Pharyngula

A dystopian vision

Another interesting blog that has been around for some time is Charles Stross’s — you ought to check it out, and the comments are often informative too. One in particular was brought to my attention — it’s a comment made in response to another fellow, Dan, who is something of an American triumphalist, seeing us spiraling upward, ever upward, into glory and a bold Star Trekian future of wealth and prosperity and technology. Maclaren wrote an antidote, which I include below. I don’t agree with it entirely — we aren’t quite as bad off as it says right now, although I can see his word-portrait as a picture of America 5 years from now, easily, and I don’t see anyone trying very hard to put the brakes on our descent into madness.

Sometimes Stross’s blog is very depressing, too.

Dan’s post appears to have leaked through from an alternate universe where life in the United States of Amnesia is a wonderful paradise. However, I happen to live inside that madhouse, and I can assure you that, no, we are not winning in Iraq, Americans are not doing well financially (unless you’re talking about the top 1% of the economic pyramid in America), and virtually everything in America has drastically degenerated to the point of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, or pretty nearly.

Just to hit a few high points: some 30% of Americans currently graduate college with only the most rudimentary reading and writing skills and elementary math skills, as compared to about 15% who graduate high school with similar skills deficits in Europe. Meanwhile, a recent study predicts that most elementary schools in California will fail to meet basic proficiency requirements by 2014. This means skills like reciting the ABCs or the multiplication table. Unless you’ve read those stats, it’s impossible to believe Harlan Ellison’s recent rant wasn’t some sort of demented satire, when he described the Emperor’s New Clothes to uncomprehending UCLA students who had nary a ghost of a clue what the reference meant. It sounds like something out The Onion. But it’s true. This is the level to which America has sunk.

More than half of all U.S. hospitals are now technically insolvent. Increasingly, even Americans who do have health insurance can’t get access to basic health care. America boasts the second highest newborn death rate in the developed world, and the highest child malnutrtion rate and child poverty rate in the developed world. America currently lags ridiculously far in infrastructure and technology, with our broadband speeds and adoption rates far behind those of Europe and Asia. Around half of Americans, most in rural areas, as still stuck on 56K dialup. Meanwhile, Japan just announced a nationwide rollout of 1 Gbps fiber-to-the-home for $54. In America, consumers find themselves forced to pay typical $80 to $100 per month for 3 Mbps ADSL or cable internet, though apparently the recent rollout of DOCSIS3 cable modems has now allowed 150 Mbps service in some American test markets at a cost of $150 per month.

America’s physical infrastructure is falling apart, with bridges collapsing, water mains crumbling, sewage lines disintegrating, and U.S. highways becoming unnavigable due to potholes and sinkholes.

The bill of rights has effectively been erased in America. Innocent citizens are now routinely beaten, tased, handcuffed and pepper-sprayed for crazy reasons, like trying to cash a legitimate check at the bank, or refusing to show I.D. to a police officer without being suspected of committing a crime. If an American actually takes it upon hi/rself to “cause trouble,” (say, by engaging in a peaceful demonstration for worker rights)…why, then the savage fury of police retaliation becomes indescribable. The gloves come off at that point. People get beaten to a pulp, tear-gassed, brutalized with truncheons en masse.

American police now routinely tase grade school children. Adults get brutalized by police as matter of standard operating procedure, tortured with tasers long after they’ve been handcuffed and pepper-sprayed and rendered helpless; tasing and pepper-sprayed is now routinely used by American police as torture to seal the deal after handcuffing and arrest, a reminder that you don’t try to stand up against the State. It’s so common now that no one even comments on it. Americans now accept this kind of routine police savagery against people who are already handcuffed and defenseless and in many cases have committed no crime, just the way that Soviet citizens came to accept without comment KGB head-bashing against innocent bystanders suspected of having made a subservive remark against the State.

Meanwhile, American funding for basic scientific research continues to plummet. Tent cities are sprouting up across America. Out-of-control culture war threatens to erupt into full-scale civil violence…even as a record 258 lavish parties by financial lobbyists have been thrown for senators and congressmen voting for the bailout this yeat. And CEOs of failed banks get $20 million golden parachutes for 17 days’ work.

No doubt in the happy shiny alternate universe Dan occupies, cheerful American zip around on jet packs while popping food pills and enjoying their flying cars. Out here in the real world, the U.S. mint has suspended sale of gold coins “due to exccessive demand,” America is falling apart, and it looks like a Mad Max-style civil war isn’t far off.

Don’t get too smug over in Europe, though. Hypo Real Estate mortgage bank in Germany is close to bankruptcy, and the Bradford & Bingley bank in England, that country’s biggest mortgage lender, has now been nationalized due to uncontrollable mortgage losses. Barclay’s bank is currently leveraged at a ratio of 50:1 and if it goes, its outstanding derivative liabilities are equal to the entire GDP of Great Britain. Meanwhile, the German state banking system teeters on the edge of insolvency and may have to be bailed out by the German government. Then, of course, we get the financial collapse rippling outward across asia with the Little Tigers, Japan, and finally the really big dominos fall, the state owned banks in China. If that happens, it’s Raquel Welch in a fur bikini and One Million Years B.C. redux.

You can argue with some of the details, and it’s bleaker than might be warranted right now, but there are no roadblocks preventing this future from coming to pass…frighteningly soon.

Comments

  1. #1 Patrick Quigley
    September 30, 2008

    Of course things are going downhill now, but that’s just because the ruling party has been occupied with much more important things like preventing gays from marrying the people they love. Once that problem is remedied they’ll move on to those minor issues.

  2. #2 SC
    September 30, 2008

    Tonight’s episode of the PBS show P.O.V., “Critical Condition,” chronicles the lives of four people in the US who don’t have health insurance.

  3. #3 Mane
    September 30, 2008

    Bleak yes, but Americans need to wake up and stop pretending this isn’t happening.

  4. #4 Richard Harris
    September 30, 2008

    Yes. And which country is going to fill the vacuum? China?

    A China that hasn’t, unlike the West, gradually evolved a democracy! But that may not be so bad. The world could probably do with a more communitarian social organization. The free market & global warming do seem to go together.

  5. #5 Missus Gumby
    September 30, 2008

    Meanwhile, back in the real world, the reality for the vast majority is nowhere near as bad as painted above. But I do agree the roads in the US are in an atrocious condition, at least compared to where I live (the UK). And to be honest, the roads in the UK are not all that wonderful either.

    Missus Gumby

  6. #6 mikespeir
    September 30, 2008

    Frankly, I see Dan and MaClaren as “over-the-top.” No, this isn’t a paradise or anything close to it. I doubt any human society ever will be. Right now it looks like things are getting worse. But they’ve done that before–and then gotten better again. I don’t know they will yet again, but I wouldn’t bet against it.

  7. #7 Glen Davidson
    September 30, 2008

    Most, but not all of it, is seriously exaggerated.

    What’s scary is that little is being done, or is seriously intended, to address the serious problems (by either party, in fact) existing and getting worse.

    Oddly, the US has always struggled along with some really very well educated people, and a whole lot of very badly educated people, and done fairly well at it (though we know the problems it causes, like recurring attempts to teach creationism, and an inherent high mismatch between the knowledgeable and the rest). So while that’s a chronic problem, it’s not a new worry.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  8. #8 alchemist
    September 30, 2008

    Have you seen Idiocracy yet? It’s a social satire (by the same Director as Office Space) on a world that breeds the stupid faster than the smart. Acting intelligent is considered rude, and the best movie in America is two hours of farting. Oh, I see someone already mentioned Will Farrell…

  9. #9 Cliff Hendroval
    September 30, 2008

    I don’t know, P.Z. – I’m 50 years old, and ever since I can remember I’ve been living with people telling me that doom is just around the corner. Nuclear war, nuclear winter, overpopulation-driven famine, exotic diseases, air pollution, water pollution, societal breakdown, economic ruin – I’ve heard it all.

    I’m not arguing for complacency. There are many problems that must be dealt with, particularly in regard to investing in education and infrastructure. But claiming we’re this close to a holy war because a few Christianist wackos want to take over South Carolina is stretching credibility beyond recognition.

  10. #10 magetoo
    September 30, 2008

    Seems a little out of place to mention broadband speeds in the middle of that list of death and destruction.

    Then again, that means I get to make a point on the relative merits of New Zealand versus Sweden.

  11. #11 Nick Gotts
    September 30, 2008

    Richard Harris@4,
    Unfortunately what you now have in China is, roughly speaking, one-party-state capitalism; and a rapidly rising output of greenhouse gases, principally from coal-fired power-stations, of which they are building one a week. There are certainly some officials aware of the seriousness of this and other environmental problems, but they can do little against the drive of the corrupt party elite and the middle classes to get rich. They are facing more immediate environmental problems than global warming, in the form of air and water pollution, soil erosion, and a dearth of good agricultural land. We’ve seen in the last few years that China is prone to outbreaks of disease (SARS, bird flu), and contamination of food and other products. As global warming intensifies, they will be in dire straits because of the melting of high-altitude glaciers and snow fields, which modulate the flow of the Yangtze and other rivers.

    What will happen to China’s economic boom if there’s a serious slump in the USA and Europe I’m not sure – it depends whether they yet have sufficient domestic demand to cope with a big fall in exports. I suspect not. If I’m right, they would then find it hard to import all the oil and food they need.

    So, one way and another, not likely to succeed the USA as “number one”, nor to curb their own greenhouse gas emissions without a lot of technical help, and pressure, from outside.

  12. #12 moother
    September 30, 2008

    “just the way that Soviet citizens came to accept without comment KGB head-bashing against innocent bystanders”

    all this sounds like what holland is becomming.

    of course, the impudent will deny it but if the netherlands, the age old bastion of emancipation, is also going the same way as the US of A then the world has plenty to be worried about.

  13. #13 York
    September 30, 2008

    @Richard Harris #4:

    “A China that hasn’t, unlike the West, gradually evolved a democracy! But that may not be so bad. The world could probably do with a more communitarian social organization. The free market & global warming do seem to go together.”

