Politics

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Howard Makes Fast Recovery After Hearing Kids Talking About Putting Him In A “Home”

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 26/08/2020 - 7:06am in

JOHN HOWARD OM FILE

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard has made a fast recovery from his recent bout of appendicitis, telling friends that over-hearing his kids talking about putting him in an aged care home was just the inspiration he needed to get up and about.

”I thank the Australian people for their concern, but I just want to assure everyone that I am A-Ok,” said the former Prime Minister. ”I definitely don’t need to be put in a home.”

”Please don’t put me in a home. I don’t want a kerosene bath. Please let me stay at home with Janet.”

When asked why he was so fearful of heading to a retirement home or assisted aged-care living facility as they are also known, Mr Howard said: ”Those places are evil and I should know – I set them up.”

”You know, I don’t have a lot of regrets over what I’ve done in the past, but geez I regret putting Bronwyn Bishop in charge of the old people.”

”Why didn’t I just give her defence? She knows a thing or two about helicopters at least.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

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Right-wing Internet Radio Host Alex Belfield Attacks Esther McVile

I’ve put up a number of articles recently taking issue with Alex Belfield. Belfield is another right-wing radio host, with his own show, ‘Celebrity Radio’, marketing himself with the slogan ‘the Voice of Reason’. It’s a misnomer. He’s like just about all the other right-wing voices out there on mainstream Talk Radio, like Nick Ferrari, Julia Hartley-Brewer and the rest. Fiercely anti-immigration, his recent videos seem to be about demonising the desperate asylum seekers crossing the channel from France, wrongly claiming that the Labour MP was negligent in not doing anything about the exploited sweatshop workers of Leeds, when she had been protesting for years, and criticising Black Lives Matter for not protesting about the conditions of those workers rather than pulling down statues of slavers in Bristol. And now, of course, he’s joined the various chorus of voices denouncing the Beeb for planning not to play ‘Rule, Britannia’, and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ at Last Night of the Proms. Even though, as Zelo Street has shown today, no such decision was taken and the two will be sung as is traditional, subject to the restrictions imposed by the Coronavirus lockdown.

See: https://zelo-street.blogspot.com/2020/08/last-night-of-silly-season.html

Belfield is particularly bitter about show biz. He’s posted a number of videos attacking the industry for demanding government subsidies and bailouts, while its leading members and companies rake in millions. He’s also attacked a number of celebs personally for hypocritically affecting an attitude of social concern and engagement, while being horrible people in their private lives. Some of this seems to follow recent allegations about the conduct of people like Ellen Degeneres in America. Degeneres is a former comedian with her own chat show on American TV. She’s another, who, it is claimed, affects a left-wing demeanour, urging people to be kinder to each other, but in reality is on very friendly terms with leading American right-wing politicians, and has a highly exploitative, domineering attitude to her staff and contempt for those serving her. Now I don’t doubt that very many of the celebs right across the political spectrum, who affect to be nice, caring human beings are actually anything but in their private lives. That’s just human nature. Simple experience teaches that just because someone may have a set of political ideals or tastes in sport, culture etc doesn’t mean that they’re personally very pleasant.

Belfield seems to have a particular hatred for politicos with a background in the media, who are now trying to relaunch their careers as media celebrities. And I do agree with him on one of the targets for his ire: Esther McVey. A few weeks ago he put up a video attacking her as a ‘twirly’. Because the odious woman had put up a video about herself, in which she pretended to drive around in a car looking at places around Liverpool or wherever. The video was clearly fake, shot in a studio using green screen and with the moving background added using the magic of computer graphics.

I share Belfield’s loathing of McVey, but for completely opposite reasons. Belfield put up a piece a little while ago attacking benefit claimants as scroungers. It seemed to follow all the extremely biased and misleading articles about it in the press. Articles that according to stats, have convinced the British public that over a quarter of benefit claims are fraudulent when in reality fraudulent claims account for less than 1 per cent.

I despise McVey because she was part of the Department of Work and Pensions under Iain Duncan Smith. This was when the Tories were going full speed ahead with their vicious, murderous sanctions regime, in which the Jobcentres find any excuse to throw claimants off benefits just to satisfy targets. I despise her, because she was one of the Department’s chiefs behind the Work Capability Tests, which have resulted in tens of thousands of seriously disabled people being judged ‘fit for work’ and thrown off the benefits they need to live, simply because of fraudulent science that assumes a high percentage of such claimants are malingerers. I despise her because she was part of Cameron’s government which inflicted austerity on the nation. The same austerity that has since been revealed as very much a political choice intended to hurt the poor while enriching the already bloated bank balances of the super-rich. I despise her because, thanks to the same policies, over 100,000 disabled people have died after her wretched system declared them to be ‘fit for work’. I despise her, and her former boss, IDS, because thanks to Tory policies, millions are in real food poverty, faced with a choice of starving themselves or going without heat or feeding their children. I despise her, because well over a quarter of a million are now having to use food banks rather than the welfare state to keep body and soul together.

