“The Frankenstein monster you created/Has turned against you, now you’re hated.”

by matttbastard


Mary Riddell:

London’s riots are not the Tupperware troubles of Greece or Spain, where the middle classes lash out against their day of reckoning. They are the proof that a section of young Britain – the stabbers, shooters, looters, chancers and their frightened acolytes – has fallen off the cliff-edge of a crumbling nation.

The failure of the markets goes hand in hand with human blight. Meanwhile, the view is gaining ground that social democracy, with its safety nets, its costly education and health care for all, is unsustainable in the bleak times ahead. The reality is that it is the only solution. After the Great Crash, Britain recalibrated, for a time. Income differentials fell, the welfare state was born and skills and growth increased.

That exact model is not replicable, but nor, as Adam Smith recognised, can a well-ordered society ever develop when a sizeable number of its members are miserable and, as a consequence, dangerous. This is not a gospel of determinism, for poverty does not ordain lawlessness. Nor, however, is it sufficient to heap contempt on the rioters as if they are a pariah caste.

Peter Oborne:

A great deal has been made over the past few days of the greed of the rioters for consumer goods, not least by Rotherham MP Denis MacShane who accurately remarked, “What the looters wanted was for a few minutes to enter the world of Sloane Street consumption.” This from a man who notoriously claimed £5,900 for eight laptops. Of course, as an MP he obtained these laptops legally through his expenses.

Yesterday, the veteran Labour MP Gerald Kaufman asked the Prime Minister to consider how these rioters can be “reclaimed” by society. Yes, this is indeed the same Gerald Kaufman who submitted a claim for three months’ expenses totalling £14,301.60, which included £8,865 for a Bang & Olufsen television.

Or take the Salford MP Hazel Blears, who has been loudly calling for draconian action against the looters. I find it very hard to make any kind of ethical distinction between Blears’s expense cheating and tax avoidance, and the straight robbery carried out by the looters.

The Prime Minister showed no sign that he understood that something stank about yesterday’s Commons debate. He spoke of morality, but only as something which applies to the very poor: “We will restore a stronger sense of morality and responsibility – in every town, in every street and in every estate.” He appeared not to grasp that this should apply to the rich and powerful as well.

Russell Brand:

Politicians don’t represent the interests of people who don’t vote. They barely care about the people who do vote. They look after the corporations who get them elected. Cameron only spoke out against News International when it became evident to us, US, the people, not to him (like Rose West, “He must’ve known”) that the newspapers Murdoch controlled were happy to desecrate the dead in the pursuit of another exploitative, distracting story.

Why am I surprised that these young people behave destructively, “mindlessly”, motivated only by self-interest? How should we describe the actions of the city bankers who brought our economy to its knees in 2010? Altruistic? Mindful? Kind? But then again, they do wear suits, so they deserve to be bailed out, perhaps that’s why not one of them has been imprisoned. And they got away with a lot more than a few fucking pairs of trainers.

These young people have no sense of community because they haven’t been given one. They have no stake in society because Cameron’s mentor Margaret Thatcher told us there’s no such thing.

If we don’t want our young people to tear apart our communities then don’t let people in power tear apart the values that hold our communities together.

Matthias Matthijs:

The 1980s were marked by a more traditional struggle between the state and organized labor. The present moment, however, is defined by a more disorganized class politics of reaction, propelled by huge inequalities and a perceived injustice and indifference by the state to the fate of those involved. This time it is also not about race. The looting youngsters in London are a mixture of both immigrants and English natives, and they have quickly and deliberately made their way into the fancier neighborhoods of the city. An incident from the much-gentrified Notting Hill neighborhood in London is particularly telling. Hooded rioters armed with bats invaded the Ledbury, a two-star Michelin restaurant, demanding that diners hand over their wallets and wedding rings. As two female rioters told the BBC, “We’re just showing the rich people we can do what we want.”

[…]

So class politics are back in what many political scientists see as their most traditional home: the United Kingdom. Most of the country perceives Cameron’s policies as the poor paying for the mistakes of the rich. Thatcher’s neoliberal medicine was equally unpopular in 1981, but she was under no illusions as to what was required to enforce austerity and remains famous to this day for having argued in a 1987 interview that “there [was] no such thing as society.” Cameron’s assumptions have been challenged by these riots, and it is not at all clear that he has an alternative to offer. The rest of the world should take notice: After all, the perverse experiment of high inequality, low growth, and now fiscal austerity is hardly a uniquely British phenomenon.

Quote of the Day: On ‘Populist Chic’

by matttbastard

Back in the ’70s, conservative intellectuals loved to talk about “radical chic,” the well-known tendency of educated, often wealthy liberals to project their political fantasies onto brutal revolutionaries and street thugs, and romanticize their “struggles.” But “populist chic” is just the inversion of “radical chic,” and is no less absurd, comical or ominous. Traditional conservatives were always suspicious of populism, and they were right to be. They saw elites as a fact of political life, even of democratic life. What matters in democracy is that those elites acquire their positions through talent and experience, and that they be educated to serve the public good. But it also matters that they own up to their elite status and defend the need for elites. They must be friends of democracy while protecting it, and themselves, from the leveling and vulgarization all democracy tends toward.

