24 05 2010


Let’s get back to basics in our political terminology , shall we?


Most people, including me, kind of know what these terms mean — in the contemporary American context. They mean different things in the European context, though. You may not be interested in the European context, but I am, because I think I belong there more than here, (Though of course the French would probably be just as rude to me, who loves them, as to any other American.)

The fact is, all these political terms and concepts had their birth in European theorizing and political action over the last 200 years. I think it’s good to know stuff like this. It helps you understand the Big Context of politics.

So here, taken from another writer, is the clearest description I’ve ever read of the political spectrum here and over there, of what it’s slippery terms mean, and why these distinctions matter so much:

“Don’t think that liberal = left wing. It doesn’t. Left wing is more state control, particularly of economic matters.  Right wing is less state control.  Left wing [at its most extreme] is communism. Right wing is liberalism, libertarianism, and finally, at its extreme, pure right wing is anarchy. That’s why liberalism is generally used in European parlance to mean supporting unfettered, or lightly fettered, capitalism.

And that’s also why fascism is not, strictly speaking, right wing, since fascism calls for maximum state control of everything*. The reason we think that fascism is right wing is an historical accident, in that the French parliament used to seat parties from right to left depending upon how much state control they wanted, but the fascist and the communists fought so much the fascists were moved to the other side of the chamber, hence right wing.

Whatever the nature of the two ends of the political spectrum, all modern democracies have their major parties in the center, in that they see that some state control is necessary for peace and economic justice. Too little leads to abuse of the poor by the rich, while too much restricts the rights and freedoms that we believe all people should have.

The problem is that, in practice, moving to the right, while in theory granting more freedoms to people, in practice reduces overall freedom by allowing the strong to harm the weak, either directly or more likely indirectly by setting wages artificially low, while inflating prices for education, health care, housing, etc. until they are out of the reach of the poor. Moving to the left, on the other hand, imposes state restrictions on people’s ability to harm each other, but move too far that way, and you infringe more and more fundamental freedoms, until overall freedom is reduced. In the middle lies justice for those who cannot protect themselves, and not-too-onerous restrictions on the rich and strong.

The American Republican party, fed by the US cult of individualism, is pretty far out to the right, and accordingly pays only lip service to protecting the rights of the weak against the strong. The weird thing about the US is the “American Dream”, which convinces the poor that voting for the Republicans will preserve their opportunities to clamber out of poverty. And so long as they can retain this right to clamber, they don’t mind clambering over the hopes and dreams of their fellow Americans. Thus they feel empowered by the Right, though more often than not, in situations of wide-open economic freedom, they become not the clamberers, but the clambered-over.

In Europe, on the other hand, the prevailing view is that the greatest good for the greatest number is provided by state provision of education and social care. With everyone getting a largely equivalent access to education, social welfare etc, economic mobility in most of Europe (but not the UK) is greater than in the US.

The Democratic party of the US is right wing as far as the global spectrum goes, because they too are trapped by the “American Dream”. That is, that myth is so central to American society that Democrats always meet a great deal of opposition when they attempt to provide economic justice to the poor, not least from the poor themselves.”

The above is adapted from this comment stream here, in the Guardian newspaper:

where it succeeds in explaining what seems like an odd set of personal- and Internet-freedom policies declared by the new, mostly conservative,  British government.

A very long time ago I had a very good education. Lots of what I learned has gotten ragged. That includes a great deal of Western political history. The above description brought it all back.



* Sound familiar? Do the names George W. Bush and Dick Chaney spring to mind?

Of course “state control of everything”, as toyed with by the Bush-Cheney axis, would never have been allowed to include regulation of economic arrangements in ways that lessened the autonomy of big corporations. The Republican Party has always been first and foremost the party of our wealthiest citizens, and they wouldn’t like that.oooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

And no, socialism is NOT Fascism. Fascism is, on the economic side, the melding of the business community and the state. This is from Wikipedia:

Fascism is a radical and authoritarian nationalist political ideology.[1][2][3][4] Fascists seek to organize a nation on corporatist perspectives, values, and systems such as the political system and the economy.[5][6]

Fascism is strongly opposed to core aspects of the Enlightenment and is an opponent of liberalism, Marxism, and mainstream socialism for being associated with failures that fascists claim are inherent in the Enlightenment.[22] Fascists view egalitarianism, materialism, and rationalism as failed elements of the Enlightenment.[23] In contrast, Fascists promote action, discipline, hierarchy, spirit, and will.[24] They oppose liberalism — as a bourgeois movement — and Marxism — as a proletarian movement — for being exclusive economic class-based movements.[25]

Lick The Corporate Boot

17 05 2010


Does this story sound familiar?


Locals, remember when our chronically-underfunded public transit system made a bit of profit for a while by putting on special busses from to LSU football games, and then local bus companies got a city law passed to stop it, whereupon the said bus companies did NOT step in to fill the transportation gap they created?

Doesn’t anyone understand the simple fact that money is power–in a “democracy” as everywhere else? Countless stories have shown that big corporations can DO anything, STOP anything in the way of public service. They do it by buying the appropriate-level legislators to vote that service away.

You’re seeing it now on the highest possible level, as lobbyists for big banks eviscerate, step by step, a package of proposed federal laws designed to keep them from speculating their way into a second modern Depression.

Is this particular big bank manipulation at last the tipping point that will cause Americans to stop worshiping corporations and allowing them to grow monsterously powerful?

Or will it take a third Depression? Or a fourth?

How hard-headed are you people anyway?



11 05 2010


I wrote to my CongressCritters recently on this subject:



“Net Neutrality is the cornerstone of innovation, free speech and democracy on the Internet.

