Albertans that not having to pay sales taxes was their birthright.

Kenney has gone on to declare war on Alberta's healthcare system (because he's a shameless servant of private healthcare providers and insurers and he doesn't care how many shlubs have to be bankrupted and killed as a result), welcome environmentally devastating mountain-top removal coal mining (COAL for gawd's sake!!!) and treating COVID-19 as an annoying urban legend. Because the man is a fucking idiot and a crazed religious freak.

But the thing is, how did we get this way? Conservatives were not so brain-dead in the 1950's to the 1980's, were they? Certainly, as I've been saying a lot recently; conservative brains are hard-wired to see and focus on potential threats more than other brains are. But that shouldn't be a cause for 24-7 stupidity. You can fear "the mob" and rapid changes to the social fabric without being a reality-denying incompetent. The main problem with conservative politics is that they are wedded to traditional power balances and traditional morals and they ignore their own beliefs about human motivation.  If individuals are selfish, grasping and greedy, then why insulate elites/oligarchs from change? Why allow them to pursue their selfish goals with impunity? If group politics are "culture wars" or chances for lazy people to use politics to get what they couldn't achieve on their own merits, then how are traditional morals and customs not simultaneously ways for already privileged groups to keep what they have?

More and more, our oligarchs have become non-productive, self-centred, pampered psychopaths. And even those who demonstrate talent and ability and thereby build something new get vastly overcompensated. The majority of the capitalist class is dedicated to short-term plundering and this has been going on for a long time. The only way to sell such a political movement is by ignoring the results of their crimes and blaming everything on scapegoats. The ridiculousness and stupidity of such a politics is revealed with the revolting spectacles of the Ford and Kenney governments.

The other article is from something called "BMJ" and I saw it via Accidental Deliberations

Murder is an emotive word. In law, it requires premeditation. Death must be deemed to be unlawful. How could “murder” apply to failures of a pandemic response? Perhaps it can’t, and never will, but it is worth considering. When politicians and experts say that they are willing to allow tens of thousands of premature deaths for the sake of population immunity or in the hope of propping up the economy, is that not premeditated and reckless indifference to human life? If policy failures lead to recurrent and mistimed lockdowns, who is responsible for the resulting non-covid excess deaths? When politicians wilfully neglect scientific advice, international and historical experience, and their own alarming statistics and modelling because to act goes against their political strategy or ideology, is that lawful? Is inaction, action?1 How big an omission is not acting immediately after the World Health Organization declared a public health emergency of international concern on 30 January 2020?

At the very least, covid-19 might be classified as “social murder,” as recently explained by two professors of criminology.2 The philosopher Friedrich Engels coined the phrase when describing the political and social power held by the ruling elite over the working classes in 19th century England. His argument was that the conditions created by privileged classes inevitably led to premature and “unnatural” death among the poorest classes.3

...

If not murder or a crime against humanity, are we seeing involuntary manslaughter, misconduct in public office, or criminal negligence? Laws on political misconduct or negligence are complex and not designed to react to unprecedented events, but as more than two million people have died, we must not look on impotently as elected representatives around the world remain unaccountable and unrepentant. What standard should leaders be judged by? Is it the small number of deaths in countries such as New Zealand and Taiwan, or the harsher standard of zero excess deaths? Deaths do not come as single spies but as a battalion of bereaved families, shattered lives, long term illness, and economic ruin.

Now then, ACCOUNTABILITY. When someone like Doug Ford refuses to invest in testing and tracking during a deadly pandemic, because it costs money, that means that he is deliberately allowing the deadly virus to spread. When he lies about protecting seniors in LTC facilities and passes legislation protecting LTC operators from liability for deaths caused by their selfish refusal to pay for safeguards for their clients, how is it that he is able to escape criminal charges? How is he not deliberately causing suffering and death? This isn't an "accident." It's one thing to pursue a policy that you stupidly think will benefit everyone and then belatedly realize it's been a disaster. Doug Ford is simply refusing to spend money even though he knows it needs to be done. Class sizes have to be smaller. Schools need better ventiliation. Businesses have to be subsidized during inevitable lockdowns. People who legitimately can't work should be subsidized. 

The same can be said, obviously, for Jason Kenney's stupid behaviour.

It is we, on the Left, through our adherence to demonstrably futile methods of protest, and our long-term refusal to work with the political system that we have, who have allowed right-wing psychopaths to eviscerate the formal safeguards and oversights of elite depredations. And this includes all progressives who are capable of whining on the internet about the crimes of harper, Harris, Ford, Trump, etc., but who revert to slavering devotion whenever an Obama, or a Trudeau, or a Biden takes power. 



Monday, February 15, 2021

De-Democratization

 


Juan Cole's Informed Comment: "America's Transition Away from Democracy and the World's Wave of De-Democratization."

Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The twentieth century was in the eyes of some observers an uneven but steady march to democracy.

Those who study transitions from authoritarian governments to democracy have defined a successful transition as characterized by two elections in a row, where all parties agree on the rules of the game, and the losers go home.

