Tuesday, November 28, 2017

On Turning "Conservatives" Into "Liberals"

Montreal Simon recently posted about some study that claims there are physical differences between the brains of "conservatives" and "progressives":
Peering inside the brain with MRI scans, researchers at University College London found that self-described conservative students had a larger amygdala than liberals. The amygdala is an almond-shaped structure deep in the brain that is active during states of fear and anxiety.
It also claims that the way to tone down those "conservative" political instincts (defensively shutting themselves inside echo-chambers of ethnic nationalism/xenophobia/homophobia/religious fundamentalism) is to make their environments less stressful and fear-inducing:
Conservatives, it turns out, react more strongly to physical threat than liberals do. In fact, their greater concern with physical safety seems to be determined early in life: In one University of California study, the more fear a 4-year-old showed in a laboratory situation, the more conservative his or her political attitudes were found to be 20 years later.

And many other laboratory studies have found that when adult liberals experienced physical threat, their political and social attitudes became more conservative (temporarily, of course). But no one had ever turned conservatives into liberals.
Which is sort of what I've been trying to say for a long time to liberals who think that all you have to do is vote for a Liberal or a Democrat to be on the side of the angels. The neo-liberal austerity politics practised by the Liberal Party of Canada and the Democratic Party USA have hurt the majority of the population. So do the policies of the Conservative Party of Canada and the Republican Party USA. Both of these right-wing parties have the advantages of 1.) Having a grassroots political base that is more easily manipulated than do liberal parties, 2.) Having access to dog-whistle arguments as to the actual causes of white, working-class woes [ethnic minorities/immigrants/refugees/GLBT people/unions/socialists] that allow them to manipulate their easily-manipulated membership away from elites and towards these convenient scapegoats.

Liberals and Democrats do not have a similar narrative. They can't convincingly rail about lazy Blacks, Musloid rape-fugees, Hollywood degenerates, and etc., because they claim to embrace and support the aspirations of Blacks, immigrants, Muslims, refugees, Hollywood liberals and etc. And they can't rail against the white working class either. And they can't betray their financiers on Wall Street or across corporate America obviously. So what they have to do is lie about caring about ordinary people while enacting policies that hurt them. One of their only "outs" to avoid wholesale condemnation for their fakery and betrayal is that the Republicans/Conservatives are worse.

It remains the case however, that more and more people are turning against mainstream politics. Even the Republicans have been discomfited by Tea-Bagger revolts against their insiders. Eric Cantor's loss to a Tea-Party nominee, and the whole line-up of 2016 leadership hopefuls being destroyed by the buffoonish Donald Trump who spoke out loud and proud [and ultimately falsely] about his opposition to free trade deals; pharmaceutical and health insurance industry gouging; imperialist war; and Wall Street domination of Washington. Trump's rivals couldn't say such things because (strangely) they're not as shameless when it comes to lying as Trump is; they were terrified of alienating their sugar-daddies, and, they're simply cognitively incapable of acting independently.

In 2016, after 8 years of Barack Obama continuing with the imperialist wars in the Middle East, shoveling 90% of the wealth created during his presidency to the wealthiest 1%; arrogating to his office the power to assassinate US citizens without due process of law; bailing-out Wall Street, protecting them from prosecution and using them to staff his cabinet; attacking social security; abandoning single-payer health insurance; pursuing corporate free trade deals; ... well, after all that, many traditional Democrat voters stayed home rather than vote for a candidate who promised more of the same. Helping the nauseating embarrassment Trump to squeeze out an Electoral College victory.

But my main point is that embracing policies that hurt ordinary people (even if they are "less bad" or "lesser evil" than what another party is advocating) is going to make most people angry. Among those who are made angry are the fearful, big amygdala -having "conservatives." And they will NOT welcome refugees, they will protest against them and hate them. They will NOT accept immigrants, they will accuse them of stealing their jobs (while simultaneously blaming them for enlarging the welfare rolls). They will NOT support employment equity or affirmative action. They will instead lash-out on favouritism for minorities and feminists and scream about discrimination against white males. In short: Neo-liberal policies will make the deplorables angry.

