Trump On The Stump

Self-proclaimed “ratings machine” Donald Trump continues to beguile, bewilder, bewitch and baffle in the USA and across the world with his frequently frantic bid for the Republican nomination to run for President. Well, maybe I’m overstating it a little, but the Donald’s latest blunder in a tragi-comic campaign – sniping back at Megyn Kelly for asking him tough questions by implying that she had been compelled to do so by her period rather than just, you know, doing her job of asking the candidates questions – seems finally to be putting off even his staunchest allies in the public, the party and even his own team.

Donald Trump piñata
Mexico’s favourite piñata (Image: Mike Licht)

So some bad publicity really is bad publicity after all, at least when you stoop to a level this asinine to attract attention. Voters should remember that politicians who say crass and unpleasant things like Trump’s menstruation remarks to garner attention and column inches (which it undoubtedly has, and here am I pontificating on it too!) are doing no different when they talk about immigration and foreigners, or whatever else pushes certain voters’ buttons. It’s very often blather and bluster to misdirect from the fact that most of their policies are driven by an agenda to consolidate and further the position and advantage of the few richest people in society at the expense of the great majority.

Jeremy Corbyn addresses people protesting Conservative cuts

Labour were reckless with the economy? The Conservatives were reckless with the truth.

On Sunday the Guardian published an article by their Economics Editor, Larry Elliot, analysing why Jeremy Corbyn is enjoying so much popularity in the Labour leadership race. I think finally the Guardian, after a great deal of frustration with Corbyn’s stubbornly high popularity, has alighted on the correct reason and it is certainly my main motivation for supporting Corbyn over the other candidates: that Labour was (notwithstanding other faults) demonstrably not profligate with the economy and Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are the ones who have remained committed to exposing this fantasy.

The other candidates may believe that Labour didn’t overspend or borrow too much, and that it didnt have a negative impact on the economy or contribute to the global financial crash (or how prepared Britain was to weather it), but they have decided to pursue the majority of the electorate in believing the deficit myth as they see the task of trying to address it as insurmountable.

Here is Elliot’s article: .

Jeremy Corbyn is right to blame the banks, not Labour, for the financial crisis

And an excellent Polly Toynbee piece from 2013 that he references:

Labour’s spending worked. Why don’t they defend it?

So following on from that we can say the main driver of anti-austerity sentiment is that it has all been unnecessary and it is based on a myth, the same myth that has done huge damage to the Labour Party.

The facts behind what really happened economically under the last Labour government (that the long Tory reign from 1979 to 1997 brought public services into a very sorry and neglected state which Labour went a very long way to putting right through investing in them) point to a wider truth underlying the whole difference between left and right on the political spectrum. The left is demonstrably largely good for the majority of people, there is evidence to back that up. The right, on the other hand, may have been drawn to the centre in some respects (in the UK at least, hardly in the US) but is essentially working in the interests of a minority of already powerful individuals and must rely on convincing people into voting for things that may in fact harm them or their fellow voters (hence, to some extent, the embracing of more centrist ideas).

So a lot of people with very little to no individual power are set against a very small minority of very wealthy individuals with a huge amount of power and influence. It’s been that way for a long time, probably since the Labour movement arose and started to use collective bargaining power, but still it persists. People are still inveigled into supporting the right, usually through untruth or misdirection. Accusations of identity politics are a very good example, where an argument is made that the left are working in the interests of a minority only when in fact they are working for the majority and the accusation would be better levelled at the right.

As long as powerful people peddle snake oil like the “Labour’s profligate spending” myth and people buy it (often motivated by the identity politics misdirection among other things) then little will substantially change. One thing Blair and Brown got right was their political ruthlessness towards the opposition and that’s what we see mimicked by Cameron and Osborne today. But clearly Labour were not nearly ruthless enough if the public consciousness can be so easily altered and their work so easily undone.

[Image: Jasn]

Solution Aversion

I’ve been commenting on HYS sites for a about a year and a half now and one of the things I’ve come to really dislike about it is how polarised positions become. You have people on both sides who know immediately what their positions are going to be and respond to any item accordingly. On the Guardian website you see how people are waiting around like packs of hyenas and as soon as they get thrown a scrap of news everyone dives in and starts arguing from their side of (usually) the political spectrum – you can predict what each side is going to say. I dislike this about myself just as much as anyone else because it means nothing is going to change except we push each other into more extreme positions.

