Friday, October 30, 2015

Mulcair -- Tom the Circus Bear

 A few months ago, most people thought that Canadian election was the NDP's to lose.  They were right -- and the NDP did lose. Now, everybody blames Tom Mulcair.  As we pointed out last time, Justin Trudeau should be on a Gap billboard.  But Mulcair?  Yup, must be his fault!

  • His hair is thinning 

  • He has a beard

  • He is chubby 
  • His best friends are lobsters.

Tom Hugs Lobsters

Mulcair actually looks like a grizzly. But whoever saw a smiling grizzly -- except in a circus.   And that's what Mulcair's people had him doing -- pretending to be warm and friendly.  

Don't get me wrong, I love large, furry animals,with teeth -- I just don't want them demeaned to riding bikes to the hoots of the yahoos. And they should eat salmon.  Not hug lobsters.

Mulcair Bear

Apart from that: the small matter of issues and values:

Murray Dobbin says it better than I can:

The Liberal/Conservative mode of doing politics doesn’t suit a political party that wants to change the political culture. Such a party cannot achieve change unless it becomes part of the community it claims to share values with and that is exactly what the NDP has been moving away from. This is why the party consistently underestimates the desire for change in its support base and miscalculates its response to the politics of opportunism. If the NDP is confused about whether it’s a party of change or just another competitor on the field, it’s no wonder its potential supporters are confused. 

Shared Values


Dobbin (whose website you simply must visit)  is talking about the same kind of thing that happened in the UK with Miliband -- who also tried to tack to the NeoLiberal wind, ignoring what the community wanted and needed....  The thing about neoliberalism is that it is inherently elitist.  It assumes that community values can be imposed from above -- that ordinary people just don't know what they want.  


Do you drink the juice with 20% sugar -- or do you drink the 100% stuff?


Why vote for NDP neoliberalism -- Conservative Lite, when you get the real stuff?  When you can get 100% elitism, with JT or Harper?

Canned fresh juice -- of any type by the way --  is not really any healthier than the kind with sucrose, if it lacks fiber. It's still of fructose -- which is just another simple sugar.   "Fresh" juice only looks healthier. You're screwed either way.   Ditto: canned politics.

When the NDP said it would balance the budget -- without raising taxes on individuals -- it hugged a bottom-crawling crustacean with claws-- austerity

Cutting up your life -- austerity

You would have thought that the NDP would have learned from Miliband in the UK, who had come to a sad end earlier..   Nope!

This is Canada. This is the NDP.  We do not learn from others' mistakes.  We don't even learn from our own.

The Canadian Way

What is needed is a Canadian Corbyn -- somebody who respects the voice of the people.

The Comfortable Middle?

Somebody who eschews the conventional wisdom of  the Comfortable Middle ,the soft overhanging belly of the country, those people with jobs, education and a place to live, who think whatever is easiest to think.


Somebody who appeals to the heads and hearts of the Precariat -- those threatened by austerity and the neoliberal corporate welfare state.

Precarious Times

You don't have many in the NDP, who fit the bill. Perhaps only Niki Ashton.


One reason for this dearth of talent is that the NDP has been pretending, trying to gain the friendship of the Couch Class -- who, unfortunately, are married to the Liberal Party.  At the same time, our version of New Labor wants to preserve ideology by helping the less fortunate, but this is mostly pretense, since it is not possible without doing things differently.  


 "Hey we are the Party of Change -- but -- don't worry -- we're not really going to do anything different". 

Mulcair: Victim

So it was that Tom Mulcair, an honest man, but a representative of a different social democratic perspective than mine, spent a lot of time smiling, when he should have been biting something..  And talked conservative economics,when he should have been arguing Keynesian at least. 


He also let himself to be persuaded to posture  -- rejecting  debates which Harper would not attend -- debates where he could have focused on larger issues such as TPP, civil liberties and proportional representation became sideshows.  


As Dobbin says:

Such a party cannot achieve change unless it becomes part of the community it claims to share values with and that is exactly what the NDP has been moving away from...

