Tuesday, 29 October 2019

The dangers produced by political polarisation

In his new article ‘Rethinking Polarization’, American political scientist Jonathan Raunch argues that the increasing polarisation of the American electorate since Bill Clinton’s impeachment is purely and essentially a reflection of fear of the enemy rather than belief in the party one follows.

Raunch notes that the most recent polls form last year show that Democrats are now as averse to compromise as Republicans – who have long been criticised on that issue. However, what Raunch shows is that:
  1. the political center has little interest in politics and its reluctance makes those who do show interest more extreme
  2. polarisation has been affective in nature – Republicans have developed a hatred of Democrats and Democrats a hatred of Republicans
  3. people hate the opposite party because of disappointment in their own political party
Raunch also argues that the collapse of mainline Protestant denominations has displaced apocalyptic and redemptive impulses into politics, and when one combines this with stagnant real wages for the less educated and the absolute decline of industrial jobs, poor white men become marginalised and extremely open to demagoguery.

When Raunch points out this, I am reminded of the situation in Protestant parts of Weimar Germany. There, urban workers, who had unlike their US counterparts completely discarded organised religion, turned en masse to the Communists, whilst the remainder of ancestrally Protestant Weimar Germany turned en masse to the Nazis. The radically individuoegalitarian nature of the Left’s “identity politics” where each person is special due to his or her lifestyle choice and has no connections with even adjacent residents, was also replicated in the culture of Weimar Germany. This lack of connections eliminates senses of shared citizenship.

Dietrich Rüschemeyer showed in his Capitalist Development and Democracy that the combination of these features with a powerful class of large resource owners was – in part – the cause of the collapse of Weimar into the totalitarian Nazi regime. There is to my mind little doubt that in the US the owners of large natural resources like coal and oil fields are at least privately hostile to democracy for nonwhite peoples, because mass mobilization of nonwhites would create demands for extremely high tax rates for these corporations. Unlike in Nazi Germany, the Republican Party has been able to make changes – felony disfranchisement, mass incarceration, voter ID – in a gradual manner. However, it does seem plausible that – even if only the “fringe of the fringe” like Lawrence Auster will dare to say so publicly or in print – the Republican Party’s business backers are emotionally dissatisfied with anything bar a lily-white electorate and no income taxes like existed before the Civil War. If this be true, polarisation is likely only to widen, even if its danger should the Republicans gain more and more power would be economic. Big businesses would be propped up by government to the exclusion of other services, which would create severe social (as “pull” factors lessen in the United States and it becomes less attractive to immigrate to) and environmental (via greenhouse gas emissions increases) effects that would flow on to the rest of the globe.

Monday, 7 October 2019

Is this a simple basis for understanding the PIGs?

In recent years, my brother has become more and more critical of the Politically Incorrect Guides and their allies, arguing that the PIGs (as I always call them) have one single objective that is not mentioned in any of their books: to enrich rich people more and more. My brother argues that every policy they argue for is designed to either do this directly or encourage poor people to support their objective.

PIG Policy:

  1. Does it enrich rich people?
    1. If not, do not support it
  2. If it does:
    1. Will it help gain poor votes?
      1. If it does, support it openly
      2. If it does not, support it quietly
When this was discussed, I asked my brother why the PIGs support Christianity. Given that I know traditional religion and moral laws lessen the demands of the majority – if not their actual consumption because of resultant lower taxes and living costs – supporting traditional religion will enrich rich people. It will also help gain the votes of poor people, many of whom fear changing morals from the secular and “big government” Millennial Generation.

In contrast, corporate welfare – consistently ignored by the PIGs although it utterly contradicts their philosophy of zero government regulation – helps make the super-rich richer, so the PIGs simply ignore it for the most part.

Robert P. Murphy is, however, very critical of bank bailouts in his Politically Incorrect Guide to the Great Depression and the New Deal. If my brother’s thesis be true, this could only be because he thinks that they serve as a criticism of Barack Obama, whom the PIGs hate, according to my brother, because he is black and a Democrat rather than because of his policies or dislike of the Constitution as Stephen Hayward says in The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Presidents. The same is true of other PIG-allied groups criticising General Motors, which was once called “Government Motors”.

Philosophically I can only be highly supportive of a constitution that strictly outlaws all business bailouts. Were they outlawed, rich people would lose substantial protection from government, without many costs I can testify from my own life to result from large-scale public welfare. Cuts to corporate welfare would also save a large – if unknown to me – sum of public money to return to the public or to reduce printing of new money. The only problem I do see is that jobs might not be provided rapidly enough to replace those in large businesses after they collapse.