    Right. Exactly what we need, a dictatorship. Enlightened leaders take the heavy burden of thinking for yourself off your shoulders and solve all your problems. Like global warming, as the chinese so admirably demonstrate.

    Ah, wait, they don’t. They pollute like there’s no tomorrow. But at least they promote a communitarian lifestyle, so that’s allright, I guess.

  14. #14 SC
    September 30, 2008

    takes it upon hi/rself

    That doesn’t work.

  15. #15 Joe Schmoe
    September 30, 2008

    I did like how he mentioned (though not until the end) how things are bad everywhere, not just in the United States. Do I think that soon we’ll all have to square off with Blaster in the Thuderdome? Of course not (though that would be so awesome!).

    People need to get their heads out of the sand and realize that the times, they are a-changin’. I mean, it’s not like the world was such a peachy place in the past. I say, be proud of the opportunity to take part in a unique period in history. If things get really bad, I can just become a Blade Runner. Problem solved.

  16. #16 Jadehawk
    September 30, 2008

    Cliff Hendoval, your list includes things that were perfectly valid concerns; some, like the nuclear destruction, were exaggerated for population control (the same way we have the if X happens, the terrorists win” now); overpopulation-driven famines are the root from which most conflicts in Africa have erupted; air and water pollution have become less threatening only because of smart (yes, once every blue moon that happens) government action; the same for acid rain and the ozone hole.

    this is another such crisis. it needs to be taken very seriously without freaking the population out to the point of mental paralysis,but it needs to be dealt with, and smartly, or we’re all screwed.

  17. #17 Russell
    September 30, 2008

    Looks like a scene from Atlas Shrugged, doesnt it. Hopefully there is a John Galt out there somewhere.

  18. #18 Nick Gotts
    September 30, 2008

    Cliff Hendroval@9,
    Actually you do look to me to be arguing for complacency. I’m 54, and I haven’t died yet. Should I conclude that I’m immortal?

    More seriously, we have had at least three narrow escapes from nuclear war (the Cuban missile crisis, and two in 1983); and at least one from imminent environmental catastrophe (destruction of the ozone layer – and just be glad they didn’t happen to use bromofluorocarbons instead of chlorofluorocarbons in fridges). Most experts consider that “dangerous climate change” begins at 2 degrees C above preindustrial levels, and that even if we take the most stringent measures feasible, we are likely to exceed that. Currently, greenhouse gas emissions are still increasing, fast. You might not have noticed, but there were food-price riots in a number of large cities this year, and world grain stocks are lower than for decades. And I’m sure you’ve noticed a certain amount of brouhaha in the financial sector recently, as well as yo-yoing commodity prices.

    I recdently had reason to reread the 1972 study “Limits to Growth”, often quoted as predicting imminent disaster and having been proved wrong. On the whole, it holds up surprisingly well, given the crudity of the model and some of the assumptions; it predicts serious problems starting around now, if serious action to reduce resource use and pollution was not taken. It wasn’t.

  19. #19 Mariana
    September 30, 2008

    Ever since I joined the anti-theism comm on LJ, started reading this blog and others, getting all these news about the crazy things that are happening in the US and Europe, I’ve been having this impression that this is like a “serpent’s egg” era. Maybe I’m just impressionable?

    And from a distance things always look scarier – I’m sure the idea people abroad get of my city (Rio) is much worse than the day-to-day reality of living here.

    But it does look to me that the religious groups are getting more power and things are getting very, very dangerous – the recent news from the US, Holland and the UK are especially scary.

    So, I don’t know, am I being panicky or is this really a “be afraid, be very afraid” situation? Or somewhere in the middle? Idk, idk…

  20. #20 Greg
    September 30, 2008

    Another good expose of what it’s like for Americans is the episode of 30 Days called “Minimum Wage.” Morgan Spurlock and his fiance attempt to live for 30 days with minimum wage jobs. You can stream it on-demand from hulu.com. The episode deals with the issue of poverty, but more than that, they have no insurance and each have a medical problem during their 30 days that bankrupts them.

  21. #21 Rey Fox
    September 30, 2008

    “Seems a little out of place to mention broadband speeds in the middle of that list of death and destruction.”

    I thought that was a little odd, too. I may just be a simple hyperchicken from a backwoods galaxy, but I have 1.5 Mbps cable internet, and I think it’s pretty fast. It’s not exactly a quality of life issue to be able to get porn instantly.

    “Do I think that soon we’ll all have to square off with Blaster in the Thuderdome? Of course not (though that would be so awesome!).”

    Not as awesome as Raquel Welch in a fur bikini. I think this guy may be undercutting his point a bit with that allusion.

    Perhaps I’m ignoring the gravity of the situation, but I don’t really want to be the guy who can rattle off a hundred talking points on how bad everything is in America right now, complete with links, either. Does this make me a bad person?

  22. #22 frog
    September 30, 2008

    If we look at the apocalyptic list, it becomes obvious to me that what we are seeing is not something new, but a shift in the victims. Police brutality, crappy education, failing infrastructure, repressive political tactics – all these things have been well known through out US history.

    What has changed? Before, the victims were brown and black. What Stross is perfectly well describing is any minority community throughout US history. But now everyone is panicing because we have equality. Now, the same crappy traditional treatment of the majority of Americans is almost universal! Everyone below the 80% income gets crappy schools, deteriorating roads, police abuse. Everyone is being spied on, not just minority community leaders.

    American 2008: We’re all Black now.

  23. #23 frog
    September 30, 2008

    NG: More seriously, we have had at least three narrow escapes from nuclear war (the Cuban missile crisis, and two in 1983)

    You’re forgetting the close call in ’96, when Yeltsin mistook a Norwegian rocket test as a nuclear attack and was within 1 minute of launching a counter-strike against the West.

    Man, have we been lucky.

  24. #24 David D.G.
    September 30, 2008

    If that happens, it’s Raquel Welch in a fur bikini and One Million Years B.C. redux.

    Raquel Welch in a fur bikini? With all the rest of that apocalyptic potential, it’s nice to know there’s an upside.

    ;^D

    ~David D.G.

  25. #25 Lord Zero
    September 30, 2008

    Mmm, seems fearsome, but anyway im not “the sky
    is falling” type. Every age had his own problems, and
    people had to solve them for themselves.
    Ill do my best as scientist, cant do much more anyway.

  26. #26 Jerome
    September 30, 2008

    Cover your eyes children, it’s another clever biologist seeking legitimacy.

    It’s depressing to see such a living cliché, but the boomers are providing platoons for our recreation.

    Let’s see, guy with above average memory reaches adolescence and realizes that his brain can’t see all the patterns. Daddy . . .dissonance. . .hurting,. . .must. . .resolve. Rumpelstiltskin spins his pain into overdeveloped sarcasm and satire of all things immeasurable. Clever.

    But wait, there’s more. The ignorant beast won’t yield. Voltaire, I call upon you – enlightenment powers activate. What?! Midlife? No! Creativity behind me (see Kurt Vonnegut). I AM important. People have always said so. Quickly, more hyperbole. Pay attention, my thoughts are important! Fade. Shriek. Fade. Out.

    PZ. Really? This is going to be it? You’re really going to go this entire journey and do it this way? I am genuinely, genuinely sad to hear it.

  27. #27 Ichthyic
    September 30, 2008

    Does this make me a bad person?

    hardly.

    It means, like most of us, you would rather not incapacitate yourself with some of the horrors of modern reality.

    Frankly, I’m quite sure that the author of that list tends not to consciously consider each and every point during an average day, either.

    I can’t imagine anyone being able to deal with that for very long.

    There are reasons we utilize psychological defense mechanisms, and they aren’t always bad.

    sometimes, denial simply works to enable us to function. Without being able to function productively, how would one actually be able to apply oneself to actually assisting in the repair of many of these problems?

    being in a catatonic state of fear when faced with such a laundry list of things to be dealt with isn’t exactly productive.

  28. #28 frog
    September 30, 2008

    Jerome: Talk about a cliche!

    Boring and pointless.

  29. #29 Ichthyic
    September 30, 2008

    it’s another clever biologist seeking legitimacy.

    I see…

    so this is peculiar to biologists?

    share with us your observations of all the biologists who employ such strategies to deal with their “mid-life crises”, eh?

    or are you projecting?

  30. #30 E.V.
    September 30, 2008

    Jerome:
    Can you be more obscure? Was there a point to your clever colloquial but incoherent post?
    (I’m betting this is an alias for one of or regular trolls)

  31. #31 E.V.
    September 30, 2008

    Guess The Troll Game
    Can you readers guess Jerome’s true identity from the list of banished trolls?

  32. #32 E.V.
    September 30, 2008

    I’ll give you a few hints: rambling, smug, likes to call PZ by his given name…

  33. #33 Nick Gotts
    September 30, 2008

    frog@23,
    I hadn’t heard about that one! Incidentally, seems to have been January 25, 1995. Of course, there may be any number we haven’t heard about.

  34. #34 DrFish
    September 30, 2008

    That is depressing, and I only have comments on one aspect. Having grown up in a suburban “Utopia”, my hometown was once on 60 Minutes as the most racist town in America for having a “special” police unit that turned away African-American drivers, I grew up with a very good impression of the police, which I only came in contact with when I needed help (car accident) or when I was in the wrong (youthful indiscretion with fireworks…in September). Since moving to the big city, however, I have become more cautious, as I see that the job of the beat cop seems to be as much about manufacturing small-scale arrests as keeping the general peace (has any search ever really been random?). The tazer is a wonderful thing in that it is non-lethal and can subdue people who would have a real chance at inflicting harm on officers. Unfortunately, it seems to me that tazers are too often used to simply subdue in such a way that reinforces police authority over everyone in any situation, as opposed to a single unpredictable and out-of-control subject. Like the television for parents of small children, tazers have become a convenient go-to solution for police who are uninterested or perhaps untrained in the arts of conversation, persuasion, and critical thinking that make truly effective officers stand out as pillars of the community.

  35. #35 Ichthyic
    September 30, 2008

    Can you readers guess Jerome’s true identity from the list of banished trolls?

    oooh, that’s a toughie, given that this one might actually not be on the banned list yet.

    hmm.