You cannot be an agent of change, unless you can engage withe community --  viscerally on those things which affect quality of life-- jobs, education, and the freedom to live your life as you like.
TV ads don't do it.  Speeches don't do it.  Talking to people does do it. And channeling the people as Jeremy Corbyn now does in Question Period also does it.  

As Marx says:

It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness

No, people don't want austerity.  It doesn't work.  They don't want student debt. It doesn't work either.   They don't want their civil liberties impinged upon.  

By extension they do public ownership of things that belong to the public.  They proportional representation so they can actually participate in their democracy.  They want equality not only before the law -- but of opportunity, too. 

Mulcair did oppose TPP and the already moribund Keystone pipeline -- but he really couldn't get beyond his absurd tilt towards "fiscal responsibility" -- and his need to put down "Justin". And  niqabs hide more than the face -- in  this election, they also hid rid issues.  

Mulcair dithered.  

First, he supported only decriminalization of cannabis and then began hemming and hawing about "legalization".  He looked like a old, bearded guy throat mucuous --not a sin -- just a little icky. Grumpy Gramps.   At the very least, he could have admitted to smoking joints in the Parliamentary toilets to help his lumbago. 

It's all about looks


Seriously, Tom?


For Justin Trudeau, it was indeed  all about looks -- as I suggested at the beginning in my last blog post. For Tom the Circus Bear it was more about just Looking Out Of It .   


Contemplating Post-Harper Healing

Stephen Harper, the most anti-democratic prime minister in our history, may have done democracy a favour by mandating the longest election in Canadian history. One-month elections only exposed the breakdown of our so-called democratic system for a relatively short period. It didn’t last long enough for us to really sicken of the spectacle, and then we focused on the lies, manipulations and corporate sell-outs of those newly elected to run the country. But this time we have experienced what amounts to full-immersion baptism in our truly absurd and pathologically unresponsive system of “representative democracy.”
Of course part of that absurdity is rooted in the anachronistic first-past-the-post system which regularly produces executive dictatorships with less than 40% of the vote (and just 24% of the eligible voters). It finally seems that we might now get a change to some form of proportional representation for the next election. But promises (especially Liberal ones) are as easy to break as they are to make and a post-election mobilization of the disillusioned multitudes will be required to seal the deal.
But at the risk of being cynical about such a change before it even happens let’s not be too sanguine about the overall impact of a change in the voting system. Even the best election rules are not going to solve our democratic deficit unless we dramatically increase the level of civic literacy and citizen engagement.
The desperate need for proportional representation has to some extent distracted us from just how inadequate and unresponsive the rest of the system is. It has taken the likes of Harper to actually push the other parties to suddenly call for change when they have for decades supported first-past-the-post because executive dictatorship is an attractive form of governance to those who run political parties.
Given this history it is hard not to conclude that political parties themselves are the biggest barrier to genuine, participatory democracy. Parties have with rare and short-lived exceptions have always acted in their own interests whenever faced with a choice between that goal and working for the country. That has always been true of the two Bay Street parties and now that the NDP has drunk the we-can-win kool aid, they join their ranks adopting a strategy that replaces principle with opportunism.
There is still a chance however slim that the party can recover from its new and catastrophic direction established by Jack Layton and Tom Mulcair. That new direction entailed accepting the rules made by the big business parties – rules that suited their style, their access to money, their privileged position in the media, their control of the bureaucracy and their deep connections to elite influence and power. It is painfully obvious that the more the NDP adopts the machine politics invented by and for the Liberals and Conservatives the more it becomes like them in terms of policies, ethics and political strategy.
If the current election-machine NDP wants to win an election it will have to do so as a liberal party that has reached an accommodation with globalization and finance capital. Little by little the adoption of Liberal and Conservative political strategy has corrupted what remained of a social democratic party. By the time they win an election on this basis they will be completely indistinguishable from the Liberals they are determined to replace.
But if they want to win as a renewed and principled social democratic party then they can only do so through a commitment to a long term redefinition of the rules of the political game, rules designed to benefit a genuinely democratic party that engages the population in a program of civic literacy – equipping people to deal with modern communications techniques that are used to manipulate them. By doing so and actually mobilizing the tremendous appetite for progressive change in a majority of the population, the NDP could actually begin to force other parties to play by its rules. When they did that in the 1960s the rewards were considerable and included Medicare, still the principle legacy of the progressive Canadian state.
The Liberal/Conservative mode of doing politics doesn’t suit a political party that wants to change the political culture. Such a party cannot achieve change unless it becomes part of the community it claims to share values with and that is exactly what the NDP has been moving away from. This is why the party consistently underestimates the desire for change in its support base and miscalculates its response to the politics of opportunism. If the NDP is confused about whether it’s a party of change or just another competitor on the field, it’s no wonder its potential supporters are confused.
But when it comes to promoting civic literacy and building values-based communities civil society groups are not much better. To date they focus on two political themes but pay scant attention to the question that ultimately matters most. The first focus (this is the one I am most guilty of) is to pile up the list of political crimes and misdemeanors of the Harper government. Close to a dozen books have now raised the alarm. The trouble is the same alarm has been ringing for 10 years. Harper is a still a threat.
The second theme – and at least this breaks from the left’s almost pathological attachment to the negative – is to describe what is possible. Imagine (as the Leap manifesto has done)what we could have in this country if we hadn’t experienced fifteen years of massive tax cuts for the rich and corporations – somewhere between $40 and 60 billion a year has been pilfered from our collective, community coffers to feed the greed of the powerful.
But listing all the good things we “could” have “if only” things weren’t as they are is just an exercise. It isn’t politics, it isn’t organizing and it doesn’t address the reality that prevents people from going into the street and demanding the change we claim is doable: they see nothing on the horizon that suggests any of these things that they want will ever come to pass.
The really important theme that the left devotes virtually no time to intellectually, or strategically is the question of agency. That is the term given by political theorists to the process by which change is actually made: if you truly want change who will be the agent of that change? In other words it is not so much what is to be done (make your own list) but what model of organizing can begin to accomplish it. Change doesn’t just happen because millions of people say they want it. Post-election this will be the critical task of all progressives – take what we know is possible and use it to rebuild community, reclaim the commons and build a broad based social movement with the power to challenge the status-quo

