Belated Happy Birthday AOC!!

 

Sunday was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s birthday.

 

I wanted to join others in wishing happy birthday to this gallant young champion.

 

She and the Justice Democrats are some of our brightest stars during one of our darkest nights.

 

She inspires me.

 

Below are some links to a few of the many joyous moments she has provided us. Enjoy!

 

30 Times AOC Had The Perfect Comeback For Her Haters

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez lays out ‘bad guy’ ethics scenario

Bill Nye (the Science Guy) surprises Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez at one of her talks

Lovett or Leave it

I’m a big fan of the podcast Lovett of Leave it, brought to us by the chaps and dames at Crooked Media.

A weekly round up of the American political situation, packed into 40 minutes of hilarity as well as experienced insight into Washington’s machinations. The panel varies from political leaders, grassroots activists and organisers, writers and comics, and an impressive representation of identities. On this episode, John speaks to author, screenwriter and journalist Laurie Penny.

As the most amateur of hacks, capable only really of repetition, I thought I’d transcribe a few bits and pieces. Re-listening and typing these prose out was a joy in itself.

 

Gays Against Equinox, 10 August 2019

 

John:

 

How much is the internet, in your mind, to blame for someone like the El Paso shooter’s radicalisation?

 

Laurie:

 

It’s very difficult to say how much the internet, as a sort of total entity, is involved in any phenomenon because there’s barely any phenomenon in our lives – for example, buying shoes – where the internet is not, in some way, involved.

 

One of my favourite quotes on this is by Melvin Kranzberg, who says, ‘technology is neither good nor bad, nor is it neutral’. You can’t say of any situation, “the internet is bad for young men” or “the internet is good for young men” because the same internet where this culture of white supremacy is fostering is also the same internet where young, queer and trans teenagers are able to find each other and explore their identities and find support groups; this is all happening on the same forum. It’s not just about the technology, it’s about the mood.

 

But one thing I think is important, when people talk about white supremacists and Nazis, what a lot of people I know are still imagining in their heads is people with uniforms, people marching, people with one manifesto; and they say, “when those people turn up, I’ll be ready”. But the thing is that those people are already here and the nature of the network, the nature of the internet, means that they don’t need a party anymore. Why would you  join a party when you can be involved in that kind of community, you can be welcomed into a story that says you’re big and powerful and heroic, and you can be part of this grand narrative? You don’t need to join a party for that anymore. It’s distributed fascism. A sort of gig economy fascism. The real Nazis are already here and that’s what the internet does, it allows that to be networked.

 

John

 

So, we’ve just seen one company refuse to work with 8chan – 8chan quickly found another home. What role does government regulation have in trying to cordon this part of the internet off or make it harder for these communities to form?

 

‘Cos there are, you know, speech implications, right? That’s one of the great defences that’s offered. Ya know, people have a right to their First Amendment expression.

 

Laurie

 

Yeah, well, that’s one of the things that’s always confused me about America, to be honest.

 

Umm, sorry, you’re looking at me like I’ve just hit your baby. I don’t know if you have a baby, I’m really sorry.

 

John:

 

I don’t – other than the First Amendment. (and a dog, a very sweet dog)

 

Laura:

 

But honestly, the idea that “free speech” is an absolute defence to incitement of violence, I think absolutely needs to be challenged.

 

John:

 

So, we have now this metastasising, contagious idea that spread amongst people looking for this community, right? This idea that this glorious way of killing yourself, killing others, going out in this big way, right?

 

There’s research that shows that there is this social contagion aspect, that these happen in clusters. This is something that Zeynep Tufecki writes about that this spreading idea is hard to contain. What do you see as the ways to contain it? Obviously, in the media, it’s about not sensationalising and glorifying what these people do – not elevating their manifestos, not using their names – but what do you do about these online communities?

 

Laurie:

 

Well, I think it’s beyond time 8chan was shut down, to be honest. I mean people who make this decision to publish this sort of disgusting nonsense and to host these kinds of disgusting communities ought to be held accountable, they should. Just because they’re technically allowed to do it doesn’t mean that it should be considered morally decent or morally good. I don’t believe, correct me if I’m wrong, but those sights weren’t taken offline because new laws were made or implemented; they were taken off line because the people who ran them were shamed into doing so, right – because they don’t want to be involved in that stuff. I think it’s a good way forward. It’s a change in ethics rather than a change in laws. It’s not just about implementing laws, it’s about implementing social norms.

 

I don’t think that’s a way of chickening out, to be honest. I think we should have been asking long, long ago. It shouldn’t have taken three manifestos, posted on 8chan, for people to think, “Mmm, maybe we should really shut this down” and “who knows who runs that sight anyway, maybe we should talk to him”. It’s a bit late.