Another book – one of the worst of the series – whose connection to “enriching rich people” I do not see is The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Middle East. Paying for aid to Israel must cost rich people a lot of money given the amount of aid given by the US, yet it is supported vigorously by the PIGs despite their general isolationist leanings and the fact that the US aided the most virulent Muslim regimes to fight Communism. Opposing Saudi Arabia as proposed consistently by Robert Spencer in the Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam would not enrich rich people – it would have made Asia more vulnerable to Communism in the 1970s and 1980s. Indeed, the contradictions between those two PIGs are indication of very bad quality control in the writing of the series, and even Robert Spencer acknowledged these contradictions when I messaged him many years ago.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

“The Rap Bias” and race

Twenty-two years ago, I have a vivid recollection of reading Peter Kreeft’s Ecumenical Jihad and seeing some of the most outlandish claims I have ever read like:
“Even polls by the far-left Los Angeles Times in 1992 proved the existence of a massive media bias against traditional values, especially families, fidelity, morality, and religion.”
“We are not surprised when a teenager, who has typically seen fifteen thousand murders, rapes, and brutal beatings on TV and MTV and has heard this type of behavior encouraged and idealized on rap “music”, turns to violence.”
The notion that children could see fifteen thousand “murders, rapes and brutal beatings” on television or MTV has always made me laugh. So has the claim about the Los Angeles Times after reading such publications as Socialist Alternative, Socialist Worker and Green Left Weekly. Nonetheless, having in 1994 experienced a threatened murder leading to loss of $50 in Keilor Downs, and also bullying of a similar nature at school and during my early years in Carlton, I possessed and possess more sympathy for views like Kreeft’s than those around me would like.

Whilst some rap music – like gangsta rap – certainly does condone violence regardless of what its apologists say, critics neglect that many other genres of cutting-edge music were frequently equally or more violent:
  1. heavy metal
  2. grunge
  3. hardcore punk
  4. industrial
Moreover, extreme violence in heavy metal dates back to AC/DC. That band influenced but predate (most of) the above-mentioned sub-genres and were the first band to celebrate violence in their songs, as I have noted many times before. Celebratory violence in rap developed much later, beginning with N.W.A. around seven years after Back in Black’s ‘Shoot to Thrill’ glorified violence against women and stated there were “too many women” in the population.

Nonetheless, as Rachel Powers showed in ‘The Rap Bias’ from Orange Coast four years ago, it is rap that is associated with crime. Power says that:
“The bottom line of this research is that if you are somehow implicated in a crime, or if you are pulled over in a traffic stop, just the presence of rap music on your person or in your car can dramatically affect whether or not you’ll end up being prosecuted and convicted.”
“A [University of Georgia] law professor named Andrea Dennis wrote one of the earliest pieces on this practice, analyzing every case where defendant-authored lyrics were introduced as evidence in a criminal trial. All but one were rap lyrics...”
“The people who thought the lyrics were from a rap song [as opposed to a country song] saw them as more dangerous, offensive, threatening, in need of regulation, and literal.”
The last statement’s context demonstrates how conservative cultural critics simply ignore heavy metal and related genres of what my brother calls “white people’s music” or lump them in with “rap” as Robert Bork ridiculously did in Slouching Towards Gomorrah. This implies that criticism of rap is not related to (justifiable) moral complaints about lyrics condoning violence, but about criticising and blaming blacks – and that rap’s critics believe criticising heavy metal or other white genres will lose votes. However, in my view, the whites who listen to heavy metal are exceedingly unlikely to be persuaded to vote for conservative policies. Rather than being the struggling industrial workers upon whom Bush junior and Trump based their victories, heavy metal listeners are likely to be urban welfare-receiving whites. These people would be extremely unlikely to support tax cuts on bases of race because they would know that blacks suffer the same problems as whites, and because they are extremely dependent on the public sector for essential services.

In contrast, the whites upon whom Bush junior and Trump based their victories were poor rural folk who – owing to laws established between 1840 and 1940 excluding blacks from their communities (see James Löwen’s Sundown Towns) – have no direct contact with blacks and rely on outside media for their images thereof. Unavailability of noncommercial radio and concerts in rural areas means that these rural whites have had zero access to other than “middle-of-the-road” music ever since the tightening and standardisation of commercial radio playlists during the Carter Era. Consequently, they have missed the urban revolution in moral values during the past four decades, and feel severely threatened both socially and economically thereby.

Nonetheless, it is impossible for me to not believe that white musicians and cultural leaders are much more responsible for these radical cultural changes than black, even if white people have shown greater overt resistance to it. Moreover, because audiences for rap and cutting edge white music strongly overlap, criticism of the two needs to be linked and related to the economic and demographic problems faced by today’s Enriched World.

Friday, 5 July 2019

The AFL though the lens of Cherin-Gordon

To an Australian encountering US team sports, and soccer in Europe, it would no doubt feel surprising to discover how many games are played in Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, and the National Basketball Association. Whereas no major sport in Australia plays more than 25 games per season, those three leagues play 82 games (NBA and NHL) or 162 games (MLB). European soccer leagues play between 30 and 46 games per season.