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Trudeau -- the New Fluffy

 Trudeau is fluff.

Fluff -- or Seed?


But Harper is out -- and Justin is in (in more ways than one!). 


The Media says: Ring out the Old.


Sorry : they (the media) lie.   They love change you can't believe in.


Lots of happy bells  on TV, yes.  But ringing in the Old -- not the true.


Poor Alfred


Poor Alfred.  Poor Canada.


Same old.... 


Canadians voted for one handsome guy with Good Hair for umpteen years of conservative rule.  Now they vote for another handsome guy with Good Hair, probably for more years of neoliberalism,  as we slide down the toilet.  Canadians are polite, we flush.


I would like to like the Gap-type Cool Trudeau, ever since I heard his quite wonderful eulogy to his father.  I would like to think his apparent disinterest in spending much time in Parliament as a member was that it is such a suffocating place full'know...politicians -- insufferable people who tell you what they think you think without ever ...y'know...thinking.  


I wanted to like Barak Obama do when he was also campaigning as an agent of change. 


But JT's record in the House, like O(bama)'s Story in the Senate are deal breakers.  Consider his views on the anti-civil rights bill C-51, the Keystone Pipeline, TPP, Russia and Palestine --(the last two no different from Mulcair, sadly).  Or, take his characterization of Omar Khadr, the former child soldier tortured and convicted in defiance of International Law to which Canada is a signatory as a "convicted terrorist and murderer".  

Terrorists are born not made?

Trudeau also says :

"Omar Khadr needs to be treated the way we treat Canadians according to the rules that exist, according to the laws and principles that govern"

This is typically "liberal", touting law while ignoring it.

The facts are clear. Canadian law is also clear:  Omar Khadr was a child soldier. He also acted in self defense under an illegal invasion.  Ergo, his conviction should not stand according the "law and principles that govern". He is neither a terrorist nor a murderer.  If he is -- so are we all. 
Future Terrorist?

Such things tell you something about Trudeau.He is at best intellectually lazy-- a Mickey Mouser cleaning his ears with a gold spoon. 