I despise her, because she is the rich and entitled head of media production company. Her company was, I believe, responsible for various ‘poverty porn’ documentaries, like Benefits Street, which presented the issue of mass poverty as due to the personal faults of the unemployed themselves.

And so I completely agree with him in find her attempts to restart her career utterly, utterly contemptible.

Faced with McVey, whose opponents and critics dubbed ‘Esther McVile’, and altered her Wikipedia entry so that it read that she was minister in charge of culling the disabled, I find myself agreeing with one of the slogans of the villainous Torquemada from 2000 AD. Not that whole idea about galactic fascism and racial hatred, but the slogan in one of his rants:

Never Forgive.

Never Forget.

Never for Fun.

And yes, I do realise that the initial letters spell out ‘NF’ to show that Torquemada really is a ranting Fascist. But it seems an excellent attitude to have to the Tories, who really would like us all to forget how vile they are, and how they are killing the poor and disabled, as well as stoking up racial hatred against immigrants and the disabled, all to make their wealthy corporate donors richer and ordinary working Brits of all colours poorer.

And that attitude also extends to Belfield, because he is part of that Tory agenda. So it’s ironic that he’s attacked McVile. He’s right, though it makes him no better.

 

Is Random Stop and Search Saving Black Lives?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 26/08/2020 - 1:07am in

I realise that this is a very controversial position, as one of the complaints made by the Black Lives Matter protests was about the hugely disproportionate numbers of Black people stopped and search for weapons by the rozzers. But nevertheless, I do wonder if there’s an issue here that isn’t being addressed – that of Black on Black violence.

This was an issue way back in the 1990s, as I recall. Black activists and anti-racism campaigners pointed out that Black people, and particularly Black men, were the commonest victims of violence. I don’t doubt that this information was revealed partly to calm White fears that Black violence was largely directed outwards at them. There was naturally great concern about the gang culture, not just confined to Blacks but including Whites and others, especially after the murder of Demilola Taylor. He, you may remember, was a 12 year old Black lad, who was chased home from school and stabbed. He bled to death in the stairwell of the block of flats where he lived. It was an horrific crime that truly shocked the nation. The issue of Black and Black violence was also picked up by Ali G. In one of his interviews, in which he took the mick out of serious celebs, politicos and other figures of authority, he talked to a senior police officer about it, and the weapons that ‘brothers were using against brothers’. After pretending to be seriously concerned, the character turned to a selection of the weapons the officer of the law had brought along to show just what they had taken from the criminals responsible. Ali G immediately started asking about which was the coolest. To which the officer rightly replied that none of them were. I used to watch Ali G, and found some of it hilarious. But there were times when Sasha Baron Cohen overstepped the mark with him and his other characters, and there were protests from Blacks offended at what they considered to be racism in a White performer appearing as a Black character. Even though Baron Cohen never appeared in Blackface, and the character was later presented as a White lad, who wanted to be part of urban Black culture but didn’t really understand it.

I don’t quite know what happened to the issue of Black on Black violence. It seemed to fade away into media obscurity, along with general concerns about the influence of Hip Hop and gangsta rap, which was held to be responsible for promoting the violent gang culture. I’ve noticed in recent reports on the news attacking and condemning knife crime that many of the victims are Black, but there are also Whites represented, presumably to dispel any further racial fears that it’s a peculiarly Black problem. However, extreme right-wing YouTuber, Paul Joseph Watson, in one of his rants the other day claimed that 70 + per cent of the perpetrators of violence or knife crime were Black, and 62 per cent of the victims. He did not give the source of these statistics, so you may well be justified in taking them with a pinch of salt. I can think of one reason why these figures may be incorrect. If the police are massively disproportionate in their targeting of Blacks for stop and search, then the figures could be an artifact, not of the real amount of Black violence, but simply a product of more Blacks being found with weapons simply because more Blacks than Whites were searched. But it may also be true that these figures are accurate, and that for a variety of reasons – poverty, unemployment, lack of opportunities, and yes, the influence of certain strands in popular culture, more Blacks than Whites are involved in violent crime, with Black people the chief victims.

If that’s the case, then there is clearly an argument for retaining stop and search and targeting Blacks rather more than Whites as an anti-racist strategy. Because if Blacks also constitute the majority of victims, then those searches are saving Black lives. Even though I think the criticisms of the excessive use of stop and search on Blacks is justified. And there is also clearly an argument for cutting some of the funding to the police and using it instead for social programmes, that may have greater success in leading some young Black people away from gang culture and its violence.