    It would have to be somebody fairly recent, as most of the older trolls would have lost interest by now…

    moderately psychologically impaired, but has read at least a few things…

    reference to “boomers” suggest someone from that era, so I’m guessing at least 45 years old, probably older…

    says: “genuinely sad to hear it”, meaning of course the exact opposite (schadenfreude)…

    If I only get one guess, from the dungeon, I’m gonna go with..

    Planet Killer.

    the post is too nutty for Joe Blow, has no reference to NDE’s, so it ain’t Kenny, and isn’t nutty ENOUGH for it to be one of Mabus’.

  36. #36 Celtic_Evolution
    September 30, 2008

    More than a little bit of hyperbole on both sides of that discussion. From my perspective, the reality lies somewhere in the middle, as is more often the case then not.

    However, definitely a good debate, and food for thought. In a worst case scenario, things could potentially be as bad as Maclaren proposes. But I’ll continue to hold out hope for improvement, and do my part to ensure it where I can.

    Naive? Perhaps… but I’d rather be a naive part of the solution than a miserable do-nothing complainer.

  37. #37 E.V.
    September 30, 2008

    Ichthyic:
    No, this one is definitely a repeat offender. & he loves him some PZ. *mmmmm mmmmm* He’s just lookin’ for PZ’s affirmation.

  38. #38 Celtic_Evolution
    September 30, 2008

    I’d rather be a naive part of the solution than a miserable do-nothing complainer.

    Hmmm… that smacks an awful lot of a false dichotomy… it was not intended as such. I’m not trying to imply that either of the posters falls into either description. I probably could have worded that better. Apologies.

  39. #39 Richard Harris
    September 30, 2008

    York @ # 13, I wasn’t proposing a dictatorship, but maybe some degree of dictatorship is unavoidable?

    Our western democracies are based upon ethics that privilege the individual over society to what I think has become an unhealthy extent.

    We do have a dictatorship of sorts anyway, as far as I’m concerned. It’s run by marketers to make money for business, not to meet human needs & aspirations. Of course, it appears to be to meet human needs, but they’ve been corrupted. It goes back to Edward Bernays (nephew of Freud).

  40. #40 Celtic_Evolution
    September 30, 2008

    @ E.V.

    Hmmm… Some Dude perhaps?

  41. #41 Ichthyic
    September 30, 2008

    No, this one is definitely a repeat offender. & he loves him some PZ. *mmmmm mmmmm* He’s just lookin’ for PZ’s affirmation.

    ah.

    speaking of denial, I had effectively employed that regarding this poster until you brought that up.

    damn you!
    :P

    since I missed. I’m not going to mention the name.

  42. #43 Jerome
    September 30, 2008

    Hey, neat. The devotees came rushing out to help defend the fortress. Are you guys all in your dungeons and dragons outfits? Are the nicknames ironic or descriptive?

    Sorry, frog(?), I wasn’t able to gather from the surrounding posts that making a point was the point. It all seems like a perpetual digression from the initial catechism. In the future I’ll try to avoid something or other.

  43. #44 Alan Chapman
    September 30, 2008

    People get the government they deserve. It’s plainly obvious that the current state of affairs in government perfectly reflects the inclinations of those who support it.

  44. #45 Nick Gotts
    September 30, 2008

    Jerome -> killfile. I suggest making this general. This troll has nothing to say, and no amusement value.

  45. #46 Celtic_Evolution
    September 30, 2008

    Dammit… I just slipped on Jerome’s verbal diarrhea.

    “Ohh… it’s everywhere… it’s in my raccoon wound”…

  46. #47 Ichthyic
    September 30, 2008

    In the future I’ll try to avoid something or other.

    just to be on the safe side, best you not speak.

  47. #48 Nick Gotts
    September 30, 2008

    People get the government they deserve. – Alan Chapman

    What a mind-bogglingly stupid remark. Oh, I see, it’s from a “libertarian”.

  48. #49 Ichthyic
    September 30, 2008

    “Ohh… it’s everywhere… it’s in my raccoon wound”…

    peter, is that you?

  49. #50 Celtic_Evolution
    September 30, 2008

    peter, is that you?

    hehehhehehhhehehhehheheheh

  50. #51 JStein
    September 30, 2008

    Ummm… this seems a little cynical to me.

    Is the country headed in the wrong direction? Absolutely.

    Are we exercising a retarded foreign policy and principle-free economic and domestic policy? Pretty much.

    I think the notion that the country is falling apart, though, is a bit too apocalyptic for me.

  51. #52 Brownian, OM
    September 30, 2008

    Acting intelligent is considered rude

    So Idiocracy is a documentary about the type of North America Jerome and his vapid cronies have ushered in? We already live there.

  52. #53 Nick Gotts
    September 30, 2008

    Richard Harris,
    The problem underlying over-emphasis on the individual at the expense of society isn’t democracy, but capitalism. You can see that plainly from the burblings of the “libertarians” who comment here: they worship capitalism, but oppose democracy: they think no government or other collective entity has any right to tax them or limit their activities, as long as these do not involve direct violence or fraud. So if they want to use more than their share of resources, or emit more than their share of the total pollution the environment can stand, it’s “immoral” to try and stop them. Democracy in itself won’t solve our problems, but dictatorship will pretty much guarantee they can’t be solved: any dictator relies on an elite whose activities are free from scrutiny and control other than by the dictator themselves; and those in it will generally be the most selfish, brutal and short-termist in the society – because it is these attributes which are selected for. Dictatorships also systematically suffer from the problem that no-one will tell the dictator uncomfortable truths; the dictator becomes more and more disconnected from reality, and also increasingly paranoid, as they sense they are being lied to.

  53. #54 Ichthyic
    September 30, 2008

    hehehhehehhhehehhehheheheh

    Peter: Mr. Weed, distinguished members of the board, may I present this year’s hottest toy…Mr. Zucchini Head. He’s got stupid cool hip-hop style with his little hat and his Doc Martens.

    Mr. Weed: Thank you, Peter, that’s enough.

    Peter: Wait, wait, wait. This is the best part! He dances!

    Man 1: I’ve seen enough.

    Man 2: Inappropriate.

    Man 3: I haven’t had sex in four years.

    Mr. Weed: Gentlemen, I apologize for wasting your time. Peter is an adequate assembly-line worker but you’ll be happy to know our company does not pay him to think. [Laughing]

    Peter: [Nervous laughter]

    Mr. Weed: I’ll take this. No calls.

  54. #55 Ichthyic
    September 30, 2008

    So Idiocracy is a documentary

    yes.

    yes it is.

  55. #56 JJR
    September 30, 2008

    “If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever.”

    –George Orwell.

    Peter MacLaren (if that’s who the reply commentator is–and the writing styles are at least similar if not) is pretty awesome. He has written lots of good books on critical pedagogy a la Paulo Freire, etc.

    The old doomsayers weren’t wrong–we were always skating on the edge of nuclear destruction, and beat the odds. In fact, we still are. Russia’s early warning system continues to degrade, and with the actions in Georgia of late, and the “missile defense shield” issue in Poland, things could get more intense than they already are.

    Go back and pick up an encyclopedia set from the late 1970s and look up the article on petroleum and look for discussions of Hubbert’s peak and their projections for the future past 2000 and then look around you. I did. Disturbs the hell out of me.

  56. #57 E.V.
    September 30, 2008

    More Clues: Alternatively pompous and abusive, he loves to belittle and then play the innocent. Childish…. prone to be disingenuous… thinks he’s the smartest person in any room….

  57. #58 Darth Wader
    September 30, 2008

    History is always waxing and waning between enlightenments and dark ages, but its usually two steps forward and one step back.

  58. #59 Jadehawk
    September 30, 2008

    I just re-read the reply, and it occurs to me that the broadband rant is more related to technology development of something that CAME from America. it’s just an excellent example of America falling behind in the thing it used be one of best at: technology and innovation.

  59. #60 Alan Chapman
    September 30, 2008

    #48 Nick, I’m not a libertarian, and if you want to talk about stupid remarks then start with your childish outburst the other day; this coming from somebody who can’t grasp even basic economic fundamentals. You seem like a bitter underachiever with the maturity of a twelve year-old who has an axe to grind with the world. Maybe you should go watch TV or something so the grown-ups can talk.

  60. #61 Lance
    September 30, 2008

    Sounds like some one needs to spend a little time in any number of foreign cities; Addis Ababa, Cairo, Istanbul, Jakarta. I love visiting these places but the contrast with any city in the US is glaring and sobering.

    Even places like Amsterdam, Paris, Naples and Vienna, which are fantastic cites, can wear on you if you are used to New York or Chicago.

    A little travelling sharpens one’s appreciation for the good ol’ USA, especially a trip to Africa or Latin America.

    Doubtless some nit-wit will proclaim me an “ugly American” or a “triumphalist”, but the truth is we are privileged to live in the USA. There are literally millions of people that would do almost anything to be US citizens. I personally know many people who have literally spent years and given everything to get here, sometimes at great physical risk.

    I don’t share Dan’s utopian vision of the USA but I wouldn’t bet that America will likely fulfill the dystopian vision of MacLaren anytime soon either.

    Mostly sounded like whining to me. Of course that is his right and perhaps the national past time behind baseball.

  61. #62 The Cheerful Nihilist
    September 30, 2008

    I followed most of his links, and I must say that if they are any indication then the blogoshpere is imploding, not the real world. This is the sort of “research” I remember college freshmen and high schoolers doing. “Duh, I found it in the internetz, so it must be true.”

    Granted, that definitely reflects a certain scary level of stupidity, but just because some people “believe” or “think” everything is going down the crapper shouldn’t give us reason to think they somehow possess knowledge that we don’t.

    Anyway we have four more years until 2012 when the Mayan calender (supposedly) projects the end of the world. Or so I am told . . . by somebody who read it on the internetz.

    In the words of that great mind, Alfred E. Neuman: “What me worry?”

  62. #63 bernard quatermass
    September 30, 2008

    “Are you guys all in your dungeons and dragons outfits?”

