George Washington on Political Parties

George Washington on the dangers of political parties. I think, it’s obvious when reading, there’s a reason that he’s been held up as an icon of liberty. Sometimes it’s important to take a step back from the status quo and remember that what we assume is the best path forward is not always the most beneficial. Let not the wisdom of ages past be lost…

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

Also, a sad hat tip to the good writers (such as Washington above) that conspiracy theorists get their semi-incoherent writing style from. Random Capitalization sure Serves a purpose Nowadays, Doesn’t it…

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Christopher Pyne Pines For Australian Science (Though Not Enough To Save It)

So I was reading an article on the Guardian about Australian science being squeezed, like a mob boss squeezes a small fruit stall owner, and this particular quote by Pyne struck me:

“The funds for NCRIS only exist because of savings elsewhere in the higher education package.

“The way for Labor to support NCRIS, which they themselves defunded, is to support the higher education reforms.

“Labor needs to stop playing politics and enter negotiations with the government because it will be on the heads of Labor, the Greens and the crossbenchers if it closes,” he said.

It’s a small statement, well, relatively small at least, but the thing that strikes me is that it’s just so…goddamn…political…

You see, Pyne is giving the excuse, or the ‘argument ender’, to his base. He’s saying, “Look, it’s everyone else’s fault if this travesty of a budget cut to Australian science comes to pass! (It’s just coincidental that in order to stop this travesty of a budget cut to science, everyone else has to agree to my travesty of a budget cut to education.)”

This, as I said, is to give his base something to argue back against with people who disagree about his actions. It doesn’t matter, of course, that what he really means is, “I want my education cuts to pass and until they do, I’m going to hold my scythe next to the string that is holding Australian science up! And if, dog forbid, you don’t agree with me before I cut the string and Australian science plunges into this convenient volcano…Well then you only have yourselves to blame!”

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Is Scott Walker Secretly Tony Abbott?

Abbott-Walker Mutant

Scott Abbott, or perhaps it’s Tony Walker…

From a comment on a Dispatches From the Culture Wars post titled Scott Walker Proves His Foreign Policy Chops by raven (raven wrote the following comment, not the blog post):

Walker certainly didn’t do much for Wisconsin. His track record on the economy and budgets is simply terrible.

In terms of recovery from the Bush Great Recession, they rank low, 35. Wisconsin is running a $280 million deficit this year and projected $1 billion for each of the next two years.

Meanwhile the adjacent state, Minnesota has a Democrat governor who raised taxes. They are rated 5th in recovery and running a $1 billion budget surplus.

Walker must have to keep talking about union busting because he’s only done three things, cut state services, trashed the state’s budget and economy, and demolished a few unions.

Hmmm, so not only is Scott Walker’s foreign policy woeful (saying that Reagan busting up the 1981 strike of air traffic controllers was the most significant American foreign policy decision in his lifetime…) but his conservative policies (cutting state services, “incidentally” increasing debt in the service of the rich and attacking workers rights) have sent Wisconsin down the drain, directly next to a state run by a democrat, with liberal (not our liberal…God I hate how they’ve corrupted that word) policies that is in excellent health.

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The One Percent

I recently watched a documentary on youtube called The One Percent, which was made by Jamie Johnson (great grand-son of one of the co-founders of Johnson & Johnson and thus inheritor of mega-wealth) about the extreme wealth inequality that exists in America (and can be applied to almost all countries with Australia definitely being included).

It’s an incredibly interesting perspective on wealth inequality, with Jamie being able to set up interviews with people that probably otherwise wouldn’t talk on camera (his family connections allowed him to talk to some pretty interesting characters, such as Milton Friedman (considered one of the founders of trickle down economics and one of the spearheads of the ‘free market’) and Warren Buffett’s grand-daughter Nicole Buffett who interestingly enough doesn’t have a wikipedia page and was also literally disowned because of her participation in this documentary).

I was surprised at how willing the interviewees where to espouse what I think are their actual real beliefs to someone who they would consider an ‘insider’, though there was definitely a lot of hostility shown to Jamie during the filming. I think that the mega-wealthy understand that the majority of people disagree with their viewpoint, but they simultaneously feel that it’s in humanities (and very much, oh so incidentally, in their) interests that everyone lives according to their worldview because obviously only those who have proved themselves through vast financial gain have the brilliance of mind to understand how to regulate the social system effectively.

But seriously, watch the doco. Watch it! It’s very good and I don’t think you’ll hear the same perspective from many other sources.