As for the murder of Demilola Taylor, that was one of the issues I had with a Black rights academic organisation with whom I was briefly in touch when I was doing voluntary work at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum. They thought I’d be interested in looking at their magazine. It honestly had the opposite effect on my, as I was angered at the magazine’s presumption of racism against Whites. I was particularly furious at a piece they’d included criticising the coverage of Taylor’s murder. They decided it was racist, and felt that the news should instead be concentrating on all the Blacks attacked and murdered by Whites. I got the impression that they thought the poor lad had been murdered by a Black gang. But there was no mention of the gang’s ethnicity on the news, and it was later revealed that it was of mixed race – it included members of all colours. The tone of the article made me furious, as regardless of the race or whatever of the murderers, a young child had been horrifically killed. It was one of the issues I raised in a reply I sent back to them about their magazine, along with several others. They replied in turn by telling me that if I wanted to talk to them again, I should send my comments to someone else.

This seems to be an example of the wider sensitivities surrounding the reporting of Black violent crime. And you can understand why, with the long history of extremely biased, racist reporting by the Tory press, Black people don’t want their community automatically associated with crime and violence.

But if there is a real issue here – if the majority of gang or knife attacks are by Blacks against other Blacks – then these sensibilities are counterproductive. There are certainly good arguments for scaling back stop and search, and being far more discriminating in targeting the real villains, rather than ordinary, decent Black peeps simply for being Black. But at the same time, these searches could also be saving Black lives. And as the news reports have shown, even for those who survive, the trauma is still very real.

If Black lives truly matter, then it’s also an issue than means cracking down on Black on Black violence, and not just the excessive tactics of the police. 

 

Le Bon vs Condorcet

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 7:35pm in

If the individuals of a crowd confined themselves to putting in common the ordinary qualities of which each of them has his share, there would merely result the striking of an average, and not, as we have said is actually the case, the creation of new characteristics. How is it that these new characteristics are created? This is what we are now to investigate.
    Different causes determine the appearance of these characteristics peculiar to crowds, and not possessed by isolated individuals. The first is that the individual forming part of a crowd acquires, solely from numerical considerations, a sentiment of invincible power which allows him to yield to instincts which, had he been alone, he would perforce have kept under restraint. He will be the less disposed to check himself from the consideration that, a crowd being anonymous, and in consequence irresponsible, the sentiment of responsibility which always controls individuals disappears entirely.
   The second cause, which is contagion, also intervenes to determine the manifestation in crowds of their special characteristics, and at the same time the trend they are to take. Contagion is a phenomenon of which it is easy to establish the presence, but that it is not easy to explain. It must be classed among those phenomena of a hypnotic order, which we shall shortly study. In a crowd every sentiment and act is contagious, and contagious to such a degree that an individual readily sacrifices his personal interest to the collective interest. This is an aptitude very contrary to his nature, and of which a man is scarcely capable, except when he makes part of a crowd.
   A third cause, and by far the most important, determines in the individuals of a crowd special characteristics which are quite contrary at times to those presented by the isolated individual. I allude to that suggestibility of which, moreover, the contagion mentioned above is neither more nor less than an effect.
   To understand this phenomenon it is necessary to bear in mind certain recent physiological discoveries. We know to-day that by various processes an individual may be brought into such a condition that, having entirely lost his conscious personality, he obeys all the suggestions of the operator who has deprived him of it, and commits acts in utter contradiction with his character and habits. The most careful observations seem to prove that an individual immersed for some length of time in a crowd in action soon finds himself—either in consequence of the magnetic influence given out by the crowd, or from some other cause of which we are ignorant—in a special state, which much resembles the state of fascination in which the hypnotised individual finds himself in the hands of the hypnotiser. The activity of the brain being paralysed in the case of the hypnotised subject, the latter becomes the slave of all the unconscious activities of his spinal cord, which the hypnotiser directs at will. The conscious personality has entirely vanished; will and discernment are lost. All feelings and thoughts are bent in the direction determined by the hypnotiser.
   Such also is approximately the state of the individual forming part of a psychological crowd. He is no longer conscious of his acts. In his case, as in the case of the hypnotised subject, at the same time that certain faculties are destroyed, others may be brought to a high degree of exaltation. Under the influence of a suggestion, he will undertake the accomplishment of certain acts with irresistible impetuosity. This impetuosity is the more irresistible in the case of crowds than in that of the hypnotised subject, from the fact that, the suggestion being the same for all the individuals of the crowd, it gains in strength by reciprocity.
The individualities in the crowd who might possess a personality sufficiently strong to resist the suggestion are too few in number to struggle against the current. At the utmost, they may be able to attempt a diversion by means of different suggestions. It is in this way, for instance, that a happy expression, an image opportunely evoked, have occasionally deterred crowds from the most bloodthirsty acts.
   We see, then, that the disappearance of the conscious personality, the predominance of the unconscious personality, the turning of feelings and ideas in an identical direction by means of suggestion and contagion, the tendency to immediately transform the suggested ideas into acts; these, we see, are the principal characteristics of the individual forming part of a crowd. He is no longer himself, but has become an automaton who has ceased to be guided by his will.
   Moreover, by the mere fact that he forms part of an organised crowd, a man descends several rungs in the ladder of civilisation. Isolated, he may be a cultivated individual; in a crowd, he is a barbarian—that is, a creature acting by instinct. He possesses the spontaneity, the violence, the ferocity, and also the enthusiasm and heroism of primitive beings, whom he further tends to resemble by the facility with which he allows himself to be impressed by words and images—which would be entirely without action on each of the isolated individuals composing the crowd—and to be induced to commit acts contrary to his most obvious interests and his best-known habits. An individual in a crowd is a grain of sand amid other grains of sand, which the wind stirs up at will.
   It is for these reasons that juries are seen to deliver verdicts of which each individual juror would disapprove, that parliamentary assemblies adopt laws and measures of which each of their members would disapprove in his own person.--Gustave Le Bon (1986 [1895] [Psychologie des Foules] The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, pp. 6-8 (translation of second edition published by Dover)

