Sane man !

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Chomsky-Hater's Handbook.

The Chomsky-Hater's Handbook.: "A Halloween hatchet-job was in order and is kindly supplied by The Guardian this morning, in the form of an 'interview' with Noam Chomsky by Emma Brockes." Update: It is actually much worse than I thought. What is it about Chomsky that drives people coo-coo??

It is indeed quite a hack job, could have been cut-up by O.Kamm's blunt razor. But in there Brockes neatly quotes what is my beef with Chomsky and many shades of left-wing thought:

"his low opinion of the mainstream media (to summarise: it is undermined by a "systematic bias in terms of structural economic causes rather than a conspiracy of people"."

It's a subtle disagreement and not the core of Chomsky's polemics, but I tend to think that sub-optimal outcomes can emerge out of complex situations from the complex interactions of semi-honest actors, and not from the ultra-devious actions of the few powerful.

There are some very real power structures, and it's foolish to ignore them (that's all that Marx was saying after all).
But, roughly, Chomskyites will tend to blame the elites in power, and assume the common man will be blameless. That is quite an elitist approach: the mighty ideological fight of the intellectuals! The idealised "proletariat" can do no wrong.

But often, the elites in power are just on the end of the combined interests of a large part of the population, who would agree with them if they were within the same constraints. Remove G dubya, a Marxist nightmare made reality, and the "structural economic causes" which pushed his decisions remain. Sometimes it's easier to blame a few evil people than to point the finger (however partially!) at the beloved masses. Which the greens are usually happy to do, so maybe this is another red vs green phenomenon.

Anyway: expand on this general "cockup not conspiracy" paradigm later...


Man, is Bush shot down at the moment. No more than he should, actually quite less. (In a just world [...] and a pony etc.)

But when even Berlusconi and his ex-semi-fascist colleagues are distancing himself from him!

Silvio Berlusconi, one of George Bush's closest allies, says he repeatedly tried to talk the US president out of invading Iraq, in comments to be broadcast today.

His version of events [...] was backed by his deputy, Gianfranco Fini, leader of the former neo-fascist party, who said: "We tried right up to the end to persuade Bush and Blair not to launch a military attack."
"That Bush guy, he just went too far..." said the semifascist!

Of course it's pre-election hogwash, and about 100000 lives too late, but this is significant. The world's not gone so insane after all, normal rules are still operative.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Mystery solved

Although I like reading the Guardian, with a pretty unrivalled depth of reporting, it always annoys me to constantly see the Blairite spin on things pushed to constantly in the headlines. It is not systematic, but dreadfully obvious when it happens, and it intensified lately.

I think I've found an explanation:
Guardian photographer Martin Argles is given rare access behind the scenes at No 10.

Uh-huh. Were all these crap headlines a good price to pay for these never-before seen photos of the corridors of power? To see their living room you need to give in to them, how telling...

lisa bailey betrays

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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Why do the good ones die so soon?

Let us keep for reference Robin Cook's resignation speech. No spin, no lies, and he was right on every single count, long before a shot was fired in Iraq. This honesty and integrity can only be admired.
Some highlights:

It is not France alone that wants more time for inspections. Germany wants more time for inspections; Russia wants more time for inspections; indeed, at no time have we signed up even the minimum necessary to carry a second resolution.

I have heard some parallels between military action in these circumstances and the military action that we took in Kosovo[...] It was supported by NATO; it was supported by the European Union; it was supported by every single one of the seven neighbours in the region. France and Germany were our active allies.

For four years as foreign secretary I was partly responsible for the western strategy of containment.
Over the past decade that strategy destroyed more weapons than in the Gulf war, dismantled Iraq's nuclear weapons programme and halted Saddam's medium and long-range missiles programmes.

We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.
Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target.

Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create? Why is it necessary to resort to war this week, while Saddam's ambition to complete his weapons programme is blocked by the presence of UN inspectors?

it is more than 30 years since resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply.

But he could not forsee that the Iraq war would be a total success...

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Trends: "Richard Tomkins in the FT notes that the growing belief that cancer is becoming more common is at odds with the facts, similarly the view that more people are self-employed than they used to be.
The classic case of this is crime, he says. The longer you live, the more you are likely to have been a victim of crime, or know someone else who is. So you find it harder to believe crime rates are falling."

This is similar to one of the notions I have at heart: people get the impression that things are getting (really) more expensive all the time because of inflation. Despite the vague knowledge that inflation is involved, they then get more selfish and reactionary...

Buse rides used to be 50p in my day! Actually, bad example, bus fares are inflating crazily to help the Oyster blitz...

With or without You?

Monbiot discusses the age-old problem: If God doesn't exist, then we can do what we want?
Sure you can, but the question is: do you want to bad things? And why not? God doesn't really come into it.
And as he points out, if you think you know what God thinks, you generally end up doing bad things...

Monday, October 10, 2005

Plus que francais

Ca ne devrait pas etre etonnant que tant d'anciens collabos ont tourne au front-nationalisme: se vendre en plus francais que francais de base, et defendre une "certaine idee de la France" qui n'a jamais existe et dont il n'a jamais ete question. Je mettais ca instinctivement sous le compte d'une orientation vers la droite: de fachos nazis vers fachos des temps modernes... Mais la realite est bien plus complexe, la collaboration etait une lachete plus qu'une adherence au idees du Nazisme, et cette haine des etrangers serait en fait une reaction a leur trahison passee.

De la meme maniere beaucoup de nos comportements absurdes sont attribuables a une reaction inconsciente a une faiblesse percue.

Cf un des protagonistes du roman de Fred Vargas.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Good stuff in Eschaton comments:


Bush, man, nobody's doubting that murder is bad.
We just think you suck at stopping it.
Classic conservative argument: address the question nobody's asking.


And someone points to Leonard's Cohen Everybody Knows... will have to get an MP3.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Religious Confusions

As much as I am opposed to religion, it is not up to the state to suppress it, it cannot be done. Change can only come from the private sphere, and the change will have to be gradual. Legislation or big initiatives are no match for the combined pop/science double punch: sciencific discoveries extend our horizons, and pop culture has broken down retrograde moral barriers and the rigid ethical strictures that were too often associated with religion.

That's why the fundamentalists, in America as in Iran, are so afraid of these. No wonder the Bush admin is so anti-science as well. It's funny to imagine the mullahs battle with Britney Spears in the heart of the average teenager. The reactionnary forces are still largely predominant, and any hope there is, if any, is in the private sphere, and not.

This is why I scoff at the secular part of the pro-war "leftists" arguments. Their obsession with the mullahs is only motivated by racism, and their appeals against religion (through state-sponsored war and repression!) falls on deaf ears.