The English people believe they are free, but they are grossly mistaken. They are only so during the election of members of parliament. As soon as these have been elected, the people are immediately consigned to slavery, they are nothing. The way they use their freedom during the brief moment when they possess it means that they thoroughly deserve to lose it. (Rousseau)
The options in the constituency I’m eligible to vote in are sufficiently uninspiring that I didn’t get round to registering as an overseas voter, though now I rather wish I’d selected a proxy to spoil my ballot for me. Here’s hoping for an unexpectedly strong showing for “World Socialism.”
Flying back from England after Christmas, I got to enjoy the fruits of the US state’s insane institutional paranoia, as the airport staff opened everyone’s bag and patted everyone down before letting us on the plane (flying from the US, I of course had no such problem, as the TSA is blissfully unconcerned about what someone might do on a plane flying over Canada). It’s an interesting illustration of the irrationality of security policy, as this supposed need for greater security measures is the exact opposite of what the TSA should have concluded from the failure of the Christmas Day pants-bombing attempt. The key point here is that the attempt failed: the evidence we have shows that it’s really hard to smuggle a usable bomb onto a plane in your pants. The same is true of the failed shoe-bombing and the failed small-bottles-of-liquid bombing. What these show is that there’s no need to get everyone to take off their shoes, or throw away their bottles of water: the security measures that were in place before these attempts were evidently sufficient to foil such attempts, because the attempts were actually foiled. Every failed terrorist plot is evidence that we have plenty of security, and should be taken as an opportunity to consider whether we can’t actually get by with a bit less.
The response to the failed pants bomb has at least provoked a bit of a backlash, although the focus on the privacy violations of the pants-scanning machines strikes me as misconceived. Read more↴
Chomo on Democracy Now the other day said:
Just take a look at the funding for his campaign. I mean, the final figures haven’t come out, but we have preliminary figures, and it seems to be mostly financial institutions. I mean, the financial institutions preferred him to McCain. They are the main funders for both—you know, I mean, core funders for both parties, but considerably more to Obama than McCain.
There are a couple of ways of taking this. Read more↴
So, I understand New Labour putting forward reactionary proposals; they’ve always been functionaries of a particular form of neoliberalism. What I don’t understand is their basic lack of any political sense. The intriguing thing is that every stupid thing the government does is presented as if it were a canny political move. Owen pointed out New Labour’s increasing delusion that it’s still 1997, which is particularly clear in Peter Mandleson’s bizarre claim that Labour will lose the election if they don’t privatize the Post Office. How could anyone possibly think that? And today I see that Ed Balls has introduced some ludicrous educational centralization measure justified with some faux-populist nonsense about preventing Shakespeare from being removed from the curiculum.
The New Labour project was always based on appealing to some imagined Dail Mail reader. But this fantasy now seems somehow too obvious, too desparate. What has happened to New Labour’s fantasy, to cause this collapse?
Well, actually, feel free to celebrate a bit. Certainly, Obama’s victory is better than the alternative; at the very least, an Obama presidency will be less teeth-itchingly annoying than four years of McCain and Palin. More importantly, it’s not nothing that the US has a Black president, even if there’s no particular reason to think his policies will be significantly better for people of color than anyone else’s would have been.
Because the specific details of a president’s policy pronouncements are not the most important thing. Read more↴
Moll on the difficulties facing Evo Morales in Bolivia. What I find particularly interesting is the overlap between, for want of better terms, ethical and tactical questions. Moll is worried about Evo sending in the troops against the rich, racist protesters in Santa Cruz; both because if it worked it would reinforce the power of the state (the ethical concern) and because it might not work (the tactical one), fatally weakening the revolution/reform process currently underway. These concerns might look like they’re in tension with one another, if not flat-out contradictory, but I think they’re actually two sides of the same coin, an illustration of the difficulty of understanding the role of the state in revolution. Read more↴