The (1785) Condorcet Jury theorem tells us that with modest assumptions, the rule of more is better and, thereby, vindicates democracy from the verdict of history by all the learned. A century later, near the end of his book, Le Bon  admits that "the parliamentary system represents the ideal of all modern civilised peoples. The system is the expression of the idea, psychologically erroneous, but generally admitted, that a large gathering of men is much more capable than a small number of coming to a wise and independent decision on a given subject." (123) While the official theme of Le Bon's book is to offer an explanation of the functioning of crowds qua crowds, there are two sub-themes in his argument: first, how come the psychologically erroneous idea persists as a civilizational dogma (that is, Le Bon gives us a theory of the rise and fall of civilizations and institutions)?; second, why does the Jury Theorem fail so often in practice, despite the fact that it should function as a self-fulling prophecy given that people widely expect it to succeed?+ Lurking in the second sub-theme is an account of why institutions fail in different places despite the pull of incentives, and why demagogues may succeed.

Le Bon is no friend of democracy. But in this book he has little interest in offering a replacement for democracy because he accepts Tocqueville's claim that in an era of equality men have "an almost limitless confidence in the judgments of the public." In fact, he quite clearly argues that limiting the franchise to a meritocratic sub-set (a la Mill or Brennan) won't improve matters. Because for him once in a crowd, even widely diverging people behave similarly and lose a lot of the characteristics that give them their individuality.* In a crowd "men always tend to the same [low] level.....with regard to social problems... mean are substantially, equally ignorant."

Before I confront the announced subject of this post, I need to be clear about some of his population assumptions. Le Bon works with a contrast between barbarism and civilization. And once in a crowd otherwise civilized people are likely to become barbaric. Despite Le Bon's racism, all kinds of people can become civilized. (Throughout the book, he treats Islam as one of the great civilizations.) Le Bon also works with a racial theory. And it does important work for him because for him races have deep-seated commitments that help explain how people qua people respond differently to stimuli and incentives.

I actually think that what Le Bon calls a 'race,' is (for students) better translated by 'nation.' For, while Le Bon is undoubtedly casually racist (and sexist) in our modern sense (and clearly admires Anglo-Saxons over his own Latins), his race theory turns out to be primarily sociological: that is, a race is constituted by shared history, shared dogmatic commitments, and shared practices (including language). So, Le Bon's 'race' is not far removed from Renan's 'nation.' And crucially the biological stock of a race is never pure according to Le Bon. (This is because for him barbarism, which is always prior to civilization, is always a period of mixing.) And somewhat surprisingly -- given his reactionary mindset -- when explaining crowds no race escapes being barbaric in the crowd.

The brilliance of Condorcet's proof resides, in part, in the fact that (a) he assumes very modest voter competence. All that is needed (recall) is better than chance odds for getting things right. Let's call this average intelligence. Unlike modern students of Condorcet, who recognize that the conditions of (b) independence and (c) lack of communication, may often be violated, Le Bon thinks this (a) is the weak part of Condorcet's proof. For  while Le Bon accepts Condorcet's assumption that in a crowd we are (d) sincere, Le Bon thinks that once we become part of a crowd (and for him juries are also crowds) in our sincerity our competence reduces below such average. We become as it were for him hypnotized automatons. 

To be sure, Le bon thinks that in a crowd we stop acting independently in large part because through the mechanism of contagious sympathy, we end up being suggestible by the same influences. Group diversity, which might give a crowd intellectual strength, evaporates for Le Bon and we become homogeneous, hypnotized automatons in a crowd.  And while the Stoic sage is homogeneous with other Stoic sage in his philosophical virtue, crowds act like one in pursuit of one idol or another.

One may well wonder if the shared feeling of invincibility is really the triggering cause of crowd-like phenomena, and to what degree hypnosis is really the best physiological explanation and explanatory analogy for crowd behavior. I am here not to defend Le Bon. But I do note it is no objection to Le Bon's theory that some crowds get it right or produced fine political outcomes. Le Bon explicitly admits that crowds may well be heroic or help found great civilizations (etc.). If you are fond of great strikes or mass protests, Le Bon is happy to admit that these shape history.