 

John:

 

We’re in a debate that often talks about masculinity and I think we hear a lot about toxic masculinity. We hear a lot about the ways in which masculinity manifests itself in harmful ways but it does seem like part of what is going on here is people who are unmoored in some way, seeking out a kind of masculinity that makes them feel strong, that makes them feel powerful. What role do you think that is playing in what’s happening/in what’s radicalising these boys?

 

Laurie:

 

It has everything to do with it. It’s the thing that links together white supremacists, links together Islamic extremists from the so called Islamic state, it links together the two shooters from this week. They came from different places in terms of everything politically apart form the fact that they agreed that they hated women and misogyny is really often the gateway, it’s the gateway to everything. I mean, women were raising the alarm on the internet in 2014/2013. We were saying, “We are being harassed. We’re getting waves of rape and death threats and these people are serious. It is this gamified, disgusting, commodified, objectifying cult. A cult of modern misogyny.” And people said to us, “Oh, nono nonono, you’ve got to grow a thick skin. It’s these young men in their parents’ basements. They don’t mean it”.

 

Now firstly, I want to stand up for young men in their parents’ basements cos I know a lot of young men who literally live in their parents’ basements and play video games and rarely get laid and do not go on shooting sprees and are very gentle, kind people.

 

John:

 

Yeah, like some of them are just there cos its prom night and its time to play Mario Kart. Cos what else are they gonna do… but play Mario Kart… on Prom night.

 

Come to ‘Lovett or Leave It, Radio City’, September 13

 

Laurie:

 

I’m really happy things worked out for you.

 

John:

 

So far, yeah.

 

Laurie:

 

You turned out alright, see.

 

But, umm, the idea that men are entitled to own women and that young men are entitled to a certain kind of sex with a certain kind of woman and, if they don’t get it, they’re entitled to take revenge on the entire world and on the female sex in particular, that’s universal across these little cesspools of radicalisation, whatever the other politics. That’s often a sort of gateway drug to the other hardcore stuff for white supremacy because, you know, when people are recruiting young men to become Nazis, they don’t just wonder up and say, “Would you like to be a Nazi, today?”, because everybody knows, well most people now know, that Nazis are the bad guys – that’s why people don’t like to be called Nazis still. But what they say, instead, is, “Do you ever think women whinge too much? Ya know, do you ever think… I mean… look at what she’s wearing. Don’t you think like a guy like you should be having a better kind of life?” That’s what they say. I’ve been to their rallies and that’s what they lead with. They lead with this weird parochial idea of what women are and what men are entitled to be and do to them and that violence is not exclusive to the alt-Right or the far Right. That undercurrent of misogyny is everywhere in American culture, it’s everywhere in British culture, and one of the reasons people haven’t taken it to task earlier is because what these young men are saying is a more extreme version of what people are saying in non-Nazi communities and that attitude has become normalised and I think that’s very frightening. I think the trouble is that analysing that current forces all of us to look at ourselves and to look at the men in our lives and people we love and that is very, very uncomfortable.

 

It’s also about guns.

 

John:

 

One final question, AOC gave a speech talking about these issues and one thing she said that I thought I hadn’t heard anyone else really say is she spoke directly to those who are becoming radicalised, who maybe do feel, whether they know they feel lost or not, are in a sense lost and she said we’re here and we love you and you can come back.

 

Do you think there’s value to a kind of openness to seeing people who have been lost to these communities as retrievable and loveable and people who need to be brought back, if only to protect us from how these communities are festering?

 

Laurie:

 

That is a really interesting and important question. I think there is value in offering people a dignified bridge and it is very smart what AOC’s doing there but it can’t be the only answer. You have to have both. You have to have the combination of somebody saying, “If you want to step back into decency and common sense, then we’ll be here, we’ll let you do that”, but you’ve also got to have people saying, “this  behaviour is not acceptable, you get one chance”.

 

We treat all men like children, let’s be honest. In terms of their emotions. We don’t expect them to take any kind of emotional responsibility and this is an entire movement founded on the basis that people are too cowardly to handle their emotions like adults.

 

They experience their feelings as facts.

 

I think if there’s one thing we could change in terms of how we discuss the undercurrents of emotion and isolation a in this society, it’s to just tell these young men again and again that, just because they feel that every woman in the world is out to get them, doesn’t mean that its true.

 

One of the things they say again and again is, “Fuck your feelings!”, but their feelings are unassailable. It’s the most astonishing act of projection. They experience every feeling as god’s honest truth.

 

It’s very odd.

 

John:

 

Thank you so much, Laurie Penny.

