Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Rule By Thieves

I’ve subscribed to The Washington Post for the last couple of months and, on the day of Paul Manafort’s conviction and Michael Cohen’s confessions, it has paid off. Do not believe that Trump is unassailable: his poll numbers are at least 10 points below what a president with current employment figures and a bull market should expect.

Previous presidents who were in office during times of robust economic expansion, with low unemployment and a roaring bull market, generally had average approval ratings well over 50 percent. Trump’s egregious misbehavior consistently costs him at least 10 points in the polls.

Trump’s economic policies are, almost inevitably, going to lead to another huge economic crash, probably in the next twelve months. At that point, he is finished, apart from the prospect of a drawn-out, agonising criminal trial. While his incomprehensible moment of political power will, hopefully, lead ultimately to a redrawing of the structures of economic and political injustice in the U.S., I shudder to think what the immediate consequences of another 2008 will be for ordinary Americans, and, worse, poor people around the world.

Sickening and frightening as the apparent collapse of democracy and the rule of law in the United States is, the miasma of chaos that the ultra-rich have spun around politics is a global disease. In the video above, Christian Caryl, the democracy editor of The Post, gives a nice overview of the essence of inequality in politics: corruption.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Wise Up

The Labour manifesto is out and the excellence of its contents is now being challenged by a simple PR tactic: the question, “How will they pay for it?”

This inquiry appeals to the economic illiteracy of the majority of people. It is, in fact, a cheaper set of pledges than the Tories’ plan to give away £70,000,000,000 to their rich sponsors over the next three years. That, however, is not the point. The capitalists want everyone dazzled by the Thatcher lie that a country’s economy is the same as the household budget of an office worker or shop manager: wages in, bills out. THAT IS A LIE.

National economics is not that hard to understand: it’s A level, at its hardest. Get wised up. This article, by an influential economics and political journalist, provides a primer relating specifically to the Labour Strategy.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Best Paw Forward For Democracy

DWC goes public service.

These are exciting times in the Labour movement. Theresa May has made a huge tactical blunder and, in seeking a coronation, has united us behind a leader who speaks for the many, not the few. However, it is difficult, in these fractured times, to cut through the chatter, twittering and Tory domination of mainstream media. Labour’s policies are simply the application of modest individual aspirations tied to collective effort: mutual respect, if you like, but they are in danger of being stamped all over by Theresa May’s shoes.

Cometh The Hour, Cometh The Danceswithcats.

So, it is time for voices for Labour to speak up. The fact that I have fewer readers than the UKIP etiquette website does not deter me. If you build it, they will come, or not. However, if you do not build it, you are not doing your best for what you believe in.

In other words, it can’t do any harm, and it might, just might, do some good.

Therefore, today, with as much fanfare as I can squeeze out of an enterprise I have to fit between a hectic work schedule and an easily distracted temperament, I proudly announce the launch of the…

Danceswithcats’ Labour on the Isle of Wight 2017 Information Hub.

Or, DWCLOTIW2017IH, for short.

I’ll give you a moment to calm yourselves.

First the good news:

    • We-the Labour Party-have the best manifesto to be offered to the British people in many decades. And, while the Tories seem to be making up policy on the hoof, we have got the debate focussed on key areas of importance to the British people.
    • We have a great, truly brave leader, who communicates on a personal level to huge numbers of people and has not been cowed by a level of concerted, orchestrated bullying that would have sent any lesser person to their GP in distracted panic.
    • He is also, despite the lies of the media, amazingly popular:

  • We have a cadre of committed, articulate, intelligent, learned, engaging. passionate MPs, who are fighting like mad to deliver a Labour government and save this country from the dribbling capitalist lackeys.
  • We have a truly inspiring local candidate. A man who speaks with the tongues of angels but also with the righteous anger of a  devoted public servant who sees his country being torn apart by a cabal of traitors. He is a candidate who can articulate what it feels like to have struggled on in public service while wages are winnowed down, resources eviscerated and political support for your profession is replaced by obstructive corruption. He can cut through the ‘public mood’ of diversion by divisive distraction and focus on what we need to do make this country fair, safe and self-respecting.
  • Theresa May seems to be a tactical idiot and is looking lost and alone, and her party are panicking.

Now, the bad news:

I can’t put it better than this extraordinary man.


You HAVE to vote in this election because, if you don’t, this may be democracy’s last whistlestop.

Are you in the top 5% of earners? If not, and you vote Tory, you’re voting against your own interests.