Rather the key point is that friends of Condorcet's jury theorem assume methodological individualism: that being within a jury/crowd baseline competence is not reduced or at least not so reduced as to fall under average. And Le Bon points out this commitment (a) needs to be earned if, as is not wholly implausible, cognitive characteristics are changed when in large company (subject to polarization, group loyalty, sense of justice, etc.).

One way to put this is that in practice, the assumptions of independence and lack of communication secure the modest competence the Jury Theorem relies on. Le Bon's point is recognized by many procedural interventions/norms that prevent a group of deciding individuals to act as crowds.** That is to say, deliberative democrats are, in a way, Le Bon's true heirs. 

 

 

 

+Condorcet (recall) is never mentioned by name. But the very structure of Psychologie des Foules, suggests that Le Bon is targeting the jury theorem (including non-trivial discussion of actual juries).

*There is another quite interesting exploration of the nature of individuality in civilizational decline. But about that some other time.

**Le Bon has great fun treating such interventions as a virtue of his theory.

Frictionless trade for the future?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 5:00pm in

Oh dear – the Conservatives’ ‘easiest trade deal in history’ has turned out to be a little more difficult. We can of course, export but will the regulations allow us to export as a previous PM used to say – “without friction”? As anyone who knows about trade deals – friction is the word. Reducing... Read more

Vernon Jones Is Loathed by Georgia Republicans. Why Did He Speak at the RNC?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 12:06pm in

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Politics

Rep. Vernon Jones listens as Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal delivers the State of the State address on the House floor in Atlanta, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. Deal is asking Georgia lawmakers to support a new plan for fixing low-performing schools after voters last fall rejected a proposal for state takeovers of schools that consistently struggle. The Republican governor said in his State of the State speech Wednesday that nearly 89,000 students were stuck in failing schools last year and their number "will grow with each passing school year" if nothing is done. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

State Rep. Vernon Jones listens as Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal delivers the State of the State address on the House floor in Atlanta on Jan. 11, 2017.

Photo: David Goldman/AP

Georgia’s own Vernon Jones spoke tonight at the Republican National Convention. Jones, a Black Democrat — party affiliation in air quotes at this point, I suppose — extolled the virtues of Trumpism to a national audience.

But in the well-heeled suburbs of the county Jones once led, Jones is loathed, considered the avatar of urban corruption and political malfeasance. And those suburban, relatively affluent Republicans are the ones that the party has been hemorrhaging.

So what gives? Why give Jones airtime? One wonders if Donald Trump woke up one morning a few weeks ago, saw Jones on “Fox and Friends” talking about how much he loves Trump and put him on the speaking list without much more consideration or political advice. It would be par for the course, suggesting that the national campaign either doesn’t know what it’s doing here — or worse, that it can’t keep from being undermined by the thrashing attention deficit disorder that is Trump himself.

“Democrat politicians have personal security. Why don’t they give up their security and replace them with social workers?” Jones asked rhetorically at the RNC, and every Republican in the county must have done a double take. Vernon Jones spent hundreds of thousands on personal security, over the very loud objections of Republicans in DeKalb County as wasteful spending.

All politics is local, as Tip O’Neill said. A question, then: Does Trump gain anything by airing Jones, and is it worth the loss of respect of these local voters who once formed the Republican base?

Let us dispense with the idea that Jones can, somehow, convince Black voters in any real numbers to vote for Trump. He has no meaningful political authority with Black voters, either locally or nationally. He withdrew from his reelection campaign to the state House under a legal challenge to his residency, facing both a strong primary challenger and the censure of his party. The last time he ran for a countywide seat in DeKalb County – which is 70 percent Black – he lost 3 to 1. It is better to think of Jones as a Black face on a convention led by a party composed primarily of white voters who want to be able to show it has Black support.

But the effect of affront to Republicans on the local level will be quite substantive.

“As a lifelong Republican, I cannot explain this. … Are we just so on the outs with national Republicans?”

Jones’s old stomping grounds in DeKalb has about 50,000 regular Republican voters. Trump won Georgia in 2016 by about 210,000 votes, and the race looks tighter now than it did then, particularly after the close gubernatorial race in 2018 between Stacey Abrams and now-Gov. Brian Kemp. There are two competitive U.S. Senate races in Georgia this year, either of which would be sensitive to a shift in voter sentiment in Atlanta’s politically mottled suburbs. But neither the campaigns of Sen. David Perdue nor Sen. Kelly Loeffler appear to have influenced Trump’s decision to give Jones the mic.

“As a lifelong Republican, I cannot explain this,” said Anne Blanton, a Republican activist from Brookhaven, in north DeKalb. “Why would you want somebody to come over to our side like that?”

Blanton, 54, lives in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, captured in 2018 from Republicans by Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath. Given the presumed closeness of that race, Blanton wonders why no one from the campaign of Karen Handel, McBath’s challenger, sent up warning flags to the Trump campaign.

It’s not the first time Republicans muffed local sentiments in Georgia recently.