    Oooo, zinnggg. I am slain.

    Please point me in the direction of that peerless blog, Jerome’s Happy Web 2.0 FantasyLand of Perpetual But Confusing and Poorly-Written Snark, so that I too may learn and become a Better Person?

  63. #64 E.V.
    September 30, 2008

    Nick:
    I think the statement was intended as ironic. I feel the Republicans deserve McCain and Palin just as they deserve George Bush (both, actually). As for the toxic fallout from these misguided tools, I’m sure the people who vote against them don’t deserve the collateral damage these politicians cause, but nothing in life is fair.

  64. #65 Nick Gotts
    September 30, 2008

    Alan,
    You’re not a “libertarian”? You just happen to make all the same ludicrous claims as them, and have the same propensity to ignore evidence and argument?

  65. #66 Nix
    September 30, 2008

    Charlie? Depressing?

    Charlie’s not depressing. Charlie’s *accurate*.

    (If you want depressing, you need to read his short story A Colder War, which shows, more than anything else, why soc.history.what-if should be disbanded as a danger to the morale of the human race.)

    (Warning: contains horrors customarily shown as squidlike.)

    (Actually, read it even if you don’t want depressing. It’s brilliant. And classified SECRET INDIGO MARCH SNIPE.)

  66. #67 Quiet Desperation
    September 30, 2008

    America has drastically degenerated to the point of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, or pretty nearly.

    That’s as far as I got. Didn’t seem worthwhile to read any further.

    Actually, I wish it was like that because I have an annoying neighbor I’d like to square off with in Thunderdome. She’s 82 and uses a walker. I’m pretty sure I could take her.

    Hopefully there is a John Galt out there somewhere.

    I’ve looked for the real Galt’s Gulch for a long time. It either isn’t there, or I don’t measure up despite my engineering kung-fu being utterly awesome to the point of demigodhood.

  67. #68 Patricia
    September 30, 2008

    Would a slutty remark help?

  68. #69 raven
    September 30, 2008

    All civilizations fall eventually. It is guaranteed that the US civilization will also fall.

    This isn’t hard to understand. In my lifetime the British and Soviet empires both went down.

    Toynbee found that 18 of 22 previous civilizations rotted from within. As to when we screw things up enough, who knows? I was hoping it would hang together for my lifetime but am less optimistic.

    Bush really did some serious damage, squandering our worldwide good will and reputation, our freedoms, and our treasury for nothing much to show for it. And yet Zombie McBush and his brain dead, crazy mom VP are running close to Obama.

    It almost looks like a death wish or something. Whatever.

  69. #70 Nick Gotts
    September 30, 2008

    E.V.,
    I see no indication Alan Chapman’s remark was intended as ironical. It fits well with what I’ve seen of his politics before.

  70. #71 The Cheerful Nihilist
    September 30, 2008

    EV -

    Trolling for . . .Eric Atkinson?

    Patricia, slutty remarks are more often than not helpful.

  71. #72 Nick Gotts
    September 30, 2008

    E.V.,
    Take a look at Chapman’s contributions to “The McCain Record on the Environment”.

  72. #73 DiscoveredJoys
    September 30, 2008

    The Government get the people they deserve. Much better fit with reality.

    Also, good policies are inextricably mixed up with the bad policies, and randomly divided between any parties capable of winning power.

  73. #74 Nick Gotts
    September 30, 2008

    The Cheerful Nihilist@71,
    Seconded!

  74. #75 Patricia
    September 30, 2008

    Nick with a childish outburst…*pfft* There went the ginger ale!

  75. #76 Alan Chapman
    September 30, 2008

    #53 The problem underlying over-emphasis on the individual at the expense of society isn’t democracy, but capitalism.

    No, Nick. Society is an abstraction. You have to talk about costs imposed on individuals because only individuals exist. Resorting to ambiguous collectives is sophistry. The use of “we” “the people” “society” simply diverts attention away from the fact that you’re really talking about yourself.

    So if they want to use more than their share of resources, or emit more than their share of the total pollution the environment can stand, it’s “immoral” to try and stop them.

    No, Nick. This is a strawman, and again reveals your complete ignorance of economics.

    It’s hilarious the way you and others rampage daily against the free-market while taking advantage of every benefit it has to offer like the computer, software, and infrastructure which was designed, built, and made affordable by selfish, greedy individuals pursuing their own interests. Somehow the irony is lost on you.

  76. #77 Jadehawk
    September 30, 2008

    “Amsterdam, Paris, Naples and Vienna”

    I’ll take 3 of those over any U.S. city (well, with the exception of Minneapolis potentially; but only if i can get healthcare from somewhere), and I can’t say anything about Naples since I’ve never been there. I find life a lot less precarious in France, Austria or the Netherlands than my life here in the U.S.

    And of course life in the U.S. is of the privileged kind, it just also happens to be of the unsustainable kind. collapse of current western lifestyle is inevitable; i’m merely hoping for a soft landing. (also, I agree with Raven in #69)

  77. #78 bernard quatermass
    September 30, 2008

    “A little travelling sharpens one’s appreciation for the good ol’ USA, especially a trip to Africa or Latin America.”

    I don’t know. I was in Oaxaca City almost exactly a year ago, and I had little desire to return to the States. Perhaps that would have changed had I spent more time there.

  78. #79 Jadehawk
    September 30, 2008

    Alan, stop rambling. most of the things we enjoy are the results of a regulated marketplace, (combined with shameless robbery of the southern hemisphere, but that’s a separate topic); as opposed to a free-market economy where power accumulates strictly within top tiers of corporations, and a planned economy where the power is concentrated within the government. balance the two properly, and we get a stable economy that doesn’t devour its children. the failure to balance government regulation and corporate power properly is what we have now.

  79. #80 MKandefer
    September 30, 2008

    I wish people out to make a point would actually follow academic standards, especially when arguing against the failure of our instructional facilities. For example:

    “American police now routinely tase grade school children.”

    If this is “routine” then there should be multiple sources, not one that doesn’t even mention that this is standard policy. The article does claim that we’ll see more of this, but it is mere speculation.

    I do think that the actions of some police officers when it comes to resorting to non-lethal weaponry are problems, but I do not think it is rampant throughout the system. This seems to be confirmation bias. How many legitimate arrests have there been that didn’t require the use of such weapons when they could have made such arrests easier?

  80. #81 The Cheerful Nihilist
    September 30, 2008

    #80

    I substitute teach elementary school, and I tease the little buggers all the time. They love it and think I’m funny, too.

  81. #82 Nick Gotts
    September 30, 2008

    Ah! Chapman’s not a “libertarian”, he’s a Randroid! I do beg his pardon.

    How dare you use the internet, or the web, both developed at publicly-funded institutions, you hypocrite? There never has been, and never could be, any such entity as a “free market”; all markets operate by rules determined within larger institutional systems, and, in the case of capitalism and indeed any large-scale society, backed by force. You are, of course, only an individual because you were born into and socialised by a society.

  82. #83 Jadehawk
    September 30, 2008

    oh and also: “society” is a very real concept. for someone who visits a biology blog so regularly, it’s almost embarrassing that the basic concept of herd or social animals completely escapes you.

  83. #84 York
    September 30, 2008

    Well, I moved to the U.S. recently (from Germany). Awesome country, fantastic people. Dystopian visions such as these always annoy me, as the are usually based on shoddy analysis and don’t contribute one iota to solving the very real problems at hand. All that is ever achieved, from Spenglers ‘Decline of the West’ onward is to instill irrational fear in people which then can be harnessed by some authoritarina figure to push some ugly agenda. Not helpful.

  84. #85 frog
    September 30, 2008

    Alan Chapman: Society is an abstraction. You have to talk about costs imposed on individuals because only individuals exist

    That’s unmitigated BS. Individual’s are only an abstraction – they are just a collection of cells functioning collectively. And cells are just an abstraction of proteins and carbohydrates (and some ions) behaving in a coherent fashion. And proteins are just an abstraction of wiggling atoms. It’s only when we get down to the level of quantum mechanics that we get to your impoverished idea of “reality”.

    There are multiple scales of reality, and each scale has it’s own basic entities composed of entities from lower levels, and composing entities at larger scales. They are constrained, but not determined (ie, impossible to mathematically model without reference to the current scale) by objects at the other scales.

    These Libertarian talking points are dull. They were thrown out of science decades ago and would get you laughed out of any anthropology program. It’s like philosophy for dummies.

  85. #86 Brownian, OM
    September 30, 2008

    Acting intelligent is considered rude

    So Idiocracy is a documentary about the type of North America Jerome and his vapid cronies have ushered in? We already live there.

  86. #87 Jadehawk
    September 30, 2008

    York, we can gladly switch places. i wish i could just hop on the next plane and go back to germany. the U.S. is a nice place with nice people, but after you’ve lived here for a while (especially if you don’t live either in the West Coast of in the north East), you’ll start seeing the cracks. and after 5 years without being able to get health insurance, i’m hoping like hell to be able to get out of here before i actually get sick.

  87. #88 Brownian, OM
    September 30, 2008

    Oops, my refresh turned to spam.

  88. #89 Nick Gotts
    September 30, 2008

    Now, Alan, you”ll find this a very difficult idea, but I want you to concentrate: human individuals and human societies are mutually constituitive – you can’t have either without the other. It’s really rather obvious when you think about it.

  89. #90 daveb
    September 30, 2008

    You can probably hold of on training for that death match with Master Blaster. For example:

    American babies are three times more likely to die in their first month as children born in Japan, and newborn mortality is 2.5 times higher in the United States than in Finland, Iceland or Norway, Save the Children researchers found.

    Only Latvia, with six deaths per 1,000 live births, has a higher death rate for newborns than the United States, which is tied near the bottom of industrialized nations with Hungary, Malta, Poland and Slovakia with five deaths per 1,000 births.

    Five deaths per 1,000 births isn’t exactly the fourth horseman of the apocolypse. In practical terms, it’s barely worse than the countries at the top of the list. Is it a sign, at least, of a sytemic failure of the United States health care system? Even if it is, there’s no indication that the problem can’t be equally attributed to cultural differences. There’s also no indication that our (barely) inferior prenatal care doesn’t reflect an adavantage in some other facet of health service.