...

I just want to point out that by the rules of the professors of democratic transition, the United States is no longer a successful democracy.  

...

That was what the Capitol insurrection of January 6 was about. It was Trump’s attempt to avoid going home. Only because the insurrection was defeated did Trump leave the White House. He had intended to stay. If the insurrectionists had succeeded in hanging Mike Pence and killing or kidnapping Nancy Pelosi, Trump would have stayed in the White House on the pretense that Biden’s win had not been certified by Congress.

It was an attempted coup.

From 1900 to 2000, absolute monarchies fell one after another to become constitutional monarchies or republics.  ...   The late Samuel Huntington theorized a “Third Wave” of democratization from the 1970s till the end of the 20th century, which saw 60 countries transition away from some form of authoritarianism.  ...  What political scientists did try to study was what accounted for why some countries begin a transition to parliamentary democracy and succeed in consolidating it, and why some fail.

Adam Przeworski at New York University found that successful transitions were highly associated with per capita income. The wealthier people were in a society, the more likely it was that they could make the transition succeed once it began.  ...  But note that the theory also does not guarantee that wealthy countries will remain democratic. Democracy is constructed, over and over again, every day, and if citizens don’t bother to keep constructing it, it ends.

...

By 2018, Freedom House had recorded 13 consecutive years of democratic decline. This contrasts to the period 1988 to 2005, where there were lots of transitions to democracy.

...

The United States has now joined this de-democratization wave. Professor Huntington would be upset and also astounded.

The US is wealthy per capita, so it should have a high chance of continuing to transit to more democracy, not less.

So why is the place falling apart? Well, I called the system capitalist democracy, and that is increasingly a contradiction. American capitalism is unhealthily dominated by monopolies and is marching toward a world of billionaires on the one hand and of workers barely making it on the other. Economic insecurity has increased, which is associated with heightened racism as ethnic groups feel they are competing for a shrinking pie.

So what are we talking about here? First of all, I'm not sure that Trump would have been able to remain President had his followers murdered Pence, Pelosi, Schumer, etc. I think the lack of decorum exhibited by those murders would have offended even Mitch McConnell. Various military, and police forces (FBI, CIA) might have hustled Trump off to prison. On the other hand, callousness and apathy might have made them stand down and let Trump become a dictator. Lot's of city police forces are jam-packed with shithead authoritarian, racist goons who have no problem with working for corrupt, racist dictators. Being a cop under a fascist regime would make their lives infinitely more enjoyable.

That aside, Cole is arguing about a very real thing: The decline in the limited democratic elements in our political cultures around the world and the rise of authoritarianism. The word "democracy" in most Canadians' minds probably means elected representatives and accountability to the electorate. Parliamentary systems proposing, debating and passing legislation. Legal limits on the powers of politicians. For a brief period universal suffrage regardless of income, sex or race was enjoyed. As a result, elites felt compelled to do things FOR the majority rather than take them for granted.


As I've written in numerous posts over the years, strong unions, a genuine commitment to economic growth, and a decent social safety net made the populace more confident and assertive. The response of elites was to begin dismantling this system in the 1980s with the philosophy of neo-liberalism. Increasingly, the concrete results of democratic government, which is the enacting of policies and programs demanded by the majority began to wither. Once the general public became acclimatized to the futility of demanding things from their governments elites came to see even the forms of democratic systems to be a needless annoyance. 

In the USA this was represented by the increase in electoral fraud committed by the Republican Party and by the brazen lawlessness of the Cheney-Bush regime. (Cheney arrogantly asserting executive privilege against demands for information from the legislature while simultaneously claiming his role as President of the Senate also makes him immune from investigations of the executive branch.)


In Canada, the government of stephen harper assaulted all aspects of parliamentary oversight, sabotaging committees, blocking investigations of war crimes, denying crucial information to Parliament, using state resources to directly benefit the Conservative Party, etc., etc., ... up to and including massive election fraud to steal a majority in the 2011 federal election that had itself been called because of harper's demonstrated contempt of Parliament. (Upon winning this fraudulent majority, harper's government went on to deliver and pass gigantic omnibus bills that, among other things, unilaterally abrogated Treaty obligations with the First Nations.)


This is how "democracies" fall. Canada was never a democracy. But it was a fairly robust pseudo-democracy. What is it like to live without democracy? It's something like what we enjoy now. Rapacious elites use their power to plunder us and their political hirelings ignore our protests and alternative proposals. Apathy caused by ignorance or (on the part of leftist "super-radicals") delusion allow these things to happen. "Who cares about some boring parliamentary committee not being able to do its job because the government won't appoint its own members to it?" "Who cares that Elections Canada covered up the crimes of the 2011 federal election?" 