“Are we just so on the outs with national Republicans?” Blanton said. “Kemp has been embarrassed by Trump, and he helped push [Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms] to the national spotlight with the lawsuit on the masks.” Kemp sued Bottoms — then on Joe Biden’s vice presidential short list — to attempt to block a city mandate to wear masks, two days after a visit by Trump. Kemp subsequently dropped the suit two days after Biden named U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate.

I am, perhaps, understating how much local Republicans dislike Jones. Here’s the background.

Before Jones became a spokesperson for Trumpism, he served as CEO of DeKalb County from 2001 to 2009, the top elected official for the county. Among his many failures while running county government, Jones’s hiring practices caused his administration to be found responsible for creating a hostile work environment and racial discrimination.

Jones was personally fined $27,750 in punitive damages by a court in 2011. The county lost over $3 million in damages and legal costs fighting the case.

A 2012 grand jury described Jones’s administration as corrupt, recommending that he be investigated for bid-rigging and theft. “Mr. Jones had an opportunity to assist this Special Purpose Grand Jury in its efforts to address and make right the many flaws of his administration. He failed to rise to the occasion,” the grand jury wrote. Also among its observations: wholesale corruption of the kind that gave a million-dollar tree-trimming contract to a company that didn’t even own a chainsaw. Nothing happened.

One would also think that the someone in the RNC’s ranks would have flagged Jones’s connection to the late, shamed megachurch leader Rev. Earl Paulk. A woman sued Paulk for sexual abuse in 2005, and Jones was set to testify in the case. His appearance was called off when Jones’s fraternity brother and current DeKalb Superior Court Judge Mark Anthony Scott ruled the case frivolous and awarded $1 million in attorney’s fees to Paulk – a bizarre ruling overturned on appeal.

The Republican enclave of Dunwoody, in DeKalb’s northern third, so detested the regular reports of corruption and Jones’s race-baiting response to criticism that they formed a new municipality in 2008 — the city of Dunwoody — in order to minimize their contact with county government.

“Vernon Jones has gotten himself out of more jams than Smuckers,” said Mike Hassinger, a political strategist in Georgia and a longtime observer of DeKalb politics. “The only reasons so few politicians get a second act is because Vernon Jones stole them all.”

His increasing appearances in national politics began a couple of years ago when he spoke at the National Rifle Association convention in Atlanta. Since then, it’s become increasingly apparent that he had burned all the bridges left at the local level and was trying to find some purchase in the national conversation.

“Seriously, the great opportunist rises from the ashes,” said former state Sen. Fran Millar, a Republican who represented the northernmost district in DeKalb for decades. “Twenty years I battled with him, but like Biden he is resilient.”

In full disclosure, Jones and I have a little history. I’ve been writing about corruption issues in DeKalb County for about a decade. Jones has regularly been accused of corruption in office. And Jones has taken issue with my commentary and the commentary of others in fairly personal terms before. As he was losing his race for county sheriff in 2014, he suggested that I was drinking Clorox — a racial insult — and then likened me to the house slave played by Samuel L. Jackson in the movie “Django.”

This is par for the course for Jones. Over the last couple of years in the legislature, he has managed to offend and insult much of the Democratic delegation in DeKalb, journalists, and observers, in similarly stark terms. Jones likes to be offensive. Perhaps that’s what Trump sees in him.

The post Vernon Jones Is Loathed by Georgia Republicans. Why Did He Speak at the RNC? appeared first on The Intercept.

Roberts Injured After Standing Too Close To Microwave Whilst Wearing Tin Foil Hat

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 8:02am in

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malcolm-roberts

One Nation’s leading scientific mind (sic) Malcolm Roberts has been injured after standing too close to his microwave whilst wearing his patented tin foil hat as he tried to zoom in to join parliament remotely.

”I would like to take this opportunity to assure the people who voted for me, all 77 of you, that I am ok after this attempt on my life,” said Senator Roberts. ”Those lizard bastards of the Illuminati will have to do a lot better than this if they want to knock off Malcolm Leuan Roberts.”

When asked why he thought that this was an attempt on his life rather than a case of a man standing too close to a microwave whilst wearing tin foil, Senator Roberts said: ”You are sounding remarkably similar to the Australian Federal Police.”

”Maybe you are one of them. If I were to leave a tray of grasshoppers on the bench I wonder if you would dive right in, like a lizard.”

”I must be going now, the shops are closing shortly and I need to stock up on foil, I have a big week ahead of me.”

