Wednesday, 18 November 2015

“Bloodworthgrad”, “Lee Ackgrad”: not new ideas

A decade and a half ago, when I became obsessed with Socialist Alternative, Socialist Worker, Militant and Resistance – in the process imagining their membership as comprising a majority of Victoria’s student body rather than merely a tiny number of activists who put posters up everywhere – my brother said consistently that if these Trotskyists came to power they would do the same things that were done in what I then called (and still do as a joke) the ‘Empire of State Capitalist Dictatorship’ (ESCD), ‘State Capitalist Dictatorship of China’ (SCDC), ‘State Capitalist Dictatorship of Korea’ (SCDK) and ‘State Capitalist Satellite of Germany’ (SCSG; German ‘Staatskapitalistischer Satellit Deutschlands’ or ‘S.K.S.D.’). In particular, my brother once spoke of the “Democratic People’s Republic of Australia” and that all Australia’s major cities would be renamed as they were in the Russian empire after the leaders of the revolution like “Bloodworthgrad”, “Lee Ackgrad”, “Bloodworthsk” and so on. (He admitted though that such names would be tongue-twisting to pronounce).

The Trotskyist groups themselves deny this would happen and that with workers controlling the system through workers’ councils under genuine socialism this would not happen unless it was voted for. They believe that all Russia’s place name changes came after Stalin began his counterrevolution and are not a part of true socialism with workers owning the means of production. With age, I have become very sceptical of claims that the violent class struggle and workers’ militia advocated by groups like Socialist Alternative could produce the utopia of equality, abundance and sustainability they claim, but still their ideas are interesting.

A couple of days ago, in a marginally curious mood, I looked in the State Library and found a seemingly interesting book titled Women of the Far Right: the Mothers’ Movement and World War II by one Glen Jeansonne. I retrieved it immediately, although I did not read it until yesterday, but when I had a good look it seemed both interesting and repetitive. Repetitive because it showed these conservative women attacking not only FDR, but also his first Lady Eleanor Roosevelt for being too modern or masculine. Interesting because it showed up many new facts – for instance that Henry Ford was targeted by both the Democrats and Republicans for the 1924 Presidential election!

The most startling thing I have found in a partial read of Jeansonne’s book, however, was quite startling both as a fact and as a memory. It was that when right-wing “Mother’s Movement” activist Elizabeth Dilling went to Russia, she was not only horrified at the shortages of basic goods and the doctrinaire atheism, but also discovered maps where major cities in the US (which were not mentioned in the book) were renamed after Stalinist heroes – exactly like my brother joked would happen if Trotskyists took over in Australia.

It is surprising that no anti-Communist has ever widely publicised this – let alone reveal exactly what names Stalinists would have given major American cities had they become able to execute their plan. If they could have done this, it would be interesting to imagine the response of affected Americans. Would they have been much more appalled than my brother – who took the story as a joke although he still held dogmatically to the idea that a revolution in an advanced or especially in a resource-super-rich nation would have the same result as in more primitive Russia, China, Yugoslavia and Cuba.

Another fact untold by historians found in Women of the Far Right is that opposition to the Vietnam War through wanting the Vietcong to win had a precedent. Numerous anti-Communist and/or anti-Semitic parties during the 1930s and before Pearl Harbor opposed World War II because they wanted the Nazis to win – a story which neither the PIGs nor standard textbooks nor the Trotskyists tells today’s children. Most of the people in Jeansomme’s book fall into this category, and for this reason the book gives a lot of insight as to why the US, Canada and New Zealand did so little to accept Jewish refugees from Europe – only the marginal Trotskyists wanted to remove all restrictions on Jewish immigration and thus prevent the Holocaust, and FDR turned back many Jews to their death (Canada and New Zealand were vastly worse still).

These days, findings so unexpected as the story of Elizabeth Dilling are rare enough to be more shocking than when I first read Socialist Alternative and seemingly discovered that what I was taught about socialism and capitalism in schools was wrong, or the reverse finding from reading Hans Hoppe or Murray Rothbard.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Silly jokes about Jennifer Bate – again

On my thirty-eighth birthday – and feeling how much time I have simply wasted – my visiting brother and I went into some details about how the Austrian School of economics tries to hide its funding by what he calls the “richey rich” and organisations like Socialist Alternative call more simply the “super-rich”. He says that the Austrian School simply try to hide their interest in the “super-rich” in order to gain wider appeal than they would have otherwise. I have assumed with both Austrians and Trotskyites that ignorance is the reason people do not read them and that, notwithstanding the fact that it is possible that both groups argue too much that the same solution exists for every problem, that they are committed to find genuine solutions as few others are.