Obviously, some people are still invested in the competitions between the parties. The Conservatives are prepared to advertise themselves as pro-war, anti-welfare, and as defenders of "traditional values." The Liberals will campaign as being more inclusive of different cultures and more willing to preserve this or that remnant of the welfare state. For these two groups the culture wars in Canada are highly important and gratifying. But none of this is a central concern to the oligarchy. You might have a red-meat eating heterosexual, evangelical Calgary oil company executive who votes Conservative or a vegan, homosexual, atheist banker in Toronto who votes Liberal, but when both of these guys want the state to bail them out and buy their oil pipeline, both parties will jump to attention. (More and more, the difference between the NDP and the Liberals .... especially at the provincial level ... makes it irrelevant to speak of them really.)


For a genuine look at what the absence of democracy looks like, cast your eyes southwards to the United States of America. There the oligarchy increasingly dispenses with even the pretence of attending to the needs of the majority. Over ten million people have lost their health insurance during a pandemic? Tough shit. Lost your job in the hospitality industry? The Democrats gave you a $1,200 cheque last May and increased unemployment benefits (if you qualify and if your state's computer system can process your claim). Plus, you obviously don't have to pay your rent since you can't work. Relax. All those months without an income you can rest assured that your rent owing will increase until the nerve-wracking extensions on eviction moratoriums are negotiated at the last minute. Meanwhile, the Republican Party's stance was to offer even less. Meanwhile the billionaire class saw its wealth skyrocket.

Somehow or other, large groups of US-Americans still see participation in this sham as something to get excited about. Democratic partisans swoon over a rambling, racist, war-monger and a psychopathic, authoritarian. Republican nutbars hypocritically shriek over the bullshit claims of their corrupt, repulsive, incompetent, insane, incestuous, racist, lying hero that the election was stolen from him and they storm the Capital.

In the wake of the Trumpista's attack, lots of words are being thrown around about the damage to US democracy. But the fact that the USA does not have democracy renders those claims null and void. The US national political environment has become so debased that besides the Republican partisans who simultaneously supported the riots while blaming Antifa for them, and a small number of Democratic partisans, a significant portion of the US population just doesn't care.

I'm trying to figure out a way to say some important, detailed topics in as concise a way as possible. But the job is too much for my unpaid efforts. Suffice to say that Canadians, US-Americans, British, European, etc., ... we have allowed our elites to run roughshod over us, to violate principles of our pseudo-democracies without consequence, thinking that because they are pseudo-democracies, they are unimportant, rather than something to be built upon.

Our leaders and our corporate media lies to us. This makes it difficult to argue with right-wing nutbars whose distrust of official narratives leads them into crazed conspiracy theories. When both official, parliamentary methods of accountability, as well as extra-parliamentary methods, are both ignored, we will find ourselves even more lost in lives of impoverished, uncertain employment amidst ecological collapse.


Friday, February 5, 2021

Beat Covid to Zero! Burn it with FIRE!!!

 


Andrew Nikiforuk at "The Tyee" talks about a German study and a Canadian study that says we should fuck right off with the "flatten the curve" "mitigate the damage" half-measures and try to destroy COVID-19 and thereby avoid the [almost] worst of all possible worlds scenario we're in now. (Mega-Incompetent Boris Johnson's UK was the worst of all possible worlds it seems.)

By now every Canadian knows what COVID mitigation looks like: imprecise lockdowns with no real targets followed by ill-timed openings that result in more exponential grief.

And then politicians, who look as dazed as Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, call for another round of lockdowns with no strategy and no goals.

It’s a policy of constant déjà vu — all pain, no gain and more COVID-19.

Y'know, ... a couple of things: If a fire breaks out in your kitchen, you don't make a commendable effort to put out "some" of the fire. And then moan and bitch about letting the rest of it "play itself out." (And let Grandma die of smoke inhalation because you're too lazy to go upstairs and open a window.)

Also, ... if anything, this pandemic has exposed capitalism, both economically and politically, as heinous. When it isn't complete assholes like Doug Ford thinking that seniors and front-line care workers (including hospital staffs and long-term care staffs) suffer and die to preserve the financial well-being of vermin like Mike Harris, it's greedy, grasping pharmaceutical companies limiting production and seeking to maximize profits at the cost of humanity in general.

The thing is, read Nikiforuk's piece. But, also, .... what the fuck is the problem with our governments coddling these COVID-denying imbeciles???? If the virus is real (and it is) allowing them to congregate in their super-spreader rallies only serves to prolong the agony of everyone who is being made to subsidize the goddamned banks.

We needed a massive information/education drive to push-back against the myriad of conspiracy theories these morons excrete. Also, there should have been a crackdown on the FIRST anti-mask "Hugs Over Masks" (or whatever the fuck their slogans were). And, given the fact that cops (being authoritarian, right-wing idiots) are often anti-maskers themselves, concerted efforts to expose THEM to reality should have been made.

And what the fuck??? In wartime, taxes are raised on the wealthy. To help pay for the collective good. In this crisis, the wealthy not only expect to be left unscathed, they're actually profiting to the tune of billions of dollars. 

I sure hope the genius left that has proposed literally NOTHING for decades brainstorms about the post-pandemic society that needs to be built.