 

 

Laurie used to write for the Guardian and was recommended to me by a friend several years ago. I disagreed with the article I read so didn’t bother reading her again. The extraordinary disquisition above has certainly given me cause to reflect upon my over-confident judgement and pretentiously zealous purity.  

Lovett or Leave it

I’m a big fan of the podcast Lovett of Leave it, brought to us by the chaps and dames at Crooked Media.

A weekly round up of the American political situation, packed into 40 minutes of hilarity as well as experienced insight into Washington’s machinations. The panel varies from political leaders, grassroots activists and organisers, writers and comics, and an impressive representation of identities.

As the most amateur of hacks, capable only really of repetition, I thought I’d transcribe a few bits and pieces. Re-listening and typing these prose out was a joy in itself.

Aunt Becky for President, 16 March

 

Following a Fox and Friends segment claiming Medicare for All would take away all other forms of insurance.

 

Akilah Hughes: How can you just lie? Like, I know it’s Fox News, but just like, people are just blatantly lying!?

 

John: So, here’s how you do it:

 

Basically, it takes some time but I think first you allow little bits of deception into the way you think about the world. Over time, as you sit in front of the camera, day after day, you don’t realise but with each morning, as you more and more adapt the talking points that come from higher up, you slowly lose the part of yourself that noticed that there was a difference. You then create a different version of yourself. There’s the version of yourself that’s on camera, that’s the person who reads what’s in the prompter. Then there’s the version of yourself that’s decent and kind and honest in your personal dealings and, increasingly, you view the person that you are on camera, in this studio, as not you but the you that’s on Fox News – the you that’s doing a job, the you that made compromises along the way to be this person that understands that there’re trade-offs between the money. That, ultimately, you view yourself as being a good person who makes some compromises not a compromised person who occasionally does some good. And, over time, as you repeatedly violate the basic tenets of who you are as a person, as you repeatedly undermine your sense of right and wrong, you get further and further away from even being able to hear the difference to the point where you can say literally anything. Where you can sit in front of a camera and say “Up is Down” and “Black is White” and “Trump is innocent and Schiff should be impeached”. That you can get yourself to the point where you can say a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g

 

I think that’s how it might happen.

Hegemony and the violence of objectification

Quote day! As I return to my blog, in supplication to my one or two followers after a long absence, I thought I’d strart off with this revealing line from Ayn Rand’s old friend, Big Al.

 

In 2007, Alan Greenspan, the former chair of the Federal Reserve, was asked by a Swiss newspaper which presidential candidate he was supporting. He said it didn’t matter:

 

“We are fortunate that, thanks to globalisation, policy decisions in the US have been largely replaced by global market forces. National security aside, it hardly makes any difference who will be the next president. The world is governed by market forces.”

 

By “objectification”, I am referring to a terrifying and violent form of horizontal power; the establishment of subjective, ideological beliefs – almost always closely aligned to the self-interest of their proponents – as ‘objective’, unquestionable facts.

Karl Rove: Cunt? yes. Genius? no.

 

An old but well written article about the “genius” Karl Rove from 2014. Though specifically about Rove, it highlights a particular preoccupation of mine, the media’s hyper-realities.

 

Ever spurned on by their own echo chambers and fawning over scandals like smack addicts, they tend to have about as much understanding of the ordinary person or life as the .1-percenters some of them oppose and most of them work for.

 

Perhaps it is because they over-estimate their own importance or the importance of the individuals and politics which form their major currency; perhaps it is because of the neoliberal mindsets which believe we live in meritocracies and success is always earnt and deserved – effectively sown into some people’s alleles; either way, it is evidently a hard worldview to shake as we see the media pulling out its old machiavellian narratives for the likes of Bannon (the man who lost Republicans the Alabama’s senate seat) and Dominic Cummings (the “secret” mastermind of Brexit who everyone knows about and really just broke a lot of electoral laws and invited the Mercers in) today.

 

Enjoy?:

 

Michael Tomasky, ‘Karl Rove May Be Evil, but He’s No Genius’

 

Below is a little article on a Karl Rove course now being offered by Masterclass:

 

Rove and Axelrod do Masterclass

 

I wonder if he’ll be sharing all his tactics – like darkening Obama’s skin in campaign adds like he did for McCain?..

“The use of the misleading term “populism” for everything that is either to the left or to the right of the Clinton-W-Obama consensus implies that the only real, serious and responsible policies are those of that consensus. But it is precisely these policies that are at the origin of the rise of “populism”. So we come to the paradoxical conclusion that to fight “populism” you need to support policies which have led to the rise of “populism” in the first place.”

            –   Branko Milanovic, 03/02/2019

 

Quote day (IN A NEW FORMAT!… Oooooo!!)