After a bit of diversionary talk with my mother, who was very busy cooking our birthday dinner, Jonjo began to move onto one of his favourite – and least appealing to me – criticisms of me. He said that organist Jennifer Bate, whom he had previously ludicrously called a “cat”:
  • had to have “meows” removed from her recordings!
  • had to have “purrs” removed from her recordings!
  • that she loved to drink milk!
  • that she loved Whiskas!
  • in an old joke, the the quieter parts of Messiaen organ works were Bate the cat sleeping on the organ!
  • was the oldest cat ever known in the world
    • At 71 Bate would be almost twice as old as the oldest certified real cat!
  • that Jennifer Bate might already be dead and that a cat might be doing the work credited to her!
As I said in a previous post, there is no way any cat could perform real Messiaen organ works! It would also cost a lot of money to edit purrs from a cat playing the organ (though it is also possible that purrs and meows would not be recorded at all and the cost would be less). The possibility a cat – a terrestrial carnivore which could easily be injured killing prey – could live as long as Jennifer Bate has is incredibly remote. Even the largest and wildest “big cats” of the subfamily Pantherinae never live nearly as long as 71 years in the wild or even in captivity!

It would be wonderful for my brother to accept that recordings of Messiaen are played by real humans, but though I never had trouble liking his music and appreciating its uniqueness many people apparently are different and react in an aggressive manner against it. Maybe, maybe, ignoring is better than trying to be rude??

Thursday, 15 October 2015

A horrible accident on a horrible day

Although I knew that today was going to be very hot – and thus a great day to wash my delicate bamboo summer sheets that require low spin and hence more natural drying – I had a moment of virtual madness a couple of hours ago that I feared would cost me a great deal and left me in the worst of quandries.

It is a familiar practice on uncomfortably hot days to move the clothes horse out to the balcony to aid drying – and necessary with bamboo sheets that must be spun at 400 revs per minute instead of 800 (I am careful about these instructions, although my mother urges me not to be).

This morning, as I was discovering that one sock was missing, I went back from the balcony to get the other sock which I assumed (correctly) remained in the washing machine. However, to my dreadful shock, I found that I could not get out of the balcony as I had locked the door from the inside by tuning the latch! The first inclination I had was to try to climb down from the balcony to the courtyard below and get back inside from there. However, with my fat stomach and bare feet I knew three things:
  1. it would be tough to climb down the narrow holes
  2. I would risk breaking the ledges if I tried
  3. I would risk an ankle injury from landing on the hard bricks
Consequently, I shouted “HELP, HELP, HELP” southward towards Coleman Place, whose houses (though not the actual lane) can be seen directly from the balcony. At first there was no response and I – imaging extreme ascetics I have been reading about like the eighteenth-century Ephrata Cloister who slept on hard wood – I tried to fall asleep in the hope I would be able to get enough sleep even in the hot weather to forget that I was locked out in a hot balcony.
This is the bed of a Brother or Sister (celibate) in the eighteenth-century Ephrata Cloister. I imagine it easier to sleep on than the outdoors balcony I tried to sleep the day on waiting for my mother.
For a little while I did sleep, but the hot air and wind eventually woke me up and I resumed calling “HELP, HELP” towards Coleman Place. Eventually, a man by the name of Chris (at first when I heard I though his name to be “Cress”) caught my call and I told him – without even seeing – that I was locked out on my balcony. After an error, I managed to get my mother’s mobile number, but although Chris did manage to call it my mother was busy teaching. I thus asked Chris to message my mother with an urgent notice that I was locked out on the balcony, and to get the police in case there was no way she could come home. I also gave my half-sister’s number (the only other one I could remember) but there was no answer either. So, I was desperate and unable to rest as Chris left, saying that he was going around to try to get the police in by the front door, which I was not sure practicable because they might not have had the appropriate tool to get locked-in people back in like locksmiths do.

I remained fidgety all along until I saw Chris’ neighbour, Lorraine, and a Chilean woman called “Coca” (full name “Catherina”). I told them what had happened and Lorraine said that being locked out was not a unique problem for me. When it was inquired how the police – who were slow to the point of some worry – would get in, I suggested that they climb the wall at the back of our house and Lorraine tried herself with a ladder she had – hoping in fact that the builders (rebuilding the Carlton Baths) would offer the police one for the emergency! It was thought that a big person could do it easily – and indeed when the police came they had no trouble at all and soon unlocked me, the weather already horribly hot!