Disneyland, Liberal-land, Fantasy-land

He is the embodiment of  dangerous banality -- not so much of the rich --but of the Comfortable Middle --the Couch Class.  Trudeau's obvious support for corporatism -- in the form of Keystone, TPP, Internet and copyright legislation and the like should come as no surprise.  It reflects intellectual flab.

The Comfortable Middle?

As I said, I really wanted to like JT -- especially when he promised to legalize my old friend, Maryjane.    (There are no more Chardonnay Liberals-- they all toke weed.)


Then I realized it was just posturing -- again: "See how progressive I am".  Ummm....That's JT -- a progressive without progress.


When the openly regressive Harper attacked JT for pushing drugs to kindergartners,  the PM just looked uncool --which, since the 60s has been the 8th Deadly Sin in Canada, after, maybe, never having smoked pot.

Weed is Cool

Let's be clear: offering to legalize weed is not a courageous stand -- as, say, dumping Keystone or opposing TPP or criticizing Israel or the Ukranian Nazis might be.  Or even standing up for the rule of law, as in the Khadr case. 


For Trudeau -- everything is about "looking good".  He's the perfect High School substitute teacher -- sharing the same preconceptions and mentality as his students. 

Justin fits in

  Don't expect change. Trudeau is just Harper Lite.  Harper liked fluffy sweaters.  Trudeau is just fluffy. 



Monday, October 12, 2015

Embrace Your Inner Altruist

Christ Inc.

In my last blog post, I talked about psychopathy.  As I said, only a small percentage of human beings are genetic psychopaths - the rest of us are "situational psychopaths"  -- which means we hit the "Fuck you" button according to the situation.

I also indicated that this ability to act egotistically is balanced by altruism .  If we are all Dexter, we are also all Jesus.

Both  psychopathy and  altruism are mostly unconscious and therefore automatic.  The psychopath just "goes for it".  The "it" might be rape and murder or it might be a hostile takeover of another company, putting hundreds out of work, and causing  suicides and heart attack and untold misery.  Your classic Dexter doesn't care -- he doesn't think about the consequences to others.  

The soldier who falls on a grenade cares -- he  does not think about the consequences to himself -- only about their effect on others.   Yet, he, too "just goes for it".

So the mechanism for psychopathy and altruism is similar, even if the two things are very different otherwise.  They reflect different biological imperatives and act as evolutionary strategies below or beyond conscious cognition.

We tend to think of both psychopathy and altruism in moral terms but they are not normally moral decisions -- because there is little or no choice involved.   That is not to say that we cannot discuss the outcomes in moral or ethical terms -- just that... first things come first.  To understand results it is useful to know the process from which they derive.

Consider that god-fearing and mild-mannered accountant, who goes on a date and ends up joining a lynch mob who castrate and hang a couple of uppity black boys.   He doesn't think -- he  and his date just do what everybody else is doing. He doesn't feel either except as Ted Bundy might:  "Oh, what fun!  Something to put in the family scrapbook".

Where to take your date in the 1920s

Your identity is not your entire being. What you think you are is a fraction of what you are or can be.

Is this accountant (above, left) a "bad" person?  That's a moral question.  And morality changes according to the times and culture.  In the context of his white, southern community -- he and his date are just ordinary people -- like you and me.  This is what Hannah Arendt meant by the "banality of evil".  

We must, however, keep in mind that Nature has neither morals nor ethics -- it certainly does not care about individuals.   Nothing personal -- because Nature is not a person.  (I suppose that is why we had to invent God as a large hairy guy in the sky).

What we think are are "ethical rules" in eusocial species have evolved to ensure the integrity and survivability of the group. They are utilitarian -- not moral. While many social animals have evolved instincts to share and be fair -- it is not because these things are "good" -- but because such altruism ensures the survival of the group -- and its genes. 

Of course, human beings are marginally more complex than monkeys.

Consider the aging Japanese soldiers who come forth to confess war crimes against the Chinese.  "We did unspeakable things" -- they say.  "At the time, we did not feel anything".  Now,  released from the thrall of collective savagery and sadism, seeing the world through the eyes of a different person, they feel guilt and shame.