Europe’s Low-Wage Economy

 

There are few examples (certainly in the developed world) of countries choosing to be low-wage economies and it’s safe to say, usually, the economic goals of governments are quite the opposite.

 

Regimes which have actively pursued penury in the past have almost always been feudalistic despots and oligarchs – Yelstin’s Russia (which wasn’t really Yesltin’s),  the extractive fiefdoms of Africa, the banana republics of Central and South America.

 

To hoard profits at the expense of investment and development has, however, been a growing trend in the financialised economies of Europe over the last few decades, but nowhere is this more crude, or the hoarders more empowered in and by the legislature, than in the Sick Man of Europe (soon to be the Sick Man of Nowhere), Britain (oh, sorry Great Britain).

 

In the endless debate over what caused the Industrial Revolution – something of a Holy Grail for economic historians – one of the more substantive arguments comes from Bob Allen’s The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective. It’s argument is quite simple, “The Industrial Revolution, in short, was invented in Britain in the eighteenth century because it paid to invent it there”.

 

To summarize, taking “macro-inventions” (like the spinning jenny, Arkwright’s mill and coke smelting) and investing in them, innovating them, till they were commercially viable was a worthwhile investment in GB because of its historically high labour costs and relatively cheap coal. While “macro-inventions” occurred throughout Europe, a French entrepreneur, for example, would never rationally make such a large and uncertain investment because labour was so cheap and readily available (they did not need to be replaced or made more productive to be competitive). In Belgium, while labour was also costly, so was coal and so went any incentive to replace the former with the latter.

 

While there were many other essential prerequisites, such as the preceding agrarian revolution and the development of capitalists in the colonies, Allen’s factor price assessment certainly makes for some interesting incites as we look at the sorry state of Britain today and its chronic productivity.

 

While claims that the employment rate is at a “record high” are clearly misleading (the population is at a record high), there is no doubt that unemployment is incredibly low – its 4% being the lowest since 1974/5.  Even involuntary part-time employment is lower in the UK (10.5 per cent of the total employment figures) than the EU average (26.4 per cent) and has fallen in recent years.

 

Brits reading this, however, may be forgiven for not feeling all that optimistic. Orthodox economics decrees, in its infallible wisdom, that low unemployment (and, thus, a scarcity of labour) should permeate wage growth but Britain is currently enduring the longest period of wage stagnation since the Napoleonic Wars and, among OECD countries, only Greece and Mexico fared worse in wage growth since the financial crisis.

 

Of course, we are all aware of this and, as Planet Money listeners among you will attest, so is the economic orthodoxy – which has been trying to wrap its head around the problem for the last year or so. One of its great obstacles, though, is that it is missing an important observation, the separation of wages from productivity precedes 2008.

 

Since about the 1970s, in most developed economies productivity has risen faster than wages. This meant shareholders and corporate executives keeping more of their businesses’ profits for themselves. In the US, for example, wages ground to a complete halt under Clinton with real median household income in 2014 barely any higher than in 1990, despite GDP growth of 78% since 1990 and labour productivity growth of 85% since 1980 (This, for my money, is the predominate cause behind Trump’s success). In the UK, though many workers at the bottom of the income spectrum are paid less than their marginal productivity, many at the top are paid more.

 

What does all this have to do with Bob? Well, the separation of profits from wages is, in turn, separating profits from productivity.

 

Before the 2008 crisis, much of Britain’s productivity growth was driven by illusory gains in financial and professional services, which have now evaporated. The financialised growth model gave rise to a highly imbalanced economy, with the finance and property sectors sucking in capital from the rest of the world, driving up the value of sterling and damaging our more productive manufacturing exporters. These sectors have also attracted the highest-skilled workers and domestic investment, leaving less for knowledge-intensive industries. The result has been a preponderance of low-paid, low-productivity employment in the services sector.

 

Combine Britain’s lack of knowledge-intensive industries, its low wages and its staunch ideological opposition to either public investment or incentivising private sector investment and employment increases suddenly become less a sign of productivity growth than of under investment. With labour so cheap, many businesses have chosen to hire more staff rather than invest in new machinery, thus burning a new economic path for Britain; one whose trend growth and opportunities will be, perhaps irrevocably, downgraded.

America’s subversion of Haiti’s democracy continues

I was brushing up on my knowledge of modern Haiti recently (Yes, I just said that and, No, I don’t have many friends), when I came across this article which really does, along with its URL links, provide an encompassing overview of Haiti’s tragic modern story at the hands of its colonial overlords.

 

Enjoy:

 

America’s subversion of Haiti’s democracy continues – Mark Weisbrot, 2012