Another commentor in another Montreal Simon post made reference to a recent New York Times profile of a Nazi couple. There's a brouhahaha about how the newspaper "normalized" fascism. I think we have to accept that fascists are "normal." If you look at the opinions of Adolph Hitler you will find that for the most part they are just a more built-up sampler of the toxic slurry of idiotic prejudices and delusions (racism, homophobia, "tough on crime", anti-welfare state, anti-unions, militarism, confused morals) of your average Toronto Sun reader. The danger was never to "humanize" Hitler. The danger was to pretend that he wasn't human and so convince ourselves that the distance between ourselves and abominations such as The Holocaust is bigger than it is.

If we want to neutralize fascism we must first reject neo-liberal, imperialist scum-bags like Hillary Clinton and Justin Trudeau. To do otherwise is to subject ourselves to greater horrors in the future.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

"At The Sharp End" by Tim Cook

 Recently finished reading Tim Cook's At The Sharp End: Canadians Fighting The Great War 1914-1916. Some observations:

The Western Front was a case of institutional insanity and mass psychoses. Someone from a particular social class in Britain or France or Germany or Canada might have thought being a military officer was a noble profession in the 19th Century. Furthermore, once a war had started, they would be determined to fight it to win. They'd be determined to figure out how to win with the least sacrifice in human lives possible. But then they'd come to the realities of 1914 and beyond, which is that technology had progressed to the point where you could put hundreds of thousands of men into uniforms, give them rifles, and march them directly into the path of machine guns, barbed-wire and artillery barrages, where they could be uselessly slaughtered.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Trump Tedium Revisited

So, what the fuck. I'll finish off my critique about this neo-con's (or whatever) of Donald Trump. My point being that while Trump is undeniably disgusting, the US-imperialist world order that Michael Cohen celebrates is also undeniably disgusting. That Cohen displays brazen hypocrisy throughout his essay and that focusing on Trump is actually really convenient for liars and hypocrites such as himself. By pointing to Trump's putrid and boorish corruption, Cohen hopes to distract from a Repugnican and Democratic tradition of murder and theft.
Recently, the president tweeted: "With all of the Fake News coming out of NBC and the Networks, at what point is it appropriate to challenge their License? Bad for country!"
This is Putin territory. This is Erdogan territory. 
Putin is a thug. But I am sick and tired of his being trotted out as the Great Satan. On foreign policy, Putin is a calm, rational actor, reacting with tact and circumspection to repeated US provocations and crimes. He does this not because he is a nice guy, but because Russia is far weaker than the USA, but not so weak as to suffer multiple attacks and humiliations in silence. Domestically, Putin has allied himself with the most reactionary elements of Russian society and he is no democrat. But he is no worse, and in many cases, better, than some of the tyrants and killers that the USA has supported and continues to support.
We don't know yet how far the president is prepared to go in silencing critics who do not meet his test of patriotism, while inviting his supporters to give free rein to their inner bigot. But Mueller and, eventually, a reelection campaign will tempt Trump to go a long way.
As opposed to Obama who gave himself the right to assassinate US citizens without due process of law.  A power that Trump now has because right-wingers were chasing phantoms about gun seizures and FEMA camps and most "progressives" decided that a Democrat in the White House meant they could all safely shove their heads up their asses for four to eight years.
I lived in Berlin a couple of decades ago and saw the capital return after the Rhineland sojourn in bland Bonn. The city was a construction site. Cranes hoisted the new but the past - a constant admonition to a united Germany - was not erased. This was the consummation of the miracle: Germany unified, within NATO, its borders no longer contested. The German problem that over decades had caused sleepless nights to thousands of American diplomats and agents had been resolved.
I would cross the Polish border sometimes. Poland is close to Berlin, as Poles know well. I had to pinch myself, with the border near invisible, to recall that these were "Bloodlands," in Timothy Snyder's phrase, the last resting place of millions. Yet here, only decades later, there stretched before me the tranquility that NATO, the European Union and statesmanship had brought. 
I thought this guy wasn't a liberal. Now he's talking about international cooperation? Anyhoo, ... neo-liberalism is tearing Europe apart. NATO has oozed its way to the Russian border. The "tranquility" that Cohen is rhapsodizing about might soon be blasted to smithereens because of US hubris.
None of this would have happened without the trans-Atlantic alliance, without the Berlin airlift and the Marshall Plan, without America as a European power - without everything Trump appears to hold in contempt. Constancy and strength in pursuit of strategy are wearing on their opponents. Chaos, on the other hand, gives foes a sense of opportunity.
I beg to differ. Because I believe that the world system that Cohen praises is actually a vile, stupid thing. Needless confrontation. Putin doesn't want to conquer Europe. Russia is too weak and poor to even consider it. More of Cohen's self-deluded stupidity.
Cannot Be Fixed in Stone
It was not only Germans who enjoyed what Helmut Kohl once called "the blessing of late birth." In some way, every post-war European did. We succumb at our peril to amnesia. It is for the young to forge the 21st century. That is right and natural. The precepts of the last century, and its power structure, cannot be forever fixed in stone.
Yet we should not forget from what horror Pax Americana emerged. As Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron flesh out a distinct European destiny - as they should in this era of Trump - they must be mindful of preserving the American bond, in the hope of better days. They must also speak out strongly for the values Trump's America has forsaken.
It's already been established that the "values" Cohen speaks of refer to the right of a US-dominated corporate system to exploit and brutalize anyone who opposes it.