We saw the same phenomenon in the Vietnam War. Check his link (not for the faint of heart).

PTSD is not always "shell shock"; it is not always about fear; it is just as often about something else.  

Guilt and shame and disgust are emotions that serve to regulate our egoism relative to the collectivity upon which we depend.  They reflect forms of cognitive dissonance, amplified by the ability of the brain to abstract reality in the form of past and future, language and ideas, "good" and "bad".    Inner conflict can be painful.  Pain is a warning sign -- just like those awful popups when Windows crashes.

This is why notions of "collective mind" or "collective consciousness" are so important.   You cannot talk about human behavior -- including government, economics, social evolution, morality or religion without a theory of mind, that encompasses both individuality and collectivity -- our inner politics.

Sumus:  inner politics

Each of us has a Descartian "Ego", an "I am". But equally important is our Marxist "Sumus", our "We are".  We feel therefore we are

We must always remind ourselves that the apparent consistency of personal identity is temporary,situational illusionary, delusionary -- and always in conflict with other parts of ourselves. 

Cognitive dissonance -- shame, guilt, and disgust -- can be bloody, nasty business. Cognitive consonance is joy.

Happy are the genetic psychopaths, who are wired differently -- for consonance, rather than dissonance -- with different neurochemistry.  They do not feel less. They just feel as "me" rather than "we". .

Ego only

Dexter's brain is simpler -- missing the stuff that causes emotional pain in you and me. 

Even if you are a situational psychopath,  Ego still subsumes Sumus egocentrically so that all others are...well....Other. So altruism is -- in this situation -- impossible -- and at that moment also guilt, shame, and disgust.
Extreme psychopaths see no connection between their own being and that any other  -- that is, other people,  family, society and so on -- who are merely resources to be used -- things, not people, subjects eternally objectified. For situational psychopaths -- it's case by case.

Narcissistic psychopaths, such as politicians, don't join mobs -- because they never subordinate consciousness to the group --  they lead them. That, no doubt, is why so many politicians are psychopathic.   

Neoliberalism: 1938

As I have indicated, altruism, ironically, is also genetic -- an evolutionary adaptation and the eusocial glue that keeps all human groups together.    

The Mind is Modular

The altruistic brain  retains egocentric functions -- but is capable of over-riding them, which is why guilt, shame and disgust are important.   Yes, saints eat pizza with guilty pleasure and jerk off with joyful self-disgust -- but forget about such things to help people.  They do this automatically following the evolutionary imperatives, which evolutionary psychologists like to think of as a kind of bio-ethics.  After saving lives they think, "ohmigod, I am a bad person for masturbating".  And go back to masturbating.

Sound narcissistic?


The most basic group in nature is the mother and offspring.  The mother protects her babies, even at the cost of her own life – because in some sense she is the offspring, the future of her species.  Genes are truly selfish:  when "I" becomes "We", the needs of "I" are sacrificed for the survival of strands of DNA. 

By giving up her life, he mother gives up only part of her greater Being – beyond identity. There is reward -- but it is neither tangible nor immediate --it is deferred.   

Sacrifice implies deferred reward

So Ayn Rand was right...

Unselfishness is selfish.  But that does not mean that Selfishness is the better option.  Unselfishness benefits both you and others -- and has long term benefits.  Selfish benefits only you -- in the short term and may hurt you as a eusocial being in the long term.

Social logic is not linear -- not  one plus one equals two. Rather, it  closer to what you might call quantum logic, with its extra dimensionality and focus on probabilities and fields of being, rather than particularity. 

In a eusocial species, every individual within a group must be the group itself – so when it gives to others – it is actually giving to itself. This is the ultimate reflexivity

And yet in intelligent species such as human beings and some toher animals, the individual must also be  individual, too, allowing the group to benefit from personal creativity and adaptations.  So you have a complex but dynamic mechanism. 
Your brain working

In computing, single core CPUs are nominally faster than multicore computers -- but only for limited, single tasks.  Nobody wants them because an eight core computer can do so much more -- and, overall is much more efficient since you are almost never doing just one thing at the same time, handling graphics, sound and so on simultaneously.       

