Tuesday, July 24, 2007



As Chris Brooke says, this is quite a good piece. I particularly liked:

There is a more resonant parallel between Thomas Paine and the pro-war left that Hitchens mentions only briefly. For a brief period, Paine supported Napoleon and his acts of aggression, believing they were expressions of revolutionary Enlightenment values when, in reality, they were squalid expressions of realpolitik. Hitchens notes wistfully that Paine "had fallen victim to a gigantic counter-revolution in revolutionary guise, which had succeeded in entrenching rather than undermining his original foes."

It is a moment of horrible clarity....
the only extended passage in which he engages with the disaster in Iraq is where he blames it, bizarrely, on the left: "The liberals gave aid and comfort [the definition of treason in the US Constitution] to the Islamists and the Baathists. The 'insurgents' were able to use the liberals' slogans - 'It's all about oil!' 'It's illegal!' - and to taunt their opponents with the indisputauble fact that even their supposed liberal allies in New York, London, Berlin and Paris didn't support them."

Cohen seems, by the time he writes passages like this, to have lost touch with reality....

Indeed. I wonder, on the other hand, whether Norm would so readily describe himself as having "recant[ed]"?

*Well, OK, not really, since I believe Hari has long since recanted and handed in his pro-war left badge and pistol, and he doesn't go much into his own history in the article, but that's the general background.

Saturday, July 21, 2007



It strikes me, on reflection, that the poll question I gave out about in the previous post actually reflects the situation of the isolated consumer in the private economy - in that sphere the individual really is faced with the choice between expending more of their own money on such and such a commodity (which may well indeed be a "public service", such as a health service, transport, education etc. in commodity form).

But the beauty of the political sphere is that acting as a thinking, communicating (and wanting!) citizen, the individual can get their hands on money that the egotism of wealth would have you believe "belongs" in some moral sense to others (i.e. the rich) in order to get more commodities and/or better publicly-provided services.

Friday, July 20, 2007


What annoys me

What annoys me is when journalists and pollsters analyse the response of survey respondants to the question:

Would you be willing to pay higher taxes in order to fund better public services?

as though it had something to do with the way politics works. Which of course it doesn't. A question that would better reflect the way politics works would be:

Would you be willing for other people to pay higher taxes in order to fund better public services?

There's no reason for a left-wing political party seeking improved funding of public services etc. to appeal to altruism, or even public-spiritedness and egalitarianism on the part of those it seeks to represent. It could, after all, come up with some scheme likely to benefit, say, the bottom 60% of society against the top 40% (or whatever it may be).

In Ireland, where the main left-wing party would dissolve into paroxysms of heavenly delight if were to break the 15% mark, these reflections seem particularly apt.

(OK achieving support for left-wing politics maybe isn't as easy as I make it sound, but I think there's a legitimate point somewhere here. If you find it let me know!)


Bauman's left

This piece by Zygmunt Bauman is food for thought. He refers to:

two assumptions essential for a specifically left perception of the human condition and its prospects and untapped possibilities. These assumptions are the basis for a self-assertive left, which, instead of apologising for its opposition to the mainstream, strives to create, protect, and be tested against values which it regards as non-negotiable. This way of grasping the defining features of the left is one that realises the left's ubiquitous and steadfast presence in modern forms of life, and understands that its frequently alleged demise always turns out to be no more than a relatively brief period of hibernation and/or recuperation.

The first assumption is that it is the duty of the community to insure its individual members against individual misfortune. And the second is that, just as the carrying capacity of a bridge is measured by the strength of its weakest support, so the quality of a society should be measured by the quality of life of its weakest members. These two constant and non-negotiable assumptions set the left on a perpetual collision course with the realities of the human condition under the rule of capitalism; they necessarily lead to charges against the capitalist order, with its twin sins of wastefulness and immorality, manifested in social injustice. [My emphasis - DC]

Via Norm, some weeks back.


Pulverise the nation

Gosh I'm surprised never to have read this quote before:

Like it or not, we are at war with the Serbian nation (the Serbs certainly think so), and the stakes have to be very clear: Every week you ravage Kosovo is another decade we will set back your country back by pulverizing you. You want 1950? We can do 1950. You want 1389? We can do 1389 too.
That's Thomas Friedman, liberal interventionist, 1999 vintage.

What a scumbag.


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