    After reading through the links in McLaren’s comment, his argument appears to be equal portions hype and anecdote, with just a hint of truth. To be fair, the problems McLaren describes are real enough, but they’re effectively isolated to America’s inner cities (where a Thunderdome scenario would be a whimsical improvement over the current situation). Isolated by design, and by conspiracy of both of our political parties.

    Since Democrats are the favored local dish here, I’ll direct my comments at them. Obama has been asking how many times McCain mentioned the middle class. I think a better question is, how many times did Obama mention the poor? The middle class is doing fine, excepting the tragic bandwidth gap between America and Europe. While the Democrats in congress argue with the Repulicans over how much money to give our benighted corporate loan sharks, where’s the bailout for the ghettos? How many of McLaren’s instances of police brutality happened in cities administrated by progressives? I can tell you that a little police brutality would be welcome against the meth-dealers and gang members in our working class neighborhoods, but apparently the police are too busy -for instance – keeping the riff-raff off camera so Obama can give his circus speeches unmolested. We all know the Republicans will do nothing about poverty, but at least they’re honest about it.

    If you’re middle-class, have a good job, have a unique skill – take a deep breath and relax – you’ll be fine. If you’re unfortunate enough to live in the other America – roll yourself a joint, also take a deep breath and relax, and don’t get your hopes up. Help ain’t coming.

  90. #91 daveb
    September 30, 2008

    That was way longer than I intended, sorry about that.

  91. #92 frog
    September 30, 2008

    Alan Chapman: It’s hilarious the way you and others rampage daily against the free-market while taking advantage of every benefit it has to offer like the computer, software, and infrastructure which was designed, built, and made affordable by selfish, greedy individuals pursuing their own interests.

    You do know that most of the “infrasture” was not produced by private companies, but on the government dime? That even today, most semiconductor research is done in such “private enterprises” as Sandia Labs? That the underlying software (as opposed to the pretty gui’s) is done by graduate students on the NSF dime? That a huge amount of the essential implementation is done by crazy open-source geeks living in a software socialism where they create simply for the love of creation?

    I guess the irony is lost on you.

  92. #93 Jadehawk
    September 30, 2008

    “If you’re middle-class, have a good job, have a unique skill – take a deep breath and relax – you’ll be fine”

    yeah right. the only job that isn’t 100% outsourceable is direct customer service, and even that is being automatized; that, plus being a highly skilled worker can become a liability; just look at Gm trying to get rid of its high-skill workers, to replace them with trained-on-the-job, cheap hourly labor.

  93. #94 Brownian, OM
    September 30, 2008

    Society is an abstraction. You have to talk about costs imposed on individuals because only individuals exist. Resorting to ambiguous collectives is sophistry.

    Good thing we all individually invented and learned ourselves English, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this conversation about abstractions such as societies, cultures, etc.

    The problem about freepers is that they see economics as some weird human behavioral aberration that is completely unrelated to and operates by rules that don’t apply any other human activity. At the very least, that’s the only possible reason they think it reasonable to say something so completely contrary to all evidence, such as ‘society is an abstraction.’

    Dolts.

  94. #95 Brownian, OM
    September 30, 2008

    Hey, who stole/switched the prepositions from my post? Rev BDC, I’m looking at you.

  95. #96 Alan Chapman
    September 30, 2008

    #79 Jadehawk, stop rambling. Corporations are a creation of government which are conferred with special privilege by government. Corporations often enjoy generous welfare grants, protection from competition through government-granted franchise monopolies, and exemption from liability. This isn’t a failure of the free-market. It’s mercantilism. The technology sector (computers and electronics) is among the least regulated and politicized industries and among the fastest growing private-sector industries in the U.S. (despite the spate of ludicrous patent lawsuits and anti-trust witch-hunts).

  96. #97 frog
    September 30, 2008

    Brownian: The problem about freepers is that they see economics as some weird human behavioral aberration that is completely unrelated to and operates by rules that don’t apply any other human activity.

    No, the problem is that they are either plain ignorant, or willfully ignorant. Just take their god Mises for example, who was able to recognize the crappiness of early 20th century economics, which was modeled on mid to early 19th century mathematics and physics, but was too incompetent to then move on with all the work in evolutionary systems, ecological systems, cybernetic systems, and thermodynamic systems that had already been done by the 1930′s.

    Instead, he threw up his arms in dispair and declared a new religion. Dumb, just really, really willfully dumb. Completely anti-scientific – a reversion to 18th century “political philosophy”, which was just talking out of your ass and trying to keep a straight face while doing it.

    They then apply that same methodology to every realm of human endeavor, as long as it fits their desired results. They’re like medieval monks in their scholastic arguments. Empty of substance – primarily ideological and dismissive of reality and good math.

  97. #98 York
    September 30, 2008

    Jadehawk, I still have a nice flat in Hamburg that I’d be willing to let should you be interested… :-)
    Seriously, I am not starry-eyed about the U.S. and I have spent a high-scholl year living in a mobile home in Alabama to prove it.
    But my admiration for the people here is actually increased. Unlike in Germany, fake consensus is not valued at a premium and problems get actually adressed (if not always solved). Germany can sometimes feel stifling and the fact that the (unreformed) former communist party is becoming a respected part of the political spectrum just makes me ill.

  98. #99 frog
    September 30, 2008

    York: My impression is that “fake concensus” is common on both sides – it just gets played out differently. Germany doesn’t have “Have a Nice Day” or the automatic kowtowing to administrative authority you get in the US. On the other hand, the US is a hell of a lot more colorful and fractured.

  99. #100 Patricia
    September 30, 2008

    Dammit Nick, Are you going for Hooker of the Week again?

  100. #101 Jadehawk
    September 30, 2008

    “Corporations are a creation of government”?!

    either we’re speaking 2 different languages, or we’re living in 2 different universes.

    corporations are private, and they happen to own government, not the other way round. i said proper regulation, not favoritism. this is a country ruled by corporations, and a free market is just more of the same. free market capitalism results in mega-monopolies if unchecked. i’ll point you to that computer market you so proudly point out and let you know that microsoft pretty much owns the place singlehandedly (or nearly so, with a chunk belonging to apple). if it weren’t for opensource (which microsoft and apple are doing their darnedest to fight), there would be no competition and alteratives at all.

  101. #102 Ichthyic
    September 30, 2008

    The technology sector (computers and electronics) is among the least regulated and politicized industries

    ROFLMAO

    You need to tell that joke to Bill Gates!

  102. #103 Jadehawk
    September 30, 2008

    York, if I weren’t currently broke i’d take you up on the offer. :-p

    forced consensus exists in the U.S., too. it just looks different. look for catchphrases like “weak on terrorism”, “socialized” “unpatriotic” etc, and watch the people accused of such slowly inch to the right to not be shunned permanently. consensus always happens to be what looks best but does works. it’s amazing, really.

    (ok. once in a while they do get a law right, but I’ll be outing myself as a left-wing moonbat if I say on whose inspiration and pressing a giant chunk of good, protective and progressive laws have been passed)

  103. #104 York
    September 30, 2008

    Frog: I thought kowtowing to administrative authority was something we germans were especially good at?

  104. #105 Jadehawk
    September 30, 2008

    er. “looks best but does works” was supposed to be: “looks best but does wost”.

    I think i need to go away now, before my brain explodes :-p

  105. #106 frog
    September 30, 2008

    Alan Chapman: The technology sector (computers and electronics) is among the least regulated and politicized industries and among the fastest growing private-sector industries in the U.S.

    It has been massively subsidized by the US government for 50 years. Are you on crack? It exploded since the 70′s because it never had to pay back the development costs – and still doesn’t to this day, with continuing subsidization in semiconductors and infrastructure. Maybe it’s meth?

    Reality and Libertarians: Never shall the twain meet. It’s like talking to an old-fashioned communist: “It’s a class struggle by definition!”

  106. #107 Ichthyic
    September 30, 2008

    It exploded since the 70′s because it never had to pay back the development costs – and still doesn’t to this day, with continuing subsidization in semiconductors and infrastructure. Maybe it’s meth?

    Meth, nothing!

    It was *tada*: Al Gore!

    actually, it’s not too far from the truth, if we’re talking internet infrastructure investment in the late 80′s thru the mid 90′s.

    There was a reason the moniker “invented the internet” was attached to old Al, though of course he didn’t actually “invent” anything.

  107. #108 ork
    September 30, 2008

    Jadehawk: Nah, say it. I’m a libertarian myself, although not as hardcore as I used to be. I am also a banker…

    *ducks*

  108. #109 frog
    September 30, 2008

    York: I thought kowtowing to administrative authority was something we germans were especially good at?

    Nah, y’all are good at organizing mobs. That generally doesn’t work out too well in the long-term for administrative authorities. It’s folk who have a hard time forming intentional groups that tend towards sucking up to dictators. You can’t get a good pitch-fork and torches group up against the local taskmaster. Compare the history of labor unions in the New World with Western Europe.

    Unfortunately, those mobs aren’t always directed at the authorities. You win some and you lose some.

  109. #110 York
    September 30, 2008

    Jadehawk: Nah, say it. I’m a libertarian myself, although not as hardcore as I used to be. I am also a banker…

    *ducks*

  110. #111 E.V.
    September 30, 2008

    Dammit, I step away from the computer to actually accomplish something and this happens:

    EV. Trolling for . . .Eric Atkinson?

    ouch

    Nick: Ok, so Chapman wasn’t going for the ironic humor in that statement. Consider me redressed.
    Discussing politics is more treacherous than discussing… uh, you know. Scorched earth invectives leave little chance for any positive outcome… which may be your intention. So let me drag my ass out of the way. Okay -start bashing.

  111. #112 frog
    September 30, 2008

    York: Just look at your beautifully organized May-Day riots, with the finely-pressed brown shirts and the beautifully coiffed neo-punk hair-do’s.