More than 1.9 million Americans have expressed support for Net Neutrality at Congress and the FCC. They want control over the Internet to remain in the hands of the people who use it every day.

Please stand with the public by protecting Net Neutrality once and for all.



I recently was reminded that several years ago the FCC decided NOT to regulate ISPs  as ‘common carriers’. I was amazed to discover this! If you happen to be as old as me, therefore perhaps not blinded by the anything-business-wants! mood of the last 30 years, you may feel the same way. ‘Common carriers’* is obviously just what they are.

If we ever let ISPs be anything else, they’ll eventually work that modest regulatory specialness around to having as much power as the TV broadcasters of the last generation. Remember all those years of mindless TV that was ‘given’ to you on a ‘take it or leave it’ basis? Did you really enjoy being a passive couch potato? Do you really want the Internet, with all its promise of universal FREE (in both senses) communication to descend to that?

If ISPs become able to pick and choose the content they deliver, and control the speed and convenience with which it’s presented to you, rather than just accepting it for a standard payment proportional to the size of what’s delivered, you’ll be back on the couch forever.”






Seriously folks, especially my fellow baby boomers, have you forgotten all those years of sitting down on your sofa for a bit of TV, finding only the usual boring drivel, and sighing and sitting there and watching the junk anyway, ’cause there was “nothing else on”? A person could spend a whole evening vegetating like that back then — and end up more than slightly sad because so little had been accomplished, or even enjoyed. When it came to home entertainment, we had NO CHOICE.

Having way more fun with the Internet now? Of course you are. The interactivity, and above all the control of what you experience, the Internet provides is wonderful.

But the amount of money to be made on the Internet by ISPs that succeed in controlling its content would also be wonderful! And those ISPs have lots of lobbyists, and money to buy CongressCritters with.

CongressCritters love money, but they also somewhat fear US. Every marvelous new technology comes to a turning point where the corporations involved in it are on the verge of getting complete control of it (e.g., see the history of radio in the 1920s). For the Internet, that turning point is most likely this decade.

So get up from playing with the marvelous Internet for a bit and throw some fear into your CongressCritters on the subject of net neutrality!

Unless you just WANT to go back to being a couch potato again, this time in front of your computer instead of your TV.





4 05 2010


(or, “Limbaugh lower now!”)


Denunciation, is the hardest of all rhetorical expressions to do credibly. You may start out with a truly, terribly Bad Thing to denounce for it’s badness, and, before you know it, carried away by your pure disgust at the Bad Thing, find yourself unintentionally descending into mere invective.

On the Right side of contemporary US politics, for example, Rush Limbaugh has made a fortune from his zestful daily invective against everything and everyone to the left of himself and his Dittoheads. George Orwell, in the 1930s and ’40s, did a better job of staying in the denunciation mode as he excoriated the most evil absurdities of the political movements of his time, both Right and Left. And the poet Alexander Pope, in 1729, wrote a whole long narrative poem of pretty effective denunciation that is still read with great appreciation by lovers of English literature. Dunciad

On the Left in the USA of today, though, far too little good denunciation, or even invective, is written. This is probably because people on the Left in the US are usually not true leftists but rather liberals, and a central tenet of classical liberalism is  to leave the maximum possible room for the working out of many points of view in society. But these days the Right could clearly do with a bit of lambasting both in the form of denunciation and invective, because, among other things, the long hegemony of its worship of “the self-correcting free market” over American politics just recently kicked the whole world into a Depression from which emergence is still uncertain.

One denunciatory voice of satisfying acerbity is beginning to surface in  the pages of the New York Times, where every day one amazingly good writer after another makes public comments following the columnists’ opinions.

Here’s what one of these posters, who has become* my favorite new Denunciator, said** recently in the public comments section following economist Paul Krugman’s column of May 2, 2010, on the explosion of  a drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico. He does descend to invective, true, but it’s such satisfying invective:


Phil in the mountains of Kyushu
May 2nd, 2010
10:39 pm
“Yes, Prez O. needs to take on the “Drill, baby, drill!” crowd.Taking on these obvious ignoramus-savages, however, also obliges taking on savages of another ilk — the smarmy, apparently-well-educated, but above all cynical, breed that ever keeps enrolling in and graduating from the U.S.’s swarm of biz and law schools.It’s these, more superficially genteel, sorts who pose the greatest menace to civilized life — as they on their cynical quests for the quickest possible buck want no regulations, no safety devices, and no accountability to any parts of the otherwise civilized world.

These educated savages got their cynicism and sociopathy in systematic ways — in all the amoral, ethics-free forms of  specialization training in which  Corporate America indulges. It’s a massive, deadly world that operates in and from all those biz and law schools — relentless in their view of life as simply a set of venues for the smoothed, greased, and padded robberies that their corporate world practices and they enable.

Destroying thousands of square miles of international and national waters? And beaches, and wetlands, and fisheries too? No problem for this educated form of humanity that has learned no humanity in all their education. So, sure — let’s hope Prez O. reverses on his earlier cave-in to the “Drill, baby, drill!” savages. Let’s hope he reverses on lots of caterings and cave-ins he’s made all across the spectrum of Corporate America. But the odds of this happening aren’t great, given, on the one hand, Prez O.’s wish to be liked by the powerful  and, on the other, the ongoing massive tilt toward savagery by the educated ilk that comes from too many schools that teach mere technique shorne not only of morality, but even of the most superficial kind of reflection on consequences.”
Keep up the good work Phil!
*   See my first “Damn, This Is Fine!” blog entry, reprinting a particularly
astringent Denunciator outpouring, here:
** Text slightly improved by me. For a great putdown, a trope closely related to “denunciation”, see the Bob Dylan song Positively 4th Street.