In his Untangling Skill and Luck from 2012, Michael Maubossin noted that a 50 percent ratio of skill to luck can be achieved by:
  • 12 NFL games
  • 69 MLB games
  • 15 NBA games
For ice hockey and soccer, estimates are extremely variable, ranging from 35 to 75 games for ice hockey and 25 to 50 for soccer.

Last year – though I discovered this only today – journalist Simon Cherin-Gordon offered a further insight into the difference in season length between gridiron (NFL) and the other major leagues in North America. In an article titled ‘Why Are We Playing 82 Games, Anyway’ – written to advocate a shorter NBA season, which Maubossin had shown to be more practicable than any other US or European team sport – Cherin-Gordon said:
“Much of this has to do with the inherent nature of each sport. A baseball star will only bat four or five times in an average game, or pitch one out of every five days. Runs are hard to come by, and lower scores lead to higher variance and make a short season untenable (the same can be said for the NHL, which has an 82-game season just like the NBA).” 
“[Gridiron] Football, meanwhile, is a sport where the best players are involved in somewhere between 60 and 70 snaps per game (which constitutes roughly half of the game’s plays). Its scoring is less random, and the best team usually wins. It is also as violent a sport as there is, thus frequent games and a long season are out of the question” 
“While the NBA season falls just in between that of the MLB and NFL in terms of length, it has far more inherent similarities to [gridiron] football than it does to baseball.” 
“If you think 60–70 plays per game is a lot for a
[gridiron] football player, try more than doubling that. Basketball players play both offense and defense, and NBA games generally feature around 200 possessions. The best players play between two-thirds and three-quarters of those possessions (32-36 minutes).” 
“That’s just one of many ways the NBA takes out variance. It is the only sport where every successful play is quantified on the scoreboard. There are no base hits or first downs. When you do score in other sports, it is a more random occurrence with more impactful ramifications. Crossing home plate or the goal line one time is worth exponentially more than putting the ball in the hoop. There are also less [fewer] players involved, and less [fewer] quirky advantages to playing at home. The best team in an NBA game wins more often than they do in any other sport.”
What strikes me about this list is that if we apply what Cherin-Gordon says to the AFL, we have the following comparison:
Sport “Possessions” per game % played by best players “Possessions” played by best players
≅240 (pitches)
≤⅙ (16.67 percent)
≤40 (pitches)
≅140 (downs)
≅½ (50 percent)
≅70 (downs)
≅¾ (75 percent)
(Australian rules) football
≅600-700 (total possessions)
≥⅞ (87.5 percent)
This table does not measure how many team possessions there are per football game. However, in basketball the rules make teams to alternate possession after every score, which gives weaker teams more of a chance than in football, where a team can extremely easily score and then regain possession without one opposition possession. (In one game in 1954, it is known Richmond kicked five goals without a Melbourne player touching the ball, and as the Demons actually won that game this is unlikely to be the most extreme possible case.) Football is also analogous to basketball in that every “successful” play is rewarded on the scoreboard – although if a team kicks out of bounds on the bounce or a pack forms that team can regain possession without an opponent necessarily touching the ball.

The table above suggests that, although the AFL season is much shorter than those of baseball, ice hockey or soccer, it is not proportionately so relative to the requisite length for a passable skill-to-luck ratio. In fact, if in Cherin-Gordon’s words,
“MLB needs 162 [games], the NHL needs 82 [games]... the NFL needs 16 [games]”
then the AFL would “need” no more than 10, or maximally 12, games per season.

However, although Australian football has exceedingly low internal variance via randomness in player performance, external variance from variation in weather and ground conditions was highly significant before the climatic “magic gate” of 1997/1998 and the closure of Waverley Park and the AFL’s old suburban grounds. Subsequently this external variance has been effectively eliminated by:
  1. rapid poleward expansion of the subtropical arid belt, totalling 800 kilometres since 1964
    • this has:
      1. reduced the incidence of wet weather and increased evaporative drying of grounds when it does rain
      2. also reduced the possibility of extremely windy conditions that favour shorter players
  2. artificial drying of grounds during rare cases of wet weather, and improved drainage
  3. the opening of closed-roof Docklands Stadium where weather conditions are consistently dry
This history of significant external variance undoubtedly explains why the AFL has a longer season than required for a passable skill-to-luck ratio. In addition, on softer surfaces football was less physically taxing than the present-day game, as seen by the fact that players sometimes played mid-week Foster’s Cup matches during the season. More that that:

  1. even a minor reduction in games would be extremely unpopular with football fans, as shown in the 20-game 1993 season
  2. a reduction to 10 or 12 games would require a radical restructuring of the AFL’s season
  3. many pairs of teams would – as in the NFL between 1978 and 2001 – go up to twenty seasons without opposing each other
  4. it is highly plausible that the game would become even more vigorous and physically demanding with only half as many games, so that the reduction in injuries would be much less than Cherin-Gordon supposes (this also would apply to the NBA)
Most likely, only major increases in severe – likely only in career-ending – injuries would cause the AFL to reduce the number of games on its schedule. This plausible in an even hotter and drier climate than observed today thanks to Australian and Gulf States greenhouse pollution, but even if judged inevitable it could create a vicious circle of harder, more anaerobic play and more injuries, because if AFL players knew they had only 10 or 12 home-and-away games to play, they would almost certainly play harder than they do now knowing they have to get through 22.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

A final proof the “March on Canberra” is a quarter-century and counting overdue

According to a new paper in the journal Nature, regardless of what the rest of the world does, record-breaking temperature rises are already inevitable until 2040.

At the same time, the Sydney Morning Herald is noting a zero-emissions plan for Britain – whose parity emissions per capita are minimally four times those of Australia – as Australia approves the polluting Adani coal mine. There is – and was even before last month’s surprise election – a certainty Australia will expand fossil fuels whilst the EU moves to zero-net-emissions.

Many (including my brother) naïvely believe that Australia will eventually be condemned as a pariah state for expanding fossil fuels. Nevertheless, this viewpoint overlooks demographic reality. Australia already has substantially higher total fertility than those nations most advanced in decarbonisation. Recent trends towards lowest-low fertility in Finland (from 1.9 to 1.5 children since 2010) and other European nations whose fertility was the least low during the 2000s suggests that Morrison’s policies will widen this gap.

The fact is that – as I have emphasised for two decades – Australia must ecologically have by far the lowest emissions per capita in the world. This demand places human energy consumption upon its natural biological “footing”. Environment, Capitalism and Socialism demonstrated three decades ago that the money existed to finance a rapid transition to a carbon-free Australia as early as 2005 or 2010 – were major polluters taxed severely enough.

As Dimitri Lafleur has partially shown, a carbon-free Australia would remake the world economy by:
  1. radically limiting energy and materials use on a global scale, especially in desert nations with naturally low-energy ecologies and zero hydropower potential
  2. shifting “developing” economies towards renewable energy once they do not have cheap fossil fuels from Australia and the oil states
  3. shifting energy-intensive industries towards those (Enriched and Tropical) nations with large resources in hydropower
  4. shifting agriculture towards the high-latitude nations with youngest and most fertile soils
    1. this would occur because land clearing is a major source (around 20 percent) of greenhouse emissions in Australia
    2. also, Australian soils are thirty thousand times older and more weathered than soils of most other Quaternary landmasses
    3. young, high-latitude areas are also least affected by runaway climate change shown as certain by Nature
  5. shifting away from planned obsolescence towards long-lasting consumer goods that use fewer resources over the long term
What needed to be done back in the 1990s was for the globe to recognise that – regardless of its relatively small aggregate emissions that have led even environmentalists to neglect it – a rigid, zero-compromise, zero-emissions target for Australia no later than 2010 would have:
  1. largely solved global greenhouse gas emissions by radically altering global development patterns
  2. paid for the ecological crisis out of the pockets of those people – alongside the Arab Gulf royal families – with greatest duty and ability to pay
  3. achieved this in a manner in agreement with Earth’s natural ecology (smallest per-capita energy consumption and emissions in arid desert nations)
  4. in an Enriched World then and now crippled by excessive environmental regulations, which stand likely to achieve negligible global gains while Australia mines and uses more and more coal, created major economic opportunities including:
    • phase-out of economically crippling Enriched World farm subsidies as Australia’s unsustainable pastoral and broad-acre farmland would be converted to ecotourism
    • revitalising such industries as aluminum and titanium smelting when coal use in phased out in Australia and other nations lacking hydropower potential
Given the experiences of the past quarter-century and especially last month’s election, there exists zero possibility that Australia will ever elect a more environmentally responsive government. Thus, other countries are burdened with the critical task of clamping down on the worst environmental performer – a task entirely ignored but unless achieved even a total carbon phase-out in the EU and East Asia will achieve little in the long term.

Instead of decentralised global environmental protests (as seen in recent weeks) what was needed in 1994 and stands three decades overdue was and is a global focus upon the centre of power in the worst environmental performer: protests demanding uncompromising, rapid decarbonisation of Australia, or a “March on Canberra”. Whilst the effects would not be immediate, would be costly to the rest of the world and would need to be sustained over years and even decades, they possess potential to actually deal with the planet’s worst polluter rather than permit Australia indefinite emissions increases negating large-scale decarbonisation abroad.