    We just randomly shoot each other at irregular intervals. It’s been 40 years since we’ve had anything like an organized riot – and most of them were directed at the poorest of the poor.

  112. #113 Celtic_Evolution
    September 30, 2008

    The technology sector (computers and electronics) is among the least regulated and politicized industries and among the fastest growing private-sector industries in the U.S.

    You really shouldn’t have made that statement while I’m going through a Sarb-Ox audit this week.

    So you won’t mind, then, if I toss my Sarb-Ox mandated procedures and policies manual at your head? Cause I’m pretty sure it’d kill you.

  113. #114 York
    September 30, 2008

    Frog: Concede the point. In the 80′s I had a lot of fun fighting pitched street battles with skinheads.

  114. #116 Ichthyic
    September 30, 2008

    So you won’t mind, then, if I toss my Sarb-Ox mandated procedures and policies manual at your head? Cause I’m pretty sure it’d kill you.

    LOL

  115. #117 Jadehawk
    September 30, 2008

    oookkkk… clearly that didn’t work. let’s try the link again: here the list again

    and if this doesn’t work, i’ll stop posting links on this site. i seem to be competely incapable of doing it right.

  116. #118 Jadehawk
    September 30, 2008
  117. #119 Ichthyic
    September 30, 2008

    It’s like talking to an old-fashioned communist: “It’s a class struggle by definition!”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZ9myHhpS9s&feature=related

  118. #120 frog
    September 30, 2008

    Alan Chapman: Corporations are a creation of government which are conferred with special privilege by government.

    This is exactly the kind of nineteenth century, legalistic, and scholastic thinking I have been trying to point out.

    Yes, at their inception corporations were a way for a sovereign to “privatize” certain operations to their cronies. In some sense, the legal fiction is still kept up for ritualistic purposes, since the law is primarily a system of ritual transactions very closely related to religion.

    But in actual practice, that hasn’t been the case at all for more than a century. In the US, since at least the middle of the 19th century, corporations have been independent private entities, often hiring their own military forces (see W. Virginia coal mine strikes), with significant leverage over the explicit governmental entities. When was the last time the government revoked a corporate charter? Or enforced any kind of limitation of activity, as traditionally understood? Or in any way treated a corporation in the 17th century sense of a limited monopoly created by the crown?

    Evolution. It happens. Even in language.

  119. #121 John Knight
    September 30, 2008

    This is nothing new, but you’re looking in the wrong direction. Look to the Fascist Left for the coming tyranny.

  120. #122 Irene Delse
    September 30, 2008

    Alan Chapman #76: No, Nick. Society is an abstraction. You have to talk about costs imposed on individuals because only individuals exist.

    Ah, the good old thatcherian trope of “there is no such thing as society”! I see it still has followers. Too bad it’s sophistry too. Sophistry through overgeneralization and failure to recognize that you need different words and ideas to describe what happens at a scale larger than the individual. Just like, in physics, you can’t use the concepts of quantum mechanics to disprove Newtonian physics that work for planets. Or even apples.

    Large groups of people are not the multiplication of individuals, because said individuals live in constant and complex interaction. Hence the necessity of concepts like “society” or “community”. It’s not ideology, it’s good scientific modelization.

  121. #123 Nerd of Redhead
    September 30, 2008

    JK, no the godbots like you are the coming tyranny.

  122. #124 G Felis
    September 30, 2008

    This reminds me of nothing so much as this positively oracular Onion article from Bush’s 2001 inauguration: Bush: ‘Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity Is Finally Over’

    It’s only more depressing when it’s so predictable that a comedy newspaper gets it so completely, exactly right.

  123. #125 frog
    September 30, 2008

    Icthyic: exactly. “Economic calculation! The Praexis of ordinal numbers! Society is just an abstraction!”

    But I know nothing about English Football. Why don’t they ever make it to the SuperBowl?

  124. #126 Rev. BigDumbChimp, KoT
    September 30, 2008

    So you won’t mind, then, if I toss my Sarb-Ox mandated procedures and policies manual at your head? Cause I’m pretty sure it’d kill you.

    HA!

    I’m so glad in many ways the company I work for isn’t public.

  125. #127 SC
    September 30, 2008

    Alan Chapman: You an admirer of Friedman and Hayek? ‘Cause Randolph seems to have gone AWOL without responding to this:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/grandin11172006.html

    It was *tada*: Al Gore!

    actually, it’s not too far from the truth, if we’re talking internet infrastructure investment in the late 80′s thru the mid 90′s.

    See also tm’s comment here:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/09/this_is_how_we_will_lose.php#comment-1087957

  126. #128 Thomas
    September 30, 2008

    Y’know, I feel kind of silly spending all that time and money preparing for the Zombie War but, social and economic collapse ensure that my efforts weren’t wasted.

  127. #129 raven
    September 30, 2008

    This is nothing new, but you’re looking in the wrong direction. Look to the Fascist Left for the coming tyranny.

    The Christofascist tyranny we have now didn’t work very well. Moron Bush and Darth Cheney have among the lowest approval ratings in history.

    As improbable as it seems, the American people just might let normal people govern for a while.

  128. #130 frog
    September 30, 2008

    SC: I had forgotten 1978-1982 in Chile. It’s the exact trajectory writ large that we’re living through in the US today. At least we don’t have the death squads – but on the other hand, we don’t have the IMF to bail us out of this screw up.

  129. #131 SC
    September 30, 2008

    frog: The part about the financial sector seemed especially relevant. The best part, though, is the quote from Eduardo Galeano about “torturing people so prices could be free.” What a writer.

  130. #132 frog
    September 30, 2008

    SC: I didn’t know that Hayek had gone to Chile in the early 80′s to extoll it’s freedoms. That while I had cousins playing records in the dark so the DINA wouldn’t find out — and those were middle-class kids who had the least to fear from the secret police!

    What a piece of shit. That’s all I ever need to know about Libertarianism. My mind is closed now – it’s like the Communists in the US in the 40′s and 50′s extolling Stalin as a great purveyor of freedom. What shitty people, but at least they had the excuse that they didn’t have full access to what was going on!

  131. #133 deang
    September 30, 2008

    I don’t disagree with the details and am particularly glad to see him mention the widespread acceptance among Americans of police brutality, a horrifying normalization that has been ongoing for about 20 years now. But I wish people would quit implying that it would be a good thing if the US were “winning” in Iraq. There’s nothing good about dominating and destroying an already prostrate people after an illegal invasion and US-imposed sanctions that have been called genocidal. And, really, the US has succeeded in doing exactly what it set out to do – destroy Iraq in order to prove that the US can do whatever it wants.

  132. #134 Greco
    September 30, 2008

    but on the other hand, we don’t have the IMF to bail us out of this screw up.

    Believe me, you don’t want that to ever happen! Before you knew it you would have 40% interest rates, skyrocketing fuel and food prices, one euro would buy about 20 dollars, every social program cut or eliminated entirely, science funding down approaching zero, paying debt becomes priorities one, two, three and four, elected officials effectively replaced by IMF bureaucrats, and if you get the Special Pinochet Package, mass killings for everyone to the left of the Cato Institute.

    Except for that last part, I have first hand experience on that. It feels even worse than it reads.

  133. #135 Katharine
    September 30, 2008

    PZ, while I am happy that you’re informing us about the stupidity of fundies and of conservatives, because both groups are stupid, the posts are wont to put people in worse moods than they need to be because they don’t address how to fix some of those things sometimes. What’s happening to the United States sucks, and it’s making a lot of people angry and sad, including me, because, well, what’s happening to the United States sucks. I’m an atheist and a liberal, and I hate fundies and conservatives. I have actually gotten so angry at these groups in the past few weeks that it takes more energy for me to think clearly and I’m letting people such as you do the public debating, partially because my temper is as thin as a graphene sheet at the moment.

    Maybe you might write a post about the two possible futures you foresee if either we stop the idiots or do not stop the idiots, and you can give us suggestions – for ALL of us – as to what we can do, from all the parts of society that we are from, to make the world a better place for ourselves and everyone else. And it would certainly help brighten a few moods because we might see some solutions we might not have seen before.

  134. #136 Hugo
    September 30, 2008

    Why wouldn’t you show your ID if a police officer asked you?

    What do you have to hide?*

    * This campaign brought to you by the friendly people at Miniluv(TM)

  135. #137 Paul Murray
    October 1, 2008

    The best quote about this stuff is still:

    When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental — men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost… All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.’ The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
    H. L. Mencken, Baltimore Sun (26 July 1920)

  136. #138 G Felis
    October 1, 2008

    Damn! And I thought that Onion article from 2001 was oracular – but here Mencken had them beat by 80 years! He was often crotchety and mean-spirited, but rarely wrong.

  137. #139 Daniel
    October 1, 2008

    *sigh*

    I remember when the future was a promise, not a threat.

  138. #140 Azkyroth
    October 1, 2008

    Are you guys all in your dungeons and dragons outfits?

    Coming from a guy who’s at about the intellectual level of World of Warcraft cosplay…

  139. #141 Azkyroth
    October 1, 2008

    More Clues: Alternatively pompous and abusive, he loves to belittle and then play the innocent. Childish…. prone to be disingenuous… thinks he’s the smartest person in any room….

    But that’s virtually all of them. D:

  140. #142 Nick Gotts
    October 1, 2008

    Haven’t had time to read right the way through last night’s offerings, but just thought I’d raise this point. Randroids such as Alan Chapman insist that “only individuals exist” (Rand hath spoken, after all), then go on to talk about “markets”. But Alan, markets clearly don’t exist – they’re not individuals, are they? This is stupid any creobot could be proud of!

  141. #143 Nick Gotts
    October 1, 2008

    Haven’t had time to read right the way through last night’s offerings, but just thought I’d raise this point. Randroids such as Alan Chapman insist that “only individuals exist” (Rand hath spoken, after all), then go on to talk about “markets”. But Alan, markets clearly don’t exist – they’re not individuals, are they? This is stupid any creobot could be proud of!