Tug of War
Paul McCartney wrote a song about this (Image: Robert Clemens)

The concept of solution aversion goes a long way to explaining this phenomenon. I came across it when I asked Google “Why do people deny that bias exists?” You see it all the time when people try to claim racism or climate change or whatever doesn’t exist. According to a study by Duke University in the US, this is because people consider the policy implications and solutions primarily:

Participants in the experiment, including both self-identified Republicans and Democrats, read a statement asserting that global temperatures will rise 3.2 degrees in the 21st century. They were then asked to evaluate a proposed policy solution to address the warming.

When the policy solution emphasized a tax on carbon emissions or some other form of government regulation, which is generally opposed by Republican ideology, only 22 percent of Republicans said they believed the temperatures would rise at least as much as indicated by the scientific statement they read.

But when the proposed policy solution emphasized the free market, such as with innovative green technology, 55 percent of Republicans agreed with the scientific statement.

For Democrats, the same experiment recorded no difference in their belief, regardless of the proposed solution to climate change.

That isn’t to say that liberals are immune to its effects (and I can see that I fall victim to it, especially in the heat of debate):

The researchers found liberal-leaning individuals exhibited a similar aversion to solutions they viewed as politically undesirable in an experiment involving violent home break-ins. When the proposed solution called for looser versus tighter gun-control laws, those with more liberal gun-control ideologies were more likely to downplay the frequency of violent home break-ins.

So people are more willing to deny facts when it contradicts their ideology. If they are threatened by the potential solution they will automatically try to pick apart the science. And so political ‘tribes’ become polarised. It’s important to recognise when this happens because that’s when a scientifically-proven problem has entered the sphere of politics. As the co-author of the study, Aaron Kay, says:

“We should not just view some people or group as anti-science, anti-fact or hyper-scared of any problems,” Kay said. “Instead, we should understand that certain problems have particular solutions that threaten some people and groups more than others. When we realize this, we understand those who deny the problem more and we improve our ability to better communicate with them.”

The Big Game I

On 4 August the Guardian reported:

A big-game trophy collector from Idaho has been criticised by animal rights activists over online images of herself posed with the carcasses of a giraffe and other wildlife she killed during a recent guided hunt in South Africa.

Sabrina Corgatelli, an accountant for Idaho State University, appeared on NBC’s Today show on Monday to defend trophy hunting amid mounting international outrage over the killing in July of Cecil, Zimbabwe’s most famous lion, by an American dentist.

Wouldn’t she rather pose for a picture with a live giraffe? If I had the choice I would want a photo with a live one, that would be a memorable experience in a good way, not standing among the contorted corpse of one I’ve just killed with powerful, advanced machinery.

We have greater intellect and so we can build guns that make killing animals very easy, but that intellect should also tell us that preying on the weak for sport in this way is entirely wrong. It’s everything that’s wrong with the world – abuse of the weak by the powerful – writ large.

David Cameron in Libya

Cameron’s Libyan Crisis

In an interview with the Independent (and reported in the Guardian), the Tunisian prime minister, Habib Essid, has said that the UK is partly responsible for recent terrorist attacks in his countries as the perpetrators were trained in neighbouring Libya. Since the UK, along with France, took military action to remove Gaddafi and support the rebels, Libya has descended into chaos that makes it the ideal training ground for Al Qaeda and IS. The people who carried out the Bardo Museum and Sousse attacks were trained in Libya, according to Tunisian officials.

David Cameron addresses the people of Benghazi
David Cameron addresses the people of Benghazi (Image: Number 10)

At the time of military action against Libya, David Cameron introduced his laissez-faire concept of statesmanship to international warfare which is about the worst thing you can do. He stood before the people of Libya as they cheered him and promised to stand by them as they rebuilt their country – and that was the last they ever heard about that.

Those rebels that the UK assisted went on to become the same rebels against the current government as the country descended into the chaos of warring factions. Cameron went into Libya without considering and probably without being able to consider the consequences, as the Spectator has observed.

And we should also remember that Ed Miliband made the same point the Tunisian prime minister is making in 2014, pointing out that Cameron’s military adventure in Libya had precipitated the migrant crisis by giving them a lawless launching point – and was even supported in his assertion by British diplomats – but he was crucified for it in the Tory press. Yet as we see more and more migrants crossing the Mediterranean and terrorists being trained in Libya to fight in Syria it’s very difficult not to agree with both Miliband and Essid.