Thursday, 19 March 2020

Australia’s grave failure

With the whole of life in Australia likely to be altered for up to eighteen months by the COVID-19 – originally known as “novel coronavirus” – pandemic and being extremely angry at the risks of travelling on public transport as I like to do, it stands remarkable that some of the resource-poorest nations in the world have been the few able to properly respond, as Time demonstrated four days ago.

As resource-impoverished Taiwan demonstrated, Australia could have dealt with this pandemic by:
  1. pre-emptively ensuring complete isolation from known sources by immediately grounding passenger planes and ships, preferably without costly mitigation to airlines
  2. ensuring as many people as possible are tested and isolated if positive
  3. immediately sanitising and sterilising all large indoor meeting places and public transit vehicles
  4. aiming to raise as much money as possible for these purposes
    • A temporary $1 or even $2 per litre levy on all motor fuels would I feel be highly suitable for this purpose
    • even an $2 levy at the maximum price in the weekly cycle would leave petrol at $3.60 per litre
    • given Australia’s lamentable greenhouse emissions record such a price in no way stands unjust
The problem was the power of vested interest lobby groups, a worse problem in Australia than just about anywhere in the world. Air transport, for instance, would have vehemently opposed an immediate shutdown of operations without mitigation. Given the power these corporations hold globally – as seen in debates over greenhouse gas emissions, where corporations who should be paying the full costs of climate change globally can increase their emissions – they possess great responsibility in times of crisis.
1946 Wisden similar to one of mine held at a bookbinder
These have not been fulfilled at all: the Liberal Party government is clearly more concerned to protect the mining magnates’ wealth than to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at minimal cost to ordinary Australians.

In recent discussions with my mother, she has noticed how Australia has not even been spraying its public transport to reduce the risk of transmission in the most ecologically necessary of all social services. In contrast, East Asian nations are spraying even external areas of their cities, as I watched on a video yesterday. Australia with its immense natural resources ought certainly to have enough money to do this so that public transport and other businesses can have their risk minimised.

As things stand, there exists a risk of a complete shutdown of public transport in Melbourne, and even of important services that hold some of my own property including a 1946 Wisden – although I have accepted my mother driving me there if the shop be still open. There is also the risk that there could be permanent changes to Australia’s economy and the shutdown of many small businesses. All of this would have been averted if Australia had responded promptly. So would (Australian rules) football and rugby games behind closed doors – a not improbably permanent move even beyond when and if the pandemic does subside.

Friday, 6 March 2020

Not a second “amazing blunder by a plumber”

Around six years ago I discovered a remarkable case in Norway in 2006 of beer instead of waster being connected to a water pipe! It seems utterly incredible to me that a plumber could make the mistake described here.

However, tonight my brother said that recently in Italy there was a second “amazing blunder by a plumber” whereby last Wednesday (4 March 2020), in Castelvetro di Modena about 200 kilometres from Milan, domestic taps started spewing local red Lambrusco wine instead of drinking water.

In reality, however, this was utterly different from the case in Kristiandsund, where beer hoses were hooked by a careless plumber to Miss Haldis Gundersen’s water pipes. Miss Gundersen, a fifty-year-old pub owner, said that the beer was not tempting to her patrons.

In Castelvetro di Modena, however, rather than have pipes wrongly connected, wine due for bottling was accidentally introduced into the local water supply by the ‘Cantina Settevetro’ winery. Unlike in Haldis Gundersen’s bar, plumbers were entirely uninvolved in what was described as a “miracle” of water turning into wine.

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.