Writing recently in the New York Times, David Brooks noted correctly (if belatedly) that conservatives’ “disdain for liberal intellectuals” had slipped into “disdain for the educated class as a whole,” and worried that the Republican Party was alienating educated voters. I couldn’t care less about the future of the Republican Party, but I do care about the quality of political thinking and judgment in the country as a whole.

– Mark Lilla, The Perils of Populist Chic

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McSame sez Drill, Drill, Drill!

by matttbastard

They laugh alike, they walk alike, sometimes they even talk alike:

MCCAIN PLAN: “There Are Areas Off Our Coasts That Should Be Open To Exploration And Exploitation.” During a media availability in Arlington, Virginia, John McCain said, “I also believe that lifting the moratoria from off-shore drilling or oil and natural gas exploration is something that we should place as a very high priority… I certainly think that there are areas off our coasts that should be open to exploration and exploitation. And I hope we can take the first step by lifting the moratoria in order to do so.” [McCain Media Availability in Arlington via CQ Transcriptions, Virginia, 6/16/08]

BUSH PLAN: Bush Called For Oil Drilling In the Outer Continental Shelf. President Bush said, “This morning, I asked Democratic Congressional leaders to move forward with four steps to expand American oil and gasoline production. First, we should expand American oil production by increasing access to the outer continental shelf or OSC. Experts believe that the OCS could produce about 18 billion barrels of oil. That would be enough to match the current oil production America for almost 10 years. The problem is that congress has restricted access to key parts of the OCS since the early 1980’s. Since then, advances in technology have made it possible to conduct oil exploration in the OCS that is out of sight, protects coral reefs and habitats, and protects against oil spills. With these advances, and a dramatic increase in oil prices, Congressional restrictions on exploration have become outdated and counterproductive. Republicans in congress have proposed several promising bills that would lift the legislative ban on oil exploration in the OCS. I call on the House and Senate to pass good legislation as soon possible.” [President Bush statement, 6/18/08]

That flip-flopping sound you heard was McCain’s carefully crafted faux-credibility rolling over in its grave.

Related: Matt Taibbi:

The reality is that the once independent-thinking McCain has by now completely remade himself into a prototypical, dumbed-down Republican Party stooge — one who plans to rely on the same GOP strategy that has been winning elections ever since Pat Buchanan and Dick Nixon cooked up a plan for cleaving the South back in 1968. Rather than serving up the “straight talk” he promises, McCain is enthusiastically jumping aboard with every low-rent, fearmongering, cock-sucking presidential aspirant who’s ever traveled the Lee Atwater/William Safire highway.

H/t Hilzoy in ObWi comments.

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Scream For Me, London

by matttbastard

Jesus– Bernie Wooster Boris Johnson did it, knocking off two-term incumbent “Red” Ken Livingstone and becoming mayor of (formerly swinging, now moping) London.  The unlikely victory was emblematic of the record-setting series of council elections across England and Wales, in which the Conservatives absolutely trounced (New) Labour:

Johnson’s victory capped a highly successful 24 hours for the Tories, who won 44% of the vote in the separate council elections in England and Wales, convincing many Conservatives that they are on their way to Downing Street. “This is like the March on Rome in 1922,” one shadow minister said as Johnson inched towards victory. Johnson will not march into London’s City Hall surrounded by blackshirts in the manner of Benito Mussolini’s supporters when they staged their coup d’état in 1920s Italy. But the lighthearted reference to 1922 gave a taste of the high Tory spirits.

Yes, I know that, for me, the first adjective that comes to mind after hearing a pithy (if unintentionally accurate) reference to fascism is “lighthearted” (said shadow minister must have missed the memo re: Mussolini’s liberal roots).  No wonder so many purported “progressives” were able to shrug off Johnson’s “lighthearted” racism and homophobia in the lead up to the vote.  Regardless, I’m sure there are innumerable watermelon smiles today throughout the suburbs and Tory caucus; I just hope the up-is-down Euston set realize exactly what their ever-so-decent myopia has helped rationalize into existence.

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Pwnage of the Day: “What is this, your farewell speech?”

by matttbastard

Chet Scoville shreds recovering “brain dead liberal” David Mamet (who is now a proud brain dead conservative).

A sample:

What Mamet observes in this piece — imperfect people muddle along as usual — is pretty much what the rest of us had figured out by the age of, oh, let’s say seven. That’s always been the case. The only thing that’s changed is Mamet, who is now, apparently, a proud member of the intellectual right: that is to say, someone who pays a lot of lip service to the obvious imperfection of the world, while supporting policies that blithely ignore or attempt to erase that imperfection.

I give it a week until Mamet is the Hollywood correspondent for Pajamas Media.

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