The best of us are also modular multicore systems-- and networked. Stuff meshes -- or not.
One core handles purely selfish processes. Another handles altruistic processes -- except for psychopaths who, as we have seen,  have a different architecture.   

The Clockwork Personality

As I wrote in my last post, such people are rare.  But on the other hand,  every corporation and most institutions are by definition,  psychopathic  -- existing only for their own growth and profit . 
We are all Pinocchio

This was not always the case.  At one time, many companies had social charters, which defined social responsibilities and values and acted as a kind of mercantile conscience.  Constitutions were always intended as charters of human rights -- a a kind of societal conscience, embodying ethical principles.

MBA schools teach psychopathy

Alexion set the price of Soliris at half a million dollars a year, because that's what it thinks the market will bear, based on the fact that the drug works and patients have no other treatment options.
Alexion knows that individual patients can't afford to pay half a million dollars a year for the rest of their lives.  The business model depends on public health-care systems and private insurance companies reimbursing the million-dollar drug bills.
But how many million dollar drugs can a public health system afford?  Not many, according to health economist Michael Law, at the University of British Columbia.

  This is why we need altruists.  When dominant meme for business is psychopathy you are in trouble. The Precariat is faced by a Predatoriat  --human predators -- like the Koch brothers, Barak Obama, David Cameron, the Hillary....ok...most politicians and all of Wall Street. 

Still, we must keep in mind that if real genetic predators are rare, despite our fascination with them, situational predators are not -- and business and politics are institutionally corrupt.
Vampires R'Us

On a small group basis most people tend towards altruism.
Take, for example, the classic prisoner’s dilemma. Two criminals are offered the opportunity to rat each other out. If one rats, and the other doesn’t, the snitch goes free while the other serves a three-year sentence. If they both rat, they each get two years. If neither rats, they each get one year. If players always behaved in their own self-interest, they’d always rat. But research has shown that people often choose to cooperate.

The two prisoners may be criminals -- but they also belong to a group -- the incarcerated.  What is too often ignored here is that while ratting on another prisoner may offer immediate rewards -- you still end up as a snitch -- and that might have long term consequences.  This is also not a true zero sum game -- because actual survival is not in question. In which case, mutualism is a reasonable compromise -- if one looks to the long term.  Game theory supposes a kind of linear logic.  But the human brain is quantum computer.  

One plus one equals infinity

Of course, we live in large-scale hierarchical industrial societies with growing degrees of inequality.  They are alienative -- encouraging predatory competition  -- discouraging communitarian initiatives, and effectively discouraging altruistic mutualism.  Small group altruism is co-opted by the Predatoriat -- who, like fish, have adapted to the waters in which they swim. 

Remember Jesus?  Remember what happened to Him?  The Jews didn't kill him -- Business-As-Usual did.

Imagine if He were alive today in, say, the UK? 

What would His position be on war in Syria?  On the Trident submarine in the UK?  On easing taxes for the rich and corporations and soaking the Precariat -- ordinary people?   On healthcare?  On the Environment?

What would David Cameron being saying?   You guessed it.  "Jesus hates Britain".  "Jesus loves the IRA and Osamu".  

What would the Guardian and the Independent pundits be writing? "Jesus is an anti-Semite".  "Jesus is unelectable".  "Did Jesus have sex with Mary Magdalene?"

How to know Jesus when He comes again

What?  Jesus doesn't even own a car? He rides a bike?   He doesn't know how to tune his message to the Pharisees and the Elders and the Romans?  And just look at the clothes!  He doesn't wear a tie.  He doesn't want to kiss the Queen's pinky?    

Clearly, this man is a danger to society.  Where the fuck are the hammer and nails?

Jesus cannot be Jesus -- not our Jesus...  

This imposter is the AntiChrist -- and we know who that is --  yes -- Jeremy Corbyn.  

Like Jesus, Corbyn is not long for this world, and may never reign. No matter, it's what -- and who -- he represents that counts.  And if he is crucified -- he will rise again -- albeit probably in another incarnation. 
The AntiChrist