I feel from this that I was dreadfully careless – and was in a daydream when I went out to the balcony! What lessons can be learnt from this unfortunate accident I do not know – since in many circumstances I would not have been able to call for help as I did.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

A day that shows the Enriched World needs to “swallow its pride” and make no petty quarrels

Although I had known the weather was going to be be hot, I did not realise for quite a long time yesterday just how bad it would be. Melbourne surpassed by two weeks its earliest first 35˚C – and despite when I looked outside yesterday promise of some rain for the first time in a while none is forecast for a long time. In fact, it looks likely Melbourne will have a rainless October and at the least likely season beat its record forty day dry spell with little hope held out by the (not always accurate) 28-day forecasts.

Although when I checked rainfall in Central Chile was not as bad as I feared this June, this is due entirely to one big fall in the first week of August – in a year when rainfalls closer to or even above the virgin mean were forecast. Moreover, in Perth the situation is as bad as ever, with rainfall barely above the virgin record low.

News of records like this, unfortunately, is not absorbed permanently by the Enriched World – which often takes a “blame yourself” route re global warming that modern ecologists show demonstrably counterproductive. Enriched World ecology is so high-energy as to permit much greater energy consumption and more lenient greenhouse standards than required of Australia (especially given greater genuine local energy need in cold weather). Yet, based upon directly and indirectly created greenhouse emissions Enriched World per capita emissions average a mere two percent those of Australia – and even based upon only directly created emissions they average less than a quarter Australia’s per capita emissions.

For genuine environmental justice that reflects relative ecological energy availability – direct and indirect Australian emissions must be cut by several orders of magnitude before Enriched World reductions are so much as assessed. One “zooty2shoes” said last February that:
“But I question your figures – everything I have accessed points to the Gulf states and Brunei as being the worst offenders with Australia a distance behind at 5th per capita. And with 1.3% of the worlds total, it would take 15 years of Australia’s greenhouse emissions to tie with China.”
Whilst the oil states and Southern Africa are after Australia the worst polluters in the world – Australia has ecologically and politically much more in common with them than with Europe, East Asia or the Western Hemisphere – if we take into account indirect emissions Australia, with 16 percent of the total, would more than tie with China (who would “lose” emissions contributed by Australian minerals). Moreover, each Australian emits in four days as much greenhouse gases as each Chinese does in a whole year! As I noted in my previous post, the political power of the mineral industry and mortgage belt has been able to blockade well-intentioned efforts from the 1980s to make minimal reductions in Australian greenhouse emissions. The fact is though, that if zero-emissions laws be widely enforced in the Enriched and Tropical Worlds, polluting industries could simply relocate to Australia, where they have advantages of cheaper land, cheaper energy (one-sixth the price paid in Europe) and potentially less politically active workers.

The Enriched and Tropical Worlds have a clear need to do the following:
  1. momentarily forget about their own greenhouse emissions – which per capita direct and indirect are exceedingly small compared to those of the mineral-rich desert states of the Indian Rim, especially when ecological differences that require much lower energy use in the latter region are factored in
  2. recognise that they are not the superpowers they were before aluminum and titanium metallurgy transformed the global power base to deserts too infertile to be civilised
  3. eliminate quarrels – related to differing dates of industrial development rather than different trajectories – that have occurred between Europe the US and China over reducing their own emissions
  4. unite solidly with each other to demand reductions of two to three orders of magnitude in Australian greenhouse emissions
    • similarly if possible those of Southern Africa and the Arab Gulf States, though cultural and political differences are much greater than even with Australia, and may make this far less practical than an attempt with Australia
    • it’s possible that direct payment for the right to pollute could be more effective with these nations and even with Australia
    • the trouble is how to make these payments large enough to have a real effect on the main polluters
  5. demand without compromise that costs resulting from climatic changes due to man-made greenhouse emissions be paid for by the actual polluters noted in (4)
This is the most difficult of plans. The powerlessness of the Enriched World – let alone the poorer Tropical World – against the big polluting nations of the Indian Rim has been seen consistently ever since apartheid and the energy crisis of the 1970s. US efforts to police the Middle East have had few impacts on global emissions produced there, nor on the political effects of naturally religious and conservative nations funding radical Islam.

European beliefs their nations’ own technologies can reduce global emissions are similarly flawed: their lack of lithophile metal reserves (destroyed by the Alpine Orogeny and glaciation) acts as an extreme natural limit to their potential emissions lacking in today’s main greenhouse polluters. In fact, by moving towards a carbon-free economy the EU and related nations may actually be making themselves into an exclusive club whose taxes and living costs only the most skilled workers can afford. Having no opportunities no doubt contributes to lowest-low fertility in so much of Eurasia – a severe political problem because making families valuable would require huge reductions in their lavish “Daddy States” which would produce genuinely violent political revolution.

Another trouble is that it is not the richest nations of the Enriched World who would benefit most from a rigid “polluter pays” approach to global warming. Rather, it is the Tropical World and lower latitudes of the Enriched, along with the farm and tourism sectors in the Unenriched World who would so benefit.