It is lunatics such as Cohen, who cheer on the encirclement and provocation of military powers like Russia and China, who are threatening to bring new horrors down upon humanity. If he genuinely believes this drivel he's written then I pity him.
Perhaps Senator John McCain, a great friend of Europe now battling brain cancer, has offered the best rebuke to Trump:
"To refuse the obligations of international leadership and our duty to remain 'the last best hope of earth' for the sake of some half-baked, spurious nationalism cooked up by people who would rather find scapegoats than solve problems is as unpatriotic as an attachment to any other tired dogma of the past that Americans consigned to the ash heap of history.
"We live in a land made of ideals, not blood and soil. We are the custodians of those ideals at home, and their champion abroad. We have done great good in the world. That leadership has had its costs, but we have become incomparably powerful and wealthy as we did. We have a moral obligation to continue in our just cause, and we would bring more than shame on ourselves if we don't. We will not thrive in a world where our leadership and ideals are absent. We wouldn't deserve to."
John McCain is a disgusting, hypocritical, war-mongering asshole. These pompous, deluded ravings make me sick. The United States is not a "Shining city upon a hill"for the world. It is a racist oligarchy run by and for the selfish interests of a predatory capitalist class. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The Tedium of Anti-Trumpism

I started reading this malediction against Donald Trump by Roger Cohen in Der Spiegel and I soon became overwhelmed with the nauseating hypocrisy.  Don't get me wrong; I really do despise Donald Trump. But too many people think that by opposing and condemning Trump, that they're doing a great service to humanity and that their own support for vile, murderous psychopaths like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, is all part and parcel of their innate goodness. If your only reason for opposing Trump is because his misogyny, racism, boorishness, stupidity and corruption, ... well, that might make you polite company at a Washington D.C. dinner party, but you have to do more than that to be invited to toke and drink with me.

Let me go through this and I'll try to explain:
Ten months into the Trump presidency, the world has not gone over a cliff. Nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea has not produced Armageddon. That this must be considered an achievement is testimony to how alarming Donald Trump's erratic belligerence has been. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has concluded that Europeans must now take "our destiny into our own hands." Dismay is widespread. The post-war order, stripped of its American point of reference, is frayed to the breaking point.

This is no surprise. Trump's election, like Britain's perverse flight from the European Union, reflected a blow-up-the-system mood. The tens of millions of Americans who elected Trump had few illusions about his irascibility but were ready to roll the dice in the name of disruption at any cost.
The president, who continues to act principally as the rabble-rousing leader of a mass movement, is the ultimate provocateur. He jolts the facile assumptions of a globalized liberal elite. Rising inequality and rampant impunity for the powerful certainly demanded such a jolt. But the question remains: How dangerous is Trump to the world and the American Republic?