  142. #144 Nick Gotts
    October 1, 2008

    “the fascist left” – John Knight

    More ultra-stupid. Fascism is nationalistic, anti-egalitarian, and explicitly anti-rational; and when powerful, was funded and supported by big business (supported also by the military and the main churches). It is a movement of the right. Left-wing tyrannies also exist, Jacobinism and Leninism being the main historical examples. “Liberal fascism” is possibly the stupidest pairing of words ever invented. (Note: I’m neither a liberal, nor a fascist.)

  143. #145 Nick Gotts
    October 1, 2008

    Apologies for the double post – still, I’m sure Randroids will need to read it at least twice before it sinks in.

  144. #146 Nick Gotts
    October 1, 2008

    Patricia@100,
    Being called a hooker by you is indeed an accolade to be proud of! I’m deeply gratified ;-)

    Seriously, I’m not really trying – but when I see something both breathtakingly stupid and appallingly callous, I find it hard not to respond. I mean, the Ukranian peasants starving to death in the 1930s really deserved Stalin, didn’t they? The slaves in the antebellum USA and the native Americans butchered or herded onto reservations had only themselves to blame, no? And those feckless Jews and Gypsies should simply have got rid of Hitler.

  145. #147 johannes
    October 1, 2008

    > All that is ever achieved, from Spenglers ‘Decline of the
    > West’ onward is to instill irrational fear in people which
    > then can be harnessed by some authoritarina figure to push
    > some ugly agenda. Not helpful.

    # 84

    You are right about Spengler and his “conservative revolutionary” (a contradiction in terms) cronies from the twenties. Cultural pessimism is an invention of the extreme right. It has, however, a rather frightening ability to sell itself to leftists and liberals.

    > (unreformed) former communist party is becoming a
    > respected part of the political spectrum just makes me
    > ill.

    The change from the PDS of the nineties – retired Stasi lieutenant colonels and nostalgia for the good old Honecker days – to Lafontaines Strasserite antics about evil immigrants that take away the jobs of noble German skilled-worker aristocrats is a reform, sort of. This is a change. It just happens to be a change from dull to evil.

  146. #148 Nick Gotts
    October 1, 2008

    Germany can sometimes feel stifling and the fact that the (unreformed) former communist party is becoming a respected part of the political spectrum just makes me ill. – York

    I can see why. But it’s surely a consequence of the way both the SPD and the Greens stampeded to the right? There is a significant chunk of the population wanting a left-wing party to vote for, and Die Linke is their only option.

  147. #149 Nick Gotts
    October 1, 2008

    E.V.@111,
    I adopt what you call “scorched Earth” invective against those I already know are impervious to evidence and argument – like Alan Chapman. In politics, there’s a wide range of positions, from moderate secular conservatism through to anarchist communism, which allow for rational argument. With fascists, neocons, racists, most Leninists, theocrats, most “libertarians”, and Randroids, it’s a waste of time: they will simply ignore anything that doesn’t fit into their ideology, run away when things get too hot, then come back on another thread and restate exactly the same bilge that’s already been refuted.

  148. #150 York
    October 1, 2008

    Nick Gotts, I don’t know. It used to be that left wing and progressive went together, that the left had a vision of the future that was inspiring and did indeed inspire people and especially artists.
    Can’t see that happening with ‘Die Linke’. To call them strasserite as johannes did is actually very apt. These guys hate foreigners, think a secret police to keep an eye on things is a good idea and just generally don’t want to deal with the present, let alone the future. And they are led by two pompous buffoons who both, when given actual responsibility, jumped ship asap.
    Nothing inspiring about that. The songs they want to sing have already been written long ago and the lyrics are not pretty.

  149. #151 GunOfSod
    October 1, 2008

    “It’s time to ease back the foreskin of misconception, and apply the wire brush of enlightenmnet”

    –Charles Stross, Iron Sunrise

    One of my favourite quotes, from one of my favourite authors.

  150. #152 Nick Gotts
    October 1, 2008

    York,
    I’m not quite sure what point you’re making. Germany had two civilised parties of the left – the SPD and the Greens – and both have abandoned it, buying into the “free market” bilge that has dominated politics in Europe as well as North America in the last three decades, and has come to its logical culmination in the current financial crisis. A lot of people have wanted to vote against that bilge. I’m not intimately acquainted with Die Linke – it sounds as if they are a lot worse than I realised – but where else are such people to go? My hope, and expectation, is that those European parties of the democratic left that have not been completely corrupted will now rediscover some of their principles. I’m not familiar enough with German politics to know what the prospects of this are for the SPD or Greens.

  151. #153 thatmike
    October 1, 2008

    As a small point of order, the Bradford and Bingley is by no means the UK’s largest mortgage lender (I think that is/was HBOS). It’s actually fairly small, but specialised in risky self-certified mortgages and buy-to-lets.

  152. #154 johannes
    October 1, 2008

    > I’m not intimately acquainted with Die Linke – it sounds as
    > if they are a lot worse than I realised

    Like most populist movements and parties, it is highly eclectic and tries to be all kinds to all people.

    Gysi has a rather dubious past – he was one of the few attorneys in the former GDR, and he might have betrayed some of his clients to the Stasi – but he is also a Gramsciist, and a reformer. He probably considers himself a German Obama or Tony Blair.

    Lafontaine and his advisors and speech-writers are strasserites that promise bread and circusses, once the chains of ursurial capitalism (as opposed to proper German productive capitalism)are broken. Elsässer is a renegade antinational that condemns everything he stood for ten years ago and rants against gays and gender mainstreaming, which he considers the arch-enemy of the German worker. Jürgen Cain Külbel is in the pay of six of the twenty Syrian secret services (come on, Cain the brain, sue me. You have already sued half the blogosphere ;-)).

    The party also includes all kinds of platforms, currents and tendencies, including a stalinist platform led by a Palinesque figure nahmed Sarah (sic) Wagenknecht, no globals from Attac, trade union officials that have abandoned the SPD, all sorts of trotskyites, including the German branch of what has been left of the SWP after Galloway has sucked all the life out them, even a – very softcore – Anti-German platform.

    In the east, the party is still dominated by the old East German elites, who have joined goverments in several Bundesländer, were they are busy in implementing austerity, welfare cuts and other such neoliberal reforms, and probably shake their heads at the West German radicals they now have to share a party with.

    In the west, the dominant strain at the grassroot level are the trade union officials, who dream of a return to the fordist paradise of the seventies (some paradise – Glasgow, and probably most American inner cities, too, had the life expectancy of Bangla Desh in those halcyon days).

    To cut a long story short, this party contains everything from fascists to anti-fascists, nationalists to anti-nationalists, stalinists to trots, social democrats to antisemites.

  153. #155 Nick Gotts
    October 1, 2008

    Thanks johannes.

  154. #156 Peter Ashby
    October 1, 2008

    Ah yes, unique skills. For eg I can and have done very well:
    electron microscopy
    mouse transgenesis
    automated dna sequencing
    real time quantitative pcr
    and a whole slew of other things and techniques.

    Every single one of them can and are done by people either without the PhD I have or even a degree. The Genome Centre at Hinxton in England for eg the sequencing is done by school leavers with the most basic qualifications, they train them up.

    My one truly unique skill: the ability to do very good muscle anatomy including untangling, understanding and interpreting mutant and aberrant anatomies (got me my name in Nature) is no use to me as it has no economic value. Anatomy was not even considered as something to look at in the Mouse Phenotype Project. So I find myself unemployed and supported by my wife.

    Fortunately though I don’t need health insurance since I live in the UK. I even give blood and don’t get paid for it.

    Unique skills my arse.

  155. #157 llewelly
    October 1, 2008

    A China that hasn’t, unlike the West, gradually evolved a democracy! But that may not be so bad. The world could probably do with a more communitarian social organization. The free market & global warming do seem to go together.

    Beijing has the most polluted air of any city in the world. And every major Chinese city ranks high the most polluted list. China is building coal power plants faster than any two other nations combined. And you think a dominant China might be better for global warming?

  156. #158 Interrobang
    October 1, 2008

    Can someone get me a cite on “Barclay’s bank is currently leveraged at a ratio of 50:1 and if it goes, its outstanding derivative liabilities are equal to the entire GDP of Great Britain”? If Barclay’s is going to go under anytime soon, I know someone who doesn’t follow the news the way I do who really wants to know.

  157. #159 PhotoNeil
    October 1, 2008

    Thank you for using my link in your article ;)

  158. #160 John Knight
    October 1, 2008

    Nick Gotts (#144): ” ‘Liberal fascism’ is possibly the stupidest pairing of words ever invented.”

    Don’t tell me.

    Tell H.G. Wells.

    He coined the phrase.

    To describe his political philosophy.

    His left-wing political philosophy.

    Was fascism really a movement of the right?

    Benito Mussolini was raised by socialist parents who named him after socialists heroes. Mussolini worked for a socialist newspaper. He was a member of the Socialist Party for 12 years. He was kicked out because he favored Italian involvement in World War One (on socialist grounds). He responded by saying that “socialism is in my blood.” He praised the New Deal. Mussolini was, in turn, praised by leading Progressive & New Dealers, including writers for The New Republic.

    Fascism, like socialism, was a doctrine of control. It was a revolutionary utopian movement that sought to fundamentally restructure society. In both its Italian & German forms, it was explicitly anti-capitalist. Naturally so, since the freedoms of capitalism are inconsistent with the kind of control required to restructure society. Yes, it was nationalistic, but so are socialist regimes in Cuba & Venezuela, among others.

    Historically, fascism did not consider itself “right-wing.” It was labeled “right-wing” by Stalin, fascism’s main competitor on the socialist scene. Even in the 1940s, Hayek wrote about “the Marxist roots of Naziism.”

    More.

  159. #161 Longtime Lurker
    October 1, 2008

    Posted by: Jerome September 30, 2008 4:45 PM
    Hey, neat. The devotees came rushing out to help defend the fortress. Are you guys all in your dungeons and dragons outfits?

    This has to be the weirdest right-wing meme of this election cycle. Michael Goldfarb, a clown on McCain’s staff, had not one, but TWO dumbass D&D comments!