Our problem in this country is that the American tactic of divorcing democratic engagement from reality has taken root. “Professional” political marketers have disengaged political debate from reality, tying political argument up in a cloud of abstractions: tribalism, dogwhistle coded racism, confusion over economic and social interests and belonging. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader was so extraordinary because he cut through that, calmly and repeatedly talking about reality: poverty, inequality, the abandonment by the state and the media consumer of disabled people, people with mental illness, impoverished older people, abused children. He pointed out that the fact that you can work sixty hours a week in this country and still not have enough to keep a roof over your family’s heads and food on your table is not some natural state of being, but a manufactured political tactic: class warfare waged by a class wedded to what one commentator characterises as “cheap-labour conservatism“.

The Tories live by plunder. They steal your taxes, your public services, your state provision and your labour, in order to raise more money for the rich.

However, he has had only two years to do his work and has had to struggle against an establishment who thinks intelligent, sincere, honest politics isn’t supposed to happen. He has come through the most appalling abuse, and we are looking more united, more up for the fight than anyone could have predicted even six months ago, but he is fighting very powerful interests, and they have a lot of power: the voice of American capitalism, Murdoch; the privatisation parasite Branson, whose dreams of owning the NHS are close to fruition; the war industry, and the banking industry, in whose interests we have suffered nine years of austerity.

So, the one thing Weak and Wobbly Theresa May has got right so far is that this is a truly important election. As Harry Leslie Smith says,

We live in a time of national emergency, so vote accordingly: your task is to unseat the Tories. Your children and your grandchildren will hold you accountable if you bottle it by voting Tory.

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Darkness Within Darkness

Joseph Stiglitz provides a summary of just how bad the democratic collapse in America actually is in an article entitled “How to Survive the Trump Era”, on Project Syndicate.

The paragraph that leapt out at me says this:

…the importance of the rule of law, once an abstract concept to many Americans, has become concrete. Under the rule of law, if the government wants to prevent firms from outsourcing and offshoring, it enacts legislation and adopts regulations to create the appropriate incentives and discourage undesirable behavior. It does not bully or threaten particular firms or portray traumatized refugees as a security threat.

In a Guardian comment I posted when I could still stand to read that bloated, Blairite organ, I said that Obama’s main project as president was to re-establish the rule of law in American politics and, particularly, in relation to foreign and military policy. It is clear now that he failed in that task: Guantanamo remains open, NATO, acting as an organ of the American military-industrial complex, is pushing confrontation wherever its whims incline it, and the Calvinist hardcore of the Pentagon have adapted with equanimity to the election of a fascist.

Now, it appears that the contempt for its own laws that has bedevilled America from its Military-industrial complex has slipped into its broader domestic economy. The rot has spread, as it was always likely to.

David Bromwich has a fascinating article in the LRB in which he identifies the attitude that underlies Trump’s contempt for both law and politics. It is not that he has any ideological hatred for the institutions of civil democracy, but that he sees them as of minimal importance: what matters is freedom for the rich to do what they will.

In a radio interview in 2015, he recalled his visit to Russia in 2013, in an unsuccessful attempt to close a deal on apartment complexes. ‘I was with the top-level people,’ he said, ‘both oligarchs and generals, and top of the government people … I met the top people, and the relationship was extraordinary.’ Though it may seem a tiny slip, one notices the distinction between top-level people and the top people in government. Oligarchs and generals come first and rank highest in Trump’s estimation; top government people are worth knowing, but secondary. Trump likes the relationship of money to power in Russia – and specifically of financial power to government authority – more than he admires anything special about Putin, whom he has never met and about whom he knows little. Evidence of a vaguer affinity can be tracked in his appointment of four billionaires and three generals to senior advisory or cabinet positions: in his US government the ‘top-level people’ will be identical with the ‘top of the government people’.

I have not posted much about the president, or, really, put my thoughts in order about him. It is time I did. I, like anyone who wishes to believe that the death eaters will not win, must come to some understanding of what it is we face and what we must do save our civilisation. Assuming that you are awake enough to understand that Facebook, Twitter and even WordPress will not unsettle the power of the neo-fascist new dawn, you, like me, will be trying to make sense of this collapsing era, and trying to decide what issues you care enough about to engage with and to uphold, as all decency comes under energetic, hateful attack.

The first shock, as both Stiglitz and Bromwich say, has now passed. It is time to shake off despair and begin to construct some sort of plan, as individuals, and as members of our polities.

I can’t say that I have any clear answers, but I am beginning to try. I can recommend a look at the short list of behaviours written by Timothy Snyder to which I linked back in December. It has practical and moral suggestions: the need for courage being primary amongst them. I have also been moved by Bromwhich’s article. Chiming with Snyder’s eighth lesson, ‘Believe in Truth’, he explains Trump’s almost magical gift for lies thus:

In Leviathan Hobbes said that what we call the ‘deliberation’ of the will is nothing but ‘the last appetite, or aversion, immediately adhering to’ an action. Whatever the general truth of the analysis, Trump’s process of thought works like that. If Obama often seemed an image of deliberation without appetite, Trump has always been the reverse. For him, there is no time to linger: from the first thought to the first motion is a matter of seconds; the last aversion or appetite triggers the jump to the deed. And if along the way he speaks false words? Well, words are of limited consequence. What people want is a spectacle; they will attend to what you do, not what you say; and to the extent that words themselves are a spectacle, they add to the show. The great thing about words, Trump believes, is that they are disposable.