Okay, first of all, who are these "globalized liberal elites"? What are their "facile assumptions"? Who has presided over "rising inequality and rampant impunity for the powerful"? Look at all that is unstated in these two paragraphs: "Nuclear brinkmanship with North Korea" ... Yes, that was scary and dangerous and stupid. But it is well within the confines of standard US-American practice. And I will never tire of reminding people of the far crazier nuclear brinkmanship carried out by Obama in Syria and as NATO policy in Europe and which Hillary Clinton wanted to intensify. Trump would not have this opportunity for bellicose ranting if there was not already a predisposition for threatening and engaging in illegal wars throughout and across the narrow spectrum of Washington D.C.'s foreign policy establishment.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Pierre Poilievre and the Paradise Papers

I haven't looked at the Paradise Papers or read any of the news stories about them. I already know that the corporations and the rich hide their wealth from the taxman in ways both legal and illegal. (And that they strain mightily to make even the most blatant, unjustifiable, and therefore illegal tax avoidance legal through their hirelings in politics.) And I know from the results of the Panama Papers, that both Canada's corporate media and our political system will do as much as possible to deflect attention from the criminal behaviour of Canada's ruling class and there will be empty rhetoric about coming down hard on these tax-cheats, and that nothing will be done. I am too resigned and apathetic to really stir myself about much these days. I'll let the progressive super-stars who know better than me how to effect genuine social change implement all their vast, ambitious plans and happily await the revolution.

It doesn't surprise me that wealthy supporters of the Liberal Party of Canada (and politicians from that party) are involved in these tax-avoidance schemes. Nor am I surprised that the pathetic, putrid Pierre Poilievre is pursuing the pretense of being offended by their behaviour. He doesn't care that his own party and its masters do the exact same thing. He just knows that the media will give him plenty of screen time or waste a lot of ink, reporting his bullshit condemnations. He also knows that the vast majority of the voting base of the Conservative Party of Canada are far too stupid to recognize his deceit for what it is, and that a frightening percentage of these morons are so debased that if you pointed out the facts to them as if you were rubbing their noses in their own shit, that they'd simply embrace Poilievre's own tactic of hypocrisy and continue to shriek.

This back-and-forth of stupid, hypocritical bullshit is par for the course. Something I experienced firsthand when I took my son to Queen's Park:
The other, more important thing, was listening to these clowns. The discussion had to do with some latest example of Liberal incompetence and failure on the health care file. Money that was promised to meet a long acknowledged problem wasn't being delivered and the Minister of Health was refusing to account for anything. The ONDP was asking the question when I arrived and the Liberal opposite gave a meaningless reply about how important the subject was and how they were working on it, giving no specific explanation for the delay. But it was when the Ontario Progressive Conservative MPP stood up to trash the government on the same issue that I saw how sordid mainstream politics really is. The O PC was asking about the same issue, so it was obviously a well known semi-scandal. The O PC was hammering the Liberals quite hard on the subject. But the Liberal response was to issue the same platitudes as had been offered to the ONDP, but to then condemn the O PC's for the documented catastrophe that was their record of management.

I'd noticed that aside from banging their desks in support of a question from their own MPP, the NDP listened (or tried to listen) to what was being said on the other side. (A couple of MPPs occasionally said something into the ear of someone sitting next to them.) But during the government response, the Ontario PC's hooted and hollered and jeered. During the government response, the Liberal MPPs banged their desks and cheered, and hurled insults and accusations at the opposition. I noticed ONDP leader Andrea Horwath looking pained and irritated as the two parties traded insults about their own destruction of public health care in Ontario. Peter Kormos, sitting near her, and supposedly a legislative firebrand was also listening to these self-serving, stupid exchanges with disgust.
These two parties are supported by the Canadian ruling classes. Their behaviour represents this. Our ruling class is selfish, short-sighted, corrupt and, to a great degree, populated by psychopaths. In many ways, the worst elements of society. Because capitalism, to the extent that it puts profit over people, is inhuman. The capitalist ruling class reflect the system they have risen to the top of. An inhuman, immoral, selfish, boorishness.

We're all participants in this nonsense. We're all debased by it. But those closer to the top are the worst.