Nonetheless, all the Enriched World has reason to support groups like southwestern Australian farmers and urban dwellers and Chilean cities who have lost their rain to a rapid expansion of the Hadley Circulation or mountain people who lose water from glaciers. If greenhouse emissions from the key polluters like Australia and South Africa grow unchecked, the higher latitudes of the Enriched World could be faced with the same problems its equatorward edges and the Tropical World are. Northern Europe, East Asia and North America also have – as Tom McMahon showed in his seminal 1991 Global Runoff – much more in common with potentially badly-hit low-income tropical and Mediterranean nations that with Australia, who constitutes a cuckoo in the OECD’s nest. Petty quarrels over differences in living standards must be replaced by unity based on similarity in ecology.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Changed policies, changed system, same power centre

A year ago today – though I forgot – I read an article from the West Australian dating back to 1980, the year of the appalling Lonie Report whose effects will be seen this week in record hot October temperatures.

In my early 2000s university classes, it was taught that Australia only became a dreadful laggard on environmental issues with the demise of the Hawke Government following swings against Labor in Victoria with the 1990 Federal election. This has been outlined much more recently by the magazine Chain Reaction in Maria Taylor’s Global warming and climate change: What Australians knew and buried ... then framed a new reality for the public (available for free download here).

It is certainly possible to argue that Australia’s environmental policies during the 1980s did not stand out as bad so much as they did in the 1990s and beyond – for instance we had much tougher pollution legislations than the UK and New Zealand.

This is especially so since the unique ecological characteristics that for genuine justice would require Australia be the absolute world leader in environmental protection were less well-documented. None of The Future Eaters, Tom McMahon’s studies of global runoff (Global Runoff: Continental Comparisons of Annual Flows and Peak Discharges) plus Barry Lovegrove’s study ‘The Zoogeography of Mammalian Basal Metabolic Rate’, which reveals the exceptionally slow metabolism of Australia’s largest native mammals compared to large mammals elsewhere (though a search failed to find the supplementary material I was looking for), had been published before 1990.

However, this article, titled ‘Japan Cleans Air, Cleans Up Myths’ by later Age journalist Tim Colebatch suggests – as the incidence of totally wasteful road projects even before the Lonie Report made me suspect – that there was an extremely powerful lobby limiting or eliminating the ability of Australia to be anything other than a laggard in environmental policy. Colebatch shows that in 1980 Australia’s car industry was rigidly opposed to legislation to move Australia’s pollution standards closer to the strictest standards of Japan and California, despite the fact that motor cars were clearly the cause not only of a significant proportion of greenhouse gas emissions but also of toxic pollutants like nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide. Given that Australian native environments likely have smaller tolerance for these toxic pollutants (Australia is much lower in volatile elements than the Enriched World) it would, even beyond these more modern ecological findings, be logical that Australian environments required much cleaner air than those of Europe or Japan.

It is true that Colebatch ignore Australia’s lack of engineering skill compared to Japan or Germany – undoubtedly a direct result of Australia’s superabundant land and lithophile minerals which allow it to be very wealthy without these skills – and the potential influence of unions. Nonetheless, with less lobbying from car manufacturers and mortgage belt voters (who would struggle financially if petrol in Australia were made as dear as modern ecological knowledge suggests should be required, which equals a price far in excess of what any nation pays currently) it is probable Australia could have developed the technology to radically reduce both emissions and fuel consumption to levels half or a quarter of the long-term standard approximately 11.5 litres per 100 kilometres (20.5 miles per US gallon) as used greater fuel tax revenue to invest in public transport. The 57.5 percent import tariff then in use – even for someone who deplores tariffs – could have been a wise ecological move were it used not to prop up inefficient local industries but to permit the vast investment in rail transit that was overdue even in 1980.

The essential conclusion from ‘Japan Cleans Air, Cleans Up Myths’ is that Australia’s status as an embarrassing environmental laggard is much older than Maria Taylor presumes. In fact, Australia’s descent to such a woeful laggard was made inevitable with demands for lower taxes and reduced regulation which began in the late 1980s, when it was clear our massively protected local car industry (protection in 1984 was equivalent to a 135 percent tariff) could not compete economically. The powerful mining industries no doubt sensed they could gain larger profits with regulation of car imports and taxes eliminated. With the support of car-dependent and family-oriented mortgage belt voters on a uniquely abundant land supply, there was no way Australia’s politicians were likely to be capable of achieving even the very modest 20 percent reduction planned in 1990 – although that would have threatened the powers-that-be in the mineral, coal and road industries enough.