It is pointless to study what Trump says day-by-day. It is necessary to take a step back and see which of his manic ejaculations he repeats; which become themes. Here in Britain, it is necessary to see which are taken up by the people who would ape him: not UKIP, the hapless farce who will not do anything other than represent the dying wishes of the greediest, most selfish generation in modern British history, but the real carriers of reactive nationalism; the political parties who see as ‘political realism’ the need to ape populist nationalism in order to ‘achieve power’. Nationalism as it now manifests has been a long time in the making, and it would make a good doctoral thesis to study it. Murdoch and his imitators (the deeply odious, surprisingly influential pornographer, Richard Desmond being chief among them) have played a seminal part, but it is not entirely, I think, a creation of a malign press. As Bromwhich says:

Neoliberals have spent a quarter of a century arranging the ingredients for the catastrophe. Lenin said of Stalin that ‘this cook will give us peppery dishes,’ and for all the talk of nation-building, democracy promotion, multiculturalism and tribal recognition, globalisation à la Nato has been a peppery dish. There were several chefs involved: Bill and Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and their exemplar Tony Blair. They all wanted to convert the populace to an enlightened internationalism, but along the way they forgot to talk us out of nationalism. The military operations that dismantled Yugoslavia and overthrew the undemocratic governments of those artificial entities Iraq and Libya were meant to be an earnest of the goodwill of the global improvers. The trouble is that wars tend to reinforce nationalism, and unnecessary wars, where the fighting is drawn out and the result chaotic, leave people doubtful and suspicious.

Sometime last year, before the Democratic primaries were over, but when it looked as though Hillary had swung it, I wrote on my (now deleted) Facebook account, “I do not want Hillary Clinton to be president.” There is a narrative, amongst the voices who see the past thirty years of ‘left(ish)’ or ‘progressive’ politics as, fundamentally unproblematic, in both this country and in the States; that opposition to a continuation of Blairite, Clintonesque pseudo-opposition to the neo-liberal, capitalist rise of oligarchy is rooted in the sort of intolerance against which they feel they are the only bastion. As Rebecca Solnit sees it, Hillary Clinton lost because of misogyny; not because of her record as a major architect of the Obama administration’s embedding of commercialised, continuous war, or her championing of support for tyrants, or her husband’s disastrous capitulation to capital, or the fact that, in office, she and her husband made themselves super-rich.

This narrative,-that only the established politics could safeguard against the new nationalism, and that any voice, from left or right, that dares to criticise the social-democratic surrender to the super-rich, is not only responsible for Brexit, the rise of Trump and the declining popularity of the X-factor, but also motivated by sexism, anti-semitism and a love of conflict,-is, patently, a lie. However, I know people, good people, who are convinced of it. They feel that the Blair government wasn’t so bad really, despite ASBOs, PFIs, Iraq, and the final enthronement of Murdoch as king of Britain, because it kept their property values rising for a decade and kept conflict nice and far away, mostly. What I think they love about the New Labour era is that it was sleek, professional and, to their eyes, cool. That aspect of Blairism largely passed me by: I saw New Labour as a coup against messy, committed politics by the sort of people who couldn’t ever manage cool, however much they valued it. Personally, I like my politicians resolutely uncool. They tend not to believe they can get away with things.

So, what to do? I so want to just tend my garden, and be good at my job, and write my novel, brew my beer, love my wife, but this is a time for those of us who care to try to make an impact. I attended a Labour Party meeting last week, for the first time in a while, and will be campaigning for our council candidates, in the hope that, at local level at least, some opposition to the ongoing monstrosity of austerity economics funding billionaire parasitism of our economy can be constructed. I learnt there that the council funding for my job had been cancelled the night before: we bring in some national funding, from a government quango, but how long that will last under a rabid Tory government is debatable.

Meanwhile, I see the support for the people who are my clients being run into the ground, by death eaters who are not even really trying to make excuses for their corruption any more. The Isle of Wight Council has been ceded to a Tory/UKIP coalition of the most miserable, unimaginative graspingness: their only solution to our misery is to build an industrial estate: an opportunity, no doubt, for bribes and in-dealing that mirrors the orgy of corruption enjoyed at national level between politicians and privatisation parasites like Branson, Murdoch and the Prime Minister’s husband.

The rule must be, do not despair. Do what you can, but it is hard. Nevertheless, it must be done.


Friday, 11 November 2016