On my way out, just as a tiny note of apology, my blogging died for the last few weeks. I’ve been studying wildly for a week of practical cell biology I have to do in Melbourne next week, so my will to blog withered on the vine. I dunno if I’ll be able to squeeze out a post or two during the practicals or not, so maybe I’ll manage a post in a week and a half or something. Anyway, watch the documentary(!):

Murdoch, Faux News and Wild Propaganda

This is a frustrating, terrifying and insightful look into the propaganda machine that has been built by Rupert Murdoch. The hundreds of news channels, cable channels, papers and magazines that Murdoch owns (and fills with his personal right-wing anti-fact agenda) reaches a STAGGERING 4.7 billion people. Holy. Fucking. Shit. Power corrupts, ultimate power corrupts ultimately and being able to force your biased viewpoints down the throats of more than half of the worlds population is pretty fucking similar to what I would call ultimate power.

As David Brock, the President/CEO of Media Matters for America, says about Murdoch/Faux News:

He doesn't believe in objectivity, he has contempt for journalism I think. They wanted all news to be a matter of opinion because opinion can't be proven false. And I think that's very dangerous because if people don't have a set of facts they can agree on, I think it's difficult to reach a consensus on what's correct public policy.

Police Deserve As Much Respect As They Give

I can’t say it any better than the comment that Bruce Gorton left on Ophelia Benson‘s blog:

On the same day on which this story broke, I read another in which a cop attacked someone who was asleep in a hospital.

The cop arrested his victim for assault, it was probably only that hospital waiting rooms have cameras that resulted in the cop being found out.

Last week meanwhile I subbed a story about a cop who was suspended, for not tear-gassing a suicidal university student he had just talked down when his fellow officers felt the need to forcibly restrain the said student for no apparent reason.

America’s police force blames the media, but who was it that killed a 12-year-old for carrying a toy gun? Who killed a man for picking up a toy gun in a toy store? Who choked a man to death on the streets? Who killed an unarmed teenager?

And what did each case demonstrate?

There is little recourse to the law when the criminal is a cop. The issue is not simply the police force, but the entire legal system.

So what happens when people don’t trust the law anymore? I can tell you what happens in South Africa.

You get people attacking the police because they’re just one more rival gang. They aren’t keepers of the peace, they’re thugs and crime lords abusing a position of authority to build their little empires.

You get mob justice, you get riots and you get deaths. The best cops become worthless – because they cannot do their jobs without the trust of the public, and without the ability to trust their coworkers.

My country has serious problems with distrust of the police force, and not reporting on it doesn’t solve the base problems that caused that distrust. You can shut the media up all you like – but people still know the cops will take bribes and lose dockets.

You can shut the media up all you like, but people still know the American police force kills children for being black. A silent media is deadlier than a noisy one, because in the absence of information action cannot be taken to correct major problems, while allowing far darker imaginings than the bald truth to become seen as fact.

You want to prevent this happening again? Then you need to stop whining at the protesters and start taking a serious look at your police culture, which has gone so far overboard on the macho bullshit that the decent, sane cops are more likely to be punished than the thugs with badges.

Otherwise all you’re doing is wanking self-righteously about how mean people are for pointing out how your police force’s shit stinks.

Oh shit. That burn. Seriously, as someone who was fluent in latin would say, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?”

The Authoritarians

A few weeks ago, when I was supposed to be absorbed in study for my Brain, Biology and Evolution final test, I instead found myself riveted to a free (yes, totally free) book called The Authoritarians. It’s by a psychologist called Bob Altemeyer (this is his website, it has a few additional pieces involving Obama’s elections on there as well) and it’s focused on a specific group of people labelled, unsurprisingly, the authoritarians.

It’s a fairly terrifying book, outlining the reasons for the recent rise in political extremism and explaining the seemingly impenetrable viewpoints of modern hardcore conservatives.

OK, what’s this book about? It’s about what’s happened to the American government lately. It’s about the disastrous decisions that government has made. It’s about the corruption that rotted the Congress. It’s about how traditional conservatism has nearly been destroyed by authoritarianism. It’s about how the “Religious Right” teamed up with amoral authoritarian leaders to push its un-democratic agenda onto the country. It’s about the United States standing at the crossroads as the next federal election approaches.

“Well,” you might be thinking, “I don’t believe any of this is true.” Or maybe, you’re thinking, “What else is new? I’ve believed this for years.” Why should a conservative, moderate, or liberal bother with this book? Why should any Republican, Independent, or Democrat click the “Whole Book” link on this page?

Because if you do, you’ll begin an easy-ride journey through some very relevant scientific studies I have done on authoritarian personalities--one that will take you a heck of a lot less time than the decades it took me. Those studies have a direct bearing on all the topics mentioned above. So if you think the first paragraph is a lot of hokum, or full of half-truths, I invite you to look at the research.

And the research is fucking scary. As Altemeyer says: Continue reading