    But in their new role as bloggers, the paper’s editors seem to have all the intelligence and reason of the average Daily Kos diarist sitting at home in his mother’s basement and ranting into the ether between games of dungeons and dragons.

    and

    It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman’s memory of war from the comfort of mom’s basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others.

    WTF? Jerome, are you Michael Goldfarb?

    Oddly enough, Charles Stross was, as an adolescent, responsible for a couple of bits of content that became canon in the game. Fellow geeks are nodding sagaciously… all you others can, if you wish, check teh wikis. I won’t bore anybody by quoting scripture.

    I can’t recommend “A Colder War” highly enough, it’s the intersection of Cold War, Cthulhu Mythos and Burgess Shale, with not a few sly digs at some of Ronnie Rambozo Raygun’s staff.

  160. #162 frog
    October 1, 2008

    JK: You do realize that liberalism is distinct from socialism? And that most forms of socialism are distinct from Marxism? Don’t you?

    And that Welles’ “Liberal Fasicsm” wasn’t liberal at all – but was his cry of desperation at the failing liberalism of the early 20th century? That it was almost identical to todays neoconservatism, coming exactly out of the same cultural milieu that produced Leo Strauss and his gang?

    That it’s your gang that would best be called a Wellesian kind of “Liberal Fascists”?

    Ah, no, that wouldn’t fit with your BS ideal self-image where your authoritarianism is different from the left’s authoritarianism – that millenia of your crap is “Good”, while a century of their crap is “Bad”.

    JK, you’re so fill of pseudo-intellectual crap acting as a propagandistic drivel it comes out of your ears.

  161. #163 John Knight
    October 1, 2008

    Ooooooooooooooooooh. Cutting. Incisive.

    Or not.

  162. #164 frog
    October 1, 2008

    JK:

    Words. Use words. Maybe sentences.
    Otherwise look dumb.

    Italics not argument.

  163. #165 York
    October 1, 2008

    Hmm, this thread refuses to die.

    Frog, your frustration is understandable. John Knight is correct in asserting that fascism (and socialism) were social revolutionary ideologies. To call them anti-capitalist is false as far as Germany is concerned (at least Germany after the Roehm-Putsch 1934).

    The confusion arises when not properly accounting for the difference between an ethics of conviction and an ethics of responsibility (Gesinnungsethik vs. Verantwortungsethik, Max Weber).

    As far as the ethics of conviction are concerend, both sides are very dissimilar. One side believes in fundamental and unadulterable differences in men and thinks society should reflect that. The other side believes in the fundamental equalness between men and thinks society should be like that. That’s ethics of conviction.

    Where both strains come together is in the methods they employ to achieve whatever they think is desirable. And there, in the execution, fascism and socialism become very similar.

  164. #166 Nick Gotts
    October 1, 2008

    John Knight,
    “Liberal fascism” is a stupid combination of words whether it came from H G Wells – a highly ambiguous and inconsistent thinker – or not. And “fascism was left-wing” is a ludicrous falsehood. If it was, why did big business support it? That’s where Hitler’s money came from. It’s “anti-capitalism” was simply a ploy to attract left voters. Those fools within the Nazi party who took it seriously, like the Strasser brothers, ended up dead or in exile. Most telling in terms of ideas is its anti-egalitarianism: its doctrines that human individuals and groups differ in their intrinsic worth, and that socio-economic inequalities are a proper reflection of this: these have been doctrines of the right as long as the left-right distinction has existed. Of course Hayek would claim it was left-wing: he would say anything to discredit the left. It really is utterly dishonest to pretend that the “right” label attached to it was assigned only by Stalin. Throughout Europe, the left opposed fascism (until the opportunistic Stalinist betrayal of 1939) while figures from the right praised Mussolini and Hitler. When Mussolini and Hitler backed Franco in the Spanish Civil War, it was the left which organised help for the Republic, the right which tried to prevent it. Your lies are pathetic, Knight.

  165. #167 Nick Gotts
    October 1, 2008

    York,
    your claim that socialism resembles fascism in practice is true only of Leninism. It is utterly false of democratic socialism and anarchism.

  166. #168 York
    October 1, 2008

    Nick Gotts, I agree with regard to the social democrats. Very brave and honorable women and men.

    As for democratic socialism I disagree. Maybe you don’t refer to the same thing, but that’s what was practised in the GDR and there’s simply no way way I will find anything good in there. I am friends with the poet Wolfgang Biermann who was thrown out of that shithole in 1976 and they simply fail on any conveivable level.

    As for anarchists, you are talking to a (former) member of the Black Flag (Schwarzer Block). Never been much of an adherent of the syndicalist strain but informed enough ( I hope) to claim that anarchism can become quite oppressive as well.

  167. #169 Nick Gotts
    October 1, 2008

    York,
    No, we’re not referring to the same thing! The East German regime was Leninist. By “democratic socialism” I mean advocacy of common ownership of (at least a large part of) the means of production and distribution, but when and only as long as this is the free choice of the majority – and I include the other aspects of what Leninists call “bourgeois democracy” such as the secret ballot, freedom of speech, assembly, religion etc. A more succinct way of describing it would be the extension of democratic decision making to all important economic matters. “Social democracy” these days usually means welfarist capitalism; although the line between that and democratic socialism is not a sharp one. As it happens I’m also an ex-anarchist; my experience did not coincide with yours – almost all the anarchists I have met have been fine people. However, I don’t doubt groups of any political persuasion can be oppressive. I’ll leave a fuller defence of anarchism to our resident anarchist, SC.

  168. #170 Azkyroth
    October 1, 2008

    for someone who visits a biology blog so regularly, it’s almost embarrassing that the basic concept of herd or social animals completely escapes you.

    Hell, for someone who swallows the deregulationist party line, hook, and sinker, it’s amazing – and ironic – that the basic concept of herd animals escape you.

  169. #171 Jadehawk
    October 1, 2008
    for someone who visits a biology blog so regularly, it’s almost embarrassing that the basic concept of herd or social animals completely escapes you.

    Hell, for someone who swallows the deregulationist party line, hook, and sinker, it’s amazing – and ironic – that the basic concept of herd animals escape you.

    huh?

    I’m hoping that was directed at alan chapman, not me… because otherwise it makes no sense.

  170. #172 York
    October 1, 2008

    Nick Gottts, yeah, sounds debatable. Let’s get the resident anarchist SC and also jadehawk on board. Probably not in this thread, but next time soon.
    On a personal note thanks for being an informed motherfucker.I like that.

  171. #173 York
    October 1, 2008

    Nick Gottts, yeah, sounds debatable. Let’s get the resident anarchist SC and also jadehawk on board. Probably not in this thread, but next time soon.
    On a personal note thanks for being an informed motherfucker.I like that.

  172. #174 York
    October 1, 2008

    Nick Gottts, yeah, sounds debatable. Let’s get the resident anarchist SC and also jadehawk on board. Probably not in this thread, but next time soon.
    On a personal note thanks for being an informed motherfucker.I like that.

  173. #175 johannes
    October 2, 2008

    > It’s “anti-capitalism” was simply a ploy to attract left
    > voters.

    There were – and are – quite a few marxist thinkers (Adorno, Postone) who hold the opinion that the Nazi Volksgemeinschaft was so dangerous because it was real, not just a ploy: there is no class struggle inside a lynch mob.

    > It is utterly false of (…) anarchism.

    What about Sorel?
    There is some common ground between anarcho-syndikalism and Catholic corporativism, both share a fondness for guilds, councils and other such neo-medieval institutions.
    This said, most anarchists I know are genuine and committed anti-fascists, and it would be unfair to blame them for the failings of early 20th-century frenchmen.

  174. #176 Nick Gotts
    October 2, 2008

    johannes,
    For the Nazis, look at who funded them, and what they did: smashed the unions and murdered trades unionists and leftists of all kinds along with their other victims. Moreover, the very core of their ideology was inequality: it’s this above all that places them on the right, and it was never disguised. In every country where they found allies or collaborators, these came almost exclusively from the right – although there were admittedly some ex-Marxists among the latter. They had little in the way of systematic economic doctrine: Hitler wasn’t interested in economics, so he left this to his subordinates, and was only concerned to supply the war machine. Of course fascism is far from the sort of laissez-faire capitalism Knight and the “libertarians” favour (one of their idiocies is thinking that you can arrange all political belief systems along a single left/right axis), but most non-Jewish capitalists, large and small, prospered and supported them, and looked forward to sharing the loot of a successful war. I admit I haven’t read the authors you cite, but I don’t take Marxist categories all that seriously: everything does not reduce to class struggle, and the “base/superstructure” dichotomy is invalid. Fascism, being fundamentally irrationalist, will both speak and act in inconsistent ways, feeding on whatever fears and hatreds it can.

    With Sorel you have a valid point; in fact, one I raised in another thread. There is an irrationalist strain in anarchism, but it has seldom been predominant.

  175. #177 frog
    October 2, 2008

    NG: , but most non-Jewish capitalists, large and small, prospered and supported them, and looked forward to sharing the loot of a successful war.

    If I remember correctly, it was even uglier than that. At the very elite levels, there were even a few Jewish capitalists who were willing to jump on board for the money — there was a case still going through the courts over railroad shares of a nominally Jewish family who had cooperated into the late 30s before the rest of the board turned on them.

    But the middle-class Jewish right-wing was quite vigorous in attacking Nazism since the 20s, and formed a common front with the Jewish left before Nazism’s victories in the early 30s.

    johannes: That’s an argument to have with SC. I tried and failed miserably (and managed to piss SC off quite vigorously!).

  176. #178 Nick Gotts
    October 4, 2008

    PZ,
    Thanks for the recommendation for Charlie Stross’s blog – very interesting stuff. I’m going to have to give up work, it’s cutting into my blog-surfing time!

    A worrying thing though – when I was at Vox Day’s blog a while bag (after he came and spewed here), I noticed he linked to Charlie Stross’s blog!

  177. #179 Rickr0ll
    March 12, 2009

    i’m just commenting for the express purpose of adding this particular article in my history. Pay no nevermind folks, Real life is sponging my time this semester…

    Sorry to all 1 of my possible fans…