Mark Williamson

@MWChatShow

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Liverpool to Put Information Plaques on Buildings and Monuments with Connections to Slavery

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 6:15am in

The Black Lives Matter protests across the world have prompted the authorities in Liverpool to examine once again their great city’s connection to the slave trade. According to an article by Jean Selby in today’s I, for 24th August 2020, the city is going to put up information plaques around the city on areas and places connected to the slave trade. The article’s titled ‘Liverpool to acknowledge its history of slavery’. I think it’s slightly misleading, and something of a slur, as the City has already acknowledged its connection to slavery a long time ago. It has an international slavery museum, which I think may have started as a gallery in its maritime museum way back in the 1990s. This has inspired Black rights and anti-racism campaigners to approach the council here in Bristol calling for a similar museum down here. From what I gather from the local news website, The Bristolian, Asher Craig, a councilor for St. George’s in Bristol and the head of the local equalities body, told them to go away and find a private backer first. This is the same Asher Craig, who in an interview on Radio 4 showed that apparently she didn’t know about the slavery gallery in Bristol’s M Shed, nor about the various official publications, including a 1970s school history book for local children, that discuss Bristol’s history in the slave trade, and told the Beeb she wanted a museum of slavery here in Bristol. According to The Bristolian, the campaigners are dismayed at the city’s refusal to build such a museum following the examples of Liverpool in the Britain and Nantes in France.

Frankly, I’m sick and tired of London journos writing pieces about places like Bristol and Liverpool blithely claiming, or implying, that only now are they acknowledging their role in the abominable trade. I can remember getting very annoyed with the News Quiz and some of the comedians on it over a decade ago when I similar story came up about Liverpool. Jeremy Hardy, a great left-wing comedian sadly no longer with us, said something suitably sneering about the city and slavery. But the impression I have is that it’s London that has been the most sensitive and most desperate to hide its past in connection to slavery. Nearly two decades or so ago, when I was doing voluntary work at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum, I had the privilege of meeting a young Asian artist. She was working on a project commemorating the slave trade by making models of old factories and mills from the foodstuffs they produced, which had been cultivated through slavery. She told me that she’d approached a number of towns and their museums, and received very positive reactions to her work. They had all been very willing to give her whatever help they could, though some of these towns had only been in the slave trade for a very short time before being squeezed out by competition from Bristol and Liverpool. As a result, they often genuinely had little in their collections connected to slavery. But they were willing to give any help they could. But her experience with the Museum of London had been quite different. They made it plain that they didn’t have any holdings on slavery whatsoever. I’ve been told since then that things are a bit different, and that individual London boroughs are quite open and apologetic about their connection to the slave trade. But it does seem to me that it is London that is particularly defensive and secretive when it comes to commemorating its own history of slave dealing.

Back to the I’s article, which runs

Liverpool will address its ties to the slave trade with a series of plaques around the city explaining the history behind its street names, building and monuments.

The city council plans to acknowledge the role the port city played in colonialism and the vast wealth generated from the trafficking of human beings. According to the International Slavery Museum, Liverpool ships carried about 1.5 million slaves, half of the three million Africans taken across the Atlantic by British slavers.

Falkner Square, named after an 18th-century merchant involved in the slave trade, is among those expected to have a plaque installed.

“We have to be led by our communities on how to do this and do it in a way that is sensitive to both our past and our present,” mayor of Liverpool Joe Anderson said as he announced the project yesterday. He was marking Slavery Remembrance Day – which commemorates the anniversary of a 1791 slave uprising in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

He continued: “I do not believe that changing street names is the answer – it would be wrong to try and airbrush out our past. It’s important that we have a sensible and informed discussion about theses issues. We need to judge the past with a historical perspective, taking into account today’s higher ethical standards and, most importantly, how everyone, from every community in the city, feels about it.”

And advisory panel, chaired by Michelle Charters, recommended the creation of Eric Lynch slavery memorial plaques, named in honour of Eric Lynch, a Ghanaian chief who is a descendant of African slaves and spent his life drawing attention to the city’s slavery history.

His son, Andrew Lynch, said: “These plaques are a tribute to Eric’s long years of work as a black community activist and educator, teaching the people of Liverpool to acknowledge and understand their historic inheritance in an honest and open way, and uncovering the contribution made by black people throughout our great city.”

This all sounds actually quite reasonable. I think it’s fair to put the plaques up for those wanting such information. And I really don’t believe those places should be renamed, as this is a form of rewriting history. You shouldn’t try to erase the past, although I accept that some monuments, like those of Colston, are unacceptable in today’s moral and political climate for very good reasons.

However, I think this says less about Liverpool’s history and more about the present desperate state of the Black community in Britain. Back when I was working at the Empire and Commonwealth Museum all those years ago, I remember talking about some of the materials we had on slavery and its history by West Indian academic historians. I heard from some of the staff that some of this was actually quite controversial in some of the West Indian nations, but for reasons that are completely the opposite to the situation in this country. They’re controversial, or were then, among Black West Indians, who feel that they’re racist against their White fellow countrymen and co-workers. Apparently after one book was published, there was a spate of letters in the local press by Black people stating that their bosses or secretaries were White, and certainly weren’t like that. I think if the Black community in Britain shared the same general level of prosperity and opportunity as the White population, there would be precious little interest in slavery and its commemoration except among academics and historians. It would be an episode from the past, which was now mercifully over, and which the Black community and the rest of society had moved on from.

I also think that demands for its commemoration also come not just from the material disadvantages the Black community in general suffers from, but also its feelings of alienation and marginalisation. They feel that they and their history are being excluded, hence the demands for its commemoration. However, I think the reverse of this is that such demands can also look like expressions of anti-White sentiment, in which the present White population is demanded to be penitent and remorseful about something they were not responsible for, simply because they’re White.

And there are also problems with the selection of the events commemorated International Slavery Remembrance Day. This looks like Toussaint L’Louverture’s Black revolution on Haiti. L’ouverture was inspired by the ideals of the French Revolution. It was he and his generals that overthrew the French authorities in what is now Haiti, giving the country its present name and making it a Black republic in which power and property could only be held by Blacks. It naturally became a shining beacon for the aspirations of other Black revolutionaries right across the Caribbean and even the US. Major Moody discusses it in his 1820s report on slavery, which critically examined whether Blacks were prepared for supporting themselves as independent, self-reliant citizens after emancipation. His report included correspondence from Black Americans, who had been freed by their owners and moved to Haiti, but still kept in touch with them.

Moody was not impressed with the progress of the revolution, and concluded that Blacks weren’t ready for their freedom. This shocked many abolitionists, as Moody himself was a married to a Black woman. But if you read his report about Haiti, you understand why. After successfully gaining their freedom, the Haitians had been faced with the problem of maintaining it against European aggression on the one hand, and economic collapse on the other. The result was the imposition of virtual enslavement back on the plantation workers, who had fought so hard for their freedom. The country’s estates were divided up among the generals. The former slaves were forbidden to leave them, and quotas of the amount of sugar they were required to produce were imposed. If the poor souls did not produce the required amount, they were tortured or burned to death. It seemed to me when I read the Blue Book Moody published, kept in the Museum’s libraries, that Moody’s decision against supporting immediate emancipation for the enslaved peoples of the Caribbean was based on a genuine horror of such atrocities and fear that this would be repeated across the West Indies.

I don’t think Marxist historians would be surprised at the brutality that arose after the Haitian revolution. Marxist revolutionaries like Lenin believed that history followed certain deterministic laws, and were acutely interested in the French Revolution. From this they believed that all revolutions followed an inevitable pattern. After the initial gains of freedom, the revolution would be overthrown and a period of reaction arise, created by a dictator. Just like Napoleon had overthrown the French Revolutionaries to create a new, imperial monarchy. In their own time, they were afraid that the new Napoleon, who would undo the Russian Revolution, would be Trotsky. And so they missed Stalin’s threat. The reintroduction of slavery by L’Ouverture’s generals is just part of this general pattern in the progress of revolutions. Nevertheless, like the destruction of personal freedoms following the Russian Revolution and then Stalin’s Terror in the 1930s, it does raise the awkward question of whether it should, like the Russian Revolution, really by celebrated or commemorated without significant caveats.

This aside, I’m sure that following Liverpool’s decision, there will also be demands for Bristol to do the same. There is already a slave walk around the docks in Bristol and a plaque commemorating the slaves exploited and traded by Bristol merchants. The M Shed has a gallery on Bristol and the slave trade, which includes a map of various streets and properties in the city and its surroundings built and owned by slavers and those with connections to the trade. And the latest monument, set up in the 1990s, is a remarkable bridge down on the docks. This has two horns either side of it, but has been named ‘Pero’s Bridge’ after one of the very few slaves traded by the city in the 18th century, who identity is known.

Investing in jobs and climate is key

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 5:21am in

From the Guardian:

Your editorial (19 August) correctly points to the fact that the “money no problem” approach to tackling the short-term upheavals caused by coronavirus must now shift to tackling the climate crisis. If not, it risks the further alienation of young climate protesters, the exceptional Greta Thunberg and the countless environmental campaigners active over the past few decades. The catalyst for this is the need for new jobs in every community to counter the political, economic and personal trauma that will come in the wake of the coming tsunami of lost livelihoods across the country.

An answer to the inevitable question of how to pay for such a transformation was provide by Larry Elliott’s observation (18 August) that the government’s money-printing programme of quantitative easing (QE) inflates the assets of the already rich, rather than helping rebuild the real economy. Given rising unemployment, it’s likely that QE is going to be required for some time to come. In that case, the government’s e-money printing presses must be used to help fund the employment of the millions of increased staff needed across all social sectors, from more care and health workers to teachers and police, while also funding investment in new climate-friendly infrastructure projects, such as making the UK’s 30m buildings carbon neutral and adapting existing infrastructure to deal with future heatwaves and flooding. This would be a serious start to healing the damage currently being inflicted on people as well as the planet.

Richard Murphy Visiting professor, University of Sheffield
Colin Hines Convener, UK Green New Deal Group

Why we don’t need tax increases in the UK any time soon

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 25/08/2020 - 2:59am in

This issue really matters to me. For decades people have said all I want is tax increases. And I am pleased to say that I am now arguing for no tax increases, and maybe even tax cuts, precisely because that's what our economy needs.

Please watch this one.

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